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Headlines for Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Merrick to Remain Kansas House Speaker in 2015-16

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republicans in the Kansas House have re-elected Speaker Ray Merrick to the chamber's top leadership position. And House Democrats turned Monday to veteran state Representative Tom Burroughs of Kansas City to lead them for the next two years. The House's 125 members and members-elect had organizational meetings Monday at the Statehouse to pick leaders for 2015 and 2016. Merrick easily overcame a challenge from Republican Representative Virgil Peck of Tyro. The vote was 80-16. The GOP will have a 97-28 majority when the Legislature reconvenes in January. 


Kansas House Democrats Pick KCK Lawmaker as Leader

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Democrats in the Kansas House have elevated a Kansas City lawmaker who had been their assistant minority leader to the top leadership position. Representative Tom Burroughs won the minority leader's job Monday in a 17-11 vote over Representative Jim Ward of Wichita. Democratic House members and members-elect had to pick a new minority leader for 2015 and 2016 because Minority Leader Paul Davis gave up his House seat to run unsuccessfully for governor. Veteran Representative Tom Sawyer of Wichita said Democrats believed Burroughs worked hard this year at fundraising and recruiting candidates. Some lawmakers and legislative aides saw Ward as likely to be more confrontational with Republicans than Davis was.


New Justice to Join Kansas Supreme Court Friday

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Supreme Court is having a special session this week to swear Caleb Stegall in as its newest justice. The ceremony is scheduled for 1:30 pm Friday. Stegall currently is a Kansas Court of Appeals judge. Governor Sam Brownback elevated him to the state's highest court in August. It was Brownback's first appointment to the seven-member Supreme Court. Stegall will replace former Justice Nancy Moritz. She was appointed to the federal appeals court for Kansas and five other western and Plains states. Stegall is 43 and was serving as Brownback's chief counsel when the governor appointed him to the Court of Appeals last year. He served as Jefferson County's elected prosecutor for two years before joining Brownback's staff in January 2011.


Few Kansas Welfare Applicants Tested for Drugs

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Drug testing of welfare applicants in Kansas is off to a slow start. After four months, only 20 applicants have been tested, with four testing positive and five refusing the tests. State officials concede early numbers are low. But they predict testing will increase as staffers grow more comfortable in referring welfare applicants for drug testing. A spokeswoman for the state's children and families department, which administers the drug-testing program, says it's important to note that this is the first year. Missouri has been testing applicants since last March. It has conducted 655 tests so far. Almost 70 tested positive, but about 700 refused the test and were disqualified for benefits. The Kansas City Star reports Missouri conducted almost 70 tests in the program's first four months.


Report: Kansas Farmers Wrap Up 2014 Growing Season

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas farmers are harvesting the last fall crops from the 2014 growing season. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday in its last weekly crop update of the year that Kansas farmers are cutting their remaining row crops and moving cattle to crop residue for pasture. The agency said 95 percent of the sorghum and 92 percent of the sunflowers have been harvested in Kansas. Cotton harvest is at 65 percent. Pasture and range conditions were rated as 8 percent very poor, 16 percent poor, 43 percent fair, 31 percent good and 2 percent excellent. Stock water supplies are reported as adequate in 71 percent of the state.


KCK Names New Police Chief

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Kansas City, Kansas, has promoted its assistant police chief to the department's top job. The city announced Assistant Chief Terry Zeigler's appointment on Tuesday. The Kansas City Star reports that Zeigler replaces Ellen Hanson. She is a former Lenexa police chief who was the Kansas City, Kansas, interim chief for a year after the retirement of former chief Rick Armstrong. Zeigler, who led the department's operations bureau, was one of five finalists for the position. The police department has about 460 civilian and uniformed employees.


Man, Woman to Be Tried in Girl's Abduction, Rape

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A judge has found sufficient evidence to try a man and woman in the abduction and rape of an 8-year-old girl in Topeka. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that 28-year-old Jeremy Lindsey and 23-year-old Michelle Harris were bound over for trial Tuesday in Shawnee County District Court. The girl vanished for about six hours in September, setting off a large search that ended when she was found walking along a road about two miles from her home. Lindsey will be tried on 10 charges, including rape, aggravated kidnapping and unlawful administration of a substance to the child. Harris was accused of transporting Lindsey and the girl to an abandoned house. She will be tried on charges of aggravated kidnapping and aggravated child endangerment. Lindsey and Harris pleaded not guilty.


Abortion-Referrals Case Back Before Kansas Board

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas board is considering whether to continue barring a physician from practicing medicine after scrutinizing her referrals of young patients for late-term abortions and finding that she kept inadequate records. Dr. Ann Kristin Neuhaus of Nortonville will be back before the State Board of Healing Arts next week. She successfully challenged a 2012 board ruling that she conducted substandard mental health exams in 2003 for 11 patients aged 10 to 18. Her opinions about patients' mental problems allowed the late Dr. George Tiller's clinic in Wichita to terminate their pregnancies. A judge earlier this year overturned the board's revocation of Neuhaus's license but agreed that she kept inadequate records. The judge sent her case back to the board. The board has a hearing set for 10 am on December 11.


Cleanup Crew Finds Body in NW Missouri Ditch

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — Northwest Missouri authorities have identified a person whose body was found in a drainage ditch by a prison work crew as Michael J. Silvy. The Buchanan County crew found the 33-year-old man's body Monday while doing trash pickup near Interstate 229 in southern St. Joseph. Police Captain Jeff Wilson says Silvy was last seen November 11. He was also the man rescued from the Missouri River in early September after he entered the river with truck. The St. Joseph News-Leader reports a jail prisoner told sheriff's deputy Matthew Thornton the crew found human remains in a culvert used for drainage underneath the interstate. The county medical examiner said an autopsy will be performed in Kansas City to determine the cause of death. Wilson says no foul play is suspected.


Union Cites Violations at Topeka State Prison

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - State and union officials acknowledge that understaffing and turnover have caused violations of the contract covering employees at the Topeka Correctional Facility for women and other state prisons. The violations include having probationary officers train newer workers and requiring employees to work double shifts. Rebecca Proctor, executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, says the violations raised concerns about security for inmates, employees and people living near state prisons. Jeremy Barclay, spokesman for the state corrections department, says a probationary officer trained new employees at the Topeka prison only once, and said mandatory, forced overtime was authorized since a 2009 agreement between the state and union.


Quail, Pheasant Hunting the Army Way at Fort Riley

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Hunters have found that what's good for Fort Riley is good for them. The thick brush, rugged terrain and overgrown fields used to train soldiers also provide outstanding wildlife habitat for quail, pheasants, deer, turkeys and even elk. Hunting is permitted on large chunks of the 100,000-acre base in northeast Kansas. John Hill is president of the Jayhawk Chapter of the Quail and Upland Wildlife Federation, a conservation group dedicated to promoting upland game-bird hunting and habitat improvement for the birds. The Kansas quail population has dropped sharply over the years. But Hill says he knows he can still return to Fort Riley and stand a chance of flushing quail.


Wichita Police Seek to Boost Hispanic Recruitment

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A shortage of Spanish-speaking officers has the Wichita Police Department seeking to boost its Hispanic ranks, but turnout at training academies shows there's much work to be done before the force reflects the makeup of the community. Though Hispanics now make up 15 percent of Wichita's population, The Wichita Eagle reports only 45 of the police department's 602 employees are Hispanic, and only about 20 speak Spanish. Police Captain Jose Salcido says the city's Hispanic population surged after a large hailstorm in 1993 brought roofing crews to town to repair or replace roofs. Many of the workers liked what they found, so they stayed and urged relatives to come there, too. Officer Erik Guzman says Spanish-speaking residents often are relieved when an officer arrives who can converse with them.


Judge Allows Publication of 'In Cold Blood' Files

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas judge has decided that the son of a deceased Kansas Bureau of Investigation agent can publish his father's files from the 1959 murders that inspired the book "In Cold Blood." Shawnee County District Court Judge Larry Hendricks said in a ruling made public Monday that he made an error when he initially blocked publication of the criminal investigation files in 2012. His decision comes in a lawsuit by the Kansas attorney general's office against Ronald Nye of Oklahoma City. The judge ruled Nye's First Amendment rights to publish his father's files outweigh government's interest in maintaining the confidentiality of its investigative records. Nye's father investigated the Clutter family murders in Holcomb and kept records at home. Richard Hickock and Perry Smith were executed for the killings in 1965.


Kansas City Woman Charged in Downtown Building Crash

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A 38-year-old woman has been charged in a police chase that ended when an SUV slammed into a downtown Kansas City building and caused a partial collapse. Jackson County prosecutors on Monday charged Sinead Lynch of Overland Park, Kansas, with fleeing from a police stop and careless driving. Authorities say she was driving a stolen SUV on November 20 when Kansas City police officers tried to pull her over. They say she reached speeds of 80 mph before crashing into the partially abandoned building. Damage to the structure has been estimated at $300,000. 

UPDATE: Emporia Homicide Suspect in County Detention

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — A suspect in a 2013 Emporia homicide has made his first court appearance after being returned from Mexico. Gabino Ruiz-Ascensio was in Lyon County court Monday, where a preliminary hearing for the 27-year-old suspect was scheduled for January 8. Ruiz-Ascensio is charged with first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder. Police say two men were shot at an Emporia home in April 2013. Twenty-five-year-old Andrian Peralta died three days later, while 22-year-old Michael Koy was injured. The Emporia Gazette reports Ruiz-Ascensio was found in Mexico in early November and was returned to Lyon County Detention Center on Friday. Ruiz-Ascensio was initially arrested on minor charges in Mexico and arrested after a check turned up his warrant in the Emporia case.


Kansas City Couple Acquitted in Child Abuse Case

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A Kansas City couple accused of locking a malnourished 8-year-old girl in a bedroom has been acquitted of assault and child endangerment. The Kansas City Star reports that Jackson County (Missouri) Judge Robert Schieber determined Tuesday that prosecutors hadn't proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Jeffrey and Michele Kraft had intended to injure the girl. He said the couple did what they could. Prosecutors charged the Krafts in 2012 after authorities found the girl in her bedroom, which had been locked from the outside. Police reported she was scrubbing the floor with bleach "because she had to urinate in the room.'' The defense said the girl was skinny, not malnourished, and speculated the case was handled aggressively because it came on the heels of the discovery of a 32-pound 10-year-old.


Man Arrested Again in Real Estate Scam

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A former Kansas City builder is back in federal custody after he allegedly started a fraudulent real estate scheme while still in prison. U.S. District Court Judge Julie Robinson on Monday revoked the release of 53-year-old F. Jeffrey Miller because he allegedly violated four provisions of his supervised release. Miller was sentenced to six years in prison in August 2012 for conspiracy to commit bank fraud, money laundering and criminal contempt. He was placed on supervised release in January. Prosecutors say while Miller was in prison, he persuaded his son to start a new company, Tri-State Holdings. Prosecutors say after his release, Miller used the company to buy abandoned homes in Missouri but did not renovate them as promised before requiring buyers to make payments.


Farmer Pays Settlement for Unauthorized Seed Sale

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Wheat Alliance says a southeast Kansas farmer has paid a $10,000 settlement for allegedly selling a wheat seed variety without authorization. The alliance said Monday it accepted the settlement payment from Paul Simpson of Weir, whose alleged sale of the Everest wheat variety violates a federal law that protects property rights of the breeding work done by private or public groups. The Hutchinson News reports such settlements are part of an effort to stop the unauthorized selling or buying of seed stock, a practice known as "brown bagging." The alliance says buying certified seed supports the seed industry by supporting public and private research that lead to improved wheat varieties.


Chanute's Broadband Effort Faces Hurdle

CHANUTE, Kan. (AP) - A small southeast Kansas town is facing another obstacle in its efforts to extend ultra-high-speed fiber broadband to its residents and businesses. A 1947 state law on utilities will require the city of Chanute to get permission from the Kansas Corporation Commission to sell bonds to fund the city's broadband project. Chanute's broadband project would extend some of the fastest Internet service in the country to a community of 9,200 residents. It would offer a download speed of 1 gigabit at an estimated cost of $40 a month for residents. That's 14 times faster and 60 percent cheaper than the fastest Internet service now available to Chanute residents. AT&T, one of two lower-speed broadband providers serving Chanute, has filed to intervene in the case.


Police: Wichita Man Injured in Home Stabbing

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a man who was stabbed when he opened his front door was not the victim of random violence. The 38-year-old man's was hospitalized after his teenage son called 911 on Monday to report the attack. Police say the man answered a knock at his door and two people attacked him. He was stabbed in the abdomen and is expected to survive. Lieutenant James Espinoza said Tuesday that the victim was not cooperating with the investigation. No money or property was taken.


Lawrence Volunteers Craft Gingerbread Houses for Charity

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Gingerbread houses are a big money maker for one Lawrence charity. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the 20th annual Gingerbread Festival and Auction kicks off Thursday night at Abe & Jake's Landing. That's when the top 15 of more than 100 gingerbread houses will be auctioned off to benefit the area's Big Brothers Big Sisters' chapter. Area director Stacie Salverson-Schroeder says some of the best houses can pull in around $2,000 each. All told, the creations usually raise about $40,000. This year's entries will include an alpine cottage-style house, a diorama featuring three scenes from "The Wizard of Oz" and a 30-pound edible dwelling partly inspired by the real-life Carson Mansion in Eureka, California. The houses will be on display to the public Saturday and Sunday.


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