Neglect thy neighbor 

It's now clear why Scientology's David Miscavige gave that warm, fuzzy newspaper interview: An indictment was imminent. State's Attorney Bernie McCabe charged the Church with criminal neglect and practicing medicine without a license in the 1995 death of member Lisa McPherson, who died in isolation at the Church headquarters in Clearwater. It was the first criminal charge in Scientology's 44-year history. The Church has always aggressively resisted criticism, and in 1995, it denied all fault in McPherson's death, with a Scientology lawyer called the county ME a "hateful liar" for implicating the Church. However, McPherson's family is hardly satisfied; like many families with Scientologists in them, they've long clamored for Miscavige's carcass.

Ministry land

An Orlando Sentinel piece touted yet another theme-park bonanza for the Big O -- "a new Holy Land for Christianity's modern crusaders." 15 evangelical ministries are headquartered in the area, led by the huge Campus Crusade for Christ. Said founder Bill Bright, "We feel strongly that God led us to Orlando, and we're glad he did. I sense there's integrity and principle here." Okay, Bill, but Jesus Christ, would you and Pat Robertson decide who's right about Orlando?

Fugitive roundup

From Fla.: David Scott Sheldon, 35, wanted in Wabasso, Fla. [Nope, not in my atlas] on 55 sex counts, was captured in Olympia, Wash., after a hostage standoff during which he was reported to be preoccupied with bad breath and Tic Tacs. In Fla.: Timothy Odell Epps, 35, wanted for a robbery in Oakland, Calif., that he and partner Lawrence Coelho had pulled off, was picked up in Jacksonville and extradited; turns out Coelho had the bright idea to rat out Epps anonymously, for the $50G reward. When Epps got home, Coelho wasn't anonymous any more.

Stuff you might have missed ...

• The 11 lawyers who represented Fla. against Big Tobacco in the 1995 lawsuit over health-care costs had got the state to agree to pay them 25%, a ridiculous $2.8B cut of the state's $11.3B. The state Supremes last week cut the award to 0, empowering a separate Lawton Chiles-Big T agreement that said lawyers had to be paid separately by Big T (which means much less money, although more than the $60/hour, plus 10 cents a page xeroxing, that they deserve).

• Ex-Rev. Joseph Millien, 51, Full Gospel Assembly Church, Delray Beach, was convicted of sexually touching a 17-year-old female parishioner, even though he said he was just performing a "virginity check" for spiritual purposes.

• A Pinellas County Sheriff's deputy named Richard Wright saw a guy minding his own business at a convenience store but wearing a cap with the letters LAPD and so arrested him for misdemeanor impersonating a police officer. The next day Sheriff Everett Rice announced that Deputy Wright would be undergoing some unspecified retraining.

• Miami Ex-mayor Xavier Suarez never gives up. He has 20k signatures to revamp administrative duties, which would lead to new elections next year instead of in 2001. Of course, this signature stuff is precisely Suarez's problem: Bogus absentee ballots led a judge to void Suarez's election and allow Joe Carollo to win. On the other hand, The F State prefers Suarez, for Mayor Carollo is hopelessly boring.

• The state Supremes turned down Thomas Knight again. He's been on death row since 1975 for 2 Miami Beach murders and is 4th in seniority among Fla.'s 371 condemned.

• The incoming and outgoing Education Commissioners published 40k copies of a book on early childhood development, containing how-to suggestions based on educational theory, for troubled parents. The F State suggests addressing Fla.'s [primary] child-protection problem with cards to hang around kids' necks, containing 3 messages for parents: (1) Don't kill me. (2) Don't beat me up. (3) Don't have sex with me.

• A 19-year-old Lakeland guy on a baseball scholarship to Jacksonville Community College came home to visit the folks, donned a Jason mask one night, and sought someone to rob in southeast Lakeland. His random choice: out-of-uniform Lakeland Police Chief Sam V. Baca, from whom he extracted a few bucks. When a Sheriff's detective told the guy later who he had knocked off, he almost wet his pants.

• The Intracoastal Waterway in Palm Beach County was closed to all except boats because of a sewage spill. So Jet-Ski'ers were grounded, lest they receive severe coliform doses and get violently sick. [Actually, seems like a fair exchange.]

• A state Court of Appeal said schools can't punish students for smoking dope off campus unless they can prove they were still impaired when they arrived. The 2 St. Pete High students have since graduated, but this gets the incident off of, as they say, their permanent records.

• The Clay County Commission ruled that its booze-school zoning ordinance (no bar within 1,000 feet of a school) applies in reverse, so back to the drawing board with a new elementary school because it would have been only 300 feet from the Rose Garden Pub.

• An Orlando storytelling festival and conference held an on-stage Liar's Contest. Because of the previously-mentioned settlement negotiations, no one from Big Tobacco was able to compete.

• A Miami prosecutor dropped a counterfeit-cigar-sales case against police Det. Sergio Martinez, who had given colleagues a lengthy confession. However, the prosecutor dismissed it because no colleague had given Det. Martinez his Miranda warning. [No, seriously.]

• 5 Words of Fear: "81-year-old student driver." Abigail Ann Martin got confused between "brake" and "gas" and converted Ryan's Family Steak House, Tampa, into Ryan's Drive-Thru Steak House. Said her tutor (age 82!), "She does have some trouble with parking."

• And Gregory Howard Mitchell, 39, Panama City, learned the perils of drinking on duty. He got juiced while dining at an Outback Steakhouse, then stepped back to the manager's office to rob him, while continuing to drink. While he was trying to hold his gun steady, the ammo clip fell to the floor, startling Mitchell and allowing owner George Husum to overpower him.

Copyright 1998 by Chuck Shepherd. All rights reserved. Chuck Shepherd, who lives in St. Petersburg, also writes the syndicated newspaper column News of the Weird.

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