Thanks to all who replied a few days ago to my plea for help. Here's what I found out: the controller is fine. Apparently, you must be very careful with the heater strips. Looks like mine got folded enough to break the wires inside and as a couple of you noted, that is not good. If you have to lay these strips flat, lay them all the way flat. Any kind of folding can (and will) be fatal. Store them rolled loosely on their side. Repeat: do not allow the heater strips to be folded over.
I need another 5" strip badly. Monday I'll order a new one from Kendrick but I do have a good time buying stuff here so if you got one, send me a line.
One other thing: if anyone has a use for the bad strip, let me know and it's yours. This is now going to Ed Wozney.