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Headlines for Thursday, July 31, 2014


Kansas Revenues in July Beat Expectations by $1.6M

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas collected $1.6 million more in taxes than anticipated in July, breaking a streak of monthly shortfalls in collections. The Department of Revenue reported Thursday the state took in almost $409 million in taxes in July, when the state's official fiscal forecast predicted revenues of $407 million. The July surplus was only four-tenths of 1 percent, but it was a sharp break from collections in April, May and June, which fell a total of $334 million short of expectations. Those shortfalls sparked an intense debate about whether the state underestimated the effects of personal income tax cuts enacted at Republican Governor Sam Brownback's urging in 2012 and 2013. Brownback's administration said the shortfalls were due to investors reacting to uncertainty about federal tax policies.


Kobach Predicts 22% Primary Turnout

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The top election official in Kansas is predicting 22 percent of registered voters will participate in next week's primary election. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach says of the more than 1.7 million registered Kansas voters, he expects more than 381,000 will cast ballots in the August 5 primary. Kobach says turnout was about 23.2 percent in the state's 2012 primary. Kobach says the predicted turnout for next week is based on recent primary voting history, early voting totals in the current primary and lack of a statewide get-out-the-vote operation. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that voter turnout in Wichita and other areas of the 4th Congressional District could approach 27 percent because of the contest between U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo and Republican challenger Todd Tiahrt.


Wolf Confronts Roberts at Emporia Campaign Stop

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — Tea Party challenger Milton Wolf confronted U.S. Senator Pat Roberts as he campaigned in downtown Emporia. Their brief meeting Wednesday took place at an intersection as Roberts walked from business to business to talk with merchants. The two are squaring off in Tuesday's Republican primary. Wolf told Roberts he wanted the senator to keep his promise to debate him. Roberts says he has no plans to debate Wolf. At their meeting on the street, Roberts told Wolf it was not the time for the discussion and walked away as a small group of journalists and Wolf supporters watched. A Wolf supporter shouted at Roberts, "If you can't face Milton Wolf, how can you face Barack Obama?" Roberts spokesman Sean Fitzpatrick called Wolf's move a stunt.


National Senatorial PAC Supports Roberts in Kansas Race

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A national Republican group has contributed $45,400 to U.S. Senator Pat Roberts in his GOP primary race against tea party challenger Milton Wolf. The donation, from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, helped Roberts raise more than $200,000 so far this month. Campaign finance reports show Wolf raised more than $120,000 in contributions this month.


Kansas Congressman Hit by Farmers' Backlash

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Eleven biofuel plants dot the rural expanse of western and central Kansas, so farmers and residents there were surprised when their Republican congressman called for ending a federal program that supports demand for biofuels. Their anger has now come back to haunt 1st Congressional District Representative Tim Huelskamp. Huelskamp, a tea party favorite, is locked in a tough primary race with a GOP opponent, Alan LaPolice, who supports the renewable energy standards. The primary election is Tuesday. A political action committee supported by farmers is spending more than $260,400 to oppose Huelskamp. And a group of Kansas agricultural groups issued a scathing statement criticizing him. Huelskamp maintains that the federal program, which mandates the use of biofuels in gasoline, interferes with the free market. The measure he co-sponsored is pending in Congress.


Auburn Seeks More Than $200,000 in Lawsuit

AUBURN, Kan. (AP) — The city of Auburn has filed a civil lawsuit against a former city clerk who pleaded guilty to a federal embezzlement charge. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Auburn is seeking more than $200,000 in its civil lawsuit against 61-year-old Alice Riley. Riley pleaded guilty Tuesday to the federal charge and is scheduled to be sentenced October 17. Federal prosecutors said Riley embezzled at least $186,000 from Auburn, where she managed payroll and other accounts as the city clerk for several years. In the civil lawsuit filed July 23 in Shawnee County District Court and served to her Tuesday, the city of Auburn is seeking $196,000, as well as reimbursement in excess of $20,000 for the cost of investigation to determine the amount of the theft.


Salina Man Sentenced to Life for Murder

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas judge has sentenced a Salina man to life in prison for killing a 27-year-old woman whose beaten body was found in a ravine off Interstate 135. The Salina Journal reports a judge on Wednesday rejected 33-year-old Dane DeWeese's request for a new trial in the April 2013 death of Kristin Tyler. DeWeese was convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy in April after a two-week trial. He must serve at least 25 years of the life sentence and nearly 11 years for the conspiracy charge before being eligible for parole. A second man, Joel Heil, pleaded guilty in April to first-degree murder and was sentenced to life with no chance of parole for 25 years. DeWeese's girlfriend, Megan Wells, was sentenced to probation for helping DeWeese escape arrest.


Counterfeit $100 Bills Passed in Great Bend

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — Counterfeit $100 bills have turned up at a central Kansas fast-food restaurant on the same weekend at least four fake $100 bills were passed at a convenience store 80 miles up the road. The Great Bend Tribune reports someone passed three fake hundreds at a Burger King in Great Bend sometime between 5 pm Friday and 3 pm Sunday. It wasn't clear whether the bills were the result of one or multiple transactions. Earlier this week Salina police said several businesses reported receiving counterfeit money over the weekend, including four fake $100 bills that were used to purchase a prepaid Visa card at a convenience store. The Salina Journal on Wednesday reported another fake $100 bill was found in a bank deposit from a Casey's General Store.


Moritz Takes Oath to Join Federal Appeals Court

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Former Kansas Supreme Court Justice Nancy Moritz has formally joined the federal appeals court that handles cases from six western and Plains states. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren administered the oath of office to Moritz on Wednesday in Topeka. The Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals says in a news release that Moritz's temporary chambers will be in Lawrence. President Barack Obama nominated Moritz in August 2013. Her nomination was confirmed by the Senate in May. Moritz will fill the vacancy created in 2011 when Judge Deanell Tacha, a Kansan, retired and became dean of the law school at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. Her departure gives conservative Republican Governor Sam Brownback his first appointment to the state's highest court.


Autopsy Confirms Kansas Man's Death Was Suicide

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — An autopsy has confirmed a Kansas man whose body was found in his car after being there for up to three months committed suicide. The Hutchinson News reports the Sedgwick County Regional Forensic Science Center filed an autopsy report this week saying 54-year-old Adam Sabri had high levels of an allergy medication in his system and died of diphenhydramine toxicity. The Wichita man was reported missing on Feb. 9 but not found until a resident of an apartment complex in Maize complained to police about a foul odor outside of his building. Sabri's body was identified by dental records. An apparent suicide note was found inside the car.


Kansas Storage Tank Maker Plans Expansion

PARSONS, Kan. (AP) — A southeast Kansas company that makes storage tanks for customers worldwide is planning a major expansion. The Parsons Sun reports that Tank Connection is adding equipment and employees to expand production by 50 percent. The Parsons-based firm was established 10 years ago with two employees. The addition of 35 workers will bring total employment to more than 400. Tank Connection manufactures shop-welded, field-welded and hybrid storage tanks as well as aluminum dome covers. The company has two plants in Parsons and one each in Baxter Springs, Oswego and Galesburg. Company president Bill Neighbors most of the new equipment will be installed at the Galesburg plant. A third shift will be added there and at the Parsons facilities.


Kansas Deputy Fired After Shoplifting Arrest

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas detention deputy has lost his job after being arrested for shoplifting. KAKE-TV reports Wichita police officers were called to a shoplifting report at a Walmart around 9:30 p.m. Tuesday. Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter says an off-duty detention deputy was arrested for the crime. The sheriff says the man had been a detention deputy for less than a year but is no longer employed by the sheriff's office. The man was issued a notice to appear on the theft charge at a later date.


Wichita Police Arrest Man In Connection with Child's Death

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police investigating the accidental shooting death of a 3-year-old boy have arrested his mother's boyfriend on suspicion of criminal possession of a firearm. Investigators identified the child Wednesday as Jahmez Hunt. Police said Jahmez apparently shot himself in the chest around 5 p.m. Tuesday after climbing onto a kitchen counter, getting on top of the refrigerator and reaching into a cabinet for a handgun. The boy's three young siblings were also in the home while the mother and her boyfriend were napping. The 30-year-old boyfriend was arrested on suspicion of owning the gun despite having two previous criminal convictions. He was being held Wednesday on $5,000 while the investigation continued. Police say the mother was unaware the gun was in the house.


Kansas Community College and Its President Part Ways

FORT SCOTT, Kan. (AP) — A southeast Kansas college is looking for a new president after parting ways with the incumbent by what officials called mutual agreement. The Fort Scott Tribune reports Clayton Tatro had been the subject of a recent no-confidence vote by faculty of Fort Scott Community College. Tatro was not present this week when the school's board of trustees approved an agreement to end his presidency, which was scheduled to expire in June 2017. Tatro had served as the college's president for seven years. The college's attorney said details of the termination agreement are confidential. The Tribune reports Tatro had a base salary of $104,000. Trustee Dick Hedges gave up his seat on the board to serve as interim president.


Foster Parent Charged with Murder in Hot Car Death

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors have charged a Kansas foster parent with murder in the death of a 10-month-old girl who was left in a hot car. Seth M. Jackson made his first court appearance Wednesday to hear the charges against him. A criminal complaint shows Sedgwick County District Attorney's Office is charging the 29-year-old Wichita man with first-degree murder. An alternative count of second-degree murder charge has also been filed. He is being held on a $250,000 bond. His defense attorney did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment. The girl died Thursday after being left for more than two hours inside a sweltering car. Police say Jackson had apparently forgotten about her until something on TV jogged his memory. Temperatures in Wichita at the time were around 90 degrees.


Suspect Charged in Triple-Fatality Crash

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Bond is set at $500,000 for a Wichita man charged in a hit-and-run crash that killed three people. KAKE-TV reports that 31-year-old Juan Gandara-Rodel made his first appearance Thursday in Sedgwick County District Court. He's charged with three counts of second-degree murder or three alternative counts of involuntary manslaughter, plus aggravated battery and leaving the scene of an accident. The collision happened around 2 am Sunday in west Wichita. Police say Gandara-Rodel was speeding in an SUV when he ran a red light and struck a car. The collision killed three passengers in the car, identified as 21-year-old Emily Phillips, of McPherson, and Jake Hallacy and Zachery Taylor, both 26 and from Valley Center. The driver and a fourth passenger were injured. Gandara-Rodel did not have a lawyer Thursday.


Kansas City Environmental Groups Get River Restoration Funding

LENEXA, Kan. (AP) — Two Kansas City nonprofits are getting a total of about $120,000 in federal funds to improve areas around the Middle Blue River. The regional office of the Environmental Protection Agency says the grants to the Blue River Watershed Association and the Heartland Conservation Alliance are part of about $2 million in funding EPA's providing to organizations around the country to help protect and restore urban waters. The Kansas City groups are getting about $60,000 each for projects that include involving underserved youth in water quality monitoring studies and identifying vacant land in the watershed for possible low-impact development. The Urban Waters Federal Partnership is a collaboration of 13 federal agencies working to reconnect urban communities with their waterways. The Middle Blue River was added as a project in 2013.


Prison Crew Finds $1 Million Worth of Pot on Missouri Roadside

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — A northwest Missouri cleanup crew consisting of jail inmates and a sheriff's deputy went into a roadside ravine to clean up trash and instead discovered more than 600 pounds of packaged marijuana. The St. Joseph News-Press reports a crew from Buchanan County jail was working Monday south of St. Joseph when they discovered 678 1-pound packages of pot and three large sacks of loose marijuana. Buchanan County Drug Strike Force commander Mike Donaldson says the street value of the week, if sold in 1-ounch packages, was worth more than $1 million. Donaldson says the strike force believes the marijuana was cultivated and harvested locally. Officials destroyed the drugs by fire Tuesday afternoon.


Kansas School District Completes Renovation of Megachurch

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas school district has completed the $17-million transformation of a megachurch into an educational complex. The Kansas City Star reports Wednesday that the Hilltop Campus in Overland Park will be ready for class on August 18. The Blue Valley School District bought the First Family Church for $9 million in 2012 after the property went into foreclosure. Principal Kendall Burr says the building has grown to 126,000 square feet since the district added a tornado shelter. The 51-acre campus houses an early childhood learning center, a conference center and various programs. Burr says the learning center will serve about 1,000 families, especially those within the south and southwest area of the district.


Boeing Wrapping Up Work in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Boeing recently auctioned off items from its Wichita hangars as the airplane manufacturer prepares to leave Kansas. At one time Boeing employed as many as 40,000 people in Wichita and for decades was the state's largest private employer. But Boeing Wichita's work has been moved elsewhere and most of its 2,100 Wichita employees have moved with Boeing, have been laid off or have retired. The Wichita Eagle reports that Boeing Wichita crews built parts for Boeing commercial jets and maintained and modified military aircraft. The company announced in 2012 it was closing its Wichita facilities and held a large auction last week. A small crew has been tying up loose ends in Wichita, but Boeing says much of that work will be finished by the end of this week.

Parents of Baby Left in Closet Appear in Court

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita couple who left their baby in an apartment closet while the mother drove the father to work have appeared in court on charges of misdemeanor child endangerment. The Wichita Eagle reports that a judge entered not guilty pleas Wednesday for 18-year-old Destiny Lee and 19-year-old Donivan Turner. Preliminary hearings for both are scheduled August 13. A maintenance worker repairing an air conditioner found the 1-year-old boy May 6 inside a closet in the couple's apartment. Police said at the time the temperature in the closet was about 90 degrees. The baby had been there about 20 minutes. The mother told officers she had been putting the sleeping boy on a mattress inside the closet for about two months while she took the father to work.


Missouri Soccer Coach Admits Videotaping Young Girls

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A suburban Kansas City youth soccer coach has pleaded guilty to secretly videotaping young girls while they changed their clothes in his daughter's bedroom. The U.S. Attorney's office says 40-year-old Joel D. White, of Lee's Summit, pleaded guilty Wednesday to three counts of attempting to produce child pornography. White remains in federal custody to await sentencing. White coached girls' under-12 and under-15 soccer teams through the Lee's Summit Soccer Association, which cooperated in the investigation. Prosecutors said White videotaped 11 children, ages 11 and 12, in his daughter's bedroom between May and October 2012. He also admitted recording himself touching one girl while she slept. The investigation began when authorities in Commerce City, Colorado, searched White's backpack for soccer merchandise he was suspected of stealing during a tournament there.


Body Found Near Railroad Tracks in NW Missouri

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — A man's body has been found near railroad workers near train tracks in northwest Missouri, but a sheriff says the death does not appear suspicious. The St. Joseph News-Press reports Burlington Northern Santa Fe employees found the body Wednesday afternoon in southern Holt County. Sheriff Scott Wedlock says the death is "unexplained," but not suspicious. An autopsy has been ordered and the man's identity has not been confirmed.



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