In movies and TV, it's common for a crime to be solved by the sudden appearance of an unexpected witness, or a damning piece of evidence turning up completely out of the blue. We call those moments "deus ex machina," or "we've written ourselves into a corner, and this episode needs to end in three minutes." However, real crimes are sometimes occasionally solved thanks to coincidences that are so insane, it's almost as if the universe was telling the criminals that they had selected the wrong career path ...
In 1994, two drug traffickers were flying over South Florida with more than half a ton of cocaine in their cargo hold when they found themselves being followed by a U.S. Customs jet because, as will soon become clear, they were the unluckiest criminals in recorded history.
Even unluckier than those of us who have to fly with NO cocaine.
Panicked and lacking other options, the duo dropped altitude and started dumping the contraband over the city of Homestead, which is exactly what you want to do to get a customs jet to stop following you. At the same time, the city's chief of police Curt Ivy was meeting with a group of concerned Floridians with the department's crime prevention officer to discuss what actions should be taken in order to keep their already fairly quiet neighborhood crime-free. That's when 75 pounds of cocaine hurtled into the ground next to them, as if a Santa Claus with a major gambling debt to a Colombian cartel had just thoroughly fucked up his first mule run.
The customs jet, not fooled by the two outlaws' daring gambit of "obviously throwing huge bundles of drugs out of their airplane," continued to follow the plane until it landed at a nearby airfield, at which point the two men were promptly arrested. It's difficult to avoid suspicion when the chief of police himself witnesses you frantically tossing bales of cocaine out over the South Florida landscape.
"So then I secured the sevent-- sixty pounds of cocaine and..."
Oh, and one of the other bales of severely illegal drugs came rocketing down out of the sky and careened through the parking lot of a church before crushing a Cadillac, which probably confused the parishioners unless one of them had just completed a very specific prayer.
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Virginia Maiden was probably less than thrilled in 2013 when she stepped outside to head off to work, only to discover that her car had been stolen by an unidentified bandit. Ever the trooper, Virginia still managed to make it to her job at a McDonald's on time, because when you are in a situation where your stolen car could make you late for your shift at a fast food restaurant, you cannot afford to miss a second of income. Luckily, the universe decided to reward her work ethic.
Tim Boyle/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Unluckily, not with a new job.
Virginia looked up during her shift to see her stolen Toyota SUV sitting in the drive-through lane, because car thieves apparently celebrate success the same way little-league teams do. She called the cops, who made it to the scene just in time to arrest the car's driver, who had an entire bounty of stolen department-store clothing in the backseat. The thief had apparently decided to make a day of it.
Meanwhile, back in 2003, local ne'er-do-well Gordon Moore decided to boost a 1992 Plymouth Sundance, presumably making him the first person in history to have ever stolen that car.
Bask in its splendor.
However, as Moore was cruising around town a little bit later, one of the Plymouth's tires blew out, and, to his dismay, he discovered that the car's owner had neglected to purchase a lug wrench with which to change it. Luckily for Moore, there were a couple of good Samaritans nearby playing with their kids. Considerably less lucky for Moore, one of the good Samaritans was Elizabeth Lambright, the sister of the man who rightfully owned the coveted Sundance. She and her husband simply blocked Moore from leaving with their own vehicle and waited for police to arrive.
And then there was Michael Chapman of Ohio, who, after stealing a car, found himself lost and in need of some directions. Pulling off Route 151, he knocked on the door of Thomas Eltringham and asked for help. Eltrington thought the car looked a lot like the one his daughter owned (it presumably had a vanity plate reading "THMSDTR"), so, after giving Chapham directions, he called his daughter, who confirmed that her car had just been stolen. They notified the police, and Chapman was quickly arrested, possibly because he had gotten lost again and pulled into the police station to ask for directions (OK, not really).
In 2014, pro surfer Ross Moresi had thousands of dollars in surfboards stolen from his backyard, which was kind of a silly place to keep them if we're being totally honest. The cops told Moresi that, with no witnesses, there wasn't much they could do for him, prompting Moresi to do a little detective work of his own by visiting local surf shops in the hope that the thief had tried to fence his prized boards.
Sure enough, Moresi's hunch paid off -- he tracked down his stolen possessions and even got the thief's full name and license number from the store where he had pawned them. Armed with this new evidence, Moresi headed back to the police station. While patiently waiting for someone to come speak to him, a parolee walked into the station for his scheduled check-in. Moresi overheard the man give his name to the desk sergeant and realized it was the same name he had gotten from the surf shop -- the man who stole his surfboards was standing next to him in the lobby of the police station.
"Just registering my board theft quota, as required by the terms of my parole."
Moresi pointed this out to the police, who helpfully arrested the thief, Daniel Byrne, charging him with the decidedly nonradical crime of surf-harshing. In accordance with Australian law, Byrne was later sentenced to stand alone in the Australian wilderness, for five full minutes, covered in scorpion cologne.
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In 2012, Gary Robert Haines was cruising around LaBelle, Florida, looking for a place to burgle, when he came upon the empty home of David Zehntner. However, after using his master cat-burgling skills to comb the house for possible points of ingress, Haines determined that there was no possible way to break inside. Not wanting to walk away empty-handed, he spotted a trailer in the driveway and decided to hook it up to his truck because, as every one of us knows, trailers are where most people keep all of their treasure. Haines then drove off with the trailer, choosing to ignore the small aircraft that had been circling above him the whole time, because he had apparently learned nothing from the powerful lessons of Goodfellas. This proved to be his undoing.
It was a simpler time, before we all feared drones watching us masturbate.
The pilot of the airplane was none other than David Zehntner himself, flying his private craft in from North Carolina when he happened to spot Haines's car in his driveway. Zehntner descended his Cessna to 300 feet and began circling his property for 10 minutes straight, watching every stage of Haines's calamitous burglary attempt. At several points, Haines even looked up in confusion at the plane that had taken an obvious interest in his blatantly illegal activity, but boldly decided to think nothing of it and proceed to steal Zehntner's trailer literally right out from under him.
Charlotte County Sheriff's Office
To be fair, he seems like a guy that looks at most things with confusion.
Zehntner called the cops, who quickly arrested Haines for grand theft. We assume he followed the patrol car all the way to jail in his Cessna, doing Maverick-style tower buzzes and bitchin' inside loops to let Haines know what time it was.
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Back in 2009, a pair of twin brothers in the Netherlands came across a 14-year-old kid riding around on his bike. Proving that sometimes both twins are the evil one, they dragged the boy off his bike, relieving him of his cell phone and the $230 in Euros he had on him. That seems like a lot of cash for a 14-year-old, but maybe he was a very frugal saver.
It's a total coincidence that that's about the price of an ounce of weed.
Anyway, the twins ran off, and the boy reported the incident to the police. Unfortunately, there were no other witnesses to the crime and no other pieces of evidence to pursue, so no arrest was made and the case went cold ... until six months later, when the boy was scrolling through his town on Google Street View and found a photo of himself and his attackers, jauntily following alongside him on his bicycle just moments before they activated their Wonder Twins powers and stole all of his money.
Realizing he now had a photograph identifying his muggers, the boy contacted the police again, and they were able to get a clear version of the photo. Apparently, this wasn't the twins' first run-in with local authorities because a robbery detective immediately recognized one of the brothers (because they were identical twins, it is impossible to know whether or not he was mistaken), and the pair were brought in.
This isn't the only time randomly checking Google Earth has solved a crime, by the way -- in 2013, an unnamed Mississippi man was using Google Earth to survey his property when he spotted what later turned out to be an abandoned SUV, one that had been reported stolen months earlier. This discovery let the sheriff's department finally prosecute their chief suspect in the crime, and everyone lived happily ever -- after as long as they don't think too much about the implications of a private company having the entire planet under constant surveillance.
In the 1970s, Kefelegn Alemu Worku served as a guard of a political prison for the Derg dictatorship in Ethiopia, where his job was torturing and killing anyone who was against the brutal junta. Alemu Worku was apparently super good at this job -- in addition to shooting prisoners in the stomach with his Kalashnikov and ordering the bullet wounds to be stuffed with newspapers and lit on fire, he would routinely force his captives to drink each other's spilled blood. You know, the kind of guy who would have trouble finding work if a brutal dictatorship wasn't hiring.
via Denver Post
All slots are currently filled at Comcast.
After the Derg regime fell, Alemu Worku sensed this was probably a good idea to get the hell out of town. He was able to sneak into the U.S., settling in Colorado where he lived peacefully until 2011, when his appetite finally got him caught.
You see, there's a place in Denver called the Cozy Cafe known for having good Ethiopian food, and, craving some hometown flavor, Alemu Worku decided to pay it a visit. While he sat there, waiting for his food, a man named Kiflu Ketema approached him and said, "I think I know you." This was the understatement of the century -- Ketema was actually one of the prisoners Alemu Worku had tormented. After realizing he had just spotted the embodiment of Satan at the Cozy Cafe, Ketema notified federal authorities and had him arrested.
"Thanks for tip! In hindsight, maybe we should have been looking for this guy."
Several former prisoners came forward to testify at Worku's eventual trial, and the jury found him guilty after only three hours of deliberation, which still seems like entirely too much time. Worku was sentenced to 22 years in prison, and, if he ever gets released, he will probably be extradited to Ethiopia to be hanged. We assume he took all of this into account when calculating his tip at the Cozy Cafe.
Kevin Phelan is a New York-based reporter who interviews people like Dave "Uncle Joey" Coulier, Jeff "Chunk from The Goonies" Cohen, female professional wrestlers, and, for some reason, Dr. Ruth. You can book his face here or tweet at him here.
Turns out Hollywood magic happens all the time in real life. Find out how Obama's first presidency is related to the mark of the Beast in 29 Mind-Blowing Coincidences You Won't Believe Happened. Or check out 21 Bizarre Coincidences You Won't Believe Happened and learn about the luckiest man on Earth.
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