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Newsquirks | Vehicular Follies 

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Curses, Foiled Again
Police in Middleton, Pa., said a customer who bought a new Sony notebook computer opened the box and found a used Gateway notebook computer instead. Using credit-card records, Detective Greg Kneiss traced both computers to Mark C. Baxter, 19, who admitted making the switch. According to the Bucks County Courier Times, when Kneiss checked the Sony to make sure it hadn’t been tampered with, he found several child-porn videos, leading to felony charges of sexual abuse of children against Baxter, on top of misdemeanor theft charges that resulted from substituting computers.

• After Kait Duplaga, 19, had her laptop computer stolen from her apartment in White Plains, N.Y., she used another computer to activate her laptop’s built-in Web cam. When it showed a man sitting at the computer, Duplaga took his picture, which one of her roommates recognized, leading police to arrest Ian Frias, 20, who had attended a party at the apartment a few weeks earlier. “It doesn’t get much better than their bringing us a picture of the guy actually using the stolen property,” Daniel Jackson, the White Plains deputy commissioner of public safety, told The New York Times.

• Investigators arrested Danish Qureshi, 25, for hiding a wireless surveillance camera in the women’s bathroom of the Dunkin’ Donuts store where he worked and watching the images on his laptop computer. Quereshi’s surveillance system was discovered inadvertently by a neighbor with a similar system who unplugged it. When he plugged it in again, he intercepted an image of the ladies room at the Dunkin’ Donuts, which is located behind his house, and notified police, who found Quereshi sitting in his car in the parking lot with the computer on his lap.

Problem Solved
A German assisted-care facility solved the problem of Alzheimer’s patients wandering off by installing a fake bus stop outside the building. Richard Neureither, director of the Benrath Senior Center in Dusseldorf, explained the facility lacks the power to detain the patients and has had to rely on the police to retrieve them when they try to return to their homes or families, who may no longer exist. The patients recognize the green-and-yellow bus sign and remember that waiting there means going home, so they congregate there and soon forget why. “We will approach them and say the bus is coming later today and invite them into the home for a coffee,” Neureither said. “Five minutes later, they have completely forgotten they wanted to leave.”

Vehicular Follies
After a sheriff’s deputy in Beaufort County, S.C., spotted a woman on the ground near a car, he investigated and found the Nissan sedan completely empty inside, except for a cinder block being used as a seat. According to the sheriff’s report, the 51-year-old woman had backed out of her driveway, only to discover the car had no brakes or even a brake pedal, so she jumped out, ran around back and tried to stop the car by pushing against it. The car continued to roll, pinning her against a tree. The woman was taken to the emergency room, and her son pushed the car back up the driveway.

• Police officers who responded to a call from a woman in Orem, Utah, that she was trapped inside her car because her battery had died explained she didn’t know how to operate the door lock mechanism manually. She also couldn’t hear the officers shouting instructions through the rolled-up windows, so she motioned them to call her on her cell phone. They did and told her how to operate the slide lock on the inside door panel manually and free herself.

Inflated Dispatches
An attempt by French skydiver Michel Fournier, 64, to set a new free-fall record from 24 1/2 miles failed before he got off the ground when the $400,000 helium balloon that was supposed to carry him to the stratosphere detached from the capsule he was going to jump from and drifted away into the sky. Members of the launch team in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, said static electricity might have released the balloon from the capsule. Fournier declared he would try again in August and this time bring two balloons. Fournier’s attempts to make the jump in 2002 and 2003 failed when wind gusts shredded his balloon before it became airborne.

• Cambodian mechanic Try Sienghym was playing with his 5-year-old son, Sok Sambo, when he inserted an air hose designed to inflate tires into the boy’s anus, causing the child’s stomach to become distended. The daily newspaper Rasmei Kampuchea reported the boy was hospitalized in stable condition and expected to make a full recovery.

Hoarder of the Week
Michelle Diller, 64, brought rats home as food for her pet snakes but then kept them as pets and allowed them to breed and overrun her house and neighbors’ yards, according to authorities in Rochester, Wash. The rats gnawed through wiring, walls, cupboards and drawers “so there’s no lights or heat or sewage” disposal, said Susanne Beauregard, Thurston County animal services director, who noted Diller referred to the rats as “my friends” and that four caged snakes which were confiscated—two boa constrictors, a corn snake and a king snake—were severely malnourished.

Apparel Alert
Officials in Hamilton County, Ohio, approved a new dress code requiring jail visitors to wear underwear. The measure also bans plunging necklines, Spandex and see-through clothing, and requires guests to wear shirts and shoes and to keep their pants on their waists, bellies covered and upper thighs concealed.

Compiled from the nation’s press by Roland Sweet. Submit items, citing date and source, to P.O. Box 8130, Alexandria VA 22306.

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