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The Odd Truth, July 1, 2004

The Odd Truth is a collection of strange but factual news stories from around the world compiled by's Brian Bernbaum.

Mooove Over Sherlock!

COLUMBIA, Tenn. - The credit for the bust is going to the bovines.

A tip on the whereabouts of Parker Ray Elliott, suspected of fatally shooting his ex-wife and daughter and wounding his son, had led authorities Monday to search near a Maury County farm.

"I saw four or five cows by a barn," said state parks employee Shane Petty, who was tracking Elliott with his bloodhound. "I knew those cows should have been looking at me, since I had just come into the area, but they were looking over into the woods, so I knew that's where he was."

Officers soon captured Elliott in those woods.

Petty said his college degree in agriculture helped him read the cattle's behavior.

"And I'm an old farm boy," he said.

A manhunt for Elliott had been under way since the shootings Thursday at his ex-wife's home in the Culleoka community, about 50 miles south of Nashville.

Elliott was being held in the Maury County jail.

Was He Trying To Get Caught?

AUGUSTA, Ga. - A podiatrist has been indicted for allegedly defrauding Medicare by submitting more than $400,000 in false claims, some for treating patients who don't even have feet.

A federal grand jury issued the indictment last week accusing Doctor Russell J. Ellicott of Medicare fraud and making false statements relating to health care matters.

Ellicott saw patients at his Augusta office and at nursing homes in east Georgia and nearby areas in South Carolina. According to the indictment, he allegedly schemed to defraud Medicare from January 1997 through June 2002.

Documents accused Ellicott of submitting false claims for treatment of patients who had died and patients whose feet had been amputated, including one who had been an amputee for nine years. He also is accused of submitting bills for trimming patients' toenails - a service not covered by Medicare.

If convicted, Ellicott could face up to 15 years in prison.

Woman Accused Of Putting Ice In Maid's Bra

SINGAPORE - A 30-year-old mother of two was jailed for 14 weeks for kicking her maid and putting ice cubes down her underwear in the latest case of maid abuse in Singapore, a local newspaper reported Wednesday.

High Court chief justice Yong Pung How dismissed Ong Ting Ting's appeal to reduce her sentence for abusing Filipina Jean Ganzon in July 2002, the Straits Times said.

The newspaper said Ong was angry with Ganzon for opening a window while ironing. Ong began kicking the 29-year-old maid and stuffing ice cubes down her bra and shorts while making her stand in front of a fan, the paper said.

She began her sentence Tuesday, the paper said.

Court officials could not be immediately reached for comment.
Singapore's courts frequently hear cases of physical abuse against maids who are sometimes unaware of their rights, but violence by maids against their employers is rare.

The wealthy Southeast Asian city-state of 4 million people has about 140,000 maids — mostly from Singapore's poorer neighbors Indonesia and the Philippines.

Criminal Studies Major An 'Inept' Robber

BRISBANE, Australia - Maybe former criminal studies major George Youssef should have studied a bit harder.

Youssef pleaded guilty in an Australian court on Thursday to a carjacking and bank holdup that his defense lawyer dismissed as "inept."

Not only did Youssef leave fingerprints all over the BMW he stole in the eastern city of Brisbane on Feb. 18 - he even programmed his father's address into the car's computerized navigation system.

"He would have to be one of the most inept armed robbers to come before a court," defense attorney Mal Harrison told Brisbane District Court. "He left evidence all over the place."

Judge Hugh Botting sentenced Youssef - who'd completed a year of school toward a criminal studies degree - to six years in prison.

Youssef turned himself in to police two days after carjacking the BMW and using it as a getaway vehicle when he used a replica pistol to rob a Brisbane bank of about $7,000.

Youssef reportedly blew the money he stole at a Sydney casino and on betting through bookmakers.

Man Endures Hiccups For Seven Months

NEW ORLEANS - It took more than holding his breath or a scare to cure Shane Shafer of his hiccups.

After seven months of constant, bark-like hiccups, a first-of-its-kind operation has returned normal life to the 50-year-old Texas man.

Shafer's speech is now a hoarse whisper - a side effect of the electronic device that cured him, one generally used to treat epilepsy.

But for the first time since November, he can eat, sleep and talk without a bark-like hiccup every three to four seconds.

"Even something as simple as a kiss is now performed without a hiccup," said his wife, Lori Shafer.

Surgeons implanted a vagal nerve stimulator in Shafer's chest June 23 in New Orleans. It was activated last week.

The couple wed in May 2003, on the first anniversary of the first of three strokes that apparently damaged Shafer's brain stem, leading to the hiccups.

"We had just recently started dating when he had his stroke. We tried to take the negative day of the stroke and make it positive, so the next year we got married," Lori Shafer said.

Then, around Thanksgiving, the hiccups began. They got worse with the new year.

The vagal nerve stimulator, the doctors decided, could disrupt the miscommunication causing Shafer's hiccups just as it does to control seizures that can't be stopped by drugs.

In about 4 percent of patients, the device itself can cause hiccups. That wasn't really a worry, Lori Shafer said: "Nothing could have made them worse."

Hopping Mad Over McDonald's Salad

HANSON, Mass. - Dorinda McCann is hopping mad over a toad she found in her salad.

McCann, 34, found the two-inch long toad in a takeout salad bought at a McDonald's in Hanson on June 16.

Both the restaurant's owner and the town health department are investigating, but McCann said did not hear from the owner until Tuesday, and she is still awaiting word from the health department.

"I was sick - what if I had salmonella poisoning? Did anybody call?" she said.

Town health agent Vincent Flaherty said he is waiting to learn the origin of the toad, which is being tested by the California-based company that processes the lettuce used in McDonald's salads.

Restaurant owner Mark McBee tried to contact the McCanns on several occasions and never received a return call until Tuesday, said Tara Richards, a spokeswoman for McBee.

"The safety of our food is very important to us and we are taking this matter very seriously," she said. "We are working to gather all of the facts. The health department completed a thorough review of restaurant operations and gave the restaurant a clean bill of health."

Meanwhile, McCann, her husband, Thomas, and their two daughters, once regular McDonald's customers, have stopped going to the restaurant.

Some Robbers Never Learn

VERSAILLES, Ill. - Convicted bank robber Gordon A. Bryant might have had a better shot at his last hold-up attempt if he'd shown his face.

The 70-year-old put a stocking over his head before he tried to enter the Farmer's State Bank of Versailles on Tuesday, police said.

The bank had installed a system to buzz in customers after a holdup in February. Suspicious employees refused to unlock the door because the man was wearing the stocking.

"When you're going into a bank, you usually don't wear those in there," Brown County Sheriff Jerry Kempf said. "It's not Halloween."

Bryant drove away, but a deputy caught up with him, authorities said.

Bryant was turned over to the FBI and charged with attempted bank robbery Wednesday, special agent Nathan Williams said. The charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

The sheriff said Bryant had served prison time for bank robbery and ought to be more competent by now.

"He's 70 years old, you would hope he would have learned by now," Kempf said.

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