Originally created 01/14/02

Odds and ends



EASTON, Conn. -- Before dawn one recent Saturday, 55-year-old Jean Milazzo went out in the cold darkness determined to solve a mystery: Someone was swiping her newspaper.

Armed with a video camera, Milazzo and her daughter-in-law hid in a neighbor's driveway hoping to catch the thief in the act. Sure enough, a white van stopped in front of her house at 6:12 a.m.

The driver got out, picked up her paper and drove off.

Milazzo and her partner sprang into action, jumping in their car and following the van. Milazzo drove while her daughter-in-law captured the van's license plate with a camcorder.

"I had my bright lights on," Milazzo said Tuesday. "I had the horn blowing. I think he got the clue that somebody was on to him."

The thief got away. But using the plate number, police identified the van's owner and charged Erling Goico, 40, with sixth-degree larceny. He faces a fine or community service when he appears in court Jan. 18.

Goico, who has an unlisted phone number, could not be reached for comment.

Police were shocked - and a bit impressed - at Milazzo's determination to catch the thief.

"Everybody was proud of her," Sgt. Richard Doyle said. "We laughed that someone took such an extent to solve their newspaper crime."

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VAN BUREN, Ark. -- A man accused of stealing from his former employer has been ordered to pay back the company slowly - in monthly payments of $100 for the next 85 years.

Joe Pratt, 56, pleaded guilty Monday to one count of theft by deception for stealing $102,000 from Van Buren-based USA Truck. Pratt said he used the stolen money to pay bills and play bingo.

Circuit Judge Floyd Rogers sentenced him to 10 years in prison, suspended eight years of the term, and ordered restitution at $100 a month.

"The reality is that (USA Truck) is never going to see it," Crawford County deputy prosecutor Marc McCune said. The company will recover much of its loss through insurance.

Officials with USA Truck told police in November they suspected Pratt, the company's director of pricing, was stealing money from 1999 to November 2001. They turned over several checks made out to the G.A. Turner Co., which turned out to be a fictitious company invented by Pratt.

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Buddy the dog may be gone but the former presidential pet is hardly forgotten at a downtown exhibit of memorabilia from the Clinton White House.

Buddy, a 4-year-old chocolate Labrador retriever, was killed Jan. 2 when he ran from the Clintons' home in Chappaqua, N.Y., and was hit by a car.

A photo portrait and sculpture of the dog has been added to a temporary display of Clinton artifacts housed near the site of Clinton's planned presidential library.

On a table beneath a full-size portrait is a binder with e-mails from as far away as Russia that have poured in since Buddy passed away.

"I have always prayed for the safety of President and Senator Clinton and Chelsea, but had not thought about Buddy," said one e-mail from Iowa City, Iowa. "As a dog lover and owner of two, I am sending my sympathy to the Clintons."

Next to the binder is a bouquet of six roses sent by merchants across the street. A volunteer hands out photos of the dog in a seated pose, a red collar holding his gold rabies tag.

"There's a lot of interest in (presidential) pets ... and there's just a great affection for Labs," Clinton Foundation president Skip Rutherford said Tuesday.

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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- A rare 17th-century book in Latin has been returned to a Penn State library 57 years after it was last checked out. The good news is there won't be any late fees.

Donald B. King borrowed the text by the Dutch theologian Erasmus - titled "On Copia of Words and Ideas" - to translate into English. King died in 1997, at age 84, never having returned the book.

A few months ago, his daughter, Kathryn King of Perkinsville, Vt., returned the volume to Penn State.

The library normally allows a 25-day grace period then charges a $25 processing fee plus the cost of the book, spokeswoman Catherine Grigor said Tuesday. This time, they'll let it slide, she said.

When King borrowed the book, he probably signed a card or made an oral agreement with a librarian to keep it longer than usual, said Loanne Snavely, head of instructional programs at the library.

King worked on the translation as he moved to different teaching positions around the country, publishing it in 1963.

The 294-page volume is now in the library's special collection and cannot be checked out.

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MOUNT CARBON, Pa. -- Jeffrey Dunkel isn't old enough to pop open a bottle of champagne yet, but that didn't stop the 18-year-old mayor - or his councilwoman mother - from celebrating his inauguration Monday.

Dunkel, who got involved in politics after studying local government for a high school class, was elected to a four-year term in November.

He ran unopposed and won with 43 votes in this Schuylkill County borough of around 100 residents.

The mayor is paid a stipend of $50 per month, and has no office and no budget.

Still, Dunkel said he is taking the job seriously. He said his biggest goal is to hire a neighboring community's police department to patrol the borough.

"Speeding is a major problem here, and there's a lot of vandalism," Dunkel said.

He will also have to deal with his mom, Kathleen Dunkel, who was elected to a Borough Council seat with 22 write-in votes. Dunkel swore in his mother Monday immediately after his own ceremony.

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SEATTLE -- The new "Star Wars" movie doesn't open until May 16, but John Guth and Jeff Tweiten already have their spots in line.

Guth, 32, and Tweiten, 24, took their places outside the Cinerama theater on Jan. 1. They plan to wait there, taking snooze breaks in sleeping bags or a nearby van, for more than four months, until the curtain opens on "Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones."

The pair is undeterred by the fact that even Cinerama management doesn't yet know whether the movie will play at the theater.

Guth is president of the Seattle Star Wars Society and Tweiten is one of the club's roughly 1,200 members.

Guth said donations from society members cover food costs. They're killing time in line reading, watching movies on a portable DVD player and talking to people waiting for more current fare.

"I admire their enthusiasm for the movie, but as it's been proven in the past, everyone who wants to see this or any other film will be able to get tickets for it," said Brian Callaghan, spokesman for General Cinema, which manages the Cinerama.

And if the movie should open elsewhere locally?

"Then we'll go there," Guth said.

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MARYVILLE, Tenn. -- David Hesson was on the other side of the world when he heard his wife give birth to her first child.

Julie Hesson gave birth to Colby Wallace Hesson on Thursday while his Air National Guardsman daddy was listening on speaker telephone from an undisclosed location in the Middle East.

"He said, 'I hear him. Is that him?"' Julie Hesson said. "He couldn't tell for sure if it was (the baby) or not."

David Hesson deployed Oct. 11 with the Tennessee Air National Guard's 228th Combat Communications Squadron when his wife was six months pregnant. His wife said she kept a journal as she took the pregnancy "day by day."

Kelli Huffaker, Julie's best friend, videotaped the 8-pound, 15-ounce baby immediately after the birth. Julie hopes to send the tape to her husband in the next two weeks.

"I've kept a journal of all my nurses, the room number, when they gave me my pain pills, when they gave me the IV," she said. "I've kept notes on everything, so he'll know exactly what I went through."