Thursday, February 21, 2008

Stranger Than Fiction

by Joyce Tremel

They say that truth is stranger than fiction. Anyone who reads police reports or even the local newspapers knows how true this statement is.

Donna Sturkie-Anthony of North Huntingdon, PA was arrested recently for aggravated assault, simple assault and recklessly endangering another person. She allegedly took her sister’s prosthetic leg and beat her with it. When police arrived at the Lincoln Mobile Home Trailer Park, they found Donna outside the trailer. She told them she wanted her sister removed from the residence. When the police went inside they found the woman beaten and bleeding. She also faces charges for threatening to burn down her neighbors’ mobile home if they testified against her. To top it all off, Sturkie-Anthony is a former homecoming queen.

Honest. I couldn’t make this up if I tried. If I wrote anything even close, I’d hear members of my critique group screaming, “Cliché! Cliché!” And they’d be right. Can you get any more clichéd than a former homecoming queen living in a trailer park?

Another story that caught me eye was the murder trial of Patrick Jason Stollar. Stollar is accused of the beating death of a 78-year-old woman in 2003. Stollar is representing himself in his murder trial and last week he objected to showing the jurors the autopsy photos. He said “they denoted the appalling, horrific nature of this crime.” His objection was overruled. On Wednesday morning, Stollar gave an hour and a half long closing statement in which he compared his circumstances to Helen of Troy, the Crusades, and the Civil War. He said he wasn’t himself. I think he was hoping to convince the courts he was nuts. The jury didn’t buy it. They convicted him of first degree murder in less than an hour.

The police have to deal with nitwits like the above all the time. In a way, people like this make their jobs a whole lot easier. The cops get to know the local criminals so well, that half the time they don’t even have to do an investigation. We had a few burglaries recently and our detectives knew right away who did it. They had a description of a tan car with parts hanging off the front end. The car is owned by one of our locals who just happened to have been released from prison not long ago. You’d be surprised how often crimes are solved this way. It’s not always because of great investigative skills. Sometimes they just get lucky.

Speaking of lucky, a firefighter in South Carolina was leaving a Waffle House when two men came in who were fighting over a gun. The gun went off and the firefighter found out later that a DVD he was carrying in his pocket had stopped a bullet. When he was talking to police he realized he had a bullet hole in his coat and when he looked, he found the DVD case shattered with a piece of the bullet in it.

Have you run across any truth is stranger than fiction stories lately? Any dumb criminals? Crimes solved by pure luck? Do tell!


Gina said...

Oh, yeah, Joyce.
When I worked for the parole board, we dealt with dumb criminals all the time. Like the guy who was arrested for having sex with a cow - he was caught because it wasn't his cow. The cow's owner heard a disturbance in the barn and investigated. Or the parolee who wrote a threatening letter to a judge, and signed his name. Or the guys who were driving along and, having read in the newspaper that the price of copper had gone up, decided to stop and cut down the copper wire that was running along the road. It turned out to be a railroad communication line, and when the railroad sent someone out to find out why it had stopped working, he saw these guys rolling it up. Even the criminals who think they're being smart are really dumb, like the guy who insisted that he should not have been convicted of varous traffic offenses because, "I don't have a license." He apparently thought he was immune because he couldn't get points against his license.

Annette said...

I love these stupid criminal stories. The ones that really get me howling are the stories of guys wearing those oversized pants that fall down around their knees when they're running from a crime scene and trip them.

The style bugs the heck out of me, but I'm willing to bet the cops love it.

And, Joyce, I'm still chuckling over the visual of the former homecoming queen beating her sister with her prosthetic leg.

Tory said...

A client of mine was called for jury duty and, guess what, was interviewed by Jason Stollar himself regarding jury selection. Picture this: you go to the courthouse to perform your civic duty, and there you are, being interviewed by someone who (possibly) bludgeoned a poor lady to death!

FYI, my client wasn't selected by for the jury because she has a hard time with the death penalty (I'm sure Jason was fine with that, but the prosecutor wasn't.)

Brenda said...

Joyce, as usual, you crack me up and get me thinking.

ramona said...

Joyce, I was thinking the former homecoming queen living in the trailer park was a good premise for a down-on-her-luck sleuth for a mystery series.

The beating her sister with her own leg, though--I guess that wouldn't work, huh?

Joyce said...

Gina, that cow story reminds me of Lee's pig story.

I'm thinking that even if this Stollar guy gets the death penalty, he'll never be executed because some do-gooder will appeal it eight hundred times because the idiot represented himself.

Ramona, I'd definitely leave out the prosthesis part.

Nancy said...

I saw the homecoming queen story and assumed she watched The Sopranos. Dumb criminals rarely have an original idea, right?

I can't read the squiggly letters, I guess. I keep having to type the word verification over and over. Must have forgotten the morning eye drops!

ramona said...

Joyce, I'm sorry if this is a hijack, but did you see the news story about the guy who wounded six cops in a shootout getting killed in prison? The story said that 1,500 cops gathered around the courthouse to protest after the verdict. The image of that blows my mind.

Annette said...

Nancy, you're not the only one having problems with those word verification letters. And I just got new glasses!!! Of course, it would help if I could hit the right keys, too.

Darn spammers.

Joyce said...

Ramona, I missed that story! I'll have to check it out.

Sorry about the squiggly letter thing. I have trouble with it too. As soon as I think the spammers are gone, I'll get rid of it. It just annoyed the heck out of me when I had to delete 36 spam messages the other night.

NL Gassert said...

I love those kinds of stories. Whenever I see them in a newspaper, I cut them out. I have a shoebox full of stupid criminals (you know what I mean). I’m actually using a few of those stories in my current WIP. Like the guy who stole a car from the mall parking lot and then fell asleep at the wheel before he ever made it off the lot. The same day some kid tried to steal a car from the same mall only to get snagged in mall traffic; there wasn’t even a chase, because the cars were moving so slowly. It was the day after Thanksgiving.

nancy said...

I'm cracking up over the car chase during the mall traffic jam!

Joyce said...

Stealing a car from a mall parking lot the day after Thanksgiving? Now that has to be the height of stupidity! The cops probably walked to the car to arrest him.

Lee Lofland said...

I got a call one night about someone screaming for help inside a business that had been closed for hours.

A brilliant crook had climbed on top of the building where he used a chainsaw to cut out a round hole in the roof so he get inside. His big mistake was that he was standing in the center of the circle he was cutting. Yep, he fell through and broke his leg.

AND...There was the time when four guys broke into a store to steal cash. For their escape they decided to climb out of a third story window, walk across a flat section of roof, and then slide down a steel downspout near where they'd parked their get-away car.

Little did they know, they had set off a silent alarm. My partner and I were nearby and got the call. We saw the first guy climb onto the downspout and begin his slow journey down.

I couldn't believe what happened next. He slid right into my waiting arms. Never knew we were there. We handcuffed him and put him in the back seat of our police car. We did the same for the next two. The fourth guy saw us and ran back inside the building. A canine went in to get that one.

Joyce said...

Lee, someday you should write an entire book with these stories. It'd be an instant bestseller!

Joyce said...

Now here is an appropriate sentence:

Joyce said...

The latest news is that Stollar has just been sentenced to death by lethal injection.