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The Odd Truth, Nov. 13, 2002

The Odd Truth is a collection of strange but factual news stories from around the world compiled by's Brian Bernbaum. A new collection of stories is published each weekday. On weekends, you can read a week's worth of The Odd Truth.

Did He Consider The Window?

FORT WORTH, Texas - Don't try this at any home.

Firefighters in Forth Worth, Texas had to break open a chimney yesterday to free a man who was trapped inside.

Authorities say the man had been locked out of his house and apparently tried getting in via the chimney -- but he got stuck.

Rescuers received an emergency call to help free the man.

Fire crews ended up breaking through the outside of the chimney and hauling the man out.

He was checked at the scene, and had no apparent injuries.

Authorities are trying to determine who placed the call for help.

Now, the man is stuck with fixing the gaping hole in the side of his chimney.

Heroic Washing Machine Rescue

LONG BEACH, Calif. - A 6-year-old girl was trapped in a coin-operated washing machine that was filling with water until a passer-by saw her and smashed the appliance's window with a tire iron, authorities said.

The girl and her rescuer were taken to a hospital, where the child underwent surgery to repair cuts to her face and body. She was in stable condition. Kloeum Nhem, 36, received stitches for cuts on his arm and was released.

The girl was at the laundry with her mother Tuesday when she climbed into the front-loading machine and the door closed behind her, said Fire Department spokesman Wayne Chaney. When the wash cycle began, the door locked and she couldn't get out.

As the washer begin to fill with water, Kloeum Nhem tried to smash the glass with his arm. When that failed, he got a tire iron from his car.

"It appears that some kids were playing, some siblings, and somehow she ended up in the washer," Chaney said. "We're very fortunate this young man was quick thinking."

Nhem said the mother was "crying nearby as I pulled her out."

The Fire Department closed the laundry for electrical code violations, Chaney said.

Is It Possible To Love Reading Too Much?

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — A man lost his library privileges for three years after admitting he stole more than 3,000 books and videotapes.

As a condition of his probation, 85-year-old Ernest Heyneman is not allowed to own a library card or go to any library, said Ventura County deputy district attorney Audry Rohn. Authorities also have the right to search him and his home for stolen property.

"Obviously, he has some kind of compulsion and he is unable to stop himself from stealing books," she said.

Prosecutors didn't seek prison time for Heyneman in light of his age, his failing health and his lack of a criminal record, Rohn said.

Heyneman pleaded no contest more than a month ago to one count of felony commercial burglary. In December, sheriff's deputies raided his hilltop ranch home and found an estimated $26,000 worth of material from the Thousand Oaks and Simi Valley libraries.

The retired movie studio employee did not speak during his sentencing in Superior Court but his wife, Emma, apologized on his behalf.

"My husband is very sorry, and it is showing in his health because he feels he has let his family down," she said. "This is the first time anything like this has happened. He always has been an upstanding citizen and has taught his children the same."

Library officials described Heyneman as a devoted patron who spent hours at the library every week culling the stacks for information on health and fitness, music and classic television shows.

The 24 boxes of books, audiotapes, videotapes and compact discs discovered at his home included everything from medical books to the video "Milton Berle's Low Impact Fitness for People Over 50."

Champagne Bandit Still At Large

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Police are looking for a rather finicky shoplifter: a man who apparently likes Moet & Chandon White Star champagne.

The man, called the "Champagne Bandit," has stolen $30 bottles of the bubbly from Publix supermarkets along central Florida's east coast, according to the St. Lucie County Sheriff's office.

"It is a unique case," St. Lucie Sheriff Ken Mascara said. "It's the first one I can recall where the person is targeting the same make of wine."

The bandit is described as 6 feet tall and 300 pounds. Security videotapes showed him wearing a large, untucked white dress shirt, jeans and a white ball cap.

Last week a manager at the same Publix in Port St. Lucie reported two bottles of Moet & Chandon had been stolen. The manager said the store has had 24 other bottles of the same champagne stolen since Oct. 5.

Maria Rodamis, a Publix spokeswoman, said the supermarket chain is fully cooperating with investigators. She declined further comment.

Police are still trying to pin down his motive, but they note the champagne is often served with cheese-based entrees, oysters or fish.

"Maybe he's a fine chef and he needs wine to accompany his meal," Mascara said.

What Some People Will Do For $93 Million

OLYMPIA, Wash. - "She" is really a he, and he's not the winner of the Mega Millions lottery jackpot. Officials in Washington state say a cross-dressing con artist claimed to have won a $93 million jackpot. "She" even told reporters about wanting to buy a Harley, a Hummer and donating money to charity. But the wannabe winner never produced the winning ticket. Now, Washington lottery officials say Pat and Dick Warren are the actual winners, with the ticket to prove it. Dick says he'd like to buy a boat. But Pat notes that 70 is a little too old to be going to sea.

Rock, Paper, Scissors Gets Some Respect

TORONTO - Rock, paper, scissors -- and cash. The popular kids' game gets serious this coming weekend in Toronto. At stake is $2,000 in prize money, as 250 grownups compete for more than just the last slice of pizza. Douglas Walker and his brother are organizing the competition. He says there's more than luck involved, because people are incapable of being random. Walker adds a winning strategy requires the ability to recognize your opponent's patterns. The winner gets a grand prize of $1,200 with $600 for the runner up and $200 for third place. Nothing to throw a rock at, not to mention paper or scissors.

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