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Headlines for Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Kansas Adds Jobs, Sees Unemployment Rate Dip to 3.3% in July

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is reporting that it added private-sector jobs in July and saw its unemployment rate drop slightly to 3.3%. The state Department of Labor says the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate last month declined from 3.4% in June and was the same as the 3.3% recorded in July 2018. The state's unemployment rate has been below 4% since January 2017. The department said the state had 14,000 more private-sector, nonfarm jobs in July than in July 2018 to bring the total to more than 1.17 million. The growth was 1.2%. The state also added about 3,700 private-sector, nonfarm jobs from June to July. But 28 of the state's 105 counties had an unemployment rate of 4% or higher last month. Atchison County had the highest rate, 7.1%.

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FBI Investigating University of Kansas Research Complex

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Federal authorities are conducting an investigation at a research facility on the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence. FBI spokeswoman Bridget Patton confirmed the FBI and Lawrence police were at the Life Sciences Research Laboratories complex Tuesday but said she could not provide any details. University spokesman Andy Hyland told the Lawrence Journal-World that law enforcement was investigating alleged criminal activity on the campus. The complex houses research offices associated with the university's Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis, as well as the Bioscience and Technology Business Center Expansion Facility. Kim Grunewald, deputy general counsel at the university, said the investigation posed no threat to security or to the campus. It was not immediately clear Tuesday which offices or companies were operating in the areas under investigation.

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Company Sees Retaliation in Kansas Ending Literacy Grant

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The state of Kansas has cancelled its contract with the company that runs the Kansas Reading Roadmap, the grade school literacy program started under former Governor Sam Brownback.  The president of the company that runs the program, Andrew Hysell, is disputing the reasons state officials gave for cancelling the contract.  Hysell told reporters yesterday (MON) that he believes state officials are retaliating against his company (Washington-based Hysell & Wagner) for refusing to agree to changes made to the contract after a grant extension was signed in late June.  The Kansas Department for Children and Families announced on Friday that it had ended the grant for the Reading Roadmap program because it found questionable spending and a failure to control administrative expenses.  Hysell said those claims are false and accused the department of abusing its authority.  He said the department wanted changes in how funds are distributed to schools.

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Strong Winds Caused About 140 Rail Cars to Derail in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - We're learning more about two trains that were toppled by strong storms in central Kansas.  Authorities say high winds caused about 140 rail cars from two trains to derail over the weekend.  The Wichita Eagle reports that the derailments happened late Saturday near the small town of Walton.  The National Weather Service says the rail cars were all empty and many were double stacked. No injuries were reported.  At the nearby airport in Newton, wind gusts measured as high as  67 mph around the time of the derailment.

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KCK Police: Two Men Killed in Separate Weekend Shootings

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) _ Authorities say two men in their 20s have been killed in separate weekend shootings in Kansas City, Kansas.  The Kansas City Star reports that police identified the men Monday as 25-year-old Melvin James Jr. and 22-year-old Charles Morris Jr.  Morris' body was discovered shortly before 8 am Saturday.  Police say James was killed early Sunday at the Forest Glen Estates Town Homes and Apartments in a double shooting that critically injured another man.  No motive or suspect information has been released in either killing.

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Authorities Find Marijuana Farm Worth More Than $1.7 Million

EL DORADO, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have found a marijuana farm worth more than $1.7 million while chasing a suspect. KSNW-TV reports that the discovery was made Sunday when deputies with the Butler County Sheriff's Office responded to a residential burglary near El Dorado. The sheriff's office says the deputies pursued the burglary suspect when he ran into a field. As the deputies searched for the suspect, they spotted a couple men who also took off running. One of those men was captured, leading the deputies to a nearby cultivated marijuana field. On Monday, deputies, Kansas Bureau of Investigation agents and Kansas Highway Patrol troopers entered the property and seized more than 1,700 cultivated marijuana plants. They also found a camp site with tents, a cooking area and water pumps used to irrigate the plants.

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Wichita Man Killed in Gang-Related Drive-By Shooting

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Wichita police say the fatal shooting of a 22-year-old man was gang related. Officers found 24-year-old Elbert Costello dead from several gunshot wounds Sunday in the parking lot of an apartment complex in northeast Wichita.  A 24-year-old man who also was shot was taken to a hospital, where he is in serious condition.  Officer Kevin Wheeler said in a news release that investigators believe two groups of people shot at each other in the parking lot. No suspect information was released.  Some damage was reported to apartment buildings and vehicles near the shooting.

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Man Who Drowned During Police Chase Was Convicted Felon

COFFEYVILLE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Department of Corrections records show that a man who drowned while fleeing from police on an ATV was a convicted felon. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation identified the man Tuesday as 32-year-old Caleb O'Donnell, of Coffeyville. The KBI said previously that he drowned Friday in the Verdigris River in Montgomery County. Records show he had two previous drug convictions. The chase began when police were told an ATV stolen Thursday night from the Montgomery County Fair was seen on U.S. 169 headed toward the Oklahoma border. An officer saw the driver turn off the ATV off the road and travel through a field to the river. The officer discovered the ATV had hit a tree and then saw the man struggling in the river. Rescue attempts were unsuccessful.

(– earlier reporting –)

KBI Investigating Drowning Death of Man in Southeast Kansas

Update: The Kansas Bureau of Investigation has identified the man who drowned in the Verdigris River on August 16, as 32-year-old Caleb M. O’Donnell, of Coffeyville, Kansas.
 
COFFEYVILLE, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Bureau of Investigation is investigating the drowning death of a man who fled from police on an ATV.  The KBI said in a news release Monday the man drowned in the Verdigris River in Montgomery County Friday.  The chase began when South Coffeyville, Oklahoma, police were told an ATV stolen Thursday night from the Montgomery County Fair was seen on U.S. 169 headed toward the Oklahoma border.  A South Coffeyville officer saw the driver turn off the ATV off the road and travel through a field to the river. The officer discovered the ATV had hit a tree and then saw the man struggling in the river.  Authorities threw ropes to the man and emergency responders entered the water but their rescue attempts were unsuccessful.  The man's identity hasn't been released.

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Front Window Shot Out of Spanish-Language Radio Station

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are looking for a man who shot out the front window of a Spanish-language radio station in Wichita. Wichita police posted security camera video on Facebook Monday in an attempt to identify the shooter. The video shows a white man walking by the front of 99.7 FM La Raza, pulling a gun from his waistband and firing at the window around 2:30 a.m. Sunday. Wichita police Officer Paul Cruz says no one was in the building at the time. The station didn't immediately respond to a message from The Associated Press.

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Former Newspaper Editor Named New Kansas County Magistrate

KINGMAN, Kan. (AP) — A former Hutchinson News managing editor has been named as a new magistrate for a rural south-central Kansas county. Ron Sylvester was appointed to fill the judicial vacancy in Kingman County by a nominating commission Monday. The News reports that Sylvester applied for the magistrate's position after his job at the newspaper was eliminated in late May. The 60-year-old Sylvester previously worked at The Wichita Eagle and at newspapers in Las Vegas and Orange County, California. State law does not require magistrates to be attorneys, but Sylvester must pass an exam within 18 months. Magistrates handle traffic and misdemeanor cases, preliminary matters in felony cases and limited civil cases. Sylvester replaces Magistrate Judge Roseanna Mathis, who retired earlier this month. A date for his swearing-in hasn't been set.

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Family of Slain Kansas Inmate Files Federal Lawsuit

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The family of a slain Kansas inmate has filed a federal lawsuit alleging a systemic disregard for the health and safety of prisoners housed at the Meade County jail. A complaint filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Kansas stems from the August 2017 death of Joshua DeVilbiss after he was attacked by another inmate. The prisoners were among those transferred to the Meade County facility to alleviate overcrowding in the Sedgwick County jail. The lawsuit filed against various county officials alleges DeVilbiss died "a horrible and preventable death." The inmate who attacked him was later charged with involuntary manslaughter. The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office declined to comment on the pending lawsuit, and the Meade County sheriff also had no immediate comment.

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Wife of Man Killed by Police Wanted Divorce Before Her Death

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — An affidavit released in a case against a man whose estranged wife was found dead after he was fatally shot by police says he broke a mirror last year during an argument in which she said she wanted a divorce. Johnson County Court officials released the affidavit Tuesday in the October 2018 misdemeanor criminal damage to property case against 51-year-old Charles Pearson. The affidavit says his wife, 49-year-old Sylvia Ussery-Pearson, told police in Lenexa that Pearson threw the mirror when an argument between them escalated. A diversion agreement was reached in the case. Police say Ussery-Pearson's body was found last week in northwestern Arkansas' Benton County. The discovery was made hours after officers fatally shot Pearson near a popular shopping area in Kansas City, Kansas, in an exchange of gunfire.

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Man Implicated in Missing Brothers Case Charged in Kansas

FORT SCOTT, Kan. (AP) — A man charged with tampering with a vehicle owned by two missing Wisconsin brothers is facing new charges in Kansas. The Kansas City Star reports Garland Nelson is charged in Bourbon County, Kansas, with endangering the food supply. Prosecutors say Nelson didn't have proper health papers when he took 35 calves from his family's farm in Missouri to a farm in Fort Scott, Kansas, in May. In Missouri, prosecutors allege Nelson abandoned a rental truck used by Justin and Nick Diemel, of Shawano County, Wisconsin, after the brothers visited the Nelson farm in Braymer, Missouri. The brothers were reported missing July 21 and are presumed dead. A Kansas farmer, David Foster, said the 35 calves brought to his pasture were sick . He says he and Nelson bought 131 calves together but the other 96 died.

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Former Teacher at Catholic School in KC Files Suit; Claims She Was Fired Because She Was Pregnant and Unmarried

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A former teacher at a Catholic school in Kansas City, Missouri, alleges in a lawsuit that she was fired because she was pregnant and unmarried.  The Kansas City Star reports that a jury trial is scheduled to begin Monday in Michelle Bolen's lawsuit against the principal of St. Therese Catholic elementary school and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.  Bolen had worked for the school for nearly 15 years when she lost her job in July 2015. Diocese spokesman Jack Smith says her contract wasn't renewed for reasons that have nothing to do with her pregnancy.  The suit says Bolen was harassed and that a letter sent to staff announcing that she was expecting described her pregnancy as "less than ideal.'' Bolen now works at another school.  

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2 Accused Drunk Drivers Hit Wichita Police Vehicles in Separate Incidents

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Wichita police say two people who are suspected of drunken driving hit patrol cars in separate incidents during the weekend.  Police spokesman Charley Davidson says the first collision occurred early Saturday when a man driving the wrong way on a city street hit a patrol car. The officer was able to avoid a head-on collision and was treated for minor injuries.  KAKE-TV reports police arrested 58-year-old James Johnson on several possible charges, including aggravated battery and his third DUI.   Davidson said the second incident occurred Saturday night when a driver hit a patrol car and another vehicle while police were working an accident. Thirty-seven-year-old Lesster Raudales-Varela was stopped a short time later and arrested on possible DUI and careless driving charges.  No one was hurt in the second collision.

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Former Lawrence Banker Convicted in $15.2 Million Fraud

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A former Lawrence bank executive has been convicted of participating in a fraud scheme involving 26 Kansas banks. Federal prosecutors say 52-year-old Troy Gregory was convicted Monday of four counts of bank fraud and two counts of false statements. The fraud occurred while Gregory was a senior vice president at University National Bank in Lawrence. In an effort to secure a $15.2 million construction loan for bank customers who wanted to build an apartment complex in Junction City, Gregory and others spread the loan to 25 other Kansas banks. Prosecutors say Gregory misrepresented the financial strength of the borrowers. He also diverted about $1 million of the construction loan for uses other than building the apartments. The other banks had to write off millions of dollars on the construction loan.

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Kansas City T-Bones Evicted from KCK Ballpark

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - The struggling Kansas City T-Bones baseball team is being evicted from its stadium in Kansas because of unpaid debts.  The Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City Kansas announced Monday it is ending its management agreement with the T-Bones and has given the team until Sept. 13 to remove all its property from the publicly-owned stadium in Kansas City, Kansas.  The government said in a news release the T-Bones owed a total of nearly $763,000 in current and past due utility bills, and past due payments for use of the stadium.  The Unified Government said it intends to pursue all remedies to collect the debt.  The T-Bones are part of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball and not affiliated with Major League Baseball. A team official didn't immediately return a request for comment.

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Crop Duster Killed in Plane Crash South of Hays

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a crop duster has died in a plane crash south of Hays. The Kansas Highway Patrol says the bi-wing plane went down around 9 a.m. Tuesday in a ditch shortly after taking off from a private runway. Seventy-year-old John Werth, who lives near the small Ellis County town of Schoenchen, was pronounced dead at the scene. Fire crews responded because chemicals were aboard the plane. The cause of the crash is under investigation.

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Kansas Police K-9 Dies Weeks Before Retirement

ANDOVER, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas police dog named Thor has died just a few weeks before he was to retire.  The Andover Police Department said in a Facebook post that officers will wear black armbands through Saturday in honor of the Belgian Malinois.  He had a brief illness and died over the weekend, just short of his 10th birthday. Thor was trained to detect drugs, as well as in tracking and trailing. He often went to schools and community events to perform demonstrations.  Chief Mike Keller described Thor in the post as a "phenomenal dog.'' A memorial event also is planned for next month at a park.

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Kansas Judge: Fired Prison Worker's Argument is "Absurd"

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A judge has ruled that it is "absurd" for a fired Kansas prison dental instructor to attempt to have charges accusing him of nonconsensual touching of female inmates dismissed on the grounds that the state law barring such conduct only mentions consensual sex acts.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Shawnee County District Judge Cheryl Rios rejected the argument Friday and ordered Tomas Co to stand trial on January 27 on five charges of unlawful sexual relations with an inmate.  Co's attorney, Chris Joseph, said state law is ambiguous and Co shouldn't be held accountable for the Legislature's bad policy.  But Rios said a successful result for Co's argument would mean a corrections officer or parole officer or anyone else could do whatever they want to inmates.
 
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Man Shot, Killed in Field, Wichita Police Say

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are investigating after a man was fatally shot in a Wichita field. The Wichita Eagle reports that one person was killed Monday night. Police Lt. Ronald Hunt says an officer who was at a meeting in the area was the first to respond. He and other first responders performed first aid, but the victim died at the scene. The man was in his 30s. No arrests were immediately made. Police say they are looking for two people on bicycles that were spotted heading north from the area.

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Trial over New Missouri Voter Photo ID Law Begins

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A trial over whether election officials are doing enough to help voters navigate Missouri's new voter photo identification law has begun.  Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem heard testimony from critics of the law Monday. The trial is scheduled to last all week.  Groups including the Missouri NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri are arguing that the state didn't spend enough money or resources educating people about the new requirements and helping them obtain proper identification.  Attorneys for Missouri say the secretary of state's 18-month informational campaign "far exceeded" what's required by law to educate voters.  The law took effect in 2017. Election officials say voters now must present government-issued photo ID, show another form of identification along with signing a statement, or cast a provisional ballot.

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Northwest Missouri Area Feedlot Closes After Controversy Concerning Expansion Plans

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A northwest Missouri cattle feedlot that sought to greatly expand its operations is closing after more than a year of fighting opponents, including a nearby botanical garden.  Valley Oaks Steak Co. announced Monday it was closing immediately because of financial hardships caused by legal battles and the need to market its plans to counter its opponents.  The cattle feedlot near Lone Jack, about 25 miles east of Kansas City, wanted to expand from fewer than 999 head of cattle to as many as 6,999 head. It promised it would be one of the most environmentally friendly cattle operations in the nation.  But leaders at the Powell Gardens botanical site and neighbors near the cattle farm opposed the plan and filed a lawsuit in July to stop it.

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Wichita Man Dies Weeks After Being Hit by Car 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police say a 46-year-old man who was hit by a car in downtown Wichita earlier this month has died. Police spokesman Charley Davidson said in a news release that Kestrno Rodriguez died Saturday at a hospital. Rodriguez was hit by a car Aug. 2 while he was walking in the street near the Wichita Downtown YMCA. The investigation is continuing but police say they don't suspect drugs, alcohol or speed were factors in the incident.

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Wichita Woman Charged with Murder in 2-Year-Old Son's Death

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 23-year-old Wichita woman has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of her 2-year-old son. Kimberly Compass was charged Tuesday in the death of Zayden JayNesahkluah, whose body was found May 31 at a Wichita motel. Authorities have not said how Zayden died. The Wichita Eagle reports a criminal complaint filed Tuesday in Sedgwick County says Compass killed her son while committing another felony, aggravated child endangerment. Compass, who was arrested last Thursday, remains jailed on $500,000 bond for the murder charge and $1 million bond for a probation violation. Her next court date is Sept. 5. Zayden is at least the ninth child age 5 or younger to die in the Wichita area under suspicious circumstances since 2017. Several of them died after state welfare officials had contact with their families.

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