Appeals Court Considers Kansas Voting Case
DENVER (AP) — A federal appeals court in Denver will decide whether Kansas can keep thousands of people who haven't presented documents proving they're citizens from voting in November's election. Three judges from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in the case Tuesday from Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and the American Civil Liberties Union but didn't indicate how soon they could rule. Kansas wants the court to overturn a ruling by a federal judge in May that temporarily blocked the state from disenfranchising people who registered at motor vehicle offices but didn't provide documents such as birth certificates or naturalization papers. That was about 18,000 people at the time. If the order is allowed to stand, Kobach says up to an estimated 50,000 people who haven't proven they're citizens could be able to cast ballots in the fall. The ACLU says the federal motor voter law intended to increase registration doesn't allow states to ask applicants for extra documents.
Kansas Officials Working to Change State Layoff Policy
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback's administration is working to overhaul Kansas employee layoff and rehiring protocol. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the administration is working on adjustments that would restrict worker options for appealing regular job performance ratings and impose a cap on how much sick leave new retirees may donate to colleagues who are ill. Kansas Department of Administration officials say the proposed adjustments are necessary for the maintenance of a modern and efficient workforce in state government. A department spokesman says the changes have been in development since 2014. Rebecca Proctor, executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, says the timing of the proposed adjustments appears to indicate the government is preparing for layoffs. The proposed changes will be open to public comment on September 27.
Kansas, Texas Among States Filing Lawsuit over Transgender Non-Discrimination Mandate
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas and four other states are again suing the Obama administration over its efforts to strengthen discrimination protections for transgender people. The lawsuit filed Tuesday in a North Texas federal court seeks to block parts of a nondiscrimination mandate of President Barack Obama's health care law. Republican state officials say the rules could force doctors to help with gender transition against their medical judgment or religious convictions. Transgender rights advocates called that a far-fetched hypothetical and say the rules simply require doctors to make decisions without bias. The lawsuit was filed a day after a federal judge in Texas blocked a directive that would have required U.S. public schools to let transgender students use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. Kansas, Wisconsin, Kentucky, and Nebraska also joined the latest lawsuit.
Court: Out-of-State License Plates Don't Justify Search
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- A federal appeals court says law enforcement officials in Kansas cannot stop and search motorists for having nothing more than out-of-state license plates from states that have legalized marijuana. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday says the officer's reasoning would justify the search of citizens from more than half of the states in the country. The court reinstated the lawsuit filed by a Colorado motorist against two Kansas Highway Patrol officers who stopped and searched his vehicle while he was driving alone at night on I-70 in Kansas. It found the officers violated Peter Vasquez's Fourth Amendment rights in searching his car. Twenty-five states permit marijuana use for medicinal purposes, with Colorado, Alaska, Oregon, Washington, and Washington, D.C. permitting some recreational use under state law.
Former Republican Seeks 1st District Seat as Independent
CLYDE, Kan. (AP) — A fifth-generation farmer who nearly upset incumbent 1st District Congressman Tim Huelskamp in the Republican primary two years ago is running as an independent against the Republican who dethroned Huelskamp in August. Alan LaPolice of Clyde announced Tuesday that he has officially been placed on the Nov. 8 ballot for the 1st District race. He will face Republican physician Roger Marshall, who beat the tea party-backed incumbent in the GOP primary, and Libertarian Kerry Burt. LaPolice says as an independent candidate he doesn't have the baggage attached to candidates for the two major parties and is the only one in the race who can hope to accomplish anything in Washington. LaPolice waged a surprisingly close primary race in 2014 against Huelskamp, pulling in more than 45 percent of the vote.
Topeka Apartment Fire That Killed 3 Under Investigation
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are investigating the cause of a Topeka apartment fire that killed three women and injured a man. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the fire was reported around 8:20 am Monday at the 12 unit, three-story apartment building in the central part of the city. The survivor was taken in an ambulance to a Topeka hospital, where his condition wasn't immediately known. Topeka police Major Darin Scott said he smelled smoke while driving near the burning apartment and called in the fire. First-arriving fire crews found heavy smoke and flames pouring out of the back portion of the apartment building. It took about an hour to bring the blaze under control. Topeka Fire Marshal Mike Martin provided few details about the fire, saying more information would be released later.
Trial Begins in Killing of Olathe Rapper
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — The trial is underway for a man charged with killing a rapper from suburban Olathe. The Kansas City Star reports that 33-year-old Dale "Poppa Willo" Willis is on trial this week in Johnson County District Court. He's charged with first-degree murder in the September shooting death of Jurl Carter outside a bar in northern Overland Park. Carter performed as Yunglyfe Carter or Bo Boogy. Witnesses testified at an earlier hearing that they saw Willis punch Carter in the face after Carter nearly hit someone while pulling into a parking space. Prosecutors said that Willis' brother, James Willis, then shot Carter as he attempted to drive away. James Willis also is charged with first-degree murder and will be tried separately.
Kansas Law Enforcement Considering Fitness Requirement Updates
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Sedgwick County law enforcement agencies are considering easing fitness requirements for applicants in hopes of attracting more potential recruits. A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling requires law enforcement agencies to have a job task analysis showing why certain agility tests are in recruit training if they want liability protection. The Wichita Eagle reports that Sedgwick County sheriff's Sergeant Dave Hein conducted a study to see what detention deputies and patrol deputies have to do as a part of their jobs. Hein, who processes recruits for the Wichita-Sedgwick County Law Enforcement Training Academy, says a key part of his study is learning whether the academy needed to update its physical agility tests. Hein is waiting on a final report from a Wichita State University criminal justice review panel on his study. He'll present his findings to the sheriff's office command staff.
No Charges Expected in Latest Topeka Homicide
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Police say no criminal charges are expected in a Topeka shooting death. Police said in a news release that 36-year-old Michael Gene Wilson, of Topeka, was pronounced dead after he was found Monday suffering from gunshot wounds. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that police spokeswoman Amy McCarter says detectives conducted interviews with "all involved parties." She added that the shooting involves "persons known to one another." No other details were released. Prosecutors also will review the case before a final decision on charges is made. The homicide is the city's 15th for the year.
Preliminary Hearings Set for 3 Men Charged in Topeka Killing
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Hearings have been scheduled to determine whether there's sufficient evidence for three men to stand trial in a Topeka shooting death. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the preliminary hearing for 24-year-old Shane Edward Sibert, of Topeka, is scheduled for September 1. The preliminary hearing for 35-year-old Use David Laeli Jr., of Topeka, and 20-year-old Joseph G. Cooney, of Rock Port, Texas, will be on Dec. 5. The three men are jailed in Shawnee County and charged with premeditated first-degree murder in the death of 28-year-old Xavier Patrick McCollough, of Topeka. He was fatally wounded when he was found last month inside a car that had crashed into a Topeka apartment building. Topeka police said McCollough and Sibert knew each other and had a dispute before the shooting.
Mowers Find Missouri Man's Body in Kansas City, Kansas
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a street crew has found a man's body while mowing in Kansas City, Kansas. Police said in a news release that officers were summoned Monday after the body of 38-year-old Joshua Bush, of Kansas City, Missouri, was found about 14 feet off a road. The release said he died from a gunshot wound and that the case is being investigated as a homicide. Police are urging any with information to come forward. No other information was immediately available.
Kansas Town's Administrator, Ex-Chief Arrested
HALSTEAD, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say an investigation of the 2,100-resident south-central Kansas town of Halstead has resulted in the arrests of the city administrator and former police chief. City administrator James Hatfield is charged with one count of felony perjury. Former police chief Steven Lewis is charged with a felony count of misuse of public funds and two misdemeanor theft counts. Authorities say the arrests resulted from investigations by Harvey County's prosecutor and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. No additional details were immediately available. Hatfield and Lewis do not have listed home telephone numbers and could not be reached Monday for comment.
Southern Kansas Flood Victims Evaluate Damage
MULVANE, Kan. (AP) — Southern Kansas flooding victims are cleaning up the mess torrential rains left behind. The Wichita Eagle reports that Mulvane city administrator Kent Hixson says 44 homes and five businesses inside the city limits saw some sort of flooding damage from Friday's deluge. The National Weather Service says between 6 and 7 inches of rain fell in about two hours. As of Monday, damage estimates in Mulvane had already reached about $1 million. And they could rise as homeowners, insurance companies and inspectors get a closer look at the losses. Hixson says the heavy rains "just overwhelmed our drainage systems" and sewer system. Nadine Sanchez says she "wouldn't wish this on anybody." Her losses included letters she exchanged with her husband while he was away on military duty in Germany.
KU Chancellor's Message Promises Action on Diversity, Equity
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little says she's planning additional diversity, equity and inclusion efforts on campus. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Gray-Little announced the plans in an email to faculty and staff at the university marking the start of a new academic year. Last fall, student protests broke out on campus over what some have called a pattern of racial bias and discrimination at the university. In response, the university established an advisory group, which issued a report calling for a number of reforms. Gray-Little says that later this semester, the campus will learn about the next steps related to the group's report. Gray-Little also said a $10.7 million budget cut, which Governor Sam Brownback ordered, has forced "difficult choices." But Gray-Little offered no details in her message.
Kansas Trial Underway for Teen Accused in 2 Fire Deaths
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Testimony is underway in the southern Kansas trial of teenager charged as an adult in the killing of his mother and 11-year-old sister in a 2013 house fire. Samuel Vonachen is being tried in Reno County on two counts of premeditated first-degree murder. Vonachen was 14 in September 2013 when he allegedly used gasoline to ignite his family's Hutchinson home. The blaze killed 11-year-old Audrey Vonachen and their mother, 47-year-old Karla Jo Vonachen. His father escaped. A prosecutor told jurors Tuesday during opening statements that Vonachen was a compassionless psychopath who wanted his family to die. A defense attorney countered that his client has a dissociative disorder and didn't know what he was doing.
Kansas Mom, Toddler Rescued from Tree After Flash Flood Hits
ROSE HILL, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas mother who was caught in flash flooding says she feels "blessed" after she and her 3-year-old son were rescued from a tree. The Wichita Eagle reports that 32-year-old Cassandra Phillips of Burlington pulled her toddler, Ethan, from his car seat Friday night after floodwaters rose around her minivan in rural Rose Hill, 10 miles southeast of Wichita. She spent an hour clinging to the tree limb with one leg while holding her son in the crook of her arm and talking to emergency dispatchers on her cell phone. The National Guard soldier and mother of three says she didn't mean to drive into a flood. She says the light was dim and that she was focusing on the "white lines of the road" when the van began floating.
Kansas Man's Body Found 3 Days After Being Swept Away by Flooding
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say they've found the body of a man three days after he went missing after being swept away by floodwaters near Wichita. Butler County Sheriff Kelly Herzet says the body of 62-year-old Richard Lowery was found Monday in a field near a pond downstream from where he vanished after torrential storms dropped up to 7 inches of rain. Herzet has said Lowery and his son were in their pickup truck near a creek south of Rose Hill when they drove into water over the road and tried to back out. That's when Herzet says the truck got swept away. The son, 38-year-old Samuel Lowery, managed to escape the truck and floated to safety downstream. Lowery's pickup truck and some of his clothing already were found last weekend.
Ex-Wichita Police Officer Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A retired Wichita police lieutenant has admitted fabricating documents and agreed to forfeit the $56,400 he unlawfully received under a contract to train law enforcement agencies on responses to armed engagement. Kevin P. Vaughn pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of embezzlement of public funds and one count of mail fraud. The 51-year-old Wichita man acknowledged he falsified reports to make it look like his company, Red Mist Tactical, had completed 15 eight-hour classes the company agreed to provide last year. He also admitted he fabricated student sign-up sheets for the classes and forged signatures of officers. Vaughn retired in March 2015 after 28 years with the Wichita Police Department. Sentencing is set for November 16.
Man's Body Found Near Kansas Water Treatment Facility
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have identified a man whose body was found on the bank of the Missouri River behind a water treatment facility in Kansas City, Kansas. Police said in a news release today (TUE) that the victim was 41-year-old Shannon Porter, who may have been stabbed. The release said Kansas City, Missouri, police found the body Saturday near a makeshift house and notified Kansas City, Kansas, police. Police are urging anyone with information to come forward. No other information was immediately released.
Wrong-Way Driver Killed in Kansas I-70 Crash
PAXICO, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a man driving the wrong-way in a freeway construction zone was killed when his pickup truck collided with a tractor-trailer. 33-year-old Christopher Frank of McFarland died after the crash early Sunday on Interstate 70 near Paxico. The Kansas Highway Patrol says Frank drove eastbound in the westbound lane, with construction in that area having reduced traffic to one lane. The trucker was treated a Topeka hospital, and a passenger in his semi rig wasn't hurt.
1 Dies in Crash on Turnpike in Southern Kansas
HAYSVILLE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say one person has died in a crash on the Kansas Turnpike in the southern part of the state. KSNW-TV reports that a vehicle and pedestrian collided early Monday. The Kansas Turnpike Authority says the crash happened in the southbound lanes of Interstate 35 at a Haysville exit. No other information was immediately available.
Kansas Man Drowns in Canoeing Accident
ARKANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Officials in southern Kansas's Cowley County say a man drowned while canoeing in the Arkansas River Saturday. KAKE-TV reports that the name of victim near Arkansas City hasn't been released. Arkansas City's emergency medical services director says a group of at least 10 people was kayaking and canoeing when one boat overturned. Others in the capsized boat managed to swim to safety, but the victim did not survive.
Police Release Names of 3 Kansas City Homicide Victims
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities have released the names of three men who were killed over the past week in Kansas City. Police said in a news release Monday that 54-year-old John Palmer, of Kansas City, was found dead Friday in a wooded area. Police also released the names of two Kansas City men who were killed Thursday in separate shootings as 18-year-old Tevin McCray and 19-year-old Davyon Coates. Coates was found dead in a parking lot after a shooting that left two other adults and a child wounded. McCray was found dead in a park after another man told police he shot the victim during an altercation. Authorities are urging anyone with information to come forward.
Body of Topeka Man Recovered in Lake Perry
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have recovered the body of a Topeka man who drowned while sailing alone on an eastern Kansas lake. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the body of 46-year-old Jeff Miller was found Saturday morning in the northeast part of Lake Perry, west of Longview Park. Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Herrig says Miller was last seen on his 26-foot sailboat. The Sheriff's Department and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers searched until about midnight Friday, then resumed the search Saturday. Herrig says his department was working with the Wildlife Department to investigate Miller's death.
Topeka Motorcyclist Arrested After High-Speed Chase
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A motorcyclist who fled from law enforcement at speeds over 130 mph has been taken into custody after a pursuit that ended at the man's home. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the man was taken into custody Saturday after he went into his home as troopers in a helicopter watched from above. Kansas Highway Patrol Sergeant Mark Christesen says the chase began on Interstate 70 west of the Kansas Turnpike's east Topeka interchange, where the rider was clocked at 95 mph in a 55 mph zone. Officers on the ground backed off while the helicopter continued to watch as the Suzuki hit speeds in excess of 130 mph.
Thrill-Ride Accidents Spark New Demands for Regulation
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — In some parts of the U.S., the thrill rides that whirl kids around are checked by state inspectors before customers climb on. But in other places, they aren't required to get the once-over. A boy's death on a Kansas water slide and a Ferris wheel accident that injured three girls in Tennessee have focused attention on what experts call an alarming truth: Regulation varies greatly by state. The industry has lobbied against federal oversight for decades. The Consumer Product Safety Commission doesn't regulate rides at permanent parks. It oversees only traveling carnival rides. Even then, federal investigators respond only after accidents. Whether a ride has to be inspected before thrill-seekers hop on depends on what state it's in. Mississippi, Alabama, Nevada, South Dakota, Wyoming and Utah have no laws at all requiring inspections.
Lesbian Methodist Pastor Agrees to Leave Kansas Church Post
EDGERTON, Kan. (AP) — A lesbian pastor will leave her post at the United Methodist Church in Edgerton at the end of August to avoid a church trial. Methodist officials and pastor Cynthia Meyer agreed in early August that she would give up her duties and go on involuntary leave beginning September 1st. Meyer came out as a lesbian to her congregation in January. At the time, she said she hoped the denomination was close to changing its ban on gay clergy. That didn't happen and a church trial was scheduled for August 24th to determine if she should be ousted. Under the agreement, Meyer can't be appointed as a pastor at any church but could be hired to perform functions similar to a lay staff person.
Volunteers Pitch In To Fix Kansas Town's Water Supply
CULVER, Kan. (AP) — After dealing with dirty tap water for years, residents of a tiny town in north-central Kansas have a new water treatment system thanks to some state and federal grants and thousands of hours of volunteer labor. Residents of Culver, a town of about 120 residents in Ottawa County, have long had to deal with murky water that didn't taste good. Tests revealed there was no health issue, just too much manganese and iron in Culver's two city wells. The Salina Journal reports Culver now has a new water treatment plant and a delivery system after residents put in more than a mile of water line and also helped with other related projects. City officials say volunteers put in about $157,000 in labor hours.
Kansas Man Gets Unusual Scholarship After Father's Death
JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) - A young Kansas man whose father was slain in 2008 is getting a help from an unusual source in paying tuition for his freshman year at a Missouri college. Colby Leeper of Wichita has received $1,500 from an organization run by death row inmates called Compassion, which distributes funds from donations and artwork sold by the prisoners. Leeper's father, 33-year-old Edward "Brian" Leeper Jr., was shot and killed in November 2008 in the parking lot of the Stratford House Inn in Wichita, where he had been staying. The Joplin Globe reports Josh Matchett was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and is serving a 20-year sentence. In addition to the Compassion scholarship, Leeper also is getting track-and-field and academic scholarships to attend Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, Missouri.
Kansas Seeking Federal Wine Label Designation
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — This season's grapes from Kansas vineyards will soon be pressed, fermented and aged, but the bottles they'll be poured into won't have a key designation on the label that other wines in the country boast. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that wine producing regions are granted a government designation known as an American Viticultural Area designation. The wine industry in Kansas is still seeking its first designation. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau of the U.S. Treasury Department awards the AVA designations to applicants, recognizing wines made from grapes grown in a particular soil, climate, elevation and other factors. In the spring, Democratic state Senator Tom Holland co-sponsored a resolution in the Legislature, encouraging the state's Congressional delegation work with Kansas grape growers and winemakers petitioning for AVAs. Holland says there are no active applications at this time.