The Odd Truth, Feb. 26, 2003

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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.

Wrong Way To Heaven

ELIZABETHTOWN, Ky. - "Thou shalt not use a stolen credit card" isn't one of the Ten Commandments. But it seems like wise advice, especially after a man accused of stealing from several churches was tracked down through a purchase at a Christian bookstore.

Cecil T. Turner, 50, of Louisville, is accused of rummaging through at least three churches and stealing money and a credit card, police spokesman Terry Cox said.

Turner, who is being held on $5,000 bond, pleaded innocent Monday to charges stemming from the allegations. He is scheduled for a hearing next week.

On Friday, an employee at one of the churches - Grace Heartland Church - reported a credit card missing from her purse. The credit card company was notified, and they told police the card had just been used at the Lifeway Christian Bookstore in Elizabethtown.

A manager at the Alpha Omega Bookstore called police. Turner was arrested about 15 minutes later for fraudulent use of a credit card and three counts of third-degree burglary.

"He bought 10 copies of a Bible study called 'Making Peace With Your Past' and a follow-up study called 'Moving Beyond Your Past,"' bookstore manager Jonathan Gallegly said.

Man Receives Deadly Cobra In Mail

LOS ANGELES - A deadly cobra was delivered by mail to a man in an apparent bid to frighten or kill him, police said Tuesday.

Police were working with federal postal officials to determine who sent the box and where it was mailed. The snake could have lived for several days in the box without food or water.

Joseff Calhoun, 30, of the Winnetka area north of downtown, opened the taped box on Friday to find a 2-foot-long South African black-necked spitting cobra, police Detective Rick Swanston said.

He closed the box without being attacked and called police. The cobra was turned over the to Los Angeles Zoo and killed on Tuesday, reptile curator Russ Smith said.

In addition, the snake had a tumor or abscess on its face that would have required constant medical attention, he said. The snake's body was to be preserved as evidence.

The person who sent the snake could face attempted murder and other charges, Swanston said.

Calhoun told police he didn't now why anyone would send the snake. He received a vague threatening letter in November but "he has no suspects, no one that he's pointing us to," Swanston said.

The cobra is a black, hooded snake that can spit venom as far as 9 feet. The venom can blind if it hits the eyes and kill if absorbed through a wound.

Creative Ways To Humiliate Criminals #1

SAN FRANCISCO - A man indicted on federal mail theft charges was sentenced to spend 100 hours outside a San Francisco post office wearing a sign announcing what he did wrong, the U.S. attorney's office said.

"I have stolen mail," the sign was to read. "This is my punishment,"

Shawn Gementera, 24, was also sentenced to two months in prison and three years of supervised release by U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker.

The prison term followed by having to wear the sandwich board in public would emphasize that stealing mail is a serious offense, Walker said during sentencing.

"You mail a letter, you expect a certain level of sanctity," said Dan De Miglio, spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service. "Folks who violate that violate America and violate all that America stands for."

He said the postal service did not have a say in the sentence.

Creative Ways To Humiliate Criminals #2

ORANGE, Texas - A man accused of punishing his stepson by forcing him to sleep in a doghouse agreed to the same punishment in a plea deal.

Curtis Robin Sr. of Vidor agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a choice of punishments - 30 days in jail or 30 nights inside a doghouse.

He was indicted by a grand jury in August 2001 on charges of injury to a child. He faced up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors said Robin allegedly whipped his 11-year-old stepson with a car antenna and made him sleep in a doghouse for several days and possibly weeks. He also forced the boy to chop wood for hours, they said.

Prosecutors said he also would receive eight years' probation and be required to pay a $1,000 fine.

The stepson is staying in Florida with family, the station reported.

Meth Kiss

TERRE HAUTE, Indiana - Vivian Frazier won't forget her last kiss with her new husband — at least for the next two years. Frazier married Jeremy Guinther in an Indiana jailhouse in July. Authorities say Frazier passed two grams of meth to Guinther by mouth when they kissed during the ceremony. A deputy grew suspicious when he noticed Guinther's cheek bulging. She's pleaded guilty to trafficking with an inmate and has been sentenced to a two-year term. Her hubby is doing time for an unrelated conviction. But they've spoiled the fun for everyone else. The jail now has a rule against kissing during lock-up weddings.

No Dogs, No Germans, No French

COPENHAGEN - Aage Bjerre has three rules for dining at his pizzeria on the Danish island of Fanoe: No dogs. No Germans. No French.

The owner of Aage's Pizza said Monday that he's tired of French and German attitudes toward the United States, calling them "disloyal" and "anti-American" in their bid to thwart a possible U.S.-led attack against Iraq.

Since hearing news of France and Germany's opposition, which has led to a rift in U.S. relations with Europe, he's made it rule No. 1 to bar service to any French or German tourists in Nordby, the North Sea island's largest town.

"Hadn't the United States helped Europe in defeating Germany, there would have been photos of Adolf Hitler hanging on the walls around here," he said, referring to Nazi Germany's occupation of Europe in World War II.

The island is a popular spot for visitors from neighboring Germany. But there are few French visitors.

On Friday, he put two homemade pictograms on the shop door.

One featured the silhouette of a man colored red, yellow and black - the colors of the German flag. The second was painted blue, white and red - the French Tricolor colors. Both silhouettes had a bar across them.

Should Germany decide to participate in U.S.-led military action against Iraq, Bjerre, 44, said he would lift his ban.

Frenchmen have "a lifetime ban here," Bjerre told The Associated Press. "Their attitude toward the United States will never change."

Bizarre Hot Air Balloon Death

YOUNTVILLE, California - A Scottish tourist died when he fell from a hot air balloon floating at least 300 feet above a winery.

Brian Stevenson, 33, of Coatbridge, Scotland, was hanging from the basket Tuesday as the balloon was inflated with air in the parking lot of the Domaine Chandon winery.

"As the balloon began to inflate and ascend into the air, the victim didn't let go, nobody knows why," said Napa County Sheriff's Lt. Jean Donaldson.

Stevenson landed in an asphalt parking lot.

Donaldson said the ballooning company had canceled morning flights because of the fog. It was filling the balloon and sending it up just to let tourists take pictures.

Detectives believe the pilot could not hear the crew's warning from below because of the noise created by the balloon's burner.

Defendant Duct-Taped

LUBBOCK, Texas - That roll of duct tape is good for more than just your survival kit. A Texas judge yesterday ordered a defendant's mouth shut with duct tape. Lubbock District Judge Jim Bob Darnell had had it with Carl Wiley's repeated courtroom interruptions. Wiley ignored the pleas of his own mother and the judge to be quiet. Darnell heard enough and ordered deputies to apply the duct-tape treatment. Wiley even tried yelling through the tape. The judge finally ordered Wiley removed from the courtroom. Wiley is facing charges of aggravated assault for allegedly ramming his estranged wife's car.