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Headlines for Tuesday, May 23, 2017

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

New Records Suggest Years of Abuse for Kansas Boy

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Newly released documents reveal that  Kansas received reports that a boy who ultimately was murdered and fed to pigs was being physically abused years before his death.  Documents released today (TUE) also show that a social worker was in contact with the boy's father and his stepmother by phone more than a year after the state said it lost physical contact with the family.  The Kansas Department for Children and Families released more than 2,000 documents on Adrian Jones. His father and stepmother are serving life prison sentences in his death.  Authorities say Michael and Heather Jones abused, tortured and starved Adrian before his remains were found in a pig pen in Kansas City, Kansas, in November 2015.  DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore has said in the past that her agency's last physical contact with the family was in 2012... but one record shows a social worker talked to the boy's stepmother by phone more than a year later.

(earlier reports)

Kansas Child-Welfare Chief "Deeply Saddened" by Boy's Death

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The head of Kansas' child-welfare agency says she's "deeply saddened" by the slaying of a 7-year-old boy whose remains were fed to pigs, and that state case workers did what they could.  As director of the Kansas Department for Children and Families, Phyllis Gilmore offered that perspective today (TUE) as her agency was releasing roughly 2,000 newly unsealed pages of its casework involving the family of Adrian Jones.  Adrian's remains were found in November 2015 on the family's Kansas City, Kansas, rental property. The boy's stepmother and father have pleaded guilty to murder charges in Adrian's death and are serving life sentences.  Gilmore says Jones' father and stepfather "worked constantly to evade our intervention" by moving between Missouri and Kansas. Gilmore says her agency's last contact with the family in 2012.

Stepmother of Slain KCK Boy: "Pain Compliance Does Not Work"

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Records show that the stepmother of a Kansas boy whose father killed him and fed his remains to the family's pigs talked on a private Facebook group about restraining the child with handcuffs, ace bandages and splints.  A search warrant released Monday shows that 31-year-old Heather Jones also made a reference to having "no problems" with having the boy, Adrian Jones, "look at flowers." The quote was a reference to the TV show "The Walking Dead" in which a woman fatally shoots a child after telling her to "look at the flowers."  Jones also described Adrian as a "psychopath" and said "pain compliance does not work."  Jones and the boy's father, Michael Jones, have been sentenced to life in prison. Adrian Jones' remains were found in November 2015, weeks after he died.

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Westar Merger Still Off as KCC Rejects Utilities' Plea for More Time

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Corporation Commission won't allow Westar Energy and Great Plains Energy extra time to renegotiate a new merger.  After the commission in April rejected the proposed merger, the two companies filed a petition asking for extra time to revise the deal to meet commissioners' expectations.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the commission rejected the request Tuesday. The commission's staff has recommended the companies start an entirely new case for the merger.  Spokeswomen for both utilities said the companies are evaluating their options.  Westar spokeswoman Gina Penzig says appealing the decision to the Kansas District Court would be an option but that decision lies with Great Plains.  The commission rejected the proposed sale price was too high and would leave the combined utility financially weaker than the separate companies.

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Kansas House Rejects Plan to Hike Taxes by $1.2 Billion

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas House has rejected a proposal that would have raised income taxes to fix the state budget and provide additional funds for public schools. The vote Monday night was 68-53 against a bill raising $1.2 billion over two years. House and Senate negotiators will have to draft a new plan. The measure would have raised income tax rates and eliminated an exemption for more than 330,000 farmers and business owners. The plan would have undone most of the past income tax cuts championed by Governor Sam Brownback. But rates would have remained lower than they were before the tax-cutting began in 2012. Kansas faces projected budget shortfalls totaling $887 million through June 2019 and the state Supreme Court ruled in March that the state's education funding is inadequate.

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Kansas Senate Conservatives Push New Plan to Balance Budget

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP / KPR) — Conservatives in the Kansas Senate are pushing a bill that would balance the state budget without raising any taxes.  The proposal eliminates all new spending, sells off part of an annual tobacco settlement payment and assumes a higher growth rate for state revenues.  It also diverts more money from highway projects. Republican Representative Chuck Weber says the plan would balance the state budget with no tax increase.  The top Democrat in the House, Jim Ward, says lawmakers have made efforts to control spending. He says undoing some of the tax cuts made in recent years is necessary to put the state on solid financial ground.  The new plan doesn't take into account adding any new money for K-12 schools to comply with a state Supreme Court ruling.  

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Lawrence Man Accused of Putting Baby in Trash Enters Plea

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas man has pleaded no contest to putting his infant stepdaughter in an apartment complex trash compactor.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Marquis Young initially was charged with attempted first-degree murder after the baby was found in the trash bin in July 2016.  The 9-month-old baby suffered two skull fractures but has recovered and been placed with relatives.  Young entered the no contest plea yesterday (MON) after prosecutors filed amended aggravated battery and child abuse charges.  Young's wife testified at a hearing that she went to spend the night with friends after an argument and left the baby with her husband. He'd been drinking and told investigators he couldn't remember what happened during the night. Blood on his shirt matched the infant's DNA.  Sentencing is set for July 14.

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Iraq War Vet Explains Decision to Run for Congress

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A retired Army officer who works for the business networking site LinkedIn has announced he's seeking the Democratic nomination for Congress in the 3rd District.  35-year-old Joe McConnell is seeking the congressional seat held by Republican Kevin Yoder.  Also planning to seek the Democratic nomination are Jay Sidie, the Mission Woods businessman who lost to Yoder by a 10-point margin in November, and Reginald Marselus, who ran unsuccessfully in 2014 and 2016.  McConnell grew up in Overland Park, and after serving 14 months in Iraq, spent eight years in California.  In April, he moved to Leawood with his wife and 2-year-old daughter.  The district is a key Democratic target after Hillary Clinton carried it in the presidential race.

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ACLU Seeks Sanctions Against Kansas Secretary of State

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A civil rights group is seeking sanctions against Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach for hiding documents about his plans to change federal voting law amid a lawsuit challenging the state's proof-of-citizenship voter registration law. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a motion late Monday seeking to make public a document Kobach was photographed taking into a November meeting with then President-elect Donald Trump and a document containing draft amendments to the National Voter Registration Act. The court ordered Kobach to turn them over, but the ACLU says he marked them confidential to shield them from public scrutiny. The ACLU's motion seeks to remove that designation. It also wants attorney's fees and re-opening discovery to depose Kobach about the documents. 

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Soggy Kansas Campgrounds Struggle to Stay Afloat Amid Floodwaters

EL DORADO, Kan. (AP) — People camping in southeast Kansas this holiday weekend are being advised to reserve a spot or arrive early because floodwater levels have closed some campgrounds.  El Dorado State Park manager Seth Turner told the Wichita Eagle Monday that areas where campsites are first-come, first-served are already filling in anticipation of Memorial Day weekend.  Turner says that on a good holiday weekend, the park might host up to 70,000 people. He says the park still saw about 40,000 people last year despite bad weather.  Linda Lanterman is the state park director for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. Lanterman says the parks will be fine despite some unavailable campsites because they're seeing increased popularity and revenue.  Turner says it could be weeks before the park's water levels stabilize.

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Examiner: Wichita Woman's Death Accidental, Drugs Involved

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A medical examiner says the death of a Wichita woman who died when her car went into the Missouri River was accidental and involved drug intoxication.  The Jackson County medical examiner's office ruled Tuesday that 20-year-old Toni Anderson's death was accidental. She died from hypothermia and drowning at the Platte Landing Park near Parkville.  Authorities say ethanol, cocaine and amphetamine intoxication contributed to the University of Missouri-Kansas City student's death.  Anderson was last seen early on January 15 when she was stopped by a police officer in North Kansas City, who then watched her drive to a nearby convenience store.  It is unclear why she wound up at the park near Parkville. Her body and her car were recovered March 10.  Police say the investigation is now closed.

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Kansas AG Asks Police for More Info in Water Slide Probe

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Attorney General Derek Schmidt has asked Kansas City, Kansas police for more investigative material surrounding the death of a boy last year on a water slide.  Schmidt said in a statement Monday that his office is still reviewing the case and that he didn't know when the inquiry would conclude.  The Wyandotte County district attorney asked Schmidt's office in December to review the case and determine whether anyone should be charged with a crime related to the death of state Representative Scott Schwab's 10-year-old son, Caleb. Caleb's death on the "Verruckt" water slide at Schlitterbahn Water Park spurred lawmakers to ramp up oversight of amusement parks.  

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Regents Interviewing Finalists for Kansas University Chancellor 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Board of Regents is scheduled to interview finalists for the University of Kansas chancellor job this week. The Lawrence Journal-World reports interviews are scheduled for today (TUE) and Wednesday at the board's offices in Topeka. Board spokeswoman Breeze Richardson says most of the meetings will be in closed session. She declined to say how many finalists will be interviewed. Once the interviews are complete, the board will schedule a special meeting to approve the new chancellor. The board said earlier its goal is to have a replacement hired in time to start July 1. Current Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little announced in September that she would step down this summer.

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Expiring Law Could Leave Route 66 Towns Without Key Funding

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Route 66, the historic American roadway that linked Chicago to the West Coast, soon may be dropped from a National Park Service preservation program.  A federal law authorizing the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program is set to expire in two years and with it would go millions of dollars in grants for reviving old tourist spots in struggling towns.  Landmarks Illinois director Frank Butterfield says small communities could miss out on much needed economic development funding.  The program has helped finance projects like the El Vado Motel neon sign restoration in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the Baxter Springs Independent Oil and Gas Station restoration in Kansas.  Decommissioned as a U.S. highway in 1985, Route 66 went through eight states, connecting tourists with friendly diners and motor lodges in small towns.

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Leavenworth Catholic High School Closes

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — Leavenworth's Immaculata Catholic High School will close Wednesday, ending Catholic secondary education in Leavenworth after more than 100 years. The Board of Directors of the Leavenworth Regional Catholic School System recommended in January that the school be closed because of declining enrollment. About 60 students in ninth through 12th grade attended the school this year. The Leavenworth Times reports the first graduating class was in 1913 for what was then known as Catholic High School in Leavenworth. The school will host a Legacy Event on June 2-3, when alumni will be allowed to tour the school and obtain items such as uniforms, trophies and banners. The building will be turned over to the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas, but its future use is still uncertain.

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Vandals Cause $20,000 in Damage to Salina High School

SALINA, Kan. (AP) - Salina police are investigating vandalism that caused at least $20,000 in damage at Salina South High School during the weekend. Police Captain Paul Forrester says the vandals broke into the school between Friday evening and Saturday morning. They turned on water in a science lab on the second floor, which flooded two biology rooms and most of the main floor below. Police say the school was being renovated and it appears the vandals got into the building through an area still under construction. The Salina Journal reports the vandals also drove a school-owned Chevrolet Suburban off school property. The car was found later and was not damaged. The Salina School District is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the vandals.

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Ag Report: Most Kansas Wheat Headed, Corn Planting Nearly Complete

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - More of the Kansas wheat crop is beginning to turn color in a sure sign that harvest time is getting closer. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that 23 percent of the crop had colored, ahead of 14 percent at this time a year ago. About 94 percent of the crop has already headed. The agency pegged wheat condition as 8 percent very poor and 16 percent poor. About 29 percent is in fair shape with 40 percent rated as good and 7 percent as excellent. Corn planting in Kansas has reached 70 percent. About 27 percent of the soybeans and 4 percent of the sorghum has been planted. First cutting of alfalfa hay is 30 percent complete.

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California Man Sentenced in Kansas Cocaine Arrest 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - A truck driver from California was sentenced to almost four years in federal prison after he was caught hauling more than 44 pounds of cocaine through Kansas. Federal prosecutors say 37-year-old Erick Oma Rios, of San Ysidro, California, was sentenced Monday to three years and 10 months in prison for possession with intent to distribute cocaine. Kansas Highway Patrol troopers stopped Rios in Wabaunsee County in September 2015 for a traffic violation. They found 10 vacuum-wrapped packages of cocaine hidden inside a cooling unit in the semitrailer truck Rios was driving. Prosecutors say Rios picked up the drugs in Los Angeles and was planning to deliver the cocaine to Plainfield, Indiana. Rios was expecting to be paid $4,000 for hauling the cocaine.

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Kansas Town Reaches Deal with Federal Government in Drinking Water Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - The city of Pretty Prairie has reached a deal with federal regulators to ensure its residents have safe drinking water.  U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten approved the settlement Monday in litigation brought by the Environmental Protection Agency. The government contends the city's water system consistently exceeded allowable nitrate levels since 2006. Pretty Prairie agreed to monitoring requirements and public notifications of violations. It will pay a $1,500 fine. The city is developing a project to treat the water so it complies with federal standards. In the interim, the city agreed to provide, free of charge, bottled water to pregnant and nursing mothers and children under 6 months of age when nitrate levels exceed allowable limits. Its water system serves about 680 residents.

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Warmer Kansas Winters May Mean More Armadillo Sightings

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Residents in the Lawrence area are reporting more armadillo sightings, an occurrence that nature officials say could be due to the state's recent mild winters.  Marty Birrell is the nature education supervisor for the Prairie Park Nature Center. Birrell tells the Lawrence Journal-World that the center is receiving two to three reports of armadillos weekly in the Lawrence area.  The armor-plated mammal has a history of hitchhiking northbound trucks from the country's southeast region, where it's typically found. But Birrell says milder winters in recent years may mean more of those armadillos survive to live and potentially breed in Lawrence.  The National Wildlife Federation says the animal's range has been expanding northward for more than a century, and climate warming will continue expanding its potential range.

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KU's Josh Jackson Agrees to Diversion Restrictions

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Former Kansas basketball player Josh Jackson must undergo anger management classes and apologize as part of a diversion agreement arising from a confrontation with a Kansas women's basketball player. Jackson was charged with a misdemeanor count of criminal property damage after a December argument with McKenzie Calvert outside a Lawrence bar. He pleaded not guilty in April and his attorney said he would seek diversion for Jackson, who is expected to be a top pick in the NBA draft next month. According to Douglas County court records, Jackson must attend anger management classes, refrain from alcohol and drugs for the 12-month diversion period, write an apology letter and make restitution. Jackson signed the agreement April 26. If Jackson completes the terms, his case will be dismissed.

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New York Yankees Beat Kansas City Royals, 4-2

NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Yankees once again downed Royals starting pitcher Jason Vargas last (MON) night beating the Kansas City Royals 4-2. A reversed umpire's call in the seventh inning kept the Yankees ahead and enabled Michael Pineda (5-2) to top Vargas for the second time in a week. The Royals, with the worst record in the AL, have lost five of their last seven games. Vargas (5-3) began the day with a 2.03 ERA, tied for second-best in the majors. But the lefty fell to 0-7 lifetime against the Yankees when Brett Gardner and Didi Gregorius, the only left-handed hitters in the New York lineup, both hit home runs.

 

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