Stranger than fiction 

Curses, foiled again

Authorities charged Carl Muggli, 49, with murdering his wife in Ray, Minn., despite his insistence that the 17-foot-tall totem pole the two were carving slipped out of its cradle and fell on her accidentally. Investigators became suspicious when they found Facebook entries, which the criminal complaint described as "very intimate in nature," between Muggli and a Texas woman around the time of Linda Muggli's death. The officers went to the Mugglis' home to re-create the circumstances of her death. After failing five times to topple the totem pole the way Muggli described, sheriff's deputies arrested him. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

James Edward Russell, 39, escaped from the Washington state penitentiary but was recaptured the next day when he knocked on the door of a cabin, still wearing his prison uniform, and asked to use the phone. Department of Corrections official Chad Lewis said the man who answered the door was an off-duty guard at the prison Russell had fled and recognized him. (Associated Press)

Not so sexy

A 39-year-old woman was injured when a tombstone at Ahavath Israel Cemetery in Hamilton, N.J., fell on her leg while she and a male companion were engaged in what police Capt. James Stevens termed "extracurricular activities." (Trenton's The Times)

Concrete evidence

Police responding to reports of an alligator sighting in Independence, Mo., had been advised by a conservation agent to kill the gator if they thought it posed a danger. When the three officers saw it lurking in the weeds leading down to a pond, they opened fire. The first round hit the gator in the head, but when the second one bounced off, the officers realized they'd been shooting at a concrete lawn ornament. Homeowner Rick Sheridan explained he bought the life-size gator to keep people off his property. (Associated Press)

Shuttlecock teasers

Declaring it needed to create a more "attractive presentation" for female badminton players, the Badminton World Federation decreed that all women competing at the elite level must wear skirts or dresses, not shorts and pants. "We're not trying to use sex to promote the sport. We just want them to look feminine and have a nice presentation so women will be more popular," BWF deputy president Paisan Rangsikitpho said, noting that some women compete in oversize shorts and long pants and appear "baggy, almost like men." Male players are required only to dress in "proper attire," officials said. In a nod to Muslim women, the BWF said women could still wear shorts or long pants for cultural and religious reasons but only beneath a proper dress or skirt. After widespread protests against the rule, labeling it sexist, offensive to Muslim women and a cumbersome hindrance to performance, three days later the BWF withdrew it. (The New York Times)

Gun goofs

Three tourists watching an Old West gun battle in Hill City, S.D., were wounded when a 49-year-old re-enactor fired live ammunition instead of blanks. One of the victims, Carroll Knutson, 65, said she was disappointed that the injury cut short her vacation but relieved that it was a performer who fired the shots rather than one of the 100 tourists watching the show. (Associated Press)

When security guard Sean Murphy, 38, used a stolen shotgun to remove a wart, the blast also removed his left middle finger. "There was nothing left, so no chance to reattach it," Murphy said when pleading guilty in Doncaster, England, to using an illegal firearm, adding, "The best thing is that the wart has gone." District Judge Jonathan Bennett gave Murphy a 16-week suspended sentence, telling him, "I don't know what was going on in your mind." (Yorkshire Post)

Fire buggery

Deana Melendez, 51, decided to get rid of an oil painting by her husband that she hated by burning it in the fireplace of their home in Meadow Pointe, Fla. The fire somehow spread from the painting to the walls and roof. Missing her cat, Melendez refused to leave, cursing at a firefighter who tried to remove her and kicking him in the knee: "F--k you," she told him repeatedly. "I'm looking for my cat." After the blaze left the house a charred frame, husband Rubely Melendez, 50, said he kept most of his money in cash in the house, and it had all burned. (St. Petersburg Times)

Jena Liberty, 48, locked her keys in her car at 4 a.m. on a freeway north of Santa Clarita, Calif. The freeway callbox she tried using to summon help was disconnected, so, according to sheriff's Lt. Joe Efflandt, "To get attention, she decided to set the hillside on fire." The fire burned about a half-acre of brush before firefighters extinguished it. (Los Angeles's Daily News)

Ball play

Three players on a gay softball team in Washington state sued after they were disqualified from taking part in a statewide tournament because they weren't gay enough. Organizers of the Gay Softball World Series declared the men to be bisexual, not gay, and said their team thus exceeded the limit of two non-gay players. U.S. District Judge John Coughenour said the suit could proceed to trial but ruled that the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance has a First Amendment right to limit the number of heterosexual players on each team. (Associated Press)

Umpires disappointed baseball fans in Alaska attending a traditional midnight game on the summer solstice by suspending play with the score tied, 1-1, after a visiting California team complained it was too dark. The Alaska Baseball League's "Midnight Sun Baseball Game" had been played without lights on the longest day every year since 1906. Play resumed the following evening, and the California team eventually won, 2-1. (Reuters)

Identity crisis

Police arrested a divorced couple in Stillwater, Okla., who admitted trying to fake the man's death to escape some outstanding arrest warrants and so he could start a new life as a woman and "return to the family with a different identity," police Capt. Randy Dickerson said. Heather Davis and William Davis previously lost custody of their children after their underage daughter caught her father having sex with a blow-up doll. (Oklahoma City's KFOR-TV)

First things first

Authorities needed a 5-ton dump truck to rescue a 35-year-old woman who drove into Souris River floodwaters in Minot, N.D. Police said the woman was driving drunk in water over the wheels of her vehicle trying to get to a bar to play Bingo. (Associated Press)


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