The Odd Truth: July 22, 2005

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

Serial Meal Thief Apologizes

MACHIAS, Maine - A California man who spent 90 days in jail after habitually complaining of fake chest pains to duck the tab for restaurant meals is back in Maine, expressing remorse and seeking to make amends.

Elias I. Elias, 54, dead broke and looking to make a new start, said he wants to pay restitution for the dinner he ate at the Townhouse Restaurant in Calais last August that led to his last arrest.

"This is all I have," he told the Bangor Daily News, motioning to himself. "My clothes. I had a career in California, I had a house. I had my wife. Now I just want a job in Bangor, so I can pay the last $39."

By the time Elias came to court in February, the prosecution had determined that the Calais incident was the 18th time since 2003 that he had avoided paying for meals by faking heart attacks or other medical emergencies.

He was sentenced in Machias to 90 days, or time served. Within a week of his release in February, he took a Greyhound bus back to California.

Elias said pangs of guilt led him to return to Bangor two weeks ago. He said his life has not been the same since his wife died of cancer two years ago and he vowed never to repeat the restaurant scam.

"It is not worth the humiliation," he said after appearing in District Court to express his apologies to a judge. "I promise the Lord I will not take from a restaurant owner again.

Woman Branded By Manhole Cover Sues

NEW YORK - A woman who was branded with letters from the Consolidated Edison logo when she fell off a skateboard onto a searing hot manhole cover in Manhattan last year filed a lawsuit seeking unspecified damages from the utility.

Elizabeth C. Wallenberg, 27, was burned just above her buttocks and on her left arm when she fell off her skateboard onto a cover over a steam pipe at Second Avenue and 13th Street in the East Village shortly after midnight on Aug. 11, 2004, said her lawyer Ronald Berman.

"It literally looked like a brand that had been applied by someone," Berman said about the burn marks left on Wallenberg's body.

He said she was treated for the injury in the Beth Israel Hospital emergency room and was released.

Wallenberg, then a Brooklyn resident who worked for Paper magazine, reportedly said she heard her skin sizzle and saw an "o" and an "n" from the hot cover impressed upon her body. Wallenberg has been told the scarring is permanent, Berman said.

The lawsuit, filed in Manhattan's state Supreme Court, accused Con Ed of "negligence, carelessness, recklessness and culpable conduct" related to Wallenberg's injuries.

Court papers said Wallenberg, now a factory worker who lives in Portland, Ore., is entitled to compensatory and punitive damages because of Con Ed's "reprehensible and egregious failure and refusal ... to protect the public from this manifestly clear and present danger."

Con Ed spokesman Chris Olert said he had no comment on the lawsuit.

Pageant Queen Stripped Of Title

VEEDERSBURG, Ind. - A pageant queen at a local fair has had her crown and title stripped from her amid claims the contest was rigged by her aunt.

The Fountain County 4-H Council removed the title from Sarah Rice, 18, who was named queen. Grievances filed with the council say runner-up Jordan Snoddy, 18, had more points.

Irene Norman, who tabulated the judges' scores, said the results she submitted to pageant officials put Snoddy in first place. "It was blatantly rigged," she said.

Before the results reached the announcer, they passed through several hands, including those of Nyanne Applegate, who is the pageant's director and Rice's aunt.

Applegate was unable to be reached for comment by the Journal Review of Crawfordsville. There was no phone number listed for her in the area.

She previously said she did not mishandle the results but that in queen pageants, the winner is determined at the judges' discretion.

Pat Beasley, Fountain County 4-H Inc. president, said the point system has been used at the fair for the last five years.

Two Pilots Jailed After Drinking

MIAMI - Two airline pilots are going to prison, for getting behind the controls while drunk.

Thomas Cloyd was sentenced in Miami to five years in prison. Co-pilot Christopher Hughes was ordered to serve two and a-half years behind bars.
Last month, they were found guilty of operating an aircraft while drunk.
They had settled into the cockpit of an America West plane three years ago for a flight from Miami to Phoenix after a night of heavy drinking at a sports bar.

They were arrested after the plane pushed away from the gate, but before it could take off.

When they were tested hours later, according to testimony, their blood-alcohol levels were above Florida's limit for drunken driving. Experts said the levels were probably much higher when they were in the cockpit.

Do Not Call For Deceased

NEW YORK - The dead could soon be less likely to be haunted by telemarketers.

The nation's largest direct marketing group has set up a registry to remove dead people from its phone, e-mail and direct mail lists -- for a one-dollar charge.

The fee is for credit card verification and for checking that those on the list are really dead.

The Direct Marketing Association says its Deceased Do-Not-Contact list was designed to help families dealing with the loss of a loved one.

The idea follows the government's popular Do Not Call list, which allows consumers to sign up online and imposes fines on telemarketers when they call those consumers.

Relatives can still register the deceased's phone number on the list, provided they live in the same residence.

Naked Tickler

NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. - Police are on the lookout for the naked tickler.

Investigators said they believe one man could be responsible for a series of bizarre break-ins in which a naked man enters victims' rooms while they are sleeping and tries to tickle their feet.

The naked tickler struck again in New Smyrna Beach over the weekend.

Investigators have been working on five similar, unsolved cases since 2001. Most of the victims are women over age 60, said police Cmdr. Wade Kirby.

Kirby said no arrests have yet been made because they don't have a lot to go on.

New Smyrna Beach is 44 miles northeast of Orlando.