June, 1999

June 3, 1999
Lawyers for a man who admitted stabbing his wife 44 times and drowning her in their swimming pool will argue this week that he should be acquitted of murder because he was sleepwalking at the time. Defense lawyers said Scott Falater, 43, admitted killing his wife and hiding the evidence, but is not guilty of a crime because he has a medical disorder. They plan to present expert witnesses to bolster their argument. "The thing about sleepwalkers is that sometimes when they get into a task ... it seems that's when they're more prone to violence," defense lawyer Mike Kimerer told jurors last week during opening statements. Kimerer said Falater's brain was "fast asleep" at the time the January 1997 act took place. Prosecutors say the case is simply murder and that the sleepwalking argument "is going to be a tough sell." Prosecutor Juan Martinez said the facts of the case point to murder beyond any doubt. He walked jurors through the night of Jan. 16, 1997, telling how Mrs. Falater was first stabbed and then drowned, and how her screams turned to silence. Martinez also outlined an attempted cover-up that saw Falater change his bloody clothes and put them along with the murder weapon into a plastic container. All the evidence was put in a trash bag and hidden in the wheel-well of his car. A neighbor said he watched over a backyard fence as Falater put on gloves, dragged his wife into the pool and held her head under the water with two hands. The neighbor called for help. Local legal experts said the case was a challenging one for both sides. Experts said prosecutors faced a battle along scientific grounds, with the emotion of a murder trial somewhat removed since both sides agreed about the details. For the defense, experts said the biggest hurdle was proving a person could have unconsciously committed such an involved killing. "You may be able to get jurors to believe in the existence of sleepwalking and that someone could commit such an act," said Marc Budoff, a criminal defense attorney. "But it's going to be hard to convince them it happened for that long and involved so many acts." (Reuters, donated by Terri)

June 4, 1999
The bar in the Maltese capital of Valletta where actor Oliver Reed collapsed and died on May 2 has become a tourist attraction, says its owner Paul Cremona. He said tourists had been calling in droves to see the place in Valletta's narrow Archbishop Street where Reed spent his last hours. "They call to take photos and a drink and some seek souvenirs" Cremona said. They have already taken all of his 4,000 business cards. Cremona, who is considering changing the bar's name from The Pub to Oliver Reed's Pub, said the actor's 35-year-old wife Josephine, who was with Reed on the day he died, had sent him the actor's favorite sweater and one of his few ties in appreciation of their friendship. (Reuters, donated by Amos Quito)

June 6, 1999
On April 28-29, 1945, Italian Fascist leader Benito Mussolini, 62, was captured trying to flee to Switzerland, summarily court-martialed, and shot, along with his mistress, Clara Petacci. Riddled with nine bullets, his body was dragged to the public square in Milan and strung up feet first to the beams of a gutted gas station. Beside him in similar fashion hung the corpses of other Fascist leaders and the body of Petacci, her skirt discreetly lashed fast about her legs with the belt of a chivalrous partisan. With the fires of revenge in their eyes, the townspeople rammed through a cordon of 300 carabinieri to mutilate the body of the once powerful Il Duce. One man kicked his head in; a woman put five more slugs in his limp body -- one for each of her five sons killed in the war. And several other screaming women spread their skirts to urinate on his battered face. (The People's Almanac #2)

June 7, 1999
A 46-year-old bass-baritone for the Cleveland (Ohio) Opera hanged himself in December, reportedly distraught over a bad rehearsal for "Lucia di Lammermoor." (News Of The Weird)

June 14, 1999
In November, a 26-year-old man in southern Thailand leaped from a sixth-floor window to his death, reportedly because his wife had refused to let the two additional wives he had just brought home stay with the couple. (News Of The Weird)

June 15, 1999
An electric worker making his rounds in arid southwestern New Mexico stumbled upon a grisly sight: the decomposed corpse of a man who police say had been chained alive to a utility pole at least two months ago and left there to die. There is evidence that the victim had set fire to the pole in a desperate escape attempt before he succumbed to the elements, police said. "It's a horrible way to die," Ed Gilmore, Luna County chief deputy sheriff, said today. The body -- which has not been identified -- was found near U.S. Route 180, about six miles north of Deming, he said. Gilmore said the unidentified man, probably in his mid-30s, had been chained to the utility pole sometime after the last routine checkup of the 265,000-volt El Paso Electric Company line last October. According to Gilmore, a 6-foot length of chain had been looped around the victim's neck and padlocked to the pole. "He didn't have all that much room to move," Gilmore said, adding that police suspect the victim, who was found Thursday, probably died of exposure. With what room he did have, the victim collected all the sage brush he could find and bunched it at the base of the pole, then set fire to it in hopes of either gaining attention or possibly burning down the pole, Gilmore said. The 85-foot pole was badly burned and will have to be replaced, but the body showed no signs of burns. Police found a lighter at the scene and say it probably belonged to the victim. "He had no doubt gathered everything in his reach," Gilmore said. It was the burned pole that drew the utility workers' attention initially, Gilmore said. Police will use dental records and possibly fingerprinting techniques to try to identify the victim. (APB Online)

June 16, 1999
May 11, 1999 marked "Headless Chicken Day" in Fruita, Colorado -- a tribute to a 1940's rooster who for 4 years strutted about, fattened up on grain and preened for hens, all without a head. According to old accounts in the Fruita Times newspaper, Mike's determination first showed itself Sept. 10, 1945, when farmer L.A. Olsen tried to please his mother-in-law while he was slaughtering dinner. Her favorite fried-chicken piece was the neck, so Olsen carefully placed his ax to leave as much neck as possible on Mike's body. Chickens have been known to flutter around for seconds or minutes after being decapitated, but after a few shaky steps, Mike fluffed up his feathers and went about his business in the barnyard with the other, headson chickens. He went through the motions of pecking for food, preening his feathers and tucking what used to be his head under his wing when he slept. He tried to crow, but only a gurgle came out. When he was still alive the following morning, Olsen decided he might be more valuable as an oddity than a dinner and started dropping grain and water into his gullet opening with an eyedropper. When Mike was still alive a week later, Olsen packed him up and took him to Salt Lake City so incredulous University of Utah scientists could study him. From that time on, Olsen and a manager he hired were the ones running around like chickens with their heads cut off. They took Mike and Mike's head, which Olsen had preserved in alcohol, to Los Angeles, San Diego, Atlantic City and New York City. They set up photo shoots with magazines and newspapers and kibitzed with scientists across the country. Olsen also dealt with predecessors of animal-rights activists, who blasted him for leaving a chicken alive in such a state. They begged him to finish the hatchet job on the Mike. But Fruita old-timers remember that Mike grew and thrived and didn't seem much bothered by being minus a head. (The Denver Post Online, donated by Bruce Townley)

June 17, 1999
With burning eyes and churning stomachs, SPCA workers waded through mounds of feces and puddles of urine as they removed more than 70 diseased cats from a south-side home. The felines, most of which were sick and inbred, were found at 6234 112A St. by the owner, a U.S. resident, when he went to check on the property on Sunday after issuing his tenants an eviction notice last month. "It was such a beautiful house at one time," owner Lynn Erbe - who rented the house to two sisters and their elderly mother in 1994 - told reporters. "Hardwood .. carpeting ... in a really attractive neighbourhood." The Capital Health Authority launched a probe Sunday after Erbe found an elderly women in a bed inside the house. An ambulance was called, but the woman was not taken to hospital. Later that day, she and her daughters moved out. Armed with a search warrant, SPCA animal protection officers arrived yesterday about 9 a.m. to begin the heartbreaking task of seizing the filthy and uncared-for cats. According to media reports, another 100 dead cats and a dead dog were found in the garage at the rear of the property. Inside the house, feces caked the floors, up to a metre high in some places. Urine soaked through the walls and floorboards and pooled on top of ripped-apart cat food boxes. Dozens of skittish cats were found cowering in the kitchen cupboards, behind appliances, in closets, on top of ruined clothing, papers and frayed furniture. Some constables had to rest in the fresh air periodically to recover from the gut-wrenching stench and the stinging ammonia smell overpowering every room. Even the flies swarming inside the house seemed to enjoy the fresh air when the doors were opened. "This is one big, giant litter box," said SPCA veterinarian Dr. Craig Wilkinson. "These cats, by and large, are not adoptable. They're used to peeing and pooping in the corner and they are unsocialized. You can't give any of these away. They will all have to be put to sleep." Besides being untrained, the cats also showed signs of respiratory infections and possible feline leukemia, which is spread through saliva, he said. "If one has it, they all do ... they groom each other," the vet said, noting the cats will most likely all be put down. "It's a classic case of pet collecting. It's very sad." "It breaks your heart watching this," said neighbour Marlene Courtenanche. "I can't believe I never smelled anything. It's probably because the doors were never opened." Courtenanche and her husband Gary said they complained to the city last summer about overgrown weeds on the lawn of the cat house, but it was never investigated, they said. They have noticed a number of cats in the neighbourhood, but never thought they all lived in the same home. Inspector Ken Dong, from the Capital Health Authority, said he spoke to the residents and confirmed they have moved. SPCA Const. Garnet Melnyk said the cat owners may be charged under the Animal Protection Act and could face a $20,000 fine and be banned from ever owning pets again. (The Edmonton Sun, donated by Sarah Waddington)

June 19, 1999
An urban legend has apparently come to life in Atlantic City where maids looking for the source of an unpleasant odor found a body under a motel room bed that was slept on the night before by two German tourists who complained about the smell. The couple, whose names were not released, took a $36-a-night room Wednesday at the Burgundy Motor Inn, just off the city's casino strip. Although they complained to the management about the smell, they stayed in the room overnight, according to officials. In the morning they were given another room. Maids who came to clean the room looked for the source of the smell and found it after removing the mattress and box spring to find the body of a man in the box frame underneath. The identity and age of the man was not known, nor how long the body had been there. (CNN.Com, donated by The Mind Orbitor)

June 20, 1999
In February, 1948, a Moscow-directed coup d'etat in Prague abolished democracy in Czechoslovakia. Foreign Minister Jan Masaryk, 62, remained in office even after the Communist takeover but soon plunged to his death from an upper-story window. Whether the act was suicide, an accident, or murder remains unclear. The Czech coup raised alarms in the West and is generally considered the beginning of the cold war. (The People's Almanac #2)