News From the Crime Blotter

Just Happy to See Him


A 31-year-old Las Vegas man found at the airport with lizards in his underwear was fined $500 and sentenced to three years probation for smuggling.

Don D. Astorga, an auto detailer and reptile collector, offered no explanation before or after his sentencing on Friday about why he was traveling with nine dead and three live lizards in his pants. Two of the lizards were monitors — a federally protected species.

Astorga was arrested June 9, 1999, at McCarran International Airport by a Las Vegas police detective who later testified he became suspicious about strange bulges in Astorga’s crotch.

A voluntary search turned up 12 young lizards and an egg wrapped in tube socks. The longest of the animals was about 12 inches long, police said. The three that survived the airplane trip later died.

Astorga provided various accounts of where he got the animals, saying first that he obtained them in the Philippines and later that he bought them at a pet store in Los Angeles, police said.

Las Vegas, Reptile Capital


Sending stuff via e-mail and snail mail is fine. Using snake mail, on the other hand, isn’t.

Edward Tierney, 73, was found guilty Tuesday of two misdemeanors for mailing a venomous rattlesnake to an undercover law enforcement officer in Pennsylvania.

Tierney was accused of violating Nevada law by transporting and selling a rattlesnake without the permission of the Nevada Department of Wildlife.

Robert Croll, an officer with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission who was posing as a customer, paid $204 for two rattlesnakes after responding to an ad Tierney placed on the Internet last year.

Tierney mailed the first snake to Croll in a small cardboard box on Aug. 5, 1999, evidence showed. Two more followed.

Tierney will be sentenced March 6. Public defender Rene Valladares said his client plans to appeal.

Adding Insult to Robbery

A L B U Q U E R Q U E, N.M.

When it comes to describing bank robbers, the FBI has been known to be less than tactful.

The agency is looking for a woman with “a bad hair dye job and a very large derriere” and a man with “an unusually large nose” as suspects in three Monday bank robberies, Supervisory Agent Doug Beldon said.

Beldon said the woman, wearing a dark knitted cap, dark slacks and a red Christmas-decorated sweater, robbed a Bank of America in the early afternoon. A woman who robbed a First Security Bank around 2:15 p.m. matched the description except that she was wearing a white hat and coat, he said.

The woman was described as being in her 30s and about 5-foot-2 and 165 pounds.

The man, meanwhile, robbed a Wells Fargo Bank around noon, less than a block from the Bank of America robbed by the woman.

Conclusive Proof of Innocence

D O N I P H A N, Mo. Authorities dismissed murder charges against two young men who had bragged about killing a man and burying him in the Mark Twain National Forest, after their “victim” was found alive in Arkansas.

Last month, Adam W. Wuesthoff, 17, and Karl R. Wright, 20, were charged with first-degree murder in the death of 21-year-old Paul Higgs, who had not been seen for several weeks following an argument with the suspects outside the southeast Missouri town.

“One of the suspects told more than one person that he had shot and killed Paul Higgs and buried him in the woods,” Ripley County Sheriff Mike Cochran said. “That’s where we got started.”

Police spent five days looking for a body, but were unable to find one. Still, murder charges were filed against Wuesthoff and Wright. They were dismissed Tuesday when Higgs was discovered living in Arkansas.

“I met with him and talked with him,” Cochran said. “He was off in Arkansas and didn’t know anyone was looking for him.”

Cochran described Higgs as a loner who had been living with one of the suspects in late October but was asked to leave. Cochran said Higgs told police both suspects fired shots at him before he left.

Crime Blotter is a weekly feature of This week’s briefs came from The Associated Press.