Shopped and dropped
Management for a Wal-Mart in Lilburn, Ga., took a dim view of one woman's marathon shopping spree. They called the cops after discovering that an unidentified 70-year-old woman had spent three days at the 24-hour retail megastore sleeping in aisles and eating at the in-store Blimpie amid the Christmas shopping blitz-all unbeknownst to store officials until an employee grew wise to the situation about 72 hours into the spree. According to WSB-TV in Atlanta, when store officials questioned the woman, she simply claimed, "I'm shopping." Local police made certain the woman paid for her items before escorting her home.
Avast, ye maties. That's the message to all would-be pirates after the first pirating attempt in the British Isles in nearly 200 years was easily foiled by deckhands on a cargo vessel near the mouth of the River Mersey in Liverpool. Two men boarded the vessel in search of loot but were quickly confronted by the crew, who asked the rascals for identification. The men then made for a quick exit. One was caught by deckhands and turned over to authorities; the other escaped. Dormant since 1820 in the United Kingdom, piracy remains a problem globally, especially in lawless waters off the coast of Somalia and through the Strait of Malacca between Malaysia and Indonesia.
Search and seizure
When mall security happened upon Larry DiSalvo wandering through the parking garages at the Tyrone Square Mall in St. Petersburg, Fla., he thought they were coming to help him find his car. Instead, the security guards accused the 57-year-old retiree of casing the lot looking for a car to steal. DiSalvo told the St. Petersburg Times he had been searching for his white 1991 Mercury Grand Marquis he parked amidst about 6,000 other cars on Dec. 22 when security guards approached him. Mall security detained him until police arrived, but found no reason to arrest the lost man. "If this could happen to me, God forbid, it could happen to your grandmother," DiSalvo told the Times. "It's just ridiculous. I'm as clean as the fresh-driven snow. That's verifiable." Mall officials don't buy his explanation, though: They banned DiSalvo forever from mall property.
A quarter saved...
Paul Brant didn't just metaphorically break the piggy bank to buy his new Dodge Ram half-ton pickup truck. The 70-year-old Frankfort, Ind., resident paid for the $25,000 new truck with change he had collected since 1994, when he bought another truck with spare change he collected from using vending machines at his Chrysler auto plant workplace in Kokomo, Ind.
If David Pfalher of Allentown, Pa., thinks he can get anything out of a lawsuit against 8-year-old Vail, Colo., native Scott Swimm, he may have forgotten one thing: trial by jury. The 60-year-old Pfalher claimed in court documents that the boy caused a skiing accident during his vacation to Vail that resulted in a serious shoulder injury. In the lawsuit, Pfalher claimed the bill for the injury could possibly exceed $75,000 when expenses for lost wages, vacation time, and reimbursements for medical care provided by his wife are included. But Scott's parents don't think any jury would rule against a child. They say the collision was minor and note that just after the accident, Pfalher grabbed their son, cursed him out, and threatened to sue, according to the Rocky Mountain News. "Who in the world sues a child?" mother Susan Swimm said. "It just boggles my mind every day."
A car thief in southwestern England had second thoughts about his heist when he checked the rearview mirror. Brixham resident Karen Griggs left the keys in the ignition of her Toyota SUV, and an unidentified man broke in and began to drive the car away. That's when the perpetrator apparently saw Diesel, Griggs' 120-pound Great Dane, rustling in the back seat. According to police, the perpetrator halted the car upon spotting the dog, which stands 6 feet tall on its hind legs, and fled the scene. "I'd love to have seen the look on his face when he saw Diesel," Karen's husband, Nick, told the Times of London. "He must have got the shock of his life. There's no alarm, but who needs one when you've got the Hound of the Baskervilles in your back seat?"
An 11-year-old Australian took on the mantle of detective to solve a playground crime spree that teachers and administrators didn't stop. For three days in November, Harry Cordaiy listened to classmates tell stories of how their lunch money kept disappearing out of bags and purses during recess. "The teachers said 'wait, wait, wait' and they weren't taking any action," Harry told the Sydney Morning Herald. But the boy had a plan. After having about $15 taken from his own bag, Harry rigged a mousetrap that used an Australian five-dollar bill as bait and left the snapping arm of the trap wet with green food coloring. When he returned from recess on the fourth day to check the trap, he saw the bill was missing. "Everybody was running around seeing who had green on their fingers," Harry said. School officials caught one boy green-handed and were able to talk confessions out of two others.
Rescue at sea
For 14-year-old Illinois native Laura Montero, having her appendix burst while on a Pacific cruise could have been a tragic case of wrong place, wrong time. Except that the U.S. Navy was in the neighborhood. The USS Ronald Reagan, a Nimitz-class nuclear aircraft carrier, ditched training exercises and altered course, steaming toward a cruise ship about 500 miles away sending out SOS calls off the coast of Baja California. Aboard the Dawn Princess, Laura waited as the Reagan sailed all night to get close enough to send a helicopter to retrieve the sick girl. Aboard the Reagan, Navy doctors performed emergency surgery to save Laura's life while the 6,000-crew vessel made way for port near San Diego. Doctors stateside, who called the Navy surgeons' work first-rate, said Laura should make a complete recovery.
New York-based humorist and actor Brian Sack found an ingenious way to subsidize his holiday vacation to Poland: giving eBay users the chance to prank a friend. Users of the online auction site bid on the right to have Sack send three international postcards from Poland to one of the bidder's friends back home. "Your beloved friend or relative will try in vain to figure out who it is. Best of all, it can't possibly be you because you'll have the perfect alibi: you're not in Poland," Sack wrote in the listing. "The postcards will not be coherently signed, leaving your mark confused, guessing wildly, crying out in anguish." The winning bidder paid $415 for the pranking service.
Walk this way
In the case of a donut store robbery in Cambridge, Mass., snow is a cop's best friend. When officers arrived at the Porter Square Dunkin' Donuts early on Dec. 20, the manager of the store said a bandit had just held him up with a silver revolver and left after taking $70 from the till. To find the suspect, police simply walked outside and began following footprints in the snow until they disappeared into bicycle tracks. After following the trail into nearby Somerville, police picked up a 51-year-old man who was later positively identified by the manager.
Life in the slow lane
A British woman in trouble for hazardous driving thinks she needs a training course. Police think she just needs to trade her feather foot for a leaden one. Stephanie Cole, a 57-year-old Bristol woman, pleaded guilty to reckless driving after police stopped her in a Malaysian-made compact sedan on a busy four-lane highway on her way to Staples. According to police, Cole was moving down the freeway at 10 mph while straddling the inside shoulder. Cars swerved to miss Cole, who had placed a sign in the back of her hatchback that read, "I do not drive fast, please overtake." In adjourning the case until this month, the judge said, "I hope she doesn't drive here."