This week in odd news: Chase & embrace and 'Amazing Grace'
BY RICHARD A. SOMMA
Jan. 12, 2018
NEVIS, Minn. (AP) — An aviation student in northern Minnesota pulled off a sky-high marriage proposal by writing "Marry Me" in the snow, then flying his long-time girlfriend over his handiwork.
Gavin Becker enlisted his family's help to pen the life-changing question using a snow blower on the frozen Eight Crow Wing Lake near Nevis.
Ed Becker, Gavin's father, tells KARE-TV that it took about 4½ hours to create the 25-foot-tall (7.5-meter-tall) letters and a huge heart.
Gavin Becker, a University of North Dakota aviation student, then rented a plane and took his high-school sweetheart, Olivia Toft, for a trip over the lake Sunday.
Toft, realizing it was snow joke, told him "yes."
LONDON (AP) — A British butcher who got locked in a freezer says he was saved by a frozen sausage that he used as a battering ram.
Chris McCabe says he became trapped in the walk-in freezer at his shop in Totnes, southwest England, last month when wind blew the door shut. The safety button to open the door had frozen in the -20 C (-4 F) chill.
McCabe said he tried unsuccessfully to kick the button free before picking up a 1.5 kilogram (3.3 pound) black pudding, a form of blood sausage.
McCabe told website Devon Live that he used the meaty tube "like a battering ram" and managed to unstick the button after several blows.
The grateful butcher told the Daily Mirror: "Black pudding saved my life, without a doubt."
APACHE JUNCTION, Ariz. (AP) — A couple got out of an SUV and then embraced before surrendering to pursuing sheriff's deputies after a chase for miles across part of metro Phoenix.
Officers converged on the pair and ordered them to the ground after the SUV crashed into a ditch Wednesday evening.
Thirty-five-year-old Dustin Perkins was jailed on suspicion of criminal damage, unlawful flight and other offenses.
The Pinal County Sheriff's Office says the woman was hospitalized with injuries apparently suffered in the crash. She wasn't immediately booked into jail.
The chase involving officers from several agencies began a short time after a Mea police unit spotted a vehicle which another policy agency had reported as stolen.
Perkins told news crews that the vehicle belongs to his father and that he was trying to return it.
HARAHAN, La. (AP) — A Louisiana couple is accused of attempting to rob an Uber driver that the woman distracted by being topless.
Harahan Police Chief Tim Walker tells news outlets 24-year-old Anthony Kennedy and 22-year-old Rayna Fillios were arrested Saturday.
The victim told officers he gave his telephone number to Fillios when she hailed a ride. Fillios called and asked him to come over.
He said Fillios was topless when she opened the front door. Authorities say Fillios grabbed his arms, pulled him into her chest, kissed him and bit his tongue to distract him.
When Fillios let go, Kennedy brandished a knife and told the victim to hand over his money. The victim refused and Kennedy punched him.
The couple was charged with several offenses including armed robbery. It's unclear if they have lawyers.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — An Albuquerque resident says new bells and the constant playing of "Amazing Grace" by a Latino Catholic church have created a living hell for her.
KOB-TV in Albuquerque, New Mexico, reports Bernadette Hall-Cuaron says she can no longer stand the regular ding-dongs coming from Our Lady of Guadalupe Church's new electronic bell system.
Hall-Cuaron says the bells ring about 20 to 25 times a day and its keeping people from church because the sounds are so annoying. She says bong songs make it hard for her to sleep.
Pastor Rev. Joe Vigil says he's responded to the complaints by lowering the volume and moved the bells from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m.
The church is located in Albuquerque's North Valley neighborhood.
BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand's prime minister evaded journalists' questions on Monday by bringing out a life-sized cardboard cutout of himself and telling the reporters to quiz it instead of him.
Prayuth Chan-ocha then turned on his heel and walked off, leaving the mock-up behind, to bemused looks and awkward laughter from the Government House press pack.
The prime minister had briefly spoken to the media after attending an event promoting upcoming Children's Day, but deployed his dodging tactic before anyone could ask him about a number of pressing political issues.
"If you want to ask any questions on politics or conflict," he said, "ask this guy."
It isn't the first time Prayuth — a general who seized power in a bloodless coup in 2014 — has dumbfounded the media. In the past he has fondled the ear of a sound technician for several minutes during an impromptu news conference, flung a banana peel at cameramen, and threatened, with gruff humor, to execute any journalist who criticized his government.
When it took power, his government, packed with military leaders, enjoyed considerable public support for ending a prolonged period of often-violent street politics. But as the junta's rule has stretched on, criticism of its often-repressive policies and lack of transparency has grown markedly.
Prayuth has promised elections in November, though he has made similar promises several times previously and then delayed the balloting.
BANGKOK (AP) — Thai police have arrested a 72-year-old Japanese fugitive who was recognized when his full-body tattoos were circulated online.
A police statement said Shigeharu Shirai was arrested Wednesday in a province north of Bangkok, where he has been hiding for over 10 years to evade murder charges in Japan in connection with the death of a rival gang member.
His arrest apparently came after photos of him sitting around a checkers table were posted on Facebook in August last year by a Thai who was impressed by the man's tattoos. The post was shared over 10,000 times when some users identified the former gang member.
Police Gen. Wirachai Songmetta said that Japanese associates paid visits to Shirai two to three times a year, each time bearing cash gifts at around 10,000 baht ($312). He's married to a Thai woman and kept a low profile over the past decade, police said.
According to police, Shirai was a member of the Yamaguchi-gumi gang, a faction within Japan's Yakuza. He's implicated, along with seven others, in the killing of Kashihiko Otobe, who was the deputy leader of the rival Kamiya gang.
Shirai will face illegal entry charges before he is handed over to Japanese authorities, the police statement said.
BRUNSWICK, Maine (AP) — A marine biologist believes a humpback whale shielded her from a 15-foot tiger shark in the South Pacific.
Nan Hauser said she didn't understand the actions of the 25-ton whale that she met face-to-face in the Cook Islands. Then she saw the shark.
She's heard on a video telling the massive mammal, "I love you!"
The encounter took place in October, but Hauser didn't upload the video until Monday. It quickly spread via social media.
Hauser, president of the Center for Cetacean Research and Conservation, tells the Portland Press Herald that whales are "altruistic" and often hide seals from predators, but she has never experienced or read about anything about a whale protecting a human. "If someone told me the story, I wouldn't believe it," she said.
The Brunswick resident said she was oblivious to the shark during the tense, 10-minute encounter. The whale started to nudge her, and appeared to push her with its head. The animal also appeared to shield her with its pectoral fin.
Her research companions turned off an underwater video drone, fearing she was going to be mauled to death.
But Hauser kept her video rolling.
She suffered some bruises and scratches from the encounter, but was otherwise unscathed. She said that after she swam back to her boat, the whale surfaced nearby as if to check on her.
While Hauser credits the whale for protecting her, she acknowledges she can't know what the whale was thinking.
James Sulikowski, a marine biologist and professor at the University of New England who has studied tiger sharks, said he's not convinced that the whale saved her life. "The shark could have just been hanging around," he said. "There's really no way of knowing the whale's motivation."
EAST BROOKFIELD, Mass. (AP) — Police say a Massachusetts woman skipped her own mother's funeral so she could break into the dead woman's house and steal a safe filled with items worth $90,000.
The Telegram & Gazette reports that 30-year-old Alyce Davenport was held on $15,000 bail after pleading not guilty Monday to seven charges. An alleged accomplice was held without bail on a warrant.
Police say Davenport and her accomplice went to the mother's home on Friday during the funeral. Police say she did not attend her mother's funeral and was not answering calls from relatives.
Police were tipped off about the alleged theft by the boyfriend of Davenport's mother.
Davenport and her accomplice were found at a Sturbridge motel on Saturday.
It could not immediately be determined if Davenport has a lawyer.
GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) — An Arizona woman is facing charges after police say she fired shots at her husband while he sat on the toilet to make him "listen."
KNXV-TV reports 69-year-old Linda Jean Fahn recently was arrested following a frantic call from her husband.
He told Goodyear police Fahn barged in while he was using the restroom and fired two shots above his head.
According to a police report, Fahn told officers, "I shot two bullets at the wall above his head to make him listen to me."
Police say the shots were fired about seven inches above the man's head as he was slouched on the toilet.
Fahn has been charged with aggravated assault. It was not known if she had an attorney.
MIAMI (AP) — Jurors in Florida decided a police officer owes $15,000 in damages to a couple she illegally snooped on more than 100 times over the past two years.
The SunSentinel reports 41-year-old Pembroke Pines Police Officer Melodie Carpio admitted she used her job to look up information about her boyfriend's ex-wife and her new husband on confidential law enforcement databases. The verdict was announced Tuesday after a one day trial in federal court in Miami.
Court records showed she snooped 167 times.
Carpio is personally liable to pay the civil judgment to Cindy Thibault and Claude Letourneau.
Attorneys Michael Glasser and Eric Rudenberg said they believe the verdict sends a message to law enforcement officers who abuse their power.
Pembroke Pines police disciplined Carpio after an investigation in 2016, but she kept her job.
MIAMI (AP) — Authorities say a man was taken into custody after jumping a perimeter fence at Miami International Airport and sprinting across a runway.
News outlets report that Miami-Dade police responded to the tarmac Monday afternoon and apprehended the man, who wasn't immediately named.
Police say the man was apparently trying to take a shortcut. He told investigators that he had been dropped off at the airport to fill out an application and decided to jump the fence after realizing he was in wrong place.
It wasn't clear if any flights were affected by the intruder.
No injuries were reported.
OCEAN ISLE BEACH, N.C. (AP) — Although North Carolina's recent bitter cold snap deterred plenty of humans from sticking their noses outdoors, a group of alligators stuck their snouts into the frost and hunkered down in the name of survival.
When the alligators at Shallotte River Swamp Park recently found themselves beneath a sheet of ice as temperatures plunged below freezing, they poked their nostrils above the surface so they could get some air.
The odd scene was a matter of survival for the gators. When they get cold, they enter a period of dormancy known as brumation. They slow their metabolism and their breathing, and before the surface ices over they poke their noses out of the water to continue breathing.
Park officials say the alligators will be on the prowl once temperatures warm up.
NAPLES, Fla. (AP) — A man says he was letting his dog outside in Florida when a large bear attacked him.
Andrew Meunier tells news outlets that he let his dog out of his home about 11 p.m. Tuesday and spotted the 4-foot (1-meter) bear standing next to him when he stepped outside.
Meunier said he struggled to get away and managed to get back through his front door.
A 911 call revealed that Meunier suffered a minor facial laceration from the bear attack. He sought treatment at a local hospital and received 41 stitches.
"I'm just happy to be alive," Meunier said. "It could've been a totally different story."
WARWICK, R.I. (AP) — A Rhode Island police chief is apologizing for a Facebook post that labeled a woman "2017 Grandmother of the Year" after she was caught on camera swiping what police say was a $100 bill, then shushing a little boy to keep it quiet.
Warwick Police Chief Stephen McCartney made the apology on WPRO-AM about a post by the department last week. The department put out the video in an attempt to find the woman. A 76-year-old woman was later identified and arrested.
McCartney says the post was wrong and the woman in it should not have been characterized that way.
He says the department should be factual and professional on social media, and says they "dropped the ball" in this case.
YULEE, Fla. (AP) — Authorities say a construction crew found a rusted mortar shell while doing road work in Florida.
The Florida Times-Union reports that the discovery caused a shutdown on Florida A1A in Yulee Tuesday morning. The Nassau County Sheriff's Office says traffic was detoured until military experts safely removed it.
Officials say the 60-mm shell was similar to those used by infantry soldiers from World War II through the Vietnam War. Staff from Georgia's Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base bomb squad checked the shell and declared it safe.
NEW GLOUCESTER, Maine (AP) — Officials at a Maine outdoor center are warning skiers to watch out for an "aggressive dive-bombing" owl that recently struck a man.
Pineland Farms says in a Facebook post the owl cut the man's head when it attacked, and neither skiers nor trail groomers have seen the bird since.
Pineland says the owl is protecting a nest near a cross-country ski trail. They believe the bird is either a barred owl or a great horned owl.
The center has posted warning signs around the trail. They recommend people wave their arms overhead or wear a hat if they must pass by the area.
Pineland says "owls are silent when they strike, so you will not hear it coming."
BOSTON (AP) — Boston's venerable Museum of Fine Arts has gone to the dogs.
The museum on Wednesday introduced the newest addition to its staff, a Weimaraner puppy named Riley that will be trained to sniff out insects or other pests that could potentially damage priceless works of art.
Riley belongs to and will be trained by Nicki Luongo, the museum's director of protective services.
Deputy Director Katie Getchell tells The Boston Globe that insects are an ongoing concern for museums and there already are existing protocols in place to handle potential infestations. Riley will add another layer and help sniff out pests humans can't see.
Getchell says she's not aware of another institution using a dog for similar work.
Riley will be used behind the scenes and won't be seen by visitors.
AYDEN, N.C. (AP) — A dog is being credited with saving a family of three from a fire which destroyed their North Carolina home.
Firefighters in Ayden told local media outlets that the home was engulfed in flames when they arrived Wednesday. Ayden Assistant Fire Chief Barry Wood says first responders from Ayden and Winterville were called to the home just before 5 a.m.
Kadasia Roach said her dog started barking, waking her mother and stepfather. She said he then yelled for everyone to leave the house.
Wood said the home didn't have a smoke alarm. He said the cause of the fire isn't known, but it appears to be accidental and the house will be considered a total loss.
YORK, Maine (AP) — Beachgoers in Maine have caught an unusual sight — an ice skater's blades gliding over frozen sand and surf.
Grant Long celebrated his 18th birthday Saturday by skating on the newfound patch of ice after record-low temperatures caused Long Sands Beach to freeze over.
Long's mother says her son got his skates for Christmas and felt as if the ice was a "birthday bonus."
Onlookers at the beach captured a video of Long skating and posted it to Facebook Monday. The video has gathered more than 170,000 views, with commenters saying they have never witnessed such a sight.
Long's mother says the teen is an old soul, and he will definitely write about his experience in his journal
ROCKY RIVER, Ohio (AP) — Postal carriers say a rafter of aggressive wild turkeys have prevented them from delivering mail to more than two dozen homes in a Cleveland suburb.
Cleveland.com reports residents on a number of streets in Rocky River have had to pick up their mail at the post office because the turkeys have created unsafe conditions for carriers to deliver to their homes.
Rocky River Mayor Pam Bobst said the problem has persisted for the last three weeks. She said city ordinances don't allow for the turkeys to be eradicated.
The city has instead sent letters to people asking them to stop putting out bird feed in the hope the turkeys will go elsewhere.
A U.S. Postal Service spokesman says some carriers have been pecked but none have been injured.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A Rhode Island rapper whose songs include "Sell Drugsz" has been sentenced to three years in prison for doing just that.
Federal prosecutors say 30-year-old Michael Persaud, of Johnston, was sentenced Tuesday in federal court in Providence for trafficking heroin and fentanyl. His stage name is Montana Millz.
Prosecutors say an East Providence undercover detective bought nearly three-quarters of an ounce (22 grams) of fentanyl and a small amount of heroin from Persaud over a four-month period beginning in October 2016. Authorities also say they seized 1½ ounces (44 grams) of fentanyl from his home.
Persaud's lawyer, Matthew Smith, calls the sentence "fair and just." Prosecutors had asked for a six-year prison term.
Persaud also awaits sentencing in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, where a jury convicted him of drug charges.
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh's indoor zoo dedicated to birds has an adorable new member: a baby two-toed sloth.
The National Aviary introduced 5-month-old Vivien Leigh on Tuesday. The aviary says Vivien was acquired from a breeder in Florida.
The sloth will be hand-raised by experts so it will be comfortable around humans and well-prepared for its role as an educational ambassador.
Sloths are rainforest animals, but their habitat is rapidly diminishing due to human activity. The aviary hopes Vivien will help teach visitors ways they can help protect rainforests.
Visitors will also have the opportunity to book an encounter with Vivien beginning in February. They can touch the sloth, take photos and interact with her in a comfortable, private setting.
She joins two other sloths at the aviary: Rudolph Valentino and Wookiee.