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Headlines for Sunday, June 25, 2017

Regional headlines from the Associated Press newswire

New Kansas Law Forms Task Force to Review Child Welfare

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has signed into law a measure that creates an independent task force to review the state's child welfare system. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the measure was in response to the deaths of a number of children who had been in state custody. It also followed a series of audit reports that were critical of the Kansas Department for Children and Families' management of the state foster care system. The measure calls for a 19-member panel to examine all aspects of the state's child welfare system. The task force will include lawmakers, people involved in family court services and social welfare, and law enforcement. The group will file a progress report at the 2018 legislative session's start, with a final report due in January 2019.

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Kansas Man Pleads Not Guilty in Woman-on-Fire Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A southern Kansas man has pleaded not guilty to charges that he sexually attacked a mother of four before fatally setting her on fire. KWCH-TV reports that an attorney for 28-year-old Cornell McNeal of Wichita entered the pleas Friday on McNeal's behalf during a Sedgwick County arraignment. He's charged with capital murder in the November 2014 death of 36-year-old Letitia "Tish" Davis. She was found at Fairmount Park near Wichita State University by a neighbor who heard her screaming and discovered her on fire. Davis sustained burns on more than half of her body and died eight days later. A judge on Wednesday found McNeal mentally competent to stand trial.

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Polarizing Sexual Assault Accusations Divide Kansas Town

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The northeast Kansas town of Holton will be torn again next week as the second in a series of trials starts for a well-known local man accused of sexually assaulting several women. The polarizing accusations against 22-year-old Jacob Ewing in this community of some 3,300 people have prompted his supporters to put up signs in their yards and to pack court proceedings wearing T-shirts emblazoned with messages of support. An advocacy group for the women called "I Support the Victims of Jacob Ewing" is organizing volunteers to sit in the courtroom. Ewing was acquitted in May of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl, but faces trials on rape accusations levied by five adult women. The trial that begins Monday is on charges of rape and aggravated criminal sodomy involving two women.

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Kansas Couple Meets at Dog Training Class

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A dog training class is what brought one engaged Kansas couple together. The Hutchinson News reports that Kate Givan and Tyson Rowland met while working with their dogs at an agility training class at Hutchinson kennel Club. Rowland has a boxer named Lauren. Givan owns an English cream Golden Retriever named Gus, who serves as her psychiatric service dog. Gus perceives her emotional needs, offers comfort and protects her. When Rowland proposed he was sure to include their pets. Gus took a note to Givan and Lauren had the engagement run attached to her collar. The couple plans to get married on Nov. 4 at Dyck Arboretum of the Plains in Hesston. They plan to have their dogs involved in the wedding as well.

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Kansas Nun Eager to See Slain Brother Become a Saint 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas nun says she is surprised that her slain brother could become a saint, but that it "couldn't happen to a nicer guy." Marita Rother tells her hometown Wichita Eagle that Stanley Rother was tireless and that he taught her "how to live and how to die in dignity." Marita Rother belongs to the Wichita Center of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, where a small statue of Stanley Rother stands. He was killed in 1981 after three men broke in to his Guatemala rectory. He was declared a martyr last year and will be beatified in September — the final stage before canonization as a saint. Rother is the first American-born martyr and would be the first U.S. priest to be beatified.

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Local Laundromat Helps Small Kansas Town Survive 

COTTONWOOD FALLS, Kan. (AP) — Several small, rural communities in southern Kansas are working together to keep crucial businesses in the area so that towns can continue to survive. The Wichita Eagle reports that the Wash-O-Rama laundromat is evolving into a destination point in Cottonwood Falls, a town with fewer than 900 residents. Wash-O-Rama owners Christy and Luke Davis view the laundromat as their vision in helping support rural Kansas quality of life. Christy Davis had heard in a meeting that the number one economic need in communities like Cottonwood Falls was a laundromat. The facility was awarded a Kansas Historic Preservation Award in May for a $200,000 renovation on the building. The Davises say they have the "prettiest laundromat in the most beautiful town in Kansas."

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