By: Mark Fitzgerald
The strangest and likely most e-mailed story in many parts today — on a day when the governor of New York resigned because of a call-girl scandal — belonged not to New York City’s tabloids, but The Hutchinson News in far western Kansas.
“Oh, I knew this one would get picked up,” Newsroom Editor Jason Probst said with a laugh.
And how. The News reported the incredibly bizarre case of a woman in Ness City, Kan., who sat on her boyfriend’s toilet for two years — becoming stuck to the seat as her skin literally grew around it.
For all that time, the boyfriend, whom authorities would not identify, took her food and water, and, he told Ness County Sheriff’s officers, begged her to come out. But he apparently never thought to call for help until Feb. 27.
It came from a classic phone tip — but editors at first, naturally, assumed the woman was dead.
In an account of the case by Associated Press reporter Roxana Hegeman — the one rocketing around office e-mails nationwide — Ness County Sheriff Bryan Whipple said the 35-year-old at first insisted nothing was wrong, and she didn’t want to leave.
She was eventually persuaded to go a hospital by emergency medical services personnel who pried the toilet seat off with a pry bar, and, as Sheriff Whipple said, “the seat went with her to the hospital.” Her legs had appeared to atrophy, he added.
Ness City is some 200 miles from Hutchinson, but it’s in the News’ circulation area, and it was there first with the story. “It wasn’t ours, I guess it was Hutchinson’s, because that’s where I read it,” Jerry Clarke, editor and publisher of the local weekly, the Ness County News, told E&P.
The story was a classic phone tip, Hutchinson News’ Probst said.
“One of our reporters got a tip from someone who said he’d heard about a woman found bound to the toilet,” Probst said. “Everyone here was operating on the idea that she was dead. You get that sometimes, someone in an abandoned house.”
But when the reporter, Edie Hall, called the Ness County sheriff, he didn’t want to release any information, Probst said. Eventually he laid out the story to assure the reporter the woman was not dead.
Nor is the story, Probst said.
“Stay tuned, because we’re sending her out there,” he said. “So far everything’s been done by phone, but you’ve got to be there to see what affect it’s had.”