The top odd news stories in Arkansas for 2017
By KELLY P. KISSEL
Dec. 29, 2017
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas had some odd news stories in 2017. Poultry experts warned about piling chicken manure too high because it could spontaneously combust, and a juggler used his skills to prove to University of Central Arkansas police he wasn't driving drunk.
—Temperatures were in the 60s in Springdale on Jan. 12, but school administrators declared it a "snow day" for their 21,000 pupils so workers could fix a water main. An early morning leak interrupted service to 25 of the district's 31 schools, prompting the impromptu holiday.
—Arkansas is among the nation's top producers of poultry and, in line with that, the poultry's poop also used as an excellent fertilizer. Ahead of the spring growing season, industry experts warned farmers not to store chicken manure in piles greater than 7 feet high because the mix of nutrients and moisture hits the "sweet spot" for spontaneous combustion. A manure fire in western Arkansas took four hours to put out; no one was injured.
—What started as a day of collecting firewood, using inmate labor, ended with charges filed against a sheriff's deputy after a prisoner was found driving an H3 Hummer drunk. The Dallas County Sheriff's Office said the deputy resigned after being suspected of disorderly conduct. The inmate had crashed into a fence.
—Prosecutors spent part of the year trying to find out what an inanimate object "heard" around the time a man died in a hot tub in 2015. Amazon Echo smart speakers "listen" for key words. Amazon had fought a subpoena, citing its customers' privacy rights, but after an Echo's owner said prosecutors could listen, the speaker offered no clues and the death was ruled an accident.
—University of Central Arkansas police pulled student Blayk Puckett over in March after he drove slowly and with a broken tail light. Officers quickly saw that Puckett was sober and the student, who moonlights as a magician, showed off his juggling skills in front of an officer's body and dashboard cameras. Puckett's license plate reads "JUGGLER."
—A teenager unearthed a 7.44-carat diamond at the only place in the country where the public can dig for the gems. Kalel Langford named the stone "Superman's Diamond."
Would-be thieves had an interesting menagerie:
—Two women were picked up near Jonesboro and accused of stealing $5,000 worth of Little Debbie snack cakes along with the 16-foot trailer where they were stored. None of the snack cakes had been touched,
—Three men were accused of stealing a live alligator from a downtown Little Rock nature center. Police found the animal beneath a seat in the men's car.
—A Little Rock mall patron who wanted money rather than an exchange attempted to steal a stripper's pole as she left a novelty store. Police say the woman bit a store worker as he wrestled the pole away.
—A Hot Springs woman pleaded guilty to fraudulent use of a county credit card; prosecutors said that she used it to buy, among other things, a dog tuxedo.
And there was smorgasbord of sorts on the state's highways in a three-week period last summer:
—A tank car filled with whiskey crashed on Interstate 40 in eastern Arkansas on Aug. 2, a tractor-trailer spilled frozen pizzas on I-30 at Little Rock on Aug. 9 and spaghetti sauce spilled from a Dallas-bound truck near Dallas on Aug. 21.