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Headlines for Thursday, August 8, 2019

Here are the headlines for our area, as compiled by KPR news staffers.

Government Watchdog Eyeing Testimony Against Kansas Official

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Court filings show a Kansas government watchdog is examining the testimony of four purported campaign workers who testified against Sedgwick County Commissioner Michael O'Donnell at his federal trial. Jurors acquitted O'Donnell in March on 21 counts of wire fraud. The judge later dismissed five remaining counts at the request of the government. That had appeared to end O'Donnell's legal woes. But docket notices filed this week in the federal case indicate the general counsel of the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission has purchased transcripts of trial testimony of four of his friends. The commission's general counsel said Thursday that he can't confirm or deny any investigation. O'Donnell says he is not worried about it because he didn't commit a crime and was acquitted. He says they've moved on.

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Storms Knock Out Power for Thousands in Missouri, Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Utility crews have restored power for most customers in parts of Kansas and Missouri after strong storms brought wind gusts that downed power lines. Those thunderstorms Wednesday morning initially left about 4,000 Westar Energy customers without power in eastern Kansas. By midday, all but a few hundred had power restored. The storm moved into western and southern Missouri and left several hundred without power in parts of the Kansas City area and elsewhere. There were no immediate reports of significant damage or injuries due to the weather. Forecasters say parts of the two states could see several more rounds of heavy rainfall into the weekend.

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Kansas Imposes Toughest Online Tax Collections in the Nation

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas plans to impose what some tax experts say would be the nation's most aggressive policy for collecting state and local taxes on online sales, possibly inviting a legal battle. The state Department of Revenue issued a notice saying any "remote seller" doing business with Kansas residents must register with the department, collect state and local sales taxes and forward the revenues to the state, starting October 1. It cites a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year allowing states to collect sales taxes on Internet sales. Most states now have policies to collect such taxes, but almost all set minimum annual sales or transaction thresholds to exempt small businesses, according to groups tracking tax laws. Kansas is the first to attempt to collect the taxes without exempting any businesses, they said. The Republican-controlled Legislature included provisions on taxing Internet sales in two tax-cutting bills this year, but Democratic Governor Laura Kelly vetoed both measures, saying they would destabilize the state's finances. The Department of Revenue is imposing its new policy under an existing tax law that applied to out-of-state businesses but wasn't being enforced because past court decisions prevented it.

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FBI Makes Sex Trafficking Arrests, Rescues in Kansas City Area 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ The FBI says two juveniles and 35 adults in the Kansas City area were rescued from alleged commercial sex trafficking operations as part of a nationwide roundup. The FBI coordinated the national effort and the agency says the operation resulted in the identification or recovery of 103 child victims and the arrest of 67 suspected sex traffickers nationwide. The Kansas City Division of the FBI said it worked on ``Operation Independence Day'' with other law enforcement agencies in Missouri and Kansas, including departments in Kansas City, Overland Park and Wichita.  

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Sedgwick County Deputy Loses License to be a Law Enforcement Officer

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A Sedgwick County sheriff's deputy who was arrested twice in the same day last year has lost his license to be an officer. The Wichita Eagle reports the Kansas Commission on Peace Officers' Standards and Training revoked the law enforcement certification of Raymond Paredes after he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery. Paredes was arrested October 31 after a domestic battery call at his home. The sheriff's department says Paredes was arrested later in the day after bonding out of jail and returning to the home, which violated a protection order. The revocation order says Paredes put his hand on his wife's neck and pushed her against a wall.His employment with the Sedgwick County sheriff's office ended March 21.  

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Kansas Woman Ruled Competent for Trial in Beheading Death

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A judge has ruled that a 37-year-old Kansas woman charged in the decapitation death of her ex-boyfriend's mother is competent to stand trial. Rachael Hilyard, of Wichita, is charged with first-degree murder in the April 2017 death of 63-year-old Micki Davis. KAKE-TV reports Davis was attacked after she went with her 9-year-old grandson to a home to retrieve property belonging to her son. The boy ran away and called 911. Police found Davis' body in a garage and her head in the kitchen sink. She underwent a mental health evaluation at Larned State Hospital, which said she was competent to stand trial. A judge agreed Thursday. Trial is set to begin Oct. 15. Hilyard is jailed on $550,000 bond.

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Kansas City Day Care Owner Sentenced for Benefits Fraud

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The owner of a Kansas City day care center was sentenced to federal prison for fraudulently receiving more than $556,000 in benefits. Forty-one-year-old Sharif Karie, of Olathe, Kansas, was sentenced Thursday to four years and 10 months without parole. He was convicted in January of nearly 30 counts, including participating in a conspiracy to steal government property. Prosecutors say Karie, a naturalized citizen from Somalia, fraudulently established KARIE Day Care Center and Tima Child Care Center at the same location. Court documents say Tima Child Care Center was established to avoid state oversight. The businesses submitted claims to the state containing more hours and untrue numbers of children who attended the center. The center's director, 48-year-old Sheri Beamon, Kansas City, will be sentenced next week for her role in the conspiracy.

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Kansas Man, Son Awarded $6.55 Million in Wrongful Death Verdict 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A jury has awarded a Kansas man and his 3-year-old son $6.55 million in a wrongful death verdict after the man's wife died hours after giving birth at a Wichita hospital. The Wichita Eagle reports that the award is the largest wrongful death verdict ever in Kansas. It splits the judgment between Edgar Perez and his son, Zander. Lindsay Perez was a middle school drama teacher who died after giving birth on Oct. 8, 2015, at Wesley Medical Center. The suit named the hospital, its parent company and nine physicians. A hospital spokesman didn't immediately return a phone message seeking comment. Doctors diagnosed Lindsay Perez with preeclampsia, a dangerous pregnancy complication. The lawsuit claimed the hospital failed to provide adequate care and ignored distress signs during and after the birth.

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Ransomware Attack Strikes Truman Medical Centers in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Officials at Truman Medical Centers in Kansas City say a ransomware attack on the hospital locked employees out of parts of its computer system.  The hospital says patients' health and financial information was not affected by the attack. KCUR reports the hospital paid a small amount to the attackers have the system unlocked. Spokeswoman Leslie Carto said the attackers weren't looking for information, only ransom. She refused to say how much the hospital paid to the attackers.  

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Wichita Mayor, State Representative Win Mayoral Primary

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita voters apparently will decide in November whether to re-elect Mayor Jeff Longwell or replace him with state Representative Brandon Whipple. Longwell received the most votes in Tuesday's nine-candidate mayoral primary, followed by Whipple. The Wichita Eagle reports retired banker Lyndy Wells received 160 fewer votes than Whipple. Wells said he is hopeful the results could change after provisional ballots and late absentee ballots are counted. The election office estimated more than 400 votes remain to be counted. Longwell said he will focus on progress made during his first term, while Whipple said his focus will be on improving public safety and reducing the city's crime rate. Longwell finished with 7,136 votes, 32.3% of the votes. Whipple had 5,729 votes, 25.9%; to Wells' 5,569 votes, for 25.2%.

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Report: Kansas Farm Real Estate Values up 6% from Last Year

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A government report shows farm real estate values went up 6% in Kansas from last year. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reports that the value of all land and buildings on Kansas farms averaged $1,960 per acre for 2019. That is $110 per acre higher than last year. The report is a bright spot as Kansas farmers struggle with mounting debt, lower crop prices and trade challenges. Cropland values in the state went up 5% from last year to $2,160 per acre. Dryland cropland averaged $2,050 per acre, about $90 higher than a year ago. Irrigated cropland averaged $3,320 per acre, up $340 an acre. Pastureland averaged $1,390 per acre, up $70 higher than a year ago.

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Montana Judge to Take Up Keystone Pipeline Flap in Fall

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A Montana judge won't take up the latest dispute between the Trump administration and environmental groups over the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline until this fall. U.S. District Judge Brian Morris scheduled a hearing for Oct. 9 on the groups' request to block President Donald Trump's new permit allowing the pipeline to be built across the U.S.-Canada border. Justice Department attorneys also will present their argument at the hearing to dismiss the lawsuit challenging Trump's issuing of the permit in March. Trump signed the new permit after Morris blocked construction of the 1,184-mile pipeline from Canada to Nebraska in a ruling that said officials had not fully considered oil spills and other impacts. The plaintiffs accuse Trump of signing the new permit to get around Morris's previous order.

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KC Police Identify 2 Men Fatally Stabbed Near a Church

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police have identified the victims found stabbed to death earlier this week as two men in their 50s. The Kansas City Star reports that the victims were identified Wednesday as 56-year-old Michael McLin and 52-year-old Kevin Waters. Both were found dead about 6 a.m. Tuesday in the parking lot behind the Sheffield Life Center in northeastern Kansas City. Police are investigating the deaths as a double homicide. No arrests have been made. The deaths bring Kansas City's homicide total this year to 87.

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14-Year-Old Boy Killed, Allegedly by Another 14-Year-Old

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — One 14-year-old Kansas boy is dead and another is in custody after a shooting at a townhome in suburban Kansas City. The shooting happened around 2:15 a.m. Thursday in Olathe. The Kansas City Star reports that the victim was later identified as Zavier Mendoza of Olathe. The suspect was arrested hours after the shooting. His name has not been released. Police say the suspect and Zavier knew each other. Police Sgt. Joel Yeldell says the shooting happened during a disturbance, but details about the disturbance are still being pieced together. Yeldell called the shooting "an unthinkable tragedy."

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Police: Kansas City Man Used Ax to Kill 2 Men

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City, Missouri, man is charged in the deaths of two men, and police say he used an ax as the weapon. Citing charging documents, The Kansas City Star reports 22-year-old Mario Markworth was charged Thursday with two counts of second-degree murder. Markworth is jailed on $250,000 bond and doesn't have a listed attorney. The bodies of 56-year-old Michael McLin and 52-year-old Kevin Waters were found just before 6 a.m. Tuesday in a parking lot behind the Sheffield Life Center. Police initially said both men had been stabbed, but Markworth allegedly told detectives he used an ax. Both victims suffered head trauma and cuts. Police say one had defensive wounds on his hands, while the other appeared to have also been bitten by a human.

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Wichita Ballpark to Get Plenty of Use Beyond Baseball

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The owner and president of the Triple-A baseball team that will start play in Wichita next year says the new $75 million stadium will be the site of a lot more than just baseball. The final structural beam on the stadium was hoisted into place Wednesday. The Triple-A affiliate of the Miami Marlins is moving from New Orleans to Wichita starting next season. Owner Lou Schwechheimer says the team will play 70 regular season games and up to seven playoff games. But he says the goal is to use the stadium for up to 200 events each year. Other events will include concerts, festivals, football games and even an outdoor skating rink in the winter. The stadium will have seating for 10,000 and include 14 private luxury suites.
 

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