The Bizarre World of Florida

You know you’re getting old when all the candles on your birthday cake set off the sprinkler system in your home April 29, 2014

birthday cakeIt’s a surprise birthday party that a 20-year-old Deerfield Beach man will never forget.

His family hid his cake on a washing machine in the closet of apartment 206, in the Waterways complex at 4365 SW 10th Pl. around 9 p.m. Monday, according to Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue spokesman Mike Jachles.

“They closed the closet with the candles lit to surprise him,” Jachles said. “But, they were surprised when they opened the closet door to get the cake and were met with a barrage of water from the sprinkler that had gone off.”

Firefighters responded to the alarm but found no flames. Apartments 206 and 106 below were flooded, displacing both families, he said.




Firefighters responded to the alarm but found no flames. Apartments 206 and 106 below were flooded, displacing both families, he said.

There were no injuries reported.


Report: Man started fire in apartment to “burn bugs” April 8, 2014

A man pulled from a fire on Sunday night told authorities that he started the blaze accidentally — while trying to burn the bugs in his apartment, the Orlando Police Department said.

Orlando police and fire crews were called to the fire at an apartment building on Lakeview Street, near Lake Concord just north of downtown Orlando, about 11:30 p.m.

The man was rescued from his burning apartment and taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center to be treated for smoke inhalation, according to Orlando police.

An officer who checked the apartment afterward described its “deplorable” living conditions in his report:

“There was trash and empty beer cans covering the majority of the floor in the living area and the kitchen,” the officer wrote in his report. “The bedroom where most of the fire damage occurred was also filled with trash and cans.”

The man, whose name has not been released, told authorities he started the fire “to burn the bugs in his home and computer,” according to the police report released Monday.

The officer filled out paperwork for the man to be hospitalized under the state’s Baker Act, according to the report, describing him as “a danger to himself and others.”

The case was turned over to an arson investigator but police said no criminal charges are expected. No other apartments in the building appeared damaged, according to police.


Vampires, nudists, snakes: Nobody does wacky like Florida April 7, 2014


By: Scott Maxwell

Last week, news broke that a congressional candidate in Gainesville had a secret pastime: impersonating vampires. And superheroes.

Some people would call this nutty.

In Florida, we just call it Tuesday.

Seriously, that’s not even our highest-profile vampire story. Remember the “vampire killings” from Lake County?

Some of our stories are heartbreakingly tragic. But so many are also mind-numbingly strange.

In Florida, we do weird the way Kansas does wheat.

Here, giant pet snakes escape. And breed. And then invade our national parks.

We have fish that eat people, alligators that eat people and people who eat people.

Two years ago, when news of the “cannibal attack” broke, the nation let out a collective gasp … until learning it was Miami. Then it all made sense.

We have killer amoebas, hanging chads and diaper-wearing astronauts. (All of which would make awesome rock-band names, by the way.)

We have a town named Christmas … where it never snows. We have the world’s smallest post office and a couple trying to build America’s largest house.

I used to think Florida attracted wacky people. Now I think it creates them.

Take my grandfather, for example.

Early in his life, he was a NASA engineer in Virginia — and as strait-laced and buttoned-down as they came. His passions were photography and crossword puzzles.

Then he moved to Florida. After Grandma died, we worried that our sober and contemplative grandfather would become listless and uninspired.

He became neither of those things. Instead, he became a nudist. (Lending more credence to the notion that it’s never the people you want to see naked at a nudist resort.)

At first, we were all: What the heck, Granddad?

But you know what? He found new life and inspiration. He’d travel down Interstate4 from Ormond Beach to Cypress Cove, where he’d pay strict adherence to the two main rules: Never take pictures, and always place a towel on the bar stool before you sit down.

Florida liberated him. And he spent the remaining, widowed years of his life happy. So you go, Granddad.

By the way, nudity is another one of our weird themes.

•”Nude man found dead on killer whale’s back”

•”Florida Lotto winner seeks to open a nude dude ranch”

•”Blind woman sues nudist colony over heavy dog”

Florida newspapers carry such headlines the way other papers carry horoscopes.

Some of that is understandable. It’s hot down here.

And I don’t mean happy, sand-at-your-toes, wind-in-your-hair hot. I mean sweaty-thighs-stuck-to-your-car-seats, armpit-stains-like-dinner-plates hot. It’s enough to make anyone nutty. And naked.

But it cuts both ways. When it’s hot, it makes us crazy. When it’s pleasant, we attract other states’ crazies. I mean, if it’s January and you’re already planning to run a scam, con or heist, would you rather do it in Buffalo or Boynton Beach?

This state is also lousy with newspapers and TV stations, meaning we have more ink-stained wretches and blow-dried broadcasters than your average state to tell all the weird stories.

Finally, there’s our melting-pot effect.

You simply can’t throw so many different cultures together and not expect some fireworks.

But you know what? That is also part of what makes this state so splendidly unique.

We have character and texture — a bouillabaisse of native and newcomer, sinner and saint, scholar and simpleton.

It’s a fusion that produces a weeklong bacchanalia in Key West and pioneering medical research at the Burnham Institute.

It’s the reason Orlando can turn out just as many people for a Veterans Day parade as it does for Come Out With Pride.

And it explains how a mild-mannered rocket engineer can feel inspired to start a new life by ditching his pocket protector — along with everything else he’s wearing.

And, yes, it’s also how we end up with some of the wackiest politicians in America — including a vampire-impersonating, superhero-mimicking, punk-rock lawyer running for Congress.

Just what we need … another lawyer in Congress.


Man set fire to home because lesbians lived there April 3, 2014

1396464275000-Braulio-Valenzuela-VillanuevaA 73-year-old Miami man, who is also a registered sex offender, faces charges of attempted second-degree murder, arson, and committing a hate crime after he allegedly tried to burn down a home with two women and eight children inside because the women are lesbians.

Miami-Dade Police said Braulio Valenzuela-Villanueva, 73, entered the lot next door to his on NW 27th Avenue and allegedly set fire to a mattress that was leaning against the wall of the trailer occupied by the women and children.

Police said as the fire began to get worse, “the defendant hurried back to his residence.” The fire began to burn the trailer, but there were no smoke detectors inside, police said. A neighbor from across the street saw the fire and began to alert people of the impending danger.

The women and children inside the burning trailer escaped after being awakened by the neighbor from across the street. Police said Valenzuela-Villanueva came out of his home and “casually began observing the fire. In fact one of his neighbors had to compel him to assist bringing a garden hose” to fight the fire.

Miami-Dade Fire Fighters put out the fire, but police said the trailer that was burned sustained “considerable damage.”

Miami-Dade Police said surveillance video recorded by another neighbor captured Valenzuela-Villanueza setting the mattress on fire and several neighbors identified him in the video.

According to the arrest report, after being told of his rights, Valenzuela-Villanueva didn’t admit to setting the fire, but did say he “despised the two adult victims for the simple fact that they were lesbians.”

Further, he stated “Every time he saw them kissing, he felt a deep repugnance and in his opinion they did not deserve to have children.”

Valenzuela-Villanueva is in jail on $230,000 bail.


A guy walks into a bar, drinks $80 worth of shots, sets fire to trash can in the bathroom and punches several people in the face on the way out March 22, 2014

1395450284902A Volusia County man has been arrested after South Daytona police said he set fire to a trash can in a bar bathroom and got into a fight with several people as he tried to leave.

Police said Jason Buchanan walked into a bar on South Ridgewood Avenue and ordered $80 worth of shots of alcohol Friday.

According to investigators, Buchanan, 33, downed all the shots and then set fire to a trash can in the bar’s men’s room.

When Buchanan went to leave, multiple people tried to stop him. Police said he punched them all in the face, including one man over 70 years old.

The fire didn’t do any serious damage, police said.

Buchanan was locked up in the Volusia County Branch Jail on the following charges:

  • Criminal mischief (less than $200)
  • Aggravated battery
  • Defraud inkeeper under $300
  • Assault on a law enforcement officer
  • Battery on a person 65 or older
  • First-degree arson of a building with people present.

Fire building, knife smacking, cursing at PSL Dunkin’ Donuts? March 1, 2014

A woman accused of cutting up paper with a Swiss Army Knife at a Dunkin’ Donuts, building a fire in an ashtray and smacking her knife into a wall got locked up, according to a recently released arrest affidavit.

melissa_miller_mug-thumb-150x186-15238Witnesses to the Feb. 10 incidents in Port St. Lucie gave statements to police indicating Melissa Miller, 42, was “screaming curse words yelling and creating a scene” at a Dunkin’ Donuts on Southwest St. Lucie West Boulevard.

They reported Miller cut paper with her Swiss Army Knife, sparked a fire in an ashtray on the patio and held the knife over it to warm it. After the knife was heated, they reported, Miller began smacking the edged weapon into the wall “all while continuing to curse and yell at bystanders and customers.”

Investigators found Miller sitting on the sidewalk a few blocks away.

She said she was using a knife to cut up paper in an effort to learn how to build a fire.

One way to build a fire involves striking a match and holding the flame to crumpled paper, thus causing the paper to burn. If this flaming paper is positioned under logs or wood in a structure designed to house fires, such as a fireplace or firepit, the flaming paper could ignite the logs or wood to create a fire over which items including marshmallows and hot dogs can be roasted.

Miller, of Port St. Lucie, was arrested on a disturbing the peace charge.


Man, all fired up, set senior complex on fire February 4, 2014

Tampa Police have arrested a man for arson after a fire broke out at an apartment complex near Tampa.

Kenneth%20Haskins%20Bk%2014004627Firefighters evacuated 28 apartments on Sunday night, but were able to contain the fire to a single apartment at Mar Plaza in Temple Terrace. The complex is an elderly affordable living facility. No injuries were reported.

The upstairs unit where the fire began sustained heavy fire, smoke and water damage.

During the investigation, police say 58-year-old Kenneth Haskins, who lives at the facility, made remarks that he had been upset with the property’s management company.

Based on his statements, as well as evidence collected at the scene, police arrested Haskins and charged him with one count of arson.

Investigators tell 10 News Haskins wanted to get back at management after he was told to stop masturbating in front of his open windows and front door.

The assisted living facility is occupied by seniors and disabled people.  Tampa Police say Haskins suffers from severe facial injuries that were a result of a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the face several years earlier.
Four families were displaced by the fire and residents of the remaining units were allowed to return home Sunday night.
The American Red Cross is assisting those displaced by the fire.



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