Often, lunch hour for students—and perhaps adults—is a respite from the pressures of the day. Conversely, this period of tranquility for some may also be a moment of burden for disturbed cafeteria workers who have temporarily lost their minds.
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The following colorful characters are the epitome of unhinged kitchen staff whose impatience and irrational logical led to both humorous and tragic sets of circumstances.
10 Marsupial Cuisine
The head cook at a Nebraska Panhandle school in Potter was fired after mixing questionable ingredients in the chili he made for students in October 2018. On that fateful fall day, Kevin Frei had the bright idea to augment the chili’s beef with none other than kangaroo meat.
When confronted about the exotic protein that clearly did not taste like chicken, Frei admitted what he had done. But he claimed that the contents of his recipe were leaner and more nutritious than beef. Although the sly chef repeatedly provided documentation about the meat’s nutritional value, Frei was given his walking papers. In the days following his dismissal, reports of students falling ill from the chili began to emerge.
Coincidentally, the school district’s superintendent, Mike Williams, resigned one week later. The Potter-Dix Board of Education voted unanimously, 5-0, to accept his resignation. In the end, no explanation was given for this action. To date, the school’s cafeteria has been marsupial free—or so they’ve said.
9 Thumbs Up!
In Hyannis, Massachusetts, a cafeteria worker at Barnstable High School was using the vegetable slicer while preparing that day’s meal. At some point, the woman’s attentiveness strayed, causing her to slice the top of her thumb clean off.
With blood spraying the veggies and kitchen hysterics at an all-time high, the staff managed to eventually stop the bleeding. Once assured that the automatic slicing machine was sanitized and all nearby food had been thrown out, the employees carried on prepping for lunch.
Fast-forward to the following day, one that began like any other—free of frenzy and gore. By lunchtime, however, all would change in a disgustingly memorable way.
While biting into her turkey-and-tomato sandwich, a female student tasted something peculiar. Upon spitting out the special ingredient, she came to realize that she was chewing on a small piece of a human thumb.
After losing her appetite, the student became quite offended, causing yet another uproar in the cafeteria. According to one enthusiastic eyewitness, “Our lunch is our most valuable time, and now we have to eat fingers.”
Health inspectors arrived at the school the following day and were shown the delightful appendage, fingernail and all. Tensions eventually subsided when Roseanne Pawelec, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Department of Health, reassured the public that blood-borne diseases cannot be transmitted through food.
“We understand this is very upsetting,” Pawelec said, “but there is no public health risk, and we want to make sure people know that.”
8 Hand In The Cookie Jar
It is safe to assume that cafeteria workers are not “rolling in dough.” On the other hand, the following greedy green bean providers discovered an effortless way of cashing in on slinging the day’s edibles. Alma Julia Rodriguez, 52, of Butler Elementary School in Arlington, Texas, was taken into custody after it came to light that she had stolen up to $30,000.
Surprisingly, her efforts in undermining the “system” were not as ambitious as a pair of tag team sisters from New Canaan, Connecticut. From 2012 to 2017, 61-year-old Joanne Pascarelli and 67-year-old Marie Wilson funneled $478,588 from Saxe Middle School and New Canaan High School by pocketing the cash of children.
After the school district installed new software meant to track cash intake in 2016, the embezzling siblings were fingered and eventually admitted to wrongdoing. Yet they pleaded innocent in court to all charges.
Still, if $500,000 isn’t enough to satisfy one’s avarice, there’s always North Springs High’s former cafeteria manager Brenda Watts. In January 2014, Watts was fired by the Fulton County school district in Georgia after her profitable, long-running scheme tallied roughly $1.35 million over a 15- to 20-year period.
According to an arrest warrant, Watts conducted her indictable transactions in a “cash-only line” for which there were no records. At one point, she was allegedly stealing up to $500 a day from the cafeteria. Eventually, Watts pleaded guilty to one count of theft by conversion and was sentenced to a lengthy zero days in jail. She was also ordered to repay the money she had stolen.
7 Volatile Frustration
It’s safe to assume that working with children on a daily basis can be quite exhausting and troublesome. But the following cafeteria workers took their aggravation to new heights. After a parent noticed an abrasion on her son’s neck in 2017, authorities were notified, sparking an investigation in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania.
According to reports, 66-year-old Agnes Catherine Means of Rice Elementary allowed her frustration to get the best of her while scanning children’s lunch cards for payment. Working at the register, Means decided to vent her anger in a logical manner by forcefully yanking on the lanyards of six students, ages seven and eight, which sent two children to the clinic. The no-nonsense senior citizen was subsequently fired and charged with two counts of simple assault and six counts of harassment.
A similar incident occurred in Montville, Connecticut, when 53-year-old Cynthia Ricarla Horsley channeled her inner Chuck Norris during lunch hours in 2018. After purposely shoving an 11-year-old waiting in line for food, Horsley returned at the end of the hour to finish her assault. As the boy was finishing up his meal, the irritated employee casually strolled by the youth and forcefully pushed his head back, causing him to fall out of his seat.
Apparently, this was not the first time that she had unleashed her fury. Previously, she had been reported for grabbing a girl by the neck after she was “asked to move and didn’t.” Horsley was later charged with risk of injury to a child and second-degree breach of peace.
At the time of Horsley’s arrest, Montville High School was already under scrutiny after a teacher was fired for organizing “slap fights” among students in his classroom. In addition, the school district’s superintendent as well as Montville High’s principal and assistant principal were all arrested for failing to report the abuse.
6 Buzz Before Lunch
In 2017, after-school activities were abruptly cut short for Philadelphia cafeteria worker Robert Lumpkin. The 31-year-old was taken into custody after he was spotted on surveillance video selling marijuana to students at George Washington High.
Even so, one silver lining must be the fact that he did not sell crystal meth to the kids—unlike Deanna Hatley of Charlotte, North Carolina. Working out of her vehicle as if she was Walter White, Hatley was arrested following a raid on her warm and welcoming meth lab, which was her car in the school’s parking lot.
In Muncie, Indiana, 53-year-old Sandra Howard was busted after selling $40 worth of hydrocodone pills to an undercover officer in the parking lot at Northside Middle School. As brazen as the exchange may have been, nothing can overshadow the true crime: Howard impetuously conducted the transaction during lunch service.
5 Love Is In The Air
If you’ve paid any attention to news outlets over the last two decades, you’ve probably heard reports of teachers fornicating with their students as if it was the end of the world. Frankly, it is not just teachers who have dared to walk (or sleep) on the wild side but neighborhood cafeteria workers as well.
In Hillside, Illinois, 32-year-old Joi Taylor was arrested in 2015 after having sex with a 16-year-old student in a parking lot during school hours. To everyone’s shock and disbelief, their tryst was discovered only after the teen bragged about it later that day at school.
Stepping it up a notch, 40-year-old Aimee Chevalier exchanged more than 100 risque text messages with a student at Hernando Christian Academy before taking it to the next level. In a blissfully romantic setting fit for a cinematic tearjerker, Chevalier hit a home run in the confines of her office: the school’s kitchen.
The baffling beauty of their love is reminiscent of married mother of four Janelle Foley of Massachusetts, who was charged with statutory rape after finding herself in the arms of a 15-year-old boy. That was also the case for 42-year-old Lawanda Ann Cummings of Dutch Fork Middle School. Allegedly, she taught a 13-year-old the true meaning of sex ed. And let’s not forget about Stacey St. Jean, who served up a daily special with multiple students in her Washington High cafeteria.
Nevertheless, none of them compares to the likes of Monica Vinacco. As for the Charlotte County School District cafeteria worker, she found herself unemployed and in handcuffs after it came to light that she had allegedly been molesting a five-year-old boy.
4 Target Practice
Due to recurrent gun violence in US schools, threats of potential shootings are taken seriously with no room for error or laxity. Such was the case in 2018 at Phillipsburg Middle School in New Jersey after classes were cut short following threats made by a cafeteria employee.
Boasting on social media that she planned to stab students, run them over with her car, poison their food, and blow up the school, cafeteria worker Jennifer Newell was merely dismissed from working in any school district building. Subsequent to an investigation and increased police presence, authorities ultimately concluded that there was no immediate danger to the students.
However, other threats made by a cafeteria worker in Connecticut were taken much more seriously. After making comments to a coworker that he was going to shoot up the school, 69-year-old Leslie Delaney was arrested on school grounds. Specifically, the disturbed senior citizen stated to his coworker that he should run if he ever saw Delaney in his army fatigues. If that happened, Delaney would be armed with an AK-47 to “finish everything and then ‘off’ himself.”
When police arrived at Norwalk High School, they discovered a .22 caliber Mossberg rifle in the trunk of Delaney’s car. Despite being unloaded with no ammunition found elsewhere, Delaney was charged with possession of a weapon on school grounds as well as making threats and breaching the peace.
Another cafeteria worker in Coal Township, Pennsylvania, took her built-up agitation a step further. Irritated at the children playing across the street from her home, Marie McWilliams decided to unload a BB gun on the kids. Firing multiple shots toward the playground, the lunch lady for the Shamokin Area School District assured a distressed parent, “If I don’t get [the kids] now, I will get them tomorrow.”
Fortunately, that wonderful experience never came as McWilliams found herself in the back of a patrol car that evening. Ultimately, the gun-wielding cook was hauled off to jail on charges of simple assault, recklessly endangering another person, harassment, and the sale and use of air rifles.
3 Be Careful What You Drink
In Norwood, North Carolina, two cafeteria staffers at South Stanly High were arrested in 2011 after their malevolent plan to poison their supervisor went awry. Hoping for a toxic spectacle, Eileen Hallamore, 64, and Angela Johnson, 38, shamelessly slipped cleaning solution into their manager’s tea during school hours.
Fortunately for the unsuspecting victim, a fellow employee got wind of the plot and alerted authorities. After detectives became involved, the diabolic duo was arrested for allegedly distributing food containing poison—a class C felony but far less than attempted murder.
Eileen’s husband, Bob, zealously protested the charges. He stated that his wife had no worries and that the two planned to have a party following a not guilty verdict.
Interestingly enough, the women’s demented plan to off their boss resonated with an 18-year-old high school student weeks later. In Raleigh, North Carolina, Cody Austin Beckett slipped a cleaning substance in his teacher’s soda can, which caused Roseann Marie Monteleone to fall ill.
Suffering from a chemical reaction that caused lesions in her throat as well as loss of consciousness, Monteleone was taken to the hospital where she was successfully treated. Beckett was promptly arrested and charged with misdemeanor assault on a school employee.
2 Crime Of Passion
Soon after beginning his job working in a Singapore cafeteria, Boh Soon Ho became acquainted with fellow employee Zhang Huaxiang. Their friendship quickly flourished as the two met outside of work for meals and shopping, all at the expense of Boh. Though he called Zhang his “Princess Xiang Xiang” and considered her his girlfriend, four years passed without a spark of romance, let alone a kiss.
Then, in early 2016, Boh discovered that he was nothing more than an ATM to his princess and that she was sleeping with two other men. On March 21, 2016, the 48-year-old disheartened cook invited Zhang to his place for a steamboat lunch.
When his attempts to have sex with the 28-year-old were rejected, Boh strangled her to death with a bath towel. While noticing that her face was turning dark as he carried her lifeless body to his bed, he told himself, “Since (the woman) had died and I have never seen her naked before, I should undress her.”
After removing her clothes and taking pictures of her nude body, Boh attempted to have sex with the corpse but found that he was unable to perform sexually. Instead, he spent the night sleeping next to the cadaver before fleeing to his home country of Malaysia the following day.
About two weeks later, Boh was arrested while eating dinner at a restaurant. He was extradited to Singapore. He faces life imprisonment or death if convicted of murder.
1 Fried Chicken Connoisseur
An ongoing dispute between two school cafeteria workers in Florida finally came to a boil in fall 1993. With nearly 500 students finishing up their lunches, a startling commotion broke out with screams of horror echoing from the kitchen.
Moments earlier, employees Carol Herring and Michelle Crumpler had begun a senseless argument about how to fry chicken the proper way. As the heated spat intensified, 22-year-old Crumpler reached for a knife and plunged it into the heart of her coworker.
At the time, there were eight other employees present, yet not a single person intervened. One witness stated, “It was a large knife, and I think everyone kind of took a step back.”
As Herring lay dying, a deranged Crumpler continued her assault, repeatedly stabbing the 26-year-old in the chest. Surprisingly, Herring was still alive when she was flown from George Washington Carver Middle School to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami.
Despite medical efforts, Herring succumbed to her wounds on the operating table. In June 1994, Crumpler was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 15 years in prison but was released just six years later.
Unsettling as it is, Herring’s murder was the third time that an employee had been killed on school grounds within a decade.