By Matthew Sturdevant Caller-Times
Contact Matthew Sturdevant at 886-3778
May 13, 2004

Man says his meteorite breaks clocks, jiggles

He says attorney told him not to let geologists look at rock

The Corpus Christi man who said he found a recently fallen meteorite early Sunday in northern Arizona initially wanted local geologists to check out his find, but the man later balked when the geologists showed up at his door Wednesday.

Joe Suarez of 1001 Vaky St. - where a fiery red and yellow sign in the front yard reads "Home of the Meteorite" - said early Wednesday that he encouraged anyone to take a look at the oval-shaped, pockmarked rock he found. It is about the size of a computer monitor and weighs more than 200 pounds.

Two geology professors at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, Grady and Kit Price-Blount, accepted the invitation to look at the rock. But when they arrived at Suarez's home at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Suarez said his attorney advised him that he shouldn't let anyone look at the rock without speaking to the attorney first. He also said he didn't want to contact the attorney.

Suarez, who said he had three doctorates from the University of California at Los Angeles and an Ivy League school, hopes to sell the rock to a museum, and said he has had offers from tabloid newspaper for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Suarez's tale began about 3 a.m. Sunday as he and his wife, Diane, drove from California back home to Corpus Christi on Interstate 40 about 100 miles east of Flagstaff, Ariz. There, he said, they saw a meteor streak through the sky.

Suarez said he and his wife walked about a half-mile off the side of the interstate and found the meteor, "glowing orange."

"There was steam coming out of all these holes," Suarez said Monday, pointing to pockmarks on the exterior of the rock. They put the rock onto a blanket, hauled it a half-mile to their Chevrolet Cavalier, put it in the trunk and drove it home, Suarez said.

However, no news of a meteor reached Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz., a privately owned astronomical research institution founded in 1894 by Percival Lowell, the man who discovered the planet Pluto.

"If there really was a meteor as big as he says, it would have been spectacular," said Brian Skiff, a research assistant at Lowell Observatory. "It would have lit up the sky like daytime. That would have been a big light in the sky observed by hundreds of people."

Since Suarez brought the rock into his home, he said, strange things have happened."

"All our watches have gone haywire," he said.

"The clocks in the house either go way far ahead or they stop."

Suarez also said the rock repels magnets and even has jiggled.

Grady and Kit Price-Blount looked at a photo of the rock Monday and Tuesday and said it appeared to be something that has been on the desert floor for quite some time.

A white splotch on the bottom of the rock appears to be a coating of calcium carbonate, which would indicate that the rock has been sitting on the Earth for a considerable period, according to the Blounts.

Allan Treiman, a scientist who specializes in meteorites at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, looked at a photo of the rock Monday and said he was "100 percent" sure it was lava rock - the same type of rock people use in barbecues.

George Gongora/Caller-Times
Photo: The 200-pound rock Joe Suarez found.