Satan, voodoo make for another strange year in Florida


Published: Wednesday, January 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, December 31, 2002 at 8:57 p.m.
TALLAHASSEE - Even in a state famous for questionable ballots, one vote had a particularly strange challenge.
A Miami nursing home asked the National Labor Relations Board to throw out a union vote, arguing that a series of voodoo signs may have scared the facility's large Haitian-American work force into voting to organize.
Workers testified at a federal hearing that they saw lines of pennies, half-empty water cups and a pro-union employee twisting black beads in her hands before the vote. The board ruled that voodoo did not taint the vote.
It was just one of many weird Florida stories in a year where racing fans flocked to see a goat, Scooby Doo promoted phone sex, and a town fought for its right to ban Satan.
But getting back to elections, a Sarasota charter boat captain thought it was time Congress got its own watchdog, so he tried to get his dog on the ballot to challenge former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris. The pooch didn't make the ballot and Harris won her congressional race handily.
Animals also combined with criminals to make strange news.
A man being hit with a beer bottle in Madeira Beach grabbed a swordfish and stabbed his attacker in the stomach. And state game officers locked up 96 red foxes and the three men accused of illegally smuggling them into the state. The officers were outfoxed, however, when the animals tunneled out of the enclosure where they were being held.
And in Daytona Beach, a tourist was charged with petty theft after stealing a 3-foot alligator from a miniature golf course and bringing it back to his hotel. Other gators also made the news. Two Fort Walton Beach teenagers were charged with a misdemeanor after they were spotted putting a 3-foot gator in their car. They said the reptile got stuck in a fence and they were trying to rescue it. And a state game officer found a man wrestling with a gator on Interstate 4 near Haines City. The gator chomped off the man's finger, but he refused treatment before driving off.
A fisherman in the Ten Thousand Islands region was a little more fortunate in another animal attack. The man was leaning over his boat to pull a redfish out of the water when a shark sprung up and bit his arm, leaving a six-inch gash but causing no bone or nerve damage.
Another shark story had a happier ending. Amy, a 3-foot nurse shark, was flown from a Michigan bar to Key Largo, where she was released.
A deer near Jacksonville had to break through a window to earn its freedom. The animal first crashed through a bedroom window, burst a waterbed and damaged a big-screen television before the homeowner locked it in a bathroom. The deer then thrashed around inside before breaking out.
Another destructive animal was being sought by game officers in the Panhandle. A black bear upset residents by attacking a baby Jesus in a nativity scene and knocking over decorative reindeer.
Other back bears in the Ocala National Forest caught people's attention for another reason: They're bald. Wildlife officers say more than half the region's bears were losing hair, making them look like large, bald rats.
Several criminals made the news while being bare.
A former exotic dancer received two years of house arrest in Panama City for knocking out another stripper's tooth with her high-heel shoes.
A man fleeing deputies at the Seminole County Courthouse lost his pants when he jumped over some shrubs. His low-slung baggy jeans were found less than a block from the courthouse. He was found hiding in a library another two blocks away wearing gray boxer shorts.
A 30-year-old man left a trail of smoke as he fled Tallahassee police with his pants on fire. Officers say he was about to urinate in public when he put a cigarette in his pocket and ran. The pants were visibly burning when the man let them drop to his ankles and officers caught him.
A man who supervised foster children's counselors was arrested for streaking near a Broward County playground. Ironically, police also charged him with carrying a concealed weapon.
It was the victim left exposed when a 17-year-old was charged with stealing a Pompano Beach city commissioner's pants at gunpoint.
And Oddly stiff clothes led to a bust in Orlando. A Colombian laundry used heroin as starch for shirts and blue jeans and hired a smuggler to take the drug-soaked clothes into Florida. Customs officials discovered the scheme when they noticed the unusually stiff clothes smelled of vinegar and left a trail of white powder.
Elderly residents proved there's no age limit to drug crimes.
Among those busted this year were an 81-year-old woman in a wheelchair charged with plotting to smuggle 9,931 doses of Ecstasy and a 72-year-old woman who held several bags of marijuana on her lap during a Gainesville drug raid in her home.
Also, a 65-year-old arthritic grandmother from Boynton Beach received a four-year prison sentence for leading a statewide pickpocket ring and an 89-year-old woman, standing just 5 feet tall and weighing 90 pounds, spent the night in a Naples jail charged with a felony after a police officer said she punched him when he cited her for causing an accident.
Other people who had run-ins with the law were far younger.
A 13-year-old boy was charged with a felony for buying two soft drinks with a fake $1 bill at his school. A New Port Richey 7-year-old was cited by police after he ran a stop sign and crashed into another car. His father gave him permission to drive the family car. Later, the father said, "I'm not irresponsible. I just had a few beers."
The mother of another 7-year-old received a surprise when her child asked her to dial an 800 number on the back of her child's Scooby Doo book. The St. Petersburg woman heard an offer to "talk live one-on-one with hot, sexy girls." And no, it wasn't an invitation to chat with Scooby's pals Velma and Daphne.
In other weird news: A member of a sect that believes life on Earth was created by extraterrestrials held a press conference in Hollywood claiming to have produced the world's first human clone, a baby girl.
The Inverness police chief became upset when two hamburgers he ordered weren't ready quick enough. He arrested the restaurant's owner and the owner called 911 when an argument over the meal escalated. The chief later resigned.
Also in Inverness, a man stole a six-pack of beer and told the clerk to call police so he could be sent back to jail. The man waited in the parking lot for police to arrive, the stolen six-pack of Busch beer at his side.
A Hooters waitress turned police officer was unsuccessfully sued by a former customer who said she failed to pay back $3,940 he loaned her for breast enlargement surgery.
Dale Earnhardt fans flocked to a North Florida farm to see a brown Nubian goat named Lil' Dale that was born with a distinctive white three - Earnhardt's number - on her right side.
And finally, the American Civil Liberties Union threatened to sue the Inglis mayor for banning Satan and posting the proclamation at all roads leading into town.
The story received national attention when Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" sent a correspondent who put a person in a red-devil's costume and had residents chase him out of town.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

Comments are currently unavailable on this article

▲ Return to Top