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Headlines for Monday, July 20, 2015

2 Senior Federal Judges in Kansas Leaving US District Court

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The looming departures of two senior federal judges in Kansas in the next couple of months are expected to exacerbate a backlog of cases in U.S. District Court in Kansas. Their loss is expected to create heavier caseloads at a time civil litigation oftentimes already languishes for years in the federal courts. U.S. District Judge Monti Belot will join in September the ranks of senior judges leaving the federal bench. The 72-year-old Wichita judge's full retirement comes just a month after his 93-year-old colleague in Topeka, U.S. District Judge Richard Rogers, also goes on inactive status. Their loss will leave Kansas with just five active district judges handling all the criminal cases in the federal courts, and three remaining senior judges who have opted to hear only civil cases.


Kansas to Receive Federal Aid for Spring Storms 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — President Barack Obama has signed a federal disaster declaration that will free up federal funds to help Kansas recover from recent spring storms. The federal money will go toward repairing damage to infrastructure and services damaged by May and June storms that included tornadoes, straight-line winds and flooding. Obama signed the disaster declaration Monday. Federal funding is available to the following counties: Atchison, Barton, Brown, Butler, Chase, Chautauqua, Cherokee, Cheyenne, Clay, Cloud, Coffey, Cowley, Doniphan, Edwards, Elk, Ellsworth, Franklin, Gray, Greenwood, Harper, Haskell, Hodgeman, Jackson, Jefferson, Jewell, Lyon, Marion, Marshall, McPherson, Meade, Miami, Morris, Nemaha, Neosho, Osage, Pottawatomie, Republic, Rice, Stevens, Sumner, Wabaunsee, and Washington.


Mathematician Says Kansas Voting Machines Need to Be Audited 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita State University mathematician says she has seen enough odd patterns in Kansas election results that she thinks it's time to check the accuracy of some voting machines. But Beth Clarkson says government officials have been reluctant to provide her with the records she needs to conduct an audit. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Sedgwick County election officials refused to allow computer records to be part of any recount, instead telling Clarkson if she wanted them she would have to fight for them in court. Clarkson says an audit is important because of national concerns about the voting machines that thousands of Kansans use to cast their ballots each year. She adds that she noticed some suspicious patterns after the November elections and wants to find out why.


Timing of School Administrator's Suspension Raises Eyebrows 

MCPHERSON, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas school district the state's new education commissioner left earlier this month is facing questions over the timing of revelations that an administrator was suspected of misusing district funds. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that McPherson School District officials knew in mid-June that associate superintendent Chris Ruder was suspected of charging personal expenses on a district card, but he wasn't suspended until June 23. That was the final day of a mail-in election that started June 2 asking voters to increase the local option budget that helps fund the school district. Randy Watson was the district's superintendent until July 1, when he became Kansas education commissioner. He says he had asked for an audit of district finances after an unusual purchase was brought to his attention.


Holton Man Seeks to 'Crowd Source' Money to Buy Topeka Race Track

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man is hoping an ambitious crowdfunding effort will help him buy a beleaguered Topeka racetrack. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Dan Canady of Holton has started a GoFundMe crowdfunding effort to raise up to $10 million to buy Heartland Park Topeka. Heartland Park Topeka opened in 1989 and became one of the NHRA's most popular drag racing venues in the 1990s. After the racetrack's finances took a turn for the worse in recent years under track operator Raymond Irwin and Jayhawk Racing, the city proposed to buy Heartland Park. But Topeka's governing body voted against the plan. Canady says he'll use the crowdfunding money to negotiate a deal with Irwin, and if another deal is finalized before he raises the money, he'll return the money to donors.


Judge Sets Date for Resentencing Kansas Doctor, Wife 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A judge has set a hearing for a former Kansas doctor and his wife accused of a moneymaking conspiracy at a pain clinic linked to 68 overdose deaths. A court notation on Monday shows Stephen Schneider and his wife, Linda, will be resentenced August 31. The couple was convicted in 2010 of conspiracy to commit health care fraud resulting in those deaths, unlawfully prescribing drugs, health care fraud and money laundering. Schneider was initially sentenced to 30 years and his wife to 33 years. But in June, U.S. District Judge Monti Belot overturned the conspiracy sentence following an unrelated U.S. Supreme Court decision that the victim's drug use had to be the actual cause of death, not merely a contributing factor. The judge also threw out some of the convictions.


Second Man Charged in Overland Park Shooting  

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) _ An 18-year-old man has been charged in a suburban Kansas City shooting that left two men dead.  The Kansas City Star reports that Marquise Stokes of Kansas City, Kansas was arrested Saturday. He's charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of 18-year-old Velik Henderson of Overland Park. Henderson was killed June 30 along with 19-year-old Trevon Anderson of Kansas City, Kansas.  The homicides occurred on the same Overland Park block where a woman was killed and her 11-year-old daughter was wounded six days later. The slain woman has been identified as 36-year-old Quaushey Harris.  Another man was charged earlier this month with first-degree murder in the double homicide.  He and Stokes are both jailed on $2 million bond. It's not immediately clear if Stokes has an attorney.  


Kansas Congressional Staffer Sentenced for Child Sex Charges

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — A former staffer for U.S. Representative Tim Huelskamp has been sentenced to 12 months in prison in a Kansas child- sex case. Matthew Pennell was sentenced Friday in Ford County after admitting to two of the 17 child sexual exploitation counts he was charged with in March. The Dodge City Daily Globe reports that Pennell also will be required to register as a sex offender and complete a treatment program. The affidavit says Pennell was in possession of child pornography. Huelskamp's chief of staff, Mark Kelly, said in an initial statement that Pennell had been placed on unpaid leave. In a later statement Kelly said Pennell no longer worked for the Republican congressman and that staff members were "shocked and saddened." Huelskamp represents Kansas's 1st Congressional District.


Fort Riley Marina Closed Because of Algae 

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — Fort Riley officials say the fort's marina is closed because of high levels of toxic blue-green algae at the north end of Milford Lake. The marina is expected to remain closed until the lake conditions improve. The south end of Milford Lake is open, but is under a public health warning, which means boating and fishing are allowed, but swimming is discouraged. Beaches in a separate section were closed earlier after the Kansas Department of Health and Environment added the area to their blue-green algae watch list last week. Health officials say some blue-green algae produce toxins that pose a health risk to people and animals.


Judge Dismisses Charges in Alleged $132 Million Scam 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has dismissed the indictment against seven men accused in 2012 of cheating investors out of $132 million. U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten granted on Monday the request from prosecutors to dismiss the case. Its end comes nearly three years after the government announced the indictment, alleging at the time that investors were bilked with false promises and phony reports about companies that leased drilling rigs and related businesses. Prosecutors did not explain their decision in the filing, nor respond to email and phone messages seeking comment. The order dismisses charges that had been filed against Michael McNaul, formerly of Hutchinson; Dale Lucas of Wichita; Russell Kilgariff of Preston; Lloyd Nunns of Hutchinson; Greggory Krause of Hutchinson; Steven Tallman of Owasso, Okla.; and Fredie Hembree of Hutchinson.


Man Arrested After Chase Through 3 Kansas Counties

ELLSWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A Salina man has been arrested after police say he led law enforcement on a car chase through three counties and reaching nearly 100 mph. According to Saline County Sheriff's Deputy Lieutenant Mike Smith, a deputy spotted a man Sunday inside the vehicle of someone the deputy was meeting for lunch. Smith said when the man saw the deputy, the suspect got out of the vehicle, climbed into another car and drove off. Police pursued the suspect through Saline, Lincoln and Ellsworth counties. The suspect was arrested after Kansas Highway Patrol officers were able to spike the tires of his vehicle. The suspect faces charges of attempted theft, felony fleeing and eluding, reckless driving and numerous traffic infractions.


65-Year-Old Colby Man Killed in Shootout with Officers 

COLBY, Kan. (AP) — A western Kansas man killed in a shootout with law enforcement officers over the weekend has been identified as a 65-year-old Colby resident. Kansas Bureau of Investigation spokesman Mark Malick says Charles Edward Dewey was gone when Colby police responded late Friday night to a domestic disturbance involving someone with a gun. Police and Thomas County sheriff's deputies found Dewey just after midnight Saturday morning hiding under a camper trailer. Malick says Dewey fired a handgun at the officers, who returned fire and killed him. No law enforcement officers were injured in the exchange. Two Colby police officers and one deputy who were involved in the shooting were placed on administrative leave.


Influx of Same-Sex Marriages Boon for Wedding Businesses 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Several Wichita-area businesses say they're expecting a bump in revenues with the legalization of same-sex marriages as an influx of couples plan their weddings. The Wichita Eagle reports that photographers, florists, hair stylists and bakeries also say they're eager to get in on the new business. A 2014 report from a Los Angeles-based think tank estimates those marriages could provide the Kansas economy with $14.1 million in the first three years. The trend nationwide is that half of same-sex couples marry within the first three years of legalization. The report from the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law and Policy predicts a $9 million boost to the state economy the first year based on wedding, tourism and sales tax revenue.


Body Recovered at Hillsdale State Park 

PAOLA, Kan. (AP) — Crews have recovered the body of a drowning victim from a lake at a state park in eastern Kansas. The Miami County Sheriff's Office told The Kansas City Star that the victim's body was found late Sunday from the lake at Hillsdale State Park in Miami County. The victim was identified as 20-year-old Osvaldo Nievez-Quesada of Kansas City, Kansas. Sheriff's deputies were called Sunday night to the Jayhawk swimming beach on a reported drowning. Witnesses said a man was in a designated swimming area when he disappeared under the water.


Earthquake Centered in Northern Oklahoma Rattles State
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A magnitude 4.4 earthquake centered in northern Oklahoma has shaken the state, with reports of it being felt hundreds of miles away. The U.S. Geological Survey reported Monday's quake happened at about 3:20 pm, with the epicenter located about 9 miles east of Cherokee near the Kansas border. People reported feeling the quake in several states, including Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas. The Alfalfa County Sheriff's Office said there were no immediate reports of injuries or damage. The quake was followed about 30 minutes later by a 3.2-magnitude quake about 115 miles away near Pawnee and a 4.0 quake northeast of Cherokee. The strongest Oklahoma earthquake on record is a 5.6 quake centered in Prague in November 2011.


High Water Halts Search for Man Who Fell into Kansas River

EL DORADO, Kan. (AP) — Divers were to resume the search for a 26-year-old man who fell into the Walnut River at an El Dorado park and never resurfaced. KAKE-TV reports the man was with his brother Sunday morning when he tried walking across a man-made waterfall and got swept away. Emergency crews spent the day looking for the man, whose identity hasn't been released, but had to scale back their efforts Sunday afternoon because the water level was too high to continue. Divers were to be brought in Monday morning to resume the search. El Dorado police spokesman Lieutenant John Stewart says the water is moving rapidly because it is overflow from El Dorado Lake. Stewart says drains have been shut down but the water isn't subsiding as much as searchers had hoped.


Westmoreland Man Arrested After Shooting

WESTMORELAND, Kan. (AP) — Police are investigating after they say a Westmoreland man shot two people. According to a news release from the Pottawatomie County Sheriff's Office, the man was arrested early Sunday and faces aggravated battery and attempted second-degree murder charges. Officers responded to two calls around 2:30 am, and found the suspect and the two victims outside the suspect's home. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the victims had injuries that were not life-threatening. According to police, the suspect was taken into custody without incident and is being held without bond at the Pottawatomie County Jail.


Kansas State Still Scrapping Equestrian Program  
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) _ Parents of equestrian athletes at Kansas State University are questioning the school's decision to cancel the program now that the NCAA plans to continue supporting it.   The university's Athletics Department says the sport's viability remains unclear and the department won't reverse its decision.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that parents raised the issue after the Waco, Texas-based National Collegiate Equestrian Association announced on its website Thursday that the NCAA had shelved an internal recommendation to cut off support for Division I equestrian sports. That internal recommendation dated to September 2014 and was cited by Kansas State soon after it revealed plans to scrap the sport in 2016 and replace it with women's soccer. 


Carbon Monoxide Sickens 3 People in Kansas City 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Three people were sickened by carbon monoxide at a Kansas City office building. The Kansas City Star reports that firefighters responded to a call about noon Monday regarding shortness of breath at an office building in the Crossroads Art District. Firefighters found high levels of carbon monoxide at the site. Firefighters measured the concentration of carbon monoxide at about 1,300 parts per million, about 26 times higher than the danger threshold. Kansas City Fire Department Battalion Chief James Garrett says one person was critical, a second person was non-critical and a third person got their own medical treatment. Garrett says firefighters determined that power equipment being used in the building's basement created the carbon monoxide. Firefighters shut off the equipment and ordered an evacuation.


Spirit AeroSystems to Hire 500 Workers

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita-based aircraft parts maker Spirit AeroSystems is trying to fill 500 jobs. The Wichita Eagle reports that the effort involved a job fair Saturday morning at the Spirit Employment Office. The focus of the fair was filling 350 openings for assembly mechanics. The company says the Boeing 737 program is driving their need for workers. Spirit builds the fuselage and other major components of Boeing's best-selling single aisle passenger jet. Production of the 737 is expected to increase. Jim Hans, director of operations for Spirit's 737 fuselage program, says the company has a $46 billion backlog. Spirit also builds parts for Boeing's other commercial airliners and some Airbus jets.


Authorities Identify Man Killed After Kansas City Pursuit

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Federal authorities have released the name of a suspect killed after a law enforcement pursuit in Kansas City. The Kansas City Star reports that the man killed Thursday was identified as 30-year-old Patrick Stephen Pippin, of Olathe, Kansas. Pippin was a suspect in a federal investigation that involved the U.S. Marshals Service, Kansas City police and the FBI. The chase started after authorities went to a home to serve a search warrant. The FBI says two people left in a vehicle and refused to stop. One suspect got out of the vehicle and ran, but was arrested shortly afterward. Patton says the chase ended on Interstate 35 after the suspect's vehicle became disabled, and the driver got out of the vehicle armed with a weapon. No officers were injured.


K-State Reports $141.5M in Donations 

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University says it has received $141.5 million in gift pledges in the fiscal year that just ended. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the donations for the fiscal year that ended June 30 came from individual supporters and corporate partners, with 57,813 individuals making more than 80,550 gifts. Alumni made nearly half the gifts and were the largest donor group. While there were also several small gifts, 28 families committed $1 million or more each. The university says that about 66 percent of the money was pledged through endowments and deferred gifts that will become available in the future. Kansas State President Kirk Schulz said in a written statement that private donations are becoming more important as the state covers less of the cost of higher education.


Duffy Leads Royals Past White Sox for 4-1 Win

CHICAGO (AP) — Danny Duffy took a shutout into the ninth inning in the longest outing of his career, and the Kansas City Royals beat Chris Sale and the Chicago White Sox 4-1 on Sunday. Lorenzo Cain and Paulo Orlando homered as Kansas City (55-35) moved a season-high 20 games above .500. The AL Central leaders took three of four in the weekend series and have won 11 of 14 overall. Joe Blanton, a starter for most of his career, got the save opportunity after Kansas City split a doubleheader on Friday, and then used seven relievers in Saturday's 13-inning victory. Sale (8-5) allowed four runs and a season-high 11 hits in 6 1/3 innings.



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