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The Odd Truth, Dec. 11, 2003

The Odd Truth is a collection of strange but factual news stories from around the world compiled by's Brian Bernbaum. A new collection of stories is published each weekday. On weekends, you can read a week's worth of The Odd Truth.

Cattle Rustler

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. - After two weeks on the run, a convicted burglar is back behind bars - but not before stealing a truck from a dealership and trying to sell stolen cows at auction.

Michael J. Parent, 42, of Glenwood City was discovered missing Nov. 23 from the McNaughton Correctional Center in Lake Tomahawk.

Parent escaped by stealing a prison vehicle, authorities said Wednesday. He drove it to a car dealership, where he took a pickup truck for a test drive and never returned.

Parent is also suspected of stealing calves from a Pierce County farm, which were reported stolen early Tuesday, and stealing a livestock trailer in Pepin County.

The Pierce County farmer called livestock auction barns to alert them to the theft, officials said. Hours later, they said, Parent showed up at Equity Livestock just south of Eau Claire with the trailer and calves.

Equity officials contacted the sheriff's department after they discovered the ear tags on the calves matched the tags reported by the farmer.

Parent fled on foot after authorities arrived at the auction house and hid in nearby woods before being captured two hours later. He could face charges of theft and possession of stolen property.

Low-Down High-Tech

SAMMAMISH, Washington - It's a new low in high-tech voyeurism. Authorities in Washington state charge that Jack Le Vu used his cell phone camera to take pictures up a woman's skirt.

Witnesses say Vu pretended to be looking at items on a low supermarket shelf and snapped pictures under an unsuspecting woman's skirt. The alleged victim tells the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that she was tending to her baby at the time. She adds it's the last thing you would expect in a public place.

According to prosecutors, Vu told investigators he has a panty fetish. He's been released on $25,000 bail and faces up to five years in prison if convicted. Officials at the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington DC say it's the first cell phone peeping case of its type they've heard about.

The Customer Is Always Right, Almost

NEW MILFORD, Conn. - Courtesy counts in dealing with customers, but it also has paid off for a supermarket cashier who says a rude customer turned out to be worth $25,000.

A grumpy customer was the source of luck for Loretta Morris who works at the Northville Market.

"We have a policy in our store to ask for a driver's license when someone buys lottery tickets, cigarettes or alcohol," Morris said Tuesday.

But one customer last Tuesday decided not to produce a picture ID to purchase a $5 Silver Bells scratch-off Connecticut state lottery ticket.

Morris said the customer told her to "stick the ticket," when she asked for proof he was 18.

At the end of her shift she decided to just buy the ticket instead of putting it back and having a loose ticket in the store.

She took the ticket home where she scratched the ticket, which had three chances to win.

Morris had almost given up when the little scratch-off wrapped present and the Christmas tree didn't yield prizes, but the third little scratch-off box made her an instant winner.

On Friday, she and her husband traveled an hour to New Britain's lottery office and returned with a check for $17,501 after federal and state taxes.

Boy Traded For Gasoline

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - A boy who was left with a Cambodian gasoline vendor as collateral for 0.8 gallons of gasoline earlier this year has been reunited with his family, a police officer said Thursday.

Ron Dy, 9, was handed over to his uncle, Roeun Eng, on Monday after gasoline seller Chim Thy appealed to the boy's parents through the media, said Ly Lim, a police chief in Kampong Thom province, 80 miles north of the capital, Phnom Penh.

Chim Thy, 70, had been caring for Ron Dy in Kampong Thom since February, when a man who claimed to be the boy's uncle said he couldn't pay for the fuel and left the boy as collateral while he went to get money. However, the man — who identified himself only as Vy — never returned and media earlier this month quoted Chim Thy as saying she wanted Ron Dy's relatives to pick him up.

Roeun Eng, 33, said Vy wasn't the boy's uncle but had offered to give him a ride on his motorcycle. It wasn't clear why Chim Thy waited 10 months before appealing to Ron Dy's family to claim the boy.

Roeun Eng gave the gasoline vendor $2.50 for looking after his nephew, and took Ron Dy to his mother and two siblings in the northwestern province of Siem Riep. Ron Dy cried as he said goodbye to Chim Thy, saying he wanted to visit her again one day, the Rasmei Kampuchea (Light of Cambodia) newspaper said.

Naked Mayor

HOUSTON, British Columbia - The picture shows Mayor Sharon Smith with a big smile and wearing only her chain of office at the town hall, but she's not smiling now that the image has gotten into public circulation.

Smith, 48, said that picture and others were stolen from her home computer more than a month ago in this northwestern British Columbia town of 4,300.

"I'm disappointed that the stories seem to focus on what the pictures are instead of that it was a theft from my home," Smith said. "Our family is the ones who are the victims here."

The picture was taken at a private time with her husband and was meant to remain private, the mayor said Monday.

"My husband asked for a specific picture because he was very proud of the fact that I was mayor and that was what it was intended for.

"No disgrace to the office was intended," she said. "We made sure that we were not infringing on anyone else. It was a private moment and that's all it was."

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sgt. Dave Fenson said investigators believe someone with access to the computer stole the pictures.

Nipper Kettle, a former town council member, said he recognized the location of the pictures as the mayor's office and urged Smith to apologize and resign because of a "catastrophic error in judgment."

Reindeer Herding: Sweden's Most Dangerous Job

STOCKHOLM, Sweden - Forget poor Rudolph. It's the guy who has to herd him who has it tough.

Reindeer herders have the most dangerous line of work in Sweden, according to a new study that analyzed the causes of deaths among all jobs in the country of 9 million people.

Among the herders, who are mostly indigenous Sami in the country's far north, there were 150 deaths on the job between 1961 and 2000, said Per Sjoelander, one of the authors of "Fatal Accidents and Suicide Among Reindeer Herding Samis in Sweden."

The number of deaths was more than more than twice that for farmers and more than three times the total for construction workers during the same period.

"It's a dangerous job," Sjoelander said Wednesday. "They drive around on vehicles in difficult terrain and on thin ice. They work a lot. They work in a tough climate. So, there are many reasons behind this."

"The reindeer herders are often by themselves when working, which may be a factor to the high number of fatal, work-related accidents," said Sjoelander, who works in the Southern Lapland Research Department in Vilhelmina, 400 miles north of Stockholm.

The Sami, once called the Lapps, are believed to have followed herds of reindeer to Europe's northern fringe thousands of years ago. Like the Inuit of North America, they are an indigenous people of the Arctic.

Conviction Upheld Despite Napping Judge

NEW YORK - A New York appeals court has upheld a murder conviction, even though a judge dozed off while the jury was being selected.

A lower court had ordered a new trial because Judge James Leff nodded off during the 1994 case. The defense says that meant he was unable to rule properly on challenges to three jurors.

But in upholding the original conviction, the appeals panel says the defense lawyer should have said something about it at the time. It says he can't turn a blind eye to the judge's conduct, then use it as the basis of an appeal six years later. The lawyer says he didn't want to tell the judge he wasn't doing his job.

The defendant, David Degondea, was found guilty of killing a Manhattan police detective during a shootout after a drug deal. He was sentenced to 55 years to life.

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