Originally created 12/31/01

Odds and ends



GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- A trail of Skittles candy wrappers led police to three children whom they charged with breaking into a vending machine and robbing a coin-operated laundry.

Police were called to Angel's Coin Laundry Tuesday to investigate a smashed window, $10 in missing quarters and stolen candy from a vending machine, said Gainesville Police Cpl. Keith Kameg.

Officer Tom Wright noticed the empty candy bags and followed them to a nearby boy on his bike. The boy admitted that he broke into the store with his brother and a friend.

The three boys, ages 9, 12 and 14, were taken to the Gainesville Juvenile Assessment Center.

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LUTZ, Fla. -- The black velvet box that Helen Swisshelm opened on Christmas Eve held the class ring she lost 53 years earlier in the Hudson River.

"When I saw it, it looked like the day I first I received it," Swisshelm said.

She lost the gold and onyx ring in 1948, when she was 17 and swimming with friends in the river. They searched the silt and rocks for the ring for hours.

Swisshelm, now 70 and living north of Tampa, received a call earlier this month from her alma mater, the Academy of the Holy Names in Albany, N.Y. A man had found a class ring from the school inscribed with the her initials, H.M.D., and contacted the alumni association.

Ken Rohling, of New York, said he found the ring with his metal detector. He returned it to Swisshelm in time for the holidays.

Swisshelm, who taught music at the Academy of the Holy Names in Tampa, said she plans to send Rohling an award.

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EASTON, Pa. -- Three cows that wandered off a farm have been hoofing around suburban Easton for about three months, defying efforts to bring them home.

Williams Township Manager Jeff Marsh said the township has gotten a few phone calls about roaming cattle, but nobody has filed a formal complaint so far. Officials are looking into the matter, he said.

"A couple of people called to say, 'I have cows in my back yard at night,"' Marsh said. At least one resident reported not being able to back out of her driveway because cows were blocking it and refusing to move.

Residents in the town of 2,800 said the animals have not caused any damage.

Township officials are trying to figure out if the owner is violating any laws. Marsh said the township is advising people to call state police if the cattle damage their property.

Shirley Cavallo, whose family owns the cows, said the family is working to lure them back. She speculated that hunters knocked down a fence, allowing the cattle to escape.

"The township is changing so much, they don't know where they belong," she said of the cows.

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HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. -- Runners parched after the Pacific Shoreline Marathon next month will be offered a different kind of thirst-quencher: beer.

Race promoters came up with the idea in hopes of attracting more sponsors and participants to the Jan. 27 event. The City Council approved a beer garden for runners, who will get no more than two beers.

"We just wanted to add something celebratory for the runners," said Herb Massinger, president of the firm that runs the event. "And of course, sponsors are looking at the experience participants are having."

Council members gave the green light to race promoters despite the objections of the Police Department, which provides security at the event.

"We are all for everybody having a great time, but historically, when we've had large events, when we've added alcohol, there is a public safety concern," said Lt. Chuck Thomas, a department spokesman.

Promoters have had a difficult time attracting runners and sponsors. The race drew only 500 runners last year, compared with the Los Angeles Marathon's annual participation of about 20,000.

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MOYOCK, N.C. -- Three-year-old Sabrina Verlaque was sure it was a reindeer crashing through her house on Christmas Eve.

But the animal that entered the Verlaque house through a glass door wasn't hauling Santa, and it sure wasn't a sign of glad tidings.

A frightened doe came into the house and slipped across linoleum floors and into a bedroom. It stumbled down a hallway into a bathroom, where she became trapped when the door closed behind her.

Sabrina, her two brothers and an older sister were in the house at the time.

"She is too young to know about Rudolph," said Sabrina's mother, Robin, "but she said that one of Santa's reindeer was in the bathroom."

The Verlaque children, with 16-year-old Grant in charge, called 911. Two deputies from the Currituck County Sheriff's Department came and chased the deer back into the woods.

Robin Verlaque said the doe caused minimal damage. The glass pane in the back door popped out without shattering. In the bathroom, a heater was knocked from the wall and a mirror was broken.

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CHAGRIN FALLS, Ohio -- A dozen men living in a suburban Cleveland retirement community struck a pose for the Distinguished Gentleman of Hamlet Village calendar.

The calendar, featuring men aged 80 to 96, was created to benefit the community and highlight Hamlet.

"Residents have very active, fascinating and fun lifestyles," said Marc Benson, president of the retirement community.

Mr. January, Donald Chester, holds a martini beside a fireplace. Mr. September - Charles Hurst, a Cleveland Browns fan, poses holding a stuffed football and wearing a football jersey.

There was no lack of volunteers for the calendar, said Carole Botfa, vice president of sales and marketing at Hamlet Village. The retirement community paid for the project, which began in August.

The first printing of 300 calendars is almost gone and more calendars have been ordered. One civic leader ordered 50 to give out as gifts, Benson said.

Chester, 86, said he enjoyed his involvement in the calendar photo shoot.

"But they gave me a fake martini, which disappointed me," he said.

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BANGKOK, Thailand -- Farmers in southern Thailand whose rice crops have been stolen by marauding monkeys have been deploying fake crocodiles to scare the raiders away, a local policeman said.

Unfortunately for the farmers, it doesn't seem to be working. Instead, the monkeys have been destroying the reptile scarecrows, police Sgt. Kasen Sanlem said Saturday.

Hundreds of monkeys from a forest are raiding rice fields in Tha Phae district of Satun province, 600 south of Bangkok, said Kasen, a district officer.

Kasen said his family's farm was among those ransacked by the short-tailed monkeys, who have spent the past three weeks eating his unharvested crop.

About 100 other farmers nearby have the same problem, he said.

"They (the monkeys) are not afraid of people at all because they outnumber us," Kasen said.