TALLAHASSEE, Florida -- In 2012, Florida was a state where a lifeguard gotfired for saving a life, a woman got arrested for riding a manatee and aman repeatedly used 911 as a phone sex service.
Think that's weird? It gets worse and more tragic.
Inone of the state's most horrifying stories of the year, a man stripped ahomeless man naked and attacked him in Miami,chewing off most of his face before police fatally shot him. And it wasn't the only story of itskind. In Manatee County, deputies used multiple Tasers to subdue a naked man who bit off part of another man's arm.
Later inthe year a man won a roach-eating contest outside a Deerfield Beach pet store and then dropped dead in front of the store when body parts of thedozens of roaches he swallowed blocked his airway.
"Wetend to be a magnet from every direction for all kinds of sketchery,"said Billy Corben, a documentary film director whose works include"Cocaine Cowboys" about Miami's cocaine wars in the 1980s. "It's verylate in the game where we go, `That dude? I guess he seemed kind ofweird.'"
Corben, whose "The Billy Pulpit" website compiles weird Florida news,said Floridians tend to show up in high numbers on "The Jerry SpringerShow" and "America's Most Wanted."
And odd stories elsewhere always seemto have a Florida tie - like former CIA director David Petraeus'sextramarital affair being exposed through a Tampa socialite. And whenanti-virus software founder John McAfee ran from Belizean authoritieswho wanted to question him about the slaying of a neighbor, he wound up in Miami Beach, where he shopped, ate sushi and posed for photos withtourists.
"The state seems to either passively or directly endorse all of this lunacy in some way or another," Corben said.
Thenagain, this is the state where Gov. Rick Scott mistakenly gave the media a phone sex number to promote a meningitis hot line. After abroadcaster posted it, at least one caller was greeted with a recordingof "Hello boys..." from a lusty sounding lady.
Several gaffes involved hunting Floridians.
There werethe two guys in Santa Rosa County who used a bow and arrow to kill a neighbor's pet turkey, which they planned to eat on Thanksgiving. Thenthere was a Flagler County man who shot his girlfriend in the legsbecause he thought she was a wild hog.
A mother anddaughter were sentenced to two months in jail for using two dogs to kill a farm-raised pig in their backyard. They posted video of the attack onFacebook, which led to their arrest.
Ah, Facebook! It caused trouble for several other Floridians.
ASarasota County man was kicked off a jury after a judge learned he sent the defendant a Facebook friend request. The juror further infuriatedthe judge with a Facebook post bragging about getting dismissed fromjury duty. He was given three days in jail.
A ManateeCounty music teacher was issued a verbal warning for a Facebookconversation in which she described an 8-year-old student as the"evolutionary link between orangutans and humans." A high school scienceteacher also had some explaining to do when she put a cone-shaped dog collar on at least eight students and the "cone of shame" photosappeared on Facebook.
Those weren't the only strange events in Florida schools.
APlant City teacher was charged with trying to hire a hit man to kill another teacher he suspected was spreading rumors about him.
Anda man showed up at his kindergartener's school to retrieve a bag of marijuana and a scale he left in the boy's backpack. More evidence thatpot affects short-term memory? An 18-year-old Tampa woman was charged with DUI and marijuana possession three times in less than three weeks,the last two times on back-to-back days.
Bunnell policecharged a man with riding a horse while intoxicated after he led officers on a half-hour chase, while a 52-year-old St. Petersburg womanwas arrested after police found photos of her riding a manatee.
Floridiansalso showed that they'll steal just about anything. An Ocala woman toldpolice thieves stole her Thanksgiving turkey from a freezer in hergarage; a man was charged in Lakeland after police said he stole two swan eggs from a nest and cooked them; about 150,000 baby clams werereported stolen in Lee County; and a South Florida woman had hundreds of parrots stolen from her home.
Perhaps the oddest was a Reddick woman who drove home to find someone stole her driveway, carting away 300 square feet of brick pavers.
Andit's not as if Florida authorities don't take theft seriously. A judgein Ocala sentenced a homeless man to 180 days in jail and fined him $500for stealing $2 worth of candy.
Then there was the guyaccused of selling methamphetamine in Polk County who swiped the recorder with his confession and flushed it down a toilet. The suspecttold the detective, "Tighten up on your job, homie."
Evenmore embarrassing, a Broward County deputy was fired for repeatedlyvisiting strip clubs while he was on duty and wearing his uniform,sometimes skipping official calls. A West Palm Beach strip-club ownerunsuccessfully sued a competing club to block the appearance of Nadya Suleman, claiming the woman best known as "Octomom" agreed to strip athis club first.
Speaking of celebrities and sex, former prowrestler Hulk Hogan sued a DJ named Bubba the Love Sponge Clem over asecret tape of Hogan having sex with Clem's wife.
While notquite sex on tape, 911 audio recordings were released of a Tampa manwho repeatedly called the emergency line and asked the operator to come over for sex.
A Florida legislator suffered some embarrassment after "selfies" that showed him posing in his underwear made the rounds online. In a statement, he said the pics were only meant to show weight loss and how he was in good health while fighting diabetes.
Florida's unique wildlife always finds a wayinto the news. An airboat captain near Everglades City was showing anIndiana family how to feed alligators when a 9-footer bit his left hand off. Authorities later charged him with illegally feeding an alligator.
Aman strolling along Pompano Beach found a giant blue eyeball and turnedit over to authorities. Wildlife officials said it likely came from aswordfish. This story ended up topping National Geographic's "10 Weirdest stories of the Year."
A rhesus macaque dubbed "The Mystery Monkey of Tampa Bay" was caught after several years on the loose, weeks after the primate attacked a St. Petersburg grandmother. The monkey now has a new home in Dade City.
On another South Florida beach, a lifeguard wasfired for helping save a man from drowning. It turns out the man hesaved was just outside the area that Hallandale Beach hired a privatecompany to protect. The company said it was at risk once the lifeguardcrossed the boundary.
In miscellaneous Florida weirdness:
-A man who won an auction for the contents of a Pensacola storage unitdiscovered it contained dozens of preserved human brains, hearts, lungs and other organs that had been collected by a former medical examiner.
- A teenager is recovering after shooting off his penis and testicle while cleaning a gun he just bought.
-A Jacksonville man was arrested after he allegedly used enemas and then returned them to pharmacies resealed, claiming they were unused.
- An18-month-old girl was pulled off a flight in Miami because the airlinethought she was on the U.S. no-fly list of suspected terrorists.
- An Orlando couple was caught having sex in public... on a patio table... at a restaurant... in full view of children.
Andfinally, in what will go down in the first date from hell hall of fame,Boca Raton police say a 35-year-old woman attacked a man with a knifeand smashed his windows after he refused to say they were boyfriend andgirlfriend at the end of their first date.
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