Mad Minute stories from Monday, February 12th

CREEKSIDE, Pa. (AP) -- A Pennsylvania fire chief says some cackling chickens turned out to be cock-a-doodle-do-gooders.

Creekside Fire Chief Pete Yacovone says David Wells escaped from his burning Indiana County home at around 3:30 a.m. Wednesday after his son was awakened by his chickens. The chief says the chickens might have been startled by the fire.

The son lives across the street and quickly ran to his dad's house to wake him up.

Yacovone says the chickens made "good smoke detectors." He says if Wells' son "hadn't come and got him, we would've been fishing a body out of there."

Wells lives in rural Washington Township, about 50 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.

The chief says Wells' house is still standing but not livable.

The fire was apparently caused by an electrical problem.


BELEN, N.M. (AP) - A New Mexico family is drawing scrutiny for punishing their troubled teenage son by making him live in a tent in the desert.

Jacob and Angela Boggus say they banished their 16-year-old son to the tent outside their Belen, New Mexico house after he brought home bad grades and kept stealing. The pair says they want to teach their son a lesson before his behavior gets worse.

Under the punishment, the teen stays in the tent during the day, he's fed, has all the water he needs and can use the bathroom in the house.

The couple says the punishment will last a month, unless he completes five book reports.

Valencia County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Gary Hall says he didn't see anything that was abuse or negligent.


BERLIN (AP) -- Is this the definition of a slow-moving hazard?

German police say a driver lost control of his car after slipping on a slimy trail left by a procession of snails that were making their way across the highway.

The car - an old East German Trabant - flipped over and was wrecked, but the driver was unhurt.

Police said the incident happened early Wednesday near Paderborn, about 350 kilometers (220 miles) west of Berlin.


BETHEL, N.Y. (AP) -- A judge has ordered an upstate New York farmer to stop using eggshells as fertilizer after neighboring businesses complained the smell and clouds of flies drove away customers.

The Times Herald-Record of Middletown reports Peter Hofstee has been applying crushed eggshells to his hay fields in the Sullivan County town of Bethel since his usual fertilizer of liquid duck manure was cut off by the supplier last summer.

The owners of a restaurant and a distilling company adjacent to the fields took Hofstee to court, saying the rotting eggshells caused an unbearable stench and served as a source of fly larvae.

A state Supreme Court judge ordered the farmer to remove his eggshell stockpiles and rid his fields of fly larvae.

Hofstee says the ruling will put him out of business.


HONOLULU (AP) -- Hawaii officials are asking websites and blogs to stop pointing people to the off-limits crumbling remains of a Hawaiian monarchy palace.

Officials said last week vandals etched crosses on 180-year-old walls of King Kamehameha III's former summer palace in Honolulu.

The palace named Kaniakapupu is in a closed watershed area. The state says those caught trespassing will be cited.

However, social media and various websites lure people to the area by touting it as a scenic and leisurely hike.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources says it has sent letters to more than a dozen sites that mention Kaniakapupu.

The department says tourism and travel website Exploration Hawaii removed Kaniakapupu information. Blogs Outdoor Ohana and Traveling Thru History told the department they will remove directions to the site.


SUFFIELD, Conn. (AP) - A realistic-looking stuffed toy alligator that was spotted along the banks of a Connecticut river over the weekend gave many residents a scare.

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection responded to the Connecticut River in Suffield on Monday afternoon after receiving reports of an alligator in the area.

DEEP officials located the so-called alligator and discovered it was actually a five-foot-long stuffed toy.

Officials don't know where it came from or why it was there. It has since been removed.


WESTBROOK, Maine (AP) - The hunt for a large snake seen feasting on a beaver in Maine has residents atwitter.

Police in Westbrook say the 10-foot-long snake finished its meal early Wednesday and then swam across the Presumpscot River and disappeared into brush on the other side. Residents are alarmed because children swim and feed ducks in that section of the river.

The snake was quickly dubbed Wessie and the Presumpscot Python by residents on social media. A Twitter hashtag was created, and someone made a fake account for the snake.

Police are patrolling the riverbank. But the snake is nowhere to be seen.

The Maine Warden Service say the snake is expected to lay dormant for a couple days because it just consumed a large mammal.


CINCINNATI (AP) - A federal judge cited the defendant's "sheer greed" and damage to his family on Wednesday as she ordered an eight-year prison sentence for a Kentucky accountant who spent most of six years as a fugitive in an $8.7 million embezzlement case roaming the Appalachian Trail.

U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott went above even the prosecutor's recommended sentence for James T. Hammes, 54. She pointed to the large amount of money taken in a scheme that went on more than a decade and evidence that he had planned to assume a new identity and flee if it was discovered.

She also pointed to the impact on his loved ones, including his daughter, his second wife, and another daughter from an extramarital affair.

Dlott said Hammes had caused "more collateral damage" than she had ever seen in a case before her.

Hammes' attorney, Zenaida Lockard, indicated she will pursue an appeal of the sentence, calling it "unreasonable" under sentencing guidelines. Hammes, wearing an orange-and-white jail jumpsuit with his long hair pulled back in a ponytail and beard neatly trimmed, acknowledged that he had been selfish much of his life, but he told the judge he has changed and will continue to make changes regardless of the sentence.

"I am terribly sorry," Hammes said.

He pleaded guilty last year to wire fraud, after the FBI arrested him at a Damascus, Virginia, inn during the town's annual Trail Days festival.

"No one can run from justice forever," Benjamin C. Glassman, acting U.S. attorney, said after the sentencing. "Today his lies were punished."

Dlott also sentenced him to three years' probation and ordered him to continue making restitution - nearly $6.7 million to his employer and $1 million to its insurer.

Hammes' attorneys said he has no criminal past and spent years contemplating his wrongdoing on the trail that winds more than 2,000 miles from Georgia to Maine. Lockard introduced into evidence a photo of Hammes sitting on rocks along a river, appearing deep in thought.

"He is traveling on a road to redemption," Lockard said.

His hiking partner of some four years, Teri "Hopper" Hanavan, told the judge she credited the man she knew as "Bismarck" with helping guide her back into her faith as they attended church services along the trail.

But prosecutors said Hammes stole an identity and lived off embezzled money until a fellow hiker tipped authorities after seeing his case featured on the CNBC series "American Greed."

Hammes, a Milwaukee native who grew up in Springfield, Illinois, was the Lexington-based controller for the southern division of Cincinnati-based G&J Pepsi-Cola Bottlers Inc. The FBI said Hammes created a sham vendor account, wrote checks to it, then moved the deposits into his own accounts.

Jane Ryan, of Springfield, Illinois, Hammes' former sister-in-law, wrote Dlott describing the emotional damage he had done to her niece by disappearing without a word. She said Hammes' daughter was "depressed and devastated."

Ryan also brought up again the family's suspicions that the death of Hammes' first wife, Joy, in a 2003 Lexington, Kentucky, house fire wasn't by accident, as investigators concluded.

"Eight years seems disappointing, though we are glad he is in prison now rather than hiking and enjoying life," she told The Associated Press. "He has given me and my entire family a lifetime sentence of heartache, and in the end, no amount of time in prison can take that away."


MILWAUKEE (AP) - Milwaukee police say a customer upset with his order at a Taco Bell shot into the restaurant's drive-thru window.

Taco Bell management says that after leaving with his order, the man was upset to discover the employees forgot to add sour cream. He called the restaurant and the manager told him to come back the next day for a free meal because they were closed.

Authorities say the man returned a short time later, about 12:20 a.m. Monday, and shot at the bullet-proof window and an employee's car. No one was hurt. Police are looking for the man.


VISTA, Calif. (AP) -- Tony Hawk has landed a 900 - a 2-and-a-half- turn trick few skateboarders dare to try- 17 years to the day after the same feat made him a household name.

Online video showed the 48-year-old trying and failing repeatedly on Monday to recreate the skate-trick breakthrough he completed at the 1999 X Games. When he finally lands it, he triumphantly whips off his helmet and elbow pads.

In the video, Hawk said he was making the attempt because he felt like he could, but adds "I never thought I'd be doing this at my age."

Jared Prindle of Hawk's 900 Films says Hawk is sore after his multiple tumbles, but "he's been rocked much harder for doing much smaller things."


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