Here's Year's Best of News of Way-Out

COMMENT

January 01, 1995|By LIZ ATWOOD

Day One of a new year, and most of the world hopefully flips open a new calendar and wonders what 1995 will bring.

Everyone except journalists, that is. We're still lingering over the tattered pages of 1994, analyzing what happened and why.

The editors and reporters of the Anne Arundel bureau of The Sun wanted to draw up a list of the top 10 stories of the year. After giving it some thought, they decided that the county's big story of 1994 was the Washington Redskins' effort to build a stadium in Laurel.

Also on the top 10 list was the election, the murder of two Washington lawyers in their Arnold home, the continued difficulties of the county school system, the revelation that the head of Crownsville State Hospital was a fraud, the bickering over Annapolis' Main Street reconstruction, the opening of U.S. Naval Academy Bridge, the plans to build a new jail in Glen Burnie, the wrap-up of the Naval Academy cheating scandal, and the outside invasion that rode in on the light rail.

The people who drew up this list didn't ask me, but I would have made a few different suggestions. So before we forever consign 1994 to the history books, I'll give you my list of the year's most incredible stories:

* No. 10 -- An Annapolis woman filed a $4.1 million lawsuit in July against a Lanham physician as the result of a dispute that arose at a silent charity auction at the 1993 Holly Ball in Annapolis. Patricia McPhail alleged that Dr. Leon R. Levisky became enraged when she outbid him for a painting, yelled obscenities at her and stuffed a business card down her bra.

* No. 9 -- An Annapolis woman and her children were forced to shut down their snowball stand on Francis Street over the July Fourth weekend because they lacked a peddler's permit. Madeleine Rubin-Knoll tried to fight City Hall, but city leaders denied her permission to sell snowballs because they felt the stand wasn't in keeping with the historic character of the Colonial town.

* No. 8 -- Annapolis resident T. F. "Tedd" Biddle fought most of the year for the right to moor her vessel, "The Rights of Man," at the Annapolis City Dock and sell fish and seafood from its decks. Ms. Biddle gathered signatures on a petition, threatened the City Council with impeachment, argued that her right to sell fish was guaranteed to Marylanders by the King of England and even warned she would blockade the harbor, but the City Council nevertheless refused to let her sell fish from her boat.

* No. 7 -- Brian McConnell, a student at Marley Middle School, worked for weeks in his technical education class sawing and sanding wood to make a cross for his grandmother's grave, but school officials refused to allow him to nail the wood together to form the cross. They said creating a cross in school violated the separation of church and state.

* No. 6 -- In a story reminiscent of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears," Kathleen Mellin awoke early one morning in July to find an intruder sleeping on her couch. Police said Wayne Curtis Ridgeway pried open a bedroom window and crawled inside, then curled up on the sofa. Police found him still asleep when they arrived and charged him with breaking and entering and trespassing. No word on whether he also ate the porridge.

* No. 5 -- In March, a Linthicum man and his girlfriend paid $46 to adopt a terrier-mix dog at the county animal shelter and told shelter workers they would return to pick up the dog once it had been neutered. When they returned to get their dog a couple days later, they discovered that instead of neutering the dog, the staff had euthanized it.

* No. 4 -- Trying to impress his intended with a macho image, a 31-year-old Baltimore man pretended to be a police officer. He followed the woman from a Glen Burnie bar, attempted to force her off the road and threatened to arrest her if she refused to date him. He was charged with impersonating an officer.

* No. 3 -- Three teen-age girls from Dorchester County, enacting their own version of "Thelma and Louise," set out to rob a taxi driver near the Annapolis Mall last January. Their plan went awry when one of the girls couldn't find the hair spray she had planned on using as a weapon. The three were caught and arrested.

* No. 2 -- A manatee eluded rescuers for more than a week as it meandered around Maryland waters. Finally, it was caught and given a one-way ticket back to Florida, where it was released into more hospitable waters.

* And the No. 1 most incredible story of 1994:

A package wrapped in paper with a swastika and skulls on it is delivered to the office of a Jewish lawyer in Glen Burnie.

The lawyer's secretary, fearing the package might contain a bomb, calls police. County officers, members of the fire department, the fire marshal's office and officials from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms respond to the call, gather up the package and speed through Glen Burnie to Saw Mill Creek Park, where they attempt to detonate it. A technician shoots the package, and nothing happens. Police open it and discover inside a spent shotgun shell and a puzzle, "How to Kill a Lawyer."

It turns out the package was sent by the lawyer's brother and two sisters, who wanted to play a joke on their brother.

I can hardly wait to see what incredible stories lie ahead in 1995.

Liz Atwood is The Baltimore Sun's editorial writer in Anne Arundel County.

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