Too weird to be true? Just facts!

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 31 2003 12:00 a.m. MST

West Jordan's Zach Bass and his sister Brittany look over "Jingle Buds" at Festival of Trees. The tree earned $500.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News

While the editors combined their brainpower to produce the Deseret Morning News' Top 10 story selections of 2003, another crack research team (consisting of approximately one lowly reporter) suffered spells of seasickness from studying reels of microfiche and acquired permanently ink-stained hands from poring through archives to come up with another year-end compilation.

Items in this collection of the Weirdest and Worst Local Stories of 2003 range from simply strange to fodder suitable for late-night talk shows. (It may or may not be a coincidence that Utah County seems to have more than its share of head-scratching items.)

The best part? After this sentence, you won't read a single word about Elizabeth Smart, a state leader turned environmentalist, a downtown dilemma over a park and preachy protesters, or about a road that supposedly used to be a main street in the big city.

And, by the way, this story is not sponsored by the Crossroads Nordstrom.

Weirdest case of crying wolf over a crime that never happened: After being reported missing, Kelvin Bailey, mayor of Eagle Mountain, called the Utah County Sheriff's Office a day later and claimed he'd been kidnapped while stopping to help a stranded motorist on a hunting trip. Bailey said he'd escaped his armed captor in Barstow, Calif. While meeting with detectives and FBI agents, however, the mayor admitted he was feeling pressure and unappreciated so he fabricated the carjacking story.

Weirdest case of crying wolf over a crime that never happened Part II: A 31-year-old pregnant Lehi woman in January admitted concocting her claim that she was attacked and stabbed by a man in a security guard uniform at her home.

Worst campaign-theme sequel: "Rocky II" is the undisputed champion — just ask Frank Pignanelli and MGM/United Artists, who considered taking legal action over the trademarked slogan in August. On the bright side, at least Mayor Anderson didn't sing "Eye of the Tiger."

Most flak over flag flaps: A Salt Lake City police officer was told to remove the U.S. flags from his patrol car by a supervisor because it could be deemed offensive to the public. After receiving national attention, the police department's policy was quickly revised/clarified to allow officers to display American flags. Later on, a Park City woman was warned by officers that she could be arrested for desecrating the Stars and Stripes because she placed a flag with a black peace sign on it on her front door to protest the war in Iraq.

Worst missionary story: Two men dressed as LDS missionaries — with name tags, white shirts and all — tried conning (instead of converting) an American Fork computer salesman. They claimed to be on an errand for a local bishop, saying he needed a computer for a disabled member of his congregation who had recently been robbed. One of the perpetrators later received a mission call of sorts — from the Utah County Jail.

Worst layover story/most likely to end up on "Dumb Criminals" special: During a two-hour stop on a cross-country bus trip, a 67-year-old New Jersey man allegedly decided to rob a Gateway jewelry store. While making his getaway dash with the cash, however, the man left his bus ticket and luggage in the taxi cab. His layover was prolonged after getting nabbed by authorities at the bus station.

Most unlikely candidates for Las Vegas tourism/art appreciation board: Members of the Nebo School District Board of Education, who re-rejected on moral grounds the request by Springville High's Russian language and art history students to visit rare art displays in Sin City hotels in January. Parents eventually chartered a bus for their Red Devils.

Worst signs of the times: In January, a Weber District school bus was pulled over in Utah County by a Utah Highway Patrol trooper after concerned passers-by noticed students holding up posters that said, "Help us!" (false alarm) and "Hannibal Lecter is on board!" (he wasn't).

Get The Deseret News Everywhere