To celebrate today’s 25th anniversary of the weekly distribution of News of the Weird by Universal Uclick, Chuck Shepherd recalls a few of his favorite stories (among the more than 25,000 covered).
(1989) In the mid-1980s, convicted South Carolina murderer Michael Godwin won his appeal to avoid the electric chair and serve only life imprisonment. In March, while sitting naked on a metal prison toilet, attempting to fix a TV set, the 28-year-old Godwin bit into a wire and was electrocuted.
(1991) Dee Dee Jonrowe, leading the Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon in January in northern Minnesota, took a wrong turn and went 300 yards before recognizing her error. The mistake cost her team only a few minutes, but stopping to calculate her location allowed the dogs an unsupervised rest, and by the time she was ready to go, two of her dogs had begun to copulate. She was forced to wait on them for 25 minutes and lost the lead.
(1991) In March, Florence Schreiber Powers, 44, a Ewing, New Jersey, administrative judge on trial for shoplifting two watches, called her psychiatrist to testify that Powers was under stress at the time of the incidents. The doctor said Powers was unaware of her actions “from one minute to the next,” for the following 20 reasons: a recent auto accident, a traffic ticket, a new-car purchase, overwork, husband’s kidney stones, husband’s asthma (and breathing machine that occupies their bedroom), menopausal hot flashes, an “ungodly” vaginal itch, a bad rash, fear of breast and anal cancer, fear of dental surgery, son’s need for an asthma breathing machine, mother’s and aunt’s illnesses, need to organize her parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, need to cook Thanksgiving dinner for 20 relatives, purchase of 200 gifts for Christmas and Chanukah, attempt to sell her house without a real estate agent, lawsuit against wallpaper cleaners, purchase of furniture that had to be returned, and a toilet in her house that was constantly running. She was convicted anyway.
(1991 and before) Gary Arthur Medrow, 47, was arrested in March in Milwaukee (the latest of his then-30-plus arrests over 23 years) for once again causing mischief by telephoning a woman and trying to persuade her to physically pick up another person and carry her around a room. In the latest incident, after repeatedly calling, he told her another woman had been impersonating her, had been in an accident, and had been seen carrying someone away (and that Medrow needed evidence that she could or could not do that). He had previously talked cheerleaders, motel workers and business executives into lifting and carrying.
(1992) A 38-year-old man, unidentified in news reports, was hospitalized in Princeton, West Virginia, in October with gunshot wounds. He had been drinking beer and cleaning his three guns — and had accidentally shot himself with each one. He said the first shot didn’t hurt, the second “stung a little,” and the third “really hurt,” prompting him to call for help.
(1994) In Toronto in March, Sajid Rhatti, 23, and his 20-year-old wife brawled over whether Katey Sagal, who plays Peg Bundy on “Married With Children,” is prettier than Christina Applegate, who plays her daughter. First, the wife slashed Rhatti in the groin with a wine bottle as they scuffled, but she dressed his wounds and the couple sat down again to watch another episode of the show. Moments later, the brawl erupted again, and Rhatti, who suffered a broken arm and shoulder, stabbed
his wife in the chest, back and legs before they begged neighbors to call
(1995) From the Riley County police blotter in the Kansas State University newspaper, Sept. 2: 1:33 p.m., disturbance involving Marcus Miles; 2:14 p.m. (different address), “unwanted subject” (police jargon for acquaintance who wouldn’t leave) in the home, Marcus Miles told to leave; 4:08 p.m. (different address), Marcus Miles accused of harassment; 6:10 p.m., “unwanted subject” call against Marcus Miles. Nov. 14: 6:47 p.m., “unwanted subject” in the home, Marcus Miles told to leave; 7:36 p.m. (different address), “unwanted subject” call against Marcus Miles. Nov. 20: 2:05 a.m. (different address), “unwanted subject” charge against Marcus Miles; 2:55 a.m. (different address), disturbance involving Marcus Miles; 3:07 a.m. (different address), “unwanted subject” charge against Marcus Miles; 4:11 a.m. (different address), “unwanted subject” report made against Marcus Miles.
(1988) And finally, there was ol’ Hal Warden, the Tennessee 16-year-old who was married at 15 and granted a divorce from his wife, 13. Hal had previously been married at age 12 to a 14-year-old (and fathered children with both), but the first wife divorced Hal because, she told the judge, “He was acting like a 10-