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Headlines for Thursday, May 9, 2019

Kansas Faces Questions About School Funding Law Before High Court

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas' highest court is wrestling with whether a new public school funding law with bipartisan support provides enough additional money to ensure that the state's spending on education is sufficient.  State Supreme Court justices had pointed questions today (THUR) during a hearing for both the state's attorney and a lawyer representing four local school districts that sued Kansas in 2010. A law enacted last month increases education funding by roughly $90 million a year.  The state argues that this year's increase after others in recent years means the annual $4 billion-plus in funding satisfies the Kansas Constitution.  The court declared last year that a 2018 law promising funding increases wasn't sufficient because it hadn't accounted for inflation.  The school districts contend the state got the inflation calculation wrong and shorted schools.

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Top Kansas Court Considers Forcing Vote on Withdrawn Nominee

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has raised the possibility of forcing the state Senate to vote on an appointment to a lower court even though Gov. Laura Kelly withdrew the nomination. The Supreme Court heard arguments Thursday in a legal dispute that arose after Kelly withdrew her appointment in March of Labette County District Judge Jeffry Jack to the state Court of Appeals because of his political tweets in 2017. The Democratic governor argues that she has the authority under a 2013 law to submit another nominee to the Republican-controlled Senate for potential confirmation. Senate President Susan Wagle says the next appointment goes to Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss. Several Supreme Court justices suggested they could declare that the law didn't allow Jack's nomination to be withdrawn, forcing a vote.

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Officials Unsure When Flooded Kansas Turnpike Will Reopen

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Officials aren't sure when the Kansas Turnpike will reopen near the Oklahoma border after a surging creek sent floodwaters pouring over the asphalt. The Wichita Eagle reports that issues arose early Wednesday when a tributary of the Arkansas River called Slate Creek overflowed. No one was hurt, but the toll road is closed south of the exit in Wellington, which is about 30 miles south of Wichita. Rachel Bell, of the Kansas Turnpike Authority, says crews have to "get in and assess the condition of the pavement, of the actual asphalt, after the water recedes." The best detour around the closed highway is also unclear. The Turnpike was planned and mostly completed before the interstate highway designation in Kansas, and federal planners chose not to build parallel routes.

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Shots Fired on Kansas State Campus; No Injuries Reported 

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University officials say a dispute between individuals that led to shots being fired on its parking lot appears to be unrelated to the Manhattan campus. No injuries have been reported after shots were fired around 11 a.m. Thursday. Authorities say there is "no ongoing threat." The university issued a statement late Thursday afternoon saying the original contact between the individuals occurred off campus and continued in a parking lot north of the Foundation Building, where fundraising efforts are organized. The victim, who is not a student, drove to the Riley County Police Department to report the incident. Law enforcement officials are still working to locate the suspect and are continuing the investigation. Kansas State University's main campus is in Manhattan, about 120 miles (193 kilometers) west of Kansas City, Missouri.

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Man Sentenced to 10 Years in Deadly Lawrence Shooting

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ A man has been sentenced to 10 years in prison in an October 2017 shooting that killed three people and wounded two others outside a popular bar in downtown Lawrence.  Prosecutors announced Wednesday that 23-year-old Ahmad Rayton, of Topeka, had been sentenced for attempted voluntary manslaughter. Rayton was one of three men arrested in the days after gunfire erupted as people were leaving bars, concerts and other events on the main downtown Lawrence street.  The victims were 22-year-old Leah Brown, of Shawnee; 20-year-old Colwin Lynn Henderson, of Topeka; and 24-year-old Tre'Mel Dupree Dean-Rayton, of Topeka. Two others were wounded but survived.  A second defendant pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery, and a third man is scheduled to go on trial in June on three counts of murder.

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Who Will Stop the Rain?  Floodwaters Keep Some Roads Closed in Kansas and Missouri

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP/KPR) - A stretch of interstate highway in northwestern Missouri is back open again for the first time since floodwaters shut it down in March. Interstate 29 reopened Wednesday to the Iowa state line.  Historic flooding in March forced closure of the busy north-south roadway.  Meanwhile, a portion of the Kansas Turnpike in southern Kansas remains closed today (THUR) because of flooding.  The problem area is between Wellington and South Haven.  The Turnpike Authority reports that the southbound driving lane is now open all the way to Oklahoma.   But the northbound lane of the toll road remains closed from South Haven northward.  Said another way, drivers can get on the turnpike at the Oklahoma border and travel north, but will have to exit at South Haven.   

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Welfare Oversight Plan Dropped at End of Kansas Legislative Session

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - In the final hours of this year's Kansas legislative session, lawmakers dropped a plan to increase oversight of the state's troubled child welfare system.  The provision that was eliminated WOULD have created a committee that could have summoned officials to explain problems, drafted legislation and provided frustrated parents with a place to vent.  Some advocates saw the panel as their last, best hope to make progress after a year that began with high expectations but ended in disappointment.  The measure fell apart after it became caught up in the legislative battle over Medicaid expansion.  The state's child welfare system has been under stress for years.  Problems include child deaths, problems recruiting and retaining staff and dozens of children missing from foster care.

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Kansas Prison Warden: No Idea Why Accused Instructor Was Retained at KDOC for So Long

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A women's prison warden says she doesn't know why the Kansas Department of Corrections retained until December a dental lab instructor who was accused of sexually harassing an inmate two years ago.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reported Wednesday that Warden Shannon Meyer recommended firing Tomas Co after an internal investigation in early 2017.  Co supervised a program teaching inmates to make dentures. He was charged last month with seven counts of unlawful sexual relations involving female inmates.  The Capital-Journal says state and federal auditors recommended Co's firing after the 2017 incident but he continued to work until he was placed on administrative leave in November 2018.  Interim corrections department Secretary Roger Werholtz, appointed by Gov. Laura Kelly in January, says current leadership would have dismissed Co based on the 2017 investigation.

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Pay Raise Approved for Kansas Corrections Workers, but Funds Come with Strings Attached

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Democratic Governor Laura Kelly and Republican legislators agreed that the Kansas prison system needed funds to boost employees' pay, deal with inmate crowding and address other problems.  They also agreed on a figure of almost $36 million.  But the Department of Corrections, Kelly and fellow Democrats are unhappy because of strings Republican legislators attached to the new funds.  One provision blocks a plan to temporarily close a cell house at a maximum-security prison for men because of staffing problems there. Interim Corrections Secretary Roger Werholtz said another provision could thwart the department's plans to create new space for female inmates.  And legislative leaders must sign off on how the prison system spends much of the money.  Republicans argue the oversight is needed because of the size of the spending increase.

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Authorities Warn of Man Impersonating Kansas Patrol Trooper

MANKATO, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are investigating a report that someone was impersonating a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper in north-central Kansas.  The Jewell County Sheriff's Office says in a Facebook post Wednesday that the man was reported to be driving a White Chevy 4 door Impala with a spotlight in the top left side of the vehicle. He was wearing a tan polo shirt and black slacks.  Anyone with information is urged to call law enforcement.

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3 Teenage Girls Report Sexual Assaults at Kansas YMCA

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police say a 31-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of rape after three teenage girls reported being sexually assaulted at the downtown Wichita YMCA. The Wichita Eagle reports officers responded at 8:20 p.m. Wednesday to a sexual assault call at the facility. Wichita police officer Charley Davidson says two 16-year-old girls and a 17-year-old girl reported being sexually assaulted in the indoor pool area by a man they did not know. Jail records show the suspect was arrested about 2:45 a.m. Thursday and booked on suspicion of rape, aggravated sexual battery and two counts of sexual battery.

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White Man Convicted for Kicking Black Toddler  

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 32-year-old white man has been convicted of attempted aggravated battery and disorderly conduct for kicking a 1-year-old black boy and shouting racial slurs in a Kansas grocery store. Trace Riff also was convicted of unlawful abuse of toxic vapors and possession of methamphetamine in an unrelated case after entering what's known as an Alford plea to all the charges. The plea means Riff maintains his innocence but acknowledges there's enough evidence for a conviction. The Wichita Eagle reports witnesses told police the boy was holding his 11-year-old sister's hand on Dec. 23 when Riff knocked the child over, yelled a racial slur and shouted that he is a white supremacist. The toddler was not injured. Riff's family says he has a history of mental health and substance abuse problems.

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Judge Delays Sentencing for Russian Mom Who Took Kids

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A judge has delayed until next month the sentencing of a Russian citizen convicted of taking her children from the U.S. to Russia amid a divorce. Bogdana Alexandrovna Osipova was convicted of one count of international parental kidnapping and two counts of attempting to extort money. Court documents refer to her by her married name of Mobley. The scheduled Monday sentencing has now been delayed until June 6. Her attorneys sought the delay in part to present mitigating evidence obtained from people in Russia. Prosecutors say she left Kansas in 2014 with one child from her first marriage and another child from a second marriage to Brian Mobley. She gave birth to a third child soon after returning to Russia. The children are thought to still be in Russia.

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Salina Man Admits to Illegally Getting Drugs from Pharmacist-Wife

SALINA, Kan. (AP) - A Salina man has admitted to illegally getting stolen prescription drugs from his wife before she lost her pharmacist license.  The U.S. attorney's office says 29-year-old Dalton Hartley pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court in Wichita to one count of acquiring controlled substances through fraud.  Prosecutors said in a news release that he received 450 tablets of the painkiller hydrocodone and 360 tablets of the sedative alprazolam from his wife, Kirsty Hartley. He admitted in his plea that he knew she was altering legitimate prescriptions while she was working at a CVS Pharmacy in Salina in order to divert the medications to him.  His wife entered a guilty plea in the case last month. It has been recommended that they be sentenced to 18 months of house arrest.

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Ex-Home Health Worker Ordered to Pay $89,000 to Theft Victims

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former Kansas home health worker who was convicted of stealing jewelry and money from elderly clients has been ordered to pay $89,000 in restitution.  Thirty-three-year-old Dawn Becker also was placed on probation for five years and could be sent to prison if she fails to make regular restitution payments. Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said in a news release that the thefts happened in 2017 and 2018 while Becker was working for three different home health companies in Wichita.  At the hearing, Becker said she was having financial difficulties and pawned stolen items or used her clients' financial cards to get money. Bennett says Becker also was barred from working as a home health care worker or at a nursing home. Becker now lives in Reno County.

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Fleeing Driver in Wichita Crash that Killed 2 Booked into Jail

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A fleeing driver suspected in a Wichita crash that killed two people and injured her passenger and two others is out of the hospital and in jail.  The Wichita Eagle reports that 24-year-old Mia Collins was booked Tuesday night on suspicion of two counts of first-degree murder. Police say she had been in the hospital since leading officers on a chase Sunday in a stolen BMW. After about 1 mile (1.6 kilometers), the car collided with a car and another SUV at an intersection.  The crash killed 70-year-old Maria Wood and 12-year-old Rosemary McElroy and critically injured Wood's daughter, 36-year-old Jenny Wood, a popular Wichita musician known for performing with children. The driver of the SUV that was hit also was hurt.  Collins was on probation at the time.
 
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Man Dies After Crashing ATV into Tree in Southeast Kansas

INDEPENDENCE, Kan. (AP) - Authorities say a 29-year-old man has died after crashing an all-terrain vehicle into a tree in southeast Kansas.  The Montgomery County Sheriff's Office identified the man Tuesday in a Facebook post as Jacob Morse. The post says deputies went to an Independence hospital Monday after Morse was rushed there in a non-emergency vehicle. He died of his injuries.  Witnesses said Morse crashed on the north side of the nearby Montgomery State Fishing Lake. The crash was deemed accidental.

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Juvenile Hurt After Fleeing Driver Crashes into Kansas City Building

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say a driver has crashed into a Kansas City building while trying to get away from police, injuring a juvenile passenger.  The Kansas City Star reports that the crash happened Tuesday afternoon when officers attempted to stop a car that reportedly had been spotted at the scene of a robbery. A police report says the driver refused to stop, leading to a chase.  During the pursuit, the driver sideswiped a dump truck, slid out of control and hit the building. The suspect was caught after a short foot chase, and the juvenile was taken to a hospital with injuries that weren't believed to be life threatening.

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Kansas Lawmaker Arrested for DUI, Vehicle Found in Ditch

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas legislator has been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence after his vehicle was found in a ditch in east Topeka.  Police said officers found Democratic state Senator Vic Miller of Topeka uninjured inside his vehicle late Monday night after receiving a report of a vehicle crashed in the ditch.  Officers took Miller to the Shawnee County jail, where he was booked early Tuesday on suspicion of driving under the influence and inattentive driving. The county Department of Corrections said Miller was released after posting a $1,000 bond.  Miller declined comment Tuesday afternoon.  Miller held several local offices and served in the Kansas House before Democrats picked him in November to fill the Senate seat that Governor Laura Kelly held before her election last year.

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Police: Kansas City Area Man Shot Co-Worker over Social Media Comments

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. (AP) — A suburban Kansas City man is accused of shooting a co-worker in the foot over comments the victim made about him online.  The Kansas City Star reports that 37-year-old Robert Graham of Lee's Summit, Missouri, is charged with first-degree assault and armed criminal action. Online court records do not show an attorney for Graham.  Court documents say the victim and another co-worker went to Graham's home Tuesday. Once inside, Graham allegedly confronted the victim about online comments, then retrieved a sawed-off shotgun and shot the man in the foot.   The man got out of the house and was driven to a hospital. Police responded to Graham's house. After a lengthy standoff, Graham surrendered.

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Mars Candy Company Plans to Invest $30 Million in Topeka Plant

The Mars candy company say it plans to invest $30 million in its plant in Topeka.  The investment isn't expected to create any new, permanent jobs at the plant.  Read all about it... in today's (THUR) Topeka Capital-Journal!

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Arkansas Company Buys Remainder of Branson Duck Boat Fleet

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The company that originally owned a duck boat that sank on a Missouri lake last summer killing 17 people has sold the remainder of its fleet to an Arkansas-based investment company.  Stacy Roberts, who owns DUKW Arkansas, LLC, said that his Hot Springs, Arkansas company purchased 18 duck boats on April 23 from Ride the Ducks International.  Ride the Ducks International sold 22 boats to Ripley Entertainment for its Branson tours in late 2017. One of those boats sank last July after getting caught in a storm on a lake near Branson, Missouri. Seventeen people on board died, including nine members of one family. The U.S. Coast Guard's investigation into the accident is ongoing.  Roberts said he's not sure what his company will do with their newly acquired boats.

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