Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Vet Unsheathed From Reality, A Dead Hero and an Accidental Gunshot Wound

On New Years Day 1972, Robert Widgren, a 26 year old Vietnam veteran from Detroit, forced his way into a car driven by Kathleen Hannon, 18 and occupied by two of her teenage friends, Debbie Perrin, 18, and Debbie Hennessy, 16, as well.

They had been pulled over a few minutes earlier for a traffic violation and thought the police were following them. They parked on a side street off of Telegraph in Dearborn Heights and Widgren, who had been trailing them and flashed his lights -- a signal which they misinterpreted as a police flasher -- pushed his way into the car, brandished a knife and ordered Shannon to drive.

When one of the girls told him that they needed to pick up a relative at a nearby late night diner Widgren agreed to let them go and directed Shannon to pull over onto another side street. There he ordered them to disrobe.

Ms. Hennessy began to cry and Widgren leaned over the seat and stabbed her in the neck and shoulder. Ms. Perrin escaped but was also stabbed in the neck before breaking free from the car. Widgren drove away with Hannon and stabbed her 23 times before dumping her body in a field. Hennessy and Perrin were taken to WCGH where the latter was in critical condition and the former released later that day.

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James Smeed, 61, a passenger train engineer, died pulling the emergency brake on a train that had breached an open switch and barreled towards a freight train. It crashed through the caboose and demolished three cabs before overturning.

His fireman, Floyd Dennis, flung himself into the coal tender when he realized a collision was inevitable and was trapped in the steaming hot rubble for four hours before being rescued. A sheriff's deputy, Lon Swisher, dug through the burning coals with only a pair of gloves on to rescue the trapped man. Smeed was pronounced dead at Eloise.

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William G. Schultz, a 22-year-old from Detroit was accidentally shot by his hunting buddy Floyd Wishuzn when he stepped in front of the shotgun the latter man had just fired at a pheasant. The casualties of war were the possible right arm and leg which were up for amputation if they didn't respond to treatment.

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