Big Lizard in My Front Yard

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It's not every day you find a giant reptile in Kansas.

Shelly Davis walked out into her Lawrence front yard Tuesday afternoon to see what was upsetting the crows — and encountered what looked like a crocodile.

"I thought, 'Oh, no way,'" she told the Lawrence Journal-World. "I wondered if someone was playing a trick on me. Then I thought, 'Oh, it looks too real.'"

Davis ran back inside to make sure the half-dozen kids in her house — she operates an in-home day-care center — didn't wander out into the yard. Then she called her husband and animal control.

"I didn't want to take my eyes off of it because I was worried it might get into our pond, or be hidden in the garden for me to find later," she said.

Soon, the police came. So did animal control. And the fire department. Plus some neighbors. By that point, it was safe for the kids to watch, too.

"I thought, at least before I retire, I've got to see an alligator," joked Police Capt. Ed Brunt. "This is the first time in my 27-year career I've seen anything like this."

Animal-control officers wrestled the nearly three-foot-long beast into a cage.

"It put up a little snapping struggle," observed Davis.

Kansas Department of Wildlife (search) officer Justin Koehn, who also showed up for the party, said the animal was probably a caiman (search), a close relative of the crocodile, that someone had raised from infancy and then turned loose when it got too big.

If no one claims the caiman after three days, animal control will try to place it in a zoo or similar facility.

"I hope it was the only one," said Davis. "I think I've lost my fear of snakes."

Please Help Yourselves, Officers

RICHMOND, Calif. (AP) — It's a case, police say, where some officers apparently got caught with their hands in a cookie store.

A security camera showed at least six Richmond police officers pouring cold beverages behind the counter of a closed cookie shop while searching for a gunman at a mall, the Contra Costa Times reported, citing unidentified police sources.

The management of the Mrs. Fields Original Cookies store at Hilltop Mall (search) reported the incident after a security camera captured officers on July 15 helping themselves to icy beverages from dispensers, the newspaper said.

A police spokesman declined to comment Tuesday to The Associated Press. Acting Police Chief Terry Hudson told the paper Monday that he can't comment other than to say the police investigation remains unresolved.

Dozens of officers from Richmond, the California Highway Patrol (search) and the Contra Costa Sheriff's Office searched the mall for hours that night after a security guard surprised two masked burglars trying to open a jewelry store's security gate.

One of the burglars fired a handgun, and then the burglars and guard ran in opposite directions. Nobody was injured, and no suspects or weapons were found.

"This was not just a group of officers out on a frolic," said Mary Sansen, a lawyer representing the officers on behalf of the Richmond Police Officers Association. "A couple of them were (dehydrated) to the point of desperation."

— Thanks to Out There reader Don W.

Second-Hand Smallpox — Dirt Cheap!

PRINCE GEORGE, British Columbia (AP) — Andrew Knickle found something he hardly expected — or wanted — after he haggled down the price of a box of sailing tarpaulins to $3 (US $2.50) at a yard sale.

"It was a kind of a hard, plastic tube with a screw cap that was labeled 'smallpox vaccine,'" Knickle said. "It scared me. All kinds of things went through my head, wondering if this could be meant for some evil purpose in this day and age of bioterrorism."

When he shook the package, which bore a label from Connaught Laboratories in Willowdale, Ontario, and an expiration date of 1973, it was evident that something was inside, he said.

"Usually something like this is under tight control, and I think it's very unusual that it popped up in a box of tarps," Knickle said.

Northern Health Authority (search) officials retrieved the still-sealed vial.

Medical health officer Dr. Lorna Medd said the "watered-down, cousin-of-smallpox vaccine" would not have been active and posed no health risk.

"In 1972 they stopped immunizing children for smallpox," Medd said. "Our supposition is that this vial was somehow not collected from a military office, a health unit or a doctor's office and it just got lost."

Drug Dealer's Lottery Win Confiscated

BROWNSVILLE, Texas (AP) — A convicted drug dealer rolled snake eyes Wednesday when an appeals court ruled he can't keep his lottery winnings because he bought the lucky ticket with drug proceeds.

Jose Luis Betancourt was convicted in May 2003 of conspiracy and two counts of possession with intent to distribute cocaine.

The jury had ruled then that Betancourt, a Mexican citizen, should forfeit half his interest in the lottery jackpot — about $5.5 million — because the ticket was purchased with his ill-gotten gains.

On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said federal law allows the government to seize all property and proceeds obtained from drug trafficking.

"Mr. Betancourt's luck ran out, and appropriately so," said U.S. Attorney Chuck Rosenberg.

The appeals court also upheld Betancourt's drug trafficking conviction and his sentence of more than 24 years in prison.

The U.S. attorney's office did not immediately return a call late Wednesday about whether the funds had been forfeited during the appeals process.

Good Times, Good Times

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Joining political heavyweights and police colleagues at Police Chief Michael Chitwood's farewell party was a former Portland resident who may have been the first person arrested in the city by the longtime chief.

"He actually picked me up and carried me to the paddy wagon," said David Turner, 56, recalling how he was flat on his back in the path of a bulldozer to protest a building demolition when Chitwood made his presence known.

"I think I was the first person in Portland he arrested," said Turner, who now lives in Montreal and Sarasota, Fla.

He said he happened to be passing through Maine this week, saw a poster advertising a going-away party for Chitwood and couldn't resist showing up for the Wednesday night send-off.

After 17 years as chief in Maine's largest city, Chitwood, 61, was leaving Thursday to begin his new duties as head of the department in Upper Darby, Pa., just outside his native Philadelphia.

Like so many others, Turner wanted to say goodbye.

"I was always very impressed by him," Turner said. "We used to have these little neighborhood meetings, and he would show up."

World's Largest Personals Ad

CANANDAIGUA, N.Y. (AP) — It sounds a little corny.

A farmer looking for love has planted a personals ad, using corn stalks in a cow pasture. It reads: "S.W.F Got-2 [love symbol] Farm'n."

Underneath is a 1,000-foot-long arrow pointing single white females to his house.

"It only took me about an hour — I did it with a corn planter in May," Pieter DeHond said Wednesday as he removed weeds from the 18-acre field. "I was just horsing around."

In place of a newspaper ad, DeHond said he decided on an impulse to use up the extra corn seed left after spring planting at his 200-acre Pleasure Acres (search) farm in western New York.

"I wouldn't place a personal ad in the paper. To me it seems desperate," he added, laughing. "This is more of a fun thing. I put this out in a field where nobody could see it unless you flew over it."

The 41-year-old divorced father said running a business and looking after his two teenagers doesn't leave a lot of room for socializing.

His corn stalk appeal, featured this week in his hometown Daily Messenger newspaper, has already drawn quite a few phone calls and e-mails.

"I'd be lying if I told you I wasn't a little proud," DeHond said.

Click in the photo box above to see a horticultural appeal.

Compiled by's Paul Wagenseil.

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