December 25, 1989 12:00 PM

That smoochy cooing between mother and daughter is a happy change for actress Theresa Saldana. “She’s slept through the night since the first day we brought her home,” says Saldana, 35, of her 4-month-old daughter, Tiana Saldana Peters. “This is the best time in my life.”

Last June the actress and her husband, actor Phil Peters, were considerably less blissful as they contemplated the release of Arthur Richard Jackson, now 54, the Scottish drifter whose 1982 knife attack on Saldana nearly took her life. Shockingly, prison officials were obligated, for complicated legal reasons, to schedule Jackson for June parole even though he had continued to threaten to kill Saldana.

Two weeks after the PEOPLE story, the actress received good news: Jackson had staged a window-breaking tantrum in the prison, behavior that allowed his warders to stall his release until next March. Then, California’s legislature passed a new law that may, because of Jackson’s continued threats, keep him behind bars until 1993. Although her fate is still uncertain—an earlier version of the new law was declared unconstitutional—Saldana continues to hope for the best. “I refuse to let anything or anyone intrude on my happiness,” says the actress resolutely. “Not even Arthur Jackson.”

Carol Horne, 37, thought she had seen it all. Carol Horne should have thought again. In March, her 30-inch-tall, 80-pound cement statue of Grumpy, Snow White’s dwarf, was taken from the lawn of her Mount Marion, N.Y. home. Home, a baker, deli worker and a mother of two, at first thought it was a joke, but after six weeks and no Grumpy, she wasn’t so sure. Then one morning, he reappeared, a packet of photos tied to his neck. There were snapshots of Grumpy at Yankee Stadium. At the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. At Daytona Beach and 25 other places across the country. Grumpy had been around. “Someone went out of their way to make him happy,” said Horne forgivingly, happy herself that the dwarf-nappers were merely pranksters after all. But not happy for long. Suddenly, Doc disappeared. Then one morning, Home discovered Sleepy and Bashful AWOL, as well as the already well-traveled Grumpy. This time there have been no photos, no ransom notes, not even a phone call, and Home is worried. “I just hope they’re having some fun, seeing new places,” she says. “And that no one has hurt them.”

In August, star pitcher Dave Dravecky seemed to have made a miraculous comeback from cancer surgery on his throwing arm. Despite medical predictions that he would never pitch again, the San Francisco Giants lefthander had returned to the mound in just 10 months and won his first major-league game of the season. Five days later he was leading in his second when, suddenly, the bone in his weakened arm snapped during a pitch. Although the doctors were optimistic he could recover, on Oct. 9, the day the Giants clinched the pennant, Dravecky joined his exultant teammates on the field, was bumped and felt his arm break once again. Less than a month later another lump was discovered, and Dravecky, 33, announced his retirement for good.

While awaiting surgery in January to remove the new growth, the self-described “born-again believer” and father of two is home in Boardman, Ohio, writing a book about his experiences and pondering a new career in the lay ministry. “It was a difficult decision,” he says of his retirement. “But at the same time, I was very certain.”

Oscar sleeps with the fissures. At least they’re on his mind a lot. Oscar, a 9-inch exotic fish who lives at California’s Corona Del Mar High School, won a reputation for predicting earthquakes when he began swimming on his side shortly before three different rumbles since 1987. At least so claimed Oscar’s keeper, biology teacher Ron Schnitger, 54. Trouble was, Oscar’s reputed talent rattled some folks, and after our story appeared last September, he started getting death threats. “I think it’s the work of a cult,” says Schnitger, who quickly took the fish home for safekeeping. Then the Bay Area earthquake struck, and sure enough, says Schnitger, Oscar was in his classic forecast position just 10 minutes beforehand. Now, happily, the piscine predictor is back in school and his old tank once again. Which is just as well, says Schnitger. “My wife said he splashed too much water on the floor.”

She lives quietly now, close to the private psychiatric clinic near Katonah, N.Y., where she staged her reentry into society. The TV-movie deal has fallen through for Hedda Nussbaum, 47. CBS says merely that negotiations for her diary “have ceased.” It is, perhaps, an understandable reaction to the horrific revelations that emerged during the 12-week trial of Nussbaum’s common-law husband, New York City lawyer Joel Steinberg, 48. Convicted of first-degree manslaughter in the fatal beating of their adopted 6-year-old daughter, Lisa, Steinberg was sentenced to a 25-year prison term and is now at the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, N.Y. Although Nussbaum’s face showed that she, too, had suffered beatings, her confessed drug abuse, which may have rendered her unable to protect her daughter, prompted some to blame her in part for Lisa’s death. They still do, apparently. This summer a Long Island art gallery announced plans to exhibit nature photographs taken by Nussbaum, then abruptly canceled the show, reportedly after receiving death threats.

Thomas Root, whose plane crash in July sparked one of the summer’s stranger mysteries, still hasn’t quite regained the controls. The Washington, D.C., lawyer claims he suffered a carbon monoxide blackout while piloting his Cessna, then flew on autopilot for four hours until running out of gas over the Caribbean. The questions began when he was plucked from the ocean with an unexplained gunshot wound to his stomach. There was speculation of a botched suicide or drug smuggling, but Root, 36, denied any shenanigans and said that a pistol he carried in his glove compartment had probably fired on impact. In October federal investigators dropped their drug investigation for lack of evidence but have kept Root grounded for refusing to release records from a psychiatric interview. He has now declared bankruptcy and, after making a token payment on the $50,000 debt he owes his landlord, has moved out of his Washington, D.C., law offices. Says the erstwhile pilot: “The moral of this story is, ‘Don’t let anything bizarre happen to you on a slow news day.’ ”

When Palm Beach Lakes High School freshman Tomontra Mangrum was stood up on prom night, she didn’t just get mad. She got real mad. Mangrum filed suit in the West Palm Beach, Fla., Small Claims Court demanding that Marlon Shadd, 17, fork over the $49.53 she had spent for satin shoes, a sprig of baby’s breath and a hairdo. “I was very disappointed because not only was it my first prom but my first date,” she said in May. “We’re going to court not for the money, but to teach him a lesson. He was heartless, inconsiderate and selfish.” Now Shadd is a few bucks poorer. The following month Mangrum got her money in an out-of-court settlement, plus $31.75 for legal expenses.

Since her rescue in late July after two weeks adrift in the Atlantic, Janet Culver, 48, has undergone extensive skin grafts for her saltwater sores, but some psychic wounds remain. “Ignorance and stupidity don’t pay at sea,” she says with unconcealed bitterness, referring to the negligence she blames on her lost lover, Nicholas Abbot Jr., 50, who slipped into the water and drowned 10 days after their sloop sank between Bermuda and New York City. Culver spent four weeks in a Bermuda hospital before returning to the U.S. Now “my life is pretty much back to normal,” says the former castaway, who has returned to her job as a legal secretary in Hackensack, N.J. “I’m back to hiking, and I’ve been out fishing for trout, but I still can’t do too much standing.” As for future sea travel, “I wouldn’t be afraid,” she says. “But I’d make sure that this time the captain knew what he was doing.”

“This has been a really good year,” says David Able, the exuberant Columbia, S.C., 10-year-old we profiled in May. Born without arms or legs (his mother, C-Anne, during pregnancy was mistakenly given a hormone that regulates the menstrual cycle), David entered fifth grade this fall, joined the Cub Scouts and successfully auditioned for the state district chorus and school district drama club. He also made a special new friend. Lynda Franchino of Dennis, Mass., read the story about David in PEOPLE (May 15) and immediately showed it to her son James, 9, who had been born with the same impairment. Lynda had often told James that there were other children like him, but when he asked where, she recalls, she could only say: “I don’t know, but I know they’re out there.” The boys have now had two visits together, talk regularly by phone and have promised to be friends forever. “I know I’m not alone now,” says James. Says the delighted David: “Knowing him has made me feel better. Before, I thought I was the only one.”

Andy, a 3-year-old gray goose born without feet, has been on a roll. Back in January we told how his owner, Nebraska farmer Gene Fleming, had constructed a special pair of walking shoes to help the impaired bird get around. As soon as Andy had mastered his strut, however, he began yearning to hear the patter of webbed feet around the family nest. Fleming, 67, concocted some tennis shoes with tiny cleats so that Andy could successfully grasp his sweetheart, Polly Goose. Polly thought the idea was pretty featherbrained. So did Andy. “It didn’t work,” reports Fleming. “He never even tried.” Undaunted, Fleming then bought two goslings for the pair to adopt, and this time the plan worked; the would-be parents took one gander and started honking happily. Now the babies have grown as big as the parents, and “I’ve let a lady ‘cross town have ’em,” says Fleming, adding that he’ll try the adoption ploy again this spring. With the paternity problems out of the way for now, Fleming has taken on another pet project: fashioning a bicycle with training wheels for his favorite fowl. After all, now that Andy has become a celebrity, he’s obliged to make public appearances at parades and fairs. In September he rolled into a wingding in Hastings, Nebr., and next year there are sure to be lots more. Says Fleming: “You know, these parades are so long, if Andy has to walk, he gets to puffin’ bad.”

Nine months after a vandal soaked Austin’s Treaty Oak with herbicide, the man responsible is awaiting trial, and the fight to save the venerable Texas tree continues. A long-revered landmark (local lore holds that Stephen Austin once negotiated a land agreement with the Indians under its branches), the 600-year-old oak has been given sugar-water injections into its roots, new top-soil and heavy doses of antitoxins. After sprouting and losing six sets of leaves, it has now entered a period of winter dormancy, and its long-term fate won’t be known until spring. “Most of the experts seem to think the tree will die,” admits John Giedraitis, the urban forester directing the resuscitation efforts. “Personally, I think it will survive, but I don’t know in what condition.” Giedraitis does note that more than 700 cuttings from the tree have taken root and that there is now talk of a cloning effort to create some genetically identical offspring. At this point, “this is more than a tree,” says Giedraitis. “It is a symbol of hope for a lot of people.”

After 21 years in jail for a crime he didn’t commit, James Richardson, 53, became a free man six weeks after our story about him last March. Originally sentenced to death following the poisoning of his seven children in 1968, the former Florida fruit picker was declared the victim of perjured testimony and of withheld evidence and is now seeking $35 million in damages for his long ordeal. He has also filed for divorce from his wife of more than 20 years in order to marry a 37-year-old woman whom he identifies only as “Lizzie.” They met while he was in prison, and she is expecting their child in February.

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