Sold 547 Phony Tips

Supermarket
Tabloid Source
Convicted
by Chuck Shepherd
source: Los Angeles Daily News

November, 1992

Antonio Castro, Jr., 45, and his wife pleaded guilty to defrauding the supermarket tabloids The Globe, The Star, and the National Enquirer by selling them 547 phony tips on celebrity gossip over a four-year period.

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Armed and Theological
(Read: Armed and Dangerous)
source: Cable News Network


September, 1996

TAMPA, Florida (CNN) -- A 21-year-old seminary student carried live hand grenades when he was arrested trying to board a flight, police said Tuesday.

Roman Regman, who was arrested at a Tampa International Airport security checkpoint while trying to board a flight to Wilkes Barre-Scranton, Pennsylvania, denied the explosives he carried were real. But police noted that it doesn't take a functioning weapon to hijack a plane; merely the threat of an attack is sufficient. And Regman was carrying a mini-arsenal -- five handmade bombs, bomb-making materials, two live grenades, a 9 mm pistol, about 180 rounds of ammunition and six military-style knives.

Police told CNN that the two hand grenades were powerful enough to blow the aircraft from the sky. They didn't consider terrorism a factor in the incident, and they are still looking for a motive. Federal officials have yet to decide whether to prosecute Regman.

One queston remains:
Why, in CNN's teaser for this piece, did the announcers show surprise that a seminary student, of all people, would have so many weapons?
Do people still presuppose that religion exempts someone from committing crimes, from going bananas, or from having silly beliefs or dangerous values?
-- Cliff Walker

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Most Dysfunctional Family

Eddie Sexton and
his Family Cats
by Chuck Shepherd
sources: Columbus Dispatch, Canton Repository

April, 1994

A jury in Canton, Ohio, convicted Estella Sexton, 47, of sexually abusing her 13-year-old daughter, one of her 11 children. According to the girls's brother, their father Eddie Sexton, who is now in jail in Florida, conducted satanic seances featuring cat carcasses and the spirits of dead relatives.

Another daughter, Pixie Sexton-Good, recently pleaded guilty in Florida in the death of her infant son and agreed to testify against her father and another brother who will soon stand trial for the death of Pixie's husband, Joel Good.

Furthermore, according to other siblings, the dead infant was fathered by Eddie Sexton, but Eddie said one of the brothers did it.

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Priest Loves 'Em
And Leaves 'Em
by Chuck Shepherd

August, 1997

Catholic priest Donald Kocher, 61, testifying at a deposition in a Chicago-area lawsuit against him and his diocese for sexual abuse of parishioners, admitted that he had had sex with as many as a dozen women over a 20-year period.

However, he added, "I've always seen [the affairs] as morally wrong, and I've always tried to bring them to a conclusion as quickly as I could."

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Convict's Religious Beliefs
Mitigate Sentence
by Chuck Shepherd

September, 1997

In New York City, federal judge Lewis A. Kaplan disregarded sentencing guidelines and sent Orthodox Jew Solomon Sprei to prison for only 18 months for insurance fraud (versus three to four years, as prescribed).

Kaplan cited Sprei's three marriageable-age daughters, who by law of his Bobov Hasidim must rely on their father to find husbands for them. Kaplan declared that the happiness of at least two of them would be crucially delayed if Sprei were imprisoned for the recommended time.

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And He Never Will!

God Hasn't Told
Squatter To Move
by Chuck Shepherd
source: Akron Beacon Journal

May 25, 1996

Members of the First Congregational Church in Akron, Ohio, voted to eject squatter Jim Dunn, who had been living in a cardboard tent in the church's front yard since April 1995, bathing only sporadically, claiming that that's where God told him to live. Dunn rejected offers of better conditions and a clean sleeping bag because the offers did not come from God. "I've talked to Him," said Dunn, "but He hasn't told me yet to move."

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Child's Play, Perhaps?

"Chucky" The Doll
Made Him Do It
by Chuck Shepherd
source: Kansas City Star

June 10, 1994

In Kansas City, Missouri, Keith Smith, 26, was convicted of strangling and stabbing to death a minister, in whose house he lived, and his housekeeper.

In a videotaped statement to the police at the time of the murders, Smith said the mayhem was caused by "Chucky," the murderous doll in the movie "Child's Play."

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I Don't Think So

The Dolls Made Him Do It
by Chuck Shepherd
source: Denver Post

July 18, 1995

Martin George Clever, 32, arrested in Lakewood, Colorado, for burglary, told police that he entered the home in the early evening because he saw two naked dolls in the yard pointing to a sliding-glass door.

He said he thought they were inviting him inside.

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Repressed Memory
Suit Dismissed

The Dead 'Possum
Made Her Do It
by Chuck Shepherd

August, 1996

A federal judge in Springfield, Missouri, dismissed the lawsuit of Jennifer Stocker Jessen, now 24, who had claimed that repressed memories of childhood abuse by her step-grandfather returned to her in 1988.

The triggering mechanism, she said, was her hitting an opossum in the road with her car.

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Heard That One, Too!

The Full Moon
Made Him Do It
by Chuck Shepherd
source: New York Daily News

April 18, 1995

Ellsworth Stewart, 27, was charged with shooting two New York City utility company workers.

According to his lawyer, several factors contributed to Stewart's mental state, including weak gun control laws, which failed to stop him from acquiring his pistol, and the fact that the full moon that night "agitated" Stewart.

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Life Imitates "Twin Peaks"

"Something" Made Her Do It
by Chuck Shepherd
source: Columbus Dispatch

May 3, 1996

Jenny Lee Owens, 39, describing in a London, Ohio, court how it was not her fault that her boyfriend got shot to death:

"Something came into the room. It was not a person. It was like a color. Me and it, whatever it was, we both had the gun. Somehow it had passed into me. It was holding the gun; I was standing behind it."

The two of them then walked down the hall to the living room, where "it" pointed the gun at the back of her boyfriend's head and pulled the trigger.

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"Destiny" Made Her Do It
by Chuck Shepherd

August, 1997

TV personality Jenny McCarthy, on how those unfortunate nude photos as Playboy Playmate ever got made: She was walking around Chicago, she told reporters, intending to be a model, "And I went, 'Jenny, no, no.' All of a sudden my body started walking there [to Playboy]. That's exactly what happened. A larger force, and I call it destiny, brought me in the door, moved my mouth, took the robe off, and did it."

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The Multiple Personality
Disorder Bit. Again.

Some Other Personality
Made Her Do It
by Chuck Shepherd

February, 1997

Credit union manager Cathleen Byers, charged with 83 counts for embezzling $630,000 over a six-year period, told a Eugene, Oregon, jury, through her lawyer, that her hands may have taken the money but that her "heart, mind, and spirit" were innocent, because some other personality within her did it.

According to the prosecutor, only a handful of multiple-personality cases have ever been diagnosed in Europe, versus "tens of thousands" in the U.S.

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The Aliens
Made Him Do It
by Chuck Shepherd

October, 1995 -- A jury in Tucson, Arizona, found Robert Joseph Moody, 36, guilty of the 1993 murders of two women despite his claim -- made while acting as his own attorney -- that space aliens made him commit the crimes. Moody said, "I know it sounds crazy," but said that the aliens promised Moody they would raise him from the dead in the event he were executed. Before the trial, the judge had scratched several UFO experts from Moody's witness list, as well as Barry Goldwater and presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford.

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Religious Excuse
Doesn't Work

The Jehovah's Witnesses
Made Him Do It
by Chuck Shepherd

November, 1997

In Wasilla, Alaska, Duane Carr was sentenced to 28 months in prison for sexually molesting his 15-year-old babysitter.

Carr maintained that he did not know the girl was under the legal age of 16 because he and the girl are Jehovah's Witnesses, whose members do not celebrate birthdays.

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Meanwhile, Molesting
Monsignor Kills Self

The Monsignor
Let Her Do It
by Chuck Shepherd
source: Northern Virginia Sun

July, 1994

Mollie Brusstar, 48, was convicted of two counts of embezzlement from the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, where she had been employed in administration. According to the prosecutor, Brusstar put imaginary employees on the rolls and issued their paychecks to herself.

She and a sister went to Utah and, posing as nuns, used the money to obtain dental work and cosmetic abdomen-reduction surgery.

Brusstar's defense was that a monsignor had approved everything, but he was unavailable to testify, having committed suicide in the interim after being accused of molesting a parishioner.

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Arson Suspect
Feigns Telekinesis

His Thoughts Did It
by Chuck Shepherd

June, 1997

Shawn S. Warren, charged with arson in Anderson, Indiana, denied he actually started a fire in a garage. Instead, according to the town's chief fire investigator, Warren said, "I probably thought about that fire, and it just happened."

Said the investigator, "[Warren] did tell me sometimes he thinks about things and they happen."

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Didn't Want To Be
Closed-Minded

Genetic Mutations
Made Him Do It
by Chuck Shepherd

June, 1997

According to testimony in Chicago in a kidnapping trial, Richard Romero, 36, had befriended a local 13-year-old boy in an Internet sex chat and had arranged to whisk him off to St. Petersburg, Florida.

An acquaintance of Romero, self-described faith healer Kim Wistey, said Romero told him he was a mutant who was genetically engineered and programmed by the federal government to die at age 30 but that a benevolent alien race called the Vagans had proved that "extracting the energy from pornography" could stop his cells from dying.

Romero allegedly said that if Wistey would put him up for a while, he'd work on computer databases to find a cure for Wistey's mother's cancer. Romero was also enthusiastic, said Wistey, about the "Five-Cent Plan," by which the two men would get rich tapping into the IRS fund that contains a nickel from each tax return ever filed.

Said Wistey, after the prosecutor asked if he believed all of this: "I didn't want to be closed-minded."

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The Dog Told Him To Do It
by Chuck Shepherd
sources: North Florida Daily News, AP

July, 1996

Robert Meier, 55, was arrested for fraud and theft in Tampa, Florida, for a sham marriage to a comatose woman and for his subsequent purchases of almost $20,000 on her credit cards.

According to a sheriff's detective, Meier said the woman's dog told him that the woman would want him to use her credit cards to live a better life after she died.

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New Yorkers:
"Don't jump!"

God Told Him To Do It
by Chuck Shepherd

January, 1997

Jack Petelui, 43, claiming to hear God, stripped down to his underwear, climbed the ornate facade of the Ansonia Hotel in New York City, resisted police efforts for more than an hour to talk him down, and finally jumped.

Cynical New Yorkers were said to be astonished at the dozens of bystanders who were actually yelling "Don't jump!"

Petelui was spared serious injury when he landed on a police department rescue airbag.

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Bottom of the Gene Pool

God Used Him To Do It
by Chuck Shepherd

January 1, 1997

Randy Farmer of a Houston, Texas, suburb was one of the millions of people around the world who felt compelled to welcome in 1997 by firing off a few gunshots just after midnight. Farmer shot at a backyard tree, but then the gun jammed, and he went back inside to unjam it. He mishandled his gun and accidentally shot and killed his 7-year-old daughter.

Said Farmer, "God had a hand in this. He had to. It was like God called my baby home to be with him, and God used me as a tool to bring her to him."

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Bottom Of The Gene Pool:

God Saves Little Children
by Chuck Shepherd

August, 1998

Tanya Denby, convicted in Newport News, Virginia, in August of beating her 3-year-old daughter to death by excessive punishment: "I can't see my baby anymore, but she's in a much better place. I'm glad God took her."

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Bottom of the Gene Pool:

God Saves the Children
by Chuck Shepherd

April, 1998

Patricia Wells, indicted in April in Camden, New Jersey, for aggravated manslaughter after six kids (including one of hers) died as the van she was driving (at 70 mph in a 25 mph zone with no license and a .151 blood-alcohol level) crashed: "It was the children's time to go, and God wanted those children."

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A Computer Glitch
Made Him Do It

Catholic Moralist
Reverses Stance?
by Chuck Shepherd

November, 1997

The November 7 edition of the Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano contained statements declaring that homosexuals "do have the right" to adopt children and to live together as couples, attributed to staunch moralist Father Gino Concetti.

After several days of panic at the Vatican, editor Gianfranco Grieco located the problem: a computer glitch that removed only the word "not" several times from the story.

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Florida Board
Suspends Doctor
by Chuck Shepherd
source: St. Petersburg Times

June 7, 1992

The Florida Board of Medicine suspended the practice of Dr. Suzanne Peoples, declaring her delusional. The Board found that Peoples believes all illness is caused by a micro-organism that is treatable by vitamins and sessions with an "ion machine," which looks like a hair dryer with a red light bulb on it.

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Born Again Muffins

Christian Child-Pornographer
Gets 20 Years
by Chuck Shepherd

May, 1997

John E. Herndon, at his sentencing (he got 20 years) in Little Rock, Arkansas, for using two teenage girls in pornographic photos after giving them alcoholic beverages: "They were my muffins and my flowers," he told the judge. "They were earth angels. I renew my promises to the girls as a born-again Christian that I will always love them and protect them."

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