Weird news: A selection of 2011′s most strange and offbeat tales

Let’s face it, some news stories are just strange and we had our share of them locally during 2011.

Here are a few of The Eagle-Tribune’s offbeat and entertaining dispatches for the year just ending.

In April, Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua claimed that two men in a car tried to run him down in front of City Hall. “I could be here now, and a minute later I could be dead,” Lantigua told The Eagle-Tribune.

Police later determined that there wasn’t enough evidence to support Lantigua’s claim that a driver had threatened him.

A month later, Patrick Blanchette, Lawrence’s economic development director, made the news when he videotaped and cursed at police officers who were towing illegally parked cars near Bali’s nightclub on Essex Street.

According to police reports, Blanchette smelled of alcohol and slurred his words. He told officers they were targeting only “the mayor’s establishments,” and accused them of ignoring illegal parking outside the Claddagh Pub on St. Patrick’s Day.

Blanchette claimed he was not drunk and said police put their own “spin” on the events of the evening.

In March, Haverhill City Councilor David Hall complained about the “dirty, lumpy, smelly and dangerous” wall-to-wall carpeting in City Hall and said they needed to be replaced.

The story became more entertaining when People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, commonly known as PETA, offered to help pay for new carpeting in exchange for including a pro-vegan slogan on the new shag.

The ads would have featured a blond woman wearing a bikini made of lettuce, with the message: “Tread Lightly: Go Vegan.” City officials turned down the offer, but parts of the shameful carpet have since been replaced.

The name of a prostitution sting conducted by the Salem, N.H. Police Department in May created a stir, even in Nevada. Dennis Hof , the owner of Moonlite Bunny Ranch, a legal brothel outside Carson City, Nev., said he didn’t appreciate the name of the police department’s name of the sting — “Operation Bunny Ranch.”

“In one way, I’m infuriated that they’d associate my name with illegal prostitution. But on the other hand, I’m glad they’re doing something to fight it,” Hof said.

Deputy police Chief Shawn Patten said the name “Operation Bunny Ranch” came up when a group of detectives were discussing the sting. He said the department meant no offense to Hof’s business.

In June, a Methuen ice cream truck driver, Gilbert Harb, was issued a $100 noise violation. But Harb said at the time he would fight the fine in Lawrence District Court.

Police Capt. Randy Haggar said that the music played from a single speaker on the roof of Harb’s ice cream truck was “blatant, loud and excessive.”

“How am I going to sell ice cream if I don’t play the music?” Harb said. “Do they want me to put my head outside the door and scream, ‘Ice cream?’ It doesn’t work like that.”

One of the most odd crime stories this year was when Reynaldo Cepada thwarted a robber with an unlikely weapon — a can of Campbell’s Chunky beef stew.

James Egal, 28, of Dover, N.H., was hoping to make off with a pocketful of cash when he attempted to hold up Cepada inside a Walmart in Methuen, police said. The throw was so hard that the can exploded when it struck Egal’s head. Egal suffered a gash that required eight stitches to close.

The news of Kevin Provencher, a former veteran sportswriter for the New Hampshire Union Leader, pleading guilty to running a prostitution ring out of hotels in Andover and New Hampshire, went viral on the Internet.

Not because he was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison and fined $5,000, but because his defense attorney told a judge that Provencher needed the extra money to make up for a pay cut because of the downturn in the newspaper business.

Bosco the dog was banished from the town of Pelham and is living out a life sentence in peace at a Texas sanctuary.

Pelham police initially wanted Bosco put down after a biting incident with Sgt. Michael Pickles, but later agreed to a court deal with owner Deborah Gibbons. That deal allowed Bosco to live, but he had to be sent to the sanctuary to live out his days.

“I think Bosco would say he’s been misjudged, he’s been misinterpreted, he’s just glad to be alive,” said Jay Hellerich, executive director of Smiling Dog Farms in Wharton, Texas. “He’s a really sweet dog.”

Christopher Piantedosi of Burlington, Mass., became known as the “remorseful robber” in Plaistow. He turned himself into police in August after stealing a GPS and cash from a Hampstead woman’s purse in Market Basket on July 18.

He first showed remorse by returning the items to the woman’s home with a note saying he was sorry a few weeks later.

In the letter, Piantedosi wrote “To the lady I have victimized, I sincerely apologize.” He went on to say “I can’t get this out of my head so I am returning your GPS with an extra charger and also giving you back $90 plus $10.” He signed the letter “Sorry and Thank You, Stupid.”

In August, he confessed to the crime and turned himself in.




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