September, 1999

September 1, 1999
A former funeral director was convicted on three counts of abuse of a corpse for allowing bodies to decompose after his electricity was shut off. William B. Grohe, 52, also pleaded guilty Tuesday to 10 felony counts of misappropriating client funds. On Sept. 3, 1997, investigators found three bodies at the Grohe Funeral Home in Mount Vernon that had not been prepared for cremation or burial despite being there for several days. Grohe was supposed to cremate two of the bodies and prepare the third for burial. City police started looking into Grohe's finances after the corpses were discovered. They said he mishandled thousands of dollars paid by 10 customers under funeral-service contracts. Grohe faces up to a year in prison and a $2,500 fine for each of the abuse counts. The other charges each carries a maximum sentence of 18 months in prison and a $5,000 fine. (The Associated Press, donated by Fiendish Freya Harris)

September 2, 1999
A 16-year-old boy died Saturday, August 21, 1999 from injuries he suffered at Lake Compounce amusement park in Bristol, Connecticut. On Friday, the boy was working as a ride attendant on the "Tornado," a spinning ride more commonly known as the "Scrambler." The accident happened when the boy stepped onto the ride before it had come to a complete stop. His legs got caught underneath the ride and he was dragged until the operator activated the emergency stop. The boy was left pinned underneath the ride from the waist down. Firefighters used inflatable devices to lift the ride off of the victim. After the boy was freed, he was transported by helicopter to a hospital, where he underwent surgery. His injuries included a head wound and broken bones, in addition to possible broken arms, dislocated shoulders, and multiple internal injuries. The state fire marshal inspected the ride and determined that it did not malfunction. Park officials had planned to operate the ride Saturday, but have decided not to, out of respect for the victim. (Amusement Ride Accident Reports and News)

September 3, 1999
An 80-year-old Kansas City man was convicted of murder last month for attacking an elderly woman friend and killing her new husband with a baseball bat in what prosecutors said was a jealousy-inspired rampage. Francis Patrick Doyle was convicted of first degree murder and attempted second degree murder after five days of testimony in which prosecutors described how Doyle used the bat to repeatedly bludgeon Lawrence Kubik, 77, and his wife Marguerite Bacher-Kubik, also 77, in a midnight attack last February. Kubik died and Bacher-Kubik was left severely injured. The two had been married in November 1998 after renewing a high school romance after they ran into each other at a high school reunion. Doyle, who faces life in prison when sentenced, had been a longtime close friend of Bacher-Kubik and helped the widow with household chores and had a key to her house. After her whirlwind romance and marriage to Kubik, Doyle began stalking the couple, according to testimony at the trial. When officers responded to the Feb. 4, 911 call from Bacher-Kubik, they found Doyle hiding behind a chair in the couple's house, clutching a bloody baseball bat, a police officer testified. Doyle told police he discovered the couple already beaten and was trying to assist them. Doyle is the oldest man to be tried for murder in Johnson County, a wealthy suburban enclave south of Kansas City. (Reuters, donated by Bruce Townley)

September 4, 1999
Seven Chattanooga firefighters decided to impress their Chief by surreptitiously setting fire to a house, then heroically extinguishing the blaze. The men apparently hatched the plan in order to help Daniel, a former firefighter, return to duty. Unfortunately, Daniel's career plans were irreversibly snuffed when he became trapped while pouring gasoline inside the house. Surrounded by smoke and flames, he was unable to escape, and died inside the burning house on June 26. His six accomplices are facing 87 years in prison for conspiracy, arson, and burglary. (The Darwin Awards)

September 5, 1999
On June 19, 1998 in Illinois, a man drowned in Fox Lake after he and a friend inadvertently blasted a hole in the bottom of their rowboat with a quarter stick of dynamite. 29-year-old Daniel Wyman and his unidentified friend were relaxing on the lake on Sunday in a 14-foot aluminum boat, when they decided to toss the M-250 explosive into the water. They intended to kill fish with the blast, not themselves, said Jim Wipper, chief deputy coroner. A sudden gust of wind pushed their boat over the firecracker, and the boat sank about 100 yards from shore. The friend swam safely to land. (The Darwin Awards)

September 6, 1999
All that scout spirit can be bad for you, as Aaron J. Archibald found out. While roasting marshmallows round a camp fire with his friends, one of them jerked his toasting fork. The metal prong flew out and speared Aaron through the temple. The 15-year-old was DOA at Methodist Hospital, Indianapolis. (Bizarre magazine)

September 7, 1999
A student set his own penis aflame in a successful attempt to win $NZ500 cash and an equal bar tab. Thomas stapled his penis to a white crucifix, poured cigarette lighter fluid over it, and set it on fire in his bid to win a controversial "How Far Will You Go?" promotion for Trader McKendry's Tavern in Christchurch. The event, sponsored by New Zealand Breweries, encouraged patrons to compete for the most lewd act. Thomas walked away with the top prize, which he used for car registration, a warrant of fitness, and registration for his bloodhound Puss. At a student clinic, he obtained free medical treatment for his bruised and burned penis. After two weeks, he has almost recovered, and expresses no regrets about his actions. (The Darwin Awards)

September 8, 1999
A man died in August, 1999 after he was electrocuted while waiting at a bus stop in the busy Gaslamp District of San Diego. He died at a local hospital only minutes after being freed from the electrified metal bus enclosure that completely paralyzed him. The cause of the freak accident was unclear. San Diego Gas & Electric officials said the closest electrical circuit to the bus stop was not the utility's but belonged to the city of San Diego. The circuit powered a streetlight and a sign inside the enclosed bus stop. Glenn Newman, an electrician from Poway who happened by the bus stop, said he tried in vain to free the man. Newman said he was walking up Market after having dinner at the Blue Point Coastal Cuisine restaurant and turned up 6th to get his car when he saw smoke. "I thought it was a car on fire so I ran to see if I could help, and I saw him. He was up against that fence, he was shaking, smoke was pouring out of him. He was being electrocuted. He was being cooked alive," said a distraught Newman. Newman was wearing rubber-soled hiking boots, which do not conduct electricity. He needed something to pry the man loose and break the current. He shouted at a few people who were standing around the Ace Parking lot behind the bench to give him a stick, a piece of wood or plastic. Nobody helped, nobody brought anything for at least seven minutes, he said, so he ran up and started kicking the back of the metal bus enclosure, trying to shake the man loose from the deadly current that was pinning him there. Downtown resident Richard DiMaria, who ran to a bar to call police, said he saw Newman try to kick the victim loose. San Diego firefighters, who arrived shortly after police, used a wooden pole to push the man free. City electricians turned off the power, reportedly some 5,000 volts of electricity. Hours later, a burning smell remained in the air and the streetlight was dark. The bus bench, with its advertisement for milk featuring two chocolate cupcakes, was reopened for business. (The San Diego Union Tribune, donated by Dave Maggiora)

September 9, 1999
A deadly octopus, whose bite can kill humans in minutes but is only the size of a golf ball, has astonished a British aquarium by hatching a brood of 50 young. The bite of the blue-ringed octopus causes blurred vision and difficulty in swallowing followed rapidly by paralysis and death. There is no known antidote. The deadly creature, imported from Australia this summer, surprised everyone at the Sea Life Center in Weymouth, western England, when she produced a ball of tiny eggs. "They are beautiful creatures but they only display their true blue-ringed colors when they are about to attack. So for many people it could have been just about the last thing they ever saw," said marine expert Oliver Buttling. (Reuters, donated by Shala)

September 10, 1999
In Greenville, Tennessee, a dachshund apparently ate three of his master's toes while the man slept. Charles Golden, 50, woke up to find he was missing his big left toe and the two adjoining toes. X-rays of his dog's stomach revealed bone fragments. The family plans to keep the dog. Police said Golden drank alcohol the night before and didn't have much feeling in his feet because he is diabetic. (USA Today, donated by Walter Hanig)

September 11, 1999
Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California offers an extensive system of active geothermal features including one particularly active area called Bumpass Hell. Active volcanism is evident in the boiling waters, bubbling mud pots, and hissing steam vents that are still present today. A cavity of molten or partially molten magma that lies 6-12 miles below the surface of Lassen Peak is responsible for the most extensive geothermal system in the Cascade Range. As water from rain and melting snow seeps into the porous volcanic soils it becomes heated by contact with a mass of hot rocks that have been baked by this magma chamber. This water reaches temperatures of 465 degrees F. causing boiling with an increased pressure which forms a steam and gas resevoir over the hot water. This intense pressure causes the super-heated (above the boiling point) water to rise back towards the surface as steam, boiling water, super-heated fumaroles, acid-sulfate hot springs, and bubbling mudpots. These thermal pools can reach temperatures of 240 degrees F. at the surface. Bumpass Hell was named after Kendall Vanhook Bumpass who discovered it by stepping in just such a thermal pool, losing his leg as a result of the burns he suffered. (Exploring Lassen Volcanic National Park - it's my favorite park, quite naturally!)

September 12, 1999
A 70-year-old man killed himself after New York police questioned him about the body of an unidentified pregnant woman found in an oil drum stored for decades in a house he once owned. Authorities said the body of Howard Elkins was found Friday in a vehicle with a shotgun between his legs. A day earlier, Elkins had been questioned by police from Nassau County in New York, where he owned a home 27 years ago. The home's current owner recently found the body of a woman while removing a rusting oil drum from an attic crawl space. Police determined that the drum was manufactured in 1963. Elkins and his wife, Ruth, owned the home from 1957 to 1972. Police were unsure whether the suicide and unsolved murder were related. But a Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office log entry confirms Elkins as "a suspect in a 30-year homicide in Nassau County, N.Y." Police credit the airtight drum for preserving clues decades after the death of the woman, who was nine months pregnant. (The Nando Times, donated by Bruce Townley)

September 13, 1999
A Yosemite hiker with sore feet stopped to cool his heels in the Merced River, slipped on algae-covered rocks, and was swept over a 594-foot waterfall to his death. Siddiq was climbing Half Dome with three friends on Saturday when his poor choice of rest stops cost him his life. As he was carried over the Nevada Falls, his friends were calling authorities for help from their cell phones. But help could not arrive in time. Rangers recovered Siddiq's body by helicopter a few hours later. Siddiq is the fourth person to die at Nevada Fall in the last five years, park spokeswoman Christine Cowles said. (The Darwin Awards)

September 14, 1999
In September, 1971 inmates took over Attica State Prison in New York state. After Governor Nelson Rockefeller refused to meet with prisoners, he ordered 1,500 state troopers, sheriff's deputies, and prison guards to storm the penitentiary. Nine guard hostages and 31 prisoners died before order was restored. President Richard Nixon supported Rockefeller's handling of the revolt and said, "When a man is in a hard place and makes a hard decision and steps up to it, I back him up..." (The People's Almanac #2)

September 15, 1999
An Egyptian man killed his wife after she refused to make him a cup of tea because she was too busy watching last month's solar eclipse on television, a newspaper said Thursday. Abdel-Nasser Nuredeen from the Cairo working class district of Imbaba lost his temper with his wife, Zeinab, and strangled her in the ensuing quarrel, the semi-official newspaper al-Ahram reported. When Nuredeen discovered that his wife was limp and lifeless, he carried her to a nearby heart institute, but doctors told him she was dead. He confessed to the crime and was arrested, the paper said. (Reuters, donated by Bruce Townley)

September 16, 1999
On the evening of July 2, 1863, while riding horseback during the second day of fighting at Gettysburg, 3rd Army Corps commander Major General Daniel E. Sickles had his right leg shattered by a solid 12 pound cannonball. He quieted his horse, dismounted, and was removed to a sheltered area where his leg was amputated just above the knee by Surgeon Thomas Sim, U.S. Volunteers. A short time later, the Army Medical Museum received the amputated leg in a box bearing a visiting card which read: "With the compliments of Major General D.E.S." For many years on the anniversary of the amputation, Sickles would visit the Museum to view his leg. (The National Museum of Health & Medicine)

September 17, 1999
In Dallas, after becoming enraged at Dole's nomination on August 14, Ernest Comegys, 70, went to his bedroom, grabbed a handgun, fired several shots at his cousin and stepdaughter, and then shot himself to death. (News Of The Weird, donated by Shala)

September 18, 1999
A young girl was killed by a bear cub at a zoo in Siberia, the Interfax news agency reported Friday. The 7 or 8-year-old child had been trying to feed the bear cubs in the central Siberian zoo. One animal knocked her over with a single blow, pulled her into the cage and mauled her to death. The bear, along with another cub in the cage, was shot dead by zoo keepers who had attempted, in vain, to save the girl. (The Nando Times, donated by Bruce Townley)

September 19, 1999
A woman, reportedly upset by her husband declaring they were divorced, slaughtered their four sleeping daughters with a meat cleaver and set the house on fire, police said Sunday. Police recovered the charred bodies of the girls, aged 2 to 8, after they were killed Friday night at Khodabakshpur village, 70 miles north of the capital, Dhaka. Rashida, who uses one name, was arrested on murder charges and her husband, Abdul Khaleq, a poor farmer, was detained for questioning, a police officer said. The officer said Rashida used a meat cleaver to kill the girls after her husband left the house. Before leaving, he had uttered the word divorce three times and told Rashida to leave the family, police said. Such impromptu divorces are illegal in Bangladesh, although it is a predominantly Muslim country. But the practice is still widespread among conservative Muslims who strictly follow Islamic law. (The Nando Times, donated by Bruce Townley)

September 20, 1999
A woman who was nicked by a knife while arguing with a friend put a small bandage on the wound and went to bed, then apparently bled to death. Police said Clemenstine Robinson, 47, suffered a small cut to an artery in her chest and bled internally after the Saturday night fight. Janie Childs, 53, was charged with murder. Atlanta police Sgt. Keith Meadows said Childs and Robinson were drinking together and were arguing over a paring knife when Robinson was nicked. The wound didn't bleed much externally, and Robinson merely patched it with a adhesive bandage, Meadows said. (The Nando Times, donated by Kat Slacke)

September 21, 1999
In July, 1974 terror in Northern Ireland spread to London as members of the Irish Republican Army planted a 10-lb. time bomb beneath the huge 18th centry Royal George cannon on display in the historical Tower of London. On detonation, the 3-ton relic lifted 5 ft. into the air during visiting hours and splintered into the flesh of tourists, wounding 37, among them 8 children, and killing 1 woman. Beneath the cannon lay a child's severed foot. (The People's Almanac #2)

September 22, 1999
In April, Ms. Gabriella Villa was finally discovered, dead of natural causes, in Monza, Italy, approximately seven years after she died at age 47. She had passed away in her home, but neighbors and her estranged husband had assumed that she had simply moved to another town. (Seven years appears to be a new record for an undetected death in the home.) (News Of The Weird, donated by Shala)

September 23, 1999
Three men in Kazakstan were accused of drugging and killing seven prostitutes and making dumplings out of their flesh, a news agency reported in August. The three suspects, who were all on the staff of a psychiatric hospital, allegedly served the women wine that had been laced with sleeping pills and killed them after they went to sleep, Interfax said. Parts of one of the victim's bodies was found in January. The men were arrested in Almaty, the largest city in the Central Asian nation. There have been at least a half dozen cases of cannibalism reported in Russia and the former Soviet Union in recent years, including one in Kazakstan in 1997. (The Associated Press, donated by Lizzie Borden)

September 24, 1999
When Maria Blackburn opened the contents of an abandoned storage unit she bought at auction, she found wedding pictures, glasses used to toast the newlyweds and the body of the groom, in a carefully wrapped 2-by-2-by-4 foot box, stuffed with two tarps, a blanket, and a layer of thick roofing plastic. Now, the bride has been charged with murder. Darlene Bourk, 31, pleaded innocent to killing 27-year-old Robert Bourk, the San Bernardino County district attorney's office said Thursday. Mrs. Bourk was being held without bail in a San Bernardino County jail. Bourk was reported missing in June 1997 after his mother called police, saying she hadn't heard from him in more than six months. "When we received the initial missing person's report, we looked into it," said Upland police Lt. Ed Gray. "But apparently it wasn't unusual for this guy to drop out of sight for a while." Investigators now believe Bourk was killed in late December 1996 and his body placed in a cardboard box at Stor-King, a self-storage facility in this San Bernardino County town about 50 miles east of Los Angeles. They haven't said how he died. Gray would not say what events led up to Bourk's death, but he said the man would have remained "missing" had his wife not failed to make payments on the storage space. Mrs. Blackburn paid $20 on Sept. 14 for the storage unit's contents. Meanwhile, Stor-King manager Susie Gonzalez said Mrs. Bourk called in a panic after receiving notice her belongings had been auctioned because she missed two $25 payments. Mrs. Bourk left two notes on the storage unit, saying that "she'd give anything, anything to get the storage back," Mrs. Blackburn told The Press Enterprise of Riverside. The note said: "I've got pictures in there. Things that belonged to my husband," Mrs. Blackburn said. (And what's the moral of THIS story? Always pay your bills in a timely manner!) (The Associated Press, donated by Dave Maggiora)

September 25, 1999
Coast Guardsmen plied the 20-foot floodwaters of eastern North Carolina on Friday, trying to snag scores of coffins that have popped out of the ground since Hurricane Floyd. On Saturday, a team of funeral home directors will begin identifying the wayward caskets to help get them back to what were supposed to be their final resting places. "We're doing this to ensure that all the caskets are identified so that we can notify their loved ones," said Coast Guard Lt. Scott Bates. The Coast Guard crews spent the day in Princeville, across the Tar River from Tarboro, trying to round up as many as 100 airtight caskets that were forced from the ground by the river's floodwaters. Too heavy to pull onto boats, the caskets were either towed to shore or tied to trees as Coast Guard crews recorded their locations. All appeared to be sealed. Manufacturers' ID numbers on the caskets can be traced to funeral homes and ultimately the families who bought them, but the bodies still must be identified and the coffins repaired before they are reburied, said Buddy Bell, a mortuary liaison officer for the U.S. Public Health Service. Identifying the bodies could be as simple as a relative describing the clothing the person was buried in or it could require the use of dental records, officials said. Family members won't be asked to make visual identifications (and I bet they're relieved!). (The Nando Times, donated by Bruce Townley)

September 26, 1999
The most devastating earthquake in recorded history hit the northern Shaanxi province in China in 1556, killing an estimated 830,000 people. (Inside China Today)

September 27, 1999
When Rickey Ray Rector was executed via lethal injection in Arkansas on January 24, 1992 it took medical staff more than 50 minutes to find a suitable vein in his arm. Witnesses were not permitted to view this scene, but reported hearing Rector's loud moans throughout the process. During the ordeal, Rector (who suffered serious brain damage from a lobotomy) tried to help the medical personnel find a vein. The administrator of the State's Department of Corrections medical programs said (paraphrased by a newspaper reporter) "the moans did come as a team of two medical people that had grown to five worked on both sides of his body to find a vein." The administrator said "that may have contributed to his occasional outburst." (Botched Executions)

September 28, 1999
Three Indonesian cult members were beaten to death by fellow cultists when the 9/9/99 doomsday prediction failed to materialize. Like many cults across the country, members were told to prepare for the end of the world at 9 a.m. on September 9. They sold their personal possessions and for nine days before the big day, locked themselves up in their homes. When nothing happened, the cult members lost control, the newspaper said. "The members were really mad," said Saadi Arsam, village chief of Sukmajaya, east Java. (Reuters, donated by Shala)

September 29, 1999
On January 17, 1977 the United States ended its 10-year moratorium on capital punishment as convicted murderer Gary Gilmore, 36, faced a firing squad in Utah. (The People's Almanac #2)

September 30, 1999
On September 13, 1899, Henry Bliss stepped off a trolley in New York City when he was hit and killed by a car. Bliss was the first known person on the continent to die after being struck by an automobile, with about 5 million Americans being killed by vehicles since. Quite the trendsetter, eh? (KRON TV, donated by Robert Philips)