The Odd Truth: July 21, 2005

SUV hero
The Odd Truth is a collection of strange but factual news stories from around the world compiled by's Meredith Stoffel.

Man Chased To Court

YANKTON, S.D. - An Iowa man who led officers on a highway chase that ended at the Clay County Courthouse ran inside and tried to barricade himself in the courtroom where he was scheduled to appear, authorities said.

The Clay County Sheriff's Office was asked to help find a pickup truck suspected in a hit-and-run accident on Interstate 29 in Union County.

A state Highway Patrol officer was pursuing the vehicle on Highway 50 into Vermillion, where the man stopped the truck in the middle of the street and backed into the courthouse retaining wall, said Clay County Sheriff Andy Howe.

"It seemed to just get more and more strange," Howe told KVHT radio in Yankton. "Typically the pursuits don't come right to us as this one did. Officers actually left the sheriff's office and the police department to go assist with the pursuit, only to find themselves right back here."

Jada Coover, of Sioux City, Iowa, had been scheduled to appear at the courthouse on charges of attempting to tamper with anhydrous ammonia, which is used to make methamphetamine.

After stopping the truck, Coover jumped out, ran into the courthouse and headed upstairs to the courtroom. The judge in his case had just dismissed the jury, and jurors were leaving the room as Coover burst in, Howe said.

Officers cleared the hallways and asked people to leave the building.

"He attempted to barricade himself in by holding the door shut, but officers were able to get in and take him into custody," Howe said.

Coover was arrested on charges including failure to appear, felony eluding, driving under the influence and disorderly conduct. He is also wanted on outstanding warrants for possession of meth and burglary tools from Woodbury and Sioux counties in Iowa, Howe said.

He was being held on $25,000 bond.

Thieves Chop Up Artwork

PUNALUU, Hawaii - A group of thieves went to a lot of trouble to steal a piece of artwork here.

Authorities believe robbers used a circular power saw to cut up a 20-foot-long mural that artist Herb Kawainui Kane created in 1973 in a now-unoccupied building.

Authorities say more than one person must have participated in the theft because the mural, which was likely cut into five pieces, would have been too big for a single person to handle.

If thieves did use a power saw to cut the mural up, that would have required a portable generator, since power to the buildings was turned off.

"It's a very unusual situation. I can't think of any time in the art world where this has happened," Kane said. "It's quite unique."

If someone wanted to install it in his home, they would have to have a special room built and arrange for people install it, Kane said. This could lead to someone finding the artwork, Kane said.

Kane's work depicts chiefs, warriors and commoners at Punaluu's famed black sand beach. He painted the mural inside the Ka`u History Center, which has been unoccupied in recent years.

GI Grandma

PASSAIC, N.J. - To her family, Minnie Hiller is a "tough cookie." To the soldiers with whom the grandmother of six works, Hiller is more like a mom.
The 50-year-old sergeant first class will have to play both roles when she arrives in Iraq later this week with the 50th Main Support Battalion of the New Jersey Army National Guard.

Hiller is a family support coordinator for the battalion of roughly 900 soldiers, meaning she offers help with everything from getting a soldier home to see a newborn child to arranging carnivals for the children of soldiers who have left for Iraq.

The position isn't always sent to combat zones, but Hiller pushed to go, saying she could help troops overseas just as she does when working at the Teaneck armory where she's usually based.

"One thing she wants to do is make a difference," said her daughter Torise Hiller, 26. "I know my mother. She wouldn't have it any other way. My mother is a tough cookie."

Zoo Owner Locks In Customers

LITCHFIELD, Conn. - The owner of an exotic animal and petting zoo is facing criminal charges for allegedly locking up a some people. James A. Mazzarelli, 61, of Goshen, has been charged with unlawful restraint, breach of peace and interfering with an officer.

Mazzarelli, the owner of Action Wildlife, was charged with an incident on July 9.

One of the six people locked in the park, Kathleen H. Dickey, of Torrington, called 911 to report her party was stuck in the park, state police said.

Dickey told police Mazzarelli intentionally locked the gates, keeping her from driving their vehicle out of the parking lot. Dickey, two other adults and three children were prohibited from leaving the compound.

When police contacted Mazzarelli, he told them that Dickey and her group failed to pay the admission fee, police said.

Mazzarelli pleaded not guilty to the charges at his arraignment in Bantam Superior Court.

Bikini-Clad Vendor

SHAPLEIGH, Maine - The bikini-clad hot dog vendor will get to keep selling her franks and buns. Katharine Schultze has been a fixture at Maine's Mousam Lake for a decade. She's known for her wieners and her bikinis. Local officials passed an ordinance prohibiting parking where Schultze sells her franks. Authorities said she was creating a traffic hazard. But Schultze says town officials didn't like what she was wearing -- or not wearing. Now, Schultze, her lawyers and local officials have reached a compromise. She'll get to continue selling hot dogs from a cart but will have to park her '53 Ford pickup in an approved spot.

Birthday Jumper

LINCOLN, Neb. - Jerry Eddens is turning 50 this weekend and is jumping for joy -- 60 times over. He plans to celebrate today by making 60 parachute jumps. He hopes to break the Nebraska state record of 50 jumps in a day. He'll also be raising money for the American Cancer Society. He says his father died of lung cancer in 1971 at the age of 46. Eddens is an ex-smoker, too. Now, Eddens gets his kicks jumping out of airplanes. He's made more than 560 jumps and says the adrenaline rush from skydiving is addictive.