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Headlines for Saturday, April 22, 2017

Police and KBI Investigating Death of Russell Toddler

RUSSELL, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Bureau of Investigation is teaming up with the Russell Police Department to investigate the death of a 14-month-old boy from central Kansas. Investigation Bureau spokeswoman Melissa Underwood tells the Salina Journal that an autopsy of the child was being performed Thursday after he died at a Wichita hospital the night before. Underwood says investigators are hoping the preliminary autopsy will give enough information about the child's cause of death to move forward with the investigation. Russell Police Chief Dale Weimaster says his department received a call Sunday about a boy being treated at Wesley Medical Center. The child's death is being investigated as a potential case of child abuse. Underwood says the Kansas Bureau of Investigation will not release the boy's name.


Kansas Unemployment Rate Hits 16-Year Low

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas gained 4,600 private sector jobs last month, and its unemployment rate dropped to the lowest it's been since November 2000. A preliminary report released yesterday (FRI) by the Kansas Department of Labor says the seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate dropped to 3.8 percent in March from 4 percent in February. The state gained 3,600 nonfarm jobs over the year. It picked up 4,600 private-sector jobs and lost 1,000 government jobs. The national unemployment rate also dropped last month. A report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics says it dropped to 4.5 percent in March from 4.7 in February. Kansas is one of 19 states with unemployment rates below the national one. The report comes a day after officials and university economists forecasted improved tax collections, shrinking the state's budget shortfalls.


KCK Homicide Victim was Sister of Girl Kidnapped, Killed in 1999

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A woman shot to death in Kansas City, Kansas, has been identified as the sister of a girl who was kidnapped 17 years ago while playing outside, driven to Missouri and killed. The Kansas City Star reports that police said Thursday that 34-year-old Casey Eaton was the person shot to death late Wednesday night. Her body was found in a vehicle. Her sister was Pamela Butler, who was 10 in 1999 when she was kidnapped while roller-skating near her Kansas City, Kansas, home. Her body was later found east of Kansas City in a wooded Grain Valley, Missouri, field. Keith Nelson was later prosecuted in federal court and sentenced to death for Pamela's killing. Police are investigating Eaton's death and urging anyone with information to call a tips hotline.


Hays Doctor's License Suspended

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — A state board has suspended a Hays doctor's osteopathic license to practice medicine for at least six months. The Salina Journal reports that the State Board of Healing Arts took the action Tuesday against Kirk Potter, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon. An emergency order suspended his license in November when it was alleged he'd failed to practice with reasonable skill and safety. The suspension was lifted last month, with restrictions. Potter's attorney argued that the emergency suspension should be sufficient discipline. But the board found Potter hadn't disputed allegations that he violated a 2015 consent order that stemmed from two DUI arrests and the loss of a camera containing patient photos. Potter can request a judicial review or board reconsideration. He didn't return a phone call from the paper.


Kansas Rig Count Holds Steady as National Count Rises

HOUSTON (AP) — The number of rigs exploring for oil and natural gas in the U.S. rose by 10 this week to 857. A year ago, 431 rigs were active. Houston oilfield services company Baker Hughes Inc. said yesterday (FRI) that 688 rigs sought oil and 167 explored for natural gas this week. Two were listed as miscellaneous. Texas added six rigs and Alaska, Colorado, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Wyoming each gained one. Oklahoma lost one rig. Kansas, Arkansas, California, Louisiana, New Mexico, Ohio, Utah and West Virginia were unchanged. The U.S. rig count peaked at 4,530 in 1981. It bottomed out last May at 404.


New Kansas Fiscal Forecast More Optimistic

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has seen its budget picture improve slightly after officials and university economists issued a new fiscal forecast that was a little more optimistic than the previous one. The state's forecasting group on Thursday increased projections for tax collections by a total of $156 million through June 2019. The new forecast is the first positive one in three years and some good news for Republican Governor Sam Brownback and the GOP-controlled Legislature. The new forecast replaces a pessimistic one from November assuming that economic slumps in agriculture and energy production would continue through 2018. The state had been left with budget shortfalls totaling about $1 billion through June 2019. But tax collections since then have been better than expected. With the new forecast, the budget gaps now total $889 million.


Reno County Fires Ruled Suspicious

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Reno County fire officials say four fires north of Hutchinson in early March are suspicious in nature. The Hutchinson News reports the fires March 4th and 5th burned more than 5,500 acres and destroyed a dozen homes. Deputy Fire Chief Doug Hanen says in a news release a firework that emits a shower of sparks was found near the origin of one of the May 5th fires. The second fire that day was north and west of the first blaze. Hanen says several witnesses reported no smoke in the area shortly before the fires and says it's unlikely the second blaze rekindled from the previous fire. He says the two fires March 4th started along the same road, with no possible ignition sources in the area.


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