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Headlines for Friday, July 25, 2014


Kansas Court Overturns Carr Brothers' Death Sentences

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has overturned the death sentences of two brothers convicted of capital murder in the shooting deaths of four people whose bodies were found in a snow-covered Wichita soccer field in 2000. The state Supreme Court on Friday also struck down three of the four capital murder conviction each against Jonathan and Reginald Carr. But it upheld one capital murder conviction each. Their cases will return to Sedgwick County District Court for further hearings and a new sentencing. The court's majority overturned the death sentences because, it said, the presiding judge failed to have separate proceedings for each brother. In overturning most of the capital convictions, the majority said the instructions to jurors were flawed.

Kansas Governor 'Stunned' by Capital Case Ruling

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback says he's stunned by Kansas Supreme Court decisions overturning the death sentences of two brothers for a December 2000 robbery, rape and kidnapping spree that ended with four fatal shootings in a Wichita field. Brownback said Friday that the decisions in the cases of Jonathan and Reginald Carr unnecessarily reopen the wounds from what he called a tragic moment in Wichita history. In overturning the death sentences, the court's majority said the brothers should have had separate sentencing proceedings to determine whether they faced lethal injection or life in prison. The court also overturned three of each man's four capital murder convictions. Brownback called the crimes brutal and heinous and said the Carrs were convicted by a jury of their peers before an elected trial-court judge.



US Senator Boosts TV Ads Ahead of Kansas Primary

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Senator Pat Roberts has intensified his television advertising ahead of the Republican primary to run a new spot highlighting a state medical board investigation of tea party challenger Milton Wolf. The new ad began airing statewide Friday as part of what Roberts' said was a $350,000 push before the August 5 election. Wolf spokesman Ben Hartman called the ad misleading. The Topeka Capital-Journal reported this week that the medical board is investigating Wolf over his past postings of graphic X-ray images on a personal Facebook page. The newspaper said it received a letter from a board attorney, asking it to share information in its possession about the postings. Wolf is a Leawood radiologist and acknowledged posting the X-ray images and dark humor commentary in 2010. He apologized publicly.


Bombardier Job Cuts in Wichita Unclear

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Airplane maker Bombardier is cutting 1,800 jobs across facilities worldwide as it restructures operations. Spokeswoman Isabelle Rondeau with the Montreal-based company said Thursday that Bombardier plans to reorganize the company into four business segments before January 1. Bombardier says production-related jobs will not be affected. It plans a 15 percent reduction in what the company calls "indirect functions," such as human resources, finance and communications. Rondeau said it is too early to say what the impact will be on the company's Learjet plant in Wichita or any other of its facilities. The four business segments will report directly to Chief Executive Officer Pierre Beaudoin. In January, Bombardier announced a workforce reduction of about 1,700 employees and contractors at facilities in the United States and Canada, including 550 in Wichita.


Foster Parent Arrested Following Child's Death in Hot Car 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police have arrested the foster parent of a 10-month-old girl who died after being left inside a hot car in Wichita, Kansas. Lieutenant Todd Ojile said Friday the 29-year-old man was booked on suspicion of aggravated endangerment but has not been charged. Ojile says the man had "somehow forgotten" leaving the girl in the back seat after picking her up from the baby sitter late Thursday afternoon. He went inside the house with a 5-year-old child but left the baby strapped in the car seat outside. No charges are expected against the other foster parent, a 26-year-old man who was inside the house. Ojile says they didn't remember the child was outside until something on television jogged their memories. The girl had been in the car for about 2 hours.


Wichita Pot Decriminalization Advocates Submit Petitions

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Advocates of reducing penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana in Wichita turned in petitions to the city seeking to have the question put on the November ballot. Petition organizers say they collected more than 5,800 signatures, more than twice the number needed to put the issue to a vote. The proponents want to reduce the penalty for possession from the current maximum of a year in jail and a $2,500 fine to a $25 fine with no jail time. They also want to change possession of pot or paraphernalia from a criminal misdemeanor to a minor civil offense like a building code violation. The Wichita Eagle reports city officials have some questions about the measure's wording but don't currently plan to try and block it.


Topeka Parks Employees' Lawsuit Moves Forward

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Shawnee County judge has ruled that a lawsuit filed by 10 former parks and recreation employees against the city of Topeka will go to trial. The employees sued in May 2012 after they were fired from the department and then hired to become Shawnee County employees. They contend the city didn't follow a requirement that employees who lose their jobs in such circumstances should receive severance pay. Shawnee County District Judge Rebecca Crotty last week denied both sides' efforts to have the case decided in their favor without a trial. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Crotty learned Tuesday the two sides were trying to reach a settlement. Crotty indicated a pretrial hearing next Tuesday will instead be a status conference, with pretrial hearing and trial dates set then.


Kansas Regents Ask Universities to Start Early on Tuition Proposals

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Public university leaders in Kansas are being encouraged to start working on next year's tuition proposals now, rather than wait until the spring semester. Kansas Board of Regents chairman Kenny Wilk says the revenue stream from tuition is too significant to wait until the last minute to get it figured out. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the regents traditionally have received tuition and fee requests from the universities in May before approving them in June. Regents say they'd like schools to have a more definite idea of what they would request before the board formulates its budget proposal for Governor Sam Brownback and the Legislature. Universities in recent years have had to rely more on tuition from students as state funding has decreased.


Lawrence Man Sentenced for Raping Student

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A 41-year-old Lawrence man has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for raping a University of Kansas student in 1997. The Lawrence Journal-World reports Robert E. Grey was sentenced Friday to the least amount of time possible under Kansas sentencing guidelines. He was convicted in a retrial in May for raping a 20-year-old university junior. The new sentence is 16 months shorter than one issued after Grey's first conviction in 2009. A Kansas Court of Appeals panel awarded Grey a retrial last year after finding that prosecutorial misconduct deprived him of a fair trial the first time. The case went cold for years until authorities linked a fingerprint found on the victim's car to Grey. Grey has already served nearly seven years, which will count toward time served.


World War I Museum to Host Commission in KC

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial in Kansas City is hosting a public meeting with members of the United States World War One Centennial Commission. The museum says in a release that the events Sunday at the museum south of downtown Kansas City are open to the public and will also include a panel discussion with World War I experts about the impacts of the war, which started 100 years ago this summer. The panel discussion and lecture will also be streamed live online.


2 Minnesotans Killed in Kansas Crash

MCPHERSON, Kan. (AP) - Two Minnesota residents have been killed in a two-vehicle crash in central Kansas. The Kansas Highway Patrol says 69-year-old Kay Dianne Pautz and 70-year-old Gary Walter Pautz died in the accident north of McPherson on Thursday. Both victims were from Alexandria, Minnesota. The patrol says the accident occurred when another car tried to pass the car the victims were in, causing their car to strike the rear of the passing vehicle and then swerve and rollover.


Wichita Group to Protest Immigrant Housing Conditions

LAWTON, Okla. (AP) - A nonprofit organization based in Kansas that focuses on immigrant rights says it plans to travel to Oklahoma and protest the housing of unaccompanied minors at Fort Sill. A delegation from Sunflower Community Action is traveling from Wichita to Lawton on Friday to protest the housing of the children. The group says the children continue to be detained under questionable conditions. Hundreds of teenagers from Central America have been housed at a troop barracks at the southwest Oklahoma Army post after detention centers near the border were overwhelmed with an influx of young people crossing the border. Members of Oklahoma's all-Republican congressional delegation are urging President Barack Obama to reconsider using Fort Sill to the house unaccompanied minors.


Kansas Woman Sentenced in Theft from Co-Workers

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas woman has been sentenced to two years in federal prison without parole for stealing from her co-workers at a U.S. Department Agriculture office in Kansas City, Missouri. The U.S. Attorney's office announced in a news release that 50-year-old Paula Steen, of Overland Park, Kansas, also was ordered to pay $96,012 in restitution. Steen, a former IT specialist, pleaded guilty in December. She admitted that stole from her co-workers over a four-year period, charging $57,693 on credit accounts of a co-worker who is legally blind. Steen also did not repay loans of $48,171 from another co-worker and transferred $16,096 from another co-worker's credit union account to her creditors and bank account. She also tried to open a joint credit card account with a co-worker without his authorization.


Ex-IRS Employee Pleads Guilty in Fraud Conspiracy

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A former employee of the Internal Revenue Service in Kansas City pleaded guilty to stealing taxpayers' identity information to receive fraudulent tax refunds. Thirty-two-year-old Taylor S. Knight of Kansas City entered the plea Friday in federal court. She admitted that she used the information to receive fraudulent tax refunds and prepaid debit cards while working at the IRS. Knight and her boyfriend were arrested in August 2011 when they tried to cash a $46,734 refund check at a convenience store, and offered store employees $6,000 to persuade them to cash the check. A suspicious store supervisor called police. Knight faces up to five years in federal prison without parole, plus a fine up to $250,000 and an order of restitution.


$16 Million Grant to Support New KU Earth Science & Energy Center

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas says a $16 million gift will help build a hall in the university's planned Earth, Energy and Environment Center. The university announced the gift Thursday from the family of Donald Slawson, a Wichita resident, who died July 7. He graduated from the university in 1955 and founded Slawson Exploration, becoming a leader in the oil and gas exploration industry. The university said in a news release the gift will fund Slawson Hall, which will provide space for collaboration among researchers in several earth science and energy fields. Part of Slawson Hall will be used to provide real-world applications of discoveries made at the university. Slawson was twice appointed to the National Petroleum Council, and also served two terms on the Kansas Board of Regents.


UMKC Going Smoke Free in August

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The University of Missouri-Kansas City is banning smoking on all its property beginning August 1. The ban encompasses indoor and outdoor sites, including the sidewalks and even in parking garages. The university banned smoking in some facilities last summer but is expanding the policy this year. The Kansas City Star reports that university officials said the policy was prompted by the increasing use of e-cigarettes on campus, a commitment to health and complaints about smokers gathering outside building entrances. Associate vice chancellor Robert Simmons says a majority of students, faculty and staff support the smoking ban. However, the policy currently does not include penalties. Simmons says the university can't afford to hire more campus police officers to arrest smokers.


2 Missouri School Districts to Provide Free Lunches

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City and Hickman Mills school districts will offer free lunches to every student, beginning in August. A new federal provision allows qualifying districts with high percentages of students on food assistance to feed all their students. The theory is that the districts will recover the loss in food costs with savings from the expensive paperwork and bureaucracy needed to manage lunch accounts. The Kansas City Star reports that 90 percent of the students in the Kansas City Public Schools qualify for free or reduced-price meals, and 86 percent in Hickman Mills. Other districts in the area are considering using the Community Eligibility Provision. But districts with more students who pay for their lunches say the provision is not financially feasible for them.


Huckabee Endorses Roberts in Kansas Senate Race

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has endorsed Kansas Senator Pat Roberts as he battles a GOP primary challenge from tea party candidate Milton Wolf. Huckabee is a former Arkansas governor who now has a talk show on Fox News. He ran unsuccessfully for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 but won Kansas' caucuses. Roberts is seeking his fourth, six-year term. Wolf is a Leawood radiologist and has the backing of national tea party groups ahead of the state's Aug. 5 primary. A spokesman for Milton Wolf responded that Roberts won't stop his slide in the polls no matter how many endorsements he receives.


Kansas Senator Touts Agriculture Policy Expertise

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Senator Pat Roberts has the support of major farm groups and is touting his expertise in agriculture policy as he campaigns for re-election in the nation's leading wheat-producing state. But Republican primary challenger Milton Wolf's campaign is accusing the three-term incumbent of waging what it calls "geographical warfare" with a radio ad running in western Kansas. Roberts has endorsements from the Kansas Farm Bureau and the Kansas Livestock Association. He serves on the Senate Agriculture Committee and is a former House Agriculture Committee chairman. The tea-party backed Wolf is a Leawood radiologist but grew up on a farm in Rice County. Roberts' ad in western Kansas suggests Wolf doesn't understand agriculture and lives "right next to Missouri." Wolf said Roberts is trying to divide eastern and western Kansas residents.


Vacant Building Collapses in Downtown Kingman

KINGMAN, Kan. (AP) — Engineers are trying to determine why a vacant building partially collapsed in downtown Kingman. City manager Emily Graf says no one was injured when a south wall and part of a west wall of the building collapsed Thursday No surroundings buildings were damaged Graf says the building was constructed in 1890. The block has been closed to protect the safety of citizens. Kingman is about 45 miles west of Wichita.


Kansas City Zoo's Oldest LIon Euthanized

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Zoo's oldest lion has been euthanized after veterinary staffers were unable to treat him successfully for numerous health issues. The Kansas City Star reports the lion, named Dumisani, was 18 years old and had lived at the zoo nearly his entire life after arriving in 1997 from Indianapolis. Dumisani's parents were from the wild, making his genes desirable for breeding. The zoo brought in two females from Africa in 1998 to diversify the gene pool, but the lions had feline immunodeficiency virus and were not suitable for breeding. Officials allowed one litter to be produced before the females underwent a contraceptive procedure, but one of them became pregnant anyway. Dumisana sired seven cubs in the two litters, creating one of the largest prides among American zoos.


KDHE Issues Lake Algae Warning

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Health officials are alerting the public about potentially harmful algae blooms in Kansas lakes. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has issued warnings for high levels of the toxic algae in seven lakes. Those include Chisholm Creek Park Lake in Sedgwick County, Memorial Park Lake in Barton County and Jewell State Fishing Lake in Jewell County. Warnings also have been issued for Lake Warnock in Atchison County and South Park Lake in Johnson County. In addition, the Milford Reservoir and parts of the Marion Reservoir also are under a public health warning. A public health warning indicates that water conditions are unsafe and people should avoid any direct water contact such as wading, swimming or skiing.


Kansas City Offers Ambulance Workers $2 Million Settlement

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Council has proposed to settle a class action lawsuit over ambulance workers' overtime pay for nearly $2 million. The Kansas City Star reports the council offered the roughly $1.98 million settlement Thursday. The council's finance committee will consider it next week. An attorney for the 110 plaintiffs says they're happy about the resolution. Former paramedics and EMTs sued the city in 2011 following a merger between the fire department and ambulance services in 2010. The workers say Kansas City violated federal law in its overtime pay policies. They say the city didn't pay them for all hours worked that exceeded 40 hours a week. The fire department budget will cover $1.3 million. The rest of the money will come from a legal claims fund.


Proxy Adviser Says Sprint CEO Was Paid Too Much

NEW YORK (AP) — Advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services is telling shareholders to protest Sprint Corp. CEO Dan Hesse's $49 million 2013 pay package, saying it's excessive and not tied to performance. Hesse got a special $18.7 million stock award in connection with Softbank Corp. of Japan buying 70 percent of Sprint last year. ISS says that helped put his pay package above three times the median pay for a CEO of a comparable company. Shareholders will vote on approving the executive pay package on August 6. The vote is only advisory, but boards take "no" votes seriously. Sprint, which is based in Overland Park, Kansas, had no immediate comment on the ISS report.



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