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Scripps Howard News Service


March 25, 2005

The mystery of how a human finger found its way into a bowl of fast-food chili has sparked a series of investigations that hope to trace the finger back from a San Jose, Calif., restaurant to the hand it was detached from.

Santa Clara County sheriff's officials said they plan to lift a fingerprint from the mystery digit, in the hope that the owner's prints might be listed on a database.

The probes began after a diner at a Wendy's restaurant bit into the 1-3/8-inch piece of a finger Tuesday evening while eating chili.

Investigators from Santa Clara County's Department of Environmental Health are tracing the meat, sauce, beans, spices and frozen vegetables used in the tainted chili back to their producers in hopes of linking the finger to an industrial accident.

"We probably are going to go back as far as the grower of the beans," said Ben Gale, the environmental health director, even as a restaurant spokesman expressed confidence that the digit had not originated in the food-supply process.

County health officials have said that, although repulsive, the finger fragment was well-cooked and unlikely to cause health problems more serious than emotional trauma.

...San Francisco Chronicle

PLEASANT GROVE, Utah - A 20-pound artillery shell loaded with too much gunpowder overshot its Provo Canyon avalanche target Wednesday by about three miles, exploding in the back yard of a couple and piercing three homes with shrapnel.

Remarkably, no one was injured.

Now the Utah Department of Transportation is scrambling to understand what went wrong and make sure it never happens again.

"We took full responsibility for this incident and we're extremely grateful no one was hurt," said Carlos Braceras, deputy director of the department.

The 105 mm shell was fired from a howitzer artillery cannon leased from the U.S. military. The military sends the shells pre-loaded with seven packages of gunpowder. The operators were supposed to remove two. Instead, it was fired fully loaded, and rocketed into the residential neighborhood.

...Salt Lake Tribune

PARKER, Colo. - A married high-school teacher is facing felony sex-assault charges, accused of engaging in an ongoing affair with a troubled sophomore whom she says she wanted to help.

Nicole Barnhart, 35, has admitted to having sexual relations with the boy - one of her students - twice, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

The social-studies teacher initially denied any wrongdoing but later broke down sobbing, saying the teen "begged" her to have sex with him, according to the affidavit.

"He's not like those kids - he tells me he loves me and he wants to make love to me, and everything's OK," the document quoted Barnhart as saying. "My life has been totally ruined."

The teacher, who has two young children, said she befriended the teen because she was worried he may have anger and alcohol problems.

...Rocky Mountain News



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