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Headlines for Friday, June 7, 2019

 

Kansas Prisons Chief's Senate Confirmation Still in Doubt

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two Republican leaders say they have doubts that the Kansas Senate will confirm Democratic Governor Laura Kelly's choice to be the next head of the state prison system.  Kelly on Wednesday stood by her appointment of top Idaho corrections official Jefferey Zmuda as Kansas corrections secretary. Zmuda is set to take over the Kansas Department of Corrections in July.  Zmuda was criticized by an Idaho judge earlier this year for giving "disingenuous" testimony as the deputy director of that state's prison system in a lawsuit over access to execution records.  Senate President Susan Wagle said Wednesday that she is not sure the GOP-controlled Senate will confirm Zmuda. Majority Leader Jim Denning said the vote would go against Zmuda if it were held now.  Lawmakers are out of session until January.

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2-Year-Old Boy's Death at Wichita Motel Under Investigation

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are investigating after a 2-year-old boy who was on the radar of child welfare officials died at a Wichita motel.  The Kansas Department of Children and Families identified the boy Thursday as Zayden Jaynesahkluah. Police say he was pronounced dead on May 31 after a woman called to report that he wasn't breathing.  No information has been released about how he died, and no arrests have been made. Police say they are awaiting a toxicology report.  State Rep. Michael Capps, a Wichita Republican, told KSNW-TV that welfare officials had been involved with Zayden's family before he died.  "At this time, we don't have details specific to the case other than the fact that this was an active DCF investigation, and the child did die in the course of that investigation," Capps said.  The welfare agency said in a statement that state law allows it to release further information about the case if it finds that Zayden's death was a result of abuse or neglect. The statement said it will take several weeks to make a finding. Saint Francis Ministries, a child welfare contractor, also released a statement in which it said it would work closely with the welfare agency to review its policies and procedures.

The Wichita area has seen several child abuse homicides. The victims include 3-year-old Evan Brewer, whose body was found encased in concrete, and 5-year-old Lucas Hernandez, whose body was found under a rural bridge months after he went missing.  "Our children and our families deserve far better. It's time to stop talking and time to start doing something about it," said Capps, who had had his own run-in with the agency. He won re-election last fall despite calls to end his campaign over a woman's allegations, which Capps described as "false," that he allowed two of her foster children to sit in his lap and rub his chest.  The state Department for Children and Families previously confirmed it had found "emotional abuse" by Capps, without providing further details, but its finding was overturned on a "technical error."  Zayden's father, Caleb Jaynesahkluah, said he also has questions about how his son died but was alarmed about the speculation on social media, noting that "it's still pending an investigation." He also requested prayers for his family.  "I just hope no one else has to go through this," Jaynesahkluah said.

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2 Tennessee Men Killed in Fiery Crash in Kansas

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Two men from Tennessee died in a crash at an intersection in rural southwest Kansas.  The Kansas Highway Patrol says the accident happened Wednesday afternoon in Finney County north of Garden City when two pickups entered the intersection at the same time and collided. The intersection has no markings indicating right of way.  One of the trucks rolled over and burst into flames, killing 50-year-old Joe McNally, who was driving, and 57-year-old Jimmy Sherlock. They were both from Memphis.  A 47-year-old Scott City man driving the other pickup was taken to a hospital after complaining of pain.

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Woman Sentenced for Taking Child from Kansas to Russia

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Russian woman has been sentenced to seven years in prison for taking a child she had with a Kansas man to her native country and demanding money before she would allow the father to talk to his daughter.  Bogdana Alexandrovna Mobley was sentenced Thursday for international parental kidnapping and two counts of attempting to extort money. She was convicted in March.  Prosecutors say she left Kansas in 2014 with two children, one from her marriage to Brian Mobley. He was awarded joint custody of the girl in Sedgwick County, Kansas, when the couple divorced and his ex-wife didn't have permission to leave with the children. Prosecutors say she allowed Brian Mobley to talk to the child until 2016 but then demanded money before he could see her.  The child still has not returned to the U.S.

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New Trial Ordered in 2008 Death of Insect Exterminator

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has unanimously overturned the conviction of a man who killed an insect exterminator in February 2008. The court ruled Friday the case against 61-year-old Howard Barrett should be returned to Riley County for a new trial. Barrett beat and fatally stabbed 48-year-old Thomas James, who was doing extermination work in Barrett's apartment in Leonardville. His attorney argued that Barrett, who is schizophrenic, felt irrationally threatened by James. Barrett was convicted in November 2014 of second-degree murder but appealed, saying jurors should have been instructed they could find him guilty of imperfect self-defense voluntary manslaughter. The Court of Appeals ruled that error was harmless because Barrett's second-degree murder conviction nullified a possible manslaughter conviction. The Supreme Court disagreed, saying the jury could have reasonably convicted Barrett of manslaughter.

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State: Rhododendrons Bought at Walmart Should Be Destroyed

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The state is asking anyone who bought a rhododendron plant at Walmart stores in Kansas since April to destroy them. The Kansas Department of Agriculture reported Friday that confirmed cases of the Sudden Oak Death disease have been found in rhododendrons sold at 60 Walmarts in Kansas and one Home Depot in Pittsburg. The plant disease has infected trees and native plants in California and Oregon and has also been identified in 10 Midwestern states. It is the first time the disease is in Kansas. The diseased plants sold in Kansas originated from the Park Hill Plants nursery in Oklahoma. The plants must be destroyed because there is no cure for the disease. The plants should be burned or double-bagged and thrown away. The root ball should also be thrown out. The disease poses no risk to humans or animals.

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Documents: Nursing Home Worker Stole Jewelry from Patient

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Charging documents say a suburban Kansas City nursing home worker stole rings valued at nearly $10,000 from a 99-year-old dementia patient by using lotion to slip them from the woman's hands in the middle of the night.  The Kansas City Star reports that 23-year-old Leah Anne Goodall was arrested Saturday ahead of her preliminary hearing. The certified nursing assistant is charged with mistreatment of an elder.  A daughter of the elderly woman noticed her mother was missing four rings in April 2018. Court documents say staff at the Overland Park nursing home told her that Goodall had cared for her mother the previous day and didn't return to work.  When officers told her there was surveillance video of the room, Goodall allegedly admitted to taking the rings. They have been returned.

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Emails Show Chaos Before Kansas Football Player's Death

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Newly released emails show the chaos surrounding the heatstroke death of a 300-pound football player after practice at a Kansas community college.  The emails obtained by The Associated Press through an open records request show the assistant coach who arrived at the scene determined 19-year-old Braeden Bradforth of New Jersey was in "visible distress." But rather than dial 911, the assistant called the head coach for instructions.  Nearly 30 minutes passed between when teammates found Bradforth and when paramedics arrived.  Under pressure from Bradforth's family and the New Jersey congressional delegation, Garden City Community College has hired independent investigators to review the case. The college did not directly respond to the AP's questions about the newly released emails.

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Topeka Zoo: Protocols Weren't Followed Before Tiger Attack

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Topeka zoo says a tiger attacked a zookeeper after protocols for handling potentially dangerous animals were not followed.  The zoo released a lengthy report Thursday detailing its internal review of the April 20 attack, when zookeeper Kristyn Hayden-Ortega was seriously injured by a 7-year-old Sumatran tiger named Sanjiv.  The report said "multiple" protocols and procedures concerning spaces occupied by tigers had prevented any similar attack at the zoo for decades.  The report says protocol was not followed when the keeper entered the tiger's outdoor habitat without ensuring that the animal was locked inside. Other zoo employees lured the animal away with meat so emergency responders could treat Hayden-Ortega. The city said Thursday it could not release any information on her current condition.

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Veterans Travel to Eisenhower's Home for D-Day Events

ABILENE, Kan. (AP) — Veterans are traveling to President Dwight D. Eisenhower's presidential museum to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day in the place where the Supreme Allied Commander during World War II was raised.  Among them was 96-year-old Louis Graziano, who was part of the third wave during the largest seaborne invasion in history. Amid a week of events, he sat behind Eisenhower's old desk and recalled what happened.  The Wichita Eagle reports that Graziano said he also was present in the little red school house where Germany surrendered. Of all the men there that day, Graziano's daughter Moira Johnson says her father is believed to be the only one still alive. Another of his daughters Kim Evans says it gives her chills to the day to think about it.

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Court Lifts Block on Keystone XL Pipeline Construction

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — An appeals court has lifted a judge's injunction that blocked construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada. But it's not clear whether the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling Thursday will have any immediate effect. TC Energy, the company that wants to build the line, previously said it is too late to begin work this year. The three-judge appeals panel ordered the lawsuit by environmental and Native American groups dismissed because President Donald Trump had revoked a 2017 permit allowing the $8 billion pipeline to be built. Trump issued a new permit to take its place, which Justice Department attorneys say makes the legal challenge over the pipeline's environmental effects moot. Attorneys for the plaintiffs accuse Trump of trying to skirt the law and they have filed another, ongoing lawsuit to block the new presidential permit.

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Eastern Kansas Hospital Agrees to Settle Whistleblower Suit for $250,000

BURLINGTON, Kan. (AP) — An east-central Kansas hospital has agreed to settle a whistleblower lawsuit for $250,000.  The Wichita Eagle reports that the lawsuit alleged that the Coffey Health System lied to the federal government in order to receive at least $3 million in incentives payments it didn't deserve. The U.S. Department of Justice announced the settlement last week.  The suit, which was filed in 2016, alleged that some misstatements were about compliance with security standards meant to ensure the privacy and security of patient information. The suit also said that the hospital gave the government data that didn't come from the source it claimed it had.  Wichita attorney Gary Ayers said the Burlington-based health care organization decided to settle to avoid the expense of ongoing litigation — not because it did anything wrong.

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St. Joseph District Settles Bullying Lawsuit

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — The St. Joseph school district has agreed to a nearly $130,000 settlement with a family who alleged in a lawsuit that an autistic student was bullied at an elementary school.  The family said the student was the target of name-calling and other harassment at Eugene Field Elementary School during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 academic years. The St. Joseph News-Press reports the boy's mother testified her son was handcuffed, hit and a derogatory figure was drawn on his head. The woman said her son has been diagnosed with a condition similar to post-traumatic stress syndrome, and he suffers from anxiety.  In a statement, officials denied the allegations and said the district was prepared to defend itself in court but its insurance company elected to settle the lawsuit.

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Missouri River Will Remain High Because of Water from Dams

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The amount of water being released into the lower Missouri River from upstream dams will remain at a high level for several months because of recent heavy rain and remaining snowpack.  The Army Corps of Engineers says it expects water releases from reservoirs on the Missouri to be above average through the summer and possibly until November.  The Corps says that for now it's maintaining the amount of water that's being released from Gavins Point Dam on the Nebraska-South Dakota border at 75,000 cubic feet per second. The Corps' John Remus says that's more than twice the average release of water for this time of year. That may worsen flooding downstream, where many levees have been damaged due to recent high water.

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Missouri Students Suing For-Profit College for False Claims

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Two former Missouri college students are suing a for-profit school, alleging they were deceived into borrowing thousands of dollars in student loans with false assurances about the quality of the education and their job prospects after graduation.  The Kansas City Star reports that Shayanne Bowman and Jackquelynn Mortenson filed the lawsuit against National American University in Jackson County Circuit Court.  The women say the school ran a "systematic, deceptive marketing scheme" that tricked them into applying for federal student loans that they cannot repay.  They say they ended up with "worthless" college credits and "crippling debt." This is the second suit pending against the school.  National American University closed its two Kansas City-area campuses in May to focus on online education.

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Prosecutor: Criminal Investigation of Chiefs' Hill Inactive

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A prosecutor says he is no longer actively investigating a criminal case against Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill involving alleged injuries to his 3-year-old son.  Johnson County Attorney Steve Howe told The Kansas City Star he would reconsider his decision if new evidence emerges against Hill, who has been suspended from the team since April 25 after a television station aired a recording of a conversation between Hill and his fiancee, Crystal Espinal, about the boy's treatment.  In news conference a day earlier, Howe said he believed the boy had been hurt but would not file charges because he couldn't prove who did it.  The Kansas Department for Children and Families continues to investigate the couple after police were called to the Hill's home twice in March.  Hill has maintained his innocence. Chiefs spokesman Ted Crews declined comment Friday.

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Court Lifts Block on Keystone XL Pipeline Construction

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — An appeals court has lifted a judge's injunction that blocked construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada.  But it's not clear whether the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling Thursday will have any immediate effect.  TC Energy, the company that wants to build the line, previously said it is too late to begin work this year.  The three-judge appeals panel ordered the lawsuit by environmental and Native American groups dismissed because President Donald Trump had revoked a 2017 permit allowing the $8 billion pipeline to be built.  Trump issued a new permit to take its place, which Justice Department attorneys say makes the legal challenge over the pipeline's environmental effects moot.  Attorneys for the plaintiffs accuse Trump of trying to skirt the law and they have filed another, ongoing lawsuit to block the new presidential permit.

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