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Headlines for Friday, April 21, 2017

Here's a look at area headlines from the Associated Press

Kansas Gains Jobs, Unemployment Rate Hits 16-Year Low

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas gained 4,600 private sector jobs last month, and its unemployment rate dropped to the lowest it's been since November 2000. A preliminary report released Friday by the Kansas Department of Labor says the seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 3.8 percent in March from 4 percent in February. The state gained 3,600 nonfarm jobs over the year. It picked up 4,600 private-sector jobs and lost 1,000 government jobs. The national unemployment rate also dropped last month. A Friday report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics says it dropped to 4.5 percent in March from 4.7 in February. Kansas is one of 19 states with unemployment rates below the national one. The report comes a day after officials and university economists forecasted improved tax collections , shrinking the state's budget shortfalls.

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New Kansas Fiscal Forecast More Optimistic

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas has seen its budget picture improve slightly after officials and university economists issued a new fiscal forecast on Thursday that was a little more optimistic than the previous one. The state's forecasting group increased projections for tax collections by a total of $156 million through June 2019. The new forecast is the first positive one in three years and some good news for Governor Sam Brownback and the Kansas Legislature. The new forecast replaces a pessimistic one from November assuming that economic slumps in agriculture and energy production would continue through 2018. The state had been left with budget shortfalls totaling about $1 billion through June 2019. But tax collections since then have been better than expected. With the new forecast, the budget gaps now total $889 million. 

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Jurors Acquit Northeast Kansas Man in Sexual Assault Case

HOLTON, Kan. (AP) - Jurors have acquitted a northeast Kansas man of charges that he sexually assaulted a 13-year-old girl in a rural cemetery. Jurors in Kansas' Jackson County on Thursday found 22-year-old Jacob Ewing not guilty of charges of aggravated indecent liberties and aggravated criminal sodomy with a child under 14 years old. Ewing still faces trials on charges alleging that he sexually assaulted five women. Ewing has entered not guilty pleas in those cases. During the trial that ended Thursday, the teenager testified that Ewing sodomized her in 2014 while she pleaded for him to stop. A defense witness testified that the girl later bragged about the experience. 

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Flood Watches Issued in Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The National Weather Service has issued flood watches in portions of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri as strong storms with heavy rain approach the region. The flood watches will be in effect from through late Friday and early Saturday in southeast Kansas, southwest Missouri, northeast Oklahoma and northwest Arkansas. The weather service says two to four inches of rain is expected in the area, with locally heavier amounts of six to seven inches possible, especially in northeast Oklahoma and northwest Arkansas. Large hail is also possible with the storms. The storms are expected to move east out of the region by early Saturday

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Homicide Victim Identified as Sister of Kansas Girl Killed in 1999

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - A woman found shot to death in Kansas City, Kansas, has been identified as the sister of a Kansas girl who was kidnapped and killed 17 years ago while playing outside. Kansas City police identified the body of 34-year-old Casey Eaton as the person shot to death late Wednesday night. The Kansas City Star reports that her body was found in a vehicle. Her sister was Pamela Butler was 10 in 1999 when she was kidnapped while roller-skating near her Kansas City, Kansas, home. Her body was later found in a wooded field near Grain Valley, Missouri. Keith Nelson was later sentenced to death for Pamela's killing. Police are investigating Eaton's death and urging anyone with information to call the police crime tips hotline.

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Topeka Woman Sentenced to Prison for Health Care Fraud 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka woman has been sentenced to two years and six months in prison for committing health care fraud while operating a business that was licensed to provide day care and residential services to developmentally disabled adults. The U.S. attorney's office says that 45-year-old Kristina Hansel also was ordered Wednesday to pay more than $480,000 in restitution. The release says she billed Medicaid for services that weren't provided and made false statements to renew her license. Prosecutors say she also admitted withholding medical treatment from a patient in one case and directing others to help her cover up medication overdoses so licensing authorities wouldn't learn of the problem. Prosecutors say the crimes occurred while she owned Achieve Services.

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Reno County Officials Call Fires Near Hutchinson in March Suspicious

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) - Reno County fire officials say four fires north of Hutchinson in early March are suspicious in nature. The Hutchinson News reports the fires March 4-5 burned more than 5,500 acres and destroyed a dozen homes. Deputy Fire Chief Doug Hanen says fireworks that emit showers of sparks were found near the origin of one of the fires. The second fire that day was north and west of the first blaze. Hanen says the two fires on March 4 started along the same road, with no possible ignition sources in the area.
  
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Topeka Creek Contaminated by Sewage Spill 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Turnpike Authority is warning the public to stay out of a south Topeka creek following a sewage spill that resulted from turnpike construction. Turnpike Authority official Rachel Bell tells the Topeka Capital-Journal that the spill at Shunga Creek was discovered Wednesday morning. Bell says the contamination occurred as a subcontractor was preparing to relocate a sewage line on the south Topeka interchange project. The connection became displaced and the sewage was spilled near the project. Officials aren't sure how much sewage was spilled. City spokeswoman Aly Van Dyke says the city was notified when it responded to an odor complaint. The Turnpike Authority says it will notify the public about testing results. Work on the interchange project includes toll plaza and bridge improvements, a realigned northbound exit ramp and improved drainage.

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Hays Doctor's License to Practice Suspended

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — A state board has suspended a Hays doctor's osteopathic license to practice medicine for at least six months. The Salina Journal reports that the State Board of Healing Arts took the action Tuesday against Kirk Potter, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon. An emergency order suspended his license in November when it was alleged he'd failed to practice with reasonable skill and safety. The suspension was lifted last month, with restrictions. Potter's attorney argued that the emergency suspension should be sufficient discipline. But the board found Potter hadn't disputed allegations that he violated a 2015 consent order that stemmed from two DUI arrests and the loss of a camera containing patient photos. Potter can request a judicial review or board reconsideration. He didn't return a phone call from the paper.

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Investigators to Examine Death of Kansas Toddler 

RUSSELL, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Bureau of Investigation is teaming up with the Russell Police Department to investigate the death of a 14-month-old boy from central Kansas. Investigation Bureau spokeswoman Melissa Underwood tells the Salina Journal that an autopsy of the child was being performed Thursday after he died at a Wichita hospital the night before. Underwood says investigators are hoping the preliminary autopsy will give enough information about the child's cause of death to move forward with the investigation. Russell Police Chief Dale Weimaster says his department received a call Sunday about a boy being treated at Wesley Medical Center. The child's death is being investigated as a potential case of child abuse. Underwood says the Kansas Bureau of Investigation will not release the boy's name.

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Northwest Missouri State to Close St. Joseph Campus 

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — Northwest Missouri State University is closing its satellite campus in St. Joseph, making about 30 graduate students relocate to Maryville or Kansas City to continue their education. The St. Joseph News-Press reports that the facility will close by the end of this year, and students get to decide exactly when their transition to the other campuses will take place. Northwest Provost Timothy Mottet says that the closure is influenced by St. Joseph students wanting more amenities like libraries and fitness centers. He also says the decision was influenced by budget cuts from the state. The facility currently only offers a Masters in Information Systems, since its MBA program and graduate courses in education have moved online. The closure is expected to save the university around $500,000 in fiscal 2018.

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4 Former Missouri Jail Officers Accused of Attacking Inmate 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Four former corrections officers at a jail in Missouri's Jackson County are accused in a federal indictment of assaulting a shackled inmate, violating his civil rights. The four-count indictment unsealed Friday in Kansas City accuses Terrance Dooley Jr., Jen-I Pulos, Travis Hewitt and Dakota Pearce. The indictment says Hewitt and Pearce were Jackson County Detention Center sergeants while Dooley and Pulos were on a team that intervenes in inmate altercations and neutralizes threats. The indictment alleges the four carried out a planned attack on an inmate in retaliation for his altercation with another officer. The indictment says the inmate was handcuffed, shackled and confined when punched and struck. Messages were left Friday for attorneys for Hewitt and Pulos. Online court records don't show whether Dooley and Pearce have attorneys.

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Ex-Dallas Cowboy Found Guilty of Battery at Kansas Party 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Former Dallas Cowboys running back Joseph Randle has been found guilty of aggravated battery, aggravated burglary, criminal threat and marijuana possession after striking three people with his car as he left a house party in Kansas. KAKE-TV reports that the jury couldn't reach a verdict Friday on two charges of aggravated battery and a count of criminal damage to property. A mistrial was declared on those counts. Judge Kevin O'Conner put those back on the May 1 docket. Randle is accused of kicking in the door at a home in Wichita in 2016, then hitting three people with his car as he fled what he called a hostile situation. He's also charged with running from police officers trying to serve him with a warrant following the attack.

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Kansas Police Chief Faces Backlash After Killing Service Dog 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The police chief of a southern Kansas town says he's received death threats over an officer's fatal shooting of a service dog. The Wichita Eagle reports that a vigil for the dog, Midnite, is scheduled for next Wednesday. The vigil has been described by event organizers as a "protest" in response to an officer's killing of the pet dog April 13. Augusta Police Chief Tyler Brewer says people made death threats against him and his family last week. He says the officer who shot the dog has also received death threats. Police say the officer and an animal control officer went to Alan Fitzgerald's house investigating a report of his dog attacking a neighbor's dog. When Midnite charged at the animal control officer, the police officer shot the dog. Fitzgerald disputes that recounting, but says the vigil will be "a peaceful event."

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Texas Rangers Beat the Kansas City Royals 1-0 in 13 Innings

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — The Texas Rangers' Delino DeShields had an RBI single in the 13th inning to score Joey Gallo from second base as the Texas Rangers beat the Kansas City Royals 1-0 last (THUR) night. Gallo had pulled a one-out double into the right-field corner off Royals' reliever Travis Wood (0-1), the third Royals relief pitcher after starter Danny Duffy went 7 and 1/3 innings. Gallo scored when DeShields hit a sharp single to left on the 10th pitch of the at-bat. It was only the third time in 24 seasons for a Rangers' game to go to extra innings scoreless. This was the longest of those games. The Rangers' walk-off single didn't happen until nearly 11:00 Thursday night.
 

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