Year in Review: Weird, weird Florida... | Weird
TALLAHASSEE, Florida -- In 2012, Florida was a state where a lifeguard got fired for saving a life, a woman got arrested for riding a manatee and a man repeatedly used 911 as a phone sex service.
Think that's weird? It gets worse and more tragic.
In one of the state's most horrifying stories of the year, a man stripped a homeless man naked and attacked him in Miami, chewing off most of his face before police fatally shot him. And it wasn't the only story of its kind. In Manatee County, deputies used multiple Tasers to subdue a naked man who bit off part of another man's arm.
Later in the year a man won a roach-eating contest outside a Deerfield Beach pet store and then dropped dead in front of the store when body parts of the dozens of roaches he swallowed blocked his airway.
"We tend to be a magnet from every direction for all kinds of sketchery," said Billy Corben, a documentary film director whose works include "Cocaine Cowboys" about Miami's cocaine wars in the 1980s. "It's very late in the game where we go, `That dude? I guess he seemed kind of weird.'"
Corben, whose "The Billy Pulpit" website compiles weird Florida news, said Floridians tend to show up in high numbers on "The Jerry Springer Show" and "America's Most Wanted."
And odd stories elsewhere always seem to have a Florida tie - like former CIA director David Petraeus's extramarital affair being exposed through a Tampa socialite. And when anti-virus software founder John McAfee ran from Belizean authorities who wanted to question him about the slaying of a neighbor, he wound up in Miami Beach, where he shopped, ate sushi and posed for photos with tourists.
"The state seems to either passively or directly endorse all of this lunacy in some way or another," Corben said.
Then again, this is the state where Gov. Rick Scott mistakenly gave the media a phone sex number to promote a meningitis hot line. After a broadcaster posted it, at least one caller was greeted with a recording of "Hello boys..." from a lusty sounding lady.
Several gaffes involved hunting Floridians.
There were the two guys in Santa Rosa County who used a bow and arrow to kill a neighbor's pet turkey, which they planned to eat on Thanksgiving. Then there was a Flagler County man who shot his girlfriend in the legs because he thought she was a wild hog.
A mother and daughter were sentenced to two months in jail for using two dogs to kill a farm-raised pig in their backyard. They posted video of the attack on Facebook, which led to their arrest.
Ah, Facebook! It caused trouble for several other Floridians.
A Sarasota County man was kicked off a jury after a judge learned he sent the defendant a Facebook friend request. The juror further infuriated the judge with a Facebook post bragging about getting dismissed from jury duty. He was given three days in jail.
A Manatee County music teacher was issued a verbal warning for a Facebook conversation in which she described an 8-year-old student as the
"evolutionary link between orangutans and humans." A high school science teacher also had some explaining to do when she put a cone-shaped dog collar on at least eight students and the "cone of shame" photos appeared on Facebook.
Those weren't the only strange events in Florida schools.
A Plant City teacher was charged with trying to hire a hit man to kill another teacher he suspected was spreading rumors about him.
And a man showed up at his kindergartener's school to retrieve a bag of marijuana and a scale he left in the boy's backpack. More evidence that pot affects short-term memory? An 18-year-old Tampa woman was charged with DUI and marijuana possession three times in less than three weeks, the last two times on back-to-back days.
Bunnell police charged a man with riding a horse while intoxicated after he led officers on a half-hour chase, while a 52-year-old St. Petersburg woman was arrested after police found photos of her riding a manatee.
Floridians also showed that they'll steal just about anything. An Ocala woman told police thieves stole her Thanksgiving turkey from a freezer in her garage; a man was charged in Lakeland after police said he stole two swan eggs from a nest and cooked them; about 150,000 baby clams were reported stolen in Lee County; and a South Florida woman had hundreds of parrots stolen from her home.
Perhaps the oddest was a Reddick woman who drove home to find someone stole her driveway, carting away 300 square feet of brick pavers.
And it's not as if Florida authorities don't take theft seriously. A judge in Ocala sentenced a homeless man to 180 days in jail and fined him $500 for stealing $2 worth of candy.
Then there was the guy accused of selling methamphetamine in Polk County who swiped the recorder with his confession and flushed it down a toilet. The suspect told the detective, "Tighten up on your job, homie."
Even more embarrassing, a Broward County deputy was fired for repeatedly visiting strip clubs while he was on duty and wearing his uniform, sometimes skipping official calls. A West Palm Beach strip-club owner
unsuccessfully sued a competing club to block the appearance of Nadya Suleman, claiming the woman best known as "Octomom" agreed to strip at his club first.
Speaking of celebrities and sex, former pro wrestler Hulk Hogan sued a DJ named Bubba the Love Sponge Clem over a secret tape of Hogan having sex with Clem's wife.
While not quite sex on tape, 911 audio recordings were released of a Tampa man who repeatedly called the emergency line and asked the operator to come over for sex.
A Florida legislator suffered some embarrassment after "selfies" that showed him posing in his underwear made the rounds online. In a statement, he said the pics were only meant to show weight loss and how he was in good health while fighting diabetes.
Florida's unique wildlife always finds a way into the news. An airboat captain near Everglades City was showing an Indiana family how to feed alligators when a 9-footer bit his left hand off. Authorities later charged him with illegally feeding an alligator.
A man strolling along Pompano Beach found a giant blue eyeball and turned it over to authorities. Wildlife officials said it likely came from a swordfish. This story ended up topping National Geographic's "10 Weirdest stories of the Year."
A rhesus macaque dubbed "The Mystery Monkey of Tampa Bay" was caught after several years on the loose, weeks after the primate attacked a St. Petersburg grandmother. The monkey now has a new home in Dade City.
On another South Florida beach, a lifeguard was fired for helping save a man from drowning. It turns out the man he saved was just outside the area that Hallandale Beach hired a private company to protect. The company said it was at risk once the lifeguard crossed the boundary.
In miscellaneous Florida weirdness:
- A man who won an auction for the contents of a Pensacola storage unit
discovered it contained dozens of preserved human brains, hearts, lungs and other organs that had been collected by a former medical examiner.
- A teenager is recovering after shooting off his penis and testicle while cleaning a gun he just bought.
- A Jacksonville man was arrested after he allegedly used enemas and then returned them to pharmacies resealed, claiming they were unused.
- An 18-month-old girl was pulled off a flight in Miami because the airline thought she was on the U.S. no-fly list of suspected terrorists.
- An Orlando couple was caught having sex in public... on a patio table... at a restaurant... in full view of children.
And finally, in what will go down in the first date from hell hall of fame, Boca Raton police say a 35-year-old woman attacked a man with a knife and smashed his windows after he refused to say they were boyfriend and girlfriend at the end of their first date.
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