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Headlines for Sunday, August 23, 2015

Geologist: Earthquakes Linked to Saltwater Injection

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A scientist with the Kansas Geological Survey says an increase in earthquakes in two Kansas counties is linked to saltwater injection from oil and natural gas drilling. The agency has said in the past that there was a "reasonable probability" that injection wells were linked to an uptick in earthquakes in Harper and Sumner counties in southern Kansas. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that KGS scientist Tandis Bidgoli used more definite language Thursday, telling the Kansas Environmental Conference that the two are "certainly linked." Bidgoli said the agency wants to more study of the relationship between the increased underground pressure and the quakes. She says scientists want to see if the pressure needs to be dialed back to reduce seismic activity.


Kobach Proposal Would Purge More than 34K Prospective Voters

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Opponents of a proposed regulation to purge the names of more than 34,000 prospective voters will protest at public hearing next month, but concede there is little else they can do. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is pushing an administrative rule that would allow him to throw out any incomplete voter registration forms after 90 days, most of which lack proof-of-citizenship documentation. The number of incomplete voter registrations on hold as has grown to 34,454 names as of Wednesday. Purging it would leave just 4,202 prospective voters. A hearing is set for September 2nd in Topeka over the proposal. Kobach and opponents of the move all say he has the power to unilaterally change the rule.


Kansas Democrats Regroup after Chairman Resigns

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The resignation of the Kansas Democratic Party's chairman has thrown the party's mid-year convention into flux. The "DemoFest" convention began Friday in Wichita just hours after the resignation of Larry Meeker. He stepped down amid a backlash over comments he made about rebranding the state party's message to emphasize it is more conservative than the national party. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the situation was further complicated by the fact that party officials had neglected to send out formal notices that the party's state committee would be meeting during the convention. Because of that, the committee is prevented under party bylaws from taking any action to name a new chairperson this weekend. Instead, the committee will meet October 3rd in Salina to select a new chairperson.


Former Teacher Charged with Sex Crimes in Clay County

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A former North Kansas City Schools teacher has been charged with sex crimes. The Kansas City Star reports that 31-year-old Samuel D. Waltemath is charged with first-degree statutory rape and first-degree child molestation in Clay County. Bond has been set at $250,000. No attorney is listed for him in online court records. Court documents say Waltemath had sexual intercourse with a child less than 14 years old this spring on private property. North Kansas City Schools spokeswoman Michelle Cronk says Waltemath hasn't been employed by the district since May 1st. Cronk says Waltemath resigned from the district for reasons unrelated to the allegations.


Youth Dies in Off-Road Crash in Russell County

RUSSELL, Kan. (AP) — One person has been killed in a utility terrain vehicle crash in a Russell County pasture. KSNW-TV reports that the crash occurred yesterday (SAT) south of Russell. Russell County Sheriff John Fletcher said in a statement that the juvenile driver was ejected and was trapped beneath the vehicle. The coroner pronounced the driver dead at the scene. Fletcher says a juvenile passenger also was ejected from the UTV and was treated and released from a hospital. The victim's name wasn't immediately released.


Man Pleads Guilty in Topeka Deadly Drive-by Shooting

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 20-year-old man has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in a drive-by shooting in Topeka. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Damieon Michael Ortega-Brown entered the plea Friday in Shawnee County District Court. He also pleaded guilty to criminal discharge of a firearm at an occupied dwelling or vehicle, and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.  The charges were tied to the June 2014 killing of 19-year-old Patrick Lightbourn Junior. Senior assistant district attorney Matt Patterson said Ortega-Brown was at a party before the shooting but left after there was a fistfight. Patterson said Ortega-Brown later returned and fired at people who had been involved in the altercation. Under the plea, Ortega-Brown faces a sentence of nearly 19 years in prison. His sentencing is scheduled for October 2nd.


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