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Headlines for Tuesday, July 5, 2014


Two Kansas Congressmen Face Tough GOP Primary Races

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Two conservative Kansas congressmen swept into office four years ago during a tea party surge face primary races Tuesday from Republican challengers trying to tap into voter dissatisfaction with Washington. The state's hottest congressional race is in the aircraft manufacturing hub in south-central Kansas's 4th District, where U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo of Wichita is attempting to fend off a challenge from popular former Congressman Todd Tiahrt. Tiahrt held the seat for 16 years before giving it up in 2010 for an unsuccessful GOP primary run against U.S. Senator Jerry Moran. In the 1st District primary, Clyde farmer and educator Alan LaPolice is challenging U.S. Representative Tim Huelskamp, trying to capitalize on discontent with the congressman's stances on agricultural issues and recent spats with party leaders. The marquee race of the day involves incumbent Senator Pat Roberts facing off against tea party challenger Milton Wolf. There are statewide office primaries for governor, insurance commissioner and secretary of state.


Kansas Governor Says Recent Loan to Campaign Not Repaid

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says a recent $500,000 loan from Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer to their re-election campaign has not been repaid yet. The Republican governor told reporters Tuesday, "Nothing further's happened on that." Colyer made two loans of $500,000 to the campaign within eight months, and finance reports show that the first one was repaid within days. Such large loans by candidates to campaigns are uncommon in Kansas, and repaying one within days is a highly unusual move that generated questions about the two Republicans' motives. But Brownback is likely to face a tougher-than-expected fall campaign against Democratic challenger Paul Davis. Finance reports show that Colyer loaned the re-election campaign $500,000 on December 31 and was repaid on January 2. He loaned the campaign $500,000 again in July 23.


Finalists Selected for Kansas Supreme Court Seat

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A former top aide to Governor Sam Brownback is among three finalists for a vacant seat on the Kansas Supreme Court. A special nominating commission on Tuesday chose Court of Appeals Judges Caleb Stegall and Karen Arnold-Burger and state District Judge Merlin Wheeler from 13 applicants for the high court. Brownback has 60 days to appoint one of them to replace Justice Nancy Moritz, who left to join the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Stegall was Brownback's chief counsel until the governor appointed him to the state Court of Appeals in January 2014. Arnold-Burger has served on that court since 2011. Wheeler is chief judge of the 5th Judicial Circuit, made up of Lyon and Chase counties. Brownback's appointee to the Supreme Court will require confirmation by the state Senate.


Agency Seeks Grant to House Immigrant Children in Newton

NEWTON, Kan. (AP) - A nonprofit faith-based agency in Newton will apply for a federal grant that could temporarily bring unaccompanied immigrant children to the town. Officials with EmberHope say they decided to pursue the grant despite opposition from many in the town about 30 miles north of Wichita. The group's president and CEO, Shelley Duncan, says she respects the opinions of those opposed to bringing children who have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border to Newton, but she says EmberHope wants to honor the teachings of Jesus Christ and its mission to help children. The Wichita Eagle reports the federal grant could house up to 34 children at a time at EmberHope's Newton facility. The three-year grant would bring $4 million per year to the group.


Cerner to Buy Siemens Health Services for $1.3B

Health information technology company Cerner Corporation is buying the health information technology business unit of German industrial conglomerate Siemens AG for $1.3 billion in cash. The two companies announced the deal on Tuesday. Kansas City-based Cerner says it expects the acquisition of Siemens Health Services to contribute 15 cents per share to its adjusted earnings next year and more than 25 cents per share in 2016. Cerner intends to finance the acquisition with available cash. Both companies' boards have approved the proposed deal, which is expected to close in the first three months of 2015. As part of the pact, Cerner and Siemens agreed to team up for at least three years to develop new products or services in the field of medical technology.


Girl Makes Court Appearance in Sister's Death

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas prosecutors are weighing whether to charge a 14-year-old girl as an adult in the stabbing death of her younger sister. The Salina Journal reports that the teen made her first court appearance Tuesday in Saline County District Court on a charge of first-degree murder. The girl is accused of killing her 13-year-old sister early Friday in their northwest Saline County home. Authorities have not disclosed a possible motive. No family members attended Tuesday's court proceeding, where a judge ordered the girl to remain in a Junction City juvenile facility pending her next court appearance September 5. Assistant Saline County Attorney Kassie McEntire said her office is considering whether to have the girl certified to stand trial as an adult. McEntire was granted 30 days to make that decision.


Roeland Park Bans Sexual Orientation Discrimination

ROELAND PARK, Kan. (AP) - Roeland Park has become the second city in Kansas to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The city's mayor on Monday night broke the council's 4-4 tie. It was the second time the council had considered the anti-discrimination issue this summer. Residents demanded a revote after a councilwoman was absent from the original vote in July. The law prohibits discrimination in employment, housing and public service. Lawrence is the only other city in Kansas that includes sexual orientation and gender identity in its anti-discrimination ordinance. Kansas City, Missouri, has a similar ordinance. Opponents of the ordinance say they will petition the city to put the issue to a citywide vote in November.


Joplin Woman Suing Home Depot for Tornado Deaths

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — A Joplin woman whose husband and two children were killed in the May 2011 tornado that destroyed much of the community is suing the big-box store where they died. Edie Howard Housel's federal wrongful death suit claims her husband, Russell Howard, and their two children were directed to the Home Depot's training room by an employee as the EF-5 bore down on the business. Before Howard, his 5-year-old daughter and 19-month-old son could get there, the storm ripped off the store's roof and 63 of the building's concrete walls fell. The Howards and five others, including the employee, died. The Joplin Globe reports Home Depot's lawyers contend the tornado packing 200 mph winds was an act of God and that the defendants were not liable for the deaths.


Sheriff's Deputy Collides with Topeka Cop

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A Shawnee County sheriff's deputy and a Topeka police officer were taken to a hospital early Tuesday after their cars collided on a bridge in Topeka. Shawnee County Sheriff Herman Jones says the men's injuries were not considered life-threatening. Jones said  the deputy and officer were driving south on the bridge in response to another deputy's request for assistance. When the call was canceled, the police car made a U-turn on the bridge and collided with the deputy's car. The Kansas Highway Patrol is investigating the accident.


Driver Charged in Fatal Motorcycle Crash

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Missouri man is charged with second-degree murder for a collision that killed a motorcyclist in eastern Kansas. The crash occurred late Sunday on Interstate 635 in Kansas City, Kansas. Authorities said 61-year-old Melody Hinshaw, of Kansas City, Missouri, was thrown from her motorcycle when it was hit from behind by a car. The Kansas Highway Patrol reported that Hinshaw was wearing a helmet and goggles. The Wyandotte County district attorney on Tuesday charged 36-year-old Shaun Moton with second-degree murder, leaving the scene of an injury accident and misdemeanor driving under the influence of alcohol. Moton, also of Kansas City, Missouri, was jailed in lieu of $500,000 bond. He did not have a lawyer.


Man Dies After Being Hit by Semi in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Highway Patrol says a 61-year old El Dorado man died after he was hit by a semi-trailer truck on a highway in northeast Wichita. The patrol says the accident Monday afternoon on Kansas 96 killed Larry Dobbs. Dobbs was picking up debris that had fallen from another truck onto the highway. The patrol says the truck hit Dobbs after it swerved to avoid other vehicles that had stopped because of the debris. Dobbs was dead at the scene. KFDI reports Dobbs served as police chief in Winfield during the early 2000s.


Ex-Insurance Agent Changes Plea in Kansas Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former Wichita insurance agent accused of defrauding policyholders has struck a deal with prosecutors for a 42-month prison sentence. Jason Matthew Pennington pleaded guilty Tuesday to two counts of wire fraud and one count of bank fraud. Pennington admitted as part of his plea agreement that he defrauded policyholders, including Marlene Brown, a Wichita teacher and philanthropist who died in 2009. The former State Farm insurance agent acknowledged he devised a scheme whereby he would forge signatures of policyholders and change addresses of their policies. He would then fraudulently take withdrawals against the policies and cash the money for himself. He also admitted lying to State Farm when questioned about a check that was being mailed to his Wichita office. Sentencing was set for November 11 in Wichita.


Kansas Animal Shelters Phasing Out Gas Chambers

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Stricter guidelines for using gas chambers to euthanize animals have the four Kansas communities that still operate them looking for affordable alternatives. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Kansas is one of only 11 states that still use that method. The Kansas Department of Agriculture says it plans to adopt 2013 American Veterinary Medical Association guidelines that will make it almost impossible for the state's aging chambers to keep operating. Humboldt police Lt. Jeff Collins says it costs about $37.50 to have a veterinarian put down a single feral cat, while a bottle of carbon monoxide that can be used 200 times costs $13. Opponents say the method isolates animals in a tight, dark box where they wait alone until gas is pumped in.


Kansas Man Sentenced to 4 Years in State Hospital

SALINA, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas man diagnosed with schizophrenia has been sentenced to more than four years at a state hospital and one year in jail in connection to stabbing a convenience store employee during an attempted robbery. Alexander Phouthavong was sentenced Monday. The Saline County attorney says a state mental evaluation found Phouthavong to be a paranoid schizophrenic. He pleaded no contest in January to two felony and two misdemeanor charges in the March 2013 attack. He was sentenced to four and a half years at the Larned State Hospital for the attack on the Kwik Shop clerk. He was also sentenced to one year in the Saline County Jail for battery of a law enforcement officer. A charge of attempted aggravated robbery was dropped.


Police: Getaway Car Carried Topeka Child

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Topeka police say a young child was in a car that led authorities on a high-speed chase after an armed robbery at a fast food restaurant. Police say they arrested two people following the robbery at Wendy's in Topeka on Monday night. They say a male robber got into the back seat of a car carrying a second passenger and a child before fleeing. Police say the robber was dropped off during the chase. He was later located by a Shawnee County K-9 unit. They say the driver and passenger were caught and arrested. Police haven't released any names. It's unclear if charges have been filed. They haven't released how fast the car was going or how old the child is.


Suspect Arrested, Hospitalized After Shooting

COLUMBUS, Kan. (AP) — Cherokee County authorities say a suspect was hospitalized and is expected to be charged in the fatal shooting of a southeast Kansas man. Sheriff David Groves says 20-year-old William J. Stephens was found shot to death Monday at his home nine miles west of Columbus. Deputies located a 19-year-old man from rural Columbus several blocks away who was suffering from severe injuries that the sheriff said were not gunshots. The Joplin Globe reports the suspect was hospitalized and placed under arrest. Groves says Stephens and the suspect had a dispute before the shooting. The investigation is continuing.


Police: TV Show Reminded Man That Girl Was in Car

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A police affidavit says a child crying on the television show "Game of Thrones" jogged a foster parent's memory that he had left a 10-month-old girl inside a sweltering car. More details of the Kansas case surfaced in the affidavit made public Monday. The document also says Seth Jackson and his partner were smoking marijuana while the child was inside the car in Wichita, where it was around 90 degrees outside. Jackson is charged with first-degree murder in the July 24 death. No charges have been filed against his partner. Jackson's partner told police the girl was hot and stiff when he grabbed her and took her into the house. He called 911, while Jackson attempted CPR. Police say the girl was inside the car for more than two hours.


Kansas Man Pleads Guilty in Bank Fraud Scheme

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas man has admitted taking part in a fraud scheme that prosecutors say cost a bank more than $877,000. The U.S. Attorney's office says 56-year-old Timothy P. Fitzgerald, of Leawood, pleaded guilty Monday to conspiracy to commit bank fraud. He faces maximum penalties of 30 years in federal prison and a fine up to $1 million. Fitzgerald was the chief financial officer of KC United LLC, a holding company for five construction services companies in Kansas City, Kansas. He admitted conspiring to doctor KC United's financial statements to falsely show a profit, then submitted them to Bank of Blue Valley. Three of KC United's companies later filed for bankruptcy. The bank then sustained the loss when it sold its position in a remaining outstanding loan to KC United.


Wichita Massage Parlor Manager Sentenced for Sex Crime

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former manager at a Wichita massage parlor has been sentenced to five years on federal supervised release for transporting a woman from China to work as a prostitute. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom says 50-year-old Yan Zhang of Wichita also will be required to register as a sex offender after been sentenced Monday. Zhang previously pleaded guilty to one count of interstate transportation for the purpose of prostitution. She admitted that in 2009 she induced a Chinese woman to move to Wichita to engage in prostitution in a massage parlor. Grissom says Zhang worked giving massages and served as a manager because she was able to communicate with Chinese women who worked at the massage parlor. Co-defendant Gary Kidgell is set for sentencing August 22.


Former Grandview Mayor Sentenced for Fraud

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A former western Missouri mayor who admitted setting up a phony charity is going to prison for using $35,000 in donations for his own expenses. The U.S. Attorney's office says 51-year-old Stephen Dennis, of Grandview, was sentenced Monday to a year and a day in federal prison without parole. He pleaded guilty to wire fraud in February, a month after he resigned as Grandview's mayor. Dennis created a corporation called Matters of the Heart, which he described as a nonprofit charitable organization to serve poor people. He admitted in his plea that he solicited donations and accepted two checks totaling $35,000 from International House of Prayer, also based in Grandview. Prosecutors said Dennis used the donations for his own benefit, including his family's living expenses, rather than for any charitable purpose.


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