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The Odd Truth, Nov. 22, 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.

He Should Play Lotto

ROSE TOWNSHIP, Mich. — A decade ago, Harebell Childress was bathing when lightning hit his home and set it on fire.

He escaped unscathed, wearing only a towel, and rebuilt his house.

Earlier this week, he was watching television when an explosion burned the house down. He got out with just cuts on his forehead and a sore back and left shoulder.

"I tell you, it's the Lord did it," the 70-year-old retired Pontiac school principal told The Oakland Press. "I was surrounded by a host of angels."

The odds of surviving two such disasters are so remote, actuaries for one Detroit-area insurer said they couldn't calculate the likelihood, the Detroit Free Press reported.

"He's lucky to be alive," said Sgt. Robert Gohl of the Oakland County Sheriff's Department Fire Investigation Unit.

The blast remains under investigation, but it appears the Tuesday night explosion resulted from a propane leak. The house's furnace, water heater and stove ran on propane, Gohl said.

The explosion blew out the windows of the home and collapsed the roof. Cinder blocks were blown hundreds of feet out into a field. The couch was knocked over.

"I thought it was a bomb, like terrorism or something," said Childress' niece, Marva Hanks, who lives nearby. "We're a family of believers. We've seen miracles on this property before."

Technology Severely Complicates Man's Life

FORT WORTH, Texas - A businessman and former pastor was charged with possessing child pornography after a photo of a nude boy appeared during a computer slide presentation he gave at work, officials said.

Employees at Exel Inc. told police that James Andrew Smith had finished a PowerPoint slide show Sept. 4 when he tried to open another document on his laptop computer. The image of the young, nude boy appeared on screen, according to the co-workers.

Smith blamed the image on a computer virus.

Authorities later found child pornography on computer disks seized from him, according to a police report. The company also turned over 65 pages of printed child pornography allegedly found in Smith's desk.

He was held on $300,000 bond on two counts of possessing child pornography and one charge of promoting child pornography.

Smith was fired from Exel, a Fort Worth-based computer logistics company. He also resigned Wednesday as pastor of Landmark Baptist Church, where he had served for 3 1/2 years.

His wife of 13 years, Julie Smith, said the allegations stunned her.

"He's never hurt our children. As far as I know he's never hurt anyone's children," she said.

Neither Rain, Nor Sleet, Nor Tornados ...

NAPOLEON, Ohio — Postal workers and a local newspaper plan to send old pictures, canceled checks and bank statements to people who lost them when tornadoes hit — more than 40 miles away.

The items from the Van Wert area, south of Napoleon, have been turning up in people's yards since the tornadoes swept through northwest Ohio on Nov. 10.

Post offices and the Napoleon Northwest Signal are collecting the items to send back to their owners. Craig Cummings, customer service representative for area post offices, said local offices would help return items at no charge.

Van Wert city schools have started a collection agency to try to return as many items as possible, said Kathy Hoffman, the district superintendent.

"We have some things, not in excess yet, but people are starting to hear more that we are collecting," she said. "I hope to get lots of stuff."

Motive Remains Unclear

WINDSOR, Calif. - A California man is behind bars after allegedly swiping a soccer ball from a game in progress and then taking a shot at a coach who was chasing him.

Windsor police say they found the suspect because a witness got the license number of his car.

Investigators allege the Santa Rosa man ran onto the field at a park Tuesday and grabbed the ball in the middle of a youth soccer match.

An assistant coach chased the thief to a nearby street, where the man allegedly got a pistol from his car trunk and fired at the coach.

The shot missed -- and the coach gave up the chase.

Police say a loaded handgun was found in the suspect's bedroom.

So far, the reason for his actions is a mystery.

Champagne Bandit Goes Flat

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Authorities in St. Lucie County, Florida, say they've arrested the finicky shoplifter known the "Champagne Bandit."

The thief got the name because he stole only pricey bottles of bubbly. Security cameras showed a man sticking bottles of Moet and Chandon White Star down his pants at various grocery stores.

A man was finally arrested after a security agent at one Publix supermarket noted the license tag of the suspect's car. Investigators tracked him down through a Miami car rental agency.

Kimani Young is charged with felony theft for allegedly taking four bottles of Moet and Chandon White Star from a Publix on November eighth.

A manager at the same store reported that 26 other bottles of the same champagne have been lost since October fifth.

One investigator says the thief may have drunk the evidence, since no champagne was found at his house.

Breastfed 8-Year-Old Stays With Mom

URBANA, Ill. - A judge gave the state legal guardianship Friday of an 8-year-old boy whose mother was breast-feeding him as recently as last year.

Lynn Stuckey, 34, will retain custody of the boy. Judge John DeLaMar said she had not abused the boy in any way, but made bad decisions that could cause him long-term emotional harm.

The judge said the state Department of Children and Family Services will handle counseling or legal matters affecting the boy. Stuckey will continue to handle day-to-day care.

She said he stopped breast-feeding her son last summer.

DeLaMar said Stuckey's most misguided decision was appearing on ABC's "Good Morning America" program to promote her philosophy of letting her son slowly wean himself from breast feeding. The program included footage of her breast-feeding the boy while reading to him.

The appearance created "almost prurient interest" and subjected her son to stress and emotional harm, the judge said.

"I hope you've learned some painful lessons," DeLaMar said.

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