RAPID CITY, S.D. – A businessman looking to invest more time in his traveling concession business is seeking a buyer for his rural, southwestern South Dakota town — for the price of $400,000.
Lance Benson is the sole owner of Swett, an unincorporated hamlet in Bennett County about two hours southeast of Rapid City. Benson — who bought the town in 1998, gave it to his ex-wife in their divorce and reclaimed it in 2012 — put the town on the market last week, according he told the Rapid City Journal.
In the 1940s, the town had a population of 40 people, along with a post office, some houses and a grocery store. Over the years, ownership of the town concentrated to a single person until it wound up in Benson’s hands about 16 years ago. Now, what remains is a bar, workshop, three trailers and a house, where Benson and his current wife live.
Although the town is a shell of its former self, its bar still serves a hearty purpose. As the only watering hole in a 10-mile radius, the Swett Tavern is still the de facto gathering place for local cowboys and wheat growers.
“This place is pretty much where the highway ends and the Wild West begins,” local patron Gerry Runnels told the newspaper.
Benson said if it doesn’t sell in a year, he’ll probably hold onto his small empire.
“I hate to get rid of it,” he said.
Runaway tortoise halts traffic in Santa Fe
SANTA FE, N.M. A 150-pound runaway tortoise brought traffic to a halt before being rescued.
Santa Fe police say animal service officers responding to calls of traffic backing up on Old Santa Fe Trail on July 1 found the 15-year-old African spurred tortoise named Plato, which had escaped from a home on North Spur Road.
According to police, Plato’s owner says the tortoise was likely searching for her granddaughter, Lola, who came to visit from San Diego and left on June 29. The owner tells police the tortoise loves 8-year-old Lola, who sings to him and feeds him kale. She says Plato even lets the girl ride on his back and gets depressed when she leaves.
Police say Lola was overjoyed to hear Plato was rescued.
Arizona man accused of a cruelty to rats
BLACK CANYON CITY, Ariz. A man is accused of animal cruelty after hundreds of domesticated rats were found dead or dying in a north-central Arizona travel trailer.
Yavapai County Sheriff’s officials say Jeffrey Wendorff, 28, was arrested June 30 on suspicion of cruel mistreatment of animals and neglect/abandonment of animals.
County Health Services officials say they got a call about numerous rats around a trailer in Black Canyon City. Sheriff’s deputies and county animal control officers say there were between 300 to 500 rats in pens at the front and back of the trailer and the odor was overwhelming.
Inside the trailer, authorities found several aquariums with newborn and adult rats.
Wendorff told authorities he had stopped caring for the rats recently, but had been in a business partnership to breed and sell rats.
Diamond dog upchucks missing wedding ring
STEVENS POINT, Wis. A Wisconsin woman who lost her diamond wedding ring five years ago had given up all hope of finding it after searching high and low.
It turns out her mischievous dog may have had it all along.
Lois Matykowski, of Stevens Point, was eating an ice pop two weeks ago when she noticed her granddaughter’s treat was gone. Her dog, Tucker, was smacking his jaws. The 10-year-old mutt the family calls the “food burglar” had struck again, swallowing it whole.
The snatched food soon came back up. Two days later, Tucker threw up again. Matykowski tells WAOW-TV that this time when she went to clean up the mess, she found her missing ring.
Her veterinarian says the ice-pop stick may have dislodged the ring inside his belly.
Man arrested in frozen chicken caper
WILMINGTON, Del. Police arrested a man they say was trying to retrieve 72 pounds of whole frozen chickens he stole from a delivery truck and stashed at a child care facility
Police say a man stole the frozen chickens on June 27 from a truck making a grocery delivery in Wilmington. Officers say the man hid the chickens at a day care behind the grocery and fled.
Ronald Johnson, 49, of Wilmington returned to the child care, but was confronted by an employee, authorities say. Police say he cut the employee on the back and hand with a knife. The man was arrested after a foot chase.
Johnson was charged with assault and theft.
Police gave the chickens back to the delivery driver.
Cub rescued after head gets stuck in cookie jar
RINGWOOD, N.J. A frightened bear cub got its head stuck in an oversized cookie jar while rummaging through some trash and had to be rescued from a tree.
An Environmental Protection Department spokesman says the 6-month-old cub apparently found the cookie jar on the evening of June 27 in Ringwood, near the New York border.
As the 28-pound animal tried to eat what remained in the jar, he apparently pulled it over his head and it got stuck. The cub became spooked when approached and went up a tree, but got wedged about 40 feet up.
Environmental protection staffers arranged netting in case the bear fell to the ground. After the animal was tranquilized by a department biologist, it was brought down and local firefighters gingerly cut the jar off its head.
Black bear euthanized after frequenting area
SHALIMAR, Fla. A 350-pound black bear found sleeping in a Florida Panhandle tree has been euthanized.
The bear had been caught, tagged and removed from the same area twice since April but kept finding his way back to the neighborhood near Panama City.
A spokesman for Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission told the Northwest Florida Daily News that the bear was euthanized because he created a risk of causing traffic accidents and other problems in the busy area.
The bear was first spotted April 14 near a Panama City elementary school. He was moved 90 miles away to Mud Swamp in Apalachicola National Forest, but he returned to the neighborhood three weeks later. He was relocated again before he returned for a third time on June 30.
Police: Vandal’s mood turns hot over air conditioners
APPLETON, Wis. An Appleton man told police he vandalized a string of air conditioners in the Fox Cities of northeastern Wisconsin because he doesn’t like the machines.
“Different things that set people off, and in this case it appears that the air conditioning units were bothering him,” Sgt. David Lund said.
The vandalism began recently in Menasha.
But Lund said Appleton police have received at least 12 reports of broken air conditioners. Neenah and Grand Chute have reports as well. He said the targets have included residences, a dentist’s office and gas station.
Lund said the 52-year-old suspect spent nights riding his bicycle around and ripping control switches out of the units.
“It’s also disturbing when these things are going on in the middle of the night,” he said. “We don’t want people prowling around our businesses or private residences,” he said.
Investigators believe there may be more victims, and they’re trying to compile a complete list before referring charges to the district attorney’s office.
They’re reaching out to local heating and air conditioning companies to see if anyone else has been victimized and not reported it.
“We understand that it’s a pricey repair,” Lund said.
“Hopefully, people will be able to somewhere along the line get restitution.”
Sirens, phones sound erroneous alert in California
LOS ANGELES People in San Luis Obispo County received a series of unsettling, erroneous emergency alerts June 27 as repairs were being made to a nuclear power plant’s siren system, including a vague cellphone message that told them to “prepare for action.”
The chain of mistaken alerts began arousing confusion and fear when a siren that’s part of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant’s warning system began wailing in the afternoon for no apparent reason, county emergency services manager Ron Alsop said.
Earlier in the day, crews had upgraded the siren as part of a summer-long revamp of the emergency system by Pacific Gas & Electric Co. To indicate there was no emergency, county officials issued an alert.
“Unbeknownst to us, with a new emergency alert system, it also triggered the new wireless alert cellphone system,” Alsop said.
Across the county, people’s cellphones buzzed with a special tone and a vague message that said there was a “civil emergency in this area” and people should “prepare for action.”
The warning halted wine tasting at the Saucelito Canyon Vineyard & Winery in San Luis Obispo, manager Katherine Taylor said.
“I had 15 people here, looking at their phones and asking what to do,” she said.
Driver blames turtle, cat, squirrel, tree in wreck
BRYAN, Texas A man arrested for drunken driving blamed a turtle, a cat, a squirrel and an overhanging tree in a Central Texas wreck.
When police arrived at the scene just southeast of College Station on July 1, the 33-year-old slurring driver was still in his seat and unaware of his location. A witness told officers the driver passed him on the right shoulder, hit a guardrail, left the road and struck a tree.
The Eagle of Bryan-College Station reports the North Zulch man told officers he swerved to avoid the critters and hit the tree. Police didn’t buy the explanation and charged the man with drunken driving.
Records show it’s his second such arrest, and he could face a year in jail. He’s free on $7,500 bond.
Body in home may be woman, 95, who died in 2010
GILBERT, Ariz. A badly decomposed body found in an apparently abandoned house in this Phoenix suburb may be that of a 95-year-old woman who died nearly four years ago, police said July 1.
Investigators met with the homeowner, who told Gilbert police the body was that of her mother, who died in September 2010.
Janet Pallone Delatorre, 60, told police she didn’t report the death because the conditions of the house were so bad that she was afraid she would be accused of elder abuse or neglect.
The name of Delatorre’s mother wasn’t immediately released. Police said they have yet to verify the information, and the Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s Office hasn’t identified the body yet.
“If the information provided by Delatorre is determined to be factual the possibility exists she could be charged with failing to report the death,” which is a misdemeanor, Sgt. Jesse Sanger, a police spokesman, said in a statement.
The body was discovered June 28 when a locksmith and a real estate agent arrived at the house and went to the back door to change a lock.
The agent was working as a special commissioner with Maricopa County Superior Court to arrange for the house to be sold, according to The Arizona Republic.
After finding the door ajar, they entered the house, which they believed had been abandoned, and found a pet bird in a cage. The bird had been provided food and water and appeared to have been cared for, but the house was full of debris.
The two called police, who found the body inside a bedroom.
Police charge man found dribbling basketball along I-78
BETHLEHEM, Pa. A 22-year-old Pennsylvania man faces charges after police encountered him dribbling a basketball along Interstate 78 near Bethlehem.
The Express-Times of Easton reported Monday that police said Marquis Johnson, of Hatfield, was found on Sunday with a Pennsylvania license plate sticking out from his shirt and shorts, and smelled of marijuana.
Police say a key in Johnson’s possession matched a vehicle about 2 miles away that didn’t have a license plate.
They say he wouldn’t answer questions about the vehicle, and they found marijuana in the car. The vehicle had less than 700 miles on the odometer and was traced to a dealership.
Johnson is charged with unauthorized use of a vehicle, abandoning a vehicle and drug possession.
Stolen bronze bust of JFK restored at park
TUCSON, Ariz. A life-size bronze bust of John F. Kennedy that mysteriously disappeared from a downtown park is back.
The bust was restored June 27 after a Tucson couple found it in a pot turned upside down in April while they were walking through a wash.
Officials said the bust that depicts the late president wearing a coat and tie was ripped clean off its granite base at Presidio Plaza in December.
After it was found, the sculpture underwent refurbishment before its re-installation.
The bust originally was unveiled on Nov. 22, 1964, one year after Kennedy’s assassination. It cost $1,000 and was paid for by the Pima County Democratic party.
Police: Burglary suspect made getaway in kayak
AUSTIN, Minn. Police used a boat to catch a burglary suspect who made his getaway in a kayak in southern Minnesota. The 31-year man from Austin, Minn., was arrested June 29 as he tried to kayak away from a restaurant with allegedly stolen items.
Police say the restaurant was closed when an employee giving a tour interrupted a burglary.
Officers found two people in kayaks on the Cedar River and got one to talk to them. That information led police to believe the second man was involved in the burglary.
Police got a fire department boat and, with a firefighter driving, were able to catch the kayaker. Authorities recovered cleaning supplies and lighters apparently taken from the restaurant.
The Post-Bulletin reports the suspect faces burglary charges.
Prosthetic leg found on beach returned
KINGSTON, Wash. A woman who found a prosthetic leg on a beach in the northwestern state of Washington has returned it to its owner.
Hannah Listle posted information on Facebook about the prosthetic she found while looking for shells June 29 at Point No Point beach.
KOMO reports Megan Smith gratefully claimed the leg June 30. She said she and her husband had been swimming two nights before when she realized the leg was gone.
Man captured on video riding on back of car
CHARLOTTE, N.C. A man clung to the back of a moving car as it drove down an interstate highway, police say.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police spokesman Keith Trietley said June 30 that the man was trying to stop a woman who drove off after the man assaulted her inside a store. A police report said the man grabbed the woman’s arm and pulled her down during an argument.
Trietley said the man was not injured from riding on the car June 28. He said the woman does not want to press charges against the man. He did not release their names.
Trietley said he could not say how long the man rode on the back of the car on Interstate 77 or how fast the vehicle was moving. He said police were contacted by motorists, one of whom recorded the ride on video.
Cannibal-plot case tossed; ex-cop gets out of jail
NEW YORK A former New York Police Department officer left jail on Tuesday after a judge overturned his conviction in a bizarre case accusing him of plotting to kidnap, kill and eat young women.
Judge Paul Gardephe ruled late Monday that there was insufficient evidence to support a jury’s guilty verdict in the kidnapping conspiracy conviction of Gilberto Valle. His lawyers had argued that the alleged plots were really fantasy online role play that never put anyone in harm’s way.
He offered a public apology outside court “to anyone who was hurt, shocked or offended by my infantile actions.”
Valle, 40 — dubbed by the tabloids as the “Cannibal Cop” — smiled at his family and hugged his lawyers in court. The judge set bail at $100,000 and ordered home detention for the defendant after prosecutors told him they intended to appeal his ruling.
“The government believes the jury got it right,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Hadassa Waxman said.
Valle was convicted in March 2013 on the conspiracy charge — which carries a possible life term — and a misdemeanor count of illegally accessing a law enforcement database.
Valle “is guilty of nothing more than very unconventional thoughts,” one of his attorneys, Julia Gatto, said outside court. “We don’t put people in jail for their thoughts. We are not the thought police.”
A jury had concluded he wasn’t just fantasizing when he conversed online with others he had never met about killing and cooking his wife and others in a cannibalism plot.
In his 118-page opinion, Gardephe said: “The evidentiary record is such that it is more likely than not the case that all of Valle’s Internet communications about kidnapping are fantasy role-play.”
Prosecutors had argued that Valle took steps to carry out his plot, including looking up potential targets on a restricted law enforcement database; searching the Internet for how to knock someone out with chloroform and where to get torture devices and other tools.
In one of the numerous online conversations shown to the jury during the trial, Valle told a man he met in a fetish chat room, “I want her to experience being cooked alive. She’ll be trussed up like a turkey. … She’ll be terrified, screaming and crying.”
In another exchange, Valle suggested a woman he knew would be easy prey because she lived alone. The men discussed cooking her, basted in olive oil, over an open fire and using her severed head as a centerpiece for a sit-down meal.
Valle was fired after his conviction.
Compiled by Paul H Rowe
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