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Do you live in the Nicest Place in America?

America’s Dumbest Criminals

Expired with a License Some people would rather die than pay their traffic tickets. Just ask Kimberly Du. The 36-year-old resident of Des Moines, Iowa, was scheduled to go to court to face traffic charges when she got a real stroke of luck. She passed away. Last December 15, Polk County Judge William Price received a letter purportedly from Du's mother with the sad news that Kimberly had died ten days earlier in a car accident. Proof was included in the envelope: a death notice that appeared to be a printout from the Des Moines Register website. The very next day, Judge Price threw the case out. But it was soon resurrected, as it were. On January 4, Des Moines police stopped a woman and cited her for speeding and driving with a suspended license. Turns out the driver was none other than the deceased Kimberly Du. Either fraud had been committed against the court or it was time to call Ghostbusters. Right away, the Polk County Attorney's office got to the bottom of things, discovering that the Des Moines Register had never published Du's obituary and that there had been no funeral for the woman. Moreover, Du's mother knew nothing of the letter to the court that she had supposedly written and signed. It was a forgery, and that became the charge against Kimberly Du when she appeared, for real, in court in early March. What to do with someone who tries to avoid traffic charges by committing forgery instead? The judge went easy: a two-year prison sentence that he suspended; two years' probation; a $500 fine; and treatment for substance abuse. But already Du is finding it hard to be back among the living. By late April, she had violated the terms of her probation. No More Free Minutes Cops are used to people phoning in to report a crime. But it's not every day that the call comes from the criminal himself. That's just what happened last December in Nevada, according to this account from Clark County police: Jereme Botiz, 18, and an accomplice drove up to a Payless shoe store in downtown Las Vegas. After his friend staked out the place, Botiz rushed inside, cloaked in a hooded sweatshirt, a blue bandanna covering his face. Brandishing a pistol, he cracked it against the head of a store clerk, sending her to the floor. Then, tossing a backpack her way, he ordered the terrified woman to fill it with money from the store's safe. Once he had the cash, Botiz raced outside, where he was nearly hit by a woman searching for a parking space in the lot. Dodging her vehicle, Botiz ran to his getaway car and, in seconds, was gone. He left something behind, though. The woman noticed his discarded cell phone lying on the pavement and, after she finished parking, took it inside the store. Police detectives arrived soon after, and were handed the gift of the phone. Just as they were deciding what to do next, the cell phone rang. One of the detectives answered, and a man's voice said that the phone belonged to a guy named Jereme, who needed it back. "Who's this?" the detective asked. But the caller hung up. Minutes later the phone rang again, and the detectives had one of their female colleagues answer. This time, the voice said he was Jereme and he wanted his phone back. Pretending to be a ditzy shopaholic, the detective chatted with him about how she and her boyfriend were at Payless trying to find a good bargain. Jereme couldn't resist asking if anything was going on in the parking lot. The detective talked on about her shopping exploits, until Jereme finally cut her off. "Lady, stop it! I just want my phone back." The detective suggested they meet the next day at a nearby Starbucks and Jereme said he'd be there -- wearing a Tennessee Titans football jersey, so he'd be easy to recognize. Sure enough, the next day, police waiting at the Starbucks saw a man stroll in, wearing a Titans jersey, looking a bit nervous. He had reason to be. Jereme looked up to see his accomplice being apprehended back at the car, and he broke into a run. Police caught up with him within a mile. His trial is set for October. Recounting the Botiz incident, Clark County prosecutor Frank Coumou can't help but laugh. "After 15 years on the job," he says, "I'm still amazed at how stupid these guys can be." All Tanked Up Okay, granted, if you're cruising around town roaring drunk, it can be hard to fake sobriety when the police nab you. But these two guys didn't even come close. In Waupaca, Wisconsin, Daniel Nordell was waiting at a traffic light when a cop approached his car. It seems the officer got a pretty good clue that Nordell wasn't in his right mind after noticing the way he was driving along the city street: backward. The transmission's shot, Nordell explained, and the car will only go in reverse. What was harder for Nordell to explain was his obvious intoxication. When the police ran a check, they discovered he'd been arrested 12 times for drunk driving. You'd think with a record like that, a guy would be extra careful not to back himself into more trouble. Just one month before, a Wisconsin cop stopped another driver who gave a pretty good hint he was soused. When a Thiensville police officer pulled over Christopher Kennedy and walked up to the driver's window, Kennedy was already fishing in his wallet -- and then tried to hand the officer a credit card. "Do you know why I stopped you?" the policeman asked. "Speeding?" Kennedy mumbled almost incoherently. After failing a sobriety test, he was arrested for driving under the influence. So what had gotten the cop's attention in the first place? Mainly, it was that odd bit of hose dangling from Kennedy's gas tank. After fueling up at a Kwik Trip station, he drove off in a haze of oblivion -- forgetting the hose was still attached to his car. Oops.