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Dumb Holiday Criminals

For every person who takes the time to plan out and execute the perfect crime, there are numerous others who are caught red-handed thanks to their own sheer stupidity, be it momentary or permanent. Christmas brings out not only the good in many people but the criminals, too. The holiday season inspires plenty of “What Was He/She THINKING?” moments.

The “lovely branches” of a Christmas tree prove irresistible for other criminals. Especially if they’ve had a little too much alcohol instead of eggnog. Like 48-year-old Phillip Menefee of Indiana. In 2009, Portage police were checking into motor noises coming from the vicinity of a Christmas tree lot. Police said the noises were coming from Menefee’s bike, which he had equipped with a motor. Menefee’s alleged weaving as he rode the bike attracted the police’s attention, as did the Christmas tree he had lying across the bike’s handlebars. Police reported that Menefee claimed to have purchased the tree from the closed tree lot, then from a bar. Menefee was charged with public intoxication and theft.

Some criminals just want to spoil the holidays for others. But the dumber ones don’t quite accomplish their goal. Take the unknown criminals who stole the power cord from the town Christmas tree in Haverhill, MA and the bulbs from strings of Christmas lights in Waynesboro, PA, both in 2010. Sure, the lights were dark for a while, but simply replacing the extension cord and light bulbs allowed the festivities to continue.

Just because Santa Claus can climb down and then up a chimney despite his girth doesn’t mean your everyday Joe can. Ask 23-year-old Shon Michael Shanell of Washington. Even though he only weighed 155 pounds, he still got stuck in a 2-story chimney on his way in to burglarize a Seward Park home in February 2010. Neighbors who heard his cries for help and knew it was too late for it to be Santa alerted police, who arrested him after emergency personnel chipped through the chimney to free him. Shanell was sentenced the following August to 17 months in prison for this crime, but was actually lucky-people have died stuck in chimneys during the commission of crimes.

Finally, no matter how long your holiday shopping list, once you’ve stolen something, you probably shouldn’t return to the same store. Especially not the next day. Obviously, 48-year-old Bart Bartie of Florida didn’t think about this in 2010 when he went to the St. Petersburg Wal-Mart. Police say the day before his shopping trip, he allegedly stole the Salvation Army bell ringer’s kettle from the customer service desk. Security personnel recognized Bartie from surveillance footage and he faces felony charges for allegedly stealing up to $200 from the kettle.

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