Kansas Child Welfare Panel to Meet at Statehouse
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas legislative task force on child welfare is having meeting next week for the first time since a new top administrator took over the state agency it is examining. The Child Welfare Task Force is scheduled to have a daylong meeting Tuesday at the Statehouse and to discuss a preliminary report for lawmakers on its findings. Its members include Gina Meier-Hummel of Lawrence. She was director of a children's shelter until she was named last month as secretary of the Department for Children and Families. Meier-Hummel has replaced former Secretary Phyllis Gilmore, who retired December 1. Among other things, the task force has been examining problems with the state's foster care system for abused and neglected children. Some legislators had been calling on Gilmore to resign when she retired.
Supreme Court Won't Review Appeal in Kansas Sheriff's Death
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court is letting a death sentence stand for a southeastern Kansas man who fatally shot a sheriff during a 2005 drug raid. The high court declined Monday to review Scott Cheever's case a second time. Cheever faces lethal injection for killing Greenwood County Sheriff Matt Samuels as Samuels tried to serve a warrant at Cheever's rural home about 75 miles northeast of Wichita. Cheever acknowledged shooting Samuels, but his attorney argued Cheever was too high on methamphetamine for the crime to be premeditated. The Kansas Supreme Court in 2012 ordered a new trial for Cheever because prosecutors used a court-ordered mental evaluation from a different trial against him. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed that decision in 2013. The Kansas court then upheld Cheever's death sentence last year.
Man Pleads Guilty in Death of Kansas Woman, 3 Children
PARSONS, Kan. (AP) — A former Montgomery County man pleaded guilty to killing a southeast Kansas woman and her three children in 2013. The Kansas Attorney General's office said 26-year-old David Cornell Bennett Jr, formerly of Cherryvale, pleaded guilty Monday to capital murder and three counts of first-degree premeditated murder. As part of the plea deal, the state withdrew its notice to seek the death penalty against Bennett. Bennett pleaded guilty in the November 2013 deaths of 29-year-old Cami Umbarger and her three minor children in Parsons. Testimony at a preliminary hearing in October 2014 indicated the victims were strangled. Testimony indicated Bennett repeatedly tried to contact Umbarger after they met at a club in Independence. He will be sentenced February 16. His only possible sentence is life in prison without parole.
Kansas Lawmakers to Revisit Constitutional Amendment on School Funding
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court's latest order to legislators to boost spending on public schools has Republicans talking again about amending the state constitution to curb the courts' power. Moves to amend the constitution have become nearly automatic for conservative Republicans over the past dozen years as the state has lost school funding lawsuits. The proposals have failed to attract the two-thirds majorities in the GOP-controlled Legislature to get on the ballot for a statewide vote. So this effort doesn't look to be any different. Democrats are all but certain to vote together against any proposed amendment. Conservative Republicans need the votes of GOP moderates to get the two-thirds majorities to put a proposal on the ballot. And GOP moderates say they are skeptical of proposed amendments.
KU Settles Title IX Lawsuit for $395,000
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas paid out a total of $395,000 to settle lawsuits by two former rowers who said the school didn't respond properly to their reports of being sexually assaulted on campus. The Kansas City Star reports that the university admits no liability in agreeing to pay former rower Daisy Tackett $245,000 and former rower Sarah McClure $150,000. Tackett reported a Kansas football player raped her in 2014 and McClure alleged she was assaulted by the same man a year later. The women claimed the school violated Title IX because officials should have anticipated a heightened risk of sexual assaults at the apartments where football players live. The Associated Press generally doesn't identify victims of alleged sexual assault, but Tackett and McClure have said they want their names used.
ACLU Calls for Kansas School Board to End Ban on Complaints
SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas has called for a school district in the Kansas City area to eliminate a policy prohibiting public complaints about individuals at board meetings. The ACLU sent a letter to the Shawnee Mission School Board saying a policy approved last month violates constitutional rights to free speech. The school board requires speakers participating in the open forum section of school board meetings to present information in a "positive" and "constructive way." The policy says complaints against individual school board members or individual employees are considered inappropriate for the open forum. ACLU official Doug Bonney says the First Amendment and case law gives individuals the right to express "sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials."
Topeka Zoo Says 35-Year-Old Elephant Shannon Has Died
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka officials say a 35-year-old African elephant at the Topeka Zoo has died. The elephant, named Shannon, died Monday morning after she was found lying on her side for the second day in a row. When the 5,500-pound elephant was found on her side Sunday, Topeka fire personnel used a large strap and tripod to help lift her back into an upright position. Zoo director Brendan Wiley said firefighters were attempting to lift the elephant again Monday morning when she took her last breath. Wiley said zoo officials are investigating what caused the elephant's death. Shannon and Cora, a 59-year-old Asian elephant, arrived at the Topeka Zoo in August 2016 from a traveling elephant program based near Tampa, Florida. They joined two other elephants at the zoo.
Wichita Homicide Victim Was Moving Out When He Was Shot
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police have identified a 45-year-old man who was shot and killed as he was moving out of his house during the weekend. Police say Randy Gibson and two of his friends were moving his belongings Saturday when a man who lived in the house fatally shot Gibson and wounded his two friends. Police officer Charley Davidson said Monday the 21-year-old suspect was arrested at the scene and booked into jail on suspicion of first-degree murder and other charges. The two wounded men were treated at Wichita hospitals. Two other people inside the house when the shooting occurred were not injured.
Homeless Man Critically Injured in Fire He Apparently Set
SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Saline County authorities say a homeless man who was found badly burned in a field near Salina apparently started a fire to stay warm. Sheriff Roger Soldan says 49-year-old Brett Hageman, of Lincoln, Nebraska, was found unconscious Saturday by firefighters who responded to a fire just north of Salina. Authorities found a lighter nearby and believe Hageman started the fire and then fell asleep. The Salina Journal report s Hageman was in critical condition Monday at a Wichita hospital.
Kansas City Police Shoot, Injure Carjacking Suspect
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police say four people are in custody after a carjacking led to one of the suspects being shot by Kansas City police. Authorities say a carjacking in Kansas City, Kansas, on Monday led to a police chase that ended when the car stopped in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, near City Hall. Police spokeswoman Stacy Graves says the four suspects were known to be armed. They fled from the car into a nearby parking garage and three suspects were arrested. Graves says the fourth suspect inside the garage disregarded commands from officers and shots were fired. The suspect was taken to a Kansas City hospital and was in stable condition Monday afternoon. No police officers were injured.
Wichita Megachurch Plans 33-Acre Development
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — One of Wichita's largest churches is planning to develop a major housing subdivision and special-events complex. The Wichita Eagle reports that Central Community Church filed plans with the city for developing 33 acres (13.35 hectares) of vacant land just west of the existing church buildings. City Council member Bryan Frye says he met with church leaders last week for a briefing on the development. Plans call for as many as 280 homes and senior-living apartments, an amphitheater, a special events center or nightclub, a chapel, shops, a soccer field and two ponds. The megachurch would also set aside space for developing a future school that would serve students in kindergarten through high school. Planners will publicly present the project Thursday to a committee created by the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission.
Leavenworth Woman Sentenced to Life for Raping Young Girl
LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A Leavenworth woman has been sentenced to life in prison without parole for at least 25 years for raping a 16-month-old girl. Forty-one-year-old Mahogany Jaelene Payne was sentenced Friday. Leavenworth County prosecutor Toff Thompson says a crime occurred when Payne was babysitting the girl and a 5-year-old girl in January 2016. Payne was convicted in October of one count of rape. She was acquitted of a second rape charge. The Leavenworth Times reports Payne was given a life sentence under Jessica's Law, which calls for harsh sentences for people convicted of sex crimes involving children. Payne's attorney, Curtis Holmes, had sought a sentence of probation. But Assistant County Attorney Katie Devlin argued against that, noting that Payne was convicted of child abuse in 1999 in Sedgwick County.
Topeka Businessman Acquitted in Bankruptcy Fraud Case
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal jury in Topeka has acquitted a local real-estate developer of all 114 federal charges against him. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that 65-year-old Kent Douglas Lindemuth was found not guilty of the counts Friday. Lindemuth had been accused of hiding scores of handguns that could have been counted as assets in a bankruptcy case and lying under oath about it. He had been charged with more than 100 counts of bankruptcy fraud tied to the handguns, two counts tied to the purchase of two cars and two more counts tied to concealing a bank account. He also faced a perjury count and six money laundering counts. Lindemuth's attorney, William Skepnek, said the jury recognized that Lindemuth "did not commit any crimes."
2 Pittsburg State Profs Arrested in Illegal Recording Inquiry
PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) - Two Pittsburg State University associate professors have been placed on paid leave amid an investigation into the illegal recording of a nude or partially clothed person. The Pittsburg Morning Sun reports that police say the two suspects were arrested and released on bond. One is suspected of felony breach of privacy, and the other of misdemeanor stalking. Police said in a news release that a warrant says the victim was identifiable in a video, which was disseminated. Provost Lynette Olson said in a news release that the university takes the allegations "very seriously" and is working with law enforcement. Olson says the two associate professors have been placed on paid leave pending the outcome of an investigation.
8-Year-Old Kansas City Boy Hit, Killed by Garbage Truck
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Police in Kansas City, Missouri, say an 8-year-old boy has died after being hit by a garbage truck outside his grandparents" home. Television station WDAF reports that Dra'Viontay Baker was playing in a small wagon with a 9-year-old friend when the truck hit him Friday afternoon. Police say Dra'Viontay was rushed to Children's Mercy Hospital, where he died. Officials said the boy was a third-grader at Truman Elementary. His friend was not injured. Police say the driver was not impaired and stayed on the scene until officers and medics arrived. The driver told police he was unable to stop in time to avoid hitting the boy.
Kansas Elections Candidate Calls on Rival to Quit GOP Post
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Republican candidate for Kansas secretary of state says one of his rivals should step down as state GOP chairman. State Representative Scott Schwab of Olathe is calling out fellow candidate Kelly Arnold. Schwab says Arnold is compromising his integrity by running for the state's top elections job while serving as party leader. Schwab notes that the GOP's rules call for the party to remain neutral in contested primaries. Arnold said he won't leave his party post. Arnold notes that he was elected by fellow Republicans and the position is unpaid. Kansas House Elections Committee Chairman Keith Esau of Olathe also is seeking the Republican nomination for secretary of state next year. Incumbent Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach is running for governor.
Rural Kansas Jurors Sought in Garden City Bomb Case
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Three men accused of plotting to bomb an apartment complex housing Somali refugees have asked a federal judge to pull prospective jurors from rural Kansas because they are twice as likely to have voted for President Donald Trump. A defense motion argues plans to issue summons only to citizens in the more urban counties closest to the federal courthouse is a discriminatory practice that excludes rural, conservative jurors. The trial begins March 19 in Wichita. Gavin Wright, Patrick Stein and Curtis Allen are charged with conspiring to detonate the day after the 2016 election truck bombs at a mosque and apartment complex in Garden City. They have pleaded not guilty.
$18,000 Award to Aid Restoration of Topeka's Constitution Hall
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - An $18,000 grant from the National Park Service has moved a nonprofit closer to refurbishing the facade of a building where slavery opponents met during the Bleeding Kansas era. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the president of the group Friends of the Free State Capitol says it will have sufficient funds to begin work on Topeka's Constitution Hall if it receives a $90,000 grant from the Kansas Heritage Trust. Topeka's governing body previously awarded Friends of the Free State Capitol $355,000 - including $175,000 for facade restoration - over 10 years. The money from the National Park Service is earmarked for the restoration of the front doors and windows. Constitution Hall played an important role during the fight over whether Kansas would enter the Union as a free or slave state.
Kansas City Church Erects Crosses for Homicide Victims
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A collection of 136 white crosses outside a small church in Kansas City, Missouri, honors this year's victims of homicide in the city. Each cross bears the name of a homicide victim, and Pastor Peter Judd said that at least one more will be added. There have been 137 homicides so far this year, but Judd didn't have the name of the latest victim. The church sits in an area of the city where there has been significant violence. At least five of the homicides marked by the crosses took place within a mile of the church. Judd says the church wanted to remind its members and the surrounding community about how many times this year people have turned to violence to settle their differences.
Kansas City Chiefs Rout Raiders, 26-15 at Arrowhead
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) – The Kansas City Chiefs ended a four-game losing streak Sunday as they defeated Oakland Raiders, 26-15, at Arrowhead Stadium. The win gives the Chiefs a major boost in the AFC West standings and keeps Kansas City in a tie with the Los Angeles Chargers for the conference lead ahead of their divisional clash coming up on Saturday. The Raiders are now a game back. The mid-December Chiefs looked much more like the team that took the field in September and won their first five games. That stretch was followed by a losing streak in which KC lost six of its last seven games. The Chiefs rallied to the eleven point win even without cornerback Marcus Peters. Chiefs’ head coach Andy Reid suspended Peters for his tantrum last weekend in which he threw a flag into the stands and walked off the field. If the Chiefs beat the Chargers on Saturday, they will have a clear path to the AFC West title.