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Headlines for Friday, April 8, 2016

Kansas news headlines from the Associated Press

Kansas Delays State Contributions to Public Employee Pensions 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is delaying roughly $90 million in contributions to pensions for public school and college employees as a potential short-term response to lower-than-expected tax collections. Governor Sam Brownback's office announced the move Friday. It said Brownback's budget director notified the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System that the contributions due on April 15 would be "temporarily delayed." Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley said it's not yet clear how long the contributions will be delayed. Since the current fiscal year began in July, tax collections have fallen $81 million short of expectations. State officials and university economists meet April 20 to issue new revenue projections. Hawley said delaying KPERS contributions gives the state flexibility. She said various options for keeping the budget balanced will be discussed publicly after the new revenue forecast.


Oral Arguments in School Funding Case Set for May 10 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments on whether a new education funding law is constitutional for early May 10. The court on Friday also ordered attorneys to file all briefs in the case by April 28. Governor Sam Brownback signed a school funding bill Wednesday that redistributes $83 million in aid for the state's 286 school districts for the next school year. That law was in response to an earlier Supreme Court ruling that Kansas' education funding was unfair to poorer districts. Justices threatened to close state schools if lawmakers didn't address the problem by June 30. The justices want attorneys to address whether the new law satisfies the earlier ruling, and what remedial action should be ordered if the court finds the new law is unconstitutional.


Kansas Governor Signs School Aid Bill Meant to Satisfy Court 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has signed an education funding bill designed to prevent the state Supreme Court from shutting down the state's public schools. Brownback announced Thursday that he had signed the measure. He took the action Wednesday. The bill is a response to a Supreme Court ruling in February that the state isn't providing enough aid to its poor districts. The justices threatened to shut down schools if lawmakers didn't act by June 30. The bill redistributes $83 million of the state's $4 billion-plus in annual aid. Critics contend that the bill doesn't solve the problems identified by the court. But Brownback said in a statement that the bill arose from what he called a "delicate legislative compromise." He called on the court to review it with "appropriate deference."


NTSB: Track Damage at Derailment Site Traced to Grain Truck 

CIMARRON, Kan. (AP) — Federal authorities say a preliminary investigation shows that an Amtrak train derailed last month in Kansas in an area where damage to the track was traced to a grain truck. The National Transportation Safety Board said Thursday that Amtrak and BNSF Railway estimate damages at more than $1.4 million. The passenger train traveling from Los Angeles to Chicago was carrying 130 passengers and 14 crew members when it derailed March 14 near Cimarron, injuring 28 passengers. Four derailed cars fell on their sides, while two others remained upright. Investigators found fresh tire tracks at the site of bent tracks, along with flaked corn typically used to feed cattle. The tracks were traced to a feedlot owned by Cimarron Crossing Feeders, where they matched the treads on a feed truck.


Kansas to Move More Than 100 Psychiatric Hospital Inmates
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The state of Kansas is moving more than 100 mental health inmates from a state psychiatric hospital in Topeka to several facilities run by multiple agencies in an effort to relieve a staffing shortage. The Wichita Eagle reports that the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services will transfer 60 mental health inmates from special units at Larned State Hospital to a Kansas Department of Corrections facility on the same campus, starting Monday. A Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services spokeswoman says the inmates were in a unit at the hospital as part of a 2006 agreement meant to alleviate overcrowding at the adjacent correctional facility. The department plans to gradually transfer the inmates back to the Department of Corrections and shut down two units in the state hospital to address the staffing shortage.


New Mobile Exhibit Aims to Fight Sex Trafficking in Kansas 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas attorney general and two professional trucking associations have announced a program to prevent sex trafficking on state highways. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that on Thursday, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, Truckers Against Trafficking and the Kansas Motor Carriers Association discussed their partnership to fight sex trafficking and to support victims. They hope to educate people about human trafficking through a mobile exhibit called the Freedom Drivers Project. Schmidt says the program focuses on monitoring the state's highways where some sex trafficking occurs. The attorney general's office helped two victims of sex trafficking in 2009. By 2015, the number escalated to more than 400 victims. Motor Carriers executive director Tom Whitaker says observant truck drivers watch out for such crimes and inform law enforcement of problems.


Salina Police Seek Info About Missing Mother, 2 Children

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are looking for a mother and her two children who haven't been seen since they left their central Kansas home last week to attend a school event.  The missing family has been identified as Rebecka L. Lorentsen and her two children, 15-year-old Donald Lorentsen and 7-year-old Ember Schultz. They were last seen leaving for Salina South High School on March 31. Police say they were going to ride a bus to the school, but they didn't arrive at the school and didn't return home.  Authorities are urging anyone with information to come forward. Rebecka Lorentsen also has gone by the last name of Swatsenbarg.


Ex-School Safety Chief in Kansas Sentenced for Sexual Assault 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former Wichita school safety supervisor accused of molesting boys in Kansas has been sentenced for similar offenses in Colorado.  The Wichita Eagle reports that Alex Robinson was sentenced Tuesday in El Paso County, Colorado, to 16 years in prison for two counts of sexual assault of a child, age 15 to 18, by a person in a position of trust.  Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett says he expects the Kansas case to resume soon. Robinson is facing eight child sexual assault charges in Wichita, where he previously worked as a police officer and school employee.  The case has been on hold since July, when a judge issued a warrant for Robinson's arrest after he didn't show up for his jury trial because he was in Colorado's custody.


Kansas Man's Sentence for Rape Reduced by Almost Half 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A man who admitted in court nine years ago that he sexually assaulted his adopted daughter has been resentenced to more than half of his original prison term. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports a Shawnee County judge on Friday sentenced Michael Walter Hines Sr. to 23 years and nine months in prison. He originally had been ordered in 2007 to spend 48 years and 10 months behind bars, but an appellate court ruling that reduced his criminal history required the resentencing. Hines pleaded guilty in 2007 to one count of rape of a child younger than 14. The victim, Chloe Howey, on Friday referred to Hines as a "monster." The Associated Press doesn't name sexual assault victims without their consent. But Howey spoke publicly to media outlets after Friday's sentencing.


Police: Boy Found with Octopus in Throat Now Out of Hospital 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a 2-year-old boy who had an octopus stuck in his throat is out of the hospital, and prosecutors are mulling whether charges are merited. Sedgwick County District Attorney's Office spokesman Dan Dillon says police presented their case to prosecutors Friday. He says the case is "under consideration," though it's unclear how quickly prosecutors might decide the matter. Police say the boy was taken to the hospital Tuesday night after the child's 21-year-old mother returned home from work and found her boyfriend performing CPR on her son. Police say doctors found and removed the dead octopus, which had a head about 2 inches in diameter, from the boy's throat. Police said the octopus was likely to be used for sushi.


Kansas League of Women Voters Joins Federal Suit Challenging Citizenship Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The League of Women Voters of Kansas has joined a federal class action lawsuit seeking to overturn a state law that requires voters to show proof of U.S. citizenship to register. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit in November on behalf of all individuals who've unsuccessfully attempted to register since the state's citizenship requirement took effect in 2013. Plaintiffs say that since then, nearly 23,000 Kansas residents have had their registrations placed ``in suspense'' or have been slashed from the voting lists altogether for failing to show the required proof of U.S. citizenship. The conservative Public Interest Legal Foundation filed a brief this week arguing that a great number of non-citizens have been registered to vote and cast ballots in other states.


2 Tribes, State of Kansas Enter into Cigarette-Sale Compacts

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Compacts between two Native American tribes and the state of Kansas approved by Governor Sam Brownback this week will allow the state to audit cigarette sales on tribal lands and continue to receive $60 million in annual payments that benefit children's programs. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says smokers go to reservations to buy cheap cigarettes.  Under a 1998 settlement with four tobacco companies, 46 states, including Kansas, must account for all cigarettes and pay into an escrow fund. The companies said in 2003 that states weren't keeping up their end of the deal. Kansas settled its dispute in 2012. The state signed compacts with the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation and the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska, and is in similar negotiations with two other tribes. 


Topeka District Unveils First of 11 New Emergency Shelters 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Topeka school district has unveiled the first of 11 emergency shelters that are being constructed with money from a bond issue. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Whitson Elementary had a celebration this week for the new gymnasium, where students can take shelter during extreme weather. In past years, students would have sought shelter in the hallways of their school. The new shelters are being built using Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines for storm protection. In April 2014, voters approved $143 million in bonds to pay for projects that included school safety improvements, laptop computer purchases and a new career center. Whitson Elementary principal Keelin Pierce says she hopes her school will never need to use the gym as shelter, but knowing it is there offers peace of mind.


Kansas City Restaurant Owner Pleads Guilty in Tax Case 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City, Missouri restaurant owner has admitted in federal court that he failed to pay income and employment taxes totaling more than $566,000. Sixty-seven-year-old Roger Geisler of Lenexa, Kansas, waived his right to a grand jury Thursday and pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return. Prosecutors say Geisler has owned Domo Sushi and Japanese Grill as well as Matsu. Geisler admitted that in the tax years 2007 through 2009, he submitted corporate tax returns under-reporting his restaurants' gross receipts. He also acknowledged he didn't report and pay employment taxes from 2007 to 2010. Court documents show Geisler spent roughly $157,000 in business funds on such things as a Lenexa home and a Lexus SUV, and that he gambled more than $400,000 at area casinos.


Kansas Woman Sentenced to 2 Years in Prison for Embezzlement

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Kansas woman has been ordered to spend two years and three months in federal prison for embezzling about $471,000 she now must repay to her employer. Kimberly Joyce Padgett of Osawatomie, Kansas, was sentenced Wednesday in Kansas City, Missouri. That's where she pleaded guilty in November to five counts of wire fraud. Prosecutors say Padgett admitted embezzling about $471,000 from Reliant Financial Services in Kansas City, Missouri, from 2007 to last year. She was convicted of writing $350,000 in checks to herself and using a company credit card to pay for such things as clothing, jewelry and hotels.


Keystone Pipeline to Restart After Oil Leak 

FREEMAN, S.D. (AP) — TransCanada says it has received conditional approval to restart its Keystone Pipeline after identifying the source of a small leak in South Dakota. TransCanada spokesman Mark Cooper says the company expects to complete repairs on Saturday and will restart at a reduced pressure to ensure everything is working properly. The company expects to be at full operation by the end of Saturday. The company estimates the leak let about 16,800 gallons of oil seep into a field in Hutchinson County. It has said there's no significant environmental impact or threat to public safety. Cooper says engineers evaluated a repair method in conjunction with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration. The pipeline runs from Alberta, Canada, to refineries in Illinois and Oklahoma, traversing the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri.


Kansas City, Kansas, Death Investigated as a Homicide

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - Authorities suspect a hit-and-run driver may have killed a man in Kansas City, Kansas. Police Chief Terry Zeigler announced Thursday that the death of the victim has been ruled a homicide. The Kansas City Star reports that police think the man may have been struck by a vehicle that left the scene before officers arrived Wednesday. There is no description of the vehicle. The identity of the victim wasn't immediately released.


Wichita Homebuilder Gets 5 Years' Probation for Fraud Scheme

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man will serve five years of probation for defrauding customers and can no longer work in the homebuilding business. The Sedgwick County District Attorney's office says 44-year-old Brett Horth was sentenced Wednesday and ordered to repay $344,236. He could be sent to prison for one year and four months if he doesn't repay the money or follow his probation terms. The Wichita Eagle reports Horth pleaded guilty in February to two counts of felony theft for keeping money paid by homeowners for subcontracting work. Most of the fraud occurred last year, when Horth ran Dream Life Homes and built houses in Andover, Colwich, Derby, Garden Plain, Goddard, Park City, Pratt and Wichita. Eleven homeowners were affected.


Kissinger Accepts Harry S. Truman Legacy Award in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has received a leadership award named after President Harry S. Truman. The Kansas City Star reports that Kissinger said Thursday that he admired how Truman had led the U.S. to "totally defeat" Germany and Japan but then included them in the community of nations. Kissinger called it a "noble sentiment." He was in Kansas City for a dinner to accept the 2016 Harry S. Truman Legacy of Leadership Award. It was presented by the former president's eldest grandson, Clifton Truman Daniel. The event was organized by the nonprofit fundraising arm of the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum in Independence. More than 850 people attended, including Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander and Jackson County Executive Frank White.


Prosecutor: No Charges in Deadly Wichita Police Shooting 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The top prosecutor in Sedgwick County says he plans no charges against a Wichita police officer who fatally shot a man during a confrontation last year. District Attorney Marc Bennett says the investigation of John Paul Quintero's January 2015 death found that the officer who shot him acted in self-defense. Bennett says that officers responding to reported disturbance confronted an intoxicated 23-year-old Quintero, and that Quintero failed to fall when he initially was shot with a stun gun. Bennett says that Quintero didn't comply with the officers' demands, and that the officer who shot Quintero believed he was armed with a knife. Authorities have said an autopsy showed Quintero had marijuana, alcohol and meth in his system. Quintero's family has filed a federal wrongful-death lawsuit.


Prosecutor to Seek Death Penalty in Triple Wichita Killing
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A southern Kansas prosecutor says he'll seek the death penalty against a man accused of killing his girlfriend and two of her relatives in 2014. The Wichita Eagle reports Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett announced during Vinh Van Nguyen's arraignment Friday that he'll ask jurors to consider execution as punishment if Nguyen is convicted. Nguyen is charged in the slayings of 45-year-old Tuyet Huynh, her 20-year-old daughter, Trinh Pham, and 21-year-old Sean Pham. An attorney for 42-year-old Nguyen waived his client's right to have the charges read aloud in court, and a plea of not guilty was entered on Nguyen's behalf. Nguyen has been found mentally competent to stand trial. Nguyen immigrated to the U.S. less than 10 years ago. He's jailed on $2 million bond.


Former K-State President Schulz to Receive $625,000 a Year in New Position

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Kirk Schulz has been confirmed as the 11th president of Washington State University and will receive a five-year contract with a base salary of $625,000 per year. The WSU Board of Regents made those decisions at a meeting on Friday. The regents also decided that Schulz will receive an additional retention incentive of $25,000 per year. Schulz is currently president of Kansas State University. He was chosen last month to replace Elson Floyd, who died of complications from cancer last year. The contract also stipulates that Schulz and his family will be provided the use of a house in Pullman and a condominium in the Seattle area. Schulz's contract also includes an appointment to the WSU faculty as an engineering professor.


University of Missouri Nursing School Receives $3 Million 

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — The University of Missouri's nursing school has received gifts totaling $3 million to go toward construction of a new building. University leaders announced Friday that Michael and Millie Brown of Leawood, Kansas, pledged $2 million. Richard Miller of Pittsburg, Kansas, also pledged $1 million. The money will go toward the estimated $55 million needed for the new building for the Sinclair School of Nursing. Millie Brown is a graduate of the school and Miller's daughter earned a nursing degree there. The new building would include larger classrooms, a nursing simulation center and a research center. The added space will allow the school to increase enrollment from 160 to 200 students.


KC's Sock Advances in First Round at Clay Court Tennis Championship

HOUSTON, Tex. _ Kansas City resident Jack Sock won his first match yesterday (THUR) at the U.S. Clay Court Tennis Championship in Houston. Sock, the defending champion, defeated Matthew Barton of Australia to advance to the quarterfinals starting this (FRI) evening.  The former tennis stand-out from Blue Valley North High School in Overland Park won 80 per cent of first serve points and secured his sixth consecutive win in Houston in 75 minutes. Last year, Sock earned his first Association of Tennis Professionals World Tour title in Houston. In the next round tonight, Sock will face Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus.

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