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Headlines for Monday, July 31, 2017

Here's what's happening.

Audit Contradicts Kansas Agency's Data on New Prison Costs

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A legislative audit contradicts information the Kansas Department of Corrections gave lawmakers about the least expensive way to finance a new prison.  The audit released today (MON) said it would be cheaper for the state to issue bonds to finance the new prison in Lansing to replace the existing prison there. Parts of the prison date to the 1860s.  The department told legislators earlier this year that the cheapest option would be having the company building the prison lease it to the state for up to 40 years.  Lawmakers authorized both.  Auditors said using bonds could cost as little as $178 million over 20 years and a lease-purchase deal would cost $206 million.  Auditors said the department used inconsistent assumptions favoring a lease-purchase deal. The department said it welcomed the review.

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Kansas Lawmaker Seeks Report on Prison Unrest 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) —  A Kansas lawmaker is seeking a report from legislative auditors on recent inmate disturbances at the state's maximum-security prison in El Dorado. Democratic state Senator Laura Kelly of Topeka said Monday she is concerned that the Department of Corrections is not being transparent enough. The department has confirmed incidents involving inmates refusing to return to their cells on May 8, June 24 and June 29. But it has said they were less serious than some employees and their union described them. Kelly said she wants auditors to investigate and report on what actually happened. Department spokesman Todd Fertig said it is being transparent. The committee that directs the auditors' work will consider Kelly's request in October. If the review goes forward, a report would be ready early next year.

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Report of Disturbance at Kansas Prison Disputed

EL DORADO, Kan. (AP) - A spokesman for the Kansas Department of Corrections says it has found no evidence of a significant episode of unrest at a state prison reported earlier by a union for state workers. Department spokesman Todd Fertig says it investigated whether a group of inmates refused to follow orders Friday evening and did not find that such an incident occurred.  The report that such an incident occurred came from the Kansas Organization of State Employees in a tweet Friday evening. Executive Director Robert Choromanski said the information came from an employee monitoring emergency communications.  Choromanski said Saturday that the incident appeared to be resolved within a half hour.  Fertig did report that there were two separate inmate-on-inmate altercations Friday, each resulting in an inmate injury.

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Man Arrested After Firing Rifle Shots in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police say a man who fired shots from a rifle in midtown Kansas City during a dispute with two people has been arrested, and no injuries were reported.  KMBC-TV reports that officers responding to a report of gunshots arrested the man shortly before 9:30 this (MON) morning.  Authorities say two people told them they were involved in a dispute with the man when he began shooting.  There was no immediate word about any charges.

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Steelworkers, Goodyear Reach Tentative Contract for 5 Plants

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) - The United Steelworkers and Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. have reached a tentative contract agreement that covers about 7,000 workers at five plants, including Topeka's Goodyear plant.  The company says the five-year agreement also covers workers at plants in Fayetteville, North Carolina; Akron, Ohio; Danville, Virginia and Gadsen, Alabama.  The agreement was reached late Saturday night, just before union officials said workers were ready to go on strike.  Goodyear officials said in a news release that they expect local unions to schedule ratification votes in the next few weeks.

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2 Plead Guilty to Federal Charges Tied to Kansas Mail Theft 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Two Kansas men have pleaded guilty to federal charges related to their scheme to pilfer items from Wichita mailboxes. Thirty-eight-year-old Shalan Hiatt of Wichita pleaded guilty Monday to one count each of mail theft and possession of a counterfeit mailbox master key. Thirty-three-year-old Jason Farner of Leavenworth pleaded guilty to two counts of mail theft. Authorities say Hiatt and Farner admitted they were members of a group of people in Wichita who used counterfeited mailbox keys to steal mail containing checks and forms of identification. Sentencing for both men is scheduled for October 19.

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Harcros Chemical Penalized for Clean Air Act Violations 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas-based chemical company has agreed to pay a $950,000 penalty to the federal government for allegations that it violated the Clean Air Act. The settlement announced Monday by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency also requires Harcros Chemicals of Kansas City, Kansas, to make sure that its accident prevention program complies with federal requirements. Harcros operates 31 facilities in 19 states that manufacture, blend, repackage and distribute chemicals. The settlement calls for the company to audit 28 of its facilities to identify and correct potential sources of Clean Air Act violations, and to effectively react to accidents when they occur. It also requires installation of foam-based sprinkler systems at eight Harcros facilities. A phone message left with Harcros Chemicals was not immediately returned.

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Judge Delays Trial in Kansas Credit Union Embezzlement Case 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has again delayed the trial of a southeast Kansas woman accused of embezzling more than $5 million from a now-defunct credit union. U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten on Monday put off until November 14 the jury trial for Nita Rae Nirschl on an 81-count federal indictment accusing the Parsons woman of embezzlement and money laundering. She had been set to go to trial in September in Wichita, but her attorney asked for more time to review the voluminous amount of evidence. The crimes allegedly took place while Nirschl worked for the Parsons Pittsburg Credit Union based in Parsons. Federal prosecutors say that after an audit found the credit union was insolvent, it was placed in conservatorship and ultimately liquidated in March 2014.

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Teen Fleeing from Kansas Police Causes Crash; 4 Injured

SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) _ Police in the Kansas City suburb of Gardner say four people were injured in a crash involving a 15-year-old boy who had fled after striking a police officer.  KMBC-TV reports that an officer was checking on a car Saturday night when the driver suddenly sped away, striking and slightly injuring the officer.  Kansas Highway Patrol troopers later chased the suspect on Interstate 435 before he lost control of the vehicle, sideswiped another vehicle and crossed into oncoming traffic before colliding head-on with another vehicle, which then overturned.  The suspect was taken a hospital. Three other people, including a toddler, also were injured.  The medical condition of the injured people was not immediately available.  There was no immediate word about any charges.

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Topeka Police Probe Case of Man Fatally Injured on Street

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Authorities in Topeka are investigating circumstances involving a fatally injured man found nude on a street.  Police say 18-year-old Joseph Daniel Irwin of Topeka was found unresponsive, naked and without identification on the street shortly before 8 pm  Wednesday. He died Friday at a hospital.  Police have not released details about how Irwin may have become injured, only calling the matter "suspicious." But they have said they are looking for a small, hunter green sport utility vehicle with a roof rack.

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KC Area Woman Searches for Horses Missing After Storm

UPDATE: The carcass of one of the two missing horses has been located.

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas City-area woman is hoping to locate two horses she says went missing after last week's storm-related flooding.  Sherra Schuck tells Kansas Public Radio that a chestnut quarterhorse (named Agapey)... and a white Arabian (called Lytia) were kept in an open barn and pasture on a friend's property in Overland Park.  They disappeared after storms pounded the region Thursday and inundated the barn with water. Schuck surmises one of the horses got spooked, and the other went along.  Schuck says the horses are ages 17 and 31, that she's had them "since they were babies," and that she wants them back, "dead or alive."

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Man Killed When Motorcycle Crashes into Tree in Kansas
 
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - Police in Kansas City, Kansas, say a man was killed when the motorcycle he was driving crashed into a tree.  Police did not immediately identify the victim of the crash Friday night.  Investigators say the man died at the scene.

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Man Ordered Tried in Kansas Killing of Sister of Slain Woman

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas man has been ordered to stand trial in the slaying of the sister of a girl whose kidnapping 17 years earlier sparked a massive manhunt before she was found dead in Missouri.  The Kansas City Star reports a Wyandotte County judge ordered the trial Friday after 41-year-old Emenencio Lansdown's preliminary hearing on charges of second-degree murder and criminal possession of a firearm. Lansdown's attorney entered pleas of not guilty on his behalf.  Lansdown is accused of killing Casey Eaton in April near the Kansas City, Kansas, park dedicated to her late sister, Pamela Butler.  Butler was 10 in 1999 when she was kidnapped while roller-skating near her home. Butler's body was later found in Grain Valley, Missouri.  Her abductor, Keith Nelson, was convicted and sentenced to death.

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Ruling on Life Sentences for Minors Has Little Impact in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Many states have been grappling with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that juveniles can't automatically be sentenced to life in prison without parole.  But here in Kansas, prison officials say that it is not an issue.  The Kansas Department of Corrections says none of its inmates is serving life without parole for a crime committed while younger than 18. Such young offenders are barred from receiving that sentence in Kansas.  Five years ago, the Supreme Court barred mandatory life-without-parole sentences for anyone under 18 convicted of murder.  Last year, the court made its ruling retroactive, saying the more than 2,000 offenders already serving such sentences must get a chance at resentencing.

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Kansas Birth Doula Starts Nonprofit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A northeast Kansas doula, an assistant to women giving birth, has started a nonprofit to help teenage mothers, incarcerated pregnant women and low-income single mothers. Juliet Swedlund tells The Topeka Capital-Journal that women in these groups may not even be aware that a doula is an option because they are not covered by most insurance in Kansas.  She launched the Topeka Doula Project to reach out to those groups.  Doulas give nonmedical assistance to woman during birth, such as suggesting position changes, massage techniques or helping a woman's partner be better involved. They offer physical, emotional and informational support.  Swedlund says she will work with the Washburn Law Clinic to apply for grant funding. She's also working on creating partnerships to raise awareness about the services she offers.

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Royals Beat Red Sox, 5-3

BOSTON (AP) _ Alex Gordon's two-run triple helped the Kansas City Royals rally for a 5-3 victory over the Boston Red Sox Sunday.  The Royals have won 10 of their last 11 games.  Meanwhile, in an effort to get to the post season, the Royals have acquired outfielder Melky Cabrera from the Chicago White Sox for two minor-league pitchers.  The Royals are two games behind the AL Central-leading Cleveland Indians.  Kansas City holds the second wild-card spot by 2.5 games over Tampa Bay.

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Kansas City Chiefs Like New Back-up Quarterback

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) _ Patrick Mahomes is already turning heads just a few days into training camp, running a perfect two-minute drill to lead his team to a touchdown.  And that bodes well for the Kansas City Chiefs, who hope the first-round draft pick can emerge as the backup to Alex Smith before someday taking his job.

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