The Year of Living Foolishly

Recalling the weird, the wild, and the downright moronic events of 2000. (And we promise not to talk about chads.)

Mike Filly Mercury Lounge, 1392 W. Sixth Street in the Warehouse District Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays


Our Man of the Year Award goes to Screamin' Jay Hawkins for his commitment to the pro-life movement. Before he died in February at age 70, the R&B singer and native Clevelander estimated that he fathered some 75 children in and out of wedlock.

But Hawkins wasn't the only parent to make the highlight reels this year. Consider these other fine moments in child-rearing:

· Akron mother Cathy Whyel gave her seven-year-old daughter a near-lethal mix of prescription drugs to "calm her down." The girl ended up in a coma for nearly a week. Of course, Whyel was not the only one to blame in this affair; her husband apparently thought it a wise home remedy, too. The girl emerged from her coma and was placed in the custody of people not inclined to use small children for pharmacology experiments.

· Andre Lynn McKinney of Medina County was charged with child endangerment after marrying a convicted child molester last year and then leaving him alone with her sons. Her new hubby was charged with raping her six-year-old.

· Denny Heintz of New Russia Township claimed he didn't know the 15-month-old he was caring for was in the clothes dryer when he turned it on. The child tumbled in the dryer for about 20 seconds before Heintz heard a thumping noise and got the boy out.

Hey, Mistakes Happen:

· The U.S. government decided that Zerubbabel Emanuel Evans had died in 1999. Evans, a 73-year-old retired RTA supervisor, was not only alive, but more than a little chagrined when the Social Security Administration looted his bank accounts to get back the money it had paid to a supposedly dead man.

· Daniels Brothers Fuel Company delivered a load of heating oil to Deborah Kogler's home, which -- unfortunately for her -- is heated with natural gas. She was left with inch-deep puddles of oil in her basement that destroyed her carpet and permeated the house with the smell of black gold.

· Kenneth Egolf, an expert marksman and former Marine Corps sniper, said he was only trying to scare fisherman Thomas McAuley when he shot at him a half-dozen times. McAuley, who didn't have permission to fish in the creek that borders Egolf's Lake County property, was hit in the back with a bullet.

Stretching the Truth:

· A Lake Township 15-year-old reported she had been raped, but inconsistencies in her story and conflicting accounts from suspects and witnesses raised suspicions. She later confessed she voluntarily had sex with two men she had accused.

· Joseph F. Shearer was honored for his role in the Korean War. Unfortunately, it was later discovered that Shearer didn't arrive in Korea until two months after the war's end.

· When prodded, Idaho resident James J. Kuznicki would modestly recall his playing days with the Cleveland Browns. It turned out after his death that there was good reason for his modesty. He never played for the Browns, but Jim Kanicki -- who is very much alive -- did.

· Brunswick couple John and Tracy Frindt obviously believed John wasn't bright enough to pass his Parma police civil service test. So they both took the test, then switched Social Security numbers so that John would get a passing score. The scheme resulted in grand jury indictments for both.

Proud to Be an Ohioan, Part 1:

· Ohio is the couch-potato capital of the nation, ranking last in percentage of adults who exercise regularly and who eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day. But at least it ranks third in the prevalence of adult smokers.

· The state also had one of the highest increases in reported cases of gonorrhea, rising 20 percent in one year.

That's One Solution:

· Springfield Township resident Karen J. Eldridge was so distraught over the ramshackle condition of her home that she allegedly set fire to it -- with her husband sleeping inside.

What's in a Name?

· The sporting world was a-tizzy when rumors surfaced in February that Cincinnati Bengals' star halfback Corey Dillon had made an "unannounced visit" to Cleveland and might be entertaining employment with the Browns. The moment of glee, however, swiftly fell to half-mast when it was discovered that this Corey Dillon was actually a visiting mutual funds salesman from Denver, and that he possessed no known skills for running off-tackle.

· U.S. Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones hired a new chief of staff . . . named Stephanie Jones.

· A woman using Pasha Cromwell's name gave birth to a girl, then abandoned the baby at the hospital. The real Pasha Cromwell was home at the time with her four children.

· Angelo Russo was indicted for posing as Cuyahoga County Auditor Frank Russo and scamming refunds and merchandise from stores.

· A New York mortgage company sued a Mentor man for using another man's name and credit history to buy a $455,000 Willoughby Hills home.

The Kid Did It:

· Kara Snider woke from an afternoon nap to find an explosive device rigged to her bed; her husband and prime suspect, Corinthian Snider, cunningly diverted investigators by suggesting the couple's two-year-old son could have constructed the bomb.

Peevish Behavior:

· Wadsworth substitute teacher Carrie J. White, proving that she might not be ready for a full-time job, was charged with assault for hurling a calculator, a dictionary, and notebooks at unruly choir students.

· Kent State University mathematics professor Ludvik Janos was fired after students said he went berserk in class, throwing an eraser and calling them "dumb Americans" and "filthy beasts."

· Peter Zaremba was sentenced to 30 days in jail for hitting two giggling 13-year-old girls whose laughter was disturbing his matinee viewing at a movie theater. The fine cinematic experience on which he was trying so hard to concentrate? Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo.

· An elderly man who apparently was upset about his medical condition fired a shot from his handgun into a wall at Hillcrest Hospital.

· Peninsula patrolman Ray Notarian Jr. resigned from the police department after he pulled his gun on a road crew worker.

· Using stolen two-way radios, five teenage boys in Amherst yelled profanities over police airwaves, bragged about smoking marijuana, and taunted that the police would never find them. The police did.

Joy Ride:

· Lorain officials thought vandals had deliberately caused an estimated $100,000 in damage to trucks in the city garage, but it was just a 12-year-old boy who decided to take a little drive.

A Windfall That Wasn't:

· Lakisha Jackson of Akron was sentenced to two months in prison for spending $46,000 that was erroneously deposited in her Bank One account.

Poor Conduct:

· The Ohio Board of Nursing revoked the license of Sally Ann Smigelski, after investigators documented incidents in which she physically or verbally abused patients at four nursing homes.

· When Wadsworth High School student Gillian S. Zuchniak graduates at the end of the school year, she'll start a 30-day jail sentence -- for mixing rat poison with the coffee creamer in the teachers' staff room.

· Longtime Cleveland Heights police officer Terrell S. Ford pleaded guilty to stalking his former girlfriend and once trying to kidnap her new boyfriend.

· Punsak Watchakorn of Willowick pleaded not guilty to attempting to kill his wife and her male companion by ramming their motorcycle with his van. His five-year-old daughter was in the van at the time.

Sue Happy:

· Upset over the Brunswick Cobras baseball team's losing season, the father of one player sued the coach. The suit was thrown out in court. A judge also dismissed the suit of a girl cut from a Solon High School cheerleading squad.

· A bicyclist who broke her hip when a loose soccer ball rolled under her rear tire sued the Lakewood Boys Soccer team, their parents, and others for $2.7 million.

· Former Macedonia police officer Robert Coffman sued the city for invasion of privacy after he was fired for using the police department's computer system to get personal information on people in an unofficial capacity.

· A Hudson couple, who bought a house near a dog kennel and then sued because the barking bothered them, were ordered to pay the costs of their suit.

Nudity in the News:

· A naked 41-year-old Cleveland man attacked an RTA police officer, taking the officer's nightstick and hitting him in the head with it.

· Due to a doctor's appointment, a six-year-old boy in Canton was supposed to miss out on a school field trip. Not to be deterred, the youngster jumped out of the bathtub and attempted to flag down the bus in his birthday suit. His efforts brought him a three-day suspension, which the school later dropped. He still missed the field trip.

· Seven women were charged with public indecency for taking off their clothes and performing sexual acts during a private outing at the Pines Golf Club in Green Township.

An All-Expenses-Paid Trip -- to Columbus?

· Two Bedford school board members received reimbursement for $800 in travel expenses for attending a state championship basketball game in Columbus.

Teachable Moments:

· Lorain teacher Marla R. Franklin was arrested on drug charges after getting into a fight with another woman in a restaurant parking lot. Fairview High School Associate Principal Patricia A. Sato was suspended after police caught her making a cocaine buy outside a shopping center.

· Maple Heights teacher Adrienne Clayton had sex with a 13-year-old boy; she was sentenced to five years. Ex-teacher Gerald L. Jividen was sentenced to 160 days in jail for fondling a 14-year-old girl during a tutoring session at his home. Former Springfield High School teacher Lisa Hensal served two months of an 18-month sentence for having sex with an 18-year-old student.

· Berea elementary teacher Matthew Krivak, convicted of telephone harassment, is serving a one-year probation and undergoing counseling and anger management classes.

· Former driving instructor Charles Platia pleaded guilty to rape and sexual battery involving two of his students. Patrick D. Connor, a former substitute teacher and past president of the Mentor Basketball Boosters Club, pleaded guilty to the attempted abduction of a former Mentor High player.

Ashes to Ashes:

· The urn holding Harry Kirtley's ashes disappeared during a memorial service at his favorite bar, Mac's Tavern in Parkman Township. It was returned anonymously the next day.

· Kathleen Deryck, widow of Akron police officer Richard C. Deryck, claimed that relatives took her husband's ashes and scattered them -- against her wishes.

Whose Public Areas Are They?

· A federal judge refused to allow groups opposed to Chief Wahoo to protest on the plazas of Jacobs Field during the Indians' home opener. U.S. District Judge Kate O'Malley ruled that the common areas are not public areas for purposes of free speech, even though they were financed largely with tax dollars.

Extreme Measures:

· A man in Dublin, Ohio, stole a $17,000 tennis bracelet and concealed it by swallowing it. Police made him cough it up.

Resourceful, Aren't They?

· A Peeping Tom used a video camera strategically positioned on a stroller to spy on women in dressing rooms at the Express clothing store at Parmatown Mall.

· While serving time in federal prison, Kenneth White of Akron got nearly $140,000 in loans and lease agreements from National City Bank -- the same bank that he was convicted of defrauding three years earlier. He bought a new Lexus and a new GMC van, and leased a 1998 Mercedes.

· Officials in one of the city's largest Head Start programs were accused of finding a novel way of keeping their classes full: Former employees claim they just enrolled imaginary kids when their numbers began to dwindle.

The Pretenders:

· Security guard Charleston Eberhardt, charged with robbing six men while posing as a police officer, allegedly conducted body searches before escaping with cash and credit cards. A jury couldn't decide if he was guilty or not, resulting in a mistrial. Prosecutors say they will retry the case.

· A Willoughby woman was startled from her sleep by Zachary C. Proffitt, who said he was a policeman chasing a burglar through her house. She didn't believe him and called the real cops.

· A couple posing as police officers bilked an 86-year-old woman out of more than $15,000 by telling her to withdraw the money because her bank was under investigation.

Proud to Be an Ohioan, Part 2:

· State education officials said chicken meat with festering sores posed no health threat and was OK to serve to schoolchildren, though many schools stopped serving the brand in question anyhow.

· The child poverty rate increased 50 percent in Ohio in the past 20 years, faster than the national rate.

· The Ohio Legislature approved prison for kids as young as 10.

Broccoli Isn't Always Good for You:

· A California truck driver discovered that it's better to eat your vegetables than use them as a cover for drug trafficking. While trying to grab a brick of cocaine in his trailer, the driver slipped and was squeezed so tightly between boxes of broccoli that he suffocated. His truck, parked off Interstate 271 in Richfield Township, also contained more than 28 pounds of marijuana.

Sorry, Wrong Number:

· Ohio's New-Hire Reporting Program, designed to track parents who owe child support, was assigned a new toll-free number. But when the state's telephone directory came out this year, the old number was still listed. It now belongs to a phone-sex service.

Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll:

· Elaine English-Presser and her husband Gary Presser, son of the late Teamsters President Jackie Presser, allegedly sold stolen antiques to finance a heroin habit. They were caught trying to sell a second load to a Highland Antiques Mall dealer, who had unknowingly bought the goods from them a month before.

· Michael F. Livingston, massage therapist to such music stars as Jimmy Buffett, Roger Daltrey, and the Cranberries' Dolores O'Riordan, was sentenced to six months of inpatient drug treatment for a chronic drug and alcohol problem.

Where Does the Time Go?

· Harrison E. Armstrong lost track of time while using the facilities at Hot Waters Bait & Tackle in Lorain. When he emerged from the restroom, everyone was gone and the doors to the shop were locked; he was stuck there for four hours.

Guns in Dumb Places:

· A four-year-old in Columbus accidentally shot herself in the hand when she reached under a love seat to retrieve an infant's pacifier and pulled out a pistol instead.

· Felon Michael Gibson kept a loaded .45-caliber handgun under a bed in the house where he lived with the mother of a six-year-old. The boy found the gun and accidentally shot himself in the head.

· The Marines admitted that at least one reservist brought along his guns to a Cub Scout sleepover in Columbus.

Too Much of a Bad Thing:

· Former Oberlin secretary Andrea Hines, fired for stealing about $52,000 from the college, took a job at Wal-Mart and stole as much as $3,000 from the register. She received three years of intensive probation and was ordered to pay the money back.


· Two teenagers sleeping in the grass during an after-prom party in Harpersfield were run over by another partygoer. Both were in satisfactory condition after the accident; the 19-year-old driver was charged with driving under the influence and aggravated vehicular assault.

· Ten-year-old Ashley Morgan was pierced by an arrow shot by her stepfather, Rob Whittington, who was practicing with a new crossbow when Ashley ran across their yard. She spent five days in the hospital and was released.

· Unaware that her 10-year-old son had buried himself under a pile of leaves, Shellie Wadsworth drove her minivan across her yard -- and rolled a tire over his head. Young John suffered no serious harm, but his mom was a basket case after the incident.

Family Dysfunction:

· Sheila Corn received a four-year prison sentence for plotting to kill her daughter over custody of Corn's grandchildren.

Not Much of a Retirement Gift:

· Akron Police Chief Edward D. Irvine's grandson was arrested on robbery charges, a day before the chief retired.

Wrong Side of the Law:

· Gregory Colon and Kevin Carter were among five Cleveland police officers who found themselves in trouble this year. Colon received a 41-month sentence for operating a drug ring. Carter's case was a little more complicated: The FBI set up a sting to see if the patrolman was taking money from people he pulled over. He was caught accepting $12,000 from an FBI agent posing as a drug dealer.

· Three felony convictions ended the career of Cleveland policeman Stephen Jones, who was arrested last summer at a drunken weekend camping party in Ashtabula County. His offenses included pulling his gun on a cop who had come to break up the party.

· Shawn Heneghan was sentenced to two years of probation and three days in a treatment program for crashing his patrol car while driving drunk on duty.

· Thomas J. Mann and his wife, Betty Mann, were sentenced to two years probation for selling marijuana from their house while their 10-year-old son was home. Mann resigned from the force in July.

They Went on to New Careers:

· Charles E. Bradford, a Cleveland policeman from 1989 until March 1995, was sentenced to nine years in prison for robbing three Mentor gas stations.

· Robert Walsh, a Cleveland policeman from 1950 to 1956, was sent to federal prison for his role in an interstate drug-smuggling conspiracy.

Something Wrong With This Picture:

· Sales clerks at the Bed, Bath and Beyond store in Fairlawn didn't find it odd that two women filled 16 shopping carts with merchandise totaling $13,594 and left the store while the clerks rang up the sale. After paying by phone with what turned out to be stolen credit card numbers, one of the women told the clerks to have the goods loaded into three taxis and dropped off at a 24-hour Laundromat in Akron.

More Dumb Moves:

· Talk about compounding your problems. Keno R. Williams, charged with driving without a license, appeared in court with 12 individually wrapped rocks of crack in his pocket. In addition to his driving violations, he was charged with possessing drugs to sell.

· A Twinsburg High School honor student brought four kitchen knives to class, remarking on how easy it was to get weapons into the school. He was suspended through December.

· A fifth-grader at Mary B. Martin Elementary in Cleveland pulled out a toy gun at school and yelled that he was going to kill everyone there, sending terrified students running for cover.

· Jo Ann Gresh of Wooster returned a pair of designer cargo shorts she had bought for her son at an outlet mall -- before learning that the 18-year-old had left some pot in one of the pockets. When she went to retrieve the stash, she was busted.

It Takes a Little Prodding:

· Professionals in Ohio can get their licenses to practice revoked for not paying child support. It must be good incentive: Just ask Dr. Stephen Sveda, who owed more than $100,000 until the state took away his medical license. He then paid up. In another case, deadbeat dad Robert A. Cervenka Jr. was placed under house arrest for as long as he still owed $55,000.

Something Fishy:

· David Burke was acquitted of disorderly conduct for mailing two dead fish to Stow-Munroe Falls school officials.

· Longtime Cleveland Metroparks employee Ken Halko pleaded guilty to selling park fish and keeping the money.

Not the Best Role Models:

· When Michael Ferrer was appointed to the Lorain County Children Services Board, he was $5,000 behind in his child-support payments.

· Lorain Law Director Mark Provenza, who prosecutes drunk drivers, received some firsthand experience in the crime when he was arrested for drunken driving. But Provenza refused to take the blood-alcohol breath test, saying he had no confidence in it. When he was arrested a few months later on a second DUI charge, he decided to seek help.

· Former Medina County Deputy Sheriff James L. Crutchley of Norton, honored in May for his work as a foster parent in Summit County, was indicted three months later on charges that he fondled a 12-year-old babysitter. He admitted molesting the girl and earned nearly five years in prison.

Strange but True:

· Parma Heights resident Allen Krupar, handcuffed in Municipal Judge Mary Dunning's courtroom after being charged with assaulting his mother, became enraged over his $10,000 bond and rammed his head into a wall, leaving him paralyzed.

· The remains of Armando and Delia Carlone, a north Akron couple, were found in their home weeks after she died and more than a decade after he is thought to have died. Their son Ralph was picked up by Lorain County deputies after he had walked about 50 miles from Akron to Lorain, toting $147,000 in a paper bag.

Much Ado About Nothing:

· After Mayor Mike White made sweeping allegations of organized racism within the police department, an exhaustive review by an internal affairs team turned up no evidence supporting the claims. Neither did a year-long investigation by the FBI. A top-secret probe of supposed drug trafficking by mailroom employees in Governor Bob Taft's office also found zilch.

· Hudson residents got into a huff when the Old Whedon Grille on North Main Street changed its name to Hemingway's. Seems they took it personally when the new menu prominently featured a quotation by Papa criticizing his hometown of Oak Park, Illinois ("The land of broad lawns and narrow minds"). The quote was placed directly under the words "Hudson, Ohio" at the top of the menu. The restaurant has since gone back to its old name.

· The Mogadore YMCA canceled its haunted hayride, because one Akron resident became upset over what he viewed as inappropriate displays of headless dummies and mannequins on nooses. Less-offended sorts said it was just standard-issue bedsheet ghosts and other tame fare.

Insult to Injury:

· The village of Northfield not only lost its bid to block the Post Time Adult Video Arcade from opening there, but was ordered to pay about $40,000 in legal fees.

· Bradley Jones, hit by a train near Cleveland Browns Stadium in July, was sued for trespassing on the tracks.

Like Elvis, They've Left the Building:

· Dozens of police officers surrounded Roses Discount Store in Maple Heights in an attempt to get two robbers inside to surrender. Nearly three hours later, the police realized they were too late: The robbers had exited through the rear.

All in the Name of Charity:

· Former American Cancer Society executive officer Daniel S. Wiant pleaded guilty to embezzling nearly $8 million in cancer society funds.

· DeVierre Douglas, the former president of Habitat for Humanity in Lake County, admitted stealing $36,162 from the nonprofit agency.

· Police found between $4 million and $5 million at the home of James H. Jackson, co-founder of Child Care Foundation Inc., a nonprofit, Akron-based organization. The raid was part of a statewide gambling investigation targeting the foundation.

Who Married Whom?

· A Cuyahoga Falls man divorced a woman he says he never intended to marry, or something like that. Joseph Pileggi says he thought he married Ducile Palermo, but actually married her daughter instead. He says he thought the daughter, Carli Buchanan, was the witness to the ceremony, not an active participant. Buchanan called his claims hogwash.

Thanks, but No Thanks:

· Ohio turned down nearly $1 million in federal health education money because parent groups were afraid the grant would be used to teach children about condoms and masturbation.

· An intoxicated Vermilion woman, who failed several sobriety tests when she was stopped by the police, apparently tried to compensate by doing five jumping jacks and one pushup. She was about to perform a cartwheel when the arresting officer stopped her.

· Tracy Resko, a single mother of three, says Lorain city worker Charles E. Merrick offered to pay her $50 for sexual favors.

· Jaishawn Wilson, caught driving his foodservice truck the wrong way on East 46th Street, offered police officers tamales if they wouldn't ticket him.

Prescription to Party?

· Drug investigators in Medina County say some teens are snorting Ritalin to get high.

Scam City:

· Posing as Seamus O'Reilly from Ireland, Canadian con man Robert Bishop shoveled up a load of blarney to his new friends in Cleveland, stealing various items, including a gold ring from one, and racking up $6,000 on another's credit card.

· Eight Cleveland families used phony cases of paranoia, schizophrenia, and other disorders to receive $1.6 million in benefits before they were caught.

A Good Time Was Not Had by All:

· Wheelchair users wanting to board the Goodtime III cruise boat have bemoaned the lack of access for the disabled. The closest handicapped parking spaces are about 700 feet from the Goodtime's boarding ramp, across uneven cobblestone bricks.

Duking It Out:

· April Jelinek, apparently miffed that her boyfriend, Richard Dryer, was out driving with his pregnant ex-girlfriend, began chasing him with her car. Troopers said Jelinek forced Dryer's car onto a median on I-71, and the two got into a physical confrontation. The quarrel backed up traffic for nearly three miles and ended with both being arrested.

· A lovers' spat in England ended 11 years on the run for Lawrence McClutchen. London police went to McClutchen's home to break up a fight between him and his girlfriend, then discovered identification documents that looked suspicious. They looked into his background and discovered he was wanted in Cleveland on murder charges.

· A 40-year-old Cleveland man died in a family fight after getting hit with fists and a cutting board.

It Sure Seems Like a Conflict:

· State Representative Kevin J. Couglin of Cuyahoga Falls denied that there was any conflict of interest in his sponsoring a bill favorable to physical therapists. His wife, Anne, is a physical therapist.

From Public Service to Serving Time:

· Joseph A. Dubyak, the ex-mayor of Orange, was sentenced to four months in prison in a kickback scheme that involved swapping insider information to gain favorable insurance settlements for clients.

· Former State Senator Jeffrey D. Johnson was sentenced to a 15-month sentence for extorting money from grocers.

Fall From Grace:

· Akron native and ex-boxer Michael Dokes was sentenced in Las Vegas to 10 years for brutally assaulting his former girlfriend.

· Former Ohio State star quarterback and gambling addict Art Schlichter was arrested at a Ravenna restaurant after three days on the run. He was charged with money laundering, credit-card theft, and driving a car at a motorcycle cop.

· Former Boy Scout volunteer Michael Maggy, who pleaded guilty to rape and sexual battery, was sentenced to life in prison.

· Longtime assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor Donald Rolla of South Euclid pleaded guilty to fixing cases for two strippers.

· Thomas G. Longo, a former city prosecutor for Bedford and Highland Hills, was sentenced to three years in federal prison for money laundering.

What Were They Thinking?

· William B. Henley of Leroy Township snatched his girlfriend's baby after an argument and fled to his father's nearby home, where deputies found the baby on the bed with a large knife inches away.

· A Cincinnati mother of four was indicted on four felony counts of child endangerment for leaving her children home alone with a 10-foot python roaming free.

Great Moments in Hunting:

· The slug from a deer hunter's shotgun missed Sylvia Herman by just three inches, while she was brushing her hair in front of the bathroom mirror at her home in Sharon Township.

Proud to Be an Ohioan, Part 3:

· Ohio's electric utilities give off more toxic pollution than any others in the nation, according to the EPA.

· The state leads the nation in trucking incidents involving hazardous materials.

· Ohio gets a whopping D-plus from the Institute for Women's Policy Research on the Status of Women in the States, which says women here don't fare well in such arenas as political participation, reproductive rights, employment, and earnings.

Like this story?
SCENE Supporters make it possible to tell the Cleveland stories you won’t find elsewhere.
Become a supporter today.
Scroll to read more Cleveland News articles


Join Cleveland Scene Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.