The Odd Truth, May 6, 2004

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

Live Through This!

LOS ANGELES - A construction worker had six nails driven into his head in an accident with a high-powered nail gun, but doctors said Wednesday they expect him to make a full recovery.

Isidro Mejia made his first public appearance Wednesday since the April 19 accident that left him with nails embedded in his face, neck and skull. He told reporters in Spanish from his wheelchair that he does not remember much about the accident, but is grateful to be alive.

"He says that he's very happy to be alive," said Dr. Rafael Quinonez, a neurosurgeon who removed the nails at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center. "And he told me this morning that he thought he was going to die. He was happy when he opened his eyes, and he saw that he's still with us."

Mejia, 39, was building a home when he fell from the roof onto a co-worker who was using the nail gun on the second floor, Los Angeles County sheriff's Deputy Mark Newlands said.

The two men tried to grab each to keep from falling, but both tumbled to the ground. At some point, the nail gun discharged and drove the nails into Mejia's head.

"They're extremely powerful," Newlands said. "They've got to drive through three-quarter-inch plywood."

Three nails penetrated Mejia's brain, and one entered his spine below the base of his skull. Doctors said the nails barely missed his brain stem and spinal cord, preventing paralysis or death.

"We did not have too much hope that he would survive, but we did it and he survived," Quinonez said.

Five nails were removed the same day and the sixth, in Mejia's face, was removed April 23 after swelling went down, the hospital said.

Doctors expect him to fully recover after undergoing rehabilitation therapy.

Authorities cleared the co-worker of any wrongdoing.

One Hot Dog, Hold The Bullet

IRVINE, Calif. - The hot dog was loaded. At least that's what a Southern California woman is claiming. Olivia Chanes says she bit a bullet in a frank she bought at a Costco food court. Chanes told police she was eating the hot dog at the Irvine store and bit into something hard. Officers say it was a live nine millimeter round. X-rays later found what appears to be another bullet in her stomach. Costco officials say they serve Hebrew National hot dogs, which are carefully prepared and pass through a metal detector at the factory. Workers checked items at the food court and say they found nothing.

Trail Of Stench Leads To Home Creature Cache

GERMANTOWN, Wis. - A woman kept about 200 creatures - including alligators, scorpions and carnivorous beetles - in an apartment in suburban Milwaukee.

Authorities found the menagerie after neighbors had complained about the foul smell.

"The smell was just unbelievable," said William Mitchell, a state conservation warden who found about 70 ducks cramped in a basement pen with droppings covering the floor. "It was really stinking. ... It made my eyes water."

Authorities said the woman fed the animals roadkill. Animal carcasses were in a freezer and decaying carcasses were in an adjacent garage. Among the dead animals were raccoons, rabbits, opossums and squirrels.

Jamie L. Verburgt, the apartment resident, was given two state citations for possessing game animals out of season, Mitchell said. Verburgt's phone number is unlisted.

"She said they were car kills," Mitchell said. "I warned her that it is illegal to take dead animals off the side of a road. ... The dead animals were used to feed the live animals, and some were given to flesh-eating beetles."

Among the other live animals found were snakes, rats, turtles and toads.

The live animals were seized by the Washington County Humane Society, pending investigation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Mitchell said.

Mitchell said federal wildlife officials plan to investigate those who sold animals to Verburgt through the Internet.

"She intended to sell the animals to pet stores," he said.

Verburgt's boyfriend, John Walters, was prosecuted in 2000 for mistreatment of exotic animals.

At that time, police found a female cougar, female leopard, silver-tailed fox, monitor lizard, two caracals, a coatimundi, chinchilla and a reticulated python in Walter's apartment in Greenfield, another Milwaukee suburb.

Cooking Oil Spill Closes Highway

BOCA RATON, Fla. - Hundreds of gallons of cooking oil collected from restaurants spilled from a truck, causing vehicles to skid and slip across a Palm Beach County roadway.

Officials closed a quarter mile of the road for nearly seven hours Wednesday while they used cat litter, sand and cement to clean up the greasy surface.

"It was like walking on ice," said sheriff's Sgt. David Combs, who added the area smelled like french fries. "It just poured hundreds of gallons of this stuff. What a mess."

The driver for Darling International - a reprocessing company that collects used oil from restaurants - made several turns as he drove away from a restaurant, oblivious to the trail of oil he was leaving behind.

The spill occurred because the driver failed to secure a valve, officials said, and he was issued several citations.

Combs said only one person - a woman who lost control of her pickup as she hid the oil slick and hit a tree - was injured.

"Considering the amount of oil, it's lucky nobody got seriously hurt," Combs said.

Judge Rules Lawyer's Plea Baloney

MILFORD, Conn. - A lawyer's complaints about his client's lunches are baloney, a Superior Court judge ruled.

Attorney John Williams asked the judge if he could bring lunches for his client, arguing that the prison-issued bologna sandwiches are not nutritious.

"It's a substantial problem," said Williams. "It is known that the sandwiches provided to inmates are pitifully inadequate."

State's Attorney Mary Galvin said outside food is no longer permitted for prisoners, because a lawyer once used a sandwich to smuggle drugs for a client.

Judge William Cremins denied Williams' request, citing a lack of prior case law on the subject. An alternative diet would only be allowed for medical reasons, he said.

Williams' client, Richard Strich, 54, is awaiting trial on charges he tried to kill his wife by shooting her with a shotgun. A jury is being picked this week.

Alderman Refuses To Give Up Office Mannequin

GREENFIELD, Wis. - Some politicians are grilled for the skeletons in their closet. But an alderman in this Milwaukee suburb came under fire for the mannequin in his office.

Mayor Timothy T. Seider withdrew his demand that Alderman Thomas Pietrowski remove a female mannequin from his office, as long as Pietrowski keeps his office door closed. Seider made the exception in a letter Tuesday to Pietrowski, after telling the alderman earlier that numerous complaints had been made by female employees about the mannequin.

But Pietrowski described the mannequin clothed in a gray T-shirt and tattered jeans as a piece of art, and his attorney, Peter Earle, said it was protected by free speech.

"We will not keep Madeline in the closet," Earle said. "Alderman Pietrowski will open and close his door as he sees fit and have Madeline in complete display."

Unless the mayor retracts the conditional demand, apologizes for allowing a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel photographer in Pietrowski's office and pays Pietrowski's legal fees, the alderman will sue, Earle said.

Seider said he rescinded his order to remove the mannequin because taxpayers shouldn't have to fund a court fight. But he refuses to apologize because he believes Pietrowski owes the women at City Hall an apology.

"I can't apologize. I did what any mayor would do when complaints are filed against any employee," Seider said.

Clam Shells: More Bang For Your Buck

WILMINGTON, Del. - Delaware dwellers seeking more bang for their buck by using clam shells to pave driveways may get more bang than they bargained for.

For the past three months, surplus munitions dumped at sea decades ago have been turning up in some shell-covered driveways in Sussex County.

Authorities believe the rusted explosives are being dredged up by clam harvesters from the sites where the Army dumped surplus ordnance after World War I and World War II.

Since early February, bomb disposal teams from the state police and Dover Air Force Base have responded to nine complaints, removing nearly 100 war relics from yards and driveways.

Many rural residents in Delaware and southern New Jersey, especially those living on farms and in beach towns, use crushed clamshells as an economical way to create a driveway.

Poultry grower Bill Layton spent $600 in November for about 50 tons of clamshells to cover his driveway. Stone, asphalt and concrete could have cost anywhere from three to 10 times as much.

Last month, Layton spotted a grayish object that turned out be a World War I French rifle grenade. Thirteen more grenades were found later by a state police bomb team. "We've been riding over them all winter," he said.

Assistant Delmar Fire Company Chief Joe Morris said state police bomb technicians retrieved three WWII pineapple grenades from his property.

"They looked like clumps of rusted metal," he said. "I'm surprised they hadn't blown apart."