Texas inmate loses civil rights 'vampire' suit
HOUSTON — A federal appeals court has rejected as frivolous a civil rights lawsuit from a Texas prisoner who argued he was being barred from practicing religious beliefs related to vampires.
Inmate Courtney Royal two years ago sued about a dozen Texas prison administrators and officials at the Hughes Unit where he's serving a life sentence for numerous offenses, including aggravated assault, robbery and escape.
Royal's nine-page single-space typewritten lawsuit, rejected Thursday by the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, said he wanted to practice "West African spiritualism and 18th Century Catholicism" marked by prayer to Africans reincarnated by blood. He argued it was no different from "unproven" Christian beliefs.
In the filing, Royal described himself as "Vampsh Black Sheep League of Doom Gardamun Family Circle Master Vampire High Priest."
Black bear removed from New Jersey office complex
PARSIPPANY, N.J. — It was a bear of a day for employees at a northern New Jersey office complex after a young black bear decided to come to work.
The bear was spotted roaming the area Thursday in Parsippany, about 30 miles northwest of New York City.
Rangers cornered the animal and shot it with a tranquilizer gun. Officials say it weighed more than 150 pounds.
After sleeping it off, the bear was taken to Black River County Park in Chester Township and released.
Alison Glazer-Baurenfind tells The Daily Record of Parsippany that she lives in Sussex County where there are a lot of bears, but this was a first.
Thief steals US flag from man in chicken suit
MANCHESTER, Conn. — Manchester, Conn., police are investigating the theft of an American flag from a man in a chicken suit.
The Hartford Courant reports that Eric Didio was waving the flag and dancing outside a newly renovated Boston Market restaurant Wednesday as part of his job, when a man jumped from a car, grabbed the flag and took off.
A customer who witnessed the theft called police.
The newspaper reports that the dispatcher had a hard time relaying the call to officers, breaking into laughter while trying to say "chicken suit."
Nathan Atwood, the restaurant's general manager, says he stood beside the 23-year-old Didio for the rest of his shift to provide security.
No arrests have been made.
Sleepwalking used as defense in attempted robbery
NEW LONDON, Conn. — A Connecticut man accused of attempting to rob a woman at knifepoint in an elevator at the Mohegan Sun casino says he was sleepwalking at the time.
Attorney Nicholas D'Amato told a judge Wednesday that he plans to use a medical defense for Winston Riley based on that claim, the Norwich Bulletin reported.
The Bridgeport man was arrested on March 18 after the woman told police he had flashed a large knife and tried to grab her purse while the two were alone in a parking garage elevator, police said.
Riley said he was awakened by the woman when she ran away in confusion and fright, D'Amato said.
The lawyer said he's confirmed with Riley's family that the 27-year-old has had a problem with sleepwalking since he was a child. The lawyer said he's in the early stages of gathering medical records in his attempt to convince prosecutors they should take the claim seriously.
"It is the first time we've encountered this," D'Amato said. "This is a legitimate medical condition."
Riley's bond was lowered Wednesday to $85,000 from $100,000. He is due back in court July 17.
Police said Riley confessed to the crime after he was arrested and told them he "just wanted some money."
D'Amato said the facts don't add up, since his client has no criminal record and is married.
"I told the judge and prosecutor... 'Do you honestly think he woke up one morning, drove across the state and decided to rob a woman in a place full of security cameras?'" D'Amato told the newspaper. "It doesn't make sense if you think about it rationally."
Boston transit workers save bunny toy on tracks
BOSTON — A woman is praising Boston transit workers for rescuing her 3-year-old daughter's stuffed animal from the train tracks.
According to Casey Carey-Brown's blog, "Life with Roozle," Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority workers acted quickly to save her daughter's stuffed bunny from being run over Wednesday.
Carey-Brown writes that the stuffed animal "jumped" from her daughter's stroller as they exited the train at the Green Street stop in Jamaica Plain, and fell onto the tracks.
She says an MBTA worker called the oncoming train, halting it, so he could safely rescue the toy.
In her blog, the mother thanks the workers who aided in the rescue effort, saying "you really didn't have to do what you did today, but you have made a little 3-year-old incredibly happy."
Police, arrestees decontaminated for bed bugs
DANVILLE, Ky. — Police in Danville brought more than an angry couple with them to the jail after making two arrests.
Police Chief Tony Gray says 11 police and jail employees — along with the arrestees, Thomas and Lisa McManus — and a police cruiser had to be decontaminated Wednesday morning after officers discovered the house had a bed bug infestation.
Officers went to the house shared by the couple late Tuesday night for reports of domestic violence. After arresting the couple and charging them with fourth-degree assault, they were taken to Boyle County Detention Center.
Gray told The Advocate-Messenger that's when officers found out about the infestation. Gray says the Danville Fire Department handled the decontamination before jailers placed the couple in cells.
Woman pays fine for calling 911 about dog collapse
O'FALLON, Mo. — A Missouri woman has paid a $100 fine for calling 911 to report her dog had collapsed.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Rose Lakey of O'Fallon referred to the Great Dane as her "daughter" when she made the emergency call on Easter Sunday. She said Wednesday — the day she paid the fine — that the word "daughter" came out accidentally.
Regardless, Lakey was accused of misusing 911. After initially pleading not guilty, Lake decided to dispose of the municipal charge.
Lakey and her husband had just finished walking the 140-pound dog, Oreo, when the animal collapsed. She said she called 911 in a panic. Emergency workers helped get Oreo to an animal hospital, but the dog died.
Woman arrested after sneaking visits inside suitcase
PORTLAND, Ore. — Police say a 50-year-old Oregon woman is in trouble because of her relationship baggage — but it's not the emotional kind.
Kola J. McGrath was arrested Monday for trespassing after workers at her boyfriend's downtown Portland apartment complex discovered the man was sneaking her into the building by hiding her in a large rolling suitcase. She was banned from the building last year for breaking a fire extinguisher case during an argument.
The Oregonian reports McGrath is 5 feet, 6 inches tall and weighs 96 pounds.
Police were notified when a caller reported a man had kidnapped a woman, placed her in a pink suitcase and taken her to the apartment building.
Officers then searched 52-year-old Curtis T. Lowe's apartment and found McGrath hiding in a closet.
Goats removed from Connecticut high school roof overhang
SIMSBURY, Conn. — Firefighters were called to a Connecticut high school for a goat removal.
Authorities say firefighters rescued four goats from an overhang above the entrance to Simsbury High School on Wednesday morning. They say the goats may have been placed there as a senior prank.
Principal Neil Sullivan says the goats were discovered by a custodian at about 5:30 a.m. No injuries were reported.
After being taken down, the pygmy goats were brought to Flamig Farm in West Simsbury. Officials are trying to find their rightful owner.
Sullivan says school officials are working with police to discover who put the goats on the overhang, but said they don't want to overreact to the incident.
Woman's loud praise – and curses – lead to charges
BRISTOL, Tenn. — A Tennessee woman says she was just praising the Lord, although at high volume, when she received a citation accusing her of violating the city's noise ordinance. She later was arrested by police on a disorderly conduct charge.
Fifty-four-year-old Betty Jones tells WCYB-TV that her routine every Sunday includes five hours of praising and dancing, while she listens to music by Johnny Cash, Randy Travis, Alan Jackson and The Judds.
But neighbors in Bristol complained about loud music, so police showed up on May 27, a Sunday. A police report says officers helped her lower her stereo's base and warned her. But officers say they came back less than two hours later being called again.
This, time they cited her under the city's noise ordinance, and Jones tells the station she gave the officers a message too.
"Randy Travis was singing 'I'm going home to pray to God tonight and hopefully he'll forgive my sins.' I looked at that officer and said 'you better go home tonight and pray for your sins because that's what Randy is telling you,'" she said. "That's the gospel truth. Randy Travis told that man to go home and pray."
After more neighborhood complaints, officers went back May 28 and arrested Jones after she concedes that she was "going off and cussing." Still, she says she should have the right to praise God in her own home.
She was charged with disorderly conduct and violating the noise ordinance. She spent the night in jail.
Word misspelled on Maryland high school's diplomas
UPPER MARLBORO, Md. — Diplomas at a Maryland high school are being reprinted because they contain a spelling error.
All of the diplomas distributed last week in Prince George's County outside Washington misspelled the word "program." County officials say they noticed the mistake after commencements were under way.
The vendor that printed the nearly 8,000 diplomas, National Quality Products, has apologized to the Class of 2012 for the mistake. Briant Coleman, a spokesman for the schools, says the vendor will reprint the diplomas for free.
The corrected diplomas will be mailed to students in a little more than a month.
Scientists excited about Iowa mammoth discovery
OSKALOOSA, Iowa — An unusual discovery of mammoth bones on a rural Oskaloosa farm has experts studying prehistoric life excited about scientific discoveries that may lie with the massive beast.
The find is rare because it appears to include much of the animal's skeleton undisturbed. That allows scientists to gather pollen and other plant evidence at the dig site that could reveal details about Iowa's environment more than 12,000 years ago.
Scientists from the University of Iowa scanned the area with ground penetrating radar on Friday to see if they could determine how much of the mammoth remains underground. Excavation will continue throughout the summer.
Bones were first found two years ago by the landowner. He wants his name and location of the farm to remain confidential to protect the site.
Ohio school withholds diplomas for excess cheering
CINCINNATI — A suburban Cincinnati high school held onto four graduates' diplomas and required community service as punishment for what it describes as overly boisterous cheering by their families during the graduation ceremony.
The mother of one of the graduates, who was one of the leading tacklers on the Mount Healthy school football team, doesn't think he should get flagged for excessive celebration.
"What does that have to do with him?" Traci Cornist told Cincinnati radio station WDBZ.
She doesn't dispute there was a lot of loud cheering for Anthony Cornist. Cornist also said she teaches her children to be accountable for their own actions, but she doesn't think he should be punished for what other people do.
"It took away so much from how happy I was," she said. "It makes absolutely no sense."
Schools Superintendent Lori Handler said Wednesday the problem wasn't the loudness of the yells, but their long duration, which she said halted the ceremony.
After past disruptions, a new policy was implemented this year aimed at making sure that all parents can hear their children's names called and celebrated. When they ordered graduation tickets, parents agreed that "any disruptive behavior" would result in their child's diploma being held until 20 hours of community service is completed, she said.
"Our whole push for this was to make sure that every single student's name is heard and recognized," Handler said, adding that that most parents are pleased with the new rules. "Everybody understands that upfront."
Four seniors, of the 205 who went through graduation May 23, were denied their diplomas, she said. When they went to school to pick them up, they got a letter from the principal informing them it was being withheld because of "excessive cheering" by their guests.
The students are considered legal graduates, and are free to use their transcripts as they apply for college or jobs, Handler said.