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Crowbar and skullcap lead cops to robber 

Stranger Than Fiction

Stranger Than Fiction

Curses, foiled again

After finding a gunman in his home in Lauderdale Lakes, Fla., Jacques Baillargeon, 66, sprayed window cleaner in his face. The robber dropped a crowbar and skullcap, and fled. Sheriff's officials traced Nathaniel Lee Smith, 29, to his home after he called 911 to report someone had broken into his home and stolen a crowbar and a skullcap matching those left behind. Investigators concluded that Smith reported the items missing to cover himself if they were traced to him. (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

Mario Hili, 64, avoided thousands of dollars in traffic fines by reporting his car stolen each time a traffic camera caught him speeding or running a red light. After the latest incident, Senior Constable Siobhan Daly told an Australian court "it was the 21st time since 2000 that Hili had reported his car stolen. Each time he would find it himself at various locations around Geelong." Daly said that police fingerprinted the car and found only Hili's prints. (Australia's Geelong Advertiser)

Addicted to money

When Maureen O'Connor, 66, a former San Diego mayor, appeared in court to answer charges she stole $2,088,000 from a charitable foundation set up by her late husband, her lawyers disclosed she bet more than $1 billion at casinos to feed her gambling addiction. Noting that O'Connor began gambling after her husband, Jack-in-the-Box fast-food chain founder Robert O. Peterson, died in 1994, lawyer Eugene Iredale stated his client's actions fit "the syndrome known as grief gambling." She went through her fortune of between $40 million and $50 million, took out second and third mortgages on her home, auctioned her belongings and borrowed from friends. After O'Connor accepted a plea deal giving her two years to repay the foundation, Iredale declared, "This is a woman who has been through real trauma." (The New York Times)

Rita Crundwell, 60, pleaded guilty to stealing more than $54 million from Dixon, Ill., while she was the small town's comptroller. The thefts occurred over more than 20 years and funded a lavish lifestyle, which included prize-winning horses, expensive jewelry, luxury cars and extravagant parties. During this time, city officials said, her massive thefts crippled Dixon's budget. She blamed the shortfalls on an economic downturn and late payments from the state government. Noting that since her arrest, his client's cooperation with authorities in selling off assets toward restitution "has been extraordinary," public defender Paul Gaziano urged a short sentence. Instead, District Judge Philip Reinhard sentenced her to 19 years and seven months in prison, declaring, "You showed much greater passion for the welfare of your horses than the people of Dixon you represented." (Chicago Tribune and Associated Press)

Armed and dangerous

Authorities charged Timothy John Howard, 30, with robbing another man in Tulsa, Okla., by throwing porcelain tiles at him. (Tulsa World)

Police arrested Erik Brown, 36, in Port St. Lucie, Fla., saying he struck a teenage relative in the face with a Taco Bell burrito during a domestic dispute. Officers reported the victim had "burrito cheese, sauce and meat all over his clothing and face." (The Smoking Gun)

Police accused Ryan Herman, 23, of trying to take a dozen employees at a Wal-Mart in Glendale, Ariz., hostage by threatening them with a fire extinguisher. When police arrived and told Herman to drop the fire extinguisher, an officer said Herman raised it in a "threatening manner" and had to be Tasered. (Phoenix's The Arizona Republic)

Cloak of invisibility

A new fashion line aims to make wearers invisible to drone cameras. "Stealth Wear," by designer Adam Harvey, is made from silver-infused fabric that reflects heat, thereby blocking thermal-imaging cameras. "There's a lot of products in the stealth area that are too militaristic or are too associated with the tinfoil hat crowd," Harvey said. "I tried to do something that's in between." The line consists of a hoodie, which costs $473, and a burqa, which sells for $2,365. "These are really high-quality fashion garments, not everyday wear," said Harvey, who previously designed an "anti-paparazzi" handbag that detects and neutralizes camera flashes, and the OFF pocket, which disables cell phone signals. (U.S. News & World Report)

Firearm follies

While people entering the State Capitol building in Austin, Texas wait to be screened by metal detectors and scanners looking for concealed weapons, armed lawmakers may bypass the lines by showing their concealed-carry permit. Of the 181 members of the state House and Senate, as many as half are armed, according to Alice Tripp, legislative director of the Texas State Rifle Association, who said, "There's a couple who, I used to say, their desks would qualify as a gun show." Several lobbyists, reporters and other regular visitors to the Capitol who don't carry firearms nevertheless underwent training to get a concealed-handgun license just to qualify for the express entry. (The New York Times)

Since the Dec. 14 shootings at a school in Newtown, Conn., communities in Maine, Virginia, Utah, Pennsylvania and Georgia have passed or considered laws requiring citizens to own guns. "Basically this is a deterrent ordinance," Councilman Duane Cronic said at the meeting in Nelson, Ga., whose city council unanimously approved mandatory gun ownership. "It's no more than putting a sign in your front yard saying that 'ADT protects this home.' Now the person that may be there (checking) your home out to cause harm to you or your family to break into your house has to decide, 'When I break that door down, what's on the other side of that door?'" (Associated Press and CNN)

Vroom-vroom

Because electric and hybrid motor vehicles don't make enough noise at low speeds to warn pedestrians, bicyclists and the visually impaired, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposed requiring them to make additional noise at speeds slower than 18 miles per hour. The federal agency said it would leave it up automakers how to make the vehicles noisier. (The Washington Post)

Tom Ridge solution

After the North Carolina House Judiciary Subcommittee C approved a bill making it a felony to purposely expose "private parts," including a woman's "nipple, or any portion of the areola," state Rep. Tim Moore pointed about that women could avoid prosecution by applying duct tape to their nipples. "You know what they say," Moore quipped. "Duct tape fixes everything." (Raleigh's WRAL-TV)

  • All the weird news that's fit to print.

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