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Uncaged

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Now sharks won’t have the last laugh… the rest of us will! (Shannon Broskie/Twitter)

Leave it to North Carolina to garner headlines even more ridiculous than the ones focusing on our inept state government and voter identification laws.

The latest embarrassment comes from Kill Devil Hills on the coast, where two visitors from Virginia decided to vacation despite a slew of shark attacks this summer. Fortunately, they thought ahead and brought something to protect them from Jaws and his mates: individual shark cages.

And yes, these “inventors” actually tried to walk into the water with them—at least until a lifeguard asked them to return to shore.

The “shark proof cage inventions” were made from PVC pipe and would likely do very little to stave off sharks. But you have to admit they look good, right?

The Poker Flush

This is the right kind of flush (Wallpaper4me)

Few things make me happier than waking up on a Monday morning, trolling the news web sites for more “blog fodder” and finding someone from my home state of North Carolina in the headlines.

And if it seems as if I’m being facetious, that’s because I’m laying it on pretty thick.

42-year-old Christian Lusardi of Fayetteville was arrested over the weekend in Atlantic City after participating in the Winter Poker Open’s “Big Stack, No Limit Hold’ Em” event at the Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa. And believe it or not, but it was a flush that got him into trouble… and I don’t mean the kind of flush you get while playing cards, either.

Apparently, tournament personnel discovered $800,000 worth of counterfeit poker chips mixed in with genuine chips at the Borgata. They postponed the tournament initially, but soon cancelled it altogether.

“This was a very unusual occurrence,” senior vice president of Borgata operations Joe Lupo told reporters. “It’s the first time in Borgata’s 10 years that anything like this has happened.”

Lusardi is making NC look bad! (New Jersey State Police)

Lusardi is making NC look bad! (New Jersey State Police)

Shortly after news of the counterfeit chips broke, staff at Harrah’s Resort and Casino discovered $2.7 million of counterfeit chips clogging up a pipe after being flushed down the toilet by a guest.

And yes, that guest turned out to be Lusardi.

Authorities caught up with him Friday at an Atlantic City motel and arrested him for criminal attempt, theft by deception and rigging a publicly exhibited contest. He’s currently being held on $300,000 bail with no option of being released early.

Unfortunately, the $6,800 in winnings Lusardi collected from the poker tournament won’t even put a dent in the fines he’ll be forced to pay once convicted, not to mention the time he’ll spend in jail. And I can’t begin to express my gratitude for him making North Carolina look like a state full of idiots and charlatans.

Thanks, Christian Lusardi… moron…

Advertising for Murder

Craigslist is for killers (Craigslist)

Craigslist is for killers (Craigslist)

Newlyweds are known for a lot of things: sickeningly public displays of affection, rabbit-like sexual escapades, “goo goo” eyes and a host of others. In the case of Pennsylvania’s Elytte and Miranda Barbour, though—who were married in North Carolina on October 22nd—an additional feature can be added: murder.

The pair left North Carolina for Sunbury, Pennsylvania, a small city roughly 100 miles northwest of Philadelphia. To make ends meet, Miranda would often use Craigslist to attract men in need of companionship—men who were willing to pay for it. According to Elytte, she would use the site to meet “unhappy men” and would charge as much as $850 for what he called “delightful conversation.”

It would have to be extremely delightful at that price, but I digress.

On November 11th, Miranda met one of her Craigslist “companions” at a local mall: 42-year-old Troy LaFerrara, a married man. She lured LaFerrara into her red Honda CR-V and started to drive towards Sunbury, pulling over a short time later in a discreet location. LaFerrara began to touch Miranda—never knowing that Elytte was hiding under a blanket in the back seat—so he didn’t see her pull a knife from between the seats. As she stabbed him repeatedly, Elytte tied a cable cord around his neck so he couldn’t move. LaFerrara fought at first, but there was nothing he could do.

The killers: Elytte and Miranda Barbour (FOX 43 News)

The killers: Elytte and Miranda Barbour (FOX 43 News)

Miranda later told police that as she and Elytte drove around to find a good dumping spot for his body, LaFerrara was “choking and gasping for air,” but his breathing soon stopped. He was dead.

The Barbours continued to drive around and eventually found a garage behind a house in Sunbury to dump LaFerrara’s body. The owner of the home—Brittany Settler—discovered the gruesome delivery the next morning.

“I was making myself a cup of coffee and when I opened the fridge to get the creamer out, I looked and was like, ‘What is that?’” Settler investigated, found the body—LaFerrara’s face was purple and there was blood everywhere—and immediately called the police. They arrived and discovered that LaFerrara had been strangled and stabbed more than twenty times. Police also discovered his cell phone and the last number he dialed eventually led them to the Barbours.

After dumping the body, the Barbours went on a Walmart shopping spree for cleaning products to use on the bloody SUV. Then they went to a strip club to celebrate Elytte’s 22nd birthday. Apparently, murdering LaFerrara was his birthday gift.

Fortunately for everyone—especially the residents of Sunbury, an otherwise peaceful city that averages one murder every few years—the Barbours were picked up by police and confessed to their crime. In fact, they told the authorities that they wanted to kill someone together—they had apparently tried before, only to have their plans fail at the last second. LaFerrara was the one that “worked out,” but anyone who answered the advertisement likely would have met the same fate.

The victim: Troy LaFerrara (The Daily Item)

The victim: Troy LaFerrara (The Daily Item)

If people want to kill, they’ll kill, after all. It is only a matter of time.

The Barbours are currently behind bars and face a host of charges, including criminal homicide. They have been denied bail and will have their first days in court later this month. Of course, all of this leaves me with one nagging question that perhaps one of you can answer for me.

Given all the violence and death that seems to be connected to it, why in the hell would anyone use Craigslist?

God, Grades and GTA V

God rests (Live Journal)

In the first book of The Bible—most specifically in Genesis 2:2—it says that after God created the world and spent six days hard at work, he spent the seventh day chilling out.

By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. New King James Version

Granted, the passage is a little wordy and repetitive—I can’t imagine there were many editors around in Biblical times—but today, I plan to follow God’s example and relax.

I know what you’re thinking, of course: this guy doesn’t even believe in God!

While that may be true to some extent—atheists are the ones who don’t believe in God, and I’m agnostic—the fact is that I know a good idea when I hear one. In higher education terms, this would qualify as a “best practice,” and I am all about using what works.

And today, relaxation is near the top of that list.

Using the word “near” was intentional because, sadly, I have some work to complete before I can chill like God on the Sabbath. Tomorrow is another school day and I have a class to teach on Tuesday, which means I have some notes to take, some Internet research to complete and a lesson plan to create—I could also check my students’ mid-term grades, but why ruin a perfectly good Sunday? Fortunately, I’m giving a test later this week, so only one lesson plan is needed. And even though one lesson plan should be a breeze to put together, the truth is that I simply don’t feel like working.

Call me lazy, if you will, but you may as well call God lazy since he did it, too! Of course, He created the universe, the world and everything in it; I’m just talking about a lesson plan for one freshman-level course at a small, private college in North Carolina. There is a slight difference, but why split hairs? We all play the hand we’re dealt, right?

About the only energy I have left, though, could easily be channeled into something God would likely disapprove of: Grand Theft Auto 5! I haven’t played it as much as I could have, mind you, but I can feel its claws sinking deeper and deeper into me every time I immerse myself in it. And I would be lying if I said it wasn’t calling my name right now.

Thankfully, I’ve managed to ignore its call all morning, opting instead to do some house work, run some errands and complete some other mundane, domestic tasks. Things are starting to level out now, which means school work is next. As soon as I finish writing this, my nose will be in a book and the next three hours will fade into history.

If God made everything, He must have made GTA V, too! (Rockstar Games)

If God made everything, He must have made GTA V, too! (Rockstar Games)

Unless I give in to temptation, convince myself that I have more self-control than I actually do and try to play a short session of GTA V, that is. Thirty minutes to an hour of game time couldn’t do serious damage to my work time, could it—considering it’s still pretty early in the day?

Ironic that one of the things I urge my students to avoid at all costs—procrastination—is the very thing I find myself in the throes of right now. Life certainly has a way of coming full circle…

Gruesome Death for College Student

bennett vigil

The vigil for Jonathon Bennett (courtesy of WCTI-12)

A tragic tale of death most foul came from one of my alma maters this week—East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina.

Early Wednesday morning, 21-year-old Jonathon Bennett—a Geographic Information Science and Technology major at ECU since 2010—was drinking with some friends and hanging out in the woods behind University Manor Apartments.

They had stumbled across a huge, uprooted tree and spent some time “chilling out” on it until finally deciding to head home. Jonathon found a sturdy branch to walk on and grabbed the branch above him just to be safe.

Sadly, that safety ended when the branch above him snapped.

Jonathon fell over the side of the giant tree, dropped roughly seven feet down and landed on his back. Unfortunately, an old debris fence had been crushed by the tree and Jonathon landed on a metal post.

It impaled him from his lower back up through his upper chest, killing him instantly.

His friends sent for help, performed CPR and screamed so emergency personnel could find them, but there was nothing they could do. Jonathon was already gone.

It’s hard to imagine how Jonathon’s parents must feel right now. They send their son to college, share in his successes, watch him grow and develop, take pride in the young man they raised and suddenly, it’s all gone.

And all because of some freak accident.

No thank you. That is not for me (courtesy of Spy007 au/Wikipedia)

Looking back, I did some things in college that seemed harmless at the time—similar to walking along an overturned tree, which I likely did as well at one time or another—but now seem much more dangerous.

Chalk it up to the invincibility of youth, I guess. Only when people become old farts like me do they realize just how vulnerable they may have been “back in the day.”

The way I figure, I probably put myself into four or five serious situations in my time. None of them were out-of-the-ordinary, though. I never slept in an alleyway, robbed a hooker or went bungee jumping, for goodness sake. But I did once jump off a railroad trestle into the river below—without first checking the depth or possible debris.

I took my buddy’s word for it when he assured me it was safe, but that only gave me a 50-50 chance that he wasn’t completely full of shit. I was also much taller than all my friends—as well as heavier—so I always went deeper. If anyone was going to break his neck or cripple himself in this crazy stunt, it would be me.

But I did it anyway. And it was fun.

If I were to attempt the same stunt today, I can guarantee with absolute certainty that I would perish. No ifs, ands or buts about it. And that’s the thing: I could have died the first time. It just didn’t occur to me while I was “in the moment.”

I’m sure you all know what I mean.

What sucks most about Jonathon’s death—aside from it coming far too soon and in such a gruesome, shocking way—is that he wasn’t even taking a risk, at least not in his mind. Granted, I didn’t know him and shouldn’t assume to know what he was thinking. I just know what I would be thinking.

REO Speedwagon

REO Speedwagon (Photo credit: jcbwalsh)

Walking along a tree is much different from choosing to leap off a perfectly good bridge into a muddy, possibly shallow, creek. And Jonathon took at least one precaution when he grabbed the branch above him. It was dark. He probably couldn’t see how high up he was, much less that there were metal posts sticking out of the ground below.

Then snap… the branch breaks and his young life ends in the blink of an eye. And there’s the rub: you just never know when your number will come up and should therefore approach each day as if it were your last.

I won’t preach carpe diem since this isn’t Dead Poets Society, but I will quote one of the cheesiest 80s bands of all time—REO Speedwagon—and advise you all to “live every moment.” And when death does come knocking, I hope none of us go in the way poor Jonathon did.

But the odds are against us.

A Woman Scorned

Here’s a funny story from my neck of the woods: Greensboro, North Carolina.

A billboard on Battleground Avenue has been catching the eye of everyone who passes by it. The advertising space was supposedly rented by a woman named Jennifer, who used it to “call out” her cheating husband Michael.

Check it out.

Truth in advertising can sting sometimes (courtesy of WNCN)

As you can see, the bottom of the billboard contains a direct reference to Michael’s alleged lover, Jessica. And whether she likes it or not, it looks like she may have a roommate soon, at least if Jennifer has her way.

I can’t help but think of that famous phrase, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”

It appears that Michael is learning this the hard way. The hard and very public way.

Take note, Jessica. Based on Michael’s treatment of his wife, it seems the next billboard may be yours to rent!

To Love, Honor and Dismember

Winfred hacked up his wife

Sometimes the news is just too bizarre to ignore. And when it comes from my home state of North Carolina, I simply cannot help commenting on what my “neighbors” have been doing.

Yesterday in Greensboro, a man named Winfred Simpson, who was convicted of first-degree murder for killing his wife, Retha Simpson, received a life sentence. The remainder of his days will be spent in one of our state’s glorious prisons. And yes, I am being very facetious.

In March 2010, Retha allegedly asked her husband if he would be interested in joining a club were married people swap spouses, presumably for sex. Winfred got very angry and accused Retha of cheating on him. She, in turn, accused him of infidelity, too.

Things got so heated between the couple that Winfred snapped and killed his wife, supposedly by accident. And this is where the story takes a most unusual and unbelievable turn.

Winfred claimed that he was so distraught about killing his wife that he reacted by dismembering her body. Authorities later found her body parts in a trash bag and when they questioned Winfred, they also discovered cleaning supplies and blood at his home. Obviously, he was arrested on the spot.

Retha Simpson, the victim, was found in pieces (courtesy of WFMY)

I must admit that I’m having a lot of trouble wrapping my mind around Winfred’s excuse not only for killing his wife, but also for chopping her into little pieces. How does someone who feels so guilty about killing his spouse decide that the best course of action is to dismember and attempt to hide her body? Wouldn’t it make more sense to just turn yourself in?

That last question is rhetorical because sense is something that more and more people seem to be lacking. And Winfred Simpson is no exception.

If you ask me, it takes a special kind of maniac to hack up a human body. I don’t care how upset, sad, distraught or generally bad you feel, dismembering a body is something normal people would never do.

Of course, this assumes that there are still normal people out there. If you base your opinion of humankind and its evolution on what you see on the news, then abnormal seems like a much more appropriate adjective to use.

Devil Worshippers Kill Baby

Did Satan make them do it? (courtesy of WGHP)

Alas, there is another sad and disturbing story to report from my home state of North Carolina. This one comes from the city of High Point.

Brian Jack Frazier and Stefany Renee Ash both practiced Wicca, a modern pagan religion based largely on witchcraft. Eventually, their interests morphed into something darker. Several years ago, the two met online through a website for people who worship the devil. And shortly thereafter, Frazier left Louisiana and arrived in North Carolina.

Louisiana’s loss is our gain, I suppose. And yes, I am being very facetious.

Early Tuesday morning, somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 a.m., Frazier was playing video games when the couple’s newborn son Khan got fussy. Annoyed at the interruption, Frazier went into the child’s room, grabbed him by the throat and punched him in the face.

The blow killed Khan instantly. And Frazier just went to bed.

Say “no” to Satan!

The next afternoon, Ash discovered the dead child and rather than informing police, decided she and Frazier should discuss their options. For an hour or more they talked about burying the body, making it look like a kidnapping or finding some other way to fool authorities into believing they were innocent of any crime.

I guess these two “geniuses” couldn’t think of anything convincing because eventually, they called the police and were both arrested soon after.

Frazier has now been charged with first-degree murder while Ash faces charges of being an accessory after the fact.

Ash’s stepfather, Bruce Alston, believes that Frazier influenced her through some type of magic spell. “She believed that if she didn’t do what he said that he had power over her to take her life,” he told reporters.

Only in North Carolina!

Fall from Grace: Lisa Robin Kelly

1x1.trans That 70s Show Star Lisa Robin Kelly Arrested Again!

Kelly before and after (courtesy of StupidCelebrities.com)

For five seasons, Lisa Robin Kelly played Laurie Forman on the popular Fox comedy “That ’70s Show.” Alongside her were blossoming stars like Topher Grace, Ashton Kutcher and the lovely Mila Kunis.

Unfortunately, Kelly’s career didn’t blossom and her life has been spiralling out of control ever since. I’m also happy to report that she lives in my own state of North Carolina, which makes me and all my fellow residents so proud.

In 2010, Kelly was arrested for drunk driving, received a hefty fine and spent a year on probation. This past March, she was arrested on federal charges of corporal injury on her spouse.

And now she’s in trouble once again.

Earlier this week, Kelly and her 61-year-old husband were arrested for assault on each other after police responded to a domestic disturbance. Although drugs and alcohol were not involved, it’s obvious that these “incidents” are taking their toll on Kelly. Just check out her before and after photos.

I suppose the good news is that Kelly wasn’t much of a celebrity to begin with, so she gets far less coverage than media darlings like Lindsay Lohan or Amanda Bynes. And personally, I hope we stop hearing about all of them sooner rather than later.

The Abuse of Power

Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair in Afghanistan in 2011.

Don’t turn your back on this guy (courtesy of the US Defense Department)

Few things upset me more than people who abuse the power we bestow upon them and consider themselves to be above the law. So this story from my home state of North Carolina strikes far too close to home.

Army Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair, a veteran of five combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, has been accused of some very disturbing behavior, including sexual misconduct. His victims include two female captains, a lieutenant, a major and even a civilian woman. And his alleged crimes have occurred all over the world.

Apparently, Sinclair is accused of groping and making demeaning comments about women, possessing contraband materials like alcohol and pornography while deployed, violating direct orders and, most shockingly, forcing sodomy on his subordinates.

All of these are horribly offensive, of course, but Sinclair’s arrogance only makes things worse. In one particular instance, he threatened a woman and her family if she ever told on him. “I’m a general. I’ll do whatever the f–k I want.”

How does the saying go? Absolute power corrupts absolutely?

Nothing could be more correct in the case of General Sinclair. And here’s hoping he spends an appropriate amount of time in the brig, thinking about what he’s done and wondering where all that power went once he’s been stripped of his rank.

And behind bars, perhaps he will finally learn what forced sodomy truly feels like.

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