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Headlines for Friday, December 30, 2016

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

Wildfire Warnings Posted for Southeast Kansas and Several Other Plains States

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) - Forecasters are warning of a high risk of wildfires in parts of the Southern Plains thanks to gusting winds and especially dry air. The National Weather Service has issued red flag warnings - which indicate weather conditions where wildfires will spread quickly - for much of southeastern Kansas, southwestern Missouri, Oklahoma and northern Texas today (FRI).  On Thursday, a fire burned more than 200 acres near the central Oklahoma town of Tecumseh, about 35 miles southeast of Oklahoma City. Fire officials say the fire was started by someone who was burning trash.


Officials at Kansas Agency Step Down After Leadership Change

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Two of the Kansas Department of Revenue's top officials have stepped down shortly after Governor Sam Brownback appointed a new revenue secretary, who is expected to make changes to the department.  Brownback announced in the first week of December that former lawmaker Nick Jordan would step down as revenue secretary and Wichita businessman Sam Williams would replace him. Jim Conant, the agency's director of resource management, left December 9. Steve Stotts, the state's director of taxation, retired last week. Williams says Conant left before Williams became secretary, and that Stotts's departure was not Williams's decision. Agency spokeswoman Jeannine Koranda says both positions are vital and the agency will work to replace them with the best possible candidates.


Shawnee County Approves $48K Settlement in Discrimination Lawsuit 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A $48,000 settlement has been reached with two women who claimed they were wrongly terminated from their jobs in the Shawnee County prosecutor's office. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Shawnee County commissioners agreed to the settlement Thursday. It only frees the county commission, not the district attorney's office, from the litigation. The plaintiffs contend in court filings that outgoing Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor had a propensity to use "insulting and intensely degrading language and sexual epithets" to describe women. Taylor has called the claims inaccurate. Because the settlement doesn't release his office, a jury trial is expected to start as scheduled January 9 in federal court in Kansas City, Kansas. Taylor didn't run for re-election in November, and his successor will be sworn in that same day.


Haskell Attorneys Argue Lawrence School Isn't Subject to Title IX Law

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Attorneys for Haskell Indian Nations University argue in a court filing that the school is not subject to the federal Title IX law, which prohibits gender-based discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual violence in education. A former Haskell student claims in a lawsuit that school administrators treated her unfairly after she reported being raped by two football players. In a recent court filing, Haskell's attorneys deny the woman's allegations and contend Title IX doesn't apply to Haskell because it is part of the federal government, which isn't subject to the law. Haskell is part of the federal Bureau of Indian Education. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the woman's attorney, Dan Curry, says courts have not resolved the issue of whether institutions like Haskell are subject to Title IX.


Lawrence School District Appeals Federal Finding 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Lawrence school district has appealed a federal finding that the district violated rules by receiving free residential internet service. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Lawrence Unified School District 497 this month appealed the ruling from the Federal Communications Commission, which found that district officials violated federal conflict-of-interest rules by receiving free residential internet service accounts from a company that supplies internet access to the district. If the district loses, its filing indicates it'll need to pay back more than half a million dollars in federal subsidies for internet access in schools, and will lose an additional $340,000 in funding not yet received. The district says in its FCC filing that its typical contract with the provider included 15 free at-home internet accounts, and those accounts didn't influence decision-makers.


Mentally Ill Kansas Man Sentenced to 20 Years in Killing

GREENSBURG, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for killing another patient at a mental health facility three days after he was discharged from a state psychiatric hospital. The Hutchinson News reports that 31-year-old Brandon Brown, of Haviland, was sentenced Wednesday in Kiowa County District Court for second-degree murder. He pleaded no contest in October in a case that prompted a state inquiry. Prosecutors say Brown beat Jerry Martinez so severely in May 2015 at a residential care facility that the 61-year-old died the next month. Brown had spent a week at the state-run psychiatric hospital in Osawatomie after fighting with residents at the Haviland Care Center near Wichita. The fatal beating happened after he was discharged from Osawatomie into the care of the Haviland facility.


Kansas Universities Review Earthquake Insurance Plans

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ Regents universities in Kansas are reviewing earthquake insurance policies after several quakes were reported in the state this year.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the schools' chief financial officers decided to review the policies out of "due diligence.'' University of Kansas CFO Leisa Julian says the regents system has $1 billion in property insurance, at a cost of more than $2 million a year. The coverage includes $100 million in earthquake protection. Adding another $100 million would increase the annual premiums by $44,000. The CFOs have taken the matter under advisement for now. Wichita State University President John Bardo strongly supported increasing coverage. Some earthquakes centered in Oklahoma and south central Kansas were felt in Wichita. He says $100 million is not a lot of money to protect the entire system. 


Sedgwick County Prosecutor Retires After 30+-Year Career 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Sedgwick County's chief deputy district attorney is retiring after more than three decades of prosecuting local criminal
 cases. The Wichita Eagle reports that in her current role, 59-year-old Kim Parker has supervised and managed dozens of attorneys, investigators and legal support staff members as well as acted as lead counsel in more than 200 jury trials. She helped send some of Wichita's most notorious criminals to prison and to death row. For example, she convinced a jury to give death sentences to Jonathan and Reginald Carr, who sexually assaulted, robbed and shot five people execution-style in a snowy field as part of a multiday rampage in December 2000. Parker has worked under three Sedgwick County district attorneys since 1982. Her last day of duty is Friday.


Man's Death in Parking Garage Investigated as Homicide 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities are investigating a man's death in a Kansas City parking garage as a homicide. Police said in a news release that officers responding to a shooting found 27-year-old Ahkeem Hobby dead from an apparent gunshot wound in the upper level of the garage. The release says there is no reason to believe the victim or suspect were residents of the area and that the parking garage was simply chosen as a location for them to meet. The garage is near a branch of the library located just south of the upscale County Club Plaza.


19-Year-Old Charged in Deadly Wichita Drug Deal Shooting 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a 19-year-old man has been charged in a deadly shooting during a botched Wichita drug deal. Andrew Bull made his first court appearance Thursday in Sedgwick County District Court. He is jailed on $100,000 bond on charges of first-degree murder and distribution of marijuana in the death of 23-year-old Charles Hawkins. Public defender Mark Rudy didn't immediately return a phone message from The Associated Press seeking comment. Police say Hawkins was killed last week when he pulled out a gun and attempted to rob Bull during a drug deal. Police say Bull also was armed and shot Hawkins, who died after being taken to a hospital.


Hutchinson Center to Break Ground for $23 Million Project 

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A Hutchinson hospital is getting ready to break ground on a $23 million expansion project. The Wichita Eagle reports that the official groundbreaking for the Hutchinson Regional Medical Center project is planned for Jan. 5. The hospital said in a news release that the project includes a new $18 million intensive care unit. Work on the 15,000-square-foot ICU addition will begin in June and is scheduled to be completed in December 2018. The 18-bed facility will contain larger rooms and new equipment. To make room for construction, the ICU was temporarily moved to the fourth floor of the hospital in 2014 and will operate from there until construction is complete. There also will be a $5 million upgrade to the hospital's electrical and mechanical grid.


Mexican Man Charged with Rape Had 19 Deportations, Removals 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Records obtained by The Associated Press show that a Mexican national accused of raping a 13-year-old girl on a Greyhound bus in Kansas had been deported 10 times and voluntarily removed from the U.S. nine other times since 2003. Three U.S. Republican senators demanded this month in a letter that the Department of Homeland Security provide immigration records for 38-year-old Tomas Martinez-Maldonado. That man is charged with felony rape in the alleged Sept. 27 attack aboard a bus in Geary County in north-central Kansas, where he is now in jail. Defense attorney Lisa Hamer declined to comment. David Trevino, Martinez-Maldonado's immigration attorney, said that many immigrants have multiple entries without legal permission because they have family members in the U.S. A status hearing is set for January 10.


Man Charged with Murder in Southwest Kansas Shooting

LIBERAL, Kan. (AP) — A 19-year-old man is charged in a southwest Kansas shooting that left one person dead and another wounded. KWCH-TV reports that John Ramon, of Liberal, made his first court appearance Thursday on charges of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and cruelty to animals. He is jailed on $1 million bond. Liberal police say a 24-year-old man was killed and a 29-year-old was hospitalized with serious injuries after the shooting on Tuesday. The names of the victims haven't been released. Ramon's next court appearance is scheduled for February 9. It's not immediately clear if Ramon has an attorney. The Seward County prosecutor's office didn't immediately return a phone message from The Associated Press.


Second Suspect Arrested in Topeka Death

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Authorities have arrested a second suspect in the killing of a man found dead earlier this month in his Topeka home. Police said in a news release Thursday that the woman has been booked into jail on suspicion of aiding and abetting murder in the second degree. No charges were immediately filed against her. The arrest stemmed from the killing of 52-year-old Mark Everett Johnson. Police have said it appears that Johnson died of blunt force trauma. His body was found December 16 west of downtown. A man was arrested earlier in the killing.


Man's Death in Kansas City Parking Garage Investigated as Homicide 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities are investigating a man's death in a Kansas City parking garage as a homicide. Police said in a news release that officers responding to a shooting found the man dead from an apparent gunshot wound in the upper level of the garage near a branch of the library just south of the County Club Plaza shopping district. The victim was in his late 30s, but his name wasn't immediately released. Authorities are urging anyone with information to call police or a tips hotline.


Kansas City Zoo Hippo Named 'Labor Day' is Euthanized

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A 33-year-old female hippopotamus has been euthanized at the Kansas City Zoo. The zoo announced the hippo's death Thursday. The Kansas City Star reports that the hippo, named Labor Day, had experienced a months-long "period of illness and decline in quality of life." A medical investigation is expected to take several weeks. Labor Day and another hippo, named Liberty, came to the Kansas City Zoo in 1995 when an area of the zoo featuring African animals opened.


Manhattan Gears Up for Annual New Year's 'Little Apple' Drop 

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas town known as the Little Apple is gearing up for a ball-drop event modeled after the one in New York's Times Square. Manhattan is staging its annual New Year's Eve celebration in the Aggieville bar and entertainment district. Saturday's festivities begin at 10:30 pm and include music and fireworks. The event culminates at midnight with the "Little Apple" drop. It's reminiscent of the ball drop in the Big Apple, a Times Square tradition for more than a century.


Authorities ID Man Killed, Woman Injured in Collision 

BLUE SPRINGS, Neb. (AP) — Authorities have released the names of a driver killed and another driver injured in a southeast Nebraska collision. The Gage County Sheriff's Office said Friday that 41-year-old Harry Hart III, of Lincoln, was killed Thursday afternoon when his car collided with an oncoming vehicle on U.S. Highway 77 just west of Blue Springs. The driver of the other vehicle was identified as 63-year-old Lora Lee Stohs, of Marysville, Kansas. She was flown to a Lincoln hospital for treatment. A 12-year-old grandson with her was taken by ambulance to a Lincoln hospital, and another grandson was taken to a Beatrice hospital.


KU and K-State Women's Basketball Teams Lose Big 12 Openers

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — In women's college basketball, number 24 ranked Oklahoma won its 12th-straight Big 12 Conference opener 84-54 over the Kansas Jayhawks Thursday night. Oklahoma shot 52 percent, going 7 of 15 behind the arc — but only 11 of 25 from the line — and blocked 11 shots. Kansas cut an 11-point halftime deficit to five early in the third quarter before the Sooners scored seven-straight points and closed on a 24-5 run. meanwhile, in Waco, Texas, the number 3 ranked Baylor University women's team beat Kansas State 87-57 to open Big 12 Conference play. The Lady Bears outrebounded Kansas State 56-28, and that turned into a 25-5 edge in second-chance points. Baylor also outscored the Wildcats 31-10 off the bench.


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