Cruise Passengers Told to Abandon Ship

A thousand cruise-ship passengers got the fright of their lives when a prankster took over the vessel's public-address system and told them to "abandon ship."

The Miracle, a Carnival Cruise Lines (search) vessel, was only hours away from arriving in New York last Saturday after a week-long Bahamas jaunt, reports the New York Daily News.

Suddenly, at 3:45 a.m., came the "abandon ship" announcement, jolting passengers out of bed.

"People freaked out," Chris Vig, 36, of New Hyde Park, N.Y., told the Daily News. "It was absolute panic."

Thinking terrorists had taken over the ship, hundreds of formerly relaxed vacationers in their pajamas gathered on the third deck, waiting for further announcements.

Ten minutes later, according to Vig, another voice came over the PA, telling passengers everything was fine.

It turned out someone had snuck into a room that, as Carnival officials later put it, was "normally locked and unoccupied," switched on a microphone and made the scary statement.

"Multiple announcements were made by ship's personnel, including the vessel's captain, assuring guests that the initial announcement was an apparent prank and to disregard it," a Carnival statement said. "The captain then personally met and talked with numerous guests to offer further reassurances."

In reality, said Vig, it took the captain about 40 minutes to show up to calm down the panicked passengers.

The identity of the prankster remains unknown.

County Sued for Inmates' Child Support

KNOXVILLE, Ga. (AP) — The grandparents of a child conceived at the Crawford County Jail want the county to give them money to help raise the baby.

LaTonya Finney and her boyfriend Adrian Howard were charged with robbing a convenience store two years ago. Four months later, while an inmate at the Crawford County Jail (search), she became pregnant with her baby, Adrianna.

According to the sheriff, Finney was in the jail from Sept. 17, 2002, until Jan. 24, 2003. Medical records show she got pregnant in mid-November.

Finney's parents, Ronnie and Patricia Finney, who are raising Adrianna while her parents are serving prison sentences, are asking the county to help pay for the baby.

Because their daughter was impregnated while in jail, they argue, Crawford County Sheriff Kerry Dunaway shares some of the responsibility — and the cost — for their daughter's child.

Dunaway said he wasn't even aware of Finney's pregnancy until Howard filed a lawsuit against the sheriff demanding to be released from prison to care for Adrianna.

The state law doesn't specify who is responsible for children conceived in county jails and the case is still pending in Crawford County Superior Court.

"I just think it's a very, very bizarre social conscience these people have that their daughter conceives a child and they think the sheriff is responsible," said county attorney David Mincey Jr., who is handling the case.

The couple said Dunaway granted them a conjugal visit in exchange for information, allowing them 45 minutes together one night in November 2002, but the sheriff said Howard breached prison security. He said Howard used a hair comb to open his cell door and another door that separates male inmates from the females.

Howard, though, said there was no way he could have escaped through to locked cell doors.

"The sheriff let me through the door himself," he told the Macon Telegraph. "It was his decision ... now he wants to change his story about what really happened."

Sheriff Dunaway said the county never had a policy of allowing conjugal visits.

— Thanks to Out There readers Kris P. and Jennifer H.

Creatures of Habit

KINGWOOD, W.Va. (AP) — Two men who allegedly broke into the same store twice in the same night were arrested when they were spotted across the street later the same morning.

Surveillance video shows two people breaking into the Manown Mini Mart before midnight Sunday, and again early Monday morning.

"When the alarm went on the second time and we came out here, we were just thinking, certainly, it's something silly, surely someone just bumped the door or something, certainly they didn't come back," said Linda Huggins, who owns the store with her husband Randy.

Wine coolers, fortified wine and cigarettes were taken from the store, Randy Huggins said.

As the couple was cleaning up after the second break-in, Huggins said he heard an ATV start outside. Walking to a church parking lot across the street, he recognized the men from the surveillance video.

Huggins grabbed Michael Christopher Lovy and deputies caught Zachary Scott Mori, who fled on foot. Both men are 18 and from Waldorf, Md.

"I don't know if they were coming for a third time or just couldn't get the four-wheeler started to get out of here." Randy Huggins said. "They didn't seem like they were real swift."

Lovy and Mori were charged with two counts each of breaking and entering and conspiracy.

Kingwood is about 20 miles southeast of Morgantown.

Spa Offers Chocolate Baths

KLAGENFURT, Austria (AP) — Chocolate lovers have no doubt dreamed of it and now it can be a reality — a dip in a bath full of melted chocolate.

An Austrian health spa is drawing dozens of visitors with its new tasty treatment. The spa says the bubbly brown baths include cocoa butter and claims the combination has restorative properties that include helping protect the skin from developing wrinkles.

One spa worker says clients are encouraged to splash around it in but they aren't allowed to eat any because it's "too fattening."

Accused Drunk Driver Shows Up Sloshed in Court

UNIONTOWN, Pa. (AP) — Something smelled rotten when Michael Hanczyk showed up in court to fight a drunken driving charge. Authorities say it was the booze on his breath.

A judge stopped a hearing Tuesday and ordered the 42-year-old Hanczyk to take a field sobriety test after he and others said they smelled alcohol on Hanczyk's breath.

"Everyone smelled him," said district attorney Nancy Vernon.

A breath test indicated that Hanczyk had a blood alcohol content of 0.296 percent, more than three times the state's legal limit, Vernon said.

Fayette County Judge John Wagner Jr. threatened to put Hanczyk in jail for 30 days for contempt of court, but then said he would wait for a blood test. Hanczyk was taken to a hospital and the hearing was rescheduled.

Hanczyk's attorney, Daniel Hargrove, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment late Tuesday.

Hanczyk was charged with drunken driving after a July 8, 2003, accident in Henry Clay Township, near the West Virginia border.

Police said Hanczyk suddenly stopped his car, setting off a chain-reaction crash with two other vehicles. After two troopers reported smelling alcohol on Hanczyk, he refused to take a field sobriety test but later agreed to take a blood test, which indicated he was drunk, authorities said.

But Hargrove sought to have the charge dismissed, saying police didn't have probable cause to arrest Hanczyk because he was driving safely.

Drug Dealer Glad to Sell to Cop In Uniform

MOUNT STERLING, Ohio (AP) — Undercover officers weren't needed to nab this alleged drug dealer.

William McCrary was charged with selling drugs to a uniformed police officer sitting in his marked cruiser, police said.

"It was one of those things where he got comfortable with thinking Officer [Brian] Botkin would do it," Mount Sterling Police Detective Joe Cox said Tuesday. "Probably every drug dealer's main goal is to get a police officer on their side. Look at where you could go from there."

McCrary, 30, was indicted by a grand jury on July 14 on three counts of trafficking in drugs, all fifth-degree felonies.

"We are probably just as amazed that it went through as most people that read about it would be," Cox said.

McCrary is currently jailed for violating a civil protection order.

Botkin led McCrary and another man to believe he had been a heavy marijuana user before he became an officer in order to establish a relationship with them.

"Our plan was to use him to go up the chain," Botkin said. "But now he's in jail and [his supplier] knows."

Compiled by's Paul Wagenseil.

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