3 Workers Hurt in Explosion at Southeast Kansas Chemical Plant
NEODESHA, Kan. (AP) — Federal safety inspectors are investigating an explosion and fire at a southeast Kansas chemical plant that injured three employees. The explosion occurred about 7 am Tuesday at the Airosol, Inc., plant in Neodesha, a town of about 2,500 residents. It was still not contained early Tuesday afternoon. A 57-year-old male employee was taken to a hospital with burns. Cassandra Edson, spokeswoman for Wilson County Emergency Management, says his injuries were not considered life-threatening. Two other employees drove themselves to the hospital. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration says it has begun an investigation. Several blocks around the plant were evacuated and the town's schools closed for the day. Residents also were asked not to drink city water. The plant, about 100 miles southeast of Wichita, manufactures and packages aerosol, liquid and other specialty chemicals.
Kansas Secretary of State Kobach Pitches Immigration Plan for DHS
WASHINGTON (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach met with President-elect Donald Trump over the weekend. The Associated Press reports that Kobach brought a document to the meeting that it includes a detailed list of proposals for changes at the Homeland Security Department. The top suggestion was to "update and reintroduce" the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, or NSEERS, for all foreigners from "high-risk" areas. Kobach helped create the program while at the Justice Department in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Homeland Security secretary has been rumored as one possible position for Kobach if he joins the Trump administration. The document also appears to reference potential amendments to the National Voter Registration Act. That law has been used to challenge Kansas voter registration policies. Kobach was an early and vocal supporter of Trump during the presidential primary season.
ACLU Urges Kansas School District to Stop Barring Safety Pins
MISSION, Kan. (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union is urging a Kansas school district to stop barring staff from wearing safety pins on their clothes in a sign of solidarity to the disenfranchised. The ACLU sent a letter Tuesday to the Shawnee Mission School District's superintendent about the pins, which have gained popularity in the U.S. following the election of Donald Trump. The pin is intended to show that the wearer is a safe person to turn to. The district said in a statement Monday that employees' communication inside the classroom "is considered speech on behalf of the school district." Doug Bonney, chief counsel for the ACLU's Kansas chapter, says litigation is "a very real probability" but that the organization wanted to give the district time to make a change first.
4 KU Cheer Squad Members Suspended over KKK Snapchat Pic
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A University of Kansas cheerleader and three members of the school's spirit squad are suspended from cheering after a photo linking the Ku Klux Klan with President-elect Donald Trump was posted on the cheerleader's Snapchat account. The photo shows three members of the cheer squad wearing sweaters with "K'' representing "Kansas" on their chests. White letters across the photo read "Kkk go trump." Associate athletic director Jim Marchiony says university officials learned of the posting during the men's basketball team's 83-63 victory over UAB. The athletics department says a Twitter user reported the Snapchat photo to the school. A tweet from the school described what happened as "unacceptable." Marchiony says the female cheerleader insisted Tuesday that someone took her phone at a party Saturday night and posted the Snapchat message.
Kidnapping Suspect Says Wichita Woman Reneged on Deal to Give Away Baby
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Latest on the Dallas woman accused of killing a friend in Kansas and stealing her newborn daughter (all times local):
A Dallas woman arrested in the killing of a Kansas mother and the kidnapping of the victim's newborn daughter was also accused in a kidnapping in July. The Wichita Eagle reports that Adriana Portillo says Yesenia Sesmas lured her and her children into a basement, and that Sesmas took away her cellphone and ordered her to restrain her 10- and 3-year-old daughters with duct tape. The 10-year-old managed to snatch back the phone and call police as the two women fought. Records show Sesmas was then booked into jail on several charges, including kidnapping. The Sedgwick County District Attorney's office says Sesmas bonded out, but wouldn't comment on why no charges were filed. Sesmas was arrested Saturday in the death of 27-year-old Laura Abarca-Nogueda and the kidnapping of her 6-day-old daughter Sophia.
A prosecutor says he has filed charges against a Dallas woman accused of killing a friend in Kansas and stealing her newborn daughter. District Attorney Marc Bennett didn't specify the charges that have been filed against Yesenia Sesmas in Sedgwick County District Court. Bennett said in a statement Tuesday that the complaint detailing the charges won't be made public until Sesmas makes her first appearance in court. No court date has been set. Sesmas is being held in Texas on suspicion of first-degree murder and kidnapping in connection with the death of Laura Abarca-Nogueda in Wichita and the kidnapping of her 6-day-old baby. Bennett says the state will notify authorities in Texas of its intent to pursue extradition, a process that could take up to 90 days.
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The woman accused of killing a Kansas mother and stealing her baby says in a jailhouse interview that the victim had agreed to give her the child but backed out of the deal at the last moment. The suspect, Yesenia Sesmas told a Dallas television reporter that Laura Abarca-Nogueda had agreed to turn over her newborn daughter but reneged on the agreement. In the interview at the Dallas County jail, the 34-year-old woman admitted that she killed Abarca-Nogueda but said she did not intend to. She said she threatened Abarca-Nogueda with a gun when it discharged accidentally. Police in Wichita say Sesmas faked being pregnant for months and had been a longtime acquaintance of the 27-year-old mother, who was found dead Thursday at her home in Wichita. Sesmas was jailed in Dallas on on suspicion of first-degree murder and kidnapping pending formal charges. Prosecutors in Kansas say a final charging decision will be announced later this (TUE) morning. Sedgwick County authorities are seeking her extradition to Kansas. The baby was reunited with family members in Kansas on Saturday.
KU Cheerleader Suspended over KKK Snapchat Photo
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - A University of Kansas cheerleader has been suspended from cheering after a photo was posted on her Snapchat account linking the Ku Klux Klan with President-elect Donald Trump. The Kansas City Star reports that the photo shows three members of the cheer squad wearing sweaters with "K'' representing "Kansas" on their chests. White letters across the photo read "KKK Go Trump." Associate athletic director Jim Marchiony says university officials were made aware of the social media posting during the men's basketball team's 83-63 victory over UAB. Marchiony says the male cheer squad members haven't been suspended. Their involvement is under investigation. KU Athletics said in an official statement that a Twitter user reported the Snapchat photo to the school. A tweet from the school described what happened as "unacceptable."
Gun Case Pits Federal Law Against Kansas Law
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The convictions of two men who relied on a Kansas law to protect them from prosecution for federal firearms violations have raised questions about the legal basis for gun control. The National Firearms Act is a part of the Internal Revenue code enacted under Congress' power to levy taxes. The prosecution of Shane Cox and Jeremy Kettler raises the question of whether that taxing authority can be used to regulate firearms that stay within state borders. Kettler bought an unregistered gun silencer from a military surplus store owned by Cox. A jury found the two guilty of federal firearms violations in a case with Second Amendment and state rights implications. The judge overseeing the case expects it to ultimately end up before the U.S. Supreme Court. Defense attorneys contend their clients believed the Kansas law made their activities legal.
Kansas Mental Health Groups Back Reform Proposal
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Mental health reform is being proposed in Kansas through several measures, including the restoration of state funding to behavioral health clinics serving the uninsured or underinsured. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the Association of Community Mental Health Centers of Kansas is backing the proposal referred to as Mental Health 2020. The proposal calls for expansion of the number of psychiatry residents at the University of Kansas and a return to the operation of the full complement of 200 crisis beds at Osawatomie State Hospital. Kansas Mental Health Coalition representative Amy Campbell says the state should recognize the potential of an expanded network of regional crisis centers to bridge the service gap between community mental health centers and the state hospitals.
Woman Admits Taking $1.5 Million from 2 KC-Area Businesses
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- A Missouri woman has pleaded guilty to embezzling $1.5 million from two major Kansas City-area businesses. Forty-four-year-old Patricia Webb, of Lee's Summit, entered the plea Tuesday in federal court to three counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. She admitted to stealing the money from Black & Veatch and Garmin, where she worked in senior payroll jobs. She admitted taking $1.2 million from Garmin and about $300,000 from Black & Veatch. She also stole about $7,400 from Tristar Benefit Administrators, which managed health care savings accounts for Garmin. Prosecutors say an analysis of Webb's bank account showed she spent a large amount of money at casinos.
Kansas Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for Abduction Slaying
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas man has been sentenced to life in prison for kidnapping his girlfriend's 5-year-old daughter and shooting the child to death during a 2014 police chase. Thirty-two-year-old Marcas McGowan of Atchison declined to address the judge during his sentencing hearing Tuesday in Kansas City, Kansas. McGowan already had pleaded guilty to kidnapping resulting in death, and to discharging a firearm during a crime of violence. Authorities say McGowan abducted Cadence Harris on July 18, 2014, after a domestic dispute in the home they shared with the girl's mother. During an ensuing chase, McGowan fired at police and fatally shot the girl. Authorities pursued him into neighboring Missouri before he crashed through a barricade near Leavenworth, Kansas. Officers shot him after he pointed a gun at them.
Wichita Man Was Tortured and Killed After Meth Deal
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A probable cause affidavit says a Wichita man was tortured before he was killed over the loss of $185 in a methamphetamine deal. The document obtained Monday by The Associated Press details the sexual torture of both 33-year-old Scottie W. Goodpaster Jr. and a woman who survived. Four people have been charged with kidnapping, murder and other charges, and a fifth person was charged with kidnapping and robbing the female victim. The woman told police she was made to watch Goodpaster's ordeal on November 5. The body of the missing man was found about a week later in rural Harvey County.
Man Pleads Guilty to Washburn Art Teacher's Death on Bicycle
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A southeast Kansas man faces sentencing in January for manslaughter in the death of the head of the Washburn University art department when she was hit by a car while riding her bicycle. Todd Kidwell, of Chanute, pleaded guilty Monday for the June 2015 death of 60-year-old Glenda Taylor. She was hit while participating in an amateur time trial on a rural Crawford County road. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that before the plea deal, Kidwell was charged with second-degree murder. Kidwell's attorneys had contended that the accident occurred when Kidwell swerved to the left to avoid a head-on collision with another truck at the same time that Taylor veered to the left on her bike.
Women to Serve 10 Days for Abusing 2 Mentally Challenged Men
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A woman who pleaded no contest to attempting to mistreat two mentally challenged men in Lawrence will serve 10 days in jail and two years' probation. Twenty-one year-old Brooke Shinn was sentenced Monday after pleading in September to two counts of attempted mistreatment of a dependent adult. Prosecutors say she beat two men she was caring for and locked them in their rooms for days. The Lawrence Journal-World reports Shinn's lack of criminal history meant her convictions carried a presumptive sentence of probation. Shinn also must undergo a mental health evaluation, complete an anger management course, have no contact with the two victims and cannot work as a caregiver during her probation. One of the victims has filed a lawsuit against Shinn, ResCare Kansas Inc. and another ResCare employee.
Missouri Trooper's Trial Set in Handcuffed Man's Drowning Death
VERSAILLES, Mo. (AP) - A Missouri state trooper charged in the death of an Iowa man who drowned while in his custody is scheduled for trial this summer. The Kansas City Star reports a July 10 trial was set Monday for Trooper Anthony Piercy. He is charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of Brandon Ellingson at the Lake of the Ozarks in May 2014. The trial will be in Morgan County. The new trial date comes one week after the state of Missouri agreed to pay $9 million to Ellingson's family. Piercy had pulled over the 20-year-old Ellingson on suspicion of boating while intoxicated. At some point, Ellingson fell into the lake while wearing handcuffs and an improperly secured life vest. Piercy jumped into the lake but couldn't save Ellingson.
State Charges Pittsburg Man in 2 Relatives' Deaths
PLEASONTON, Kan. (AP) — The state has charged a 31-year-old Kansas man with the killing of two of his relatives. The Kansas Attorney General announced Tuesday that David Patrick McNabb of Pittsburg is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, felony theft and interference with law enforcement. He is suspected of killing his 65-year-old uncle, Kenneth McNabb, and 87-year-old Betty McNabb, Kenneth's mother. They were reported missing November 11 from their home in Pleasonton in Linn County. Their bodies were found buried on rural property west of Pittsburg November 15. The complaint alleges that David McNabb killed the two victims on or near November 7 and later stole a 2013 Buick Enclave that belonged to Kenneth McNabb. He also is charged with lying to a Kansas Bureau of Investigation agent about the case.
Kansas Group Makes Last-Ditch Effort to Save Railroad Depot
STAFFORD, Kan. (AP) _ A Sedgwick County preservation group is trying to save a railroad depot in Stafford that is expected to be demolished in the next few weeks by seeking the help of Warren Buffett. Buffett's conglomerate, Berkshire Hathaway, owns Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway, which owns the Stafford depot. The depot was built in 1911, and is one of fewer than 200 left in the state. BNSF officials say the vacant depot is being demolished due to structural integrity issues. The Wichita Eagle reports that Greg Kite, president of the Historic Preservation Alliance of Wichita and Sedgwick County Inc., sent a letter to Buffett, citing the depot's historic and architectural significance as reasons to stop its demolition. Kite also noted the depot's importance to the citizens of Stafford.
Governor Brownback's Communications Director to Retire
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback's communications director, Eileen Hawley, says she is retiring as of Friday. Brownback announced in a news release Monday that Melika Willoughby, the current deputy communications director, will replace Hawley. Hawley has served on the governor's senior staff since June 2013. Willoughby has been in her current position for the last two years. She earned a bachelor's degree from Hillsdale College.