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Headlines for Friday, March 10, 2017

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

Officials Say Kansas Wildfires Are Now Under Control 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Officials say wildfires that have charred more than 1,100 square miles in Kansas are under control, prompting the state to withdraw response teams from the firefighting effort. The Kansas Division of Emergency Management said Friday that crews in Clark County have a blaze there 70 percent contained. Containment levels in Kansas's Comanche, Ellis, Reno and Rooks counties exceed 90 percent. The blaze that encompassed Comanche and Clark counties along Kansas' southern border with Oklahoma is the biggest wildfire on record in Kansas. Since erupting last weekend, wildfires had been reported in 21 Kansas counties. Although Kansas has no burn ban in effect, the state's emergency management agency warns there's still potential for grassfires because of dry conditions statewide.


Kansas Governor's Order Meant to Speed Up Relief to Fire Victims

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is easing the state's motor-carrier laws to help hasten deliveries of relief supplies to farmers and ranchers affected by the state's massive wildfires. Brownback signed an executive order on Thursday waiving certain transportation regulations to make it easier to immediately deliver large quantities of hay, feed, fencing materials and other relief items. Since last weekend, wildfires in Kansas have charred more than 1,000 square miles of land and damaged or destroyed dozens of structures. One blaze, encompassing two counties along Kansas' southern border with Oklahoma, is the biggest wildfire on record in Kansas.


Brownback Won't Commit to Staying Until End of Legislative Session

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback isn't committing to staying in that job through the end of the legislative session this spring. Brownback wouldn't comment Thursday on Kansas Public Radio reports that he will be named the U.S. ambassador for three food and agriculture organizations in Rome. He told reporters he's focused on fixing the state's budget problems and writing a new education funding formula. When asked whether he was committing to staying through the legislature's session, he declined to comment. Kansas is facing a budget crisis and Brownback is trying to stave off income tax increases supported by many fellow Republicans. The state Supreme Court also ruled that the state must spend more on schools. If Brownback steps down, Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer will become governor. Colyer also had no comment.


Kansas Governor's Clout Weakens Amid Talk He May Leave State

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Sam Brownback was once one of the nation's most powerful governors. He could ask fellow Republicans to slash income taxes and most fell into line. But With Kansas now struggling to pay its bills, Brownback's star has fallen so low that lawmakers no longer fear crossing him. And recent reports indicate that he's in line for a low-profile ambassadorship in Italy that would end his administration almost two years early. Brownback made Kansas a lab for conservative ideas. Legislators who balked at his demands risked being ousted. But many voters soured on the income tax cuts Brownback championed in 2012 and 2013. They ousted two dozen of his allies from the Legislature last year to set up a battle over rolling back his signature reforms.


Kansas Senate Panel OKs Medical Cannabis Bill 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee has endorsed a measure that would let doctors and physicians prescribe and dole out what's described as "non-intoxicating" medicine derived from a marijuana chemical compound. The Wichita Eagle reports that senators initially were supposed to vote on a measure that would legalize the use of cannabis for certain medical conditions. But an amendment stripped out that measure and replaced it with another that would allow medical professionals to prescribe and dispense "non-intoxicating cannabinoid medicine." The bill does not define non-intoxicating. The Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee approved that bill Thursday. The measure now goes to the full Senate.


Kansas Supreme Court Orders Resentencing for Convicted Killer

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has thrown out the life sentence of one of three men convicted in the 2009 killing of an 18-year-old woman initially left to die in a car's trunk. The court unanimously ordered Joseph Mattox's resentencing after ruling Friday the trial judge — not a jury as required — found aggravated factors warranting the life sentence without parole possible for 50 years. The Supreme Court upheld Mattox's first-degree murder, kidnapping and robbery convictions involving the death of Keighley Alyea. Friday's ruling says Alyea was attacked and thrown into a car's trunk before being assaulted again when she regained consciousness and began screaming. Her body was found a week later in Missouri's Cass County. An autopsy showed she'd been stabbed dozens of times, beaten and choked.


Top Kansas Court Rejects Tougher Rule in Self-Defense Cases 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has ruled in favor of two men who were charged with aggravated battery but said they were acting in self-defense in stabbing or shooting others. The high court's ruling Friday rejected a tougher rule for determining when someone can avoid prosecution under the state's 2006 "Stand Your Ground" law. The Kansas Court of Appeals had ruled in each case that when someone seeks to avoid prosecution on self-defense grounds, a trial-court judge must view evidence in the light most favorable for the prosecution in deciding whether a case goes to trial. The Supreme Court said the judge must weigh evidence impartially. Marlon T. Hardy was charged after a 2013 shooting in Wichita. Dustin Alex Evans also was charged in 2013 after a stabbing in Overland Park.


Bill Would Strengthen Kansas Campus Carry Law 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Gun rights advocates in the Kansas Legislature are pushing back against efforts to repeal a law that will allow concealed carry on college campuses starting July 1. A bill in a House committee would not only retain campus carry but also strip colleges of the right to make policies about how and where guns could be carried on campus. The Federal and State Affairs Committee heard the bill Thursday. It's not clear when the committee might vote on it. Gun rights advocates argue that university policies, such as requiring gun owners to carry their weapons on their person at all times and to carry with the chamber empty and the safety on are too restrictive. University officials argue they are in the best position to draft campus policy.


Kansas Man Convicted of Causing Toddler's 2015 Death

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man has been convicted of murder and child abuse in the 2015 death of his then-girlfriend's 17-month-old daughter. KAKE-TV reports that a Sedgwick County jury found 22-year-old Michael Ross guilty of second-degree intentional murder and the alternative first-degree murder charge. The prosecutor's office says in a statement that a judge now is required to sentence Ross on the first-degree murder conviction because it's the most severe. Grace Harris died at a hospital in November 2015. A coroner determined she died of blunt-force trauma to her head and neck. Police said hospital staff found bruises and bite marks on the girl's body, swelling and bleeding of her brain and a fractured leg. Ross has previously told police that the child sustained the injuries in a fall.


Judge Denies Release Request in Kansas Bomb Plot Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A judge says a Kansas man accused of plotting to attack Somali immigrants poses "a grave danger'' to the community if released. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren on Thursday denied Patrick Stein's request for release. Prosecutors say Stein was the leader of a racist militia group called The Crusaders. Melgren says Stein is a flight risk and the evidence against him is significant. The judge also says Stein has expressed extreme hatred and threatened violence against Muslims, and sought to obtain weapons and explosives. Prosecutors allege Stein and co-defendants Gavin Wright and Curtis Allen conspired to detonate truck bombs at a 100-unit apartment complex where Somali immigrants live in Garden City. The three have pleaded not guilty to conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction. 


Kansas Appellate Court Orders New Trial, Citing Judge's Sleepiness 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas appellate court says a man convicted of assault and weapons charges deserves a new trial because his trial judge fell asleep during testimony. The Kansas City Star reports the Kansas Court of Appeals on Friday threw out Daquantrius Johnson's 2014 convictions. According to the ruling, a juror noticed that Sedgwick County District Judge Ben Burgess had fallen asleep and asked a bailiff whether Johnson could get a fair trial. The bailiff passed that comment on to Burgess, who later told jurors they alone would decide the case and that no attorneys indicated his nodding off affected his decisions. Burgess asked Johnson's attorney if he wanted to request a mistrial. That lawyer declined. A message Friday with Burgess by The Associated Press wasn't immediately returned.


Longtime KU Professor's Estate Donates $1.1 Million 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The estate of a longtime University of Kansas art history professor has donated another $1.1 million to the university. The gift announced Thursday brings the total donations from Marilyn Stokstad's estate to the university to more than $2.3 million. Stokstad was a professor of art history, author and former museum director. She died in March 2016 at age 87. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the new gift will go toward acquiring art history books, improvements and maintenance at the Spencer Museum, and publishing scholarly exhibition catalogues. It also will support the Marilyn Stokstad Directorship at the Spencer Museum. She endowed the directorship in 2012. Stokstad joined the KU faculty in 1958 and retired in 2002.


Wichita State to Pay Fine for Mishandling Hazardous Wastes 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita State University has agreed to pay a $98,578 fine for mishandling hazardous wastes. The university said Friday in a news release that its agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stems from violations found during an inspection in 2014. The problems were corrected that same year. Those violations included failure to conduct a hazardous waste determination, operation of a hazardous waste facility without a permit and failure to meet disposal and used oil storage requirements. As part of the agreement, Wichita State has also agreed to do environmental projects for the university and Wichita public schools. The projects include the purchases of hazardous material computer inventory systems for the university and the local school district.


Amusement Park Settles Suit over Pollution Claims

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A Missouri environmental group says and the owner of a Kansas City amusement park have reached a federal lawsuit settlement over claims that the park illegal dumped pollutants into the Missouri River. Online court records show that a judge signed off on the deal between the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, Cedar Fair LP and its subsidiary Worlds of Fun LLC. The lawsuit alleged that the Worlds of Fun park violated federal clean-water laws by discharging illegal levels of wastewater and stormwater that included chlorine, copper, oil and grease. The environmental group said in a statement Thursday that the deal requires Worlds of Fun to adopt a compliance plan that will include an educational kiosk about stormwater pollution, and to spend $100,000 on environmental projects in a local watershed. 


Former Pastor Ordered to Stand Trial in Kansas Baby-Choking Incident

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A former pastor from New Jersey has been ordered to stand trial on charges that he tried to choke an infant girl he didn't know at a Kansas City-area Wal-Mart. The Kansas City Star reports a judge in Johnson County (Kansas) ordered 54-year-old Oleh Zhownirovych to be tried on charges of aggravated battery, aggravated kidnapping and battery. Monquisha Hill testified Thursday she was in the checkout line last October with her then-4-month-old daughter in a car seat in a cart when a man she didn't know took the infant from her cart and began choking her. People in the store helped the woman and held the man until officers arrived. The baby wasn't injured. A May 22 trial is set for Zhownirovych, of Clifton, New Jersey.


Emporia Police Investigate Shooting Death

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) - Police in Emporia are investigating the shooting death of a 38-year-old woman in an apartment building. The Emporia Gazette reports that Mahogany Brooks died at the scene of the shooting late Thursday near Emporia State University. Police say a 30-year-old man was taken into custody for questioning. The Gazette says Brooks's death is first homicide in 25,000-resident Emporia since April 2013, when 25-year-old Adrian Peralta died five days after being shot. Gabino Ruiz-Ascencio later was convicted of first-degree murder in September 2015.


Kansas City Council Approves Increased Minimum Wage 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Council has approved increasing the city's minimum wage but Mayor Sly James predicts state lawmakers will pass a law prohibiting the move. The council voted Thursday to gradually increase the minimum wage to $13 an hour by 2023. The vote came as the Missouri Legislature considers a law prohibiting cities for increasing the minimum wage above the state's wage of $7.70 an hour. The Kansas City Star reports James supports a higher minimum wage but is concerned it will cause litigation and lawmakers might retaliate against the city. Supporters say despite the uncertainty, the city should do what's right for struggling residents. James says the only way to impose a higher minimum wage is through a statewide vote that bypasses the Missouri legislature.


Missouri Man Convicted of Role in Teen's Water Park Death 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A jury in Jackson County (Missouri) has convicted a 20-year-old man for his role in the 2015 death of an eighth-grade student at a water park. The Kansas City Star reports jurors on Thursday convicted Isaac M. Carter of Kansas City of involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action. Authorities say 14-year-old Alexis Kane was beaten and shot to death at the Bay Water Park. Friends told police she was killed after meeting someone she had been communicating with on Facebook. A co-defendant, 20-year-old Dominic McDaniel, has pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and armed criminal action. He awaits sentencing. Court records show that a third man, 19-year-old Ce-Antonyo D. Kennedy is facing first-degree murder and armed criminal action charges in the case.


TCU Stuns No. 1 Kansas With 85-82 Win in Big 12 Quarterfinals

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) —TCU upset the top-ranked Kansas Jayhawks with an 85-82 in the Big 12 quarterfinals Thursday. The eighth-seeded Horned Frogs (19-14) blew an 11-point halftime lead, and still trailed 80-76 with just over a minute remaining. But a parade of free throws knotted the game, and the Frogs' Alex Robinson's driving layup gave TCU the lead back with 31 seconds left. KU's Frank Mason answered with a pair of free throws for Kansas (28-4), but the Horned Frogs got the ball to Desmond Bane and he was fouled by KU's Svi Mykhailiuk while putting up a shot. Bane calmly drained all of them, and Devonte Graham's long 3 at the buzzer bounced harmlessly off the rim as the Horned Frogs leaped off their bench to celebrate a massive upset of the No. 1 seed. They'll play No. 23 Iowa State, which topped Oklahoma State earlier, in today's (FRI) semifinals.


Kansas State Surprises Baylor in 70-64 Big 12 Tournament Win

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) —  The Kansas State Wildcats pulled off an upset and may have moved themselves into the NCAA Tournament bracket by defeating Baylor 70-64 in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament on Thursday. No. 6 seed K-State (20-12) advanced to the tournament’s semifinals for the first time since 2013 after beating No. 3 seed Baylor (25-7).  The Wildcats will face No. 2 seed West Virginia at about 8:30 this (FRI) evening. K-State blew past the Bears with key plays from Barry Brown, D.J. Johnson and Kamau Stokes.

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