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Headlines for Friday, May 5, 2017

Here's a look at everything you could possibly want to know today.

KU Partners with Tennessee Company to Rescue St. Francis Hospital

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The University of Kansas Health System says it will form a partnership with Ardent Health Services to take over the struggling St. Francis hospital in Topeka.  The deal announced on Thursday will keep St. Francis Health open and preserve most of the 1,600 jobs at St. Francis, the health system said in a joint news release issued with Nashville-based Ardent. The partnership also will provide the hospital with a $50 million in capital during the first year.  The 378-bed hospital is currently owned by Denver-based SCL Health, a nonprofit formerly known as the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth.  SCL Health has been looking for a buyer for St. Francis since May 2016. It said last month it would stop operating the hospital this summer.  Terms of the deal are still being negotiated but will be finalized in 60 days. David Vandewater is the CEO of Ardent, the nation's second-largest privately owned for-profit hospital company.


The partners have pledged to provide the struggling hospital with $50 million in operating capital in the first year. KU Health System and Ardent will have equal representation on the new hospital's governing board.

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Kansas Supreme Court Reconsiders Carr Brothers' Death Penalty Case
 
Attorneys for two convicted Wichita murderers told the Kansas Supreme Court that there were errors in their trials and that their clients shouldn’t be sentenced to death.  Those arguments were made yesterday (THUR) by attorneys for Jonathan and Reginald Carr.  The two brothers were sentenced to death for murdering four people in Wichita in 2000.  Attorney Debra Wilson argues that trial errors blocked Reginald Carr from offering a complete defense.


Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett says any errors in the trial or sentencing were not significant.


This is the latest turn in a long and winding legal battle. The state Supreme Court previously overturned the death sentences for the Carr brothers, but they were later reinstated by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Kansas Lawmakers Advance Bill to Keep Guns Out of Hospitals 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators have advanced a proposal to keep concealed guns out of hospitals, mental health centers and nursing homes after June. The Senate Ways and Means Committee approved a bill Thursday that would give the facilities a permanent exemption from a 2013 gun-rights law. That law said people must be allowed to bring concealed guns into public buildings that don't have extra security including guards and metal detectors. Universities, state and public hospitals, mental health centers and nursing homes received a four-year exemption expiring July 1. The committee's voice vote sends the measure to the Senate for debate. Gun-rights advocates previously blocked such proposals. But Gov. Sam Brownback last month proposed spending $24 million over two years on extra security at state hospitals for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled.

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Kansas Lawmakers to Resume Talks on Tax Increase 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers cancelled a debate on a $1 billion tax increase Wednesday because leaders didn't think it had enough support. House Taxation Committee Chairman Representative Steven Johnson says the measure that was to have been debated Wednesday afternoon didn't have enough support to override a veto, and it might not have enough backing to pass. Legislators are resuming negotiations today (THUR) over increasing income taxes to fix the state budget and provide additional funds for public schools. Kansas faces projected budget shortfalls totaling $887 million through June 2019 and the Kansas Supreme Court ruled in March that state education funding is inadequate. A proposal drafted by negotiators Tuesday but scrapped Wednesday would have rolled back past income tax cuts championed by Governor Sam Brownback to raise more than $1 billion over two years. That plan was dropped because lawmakers worried that it wouldn't raise enough money to satisfy the Supreme Court's ruling on school funding .

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Legislators Hope for Progress on Kansas School Funding

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators hope to make progress later this week on a measure that would boost spending on public schools. A House committee on school finance discussed a plan Wednesday that would phase in a $750 million increase in aid to schools over five years. Chairman and Olathe Republican Larry Campbell said he hopes the committee can vote Friday. The state spends more than $4 billion a year on aid to its public schools. Boosting spending would provide more dollars for all-day kindergarten, special education and programs for children at-risk of failing. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled in March that the state's current education funding is inadequate. But lawmakers are struggling to agree on a plan to increase income taxes to boost school spending while also closing big budget shortfalls.

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Kansas Bill Would Exempt Juror Addresses from Public Record 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers Friday passed a compromise bill aimed at protecting jurors from harassment without impairing court transparency. The House passed the bill 118-3 on Friday. The Senate passed it 40-0 on Wednesday. The bill exempts jurors' addresses from the public record. The original bill also exempted jurors' names, but transparency advocates say that would be a step toward court secrecy. They reached a compromise with district judges who say disclosing jurors' names and information leaves them open to harassment. District judges say the disclosure has a "chilling effect" on prospective jurors. Jurors' names would still be public record under the bill. District Judge James Fleetwood says just guarding jurors' addresses would help prevent harassment. GOP Governor Sam Brownback's spokeswoman Melika Willoughby declined to say whether Brownback would sign the bill.

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Kansas Enhances Penalties for Crimes Against Police Officers 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new law signed Friday by Kansas GOP Governor Sam Brownback enhances penalties for those who commit crimes against police officers. Lawmakers in the House and Senate worked this week to pass the bill so Brownback could sign it Friday in honor of Kansas Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Day. The House passed the bill 115-9 Tuesday. The Senate passed it 38-0 Wednesday. The law enhances penalties for non-drug felonies against police officers if the officer is on duty or if the perpetrator knows the victim is a police officer. It was passed along with measures regarding interrogation recordings and lower sentences for some drug crimes. Some lawmakers wanted the bill to include a broader hate crimes penalty. Brownback says that's unlikely as the legislative session nears its end.

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Kansas Supreme Court Dismisses Casino Challenge 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has dismissed a challenge to a new state-owned casino in southeast Kansas. The court on Friday upheld the Lottery Gaming Facility Review Board's choice of Kansas Crossing's casino complex near Pittsburg. Two Wichita entrepreneurs who proposed a larger casino called Castle Rock in Cherokee County objected. They and Cherokee County commissioners filed lawsuits challenging the board's choice. A Shawnee County judge dismissed those lawsuits in April 2016 and Castle Rock supporters appealed to the state Supreme Court. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the Supreme Court on Friday dismissed all of Castle Rock's arguments. The court said evidence indicated Castle Rock was less economically viable than Kansas Crossing's $70 million complex in Pittsburg. Kansas Crossing Casino opened March 31.

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Police Chief Returned to Jail After Alleged Bond Violation

WAKEENEY, Kan. (AP) — A western Kansas police chief who's charged with blackmail, witness intimidation and several other charges has been returned to jail after being accused of violating his bond conditions. Trego County Attorney Christopher Lyon says a bond violation hearing is scheduled for Monday for WaKeeney Police Chief Terry Eberle. He was returned to jail Thursday, just one day after he was arrested and then released on his own recognizance. Eberle also faces charges of phone harassment, tampering, attempted interference with law enforcement and theft. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation began an investigation in January at Lyon's request. No details about the charges or alleged bond violations have been provided. The prosecutor's office didn't immediately respond to phone messages about whether Eberle has an attorney. He has been placed on leave.

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Man Who Fatally Hit Washburn Professor Arrested Again 

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — A Chanute man who struck and killed a Washburn University professor has been arrested for reckless driving. Crawford County Sheriff Dan Peak says 39-year-old Todd Kidwell was arrested Thursday after a sheriff's detective reported seeing him fail to stop at an intersection on Kansas 7. He is free on $500 bond. Peak told The Pittsburg Morning Sun that Kidwell made little, if any, attempt to stop at the intersection. Kidwell served 60 days and was on three years' probation for the June 2015 death of Washburn art teacher Glenda Taylor as she rode her bicycle near Walnut. He pleaded guilty last year to involuntary manslaughter. Crawford County Attorney Michael Gayoso and Kidwell's probation officer could request revocation of his probation, which would need to be determined by a judge.

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Family of Boy Killed on Kansas Waterslide to Receive $20 Million in Settlement

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - Court documents say the family of a 10-year-old boy who died on a giant waterslide at a Kansas City, Kansas water park will receive nearly $20 million in settlement payments. The Kansas City Star reports that $14 million of the payment to Caleb Schwab's family will come from SVV 1 and KC Water Park. The two companies are associated with Texas-based water park company Schlitterbahn. The rest of the money will come from the general contractor, the raft manufacturer and a company that consulted on the 17-story "Verruckt" waterslide that was dubbed the tallest in the world. The waterslide at the park in Kansas City has been closed since the boy's death in August, 2016. 

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Annual Wheat Tour Forecasts Smaller 2017 Harvest in Kansas
 
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Participants in the annual hard winter wheat tour have released their final projection on the size of the 2017 crop in Kansas amid uncertainty over the full extent of storm damage from last weekend. The Wheat Quality Council's tour forecast Thursday that farmers will cut 281.7 million bushels. The average yield was pegged at 46.1 bushels per acre. This year's wheat harvest is projected to bring in 185 million fewer bushels than last year. Kansas farmers planted 7.4 million acres of wheat last fall. Disease and damage from snow and freezes may eliminate many fields. That factored into the estimate. The estimate is made from information gathered from 469 fields. That is fewer than the 655 fields scouts looked at last year because the western third of the state was covered with snow.

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Kansas Seeks to Ban Pedophiles from Driving School Buses 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — New regulations being considered by the Kansas school board includes a lifetime ban on working as a school bus driver for people who commit any crime involving a child. State director of pupil transportation Keith Dreiling tells the Wichita Eagle that the ban was proposed by a law-enforcement representative on the committee that drafted the regulations about three years ago. He says the process has taken this long because the rules have to be reviewed at several government levels. Current regulations say a person who has committed a crime involving a child doesn't have to report it to the bus driver hiring agency if the conviction was over 10 years ago. The rewritten rule changes the 10-year threshold to a lifetime. Wichita school district spokeswoman Susan Arensman says the change isn't expected to impact the district.

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Lawsuits over Kansas Voter Registration Law Still on Track

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Legal challenges to a Kansas law requiring documentary proof of citizenship remain on track for trial after rulings in two separate federal cases.  U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson on Thursday mostly denied motions seeking summary judgment in mixed rulings that nonetheless keeps both cases alive in the courts.  The judge denied a motion for partial summary judgment sought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the League of Women Voters and voters. Robinson rejected the claim that the proof of citizenship law discriminates against people born outside Kansas. But the ACLU's lawsuit's key argument that the Kansas law violates a federal law requiring minimal information to register remains for now.  Robinson also ruled Thursday that a separate but similar case could go to trial on a right-to-vote claim.

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Judge Clears Kansas Cattle Buyer of Criminal Charges 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas cattle buyer and his company have been cleared of all criminal charges after a federal judge found prosecutors did not present enough evidence at trial for the case to go to the jury.  A court notation shows U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten granted the defense's motion Friday to acquit Randall D. Patterson and the Anthony Livestock Company. Federal prosecutors had accused the Harper County cattle buyer of wire fraud for allegedly faxing invoices to JBS Five Rivers Cattle Feeding that falsely inflated the amount paid for cattle. Defense attorney Kepler Funk said in a news release that they are happy the truth came out, saying their client is innocent. Jim Cross, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, said in an email he didn't have anything to add.

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Police Release Details in Slaying of Kansas Man 

MCPHERSON, Kan. (AP) — Police have released details in the killing of a central Kansas man last month. The Hutchinson News reports 25-year-old Travis Belt has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of 58-year-old Steven Carlson. A probable cause affidavit released Wednesday says Belt was given permission to use Carlson's truck the day before police found his body. The affidavit alleges Belt used the truck to steal a knife and other items from a Wal-Mart. Police say they found Carlson's body April 14, after his friend called 911 saying it was unusual his garage door was open. Carlson's white truck was missing. A phone message left by The Associated Press seeking comment from Belt's attorney was not immediately returned Friday. Belt's preliminary hearing is scheduled to start July 17.

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Kansas Man Crashes Vehicle Through 2 Houses 

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — The Olathe Police Department is investigating after a man allegedly lost control of his vehicle and crashed into two homes. Police tell KMBC-TV that the driver drove through one house before crashing into a second home on Thursday evening. Witnesses say they saw a light blue Ford Taurus driving erratically before the crash. The driver allegedly drove through two other yards before striking the houses. Officers are investigating the cause of the accident. Police say no injuries were reported.

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KCI Airport Stops Paper Screening Policy 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City International Airport has been asked to stop a recently added screening procedure that required passengers to remove all paper products from their carry-ons while going through security checkpoints. The Kansas City Star reports the Transportation Security Administration asked the airport's security agency Akal Security Inc. to stop the policy Tuesday because it was affecting operations. The procedure required passengers to remove all paper items including books, loose-leaf paper, Post-It notes and files so they could be screened to make sure no dangerous items were hidden inside. The TSA says random and unpredicted screening measures may be implemented at airports if they follow TSA guidelines. The agency says it has no plans to adopt the paper screening policy on a larger scale.

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Energy Companies Ask Kansas Regulators to Reconsider Rejection of Utility Sale

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Two large utility companies are asking Kansas regulators to reconsider their rejection of the proposed sale of Kansas' largest electric company to Kansas City, Missouri-based Great Plains Energy Inc. Great Plains, the parent company of Kansas City Power and Light, and Topeka-based Westar Energy Inc. announced Thursday that they made the request in a petition filed with the Kansas Corporation Commission. Regulators said last month in rejecting the proposed sale that the $12.2 billion price was too high and would leave the combined utility financially weaker than the separate companies. Great Plains and Westar argued the deal would create nearly $2 billion in operating efficiencies over the next decade to keep electric rates in check. The utilities are asking to have until the end of May to determine whether a revised transaction can be negotiated that resolves the commission's concerns.

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Multi-State Crime Suspect Indicted for Murder

BRANDON, Miss. (AP) - A grand jury has indicted a man accused of leaving a trail of dead and wounded people and stolen cars in Mississippi, New Mexico and Kansas.  District Attorney Michael Guest says grand jurors in Rankin County, Mississippi, indicted Alex Deaton Wednesday on charges of first-degree murder, auto theft, and drive-by shooting. He's accused of strangling his girlfriend, stealing her car, and shooting a jogger in February.  He's also suspected in the killing of a woman cleaning a church in Neshoba County, Mississippi.  From there, he allegedly drove to New Mexico, carjacked a couple, fled to Kansas and shot a convenience store clerk. Deaton awaits a June 3 preliminary hearing in Pratt, Kansas, where he's expected to be tried first on charges of attempted murder, theft, robbery and fleeing police.

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Judge Grants Joint Prelim for 4 Suspects in Topeka Deaths 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Four men charged in a triple homicide in Topeka will have a joint preliminary
 hearing. KSNT reports that a Shawnee County judge on Friday agreed to allow one preliminary hearing to determine if one or all of the suspects will be tried. The four are charged with first-degree murder and various other counts in the March deaths of 29-year-old Luke Davis, 38-year-old Nicole Fisher and 19-year-old Matthew Leavitt. Thirty-four-year-old Joseph Krahn is charged with three counts of first-degree murder in all three deaths. Nineteen-year-old Shane Mays is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in Fisher's and Leavitt's deaths. And 33-year-old Brian Flowers and 30-year old Joseph Lowry are each charged with one count of first-degree murder in Leavitt's death. The preliminary hearing is scheduled July 11-13.

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Leg Found in Arkansas Lake 16 Years Ago Was That of Kansan 

BENTONVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Authorities say part of a human leg found in an Arkansas lake in 2001 has been identified as that of a Kansas man who drowned nearly 30 years ago. The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports the man was identified as Steve Peterson. His hometown was not released. The Benton County Sheriff's Office says the lower portion of a leg was found in the Indian Creek arm of Beaver Lake. Sheriff Shawn Holloway says the remains were placed in the National Missing and Unidentified Persons Database. Sergeant Hunter Petray reopened the case last year and investigated the possibility that the remains belonged to a drowning victim. Peterson drowned near the park in October 1989, but his body was never recovered. Relatives of Peterson provided DNA samples leading to the identification.

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Hutchinson Community College Will Publish Final Student Paper Edition 

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Hutchinson Community College officials changed course and decided to allow the final edition of this semester's student newspaper to be published. Earlier this week, the college cancelled journalism classes for the rest of the school year, suspended the paper's faculty adviser and said the final edition wouldn't to be published. KSN-TV reports that College President Carter File says he decided to allow the last issue of The Hutchinson Collegian to be published after meeting with Editor Loribeth Reynolds. Journalism instructor and Collegian adviser Alan Montgomery remains suspended and no journalism classes will be held for the rest of the semester. File has not offered an explanation for Montgomery's suspension.

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Second Sibling Convicted in Fatal Kansas City Shooting 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A second sibling has been convicted in the fatal shooting of a man during an attempted robbery in Kansas City. Jackson County (Missouri) prosecutors say 25-year-old Omar Muhammad was found guilty Thursday of second-degree murder, armed criminal action and receiving stolen property in the December 2013 killing of 33-year-old Eric Harrell. He is accused of going to Harrell's home with his sister, Monique Ransom, and her boyfriend. Court records say that while the boyfriend was outside, Ransom and Muhammad pointed guns at Harrell to rob him and shot him when he resisted. Ransom was convicted last month in the killing.

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White Sox Trounce Royals 8-3 to Split Series

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ The Chicago White Sox beat the Kansas City Royals 8-to-3 to split the four-game series.  The Royals are 9-and-18 on the season.  And, at 6 games back, Kansas City is last in the AL Central division.

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