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Headlines for Monday, June 15, 2015

Kansas Republicans Defend Vote for Tax Hike 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's signature personal income tax cuts emerged mostly intact from a grueling legislative fight over closing an estimated $400 million budget deficit. But fellow Republicans already say they are concerned about how they're going to defend increases in other taxes to voters next year. The state will have one of the nation's highest sales tax rates and smokers will be paying 50 cents more for each pack of cigarettes. It's not yet clear whether legislators have created long-term fiscal stability. Republican legislators repeatedly resisted raising taxes and disagreements among multiple GOP factions made the annual session the longest in state history, at 113 days. Approval of the tax increases came only after top Brownback aides warned GOP lawmakers of draconian spending cuts.


Officials Say Few Hitches in KS Math, Reading Tests This Year 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Officials say the state math and reading tests this year went off with relatively few hitches. The Kansas State Board of Education has learned that students and schools should have access to their scores in September. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that results from the exams last year were later declared invalid following technical glitches and cyberattacks of unknown origins. The 2014 exams were the first time the state rolled out a new test design and test delivery platform. Testing staff worked to resolve the technical bugs and contracted with a private company to shield the testing platform from the cyberattacks.


Bird Flu Likely Spread on Equipment, Workers, Rodents, Wind 

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Bird flu that's devastated Midwestern farms likely spread by several means, including on machinery and workers, by rodents and possibly even by the wind. That's according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report released Monday. The agency studied genetic properties of virus samples on more than 80 turkey and chicken farms. USDA scientists say wild birds introduced the virus onto farms, but it appears the virus spread in other ways once there. The scientists found lapses in biosecurity on farms and environmental factors likely contributed to the spread of the disease. More than 49 million birds died or were euthanized in 15 states this spring as the virus spread from the Pacific Northwest into Midwest farms. It's the nation's worst outbreak of bird flu.


4 Injured in Riley County House Explosion

RILEY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a Kansas house explosion has injured a woman and three children. KSNT-TV reports that the blast happened Saturday afternoon in the town of Riley. Riley County Fire Chief Pat Collins says the explosion caused the garage door to fly out into the street, and started a large fire that destroyed the home, garage and a vehicle. Four people were taken to a hospital. The extent of their injuries weren't immediately known. The cause of the explosion is under investigation.


Arrest Follows Fatal Crash in Leavenworth County

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) - A man has been arrested after two passengers in a vehicle he was driving died during a car accident in Leavenworth County. A 20-year-old suspect was arrested and faces charges connected to the incident. Police say his charges will be announced after his first court appearance. According to authorities, 29-year-old Jesse Aldrich and 34-year-old Justin Wilson were pronounced dead at the scene after the car they were traveling in hit a tree Sunday morning on Country Road 1 near the Kansas River Bridge.


Man Charged with Molestation Missing from House Arrest

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a suburban Kansas City music instructor charged with child molestation has removed his ankle bracelet and disappeared. 28-year-old Sean Dow went missing early Saturday morning from a relative's Overland Park home. Overland Park Sergeant Kelly Hasz says Dow was staying there while the Johnson County Sheriff's Office monitored him with the ankle bracelet. Dow was charged in April with three counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child under the age of 14. The incidents reportedly occurred at a music store in Shawnee. The families of the children have been notified of Dow's disappearance.


Lawrence City Commission Considers New Codes for Pet Businesses

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence city commissioners are considering tougher fire codes at businesses that house pets after a fire last month at a pet store and earlier fire at a boarding business. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that commissioners received a proposal to require pet businesses to have sprinkler systems, smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors and other such devices. But so far, there hasn't been discussion at a City Hall about strengthening the fire code for thousands of human dwellings that have lesser fire protection methods in place than what is being considered for the pet businesses. Mayor Jeremy Farmer says he'll be interested to see if there is larger discussion about fire codes.


More Time Sought in Topeka Homicide Trial 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A January trial has been scheduled for a 36-year-old man accused of fatally shooting another man last year at a home outside Topeka. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Shawnee County District Court judge on Monday set a January 11 trial date for Jonathan Emil Maldonado-Vasquez. He faces several charges, including felony first-degree murder, in the November 2014 shooting death of 29-year-old Dustin C. McKinney. Coroner's officials said McKinney was shot at least eight times. The trial date was set after Judge David B. Debenham agreed to a request from defense attorney Heather Nelson for additional time in the case so a DNA expert could go over findings from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.


Majority of Galena's Elected Officials Accused in Indictment 

GALENA, Kan. (AP) — A majority of a southeast Kansas community's elected officials are accused of misusing public funds, but the city's attorney says the charges are baseless. The Joplin Globe reports that Galena's mayor, five current City Council members and a former council member are named in an indictment handed down by a grand jury after a six-month investigation. Two current council members were not named in the indictment. City Attorney Kevin Cure issued a statement Sunday announcing the charges accusing city officials of using public money in a manner not authorized by law. They are accused of paying $100,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a Galena landowner against two companies connected to a man who is a business partner with Mayor Dale Oglesby.


Hutchinson Animal Shelter Unsettled After Inmate Labor Controversy

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Six months after the director of the Hutchinson Animal Shelter resigned amid a disagreement over use of inmate labor, the city is still looking for his replacement. Former shelter director Richard Havens resigned earlier this year. He had complained that inmates from the Hutchinson Correctional Facility who worked at the shelter were unreliable and made sexually suggestive remarks to female workers. The Hutchinson News reports city officials discussed returning inmates to the shelter but it hasn't happened yet. All four technicians working in the months before and after Havens resigned have left the shelter and been replaced. Police Lieutenant John Taylor, who is overseeing the shelter, says he wants a new director hired before any decision on inmate labor is made.


Man Dies After Being Found Injured in Kansas Roadway

GODDARD, Kan. (AP) — A man has died after he was found lying in the road in Sedgwick County following what authorities say appears to be a hit-and-run. Wichita media outlets report 36-year-old Aaron Matej was found early Sunday in an intersection near the city of Goddard. Emergency medical services personnel transported the victim to a local hospital where he was later pronounced dead. Sergeant Ben Blick of the Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office said deputies were notified of the incident at 2:20 am. Blick says the man appears to have been struck by a vehicle. An investigation is ongoing.


Authorities Identify Deceased Couple Found After Fire 

BUCYRUS, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have identified a couple who were found shot to death in their rural Kansas home last week. The Miami County Sheriff's office said Monday the victims were 62-year-old Michael G. Jerden and 58-year-old Sandy J. Jerden. Their bodies were found on June 8 in a home in rural Miami County. Dental records were used to identify the couple. The sheriff says last week they were killed by gunshots. Few other details have been released. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.


Heavy Rain Hits North of Wichita Area 

BENTLEY, Kan. (AP) — Heavy rain has caused flash flooding north of Wichita, forcing several road closings. The Wichita Eagle reports that up to 7 inches of rain fell overnight in northern Sedgwick County and in Harvey County. The National Weather Service has issued flood warnings for all or parts of Chase, Marion and Harvey counties. Lon Buller, emergency management director for Harvey County, says it's been a challenge to get barricades up for all the roads closed by water. No injuries have been reported, but a rural Sedgwick County resident has been marooned in his home. James "Woody" Woodall's property southeast of Bentley is surrounded by water. He says all his chickens have drowned, and there's about a foot of water in his garage. But he says he's staying put for now.


Rains Stall Winter Wheat Harvest in Kansas 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The winter wheat harvest has gotten off to a soggy start in Kansas. A few spots in south-central and southeast Kansas have seen very limited harvest activity. The industry group Kansas Wheat says one farmer as far north as Salina reported cutting last week. The group's marketing director Aaron Harries says the wheat is ready in much of southern Kansas, with the exception of southwest Kansas. But he doesn't know of any harvest going on anywhere on Monday. Heavy rains across much of Kansas in recent days have brought harvest to a screeching halt. Scott Van Allen started cutting his acres in south-central Kansas last Tuesday and got three good days of harvest before the rains came. He has harvested 500 acres, and has nearly 2,000 more to go.


Wet Conditions Slow Wheat Harvest, Help Other Farm Crops 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new report shows that 2 percent of the Kansas winter wheat has been cut since harvest activity began last week in the state. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that is about the same amount compared to a year ago at this time. But it is well behind the 18 percent typically cut by now on average. The agency reported that 20 percent of the Kansas wheat crop has matured. That is behind the 26 percent that had done so at this time a year ago and well behind the 40 percent average for this late in the season. About 29 percent of the wheat is reported in poor to very poor condition with 41 percent in fair shape. About 30 percent is in good to excellent condition.


Paola Man Dies After Fall from Golf Cart 

PAOLA, Kan. (AP) — An eastern Kansas man has died after falling from a golf cart. The Miami County Sheriff's Office says Michael Thomas Everhart of Paola died from a head injury Sunday after he fell off the golf cart, which he was riding with three other adults. The Kansas City Star reports that his 30th birthday would have been today (MON). The sheriff's office says Everhart was taken to a hospital, where he later died. The incident is under investigation.


Wichita Family Seeks $5M in Fatal Police Shooting 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The family of a Wichita man killed by police wants $5 million from the city. Authorities have said that police shot and killed 26-year-old Icarus Randolph on July 4 when he came toward officers with a knife and after a Taser failed to stop him. District Attorney Marc Bennett announced Friday that no charges will be filed against police in Randolph's death. The Wichita Eagle reports that Randolph's family filed the claim for $5 million on June 2. A claim is required before a lawsuit can be filed. The newspaper obtained the information under a Kansas Open Records request. The city didn't release a copy of the claim document, which spells out the family's position. Lee Barnett, the lawyer bringing the claim for Randolph's family, said the family isn't commenting.


Archaeologists Find Evidence of Ancient Settlement Near Arkansas City 

ARKANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita State University professor says an archaeological dig in south-central Kansas last week has turned up evidence of a Native American settlement dating back more than 400 years. Archaeologist Don Blakeslee, a Wichita State professor of anthropology, led the five-day dig near Arkansas City. Blakeslee says researchers found iron and lead balls that are the same type of ammunition shot from cannons and muskets by Spanish conquistadors who explored the Great Plains in the 16th and 17th centuries. He says the evidence supports the theory that Arkansas City is the site of the ancient village known as Etzanoa, which was inhabited by about 20,000 ancestors of the Wichita Indians.


Pony Express Re-Enactors Set Off for California

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) - The Pony Express will be riding again for the next two weeks. The 35th Annual Pony Express Reride left this morning (MON) from the site in St. Joseph, Missouri where the mail-delivery service started 155 years ago. The Pony Express began in 1860, with each rider going about 80 miles before handing mail to the next rider. The St. Joseph News-Press reports about 550 people will each ride nearly 5 miles over the route, with the ride scheduled to end June 25 in Sacramento, California. Riders from St. Joseph will hand packages to the Kansas Chapter of the National Pony Express Association in Elwood, Kansas. After that, riders will travel to Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and Nevada before arriving in California. 


Royals-Cardinals Series Finale Postponed by Rain

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The Kansas City Royals game at the St. Louis Cardinals was postponed Sunday by rain after a delay of 2 hours, 31 minutes. No makeup date has been determined for the final game of the series. The Cardinals won the first two games in the series. The Royals head to Milwaukee today (MON) for two games versus the Brewers. On Wednesday, the Brewers come to Kauffman Stadium for two more games in Kansas City to finish the series.


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