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1997 -- On April 3, less than 24 hours before he was due to be executed for beating three people to death with a bowling pin in 1991, Phillip Wilkinson was taken off North Carolina's death row and sent for mental evaluation because guards found two suicide notes in his cell. (Apparently, prison officials believe that a person scheduled to die the next day but who wants to kill himself the night before might be insane and therefore cannot be executed.) And on April 1 in Texas, convicted murderer David Lee Herman slashed his throat a day before his scheduled execution, but he was patched up and, a day later, given his lethal injection.
1992 -- John F. Thanos, asked his sentencing preference after he had been found guilty in March for a 1990 murder, had the choice, said the judge, of the death penalty or "life in prison without the possibility of parole." Thanos, failing to capture all the details of the second choice, replied that he'd take the "life in prison with the possibility of escape." (The judge gave him the first.)
1991 -- The latest stuck-in-the-exhaust-vent burglar: Jeffrey Powell, 27, while attempting to enter a Chicago Chinese restaurant in January. His coat caught on some pipes and twisted around his neck, strangling him to death. Two years earlier, Powell had tried to enter a liquor store through a vent and triggered a burglar alarm.
1996 -- Los Angeles County authorities decided not to charge Texan Robert Salazar in the death of his employee Sandra Orellana, who fell from the eighth floor balcony at the Industry Hills Sheraton, where the two were staying during a business conference. Salazar said Orellana fell accidentally as the two were having sex braced on a handrail and she changed positions.
1992 -- Christopher Merola, 21, was shot to death in September in Staten Island, N.Y., and two other people were wounded in a gunfight that started when one family's dog urinated into bushes on a neighbor's property.
1992 -- James Sinclair, who had sued the Los Angeles Police Department in an excessive-force case, shot his lawyer, Michael Friedman, to death in June. The Associated Press said witnesses to the shooting quoted Sinclair as saying, "Attorneys have ruined the world," "Attorneys have done enough damage to the people," and "Now is the day of justice."
1992 -- THE DIMINISHING VALUE OF LIFE Thomas Hall, 57, was convicted of manslaughter in Nashville, Tenn., in April in the 1991 shooting death of his brother Howard. According to the prosecutor, Thomas, who had just mopped the kitchen floor, became upset when Howard tracked in mud from the outside. Thomas yelled at Howard, and both men ran for their guns.
1994 -- In April, a 40-year-old woman was mauled to death by a cougar on a mountain trail in northern California, leaving her two children, aged 8 and 5, motherless. After the cougar was tracked down and killed a week later, the Folsom City Zoo set up a trust fund for the cougar's cub, and as of mid-May, the cub's fund had received $21,000, vs. $9,000 for a trust fund established for the woman's children by family friends.
1997 -- NAME IN THE NEWS Hawaii's Big Island closed out its 1996 highway death toll at 35 (compared to 23 in 1995) on Dec. 26 with the one-vehicle crash in Hamakua of motorcyclist Hy Hoe Silva, 41.
1996 -- Life Imitates "Twin Peaks": Jenny Lee Owens, 39, describing in a London, Ohio, court in May how it was not her fault that her boyfriend got shot to death: "Something came into the room. It was not a person. It was like a color. Me and it, whatever it was, we both had the gun. Somehow it had passed into me. It was holding the gun; I was standing behind it." The two of them then walked down the hall to the living room, where "it" pointed the gun at the back of her boyfriend's head and pulled the trigger.
1992 -- Chris Blair, 14, pleaded guilty in November to shooting his mother to death in Coquille, Ore., because she would not give him the car keys so he and his friends could get away to California. The four friends said they watched from the back yard as Blair grabbed the gun and paced back and forth, finally summoning the resolve to do it.
1996 -- In September, a man was crushed to death on a stairway at the Sammis Real Estate and Insurance office in Huntington, N.Y., in the process of stealing the office's 600-pound safe; he apparently violated the cardinal rule of stairway-safe-hauling by standing on a step lower than the one the safe is on. (And it turned out the safe was empty.) And in Tucson, Ariz., a man intending to commit suicide in September is still alive. He turned on the gas in his trailer home and sat down to go in peace, but then decided to smoke a last cigarette. An explosion followed, and he was hospitalized with first- and second-degree burns.
1992 -- El Sereno, Calif., mechanic Gerald Marotta shot himself to death because he was despondent over California's new law requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets, which had taken effect on Jan. 1, several days earlier. His wife later indicated that Marotta's way of dealing with problems was to ride his motorcycle with no helmet on. His suicide note read, in part, "Now I can't even ride."
1994 -- Recent candidates for office included: Leslie Elaine Perez, 56, the leading vote-getter in the March primary to head the Texas Democratic Party organization in Houston, is a convicted murderer whose death penalty was stayed at the last minute in 1963 and who ultimately was paroled in 1971. (Perez is the former Leslie Douglas Ashley, having switched genders shortly after being released.) And ex-state Sen. George Hohman, 61, who still owes $9,000 of the $20,000 fine he was assessed on a 1981 bribery conviction, said he was running again for the Alaska Senate because it was the only way he knew to get enough money to pay off the fine.
1994 -- Arrested on child molestation charges in January in San Mateo, Calif., was Kenneth Barbee Daul; sentenced to 4 1/2 to 9 years in prison in connection with the death of his wife in Towanda, Pa., was Charles God.
1991 -- In Phoenix, Ariz., Alfred Lavers, 48, argued unsuccessfully earlier this year that he should not receive the death penalty for slowly and torturously stabbing his wife and stepdaughter to death. Lavers argued that the law discriminates against poor people who cannot afford expensive guns in order to commit murder and therefore must rely on crude weapons that kill slowly.
1997 -- UNDIGNIFIED DEATH In February, Santiago Alvarado, 24, was killed in Lompoc, Calif., as he fell face-first through the ceiling of a bicycle shop he was burglarizing. Death was caused when the large flashlight he had placed in his mouth (to keep his hands free) crammed against the base of his skull as he hit the floor.
1994 -- In January in Riga, Latvia, five "controllers" from the local bus company beat a 33-year-old man named Smits to death because he could not produce a ticket during his bus ride and thus was presumed to be riding illegally. According to local police, controllers routinely give beatings to scofflaws.
1992 -- THE DIMINISHING VALUE OF LIFE In Miami in August, Levon Howard lost a shootout with his roommate Edwin Heyliger, who was charged with murder. Howard had broken into Heyliger's room, angry that someone had drunk his Kool-Aid, and in the ensuing argument, both scrambled for guns.
-- cin (email@example.com), July 31, 2000