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Headlines for Friday, March 14, 2014


Regulators Approve Westar Energy Rate Hike

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — State regulators have granted Westar Energy's request for a $43.6 million rate increase to pay for increased costs of delivering electricity through the transition system. The Wichita Eagle reports that homeowners who use 900 kilowatt hours will pay about $2.59 more per month for their electricity, according to the Citizens' Utility Ratepayer Board. Owners of larger homes using about 1,500 kilowatt hours will see a monthly increase of about $4.32. The utility says the increased costs are related to building new transmission lines, some to bring Kansas wind power to market and others to improve reliability of the system or handle transmission between states. Counting Thursday's increase, Westar's annual rates have been increased $513.8 million since 2009.


Kansas Board to Appeal Ruling in Abortion Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas medical board plans to appeal a court order overturning its revocation of a doctor's license over her referrals of young patients for late-term abortions. The State Board of Healing Arts made the decision Friday to take the case of Dr. Ann Kristin Neuhaus of Nortonville to the Kansas Court of Appeals. Shawnee County District Judge Franklin Theis last week said Neuhaus kept inadequate records but that the board failed to show that she provided inadequate mental health exams. Theis ordered the board to reconsider its revocation of Neuhaus's charity-care license in 2012 over exams in 2003 of 11 patients, ages 10 to 18. Neuhaus provided second opinions to the late Dr. George Tiller needed under a Kansas law for terminating the pregnancies.


Suspect to Face Trial for Kansas Homicide, Beheading

LYNDON, Kan. (AP) — A former Topeka man will be tried for the 2011 killing of another man whose head was severed in what witnesses described as a voodoo ritual. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports ( ) 29-year-old James Paul Harris was bound over for trial following a hearing Friday in Osage County District Court. Harris is charged with first-degree murder in the death of 50-year-old Topeka resident James Gerety, who was reported missing in March 2011 by a law firm that handled his personal affairs. A mushroom hunter found Gerety's partial remains a year later in the Osage County town of Carbondale. A Topeka police officer testified Friday that Harris told him he kept Gerety's head so that he could talk to it as part of a voodoo ritual. The skull was found at a house near Carbondale.


Suspect Sought in Northeast KS Sexual Assault

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Police in a northeast Kansas community are investigating a report of a sexual assault on an 11-year-old girl. Overland Park police said the incident was reported in an apartment complex shortly after 7 am Friday while the girl was walking to a bus stop. Extra patrols were being conducted in the large Johnson County community in a search for the suspect, described as a white man in his 20s. He was reportedly wearing black clothing, with a surgical mask on his face and thick gardening gloves on his hands. Police did not release any other details as of Friday afternoon.


NASA Chooses Lawrence Firm for Drone Development

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — NASA has selected a Lawrence business to develop a drone for high-altitude air sampling. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that NASA and KalScott Engineering Inc. are in the contract phase of the nearly $1 million unmanned air vehicle project. The drone is expected to provide data for earth science programs at NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Other possible uses could include military or civilian surveillance, cell and GPS services and wildlife and crop surveys. The Federal Aviation Administration hasn't yet formalized rules for flying drones in the United States. NASA says KalScott's was one of 108 projects totaling $87 million selected for part of NASA's Small Business Innovation Research Program.


Kansas AG Pays $1.03M to Defend Anti-Abortion Laws

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt's office says it has paid outside attorneys more than $1 million to defend anti-abortion laws enacted in recent years. The attorney general's office reported Thursday that it has paid more than $612,000 to the Lawrence firm of Thompson, Ramsdell and Qualseth for fees and expenses in handling multiple federal and state lawsuits. Abortion providers have sued the state over special regulations adopted in 2011 and a 2013 law requiring them to post certain material on their websites and provide the information to women before abortions. Schmidt's office also has paid more than $418,000 to the Wichita firm of Foulston Siefken to defend a measure keeping federal dollars for non-abortion services from flowing to Planned Parenthood.

Kansas Agency to Host Wildland Fire Training

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Forest Service officials will hold a wildland fire training session in Hutchinson this month for state and regional responders. The weeklong event starts March 23 and will focus on reducing hazardous fuels that can lead to rapid spread of fires in wild areas. Crews will be working near Toronto State Lake in southeast Kansas and at the Kansas Forest Service Jackman Demonstration Forest in nearby Leon. Using fire trucks, chainsaws, hand tools and prescribed burns, the teams will attempt to clear growth that can become dry and quickly ignite during a wildfire. The training is designed to help students and firefighters learn good techniques in a controlled environment.

Kansas Flour Mill Company to Be Bought

MISSION WOODS, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas-based flour milling company is being bought by a Tennessee milling group. The Kansas City Star reports that Mission Woods-based Cereal Food Processors Inc. is being acquired by Milner Milling and Pendleton Flour Mills. The transaction would create the third-largest flour milling operation in the nation. Milner Milling operates in the southeast and Pendleton in the Pacific northwest and Hawaii. Cereal Food, which makes flour for restaurants and hotels, operates plants in Kansas City, Kansas, Wichita and McPherson, as well as in five other states. Terms of the sale were not disclosed. The purchase is expected to be completed this spring, pending regulatory clearances.

Man Killed in Officer-Involved Shooting Identified

OBERLIN, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says a man who died after a shootout with law enforcement officers in Oberlin has been identified. KBI special agent Mark Malick says 23-year-old Brian P. Spooner died in the shooting Monday. His last known address was El Dorado but his current home was not known. Malick says officers were investigating complaints that Spooner was making criminal threats in Oberlin when the confrontation began. Malick said Spooner fired at officers while fleeing from an Oberlin home. The KBI says Spooner fired at officers, who returned fire, killing Spooner. The Salina Journal reports a Kansas Highway Patrol officer remains on administrative leave while the investigation continues, which is standard procedure.

House Panel Advances Opt-In Sex Education Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House committee has advanced a bill requiring parents to give written permission for their children to receive sex education in public schools. The House Education Committee voted Thursday to add the policy to an unrelated bill, sending it to the full House for debate. Kansas now lets each local school board decide if parents must opt their children into or out of sex education. The bill would make it state law that districts must receive parental permission before students would receive materials on sexuality, diseases and related subject matter. Critics argued that schools are the only source for some children to receive accurate information on sexuality.

2 Sentenced for Embezzling from Kansas Bank

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two southwest Kansas women have been sentenced for embezzling nearly $109,000 from a bank where they worked and staging a robbery to conceal the thefts. The U.S. Attorney's office says 32-year-old Amber Gutierrez and 29-year-old Ashley Cravens, both of Ulysses, were sentenced Thursday to five months in federal prison plus five months in a halfway house. Gutierrez and Cravens were among four employees who pleaded guilty to stealing from Western State Bank in Ulysses. Prosecutors said Gutierrez was the head teller when she and two co-defendants embezzled more than $84,000 from 2008 to mid-2010. Cravens and Gutierrez staged a holdup in July 2010 to hide the embezzlement, then joined their co-defendants in stealing an additional $24,500. A third woman has been sentenced to probation. The fourth is awaiting sentencing.


Wichita Woman Faces Federal Drug Trafficking Count

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 28-year-old Wichita woman who was involved last year in a fatal hit-and-run crash that killed a man riding a horse has been charged with trafficking drugs. The Wichita Eagle reports that Elease Childers was charged in federal court Thursday with possession with intent to distribute heroin. An affidavit alleges officers executing a search warrant in Wichita on March 11 arrested Childers and seized 8 ounces of black tar heroin. Childers was being held in Sedgwick County jail on the federal charges and two probation violations. Online court documents didn't indicate that she had obtained an attorney. Childers was among four people charged in connection with a July 5 collision that killed 49-year-old Lloyd Ferguson and his horse and seriously injured a 6-year-old boy.


Wichita State Offers New Online Nursing Degree

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita State University's School of Nursing is expanding its online offerings with a bachelor's degree in nursing. The school said Thursday the program offers advanced placement to registered nurses seeking a bachelor of science in nursing degree. Wichita State President John Bardo says in a news release that the School of Nursing is offering one of the first completely online degree programs at the university. The expansion aims to meet the needs for increasing numbers of baccalaureate-prepared nurses. Wichita State says that students who choose the new offering will be able to finish more quickly, pay less and gain career-building leadership skills. The program builds on skills established in a registered nurse's previous educational program.


Face-Rcognition Software Aided in Capture of Fort Leavenworth Escapee

DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. (AP) — In the nearly 40 years after he escaped from a Kansas military prison, convicted killer James Robert Jones carved out a new life for himself in Florida. He lived under an assumed name, got married and worked for an air conditioning company. But it all came to an end Thursday when Jones — or Bruce Walter Keith, as the former Army private was known in Florida — was recaptured with the help of facial-recognition software. Barry Golden of the U.S. Marshals Service said Friday that the first words out of Jones's mouth were: "I knew this would catch up with me someday." The 59-year-old Jones was one of the Army's 15 most-wanted fugitives after his 1977 escape from the Kansas prison dubbed "The Castle." He was convicted of murder and assault in the 1974 killing of fellow soldier Lonnie Eaton at Fort Dix in New Jersey. Jones was originally from Ontario, California.


Wichita Installs Operation Freedom Memorial

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Construction crews have installed a memorial to Kansas military service members who died in the fight against terrorism. The memorial was erected Thursday at Veterans Memorial Park in Wichita. It includes black granite panels with a statue of a kneeling soldier. About 90 names are etched in the panels. Cosmetic touches still need to be finished, so the memorial won't be open to the public for the next 10 days. A public dedication is planned for May 17. The Wichita Eagle reports that the project was led by Anita Dixon, whose son, Army Sergeant Evan Parker, died in 2005 in Iraq. The cost of the memorial project is about $225,000.


School Safety Director Facing Multiple Sex Charges

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The safety supervisor for the Wichita school district has been charged with multiple sex crimes stemming from a decade-old case police have been investigating for more than a year. The Wichita Eagle reports 51-year-old Alex Robinson was charged Thursday with eight sex crimes, including sodomy and indecent liberties with a child, involving three victims ranging from 11 to 14 years old at the time of the alleged crimes. Robinson worked for 22 years as a Wichita police officer and is a youth mentor who received presidential recognition for his volunteer work. He was taken into custody Wednesday in Wichita, and his booking charges also include being a fugitive from justice. Robinson's attorney says the investigation was still at an early stage and his client should be presumed innocent.


Ex-Soldier Convicted in Iraqi Death Out of Prison

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A former U.S. Army lieutenant from Oklahoma who was convicted of killing an Iraqi prisoner has been released from a military prison after he was granted parole. Michael Behenna was released from Fort Leavenworth on Friday morning after serving five years of his 15-year sentence for unpremeditated murder in a combat zone. His father, Scott Behenna, says Michael Behenna was welcomed by family and friends as he walked out of prison. Behenna was convicted in 2009 in the death of an unarmed Iraqi man. Behenna said he acted in self-defense when the man reached for Behenna's handgun, but the Army said such an argument didn't stand up because Behenna was pointing his weapon at the prisoner. The Army Clemency and Parole Board denied clemency but granted Behenna parole last month.


5 Pit Bull Carcasses Found Dumped in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City officials say someone dumped the bodies of five dead pit bulls or pit bull mixes in northern Kansas City. City officials found the dead dogs Wednesday stuffed into four garbage bags along a dead-end street that is often a dumping site for trash. City spokesman Chris Hernandez says investigators are reviewing video from cameras that were hung in the area to try and catch people who dump their trash. He says there is some evidence that the dogs were abused but that is still being investigated. If the people who dumped the dogs are caught, they could face animal cruelty and illegal dumping charges.

Man Asks for Nude Massage, Changes Mind and Flees

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Wichita say a man who wanted a massage from a naked woman in his motel room changed his mind when she disrobed and ended up fleeing after being threatened by her boyfriend. The Wichita Eagle reports that the woman arrived at the man's room at the Howard Johnson Express Inn shortly after 11 pm Wednesday. He told police he didn't like her body so he decided to leave and asked for his money back, but she wouldn't give it to him. Police say the woman then called her boyfriend, who threatened the 30-year-old man with bodily harm. The man became frightened for his safety and left the hotel without his money.

KC Band Teacher Charged with Molesting 11-Year-Old

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — An assistant band teacher at a Kansas City private school has been charged with molesting an 11-year-old student who says he inappropriately groped her on several occasions. Jackson County (Missouri) prosecutors say 53-year-old Tod Barnard of Independence was charged Friday with two counts of second-degree child molestation and two counts of third-degree assault. An 11-year-old band student at St. Thomas More School in south Kansas City says Barnard touched her inappropriately by pretending to lose his balance and falling into her. She says similar acts happened about once a week, starting in December. Barnard told a detective that he had fallen into the girl once, but denied intentionally doing so. The Jackson County prosecutor's office says it's unclear whether Barnard has an attorney.




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