SANTA ROSA, N.M. — Police say what appeared to be a brutal execution was actually an elaborate suicide scheme, possibly inspired by the television show “CSI.”
The body of Thomas Hickman, 55, of North Richland Hills, Texas, was found in the desert just southeast of Santa Rosa in March. State police found duct tape wrapped around his head and a handkerchief stuffed in his mouth.
The bullet that killed him entered through the back of the head. But police said Hickman actually made it look as though someone else had killed him.
“He did have duct tape around his mouth. However, there were no signs of a struggle,” state police Lt. Rick Anglada said.
Police found the gun Hickman used 30 feet from his body. A pistol registered to his name, tied to some helium balloons, was tangled in a nearby cactus. Police said Hickman wanted the gun to float off.
This method of a fake suicide was similar to a scene played out on a “CSI” episode that aired five years ago, according to police. In that episode, the gun floated away and was found across town.
“So piecing everything together — as well as notes left to family members on journals, detailed notes as to what to do upon his death — all of those factors led us to believe it was an elaborate suicide,” Anglada said.
— KOB, Albuquerque, N.M.
‘Hero’ dog saves family from fire
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — When fire ripped through a home in a Fort Lauderdale, the family dog saved the day.
Junior, a 14-month-old Shih-Tzu mix, started barking and wouldn’t stop early Monday when flames erupted in the home where his owner, Madelous Davilmar, and six other people live. The smoke detectors were going off, but they didn’t wake up Davilmar.
“Junior’s a quiet dog, and he started making a lot of noise,” Davilmar said.
The barking woke him up, and he found the house filled with smoke.
Davilmar rushed through the house, trying to awaken his relatives, some of whom were visiting from Orlando. Everyone had made it out safely.
Investigators have deemed the fire suspicious. Davilmar said he’s just thankful everyone is alive, thanks to Junior.
“He’s a hero. I will definitely treat him better now,” Davilmar said.
— WTVJ, Miami
Tree, then crane crash into home
LEXINGTON, S.C. — Bad luck crashed through a home in Lexington not once, but twice.
It all started after severe storms came through the area last week. A massive red oak tree crashed through Debra Jernigan’s home, landing in her 10-year-old daughter’s bedroom. Luckily, the girl was asleep in another room.
Two days later, a crane company showed up to remove the tree.
Jernigan said says she was asked to stay inside, so she did. That’s when bad luck dropped in once more.
“I heard three loud booms and felt the house shake,” she said.
The crane had fallen in to the roof and into the room of Jernigan’s 19-year-old son, Caleb, who had just left to perform in “High School Musical” at Columbia’s Workshop Theater.
“Right before the show started, she said the house was pretty much destroyed,” Caleb Jernigan said. “I was in the room five minutes before the crane ran through. Otherwise I would’ve been hit.”
No one was hurt, but the double dose of bad luck left the Jernigans shaken.
“It’s very stressful financially, emotionally — any way you can think about it, it’s very stressful,” said Debra Jernigan, who called it a “freak accident” and said she was not angry with the crane company.
— WIS, Columbia, S.C.
Sticks of gum help crack the case
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Two brothers have been arrested and charged with breaking into several vehicles after sticks of gum helped Springfield police crack the case.
Police were called to a car break-in Wednesday morning where they found Fruit Stripe Gum all over the front seat.
Police were given a description of the suspects, who were tracked down a short time later, Springfield police Sgt. John Delaney said.
The men, identified as Jose Torres and Ramon Torres of Springfield, had numerous sticks of Fruit Stripe Gum in their pockets. The gum is being kept as evidence.
— WWLP, Springfield, Mass.
Jewels hidden in fake soup can found at food bank
VANCOUVER, Wash. — A Vancouver woman who accidentally donated a fake soup can full of her family heirlooms to a food bank has her jewelry back.
The woman, Theresa Hekel, had misplaced the can, which was actually a well-disguised jewelry box meant to protect valuables. When she emptied her cupboard of canned goods to give to charity in May, she grabbed the jewelry box, too.
According to the Columbian newspaper, a volunteer who heard the story found the can in a load of donated food at Clark County Adventist Services.
The volunteer said she shook the can and heard a jingling sound. She opened it up and found the ring, a bracelet, earrings and a necklace.
Stop Hunger Warehouse volunteers kept the tomato soup can locked up after the find, and Hekel was reunited with her jewelry Monday.
— KGW, Portland, Ore.