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Headlines for Friday, June 13, 2014



Moran, Jenkins Tour NE Kansas VA Medical Center

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Senator Jerry Moran says he's received complaints from veterans that they're not being given appointments at US Veterans Affairs facilities. Moran said Friday after a short tour of the Colmery-O'Neil VA Medical Center in Topeka that his office received about a dozen complaints over the past six months from veterans who have called for medical appointments in Kansas and have been told to call back in six months. Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins said her office has received multiple complaints from veterans of having appointments changed a few days before they were scheduled. Jenkins also was on the tour. Their visit comes amid scrutiny of VA facilities across the nation. A local VA spokesman says he's not heard of veterans being denied appointments and being told to call back months later.


KS Supreme Court Orders New Sentencing for Soldier

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has ordered a lower court to resentence a Fort Riley soldier who received five life sentences as a habitual sexual offender. In a unanimous decision announced Friday, the high court upheld the Riley County convictions of Tony Tremayne Lewis on several charges, including rape and aggravated criminal sodomy in three attacks in 2009. He was sentenced as a habitual sexual offender based on earlier conviction in Geary County for rape and other charges. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the Supreme Court upheld his convictions, but also ruled that the district court erred when it imposed the sentence based on a misinterpretation of state law regarding enhanced sentences for aggravated habitual sexual offenders. The Supreme Court sent the case sent back to Riley County for resentencing.


Lawsuits over Monsanto Wheat Transferred to Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A lawsuit filed in Arkansas against Monsanto over the May 2013 discovery of an isolated field of genetically engineered wheat in Oregon has now landed in federal court in Kansas. The assignment Thursday of the Arkansas case to U.S. District Judge Kathryn Vratil marks the latest transfer of litigation since a federal judicial panel centralized several lawsuits against St. Louis-based Monsanto. The consolidated pretrial proceedings are all in Kansas. The panel first transferred four civil actions last October, and it has since transferred nine others. Lawsuits were initially filed in Kansas, Oklahoma, Illinois, Missouri, Louisiana, Oregon, Texas, Mississippi, Washington, Arkansas and Idaho. Monsanto has contended no legal liability exists given the care undertaken, and it has vowed to present a vigorous defense to the lawsuits.


Parolee in Advocate's Death Accused of Violation

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka man convicted in the 2006 killing of an advocate for the homeless has been jailed on suspicion of violating his parole. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports 43-year-old John Ray Cornell was arrested Wednesday. Police said he violated a city ordinance by walking in the street when there was a sidewalk available Cornell's bond was set at $200 on the misdemeanor count. But a spokesman for the state Corrections Department says the agency then had Cornell held without bond on a possible parole violation as officials investigate his arrest. Cornell pleaded guilty to kidnapping and involuntary manslaughter for the death of 38-year-old David Owen near a homeless camp along the Kansas River. Cornell was paroled last October. Three other people were convicted of first-degree murder in the death.


Saline County Concludes Harassment Probe

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — The Saline County sheriff says the department's investigation into sexual harassment claims won't result in charges against the county's health director. Sheriff Glen Kochanowski told The Salina Journal that his office has finished investigating allegations by a former colleague about Saline County Health Department director Bronson Farmer. The woman alleged that Farmer sexually harassed her in 2006, when they both worked at the health department. No charges were filed at the time. Farmer has denied the allegations. The sheriff reopened the case earlier this year because some people involved in the original investigation weren't interviewed. But Kochanowski said Thursday the interviews have been conducted, and the investigation has concluded without any changes from the previous case.


Police Say Elderly Kansas Man Found Safe

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Kansas City, Kansas, police say an 80-year-old man who hadn't been seen since Thursday has been found safe and in good condition. Police say Leroy Bryant went missing after going for a walk about 11 am Thursday. Police say he has Alzheimer's disease. After the department issued a Silver Alert for Bryant, he was found Friday morning in good condition at a restaurant. It did not provide any other information. Bryant arrived in Kansas two days ago from Denver but is originally from the Kansas City area.

Kansas Woman Killed in Car-Horse Crash

HOLTON, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka woman has died after the car she was in hit a horse in northeast Kansas. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that 58-year-old Vicki Barbara Self was killed in the accident in Jackson County (Kansas) on Thursday night. Jackson County Sheriff Tim Morse says the accident occurred when car she was in struck a horse along U.S. 75 north of Holton. Self was taken to a Topeka hospital where she was pronounced dead. Morse said the horse, which was killed in the collision, was in the roadway when it was struck. Investigators believe the horse was knocked over the top of the vehicle and went partially through the windshield. He says a second southbound vehicle also hit the horse, but no one in the second vehicle was injured.


KS Agriculture Department Relocating to Manhattan

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The new address is already on the letterhead as the Kansas Department of Agriculture prepares to complete its 56-mile move from Topeka to Manhattan. KMAN-AM reports that the agency will officially open for business Monday in its new quarters. The three-story building is on the edge of the Kansas State University campus next to the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility, which is still under construction. The Agriculture Department announced plans for the move last year, saying it made sense to be located in what officials called the hub for the future of agriculture and biosciences in Kansas. A few employees will remain at an office in Topeka, but about 150 jobs have been moved. Some workers have moved to Manhattan, and as many as 50 will carpool daily from the Topeka area.


Kansas Hosting National Speech and Debate Event

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Hotel rooms will be hard to come by in Overland Park starting Sunday as thousands of students, coaches and educators arrive for the National Speech and Debate Tournament. About 7,000 people altogether, including more than 4,000 middle- and high school students, are expected to be in the northeast Kansas community for the weeklong event. The Overland Park Convention and Visitors Bureau says that 17,800 hotel rooms have been booked for the tournament, about 85 percent of the city's entire hotel inventory. That's more than double the 8,800 rooms booked in 2013 for the U.S. Youth Soccer national championship. Students will compete in a range of categories, including policy debate, dramatic interpretation and congressional debate. Events will be held at the Overland Park Convention Center and at several public schools.


Topeka Considering Purchase of Heartland Park

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka city officials are considering a plan to acquire the financially struggling Heartland Park. The city said in a news release Thursday that the city council would discuss the proposal at its meeting on Tuesday. The news release says the council would consider an agreement that would require the city to issue about $4.7 million in new sales tax revenue bonds to acquire Heartland Park and all associated property from the current owner, Jayhawk Racing. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the motorsports facility has an estimated economic impact of $160 million on the city. Heartland Park has a quarter-mile drag strip with 23 suites, a 2.5-mile championship road course and a 3/8-mile dirt oval track.


Memorial to Fallen Educators Dedicated in Emporia

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — Family members and friends of educators killed in the line of duty say a new memorial in Kansas will keep their memories alive in a world where their killers are usually better known. The Emporia Gazette reports that Crystal McGee was among several who spoke Thursday at a dedication ceremony for the Memorial to Fallen Educators, near the National Teacher's Hall of Fame on the Emporia State University campus. McGee's husband, James McGee, was principal at Goddard Junior High School when a 14-year-old student fatally shot him in 1985. She says the memorial lets families know their loved ones aren't forgotten. Sandy Hook Elementary School teacher Liesl Fressola read the names of her six colleagues gunned down in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012. Among them was her best friend.


3-Lane I-70 on Project List for Missouri Tax Plan

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri highway officials are proposing to widen Interstate 70 to three lanes in each direction between suburban St. Louis and Kansas City if voters approve a transportation sales tax. The I-70 project between Wentzville and Independence was one of hundreds of items on a proposed project list released Friday by the Missouri Department of Transportation. The agency plans to take public comments through July 3, and the state Highways and Transportation Commission will vote on a final list July 9. Proposed Constitutional Amendment 7 on the August ballot will ask voters whether to impose a three-quarters cent sales tax for transportation that would last for 10 years. The measure says it would raise $534 million annually for state and local governments.


Figures Say Kansas Lags Other States in Growth

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — New federal statistics show Kansas's gross domestic product grew slightly faster than the national average last year but still lagged behind most other states in the region. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the U.S. Department of Commerce says Kansas' gross domestic product grew 1.9 percent in 2013. GDP is the value of finished goods and services and is considered a key indicator of economic health. The U.S. saw a 1.8 percent growth in its GDP last year. But the statistics showed that among eight neighboring or Plains states, only Missouri saw lower GDP growth than Kansas, with 0.8 percent. The top GDP growth in the region was North Dakota's 9.7 percent, followed by Oklahoma at 4.2 percent and Colorado at 3.8 percent.


Potawatomi Leader Killed in Motorcycle Accident

MAYETTA, Kan. (AP) — A 56-year-old leader in the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation in northeast Kansas has died in a motorcycle crash involving a deer. The Kansas Highway Patrol says James Potter of Delia died in the crash Wednesday evening west of Mayetta after his motorcycle hit a deer, left the roadway and landed in a ditch. The patrol says someone driving by early Thursday saw Potter and the motorcycle and notified authorities. Suzanne Heck, editor for the tribe's newspaper and website, said Thursday that Potter was tribal council secretary. An obituary posted on the tribe's website says Potter served on the tribal council for 16 years and had also been on the executive board of National Congress of American Indians. Services are scheduled for Monday, with burial Tuesday at the Danceground Cemetery.


Former Regents CEO Takes KU Directorship

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A former leader of the state Board of Regents has been named director of the School of Public Affairs and Administration at the University of Kansas. The appointment of Reggie Robinson was announced Thursday. He replaces Marilu Goodyear, who is leaving the post to become an assistant vice chancellor at the university's Edwards Campus in Overland Park. Robinson holds bachelor's and law degrees from the University of Kansas. He was appointed president and CEO of the Kansas Board of Regents in 2002, leaving that job in 2010 to teach law at Washburn University and direct its Center of Law and Government. Robinson has also held senior positions in the U.S. Justice Department, and served four years in the Army.


KC Arts Leader to Head National Endowment for Arts

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Senate has voted to confirm Missouri arts leader Jane Chu as the next chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. The White House is expected to make an official appointment within days, and Chu will start work at the arts agency. The Senate confirmed her appointment Thursday. Since 2006, Chu has served as president and CEO of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, Missouri. The center is home to the Kansas City Ballet, Kansas City Symphony and Lyric Opera of Kansas City. The National Endowment for the Arts has not had a permanent chairman since Rocco Landesman left the post at the end of 2012. The federal agency funds local arts programs produced by groups nationwide.


MO Man Pleads Guilty to Arson and Insurance Fraud

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A western Missouri man has admitted leading a conspiracy to buy cheap houses and set them on fire to collect nearly $435,000 in insurance benefits. The U.S. Attorney's office says 27-year-old Joshua Stamps, of Independence, Mo. pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to charges alleging arson and insurance fraud. Prosecutors said Stamps and his co-conspirators bought five Kansas City houses at prices ranging from $6,500 to $15,000 but insured them for as much as $307,000. After setting the houses on fire, the conspirators filed claims for insurance payments. The scheme went on from 2007 through 2013. Stamps' plea agreement requires him to pay a judgment of nearly $435,000. He also faces 10 to 25 years in prison without parole. A sentencing date will be set later.


State Investigates Death of Lucas City Worker

LUCAS, Kan. (AP) — A Lucas city worker died while installing a security light in the small northeastern Russell County town. Lucas city clerk Kay Mettlen says the 65-year-old man and another city employee were doing electrical work Thursday morning when he died. The cause of the death is still being investigated. The Salina Journal reports the other worker called for help but the man died at a Russell Hospital. His name has not been released. The Kansas Department of Labor is helping with the investigation.


Kansas Judges Ponder Legal Lessons from Holocaust

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Dozens of Kansas judges have heard a presentation about how Germany's judiciary aided the Nazis and the Holocaust before and during the Second World War. The presentation Thursday by Marcus Appelbaum and William Meinecke Jr. of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington came during an annual conference for nearly 300 Kansas judges. Both told reporters before their presentations that Germany had a tradition of an independent judiciary and many of the judges who served before the Nazi regime continued in the judiciary. They said judges interpreted laws broadly to assist the Nazi regime and often appear to have done so to remain relevant in public life. Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss said the history contains lessons for the judiciary and reminds citizens that they must remain involved.


Science Fiction Writers Meeting in Lawrence

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A conference at the University of Kansas this weekend will explore the ways science fiction and reality often overlap. Science fiction writers will be attending the Campbell Conference in Lawrence Friday through Sunday. It's the 35th year of the event. This year's program will honor the work of Frederik Pohl, who died in September 2013. He was a writer, editor, literary agent and scholar of science fiction. A theme of this year's conference will be the relationship between science fact and fiction. James Gunn, founder of the University of Kansas's Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction, says science fiction studies how change can affect humans in the future, and how the choices people today make will influence the future.


Escaped Hutchinson Inmate Recaptured in Wichita

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A Hutchinson inmate who has been missing since Saturday has been recaptured in Wichita.The Kansas Department of Corrections says 43-year-old Christopher Ward was arrested Thursday evening by Kansas Department of Corrections agents, K-9 officers and U.S. Deputy Marshals. Further details of his arrest were not released. He walked away from his work site Saturday evening at Cal-Maine Industries in Chase, northwest of Wichita. He was serving time for convictions in Butler and Sedgwick counties for burglary, theft, aggravated burglary, fleeing and eluding and aggravated escape from custody. Ward was scheduled to be released in May 2016.


Wichita Man to Stand Trial for Shooting

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 38-year-old Wichita man accused of trying to kill his wife and two sons will stand trial in Sedgwick County. Pettix McMillan is charged with three counts of attempted first-degree murder in the March 24 shootings at the family's west Wichita home. He's being held on $1 million and was bound over this week for a trial scheduled to begin July 14. McMillan is accused of shooting his wife and sons, ages 13 and 5, during a domestic dispute. The wife and the 13-year-old ran to separate neighbors to report the shootings. McMillan was later found in a wooded area near the home The three family members are recovering from their wounds.


Horses at Closing Boys Ranch Need New Homes

LAKE AFTON, Kan. (AP) — Sedgwick County is looking for homes for eight horses that had been kept at a home from troubled boys that is closing in July. Commissioners voted Wednesday to move the horses, which are ages 13 to 25, out of the Judge Riddel Boys Ranch near Lake Afton. It's one of many things that must be done before the ranch closes. The ranch is being shuttered because the county said it could not afford to operate it. The state did not budget more money for the ranch during the last session. The Wichita Eagle reports 14 boys will remain at the ranch until July 18 to complete summer school, with the last boy scheduled to leave July 20. The county likely will lay off a few employees at the ranch.


Minor Injuries in Kansas City School Bus Accident

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A school bus carrying two adults and two students rolled over, causing minor injuries. The accident happened Thursday morning near the Truman Sports Complex in Kansas City. The Grandview School District told KSHB-TV that the small bus had picked the students up from their homes and was headed to the Nova Center School, a school for students with special needs. The children were not transported to the hospital for injuries. Police said the adults were taken to the hospital as a precaution. Police says it's unclear how the accident occurred.


University of Denver Welcomes New Chancellor

DENVER (AP) — The University of Denver is welcoming its new chancellor. Rebecca Chopp, who most recently served as president of Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, is scheduled to be at the school Friday morning to meet with the campus community. The university announced Thursday that Chopp would succeed Robert Coombe, who is retiring after 33 years in office. Chopp will be the first woman to lead the school, one of the largest and oldest private universities in the Rockies. The Salina, Kansas native is also a scholar of American religious movements. She is scheduled to start work before the fall semester.


Chiefs Release Flowers Following Voluntary Workouts

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs released cornerback Brandon Flowers on Friday, shortly after finishing up three weeks of voluntary workouts in which the former starter was conspicuously absent. Kansas City has been bumping up against the salary cap, so the move to part ways with Flowers was largely expected. He was due to make $5.25 million this season, and the former starter carried a salary cap number of $10.5 million next season. The decision to release Flowers will save the Chiefs about $7.25 million this season and $7.5 million next season. That money could be used to help the Chiefs sign quarterback Alex Smith and linebacker Justin Houston to contract extensions. Both of them are in the final year of their contracts.



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