The week in odd news: Opossum in liquor store; Sphinx found
BY RICHARD A. SOMMA
Dec. 02, 2017
FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla. (AP) — An opossum that apparently drank bourbon after breaking into a Florida liquor store sobered up at a wildlife rescue center and was released unharmed.
Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge officials say the opossum was brought in by a Fort Walton Beach, Florida, police officer on Nov. 24. A liquor store employee found the animal next to a broken and empty bottle of bourbon.
Refuge technician Michelle Pettis told the Panama City News Herald the female opossum appeared disoriented, was excessively salivating and was pale. The staff pumped the marsupial full of fluids and cared for her as she sobered up.
Pettis says the opossum did not appear to have a hangover.
The store owner says he never had an opossum break in before.
The animal was released on Thursday.
WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — When a man found the only worker at an empty South Carolina Waffle House asleep, he took his meal into his own hands.
On Facebook , Alex Bowen chronicled with selfies how he made his own double Texas bacon cheese steak melt at the famous Southern 24-7 diner around 2 a.m. Thursday.
Bowen says on Facebook he waited 10 minutes, then cooked his meal and "even scraped the grill when I was done."
Bowen's photos showed him with the sleeping worker, frying bacon and putting the sandwich together.
After good-natured kidding about stealing the sandwich, Bowen even posted a selfie returning to pay for his meal.
Waffle House said in a statement it was impressed with Bowen's cooking skills but customers should never go behind the counter for safety reasons.
GUADALUPE, Calif. (AP) — Archaeologists working in sand dunes on the central California coast have dug up an intact plaster sphinx that was part of an Egyptian movie set built more than 90 years ago for Cecil B. DeMille's epic "The Ten Commandments."
The 300-pound sphinx is the second recovered from the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes.
Dunes Center Executive Director Doug Jenzen tells Santa Barbara news station KEYT-TV that it's unlike other items found on previous digs because most of it is preserved with the original paint intact.
The set of the 1923 movie included more than 20 sphinxes. After filming, DeMille ordered everything buried in the dunes 175 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
They lay undisturbed for decades before recovery efforts began. The newly recovered sphinx is expected to go on display at the dunes museum next summer.
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Earmuffs are all the rage on at least one day of the year.
With the arrival of the holiday season and winter around the corner, the town of Farmington celebrated Chester Greenwood Day with a parade Saturday honoring the folk hero who's credited with the invention that has kept ears warm for more than a century.
Earmuffs festooned floats and cars, and people and pets, too. A flag featuring with supersized earmuffs was hoisted outside the courthouse.
Behind all the silliness, though, there is pride in the famous tinkerer and his creation.
"They're just ubiquitous. People continue to wear them. It's something Mainers can be proud of," said Angela Goebel-Bain from the Maine State Museum.
Greenwood was just 15 when he fashioned his first muffs out of farm wire and his grandmother sewed fur onto them in 1873. He made improvements to his creation, obtained a patent and manufactured hundreds of thousands of Champion Ear Protectors.
During World War I, his factory made earmuffs for the U.S. Army "doughboys" fighting in the frozen trenches on the western front.
Greenwood enjoyed tinkering. He came up with more than 100 contraptions but received patents for only five of them, Goebel-Bain said.
His earmuff design represented improvements by incorporating a spring that conformed to the head and kept muffs in contact with the ears, according to his 1877 patent. Other patents included a rake, a tea kettle and a wood-boring machine. He also ran a bicycle shop, built a plumbing and heating business and created a local telephone company.
His earmuff factory closed a few years after his death in 1937.
Forty years later, the Maine Legislature declared Chester Greenwood Day on the first day of winter. These days, it's celebrated on the first Saturday of December. Festivities include a polar dip, gingerbread house contest, tree lighting and carriage rides.
"People have stepped up to the plate to make it fun," said Nancy Porter of Farmington, who authored the self-published "Chester: More Than Earmuffs."
As the story goes, Greenwood hatched the idea for the earmuff to protect his generous-sized ears after a day of ice skating on a frigid day.
Over time, some elements of the Greenwood story may have been embellished, but not the part about the size of his ears, Porter said.
"He had pretty good-sized ears. There's no question," she said.
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A tabby named Max has been playing a game of cat and mouse with some Minnesota college librarians.
The furtive feline has been sneaking into the Macalester College library in St. Paul when people open the door and has been seen scampering around the bookshelves.
The library put up a wanted-type poster asking patrons, "Please do not let in the cat."
The Star Tribune reports that the conundrum has caused a stir on Twitter and Reddit, where people have been posting Max-inspired artwork. Someone even made a library card for Max, who has been grounded by his owner over his naughty behavior.
WINDSOR, Va. (AP) — A video of a beagle at a Virginia animal shelter scaling her cage in an escape attempt has generated calls of interest from across the country.
Emily Glickman, a caretaker at the shelter in Windsor, said by phone Thursday that its new owner plans to take her home Friday.
The adopter claimed the dog, named Buttermilk, long before the video went viral.
The Isle of Wight County Animal Shelter posted a Facebook video of the escape attempt Tuesday, generating more than 70,000 views. It shows Buttermilk gingerly climbing a 4-foot cage's wall before perching atop it.
The shelter often rescues hunting dogs, particularly after the season. Glickman said Buttermilk was rescued three weeks ago.
The shelter's animals are often named after food brought in by volunteers. In Buttermilk's case, it was pancakes.
WOOLSTOCK, Iowa (AP) — Authorities say a pheasant hunter in north-central Iowa was accidentally shot when a dog stepped on shotgun trigger guard and the gun fired.
The Iowa Natural Resources Department says the shooting occurred around 1:20 p.m. Wednesday at a public hunting area near Woolstock in southwestern Wright County. The department says four hunters and two dogs were looking for the game birds when one of the hunters placed a loaded 12-gauge shotgun on the ground. It went off when one of the dogs stepped on the trigger guard, and shotgun load sprayed another hunter. The department says several pellets lodged in the back of William Rancourt, of Lebanon, New Hampshire, but he was able to walk soon after being wounded.
He was taken to a hospital in Fort Dodge for treatment.
SAYREVILLE, N.J. (AP) — Police in New Jersey are trying to trace the source of a loud banging noise that's waking residents and causing dogs to bark.
Sayreville police say they started to receive reports on Monday about noises coming from nearby South Amboy. Police initially thought a private company hired to control the geese population was responsible, but the Middlesex County Parks Department said that was not the case.
The investigation is ongoing.
SUDBURY, Mass. (AP) — Police in a Massachusetts town are showing residents how not to transport their holiday trees.
Sudbury police posted a picture Friday of a vehicle with a large tree on top of it. Almost the entire car appears to be hidden.
Police say an officer stopped the vehicle on Route 20 in the town, located about 25 miles (40 km) west of Boston.
Police on Facebook reminded people to transport holiday trees "responsibly."
It's unclear if the driver was cited. The department did not immediately respond to a request for additional details on Monday.
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — A man suspected of breaking into a northern Michigan home left a big clue: The toilet seat was down.
Police say a Traverse City man who lives alone figured something wasn't right last Saturday. Why? He told investigators that he typically keeps the seat up.
Police Chief Jeff O'Brien says a 26-year-old man was found passed out in the man's garage. O'Brien tells the Traverse City Record-Eagle that the intruder appeared to be intoxicated and had taken prescription drugs from the home.
The man and the resident don't know each other. Charges will be pursued.
REVERE, Mass. (AP) — A bank robbery suspect is in police custody after authorities say he tried to make a smelly escape in a portable toilet.
Police say 41-year-old Steven Spolidoro, of Woburn, walked into a Revere bank around 1 p.m. Wednesday, demanded money and fled with about $1,000 cash.
An off-duty officer in the area provided authorities with a description of Spolidoro's vehicle. It was spotted in Boston, and police say Spolidoro abandoned his vehicle and ran away on foot.
Authorities eventually located Spolidoro hiding in a port-a-potty near the TD Garden arena.
His arraignment is scheduled for Thursday. It's unclear whether he has a lawyer.
One officer crashed his SUV during the pursuit of Spolidoro. WCVB-TV reports the officer is expected to be OK.
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Authorities say a couple awoke to find a burglar asleep on their bedroom floor.
The Washington County Sheriff's Office says the couple escorted the man out Wednesday morning before realizing that wallets, cell phones and a tablet computer were missing. Deputies, aided by the Find My iPhone app, found a 64-year-old suspect hiding under the porch of a nearby home.
Ervin Solomon has been charged with burglary, theft and felon in possession of a restricted weapon.
In addition to the items taken from the couple, the sheriff's office says Solomon had jewelry and other items. Deputies are trying to find the owners of that property.
SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — A Southern California man suspected of stealing a $300,000 Ferrari was arrested after asking for gas money, authorities said.
Santa Ana police arrested Israel Perez Rangel on Nov. 1. He pleaded not guilty to car theft.
Authorities say the 458 Spider was brought into a Costa Mesa service center and stolen in October after a worker left the key on a passenger seat.
Security video showed a man in a Ferrari jacket walking onto the lot and taking it.
Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said officers subsequently responded to a report of a Ferrari driving erratically and stopped at an intersection, and to another call that the driver was asking for gas money.
The exotic car was spotted at a gas station, where the driver ran off and was found and arrested behind bushes near a Holiday Inn, police said.
The Los Angeles Times says the car was trashed, with emblems torn from the body, cracked fins and a destroyed gearbox.
The Times said insurers paid the owner, who used the money to buy a 2018 Lamborghini Huracan.
SOUTH ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A person who apparently sped off after hitting a parked car in a Minneapolis suburb more than 30 years ago anonymously sent $1,000 to local police this month and asked them to pass it on to the car's owner, if possible.
The sender also sent a letter to the South St. Paul police department asking for forgiveness, The Pioneer Press reported .
"I was quite shocked," police Chief Bill Messerich said. "It's not something you see every day."
The note says the anonymous driver hit a parked car one evening in 1985 or 1986. The sender expressed remorse and requested police try to track down the vehicle's owner. The note says the money could be donated to a police charity if the victim isn't located.
"I am sorry for any inconvenience that I have caused and I ask for your forgiveness," the letter says.
Police records don't go that far back so the money was put into the department's general account, Messerich said. It will be used to buy new equipment or technology.
"I guess this was just weighing on this person's conscience for over 30 years and they came to a certain point in their life where they wanted to try to make things right if they could," Messerich said.
City Administrator Steve Kind has been in city government for 35 years. He said he hasn't seen a similar donation.
"It's a pleasant surprise," he said. "It's nice to be the recipient, so there's that part of it. But it's also good to see there's redemption after all those years."
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A New Jersey woman who got roadside aid from a homeless man in Philadelphia has raised more than $385,000 for him — enough to buy a home and his dream truck and provide him with a small annual salary.
Kate McClure said on a GoFundMe page she set up that an attorney and financial adviser helped 34-year-old Johnny Bobbitt Jr. come up with the plan.
McClure, of Florence Township, ran out of gas on an Interstate 95 exit ramp late one night in Philadelphia. Bobbitt walked a few blocks to buy her gas with his last $20. She didn't have money to repay him but went back to the area several times to give him the cash back and also to help him with food and water.
She and her boyfriend later decided to set up the online fundraiser to help him out. The campaign took off, and donations poured in from around the world.
Bobbitt, originally from Henderson, North Carolina, told BBC Radio on Sunday he's blown away by the generosity.
"It's all happened so fast. I'm just happy I'm getting a second chance at life," he said.
Bobbitt served in the U.S. Marine Corps and worked as a paramedic in Vance County, North Carolina, before he became homeless, according to McClure and Bobbitt's Facebook page.
Details on how he wound up on the streets of Philadelphia have been sparse.
Bobbitt told the BBC it was a mix of "bad decisions and bad situations."
Two trust funds and a bank account were being set up for him with the donated money, McClure said. One fund will give him the ability to collect a small salary each month, and the other will work as a retirement fund, which will be invested by a financial planner.
"So when the time comes, he can live his retirement dream of owning a piece of land and a cabin in the country," McClure wrote on the GoFundMe page.
Bobbitt also wants to donate to organizations and people who helped him in the last few years during this rough patch in his life, she said.
And that dream truck? It's a 1999 Ford Ranger, she said.
CHANDLER, Ariz. (AP) — A dog wouldn't come out after chasing a cat into a tunnel dug by a giant tortoise in the back yard of a home in a Phoenix suburb, so homeowner Toby Passmore called for help.
Chandler firefighters responded Wednesday with people and shovels and, with the help of a city backhoe, began unearthing the 6-foot-deep tunnel dug by Passmore's tortoise.
That allowed Passmore to squirm head-first into the hole and see that his Scottish Schnauzer "was willfully inside the hole" where it had cornered the cat.
With his ankles held by firefighters, Passmore was able to pull the dog out. It emerged dirty but unharmed.
The rescuers left the hole open to allow the cat to leave when it felt safe.
MAYER, Ariz. (AP) — A man accused of burglarizing a disabled pickup truck in north-central Arizona later called 911 to report being threatened by the vehicle's owner.
Yavapai County Sheriff's officials say 25-year-old Robert Jones of Glendale was booked into the Camp Verde jail on suspicion of burglary and criminal damage.
The Daily Courier reports Jones allegedly broke out the window of the truck and took items out of the vehicle.
Sheriff's deputies contact the owner, who says his truck was left on the side of Highway 69 because it had a flat tire.
When the man returned with a spare tire, he saw the broken window and confronted Jones.
Authorities say Jones denied involvement in the theft although the victim saw his duffel bag and tire iron in the suspect's car.
PLACENTIA, Calif. (AP) — Authorities say someone left a hand grenade inside a box of donations that was dropped off by a woman at a Goodwill store in Southern California.
The Los Angeles Times reports an unidentified woman dropped off the box Wednesday at the store in the city of Placentia near Los Angeles.
The Placentia Police Department says store workers discovered the grenade as they sifted through donations.
Officers evacuated neighboring businesses and a bomb squad was sent to safely retrieve the grenade.
The nonprofit Goodwill Industries International Inc. has more than 3,200 retail thrift stores.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — An Alaska woman came home to find out a thief had broken in and stolen clothing, jewelry, prescription drugs and the mounted head of a zebra she had on a wall.
Stacy Scott got good news Monday, however. A cab driver who helped a suspect drive off with the stolen goods, found the zebra head in his trunk and returned it.
Scott tells Anchorage television station KTVA that she received the zebra head from a friend when she worked at a downtown boutique. She named the head "George."
A security camera Friday recorded a woman carrying items, including George, out of Scott's home and into a waiting cab.
Police arrested a 38-old woman at an Anchorage motel where the cab driver had taken her. The suspect is charged with felony burglary and theft.
GALVESTON, Texas (AP) — Galveston city workers have discovered a leak in a nearby water line that had been pouring an average of 3 million gallons of water into the city's storm sewer system each day for years.
The Galveston County Daily News reports that city workers found the leak Nov. 18 while trying to set up new back-flow prevention devices that could potentially delay the effects of sea level rise.
City Manager Brian Maxwell says workers capped the line to stop the flow. Maxwell says the 10-inch line was supposedly abandoned by Galveston in the mid-1900s and doesn't appear on any recent city maps.
Maxwell believes the leak occurred for at least seven years. Assistant City Manager Brandon Cook says the city's had to buy 3 million gallons less water a day since capping the line.
BERLIN (AP) — A German restaurant owner is in hot water for allegedly marking playing cards with radioactivity to rig games.
Berlin police said Tuesday the 41-year-old woman daubed Iodine-125 on specific cards, which allowed them to be identified by a gambler with a concealed detector.
Police got on her trail after radioactive card fragments were found during a routine inspection of a garbage truck at a waste treatment plant a year ago. Investigators then followed the vehicle's route to determine the origin.
They raided the woman's restaurant and other premises earlier this month and found 13 radioactive card pieces.
Police said Tuesday that Iodine-125 is commonly used for medical purposes and only poses a health risk through direct contact with no protective clothing.
How much the scheme netted is still under investigation.
SEATTLE (AP) — A family made an unusual discovery inside the bathroom of their north Seattle apartment on Friday — a snake was hiding in their toilet.
KOMO-TV reports the family called police after a child found the 4-foot (1-meter) snake inside the apartment in the Lake City neighborhood.
Officers helped remove the snake, and personnel with the Pacific Northwest Herpetological Society picked it up.
Society officials say the snake appears to be a ball python, a non-venomous constrictor that is a popular pet among reptile fans.
Though rare, reports of snakes being discovered in toilets are not unheard of. A Kansas City, Kansas family found a ball python inside their toilet in 2015, and similar incidents have been reported in Australia, Thailand and elsewhere.
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Police say a robber asked for a cookie then demanded cash at a Subway store in Pittsburgh.
The heist occurred Wednesday afternoon at the store on East Carson Street.
Police say after asking for a cookie, the man placed his hand in his pocket as though he had a gun and told the clerk he wanted money from the cash register.
The bandit fled with an undetermined amount of cash.
FLINT, Mich. (AP) — A Michigan city council member accused of pawning his publicly owned laptop nine times has been ordered to pay $300 and put in a week's worth of service on a sheriff's work detail.
Flint Councilman Eric Mays learned his punishment on Monday after pleading no contest in August to misdemeanor willful neglect of duty. The Flint Journal reports Genesee County District Court Judge William H. Crawford II said the councilman should focus on "regaining the public's trust."
Mays told the judge he "wishes the whole thing had not happened," but that he's ready to move forward. Mays was re-elected this month.
Police say Mays pawned his laptop computer for a $100 loan on nine occasions over two years. He last got the laptop back in May by paying $116.
NEW YORK (AP) — A unanimous winner of the AL Rookie of the Year Award and runner-up in Most Valuable Player voting, Aaron Judge also received ballots in another election: for New York City mayor.
The New York Yankees right fielder was listed on 10 ballots as a write-in candidate for mayor, according to final totals released late Tuesday by the New York City Board of Elections.
Judge received three votes in New York County (Manhattan and the Marble Hill section of the Bronx), four in Brooklyn, two in Queens and one in Staten Island.
He was far behind Bill de Blasio, who won re-election with 713,634 votes on the Democratic line and 46,478 on the Working Families line.
Former Yankees manager Joe Girardi and former Yankees captain Derek Jeter, now CEO of the Miami Marlins, got two write-in votes apiece.
Kristaps Porzingis, a Latvian player on the NBA's New York Knicks, received nine write-in votes. There was an additional vote for each of two misspelled variations of his name: Kristaps Porzinais and Kristops Porzingis.
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who was benched this week, got one vote.
TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — The Toledo Zoo has welcomed a new addition to its Western lowland gorilla troop.
Officials at the Ohio zoo say the male Mokonzi was born last week to 23-year-old mother Kitani and 29-year-old father Kwisha. The baby gorilla's name means governor in Swahili.
The zoo says this is the first western lowland gorilla born there since 2003. Officials say he is healthy, and the mother is taking good care of him.
The Kingdom of the Apes exhibit has been closed since Mokonzi's birth. Zoo officials expect it to reopen to visitors later this week.
Zookeeper Mike Payne tells The Blade newspaper that Mokonzi will remain at the zoo until he reaches puberty.