Barber County Wildfire Mostly Contained; Damage Estimate Increased
MEDICINE LODGE, Kan. (AP) — The biggest wildfire in Kansas history has been largely contained, but authorities said more homes were damaged than originally thought. The Kansas Adjutant General's Office said Monday that nine Barber County homes were destroyed in the fire, which started in Oklahoma last week before moving north into Kansas. No one has been seriously injured. Earlier estimates showed anywhere from two to six homes were destroyed in the county, which suffered the most damage in Kansas. Oklahoma Forestry Services estimated the total burn area between the two states at 574 square miles. The agency earlier estimated the size of the fire at 620 square miles. The Kansas Forest Service says the fire was 90 percent contained Sunday, and 81 percent contained in Barber County by Monday.
Comanche County Section of Wildfire Extinguished
MEDICINE LODGE, Kan. (AP) — At least one section of the wildfire that has been burning in southern Kansas since last week has been extinguished. John Lehman, emergency manager for Comanche County, told The Wichita Eagle Monday that the portion of the fire in Comanche County is out. The fire, which burned about 620 square miles in Oklahoma and Kansas, hit about 93 square miles of land in Comanche County. Lehman says snowfall Sunday brought enough moisture to the burned area in Comanche County to declare the fire 100 percent controlled in that county by Sunday evening. He said firefighters no longer need to monitor for hot spots there. The fire in neighboring Barber County was considered about 81 percent contained earlier Monday.
Oklahoma Officials Investigating Cause of Wildfire
Oklahoma officials say a wildfire that started last week in northwest Oklahoma and expanded into Kansas is likely slightly smaller than originally thought. Oklahoma Forestry Services said Monday a plane equipped with multiple GPS units estimated the total burn area at 574 square miles. The agency earlier estimated the size of the fire at 620 square miles. Agency spokeswoman Hannah Anderson says the area mapped Monday is likely a more accurate portrayal of the fire's size because it used more precise instruments. As of late Monday afternoon, Oklahoma officials have not yet determined the cause of the fire.
Some Costs of Kansas Wildfire Containment Efforts Exceed $1 Million
MEDICINE LODGE, Kan. (AP) -- Some costs of battling the largest wildfire in Kansas history have so far been tallied at more than $1 million. Barber County Attorney Gaten Wood told The Wichita Eagle that full damage estimates from the fire haven't been totaled. But he says the cost of resources from outside fire departments and the use of Kansas National Guard Black Hawk helicopters to dump water on the fire had mounted to more than $1 million. Wood says that estimate doesn't include Barber County's costs, some state costs or damage to homes, property and livestock. The fire spread from Oklahoma into Kansas last week, scorching about 620 square miles in the two states. Wood also says crews in Barber County would monitor the burned area for hot spots for weeks.
Democrats File Protest over Just-Passed Kansas School Finance Bill
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democrats in the Kansas Legislature have filed a formal protest against a bill passed last week to address spending for public education in the state. Republican supermajorities in the Statehouse quickly passed the bill in response to a state Supreme Court ruling that the current school finance formula was inequitable. The court threatened to close down public schools if the funding problems weren't addressed by the end of June. In their protest, Democrats say the bill benefits wealthier districts over poorer districts and doesn't consider the actual cost of public education. The Topeka Capital-Journal reported Monday the Democrats' formal protest puts their objections to the bill in records that the Supreme Court will likely use to determine if the new law is constitutional.
State Increases Nurses' Pay at Osawatomie State Hospital
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The state will increase starting pay for nurses at Osawatomie State Hospital, which is struggling with staffing problems. The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services announced Monday it will increase starting pay from $25.05 an hour to $28.44 an hour. Interim agency director Tim Keck said in a news release a study found starting salary for registered nurses at the hospital was 9 percent below comparable facilities. The hospital currently has more than 20 full-time registered nurses and uses 15 agency registered nurses. Osawatomie lost its federal certification last year over security lapses, including the reported rape of a worker by a patient. Osawatomie and the Larned state hospital had more than 350 open positions at the end of January, a combined vacancy rate of about 38 percent.
Kansas Prosecutor Seeks Death Penalty for Quadruple Homicide
OTTAWA, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors are calling the crimes of an eastern Kansas man convicted in a quadruple homicide "extremely wicked, shockingly evil and vile." The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the sentencing phase of Kyle Flack's trial began Monday. The jury is hearing testimony to determine if the 30-year-old should be sentenced to death. Flack was found guilty last week of capital murder in the 2013 deaths of Kaylie Bailey and her toddler daughter, Lana. Flack also was convicted in the deaths of Bailey's boyfriend, Andrew Stout, and his roommate, Steven White, at a rural Ottawa farmhouse. Senior assistant attorney general Vic Braden says the killings of mother and daughter were done in an "especially heinous, atrocious or cruel manner." The defense hasn't yet made its case for life imprisonment.
3 Earthquakes Recorded in Northern Oklahoma
ENID, Okla. (AP) — Three earthquakes have been recorded in northern Oklahoma. The U.S. Geological Survey reports a magnitude 3.6 quake was recorded at 1:01 a.m. Sunday 12 miles northeast of Enid and a 3.3 magnitude temblor was recorded in the same area eight minutes later. A 2.7 magnitude quake was recorded at 2:20 a.m. near the Oklahoma-Kansas state line. No injuries or damage are reported. The number of magnitude 3.0 or greater earthquakes has skyrocketed in Oklahoma, from a few dozen in 2012 to more than 900 last year. Scientists have linked the increase to the underground disposal of wastewater from oil-and-gas production and state regulators want oil and gas companies to reduce their wastewater disposal operations.
Kansas Considering New Rules for Crime Eyewitnesses
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators are considering a measure aimed at limiting wrongful convictions by requiring law enforcement agencies to create written policies for dealing with eyewitnesses to crimes. The Innocence Project policy says eyewitness misidentification accounts for the majority of false convictions overturned nationally based on DNA evidence. The bill would create safeguards against law enforcement sending subtle clues about which suspects in lineups are thought to be the perpetrators. Witnesses would also be informed that they're not required to identify someone from the lineup. The House Judiciary Committee and the full Senate have approved the measure, which will get further consideration when lawmakers return from their spring break on April 27.
Concerns Mount over Freeze Damage to Winter Wheat Crops
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Concerns are mounting over freeze damage to winter wheat crops that had broken dormancy weeks before temperatures plummeted in recent days. Agricultural meteorologist Kyle Tapley of MDA Weather Services said Monday that most of the concern stems from freezing temperatures that hit the weekend of March 19-20. He says most of the impact is likely in western Kansas, Oklahoma and northern Texas. Unseasonably hot temperatures in February caused the wheat to come out of dormancy weeks earlier than normal, making the crop more vulnerable to cold weather. Clearwater farmer Scott Van Allen says the freeze damage began showing up this past week in his fields south of Wichita. He says one out of every 10 to 15 wheat heads that he examined had been frozen.
Former Trucking Company Owner Pleads Guilty to Tax Evasion
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. Attorney's office says the former owner of a trucking company in Kansas City, Kansas, pleaded guilty Monday to evading federal income taxes. Clifford C. Copp of Overland Park, the owner of Copp Trucking Company, pleaded guilty Monday to one count of tax evasion. Copp admitted he filed federal tax forms that in 2001 that said the company owed about $939,408 in employment taxes but the company didn't pay the taxes. In February 2004, Copp was assessed penalties of $669,037 but concealed income when the Internal Revenue Service began collection. He also concealed his ownership interest in assets including livestock, life insurance and farm equipment, as well as in a company he formed called Wildcat Limo, LLC. Sentencing has not been scheduled.
Data Shows Percentage of Non-White Kansas Students Increases
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Recently released Kansas Board of Regents data shows that the percentage of minority students enrolled at the state's public colleges and universities increased 1.4 percent from the 2013-2014 academic year to the 2014-2015 academic year. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the Board of Regents heard and discussed highlights from the latest systemwide enrollment report Wednesday. The largest minority groups across the Regents system are black and Hispanic students. The percentage of Hispanic students enrolled in higher education is smaller than the percentage of Hispanic residents in Kansas, while the percentage of black students is larger than the percentage of black Kansas residents. Although the percentage of minority students increased, there are still significant differences in the percentages of certain minorities at four-year universities compared with technical and community colleges.
Garden City Mother Sues State over Medical Marijuana
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A western Kansas woman is suing the state and some of the agencies involved in questioning and removing her 11-year-old son from her home after he spoke up at school about her marijuana use. Shona Banda's federal lawsuit alleges the state and the agencies are depriving her of her civil rights to treat a debilitating condition. The Wichita Eagle reports that the Garden City woman claims officials have infringed on her parenting rights, and that local police and school employees improperly questioned her son without her permission in March of last year. A Garden City public schools spokesman and state officials are declining comment, citing the pending litigation.
Embezzlement Inquiry Leads to Discovery of Garmin Theft
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A suburban Kansas City woman charged with embezzling from the engineering firm Black & Veatch is being investigated after $1.2 million was embezzled from navigation device maker Garmin. The Kansas City Star reports that 43-year-old Patricia Webb, of Lee's Summit, was charged this month with embezzling more than $300,000 from Black and Veatch. She worked there as a payroll manager after a stint as a payroll team leader for Kansas-based Garmin. Federal prosecutors say in court documents that the investigation into the Black & Veatch thefts led to the FBI discovering larger thefts from Garmin. No charges have been filed in connection with the Garmin case. Her attorney, John O'Connor, didn't immediately return a phone message from The Associated Press.
Wichita Cracks Down on Drug Paraphernalia Sales
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police have been cracking down on the sale of drug paraphernalia at local businesses. Police say complaints from the community led to the recent crackdown on some products sold at vape shops, convenience stores and other businesses. Captain Kevin Mears says the state passed a law in 2008 prohibiting the sale of products intended for the use of illegal drugs. Police told The Wichita Eagle that as part of the renewed effort against drug paraphernalia, the city is distributing fliers about what is and is not allowed to be sold.
Judge: Confession Admissible in Salina Murder Case
SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A central Kansas judge has ruled that a confession by one of five people accused in the killing of a teenager is admissible as evidence during his scheduled May trial. The Salina Journal reports a Saline County judge rejected 22-year-old Macio Palacio Jr.'s claim that his statements to investigators were improperly obtained. Palacio is accused of fatally shooting 17-year-old Allie Saum of Salina in May of last year. Prosecutors have said Saum was shot as she rode in a pickup truck that drove past a group of men who mistakenly thought the driver had been involved in an earlier confrontation.
Kansas Man to Stand Trial in Johnson County Shooting Death
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas City, Kansas, man has been ordered to stand trial in connection with a shooting death during a robbery attempt last year. The Kansas City Star reports that a Johnson County judge ordered the trial after a preliminary hearing for 19-year-old Marquise Stokes. Stokes is charged with first-degree felony murder, aggravated burglary and attempted aggravated robbery. Authorities allege Stokes shot and killed 18-year-old Velik Henderson inside the victim's Overland Park home last June. Nineteen-year-old Trevon Anderson also was fatally shot during the incident, though Stokes is only charged with Henderson's death. Stokes' next court appearance is April 29.
Bus Service to Expand as Kansas City Streetcars Open
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Transportation officials are expanding bus service on three major Kansas City routes to connect to a soon-to-open streetcar system. The Kansas City Star reports that the expansion also will provide easier access to key employment and entertainment centers. Last week, the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority's board of commissioners approved the expanded service. The later service will be on Friday and Saturday nights with buses running until 2 a.m. the following day to match the streetcar schedule. The expanded hours are scheduled to start May 13. That's a week after the opening of the new streetcar system, which will run 2.2 miles from the River Market area through downtown to near Union Station.
Kansas City Church Replaces Stolen 'Black Lives Matter' Sign
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City church has replaced a stolen "Black Lives Matter" sign in time for Easter. The Kansas City Star reports that the All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church hung the new banner after a previous one was stolen in January. The 2014 death of Michael Brown in Ferguson helped spawn the national "Black Lives Matter" movement. All Souls minister Kendyl Gibbons says the story of the cross and Easter is interpreted through the prism of race. Gibbons says the black church identifies with the cross and "what it means to be persecuted by authority and to suffer for no reason but the arbitrary twists of history."
Wichita B-29 Volunteers Prepare for FAA Inspection
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - The Federal Aviation Administration is preparing to begin its airworthiness inspection of a World War II bomber. The Wichita Eagle reports that volunteers have been putting the finishing touches on the B-29 Superfortress known as "Doc." Members of the nonprofit group working to restore the plane say that the next step is for the FAA to perform a physical inspection. The group will need an FAA airworthiness certificate before they can attempt a first flight of the B-29. The Wichita-built plane was finished too late to fly bombing missions during World War II, though it eventually served as a radar trainer during the Korean War.
Feds: Risk of 2016 Quakes Increases, Especially in Oklahoma
WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal scientists say the chance of damaging earthquakes hitting east of the Rockies has increased significantly, much of it a man-made byproduct of drilling for energy. Oklahoma now has a 1 in 8 chance of damaging quakes in 2016, surpassing California as the state with the highest probability. In a first-of-its-kind effort, U.S. Geological Survey Monday released a map for damaging quakes in the current year. USGS seismologists said 7 million people live in areas where the risk has dramatically jumped for earthquakes caused by disposal of wastewater, a byproduct of drilling for oil and gas. That is mostly concentrated in Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Kansas, Colorado and Arkansas. Natural earthquake risk also increased around the New Madrid fault in Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas and Illinois.
Chiefs' Husain Abdullah Announces Retirement
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah announced his retirement after seven seasons on Monday, adding his name to the growing list of players who have walked away from the NFL because of health concerns. Husain said on Instagram that he sustained his fifth concussion this past season, which sidelined him for five weeks. He said there were many factors in his decision with "personal health being foremost." Abdullah joined the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of Washington State, and spent four productive seasons with the Minnesota Vikings. He walked away in his prime to make a pilgrimage to Mecca, then returned after one season to earn a roster spot with the Chiefs. He proved to be a dependable safety for Kansas City the past three seasons.