Kansas Child Welfare Panel to Meet Amid Foster Care Concerns
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas legislative task force on child welfare is meeting this week after several lawmakers raised concerns about how state policies are affecting families. The Child Welfare Task Force is scheduled to meet tomorrow (TUE) at the Statehouse. Its agenda includes a look at the court system's role in protecting abused and neglected children. The meeting comes after a joint legislative budget committee reviewed data showing that 44,000 people have become ineligible for cash assistance under policies that include work requirements for able-bodied adults. meanwhile, the number of children in foster care has grown dramatically in recent years, and critics of Republican Governor Sam Brownback are linking the two trends. The Department for Children and Families contends the social services policies help make welfare recipients more self-sufficient.
Kansas Child Welfare Agency Described as Overly Secretive
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Legislators, former employees and family members say the state agency in Kansas charged with protecting children from abuse and neglect works instead to hide how it operates. The Kansas City Star reports that a former state Department for Children and Families supervisor says she was told to shred notes from meetings and not document anything after a child's death. Former DCF Deputy Director Dianne Keech said she was given the guidance by an agency attorney in 2014 and saw an attorney shredding notes after a 2015 meeting. The department said in a statement that it is committed to transparency. The department has faced increased scrutiny because of five high-profile deaths of young children in five years and a scathing state audit of the state's foster care system last year.
Rural Areas at Risk as Water Levels Drop in Massive Aquifer
DENVER (AP) - The draining of a massive aquifer that underlies portions of eight states is drying up steams, causing fish to disappear and threatening the livelihood of farmers who rely on it for their crops. The Denver Post reports that it analyzed federal data and found the Ogallala aquifer shrank twice as fast over the past six years compared with the previous 60. Also known as the High Plains Aquifer, the Ogallala underlies 175,000 square miles including portions of Colorado, Wyoming Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas. The U.S. Geological Survey said in a June report that the aquifer lost 10.7 million acre-feet of storage between 2013 and 2015. Water levels in the Ogallala have been dropping for decades as irrigators pump water faster than rainfall can recharge it.
New Kansas Driver's Licenses Vex Election Poll Book Scanners
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Secretary of State's office says new Kansas driver's licenses could not be scanned on electronic poll books across the state during last week's local elections. Elections Director Bryan Caskey said Monday that did not keep anyone from voting because poll workers manually type in names if scanners can't read the bar codes. He noted other acceptable voter IDs for elections, such as passports, can't be scanned. Kansas began issuing new driver's licenses that are Real ID compliant in August. Caskey says the problem first surfaced during early advanced voting, but there wasn't time to fix the software issue before the election. Electronic poll book vendors are now updating software. The Transportation Security Administration says it has not had issues with Real ID licenses at Kansas airport security checkpoints.
Lawrence School District Para-Educators Seeking to Unionize
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Some para-educators in the Lawrence school district are pushing to unionize. Para-educators help teachers with several duties but most work with special education students. The Lawrence Journal-World reports about 150 para-educators have joined the Lawrence Education Association. More than 50 percent of the Lawrence district's 385 para-educators and other classified staffers who work directly with students would have to join the LEA before they can petition the board to recognize a para-educators bargaining unit. Gene Neely, regional field representative with the Kansas National Education Association, said the Lawrence school board would have to recognize the para bargaining unit. He says low wages, turnover and difficulty finding quality paras is common throughout Kansas, but only the Wichita school board has a collective bargaining arrangement with para-educators.
Kansas Man Pleads No Contest to Overland Park Man's Death
OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas City, Kansas, man has pleaded no contest in the 2015 fatal shooting of an Overland Park man. Twenty-year-old Marquise Stokes was scheduled to go on trial Monday but instead entered the plea to second-degree murder in the June 2015 death of 18-year-old Velik Henderson. Henderson was fatally shot inside his home. Nineteen-year-old Trevon Anderson also died at the home. The Kansas City Star reports court documents said Stokes helped Anderson during an attempted robbery at Henderson's home. Investigators say Henderson and Anderson shot each other. Stokes will be sentenced February 12.
Man Found Not Guilty in Northeast Wichita Shooting Death
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors say a man has been acquitted in a deadly shooting at a Wichita apartment. The Sedgwick County district attorney's office says in a statement that Kirby Lewis was found not guilty last week in the Dec. 29 death of 28-year-old Robert Young. KAKE-TV reports that officers found Young in a hallway at Woodgate Apartments. He'd been shot multiple times. Wichita police say a fight started while Young was drinking with Lewis and his roommate at their apartment. Young and Lewis' roommate left the apartment. They returned a short time later and hit the door of the apartment. Police says that is when Lewis grabbed his firearm, opened the front door and fired several shots at Young. Lewis initially told officers that Young tried to rob him.
3 People Killed in Deer-Vehicle Collision in Kansas
IOLA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say three women have been killed after colliding with a deer on an eastern Kansas highway. The Kansas Highway Patrol says the crash happened Sunday when the deer ran out of a ditch along the east side of U.S. 169 about four miles south of Iola in Allen County. The patrol says a northbound car and then a southbound mini-van hit the deer. The van went into the southbound ditch, and the car came to a stop on the shoulder. The car's driver wasn't hurt, but three people in the van were killed. The victims were identified as 33-year-old Sherry Bingham, of Chanute, 32-year-old Ciara Edwards, of Chanute, and 37-year-old Samantha McMillan, of Walnut.
Assistant Kansas Insurance Commissioner Forms 2018 Campaign
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas insurance commissioner's chief deputy is interested in running for the top job himself next year. Assistant Insurance Commissioner Clark Shultz appointed a treasurer last month for a campaign for the Republican nomination. It's a step that allows Shultz to legally accept campaign contributions. Incumbent Commissioner Ken Selzer has launched a campaign for the Republican nomination for governor next year. His insurance commissioner's campaign fund remains active, however. Shultz served 17 years in the Kansas House and was Insurance Committee chairman for nine years before being appointed to a vacant Senate seat in 2014. Shultz ran in 2014 for the Republican nomination for insurance commissioner but finished third in a five-person field led by Selzer. After Selzer was elected commissioner in November 2014, he named Shultz to his staff.
Man Accused of Stealing from Kansas Animal Lab Acquitted
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A jury has acquitted a man accused of stealing equipment from an animal laboratory at the University of Kansas. The Douglas County jury found 37-year-old Matthew Reynard not guilty of one count of burglary and two counts of theft. The Lawrence Journal-World reports Reynard was accused of taking thousands of dollars of equipment, such as a veterinary camera, from Malott Hall in June. He also was accused of stealing personal items from a man who worked at the Animal Care Unit. At the time, police said the lost items were valued at $13,000. Reynard was released from the Douglas County Jail Thursday. The animal care unit cares for all teaching and research animals on the Lawrence campus.
Attorneys: Topeka Seeks to Limit Access to Shooting Video
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Lawyers for the family of a black Topeka man fatally shot by police say the city is trying to prevent his parents from viewing officers' body camera footage. Attorney Gillian Cassell-Stiga said Monday that the city initially agreed to allow Dominique White's parents to see the body camera footage. But she said the city later said Kansas law allows it be viewed only by White's four children, who range in age from 3 to 13. Cassell-Stiga called that position "entirely ridiculous." City spokeswoman Molly Hadfield said Kansas law allows parents to view footage when a minor is the subject. Also heirs or estate administrators can view footage involving someone who has died. She said talks with the family are ongoing. The 30-year-old White was shot September 28 by two still-unidentified officers.
3 Charged in Shootout with Kansas City Police and FBI
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The Wyandotte County District Attorney has filed charges against three men who were wounded in a shootout with FBI and Kansas City, Kansas, police officers last week. Aggravated assault charges were filed Monday against 32-year-old Jason Trevillion; 27-year-old Ernest Jones; and 25-year-old Arthur Mitchell. The Kansas City Star reports police said the gunfight started when several officers in the FBI's Violent Crimes Task Force tried to stop a car in Kansas City, Kansas, on November 6. The three people in the car suffered non-life-threatening injuries. No officers were injured. Further information on what prompted the officers to stop the car and how many officers were involved have not been released. A police spokesman said Kansas City, Kansas, officers who were placed on leave are back on duty.
Suspect Arrested After OnStar Disables Stolen Vehicle
PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — A Missouri man is facing charges in two states after he allegedly committed a string of vehicle thefts that ended when OnStar disabled one of the automobiles. The Crawford County Sheriff's Department says officers were called early Sunday to a vehicle theft in rural Crawford County. A truck that previously was stolen from Frontenac was found at that address but another truck was missing. The second truck was found when deputies were dispatched to another home, where a Chevy Malibu equipped with OnStar technology had missing. The Pittsburg Morning Sun reports OnStar was contacted and located the Chevy in Ashbury, Missouri. The Jasper County Sheriff's Office found the vehicle, with the suspect inside, after OnStar disabled it. A 20-year-old from Butler, Missouri, was arrested and is jailed in Jasper County.
Wichita Police Install Cameras in Old Town to Catch What Cops Don't
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Wichita police officers no longer need to see drivers break traffic laws in the Old Town section of the city in order to write traffic tickets. The Wichita Eagle reports the city has installed 97 cameras in the core of Old Town, a business, arts and entertainment district. A staff member monitors the cameras from an office in city hall. If a traffic violation is seen, a nearby officer is called and the officer can track down the car and write a ticket. Although the cameras are recording constantly, staffers currently are monitoring them only from 9 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 3 p.m. as part of a pilot program. Wichita police Sgt. Kelly O'Brien says the program helps officers protect the community and improves officer safety.
Report: Kansas Almost Finished with Corn, Soybean Harvests
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The latest crop update from the government shows most major crops remain to be harvested in Kansas. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that 93 percent of the corn and 91 percent of the soybeans have been cut in the state. Sorghum harvest is 77 percent complete. About 74 percent of the sunflowers have also been cut. Winter wheat planting is now 97 percent finished.
Missouri Man Charged in Kansas Man's Shooting Death
BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. (AP) - A Missouri man is charged with second-degree murder in the death of a Kansas man outside a restaurant. Jackson County prosecutors charged 24-year-old John Dewayne Jeffries of Raytown on Thursday in the death of Clinton Peckman, of Paola, Kansas, who had gone to the area to work. Investigators say Peckman was shot while he was inside a work van parked near the Bethlehem Cafe in Blue Springs. Jeffries also is charged with first-degree robbery and two counts of armed criminal action. He allegedly tried to carjack a vehicle from another couple before he was found and arrested.
KBI Investigates Man's Death in North-Central Kansas
BELOIT, Kan. (AP) _ Authorities are investigating a man's death in north-central Kansas as suspicious. The Hays Post reports that that officers found the man dead early Saturday in Beloit while responding to a report of an unresponsive person with a head injury. A news release says the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, Mitchell County Sheriff's Office and Beloit Police Department are investigating the circumstances and awaiting autopsy results. No other details were immediately released, including the man's name.
Police ID 2 of 3 Victims Killed in Kansas City Shooting
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Authorities have released the names of two Kansas City women killed in a triple shooting inside a home in the eastern part of the city. The Kansas City Star reports that police identified them Sunday as 25-year-old Yessenia Ahumada and 30-year-old Jennifer Zimmerman. Family members told police that Zimmerman may have recently changed her last name to Portillo. One of the slain women managed to call police Friday morning after she was shot. But police say she died from her injuries at a hospital. The other woman and a man were pronounced dead at the scene. The man's name hasn't yet been released. Police say detectives are trying to contact relatives outside the U.S.
Kansas City Couple Married in April Killed in Head-On Crash
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Authorities say a Kansas City couple has been killed in a head-on crash in Kansas City. The Kansas City Star reports that Kansas City police identified the victims as 29-year-old Laura Humphrey and 31-year-old Ryan Humphrey. Court records show that they had married in April. Police say they were killed early Saturday when their Jeep collided with a car that was traveling southbound in the northbound lanes of Interstate 49.
Suspect Arrested in Connection with Homicides in Kansas City, Independence
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Authorities have arrested a suspect in homicides in Kansas City and Independence. The Kansas City Star reports that the 31-year-old man was taken into custody Saturday night. Online records show he is jailed in Jackson County. Police had asked the public for assistance locating him. He is a suspect in the Oct. 28 killing of 29-year-old Brandan Ray Brown in Independence and in a Nov. 2 homicide in Kansas City.
Judge Delays Hearing in Kansas Prison Recording Case
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - A hearing has been delayed in the case of recorded conversations between lawyers and inmates at the Leavenworth Detention Center. A special master was appointed to look into the government's collection and use of conversations recorded at the detention center between attorneys and their clients. The special master recently informed U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson that the government has stopped cooperating with the investigation. Judge Robinson rescheduled this month's hearing to January 18 at the government's request.
1 Tiny Town Fails to Dissolve; Another's Fate Undecided
FREDERICK, Kan. (AP) - One of Kansas' tiniest towns has failed again to vote itself out of existence, and the election to decide the fate of another was too close to immediately call. The Hutchinson News reports that measures to dissolve Rice County's Frederick and Harper County's Freeport were on the ballot Tuesday. Only a handful of people live in the towns. In Frederick, the dissolution vote ended with a 2-2 tie. A measure to dissolve Frederick also was on the ballot last year but the vote couldn't be counted because another community mistakenly cast ballots on the issue. In Freeport, there were 2 votes at the polls to dissolve the town. But a couple more ballots are in the batch that won't be counted until Monday. Dissolving a town requires a two-thirds vote.
Man Sentenced to Life in Shooting Outside Kansas Bar
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A man has been sentenced to life in prison in a fatal shooting during a botched robbery outside a Kansas City, Kansas, bar. The Kansas City Star reports that 20-year-old Filiberto Espinoza Jr. won't be eligible for parole for 25 years under the sentence ordered Thursday for first-degree felony murder. Prosecutors allege that Espinoza and co-defendant Efrain Gonzalez confronted 29-year-old Louis Scherzer in November 2016 and that Scherzer was shot in the back when he turned to get away. Scherzer was a union steward who worked for the Board of Public Utilities in Wyandotte County. His fiancee, Ellie Long, was among the family and friends gathered inside the bar at the time of the shooting. She said the crime "stole my future." The case against Gonzalez is pending.
Partisan Divide Grows in U.S. States, with Mixed Results
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - Recent Democratic victories in New Jersey and Washington mean that two-thirds of all state governments now will be fully controlled by either Democrats or Republicans. The percentage of states with single-party governance has risen significantly since reaching a low of 37 percent after the 1996 election. It's remained about 60 percent since Republicans swept into control of many capitols in 2010. The last time there was such a sustained period of unified party government was during the post-World War II era. Yet recent history shows that control of the governor's office and both legislative chambers hasn't always translated into success. Some Republican or Democratic majorities have splintered between moderates and more hard-core ideologues.