ThinkStock/Erin McCarthy
ThinkStock/Erin McCarthy

10 Weird Crimes That Could Only Happen in Florida

ThinkStock/Erin McCarthy
ThinkStock/Erin McCarthy

Even before a homeless man had his face nearly chewed off by a deranged attacker, Florida had a reputation for bizarre crimes.  Here are 10 odd cases that will make you shake your head and say, “Only in Florida...” 

1. “Don’t tase me, Mom!”

In September of this year, Pasco County police officers were called to a mobile home occupied by 45 year old Cynthia Alexander after a neighbor saw Alexander and her 28 year old daughter, Stephanie, fighting on the front lawn. Cynthia and Stephanie had had a disagreement over how best to keep their mobile home clean, which turned from a shouting match to a wrestling match to Cynthia discharging a stun gun in her daughter’s face. While Stephanie refused to press charges, the deputies charged Cynthia with aggravated domestic battery and told her to clean up her act. 

2. Highlander VI: The Shrimpening

Michael Airhart of Deltona, Florida walked into the kitchen one morning and discovered that a can of shrimp was missing from the cupboard. Annoyed, he confronted his 34 year old stepson, Jayson Laughman, about the absent canned crustaceans. The argument grew heated, so Laughman and Airhart decided to take it outside. On the back patio, Laughman smashed a lawn ornament, and that’s when Airhart realized that things were going too far. He locked himself in the bedroom to let things cool down. Laughman, on the other hand, went “code red,” threatening his mother’s life, and attacking Airhart Shining-style by hacking through the bedroom door with a katana-style sword. Laughman also threw a couple of steak knives at his step-dad for good measure. Airhart called 911 and the police intervened before anyone lost their head. 

3. Pilfered Primates Prefer Hash Browns Scattered, Smothered, Covered

After spending the summer working for Nancy Stephens, a behavioral sciences researcher in Doniphan, Nebraska, 20 year old twins Michael and Jacob Ruehlman took a couple of souvenirs before heading home to Fort Myers, Florida: two Gibbon apes, Caylee and Cody, worth about $25,000 each. Florida police were told to be on the lookout for the young men, but Deborah Misotti, owner of The Talking Monkey Project in Clewiston, Florida, got to them first. Misotti, who knows both Nancy Stephens and Jacob Ruehlman through Facebook, heard about the primate theft and convinced Jacob to turn the animals over to her. They were to meet at a Waffle House off I-75, but before the twins could arrive, police spotted the car and pulled them over, finding the apes caged in the backseat. Caylee and Cody are being held with Misotti as the investigation continues.

4. Facebook Poke to the Face

Whatever you do, don’t poke Jesse Rizzo on Facebook. Or in real life for that matter. After a post on the popular social site, a friend of Rizzo’s started teasing him about it in person. The fight escalated and 18 year old Rizzo allegedly hit the unnamed 34 year old man in the head with a golf club six times. Rizzo claims he only hit the man in the shoulder with the club before punching him in the face 10 times. Either way, the man suffered severe head injuries and had to be transported by helicopter to Jackson Memorial Trauma Center. Rizzo was arrested and probably unfriended.

5. U-Haul Crooks Return to “Move” More Stuff

If you’re moving, it’s not unusual to make two trips in a rented U-Haul to get all of your stuff. It is unusual to make two trips when you’re moving someone else’s stuff without their knowledge, though. After Kenneth Morales, Yanice Ramirez, and Andrea Reyes kicked down the door of a house in Winter Park, Florida, they loaded up a U-Haul with over $10,000 worth of items, like high-end kitchen equipment, furniture, and Swarovski crystal figurines, before leaving. When a neighbor called the absent homeowner to ask why there were movers at the house, the owner came home and called the police to report the robbery. However, the homeowner was surprised when the U-Haul bandits backed up the truck for another round of loot. The crooks fled and the homeowner followed them, allowing police to arrest the greedy trio shortly after.

6. “Stay in the car, kids. Mommy has to make it rain.”

Brandi Jo Roman, 29, just wanted to relax and have a good time at her favorite strip club, Mons Venus in Tampa Bay, on a quiet Tuesday night. As she sat by the stage having a beer (she pre-gamed with a can of malt liquor on the way to the club), her good time was interrupted by a couple of Tampa’s finest. Apparently Roman couldn’t find a babysitter on such short notice, so she left her 3 year old daughter and 5 year old son in the parking lot, watching a movie in her pickup truck. Some concerned citizen ruined Roman’s buzz by contacting the police, who arrested her on child neglect charges. Sadly, Roman’s not the only partying parent who left the kids in the car while mom and dad made it rain in da club.

7. From Naptime to Jail Time

Being a criminal is exhausting—just ask Domonique Pinkard. He and his accomplice, 20 year old Julian Evangelist, broke into a house in Lady Lake, Florida, to see what they could steal. Pinkard stuffed jewelry in his pockets, but then decided that he was so tired from working all day that he needed to sit down on the couch. When the homeowner came back later that morning, he was surprised to find Pinkard asleep in the living room. He quietly backed out of the room to leave the napping bandit in peace, and called police. Evangelist took the TV and other electronics, but once his passed-out partner in crime was in cuffs, it didn’t take long to track down the stolen items.

8. CIA Director Human-Orangutan Hybrid

When police responded to a call about a man with a gun outside of a Wells Fargo Bank in Naples, Florida, they were probably expecting a robbery. What they got was 51 year old Mark Loescher, who claimed to be the half-orangutan director of the CIA, talking on his cell phone with the “Fusion Center” about getting more monkey blood. After police were finally able to get Loescher to hang up and get out of his car, he claimed he was good friends with President Bush, and that his brother was Elvis Presley. Despite his prestigious career and pedigree, Loescher was brought up on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

9. Couponing...With Extreme Prejudice

Walmart might have low prices, but they weren’t low enough for Mary Alday, 61, who tried to use an online coupon to get $1 off her purchase in Crawfordville, Florida. When the blue-vested employee informed Alday that she couldn’t use the coupon, the woman became enraged, barked a few choice words, and intentionally slammed her shopping cart into the worker. Alday was escorted out of the store and reportedly warned the manager, “If you follow me, I have something in my car for you.” That something was a loaded Smith & Wesson .38 Special. After waving the handgun at employees that had gathered outside, she sped off, only to be pulled over by police. Alday twice refused the deputy’s request to get out of the car, repeating, “I have a concealed weapons permit, and you are not taking my gun.” When she reached for something in the center console, the officer tased her and pulled her from the vehicle. She was brought up on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and battery. Here’s hoping her lawyer accepts coupons.

10. Love At First Carjacking

We’ve all heard stories about bad first dates, but Nemeha Millen has them all beat. She met Casanova extraordinaire Donald McGee, Jr. for their first date after the two had exchanged text messages a few times. After a long getting-to-know-you walk in a park in Boynton Beach, Florida, they waited in her car for McGee’s brother to pick him up. Feeling the deep, personal connection between the two of them, ever-romantic McGee made his move—he pulled a pistol from his pocket and told his date to get out of the car. McGee took off and played hard to get, leading police on a brief chase, before losing control of the vehicle. He was charged with carjacking with a firearm, marijuana possession, fleeing police, driving without a valid license, and robbery with a firearm. Next time, just bring flowers, man.

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Feeling Down? Lifting Weights Can Lift Your Mood, Too
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There’s plenty of research that suggests that exercise can be an effective treatment for depression. In some cases of depression, in fact—particularly less-severe ones—scientists have found that exercise can be as effective as antidepressants, which don’t work for everyone and can come with some annoying side effects. Previous studies have largely concentrated on aerobic exercise, like running, but new research shows that weight lifting can be a useful depression treatment, too.

The study in JAMA Psychiatry, led by sports scientists at the University of Limerick in Ireland, examined the results of 33 previous clinical trials that analyzed a total of 1877 participants. It found that resistance training—lifting weights, using resistance bands, doing push ups, and any other exercises targeted at strengthening muscles rather than increasing heart rate—significantly reduced symptoms of depression.

This held true regardless of how healthy people were overall, how much of the exercises they were assigned to do, or how much stronger they got as a result. While the effect wasn’t as strong in blinded trials—where the assessors don’t know who is in the control group and who isn’t, as is the case in higher-quality studies—it was still notable. According to first author Brett Gordon, these trials showed a medium effect, while others showed a large effect, but both were statistically significant.

The studies in the paper all looked at the effects of these training regimes on people with mild to moderate depression, and the results might not translate to people with severe depression. Unfortunately, many of the studies analyzed didn’t include information on whether or not the patients were taking antidepressants, so the researchers weren’t able to determine what role medications might play in this. However, Gordon tells Mental Floss in an email that “the available evidence supports that [resistance training] may be an effective alternative and/or adjuvant therapy for depressive symptoms that could be prescribed on its own and/or in conjunction with other depression treatments,” like therapy or medication.

There haven’t been a lot of studies yet comparing whether aerobic exercise or resistance training might be better at alleviating depressive symptoms, and future research might tackle that question. Even if one does turn out to be better than the other, though, it seems that just getting to the gym can make a big difference.

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