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Headlines for Thursday, March 6, 2014


Kansas Court to Issue School Finance Ruling Friday

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court will release its ruling on a state school finance lawsuit Friday, ending months of speculation about whether the state has to increase spending for public schools. The court announced Thursday that the ruling would be issued Friday morning. The lawsuit was filed in 2010 by attorneys representing four school districts and parents. They alleged that the state reneged on promises made in 2006 to provide a certain level of funding to Kansas public schools. Those promises were made in a settlement of a lawsuit filed against the state in 1999. Attorneys for the state argued that legislators did the best they could to maintain education spending after a recession that began in 2008 reduced available revenues.


Kansas Senate Sets Stage for Further Debate on Protections for Gay Marriage Foes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle says the chamber isn't going to consider legislation this year to provide legal protections for people, groups and businesses opposing gay marriage for religious reasons. But Wagle said a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday on religious liberties issues sets up a debate next year over protecting gay-marriage opponents from being fined or sued for refusing to provide goods or services for same-sex wedding ceremonies or marriages. The Judiciary Committee heard conflicting testimony from legal scholars about whether Kansas needs a new law in case federal courts strike down the state constitution's gay-marriage ban. The hearing followed last month's House passage of what proponents called "religious freedom" legislation. Opponents said it would encourage discrimination against gays and lesbians, and Senate leaders declared it dead.


Bill to Limit Party-Switching Advances to KS Senate

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Senate committee has recommended passage of a bill sought by the Kansas Republican Party that would make it more difficult for voters to switch parties before voting in primary elections. The Ethics and Election Committee advanced the bill Thursday to the full Senate on voice vote. Supporters testified Wednesday in favor of the bill, which would prevent registered voters from changing their party affiliations from June 1 through Sept. 1. Voters can currently change their party affiliation up to 21 days before the August primaries. Unaffiliated voters can pick a party at any time. Critics of the bill say it would suppress the rights of voters to participate in the elections in the way they choose.

Lawmakers to Discuss Funding for At-Risk Students

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers are looking into how the state provides funding to school districts for students identified as being at risk of failure. The House and Senate Education Committees scheduled a joint meeting Thursday afternoon to hear from officials from the Kansas Department of Education and an analyst from the Kansas Policy Institute. Kansas provides additional funding to districts for at-risk students based on the child's eligibility for free and reduced-priced lunches. The funds must be used to provide support programs, such as tutoring or other instruction, that will help the students improve their grades. The funds can also be used to provide before- or after-school programs, or in some cases pay for all-day kindergarten.

Judge Cancels Hearing in Suicide Bomb Plot Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has put off a scheduled hearing for a man accused of plotting a suicide bombing at Wichita's Mid-Continent Airport. The court cancelled the March 24 status conference in the case of Terry Loewen, a 58-year-old avionics technician facing terrorism-related charges. A notation Wednesday on the court docket indicates the proceeding will be rescheduled, but gives no new date. Loewen was arrested December 13 after allegedly trying to bring a van filled with inert explosives onto the tarmac at the airport, where he worked. The arrest followed a months-long federal sting operation. He has pleaded not guilty to attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, attempting to use an explosive device to damage property and attempting to give material support to al-Qaida.


Trial Set in Courtroom Attack on Kansas Prosecutor

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man accused of attacking a prosecutor after a judge upheld his life sentence for a child sex crime will be tried in June on a charge of attempted premeditated murder. KWBW Radio reports that 27-year-old Michael Sherman of Hutchinson pleaded not guilty to charge at his arraignment Wednesday. A Reno County judge then scheduled his trial for June 10. Authorities say Sherman lunged at Reno County District Attorney Keith Schroeder in a courtroom last July. Witnesses said Sherman jumped from his seat, put Schroeder in a headlock and tried to choke him with the chain of his shackles. A judge had just reaffirmed Sherman's life sentence for sodomizing an infant. Sherman's lawyer has said there was no evidence of premeditation or intent to kill Schroeder.


KS Sheriff Warns of Kidnap-Ransom Hoax

EDGERTON, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas sheriff is alerting the public to a hoax phone call demanding ransom to spare the life of a loved one. The Johnson County sheriff's office says deputies were contacted this week by a resident who was on the phone with someone claiming to be holding the resident's brother hostage. Authorities said the caller claimed the brother would be killed unless the resident immediately wired $2,000. The money was to pay for damage supposedly caused by the brother in an accident. Johnson County deputies were able to listen to the call and get the phone number, which they learned had been used in similar scams in other parts of the country.


KS Man Found Guilty in Junction City Slaying

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas man has been found guilty of killing a woman to keep her from providing information to federal law enforcement officers about his involvement in drug trafficking. The U.S. attorney's office says a federal jury on Thursday convicted 32-year-old Marcus D. Roberson of Junction City of murder, conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine and conspiracy to distribute powder cocaine. Prosecutors say Roberson lured 25-year-old Crystal Fisher to a location near an alley in Junction City and shot her four times at close range. Her body was found in her vehicle and the murder weapon was found in a pond behind a Junction City Walmart. Roberson faces up to life in prison on the murder and drug counts and a $10 million fine on each of the drug counts.


Parole Ends for Kansas Woman in Infamous Murder Case

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A woman who was sentenced to prison for her part in the deaths of her husband and the wife of a minister with whom she had an affair is no longer under state supervision. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the Kansas Department of Corrections says Lorna Anderson was released from parole supervision on February 17. She was released from prison in 2007 after pleading guilty in 1985 to soliciting the murder of her husband, and the wife of her minister, Tom Bird. She was living in Hutchinson under state supervision until February. Bird was convicted of the first-degree murder in the death of his wife. He was paroled in 2004 and released from parole supervision in 2006. The case was the subject of a 1987 television miniseries, "Murder Ordained."

KU Med Center to Create Multiple Sclerosis Treatment Center

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas Medical Center plans to open a center designed to treat people with multiple sclerosis. The medical center said in a news release Wednesday that it will use an $800,000 grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation to fund new programming at the new center. The university's endowment association will raise money for other needs, such as furnishings. The medical center will renovate a building near its Kansas City, Kansas campus to house the center. The new facility will provide research into multiple sclerosis, as well as psychological counseling, physical and occupational therapy and recreational therapy for the patients.

Kansas Hunter Rescues Antler-Stuck Buck

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 29-year-old Kansas hunter videotaped his rescue of a nine-point deer that was antler-locked with another buck that had since died. Wichita bow hunter Evan McAnally used his cellphone February 10 to make a video recording of himself freeing the buck, which had locked antlers with the other buck several days earlier. Coyotes had eaten the other buck down to its skeleton. McAnally told The Wichita Eagle he spent a lot of time trying to calm the buck and tried to free it using his hands. When that failed, he got a saw from his truck and cut one antler tine from the live buck and two from the dead buck, freeing the animal. If he comes across the buck this fall, McAnally says he likely won't reach for his bow.


Pedestrians Killed in Liberal Identified

LIBERAL, Kan. (AP) — Police say two men who were hit and killed by a vehicle in Liberal were from Arizona. The men were identified Thursday as 31-year-old Benson Chee, of Teec Nos Pos, Arizona and 35-year-old Eugene Laughing Jr., of Chinle, Arizona. The men died Saturday when a pickup truck hit them while they were on a city street in Liberal. Two women inside the truck weren't hurt. KAKE-TV reports that Kansas highway patrol troopers are not sure why the men were in the Liberal area. They say the men were wearing dark clothing at the time of the accident, which made it difficult to see them.

MO House Backs Tax Break for Business Relocations

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Some businesses that relocate to Missouri could get a special tax break under legislation endorsed by state House members. The "Bring Jobs Home Act" would authorize up to $10 million annually of tax credits for Missouri businesses that move more work here from elsewhere. Individual businesses could claim tax credits equaling 20 percent of their relocation expenses. The House gave initial approval to the legislation Wednesday. It needs another vote to go to the Senate. House members backed the bill despite recently approving another measure that seeks to halt such incentives. A bill previously passed in the House and Senate would impose a moratorium on tax credits for businesses that relocate from one side of the Missouri-Kansas state line to the other in the Kansas City area.


Wichita Man Sentenced in Convenience Store Death

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man who shot and killed a customer at a convenience store was sentenced to more than 55 years in prison. Twenty-year-old Jackson Bryant was sentenced Thursday for second-degree murder and five other charges in the November death of 29-year-old Michael Jones. Police say Bryant pointed a gun at a clerk at the BD Convenience Store and demanded money. When Jones, who was frequently at the store, approached Bryant, he was shot in the head. Bryant left without any money and was arrested nearby. Bryant was originally charged with first-degree murder but pleaded guilty to a reduced charge in January. Bryant's lawyer, Christine Jones, said he never intended to hurt anyone during the robbery and fired the shot as a knee-jerk reaction when Jones approached.


Man Arrested After Returning to Scene of Assault

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 58-year-old Kansas man has been arrested after returning to the scene of a Sedgwick County beating to retrieve his baseball bat. The Wichita Eagle reported Wednesday that no charges had been filed against the man, who was jailed on suspicion of aggravated assault, aggravated battery and battery. The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office says three men went to a home in the county Saturday night and threatened the occupants. Sheriff's spokesman Lt. David Mattingly says the suspect hit a 46-year-old woman on the head with a baseball bat, and the three men left. Authorities said the suspect then returned to get the bat and was arrested. Mattingly says he doesn't know if the man really liked the bat or was trying to retrieve evidence.


Texas Man Accused of Soliciting Underage Girls

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Texas man faces federal charges of traveling to Missouri to have sex with two underage girls after agreeing to pay $400 to a police officer who posed as their father. The U.S. attorney's office says 40-year-old John Paul Christian was unwittingly communicating with a Kansas City officer on a social media site when he made plans to meet the girls, 11 and 15. Christian was arrested after flying to Kansas City on Saturday and was charged Wednesday. Investigators said a search of his motel room yielded a notebook containing a letter telling the 15-year-old he wanted to get her pregnant with a baby girl so they could both sexually molest her. Christian's hometown in Texas was not listed. It wasn't immediately clear Thursday whether he had obtained an attorney.


Wichita State's Marshall Named MVC Coach of Year

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Wichita State's Gregg Marshall, whose team is the first to go unbeaten in the regular season in a decade, was a near unanimous choice as Missouri Valley Conference coach of the year for the third straight season. The second-ranked Shockers are 31-0 entering the conference tournament this week. Marshall is the second coach in conference history to win the award three straight seasons. Drake's Maury John was honored from 1968-70. Marshall received 39 of a possible 40 first-place votes from league coaches, media and sports information directors. Barry Hinson of Southern Illinois finished second in voting announced Thursday. Wichita State has won a Valley-record 117 games the last four seasons.




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