14th Case Linked to Serial Rapist; $10K Reward Offered
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a serial rapist who remains on the loose after attacking more than a dozen women in two Kansas college towns has been tied to another case. Police in Riley County and Lawrence announced during a joint news conference Thursday that a July 2015 attempted rape in Manhattan is the latest case linked to the unidentified suspect. The man also is suspected in 12 other rapes and one other attempted rape from 2000 to 2008. Authorities are urging other women who may have been victimized to come forward. Police say all but one of the attacks occurred during school breaks at Kansas State and the University of Kansas. Officials have said the suspect is usually armed. A $10,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to an arrest.
Brownback Still Touts Tax Cuts as He Heads to Exit
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican Governor Sam Brownback says he wishes Kansas had preserved part of an income tax break he championed as a boon for small businesses. Brownback cited the death of the exemption for more than 330,000 farmers and business owners as one of his regrets during his 6½ years as governor. He reflected on his tenure during a Statehouse news conference following his nomination by President Donald Trump to serve as U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. His departure would elevate Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer, a fellow GOP conservative, to governor. Brownback said he doesn't know whether he'll wait until his ambassador's appointment is confirmed by the U.S. Senate before resigning as governor.
Kansas Political Leaders Debate Brownback's Legacy
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is looking to take an ambassadorship in President Donald Trump's administration. The White House announced Wednesday that Trump will nominate the Republican governor to serve as ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. If confirmed by the Senate, he'll run the State Department's office of International Religious Freedom. Brownback has scheduled a news conference Thursday afternoon to discuss plans for his expected departure from the governor's office. In a tweet Wednesday, Brownback said he was honored "to serve such an important cause." The chairman of Kansas's Republican Party says Brownback will be remembered as a governor who advanced conservative goals. But the state Senate Democratic leader says Brownback's legacy will be the budget problems caused by income tax cuts the governor championed.
Next Kansas Governor Would Be a Surgeon, Brownback Loyalist
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Jeff Colyer has been a loyal lieutenant governor to GOP Governor Sam Brownback since 2011 and is preparing to become Kansas governor after nearly a decade of helping fellow conservative Republicans shape health care policy. Colyer is a plastic surgeon who's worked in international medical relief missions in disaster and war zones. Colyer would be elevated to governor once Brownback resigns to become President Donald Trump's ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. The White House announced Wednesday that it would nominate Brownback. The 57-year-old Colyer already was seen as a potential Republican candidate for governor next year because Brownback was term-limited. Colyer often was the administration's spokesman on health issues and served in the state Legislature before first running on Brownback's ticket in 2010.
Kansas Man Convicted of Rape Faces Child Exploitation Charge
HOLTON, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man already convicted of raping two women and acquitted of sexually assaulting a teen won't face additional rape charges, but will stand trial in relation to explicit images of an underage girl that authorities found via his Facebook profile. Jacob Ewing will face trial for attempted rape and 10 felony counts of sexual exploitation of a child. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports District Judge Norbert Marek ruled Thursday that a jury should decide if Ewing knowingly viewed the sexually explicit images of a 17-year-old girl. In the ruling in Jackson County (Kansas), Marek dismissed additional rape charges at the request of special prosecutor Jacqie Spradling. Marek denied a request by defense attorney Kathleen Ambrosio to have Ewing retried to try to overturn his convictions in June.
Former Soldier Sentenced in Sexual Abuse Case in Kansas
FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors say a former Army soldier who was stationed in northeast Kansas has been sentenced to 17 years for sexual abuse. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that 30-year-old Eugene Cleaver of Bonham, Texas, pleaded guilty to one count of sexual abuse. In his plea, Cleaver says he was stationed at Fort Riley, where he lived with four female minors and their parents. U.S. Attorney Tom Beall says Cleaver received free room and board in exchange for watching the children and taking care of the house. The juveniles were eventually removed from the home and placed in foster care. Beall says investigators discovered Cleaver had molested the children. Beall says investigators found that Cleaver told the children not to tell anyone or he would get in trouble.
7 Charged with Felony Murder in Baldwin City Woman's Death
PAOLA, Kan. (AP) - Prosecutors have charged seven people with felony murder after they say a woman was intentionally hit by a car in a drug-related death. Authorities say 23-year-old Heather Briggs, of Baldwin City, died early Friday on a road 2 miles west of Paola. Police found her body underneath the vehicle. Prosecutors say Briggs was run over during a felony drug deal involving the distribution of methamphetamine. The suspected driver, 21-year-old Nichole Razo, of Parker, was charged Tuesday with first-degree felony murder. Six other people - two from Paola and four from Osawatomie - were charged Wednesday with the same crime. They are each being held in Miami County on $1 million bond.
Report: Failure to Yield Caused Kansas Train Collision
READING, Kan. (AP) — Kansas highway officials say a collision between an Amtrak train and a semitrailer pulling cattle occurred due to the driver's failure to yield to the train. A report from the Kansas Highway Patrol says the train wasn't able to stop when the driver didn't yield at a railroad crossing near Reading on Thursday. The Emporia Gazette reports the accident sent the train's engineer, 35-year-old Jarrod McWhirter, to a local hospital with minor injuries. Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari says none of the more than 210 train passengers were hurt. The livestock trailer was split in half by the collision, killing some cattle and injuring others. Magliari says the train was able to continue eastward after a four-hour delay once a replacement crew arrived and the damaged lead locomotive was removed.
Kansas City Police Major Smith Promoted to Chief's Role
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 29-year veteran of the Kansas City, Missouri, police force is the department's new police chief. The city's police board on Friday named Major Rick Smith as the successor to Darryl Forte, who retired in May. Smith will take the department's helm on August 15. Smith joined the department in 1988 and has worked as a patrol officer, tactical response officer and supervisor of the homicide unit. Lately, he has served as commander of the department's Central Patrol Division. Smith was a finalist along with Keith Humphrey, the police chief in Norman, Oklahoma. The Kansas City police force has more than 1,800 sworn officers and civilian employees.
Armed Man Killed by Police in KCMO During Confrontation
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City, Missouri, police say a man armed with a firearm was fatally shot by police after pointing the weapon at officers. Authorities say officers who responded Friday to a reported domestic dispute confronted the armed man who matched the suspect's description. Police say officers tried to negotiate with the man to drop his gun, but the suspect eventually pointed his gun at police and was shot. The man later died at a hospital. His name was not immediately released. None of the officers was injured.
Missouri Man Accused of Dropping TV 3 Stories onto Woman
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City, Missouri, man is accused of critically injuring a woman by dropping an old television set onto her from a third-floor balcony. Jackson County (Missouri) prosecutors charged 36-year-old Otishus Kirkwood with first-degree assault and armed criminal action. Authorities say the victim, who has not been publicly identified, sustained life-threatening injuries. Investigators allege in court filings that officers dispatched Thursday to an apartment found the victim unconscious in front of the apartment building, near a partially broken tube television set. Police say a witness reported that Kirkwood threw the large television from a third-floor balcony, striking the victim on the head. Online court records don't show whether Kirkwood has an attorney.
Worsening Drought Conditions in Parts of US Stressing Crops
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Drought conditions are getting worse in several states, and extreme heat and weeks with little rain have begun to stress corn, soybeans, wheat and livestock in some areas. The weekly U.S. Drought Monitor released Thursday by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln says nearly 11 percent of the continental United States is in moderate drought or worse. The most severe drought area is centered on portions of Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota. The United States Department of Agriculture has designated several counties in those states as areas of natural disaster, paving the way for emergency loans for producers. Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas also are seeing stressed crops and farm animals. About half of U.S. spring wheat, 15 percent of corn and 14 percent of soybeans are in drought.
Kansas Congressional Delegation Reacts to Trump's Transgender Ban
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Two members of Kansas's Congressional delegation say they disagree with President Donald Trump's proposal to ban transgender people from serving in the military, although they agree the government shouldn't pay for gender transition surgeries or hormone treatments. Kansas Congressman Kevin Yoder and Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins, both Republicans, said in statements Wednesday anyone who wants to serve in the military should be allowed to do so. Kansas Republican Congressman Roger Marshall said he supports Trump's proposal because the president made the decision after consulting with the country's generals. And Senator Pat Roberts said only that he wants to hear more from the military. All of the state's Congressional members voted earlier in favor of an amendment prohibiting therapies or surgeries for transgender troops. The amendment failed.
Police in California, Kansas Probe Deaths of Couple's Babies
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (AP) — Authorities say they are investigating whether the death of a couple's baby in California is related to the death of their older child in Kansas in 2015. Gage and Debra Roberts were charged with second-degree murder Tuesday in the death of their infant in a Bakersfieldhotel in April 2016, the Bakersfield Californian reports. In Kansas, Shawnee County's District Attorney Michael Kagay then announced Wednesday there was an ongoing investigation into the death of the couple's six-month-old baby in Topeka in 2015. Kagay said his office is cooperating with the Topeka Police Department and authorities in California to determine to if the two deaths are connected. Court documents filed in California say police were called to a hotel in 2016 and found a maid performing CPR on a baby. The child was pronounced dead on the scene, according to the newspaper. Gage Roberts said he had slept in the same bed with the infant and they remained face up, the document said. Police reported they found evidence inconsistent with that statement. The couple told police they had another child die in Kansas from sudden infant death syndrome. Debra Roberts is represented by the Kern County public defender's office. Dominic Eyherabide, chief assistant public defender, warned the public against rushing to judgment. A court-appointed attorney for Gage Roberts could not be reached for comment on Thursday. The couple is scheduled to be arraigned August 1.
Chinese Firm to Locate Small Manufacturing Plant in Lawrence
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - A Chinese firm will locate a small manufacturing plant in Lawrence to build propellers. The company, Sterna Composite Aircraft, will build the plant as part of a joint venture with Lawrence-Based DARcorporation. The propellers built at the plant will power everything from drones to airboats. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the plant will create 10 new manufacturing jobs by the end of the year, with perhaps dozens more in future years. Sterna currently produces composite propellers in China but wants to target the U.S. market. DARcorporation president Willem Anemaat says his company has worked with Sterna previously and promoted Lawrence for the company's U.S. headquarters. Anemaat said the long range plan is to have the joint venture company certified by the Federal Aviation Administration to produce propellers for larger aircraft.
More Charges Filed Against 'AK-47 Bandit' Suspect
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Federal charges have been filed in Nebraska against a man suspected of being the "AK-47 bandit," accused of robbing banks in five states. Richard Gathercole is accused of interstate transportation of a stolen vehicle and stolen firearms in a complaint filed Thursday in federal court in Lincoln. His attorney didn't immediately return a call Friday from The Associated Press. FBI officials believe Gathercole is "the AK-47 bandit," who's robbed banks in California, Idaho, Iowa, Nebraska and Washington. Court documents say Gathercole was arrested June 20 near Lexington, Nebraska. A sheriff's deputy had spotted a pickup there that Kansas authorities had reported stolen by a man who fired at but missed a state trooper. A Nebraska prosecutor says state charges were dropped Thursday because of near duplication with the federal counts.
Wichita Sees Declining Homeless Population
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Closing homeless shelters and reports on homeless counts show that Wichita's homeless population is declining. The Wichita Eagle reports that data collected in the annual point-in-time homeless counts show chronic homeless in Wichita has dropped 42 percent from 2015 to 2017. Service providers for the homeless say the most significant drops are among veterans and the chronically homeless. Agencies providing services meet monthly to review cases. Catholic Charities Executive Director Wendy Glick says the nonprofit's The Mount shelter has closed because not enough homeless families were using it. But Glick says Wichita is also seeing an increase in the number of homeless teens and 20-somethings. United Way of the Plains Director of Community Impact Luella Sanders says groups plan to focus on helping that specific group next.
War Plane Restored in Kansas Honors Deceased Veterans
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A decades-old bomber that was built and restored in Wichita is now being used to honor those who worked on B-29s during World War II. The Wichita Eagle reports the Boeing B-29 Superfortress named Doc has a custom exhaust port on the rear of the plane can spread cremated remains. It took a trip Tuesday in Wisconsin with the cremated remains of one of the men who helped with its 16-year volunteer restoration. The plane was dubbed Doc after being assigned to a squadron of eight bombers named after Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs from 1945 to 1956. The plane was finished too late to fly bombing missions during WWII, but it served as a radar trainer during the Korean War.
Hundreds Turn Out for Nonexistent Job Fair in Wichita
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Several hundred people in Wichita have shown up for a nonexistent job fair after a newspaper article about an event two years ago began circulating on social media. The Wichita Eagle reports nearly 300 people showed up to Spirit AeroSystems last weekend after someone shared the newspaper's story about a job fair in 2015 as if it were a new event. The newspaper's data show the article has been clicked on nearly 30,000 times in the past couple of weeks. The newspaper and Spirit tried to get the word out that there's no job fair, but people still showed up. Spirit spokesman Jarrod Bartlett says the company used that opportunity to remind people that Spirit is always hiring.