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Headlines for Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Here's a look at area headlines from the Associated Press

Westar, Great Plains Announce New Plans for $14 Billion Merger

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Westar Energy and Great Plains Energy have announced a revamped plan to merge after Kansas regulators scuttled an earlier deal. The deal announced Monday would form a utility with a combined equity value of about $14 billion. The move comes after the Kansas Corporation Commission denied the $12.2 billion sale of Topeka-based Westar to Kansas City, Missouri-based Great Plains Energy in late April. Regulators cited concerns about a high price, the capital structure, merger savings and Kansas job retention, among other issues. Under the new deal, each share of Westar Energy could be exchanged for a share in the new company. Great Plains shares would be worth about 60 percent of a share in the new company. No transaction debt would be incurred.

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Concealed Carry Applications Fall in Kansas 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says applications for concealed carry licenses dropped to a record low last fiscal year after the state stopped requiring the permits. Schmidt's office announced Tuesday that it received 5,119 new applications for concealed carry licenses in the fiscal year ending June 30. That was the fewest applications received since the program began in Kanas in 2006. In 2015, the Legislature eliminated a license requirement for Kansas gun owners. However, those who apply for the license can carry weapons in the 38 other states that recognize the Kansas license. Schmidt said those who already have licenses continue to apply for renewals. He said the state received more than 21,000 renewal applications during the 2017 fiscal year. More than 83,000 Kansans have active concealed carry licenses.

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Missouri Settles Lawsuit over Jail Beating for Nearly $440,000

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A former inmate who alleged guards at the jail in Kansas City beat him so severely that he suffered nine broken ribs, fractured wrists and a collapsed lung has settled a lawsuit for almost $440,000. The Kansas City Star reports that Jackson County agreed Monday to the settlement with James Ramirez. His suit alleged that there was "a widespread pattern of using excessive force" against inmates at the Jackson County Detention Center and that guards twice attacked him in 2015. Four of those guards have been indicted on federal charges alleging that they violated Ramirez' civil rights. An FBI investigation of the jail is ongoing. Two weeks ago, about 200 law enforcers raided the jail. The search came as two guards were arrested in a contraband smuggling operation.

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Lawsuit: ICE Negligent in Case of Man Charged in 5 Kansas and Missouri Killings 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Federal immigration officials are being sued by the families of two people who authorities say were killed by a Mexican national in the U.S. illegally. The lawsuit filed in Kansas City, Kansas, alleges Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials negligently allowed Pablo Serrano-Vitorino to stay in the country illegally before he allegedly killed four people in Kansas and one in Missouri last year. Serrano-Vitorino is jailed on one count of first-degree murder in Missouri. He also faces four counts of first-degree murder in Wyandotte County, Kansas. The lawsuit claims that Serrano-Vitorino re-entered the U.S. after being deported in 2003. The families claim he was released from Kansas jails in 2014 and 2015 after federal immigration officials didn't follow procedures and missed chances to detain him.

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Kansas Man Reportedly Kicked Out of Bar Before Shooting 

EUDORA, Kan. (AP) — An arrest affidavit shows that a man accused of fatally shooting a security guard at an eastern Kansas bar last month had been kicked out of the establishment for making lewd comments to the bartender. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that 36-year-old Danny Queen faces murder charges in 32-year-old Bo Hopson's death. He also faces two counts of attempted murder for allegedly shooting at two other people at D-Dubs Bar and Grill in Eudora on June 24. Hopson was taken to a Kansas City hospital and died the next day during surgery. Queen is in Douglas County Jail on a $1 million bond. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for July 25. Queen's attorney had requested the arrest affidavit be sealed from the public, but the judge released it with some redactions Monday.

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Preliminary Hearing Postponed in Topeka Triple Homicide Case 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A preliminary hearing for three suspects in a triple homicide in Topeka will be in September, after defense attorneys asked for more time to prepare. The preliminary hearing for three of four suspects in the March 12 killings at a north Topeka home was scheduled for Tuesday. But Shawnee County District Court Judge Nancy Parish granted the motion and rescheduled the hearing for September 25-26. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Brian Flowers, Joseph Lowry and Shane Mays are charged in the slayings of 19-year-old Matthew Leavitt, 38-year-old Nicole Fisher, and 20-year-old Luke Davis. Few details about the deaths have been released. A fourth defendant, Joseph Krahn, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder. On Monday, Krahn's public defenders withdrew, citing the possibility that Krahn might be charged with capital murder.

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4 Dead, Interstate Closed After Wreck Near Bonner Springs 

BONNER SPRINGS, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol says four people died in a multi-vehicle accident that closed Interstate 70 west of Bonner Springs. The patrol says the highway was closed after one of the tractor-trailers involved in the accident Tuesday caught fire. Four vehicles, two of them tractor-trailers, were involved in the crash. The Kansas Turnpike Authority says a tractor trailer rear-ended another vehicle, causing a massive fire. One lane of eastbound lanes reopened about 4 p.m. but westbound lanes were expected to remain closed for several hours.

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Woman Sentenced, Man Pleads in Tax Fraud Scheme

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A woman was sentenced and a co-defendant pleaded guilty to creating fictitious companies to fraudulently collect income tax refunds. Federal prosecutors say 44-year-old Raquel Odegbaro, of Olathe, was sentenced to just over six years in prison Tuesday and ordered to pay more than $894,000 in restitution. She had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the government, aggravated identity theft and mail fraud. Her co-defendant, 33-year-old Abdirizak Aden, of Kansas City, Missouri, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the government and conspiracy to commit mail fraud. The two admitted setting up several fictitious companies and filing tax returns for people who didn't work for the companies. They also used stolen Social Security numbers to apply for unemployment benefits. Another defendant is awaiting sentencing and a fourth is awaiting trial.

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Missouri Man Sentenced to Nearly 20 Years for Bank Robbery

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Missouri man has been sentenced to 19 years and seven months in federal prison for robbing a bank. The U.S. attorney's office says 53-year-old Charles Jones was sentenced Monday to stealing $1,330 in April 2016 from the United Missouri Bank in Raymore. Prosecutors say Jones brandished a nonlethal airsoft pellet gun that tellers believed was a real handgun. He then demanded money and threatened to shoot if they didn't comply with his demands. Jones fled after a teller gave the Raymore man money from her drawer. The airsoft gun was recovered from a trash can located in a nearby Lowe's Home Improvement store. Jones was arrested the next day.

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Kansas Woman Charged with Will Doctoring Set to Go on Trial in Fall 

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — A former caretaker is set to go on trial this fall on charges alleging that she doctored the will of her western Kansas employer to make herself the primary beneficiary of his more than $20 million estate instead of the Fort Hays State University Foundation. The Hutchinson News reports that the federal mail fraud trial for Wanda Oborny is set for November 14 in Wichita. Oborny is free on $25,000 bond. She was indicted in January after an Ellis County District Court ruled that the valid will for Earl Field is the one bequeathing most of his wealth to the foundation. A legal fight erupted when Oborny said she found a letter shortly after Field's 2013 death that said he'd decided to give most of his estate to her.

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Topeka Man Injured Trying to Jump Between Bridges

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a person who suffered critical injuries after falling 25 feet was likely trying to jump a gap between two bridges in Kansas. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the male was transported to a Topeka hospital Sunday evening with injuries that are considered life-threatening. He's believed to be between 17 and 20 years old. Topeka Police say the man likely thought he could land safely or that there was something to catch him. Investigators don't believe the victim intentionally jumped off the bridge, but that he may have been trying to jump between northbound and southbound bridges along Kansas Avenue. Police say witnesses reported calling 911 after watching the fall. 

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Wichita Approves Funding for 3 New Park Projects

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita city officials are planning big changes at three undeveloped park sites. The parks are scheduled to get funding in the city's 2016-2025 capital improvement plan. The parks aren't expected to be completed before 2025. The Wichita Eagle reports plans include Pracht Wetlands, which would provide boardwalks and observation areas for wildlife viewing. It is scheduled to receive a total of $750,000 in the next two years. Crystal Prairie Lake Park eventually would include a 215-acre lake, a swim beach, marina and 14 miles of trails. It is scheduled to receive $9.5 million between 2019 and 2024. Central and Bristol Park is a 14.4-acre lot in east Wichita. No plans are final except it will include a police substation. It's scheduled to receive $1.3 million between 2021 and 2023.

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Kansas Wheat Harvest Almost Finished

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ The latest government snapshot shows the Kansas winter wheat harvest is almost complete. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that 93 percent of the wheat has been cut. That is near the 89 percent reported a year ago as well as the average for this time. The agency says warm, dry weather helped aided harvest progress. Other field crops in Kansas are also making progress. About 3 percent of the soybeans in the state are now setting pods. Four percent of the sorghum has headed. About 36 percent of the corn is now silking. The agency rated corn condition as 10 percent excellent, 51 percent good and 31 percent fair. Another 8 percent is in poor to very poor condition.  

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Kansas Man Sentenced for Theft from Store Where He Worked

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas man who admitted he stole more than $275,000 in merchandise from a store where he worked. Federal prosecutors say Craig Sullivan, of Olathe, was sentenced Monday for wire fraud. He also was ordered to pay full restitution. In his plea, Sullivan admitted he stole the items...primarily Garmin GPS devices...while working for Garry Gribble's Running Sports, which has five locations in the Kansas City area. Sullivan oversaw merchandise arriving at the main store in Overland Park and distribution to the other locations.  Sullivan said he sold the items to a buyer in California via Craigslist. The buyer used PayPal to send Sullivan 51 payments totaling $275,780.  

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Chiefs Promote Brett Veach to General Manager

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ The Kansas City Chiefs have promoted co-director of player personnel Brett Veach to general manager. The appointment was announced Monday, about two-and-a-half weeks after Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt surprisingly fired John Dorsey, their GM of the past four years. Head coach Andy Reid's contract was extended that same day. Veach has begun his fifth season with the Chiefs, having spent his first two years with the team as a pro and college personnel analyst. He started his career in the NFL in Philadelphia, with three seasons as the assistant to Reid and three more as a scout for the Eagles. The Chiefs will introduce Veach at a July 24 news conference. Veach, a native of Mt. Carmel, Pennsylvania, was a wide receiver and kickoff returner in college at Delaware.

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