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Headlines for Monday, October 31, 2016

Here's a look at area headlines from the Associated Press

KPERS Changes Under Consideration

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas officials are considering lowering the expected rate of return for public employee pension investments. The Kansas Public Employee Retirement System has assumed an annual return on investment of 8 percent for three decades. A transition wouldn't change pension benefits to KPERS' members. But a lower expected return on investments would mean taxpayers and possibly employees would need to chip in more money. Consultants have been meeting with the pension's board for months to weigh options. Retirement system executive director Alan Conroy says the board is "in the thick of considering it." A final decision might be made at the November 18 meeting of the KPERS board.


Elections Official Says Ballot Selfies Are Legal in Kansas 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An official with the Kansas secretary of state's office says it has determined that ballot selfies are legal in the state after all. Elections Director Bryan Caskey said Monday that the office has re-examined a state law that makes it a felony to disclose a ballot's contents and concluded it applies to election officials but not voters themselves. Ballot selfies are illegal in some states. Federal judges have struck down bans in Indiana and New Hampshire. A secretary of state's office spokeswoman said earlier this month that taking selfies at a polling place is legal but "a picture of the actual ballot violates Kansas law." Caskey said repeated questions led the secretary of state's office to further review the law. He says, "There's not a law that prohibits it."


GOP's Yoder Raises $508K in October in Hot Kansas 3rd Race 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican U.S. Representative Kevin Yoder raised more than $508,000 in cash contributions in October for his re-election in the 3rd Congressional District of Kansas. The fundraising came as the national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was spending nearly $1.1 million to help Democratic challenger Jay Sidie. Federal Election Commission reports also showed Monday that a Republican super-PAC has spent more than $734,000 to help Yoder. But Yoder also is fundraising aggressively. He's raised about $328,000 since October 20, and the total includes more than $67,000 from fellow Republicans in the House or Senate. Sidie has raised more than $105,000 in October. His total includes $15,000 from House Democrats. Democrats see Yoder as vulnerable because he's backing GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and because Republican Governor Sam Brownback faces a political backlash.


Push to Remake Top Kansas Court Hits Backlash over Governor

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A push to remake the Kansas Supreme Court could falter because of a political backlash against Republican Governor Sam Brownback. Five of the court's seven justices are on the November 8 ballot that asks voters whether each justice should stay on the court for another six years. Four justices appointed by Democratic and moderate Republican governors are being targeted in by GOP conservatives, abortion opponents and critics of rulings that overturned death sentences. Brownback publicly supported an effort to oust justices in 2014, but he's not making an endorsement this year amid a backlash over the state's budget problems. At least one group backing the ouster effort says the governor is a liability. A group supporting the justices is reminding voters the conservative Republican governor can appoint new justices.


Suspect in Kansas Bombing Plot Calls Hearing 'Ridiculous' 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A man accused of plotting to bomb a western Kansas apartment complex where 120 Somali immigrants live says federal prosecutors didn't share their evidence with his defense attorney until 10 minutes before a detention hearing. Patrick Stein called The Associated Press from jail on Monday. Stein said he could not now respond to the government's accusations until he talks with his attorney because jailhouse calls are monitored and recorded. The government presented text messages and other evidence during an October 21 detention hearing. Prosecutors say that information was provided to the defense as soon as it was available. Stein and two others have pleaded not guilty to conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction in a plot to bomb a Garden City apartment complex.


Kansas Group to Explore Issues Faced by Religious Minorities

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas Student Senate is forming a group to explore issues that religious minorities face on campus. Student Body President Stephonn Alcorn said Thursday in a letter to student senators that the committee will create a survey to gauge students' accommodations for religious holidays and access to reflection spaces on campus. The Lawrence Journal World reports the Student Senate approved a resolution to form the committee October 19. Alcorn said the committee then will present legislation based on the survey to the Student Senate to enhance the quality of life and freedom of religion for religious minorities at the university.


Lawrence Teenager to Be Tried as Adult in Grandmother's Death 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Lawrence teenager accused of killing his grandmother will be tried as an adult. Douglas County District Court Judge Kay Huff ruled Monday that 17-year-old Jaered Long will be tried as an adult on a first-degree murder charge. He is suspected of stabbing his 67-year-old grandmother, Deborah Bretthauer, to death at her apartment in December. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Long was 16 when his grandmother died. He lived in the apartment with her. As an adult, Long faces a life sentence if he is convicted.


3 People Shot to Death Outside Kansas Home

HESSTON, Kan. (AP) - Investigators found three people shot to death outside a rural home in central Kansas last (SUN) night, and an unharmed 18-month-old child was found inside. Sheriff Townsend Walton says a passing motorist reported seeing bodies on the driveway of the home near Hesston in Harvey County. Sheriff Walton says he believes the shootings happened earlier in the day. Walton says the victims were a man in his 50s, and a woman and man in their mid-30s. Their names have not been released. The sheriff says the case is being investigated as a homicide. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation is assisting in the probe.


2 Charged with Beating, Robbing 82-Year-Old Kansas Priest

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - Two men have been charged with beating and robbing an 82-year-old Catholic priest in Kansas City, Kansas. The Kansas City Star reports that 19-year-old Ladarious Barkers and 20-year-old Marvin Moore face several charges in the October 21 attack and robbery of the Reverend Thomas Kearns. Wyandotte County District Attorney Jerome Gorman said Sunday that the charges include aggravated robbery, aggravated battery and burglary. Kearns was struck in the face and knocked unconscious during the assault outside the Blessed Sacrament Church. His car and wallet were stolen. Kearns underwent surgery to repair broken facial bones. The suspects, who are from Kansas City, Kansas, are being held on $300,000 bond. 

City in South Kansas Settles Federal ADA Lawsuit

KINGMAN, Kan. (AP) - A south-central Kansas city has settled a federal lawsuit over accessibility for the disabled. The Hutchinson News reports that the city of Kingman recently settled the case over the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The settlement stems from a case filed in federal court in October 2015. In the settlement, the city denies violating the law but authorizes payment to two Kingman residents who use wheelchairs. Under the settlement, the two men will receive $1,500 each. The city will also pay the plaintiffs' lawyer $10,000 for prosecuting the action and monitoring the city's compliance with the agreement.

Kansas City Opens Innovative Mental Treatment Center

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Kansas City, Missouri has a new facility for mentally ill people who might otherwise be taken to jail. The Kansas City Triage and Assessment Center is the only one of its kind in Missouri. The center has eight beds for stabilizing people in mental health crises and eight beds for people in alcoholic distress. It's intended to give police officers and medical teams a place to take people where they can stay up to 23 hours instead of housing them in jails or emergency rooms that are often not equipped to help them. The center's $3-million annual operating budget is funded in part from $2 million a year it gets from an entity derived from the sale of two area hospitals.


Corps of Engineers Finishes First Phase of Kansas Reservoir Dredging 

BURLINGTON, Kan. (AP) - Crews have completed the first phase of a large-scale dredging project at an eastern Kansas reservoir. The Emporia Gazette reports that the John Redmond Reservoir dredging project, which began in May, involves dredging sediment from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reservoir, which is a supply source to 19 communities and six industrial users. The dredging project began after a study determined the water supply needs in the region could not be sustained during an extended drought. Dredging up the sediment to restore water supply storage was considered the best option. The Kansas Water Office says there are still several additional steps before the reservoir project is concluded.


Saline County Jury Convicts Man on Abuse Charges

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Saline County jury has found a 41-year-old man guilty of sex crimes involving a juvenile under the age of 14. The Salina Journal reports that the jury deliberated less than two hours Friday before convicting Christopher Hitchcock of several charges, including nine counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child, one count of rape and three counts of aggravated criminal sodomy. He's scheduled to be sentenced December 28. All of the offenses fall under the sentencing provisions of Jessica's Law and provide no eligibility for parole until after 25 years.


Cat Missing Since June Will Be Returned to Florida Owners

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 10-year-old cat that went missing in Wichita in June is going back to her human family in Florida. The cat, called Ninja, escaped her carrier at a Wichita hotel when the family stopped on a trip to Colorado. The family looked everywhere but couldn't find their beloved animal. Last weekend, a group that traps, neuters and returns feral cats in Wichita captured 40 cats. One of them was Ninja, who had a microchip that led to the Florida phone number of Renee and Brett Farmer of Sarasota, Florida. The Wichita Eagle reports that Ninja was treated for fleas and a superficial wound and was given a clean bill of health Wednesday. She'll be flown to Tampa, Florida, sometime in the next two weeks to be reunited with the Farmers.


2 Suspects Sought in Missouri Robbery 

GRANDVIEW, Mo. (AP) - Authorities are investigating a robbery in which a man was shot in front of his wife and their two young children south of Kansas City, Missouri. The Kansas City Star reports that the 27-year-old victim sustained life-threatening injuries during the shooting Sunday night in Grandview. His name has not been released. Witnesses reported that the victim, his wife and their children, ages 3 and 5, were in the family's vehicle when two men approached, one wearing a dark ski mask. Police say that after the robbers demanded the woman's purse at gunpoint, one of the suspects shot the husband before the robbers sped away.


Police: Kansas City 3-Year-Old Shot to Death by Brother, 5 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police say a 3-year-old boy who died last week was accidentally shot by his 5-year-old brother. Police say Jermone L. Green was shot Thursday at the townhouse where he lived. Efforts to revive him were unsuccessful. Investigators are trying to determine how the 5-year-old got hold of the gun. Several adults were inside the residence when the shooting occurred. The Kansas City Star reports that the case has been forwarded to the Jackson County (Missouri) Prosecutor's Office, which will determine whether criminal charges will be filed.


Chiefs Overcome Injuries, Beat Colts, 30-14

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs' backup quarterback Nick Foles threw two touchdown passes to help the Kansas City Chiefs hold off Indianapolis and win 30-14 on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium. It was a rough game for the Chiefs, who lost starting quarterback Smith twice after hits to the head. Smith was checked for a concussion in the first half and cleared to return in the second quarter. He left again early in the third quarter after another hit to the head. Smith was then diagnosed with a concussion and did not return to the game. Foles' 14-yard TD pass to Travis Kelce early in the second quarter brought the score to 10-0. When Smith returned, he made it 17-7 at halftime with a 13-yard TD pass to Jeremy Macli. After Smith's second departure, Foles hooked up with Tyreek Hill on a 34-yard scoring pass to give Kansas City a 24-7 lead. The Chiefs (5-2) prevented Andrew Luck from pulling off a comeback  Luck finished 19 of 35 with 210 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and one fumble lost for the Colts (3-5). Nick Foles was 16 of 22 for 223 yards with no interceptions.     


Chiefs Defend Treatment of Alex Smith's Injuries 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs defended their treatment of Alex Smith after their quarterback twice had his head slam into the turf in Indianapolis, saying Monday that he passed concussion tests both times. Chiefs trainer Rick Burkholder said that Smith passed a battery of sideline tests and additional tests in the locker room following the first blow. When Smith returned to the game and was wobbly after another hit, he again passed all of the standard concussion tests. The training staff decided at that point to keep Smith from the game anyway. Running back Spencer Ware did not pass the concussion protocol and was ruled out after taking a similar hit, which has prompted some to question the hardness of the turf in Indianapolis.


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