Year in Review: Strange But True

From kitty cut-ups to an airline named Ted, this was one oddball year.

A terminal condition: Maybe some homer aromer still lingers from the drop city that DIA became in the wake of the Great March Dump. With an estimated 4,000 unlucky travelers stranded for days, all kinds of stuff could have oozed into the floorboards. And then the main terminal had to be evacuated after a tear appeared in the tent-like roof. But the big top didn't have a big problem, notes DIA spokesman Chuck Cannon. Just a ripped seam.

Walk softly and carry a big sword: Other unseemly things happened out DIA way, too. The Transportation Safety Administration is still confiscating buckets of banned items -- more than 114,000 prohibited gizmos by mid-December. And while the bulk of the offenders were of the garden-variety type, such as scissors and pocket knives, TSA also collected plenty of Let me explain! objects.

"We got a couple of those walking sticks that hide big swords. You pull them apart and there's a sword inside," says TSA mouthpiece Mike Fierberg. When the owners are questioned, their answers are "always the same: They say they bought them at a pawnshop and had no idea the sword was inside." Also on the list of items people just won't leave home without, despite post-9/11 paranoia: box cutters. "Your guess is as good as mine why they have them," Fierberg sighs.

Christopher Smith
Christopher Smith

Some would-be passengers are still bringing guns. In September, a woman put her purse through a scanner, which revealed that there was a .380 Smith & Wesson and ammunition inside. The woman, a DIA employee, told police she'd put the weapon in her bag for protection before she went shopping -- and then forgot to remove it when she went to work. Incidentally, her husband is one of twenty TSA screening managers at the airport.

There are no reports of Odor Eaters being confiscated.

"They aren't prohibited items," Fierberg says. "They're encouraged. But maybe they should be prohibited."

Failing meth class: A downtown couple found themselves in a whale of a lot of trouble this past June, when neighbors smelled something funny and tipped off the police, who found a suspected meth lab in their high-rise. Vince Kristynik and Cynthia Taylor were charged with five felonies related to maintaining a meth lab and producing the drug. Taylor pleaded not guilty last month; Kristynik, out on bond, is scheduled for a court appearance in March. No word on whether the neighbors have chipped in to buy a few extra fans to keep ventilating the tower.

Shit happens: More neighbors complained last January after they spotted -- and smelled -- mounds of dog poop in the yard of a house in the 4800 block of South Hoyt Street. When oxygen-mask-wearing firefighters entered the home, they discovered a sorry collection of 28 cats and dogs, not to mention ten dead animals already decomposing in their cages. The surviving, matted mutts were taken to a shelter.

The house's owner, Mary Flanagan, a registered nurse, pleaded guilty to one count of child abuse (a thirteen-year-old was living there, too, and is now in protective custody) and one of cruelty to animals. She's now serving two years of probation and undergoing therapy and is forbidden to keep pets during this time.

Moby dicked: It was bad news for the nose at Burlington High School on November 6, when a fishy smell wafted through the vents. A janitor investigated and discovered that vandals had stuffed parts of a decomposing sixteen-ton whale under some ceiling tiles, then dumped the remaining Free Willy fragments in the garbage. (The whale had been on display in a trailer outside of town.) School officials allowed students to go home if they couldn't stomach the odiferous orca, and by that afternoon, only about forty of the 240 students remained. Not surprisingly, Burlington has since seen no upsurge in marine-biology majors.

Espresso Yourself

It makes your skin crawl: Two women were surprised to see a naked man inside their house in the Baker neighborhood one morning in June -- and even more stunned when he disappeared. They called police, who found the man hiding in a crawl space, where he'd been hanging out. Nimroid Folsom, formerly of Ithaca, New York, was arrested and charged with burglary and indecent exposure; he's scheduled to go on trial next month. Presumably he'll be wearing more than his birthday suit to court.

Negligee behavior: The case of the lingerie rapist was wrapped up this year. James Gipson of Denver, who once faced more than a hundred counts of sexual assault, was sentenced on February 14 to a minimum of fifty years in prison for a series of attacks during the summer of 2000. According to investigators, Gipson would send his girlfriend, Melissa Todd, to prowl the 16th Street Mall, where she'd ask a target if she wanted to attend a "Victoria's Secret party." Later, Todd would call the woman, offering to drive her to the lingerie fashion show -- but instead deliver her to a remote place, where Gipson would rape her.

Your Tax Dollars at Work. Sorta.

Disorder in the court: An assistant city attorney was suspended for two weeks for transmitting "inappropriate" e-mails over the Denver system. Among his dispatches was a photo of a naked woman dressed in a witch's hat and holding a broomstick, and missives referring to orgasms and assorted racial groups. One included a smutty animated joke that involved farting, perfume and women in an elevator. Court's in recess, Your Flatulence!

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