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Headlines for Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Brownback: 'Everything' on Table to Fix Budget Gap

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says he is "looking at everything" to fill a projected $279 million budget deficit for this fiscal year, including the possibility of tweaking the state's income tax policy. The Wichita Eagle reports the governor spoke briefly to reporters Tuesday while leaving a meeting of the State Finance Council. He said he wasn't aware before this month's election that the state would hit a budget shortfall this fiscal year, which ends in June. On top of this year's projected deficit, the state faces an estimated $436 million hole for the next fiscal year. The state's nonpartisan Legislative Research Department considers Brownback's income tax policies the primary cause of the state's deficit. The governor didn't say when he would unveil a plan to plug the budget hole.


State Postpones Vote on NBAF / Agro-Defense Project

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - Governor Sam Brownback and top legislative leaders have agreed to delay a vote on issuing bonds needed for the proposed agro-defense laboratory in Manhattan. The State Finance Council decided Monday to postpone issuing $231 million in bonds for the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility. Republican Senate President Susan Wagle, of Wichita, told the council final action on the bonds could occur in December. She wants the state's investment in NBAF to be legally capped at $307 million. The $1.2 billion federal laboratory at Kansas State University is planned for research on dangerous animal-borne illnesses. The state initially agreed to invest $105 million and about three-fourths of that bonding authority has been used.


4 Directors to Leave Kansas Insurance Department

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Four directors will retire from the Kansas Insurance Department on December 5. The retirements announced Tuesday come as Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger prepares to leave office in January. Department spokesman Bob Hanson says the retirements were all planned. The Topeka Capital Journal reports that directors Marlyn Burch, life division; Neil Woerman, information technology; Steve O'Neil, consumer assistance; and Ted Clark, anti-fraud, will retire. The department has 11 directors. Burch has worked for the department for 53 years, beginning in 1961. O'Neil joined the department in 1987, while Woerman and Clark joined the department in 2003. The department will wait to fill the positions until Ken Selzer becomes commissioner in January.


Higher Prices, Plentiful Feed Buoy US Ranchers

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Record high cattle prices and plentiful feed supplies are making life a lot easier for cattle producers as another winter nears. It has been a good year out in farm country as the long drought eased somewhat with summer rains. Fall crops have been good, and hay prices have come down some Market analyst Kevin Good of CattleFax tracks the industry. He says that for 15 of 17 years, the size of the nation's cattle herd has shrunk. Producers are now rebuilding. He says ranchers aren't "gouging" consumers and that people need to understand that it has been "a long haul" for the cattle producer. Calf prices are running 40 percent higher this year. Prices for fed cattle are up 23 percent, while retail beef prices are up 14 percent.


Suspect in 5 Kansas City Deaths Pleads Not Guilty

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A man suspected of killing five people in a Kansas City, Missouri neighborhood has pleaded not guilty to all charges he faces, including five counts of first-degree murder. Thirty-four-year-old Brandon Howell entered the plea in Jackson County Court on Monday. Prosecutors say Howell brutally beat George and Anna Taylor on September 2, then fatally shot Alice Hurst; her son, Darrel Hurst; and Susan Choucroun outside their homes before fleeing in the Taylors' SUV. Howell was arrested hours later when police found him walking with a loaded shotgun. Besides the murder counts, he's charged with four counts of armed criminal action, first-degree burglary, stealing a motor vehicle and unlawful possession of firearm.


Man Accused in 4 Killings, Rape Appears in Court

OTTAWA, Kan. (AP) — Lawyers have argued whether statements made by a Kansas man accused in the shooting deaths of four people, including an 18-month-old girl, can be used against him in an upcoming murder trial. Kyle Flack has been charged with murder and rape after two men, a woman and her daughter were found slain near Ottawa last year. The 28-year-old, who appeared in court Tuesday, has pleaded not guilty. Franklin County prosecutors are seeking to execute Flack for the deaths of 21-year-old Kaylie Bailey and her daughter, Lana-Leigh Bailey. He faces 50 years in prison without parole in the deaths of Bailey's boyfriend, 30-year-old Andrew Stout, and his 31-year-old roommate, Steven White. It wasn't clear when the judge would rule on motions argued on Tuesday. Flack's next court date is in February.


KBI Surveying Law Enforcement Agencies on Rape Kits

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The state's investigation bureau is trying to determine if Kansas has a backlog of untested sexual assault kits. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the kits include swabs and specimens gathered during exams of sexual assault victims. Officials say that across the country, hundreds of thousands of the sexual assault kits remain untested. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation recently sent surveys to all Kansas law enforcement agencies to see if there is a backlog problem. KBI Director Kirk Thompson says the state agency doesn't think there's a backlog issue in Kansas, but wants to be sure that's the case. KBI hopes to begin analyzing the survey's results starting next year. Thompson says that 66 kits are currently awaiting testing at KBI labs.


Kansas City Man Sentenced in Water Threat Hoax

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A 70-year-old man who threatened to contaminate water supplies in Kansas and Missouri has been sentenced to two years in federal prison. Manuel Garcia of Kansas City received the sentence on Monday. He pleaded guilty in the case in June. Garcia admitted making three telephone calls to authorities in October 2013 about the fake plot to contaminate water supplies in Kansas City, St. Louis, Wichita and Topeka. An FBI agent recognized Garcia's voice from a 2010 case in which he was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to making a phone call threatening to bomb the U.S. courthouse in downtown Kansas City.


Investors Seek to Develop SE Kansas Casino

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A group of Kansas investors has proposed a $130 million casino in southeast Kansas, the third project to vie for the license. The Cherokee County Commission on Monday endorsed the project from Castle Rock Casino Resort. The company wants to build a casino with 1,400 slot machines, 35 table games and a poker room with 16 tables. Also planned are a 200-room hotel, three restaurants and a health club and spa. The application deadline is Dec. 18, with the State Lottery Commission to make the selection. Castle Rock says it could open by June 2016, if it wins. Castle Rock says it decided to build in Cherokee County because the proposed resort would sit within a mile of Kansas's borders with Oklahoma and Missouri and just 50 miles from Arkansas.


1 Dead in Northeast Kansas Mobile Home Fire

DENISON, Kan. (AP) - Authorities say a person was found dead after a mobile home fire in rural northeast Kansas. Jackson County (Kansas) Sheriff Tim Morse says the fire was reported Monday night in rural Denison. The mobile home was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived. Firefighters found the body of one person inside the mobile home. The fire is being investigated by the Jackson County Sheriff's Office and the Kansas State Fire Marshal's Office.


Kansas Among States Pushing to Overturn Maryland Gun-Control Law

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) — Twenty-one states are asking a federal appeals court to overturn provisions of Maryland's gun-control law that ban 45 assault weapons and a limit gun magazines to 10 rounds. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey led the coalition in filing a friend-of-the-court brief in the Fourth U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia last week. The brief says the law violates the Second Amendment right to keep firearms in homes for self-protection. The other states are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming, and Kentucky. A U.S. District Court judge in Baltimore upheld the provisions in August. The state of Maryland has until December 31 to respond to the filing.


Pratt Man Given 2 Life Sentences for Murders

PRATT, Kan. (AP) — A 22-year-old Kansas man was given two life sentences for killing a pregnant woman and her unborn child. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says Bryant Alan Seba of Pratt was sentenced Monday for the shooting deaths of 22-year-old Alexandria Duran and her unborn child in July 2013. He also was sentenced to another 272 months for attempted premeditated murder in the shooting of 28-year-old Brandon Wright, who was paralyzed. Seba will not be eligible for parole for at least 50 years. Testimony at trial indicated people in Duran's house and Seba's house had several racially-tinged confrontations. Witnesses said Seba fired into a crowd of people after Duran and her uncle intervened in a fight that involved Seba, who is white, and Wright, who is black.


Autopsy Begins on Kansas Woman Found Raped, Burned

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An autopsy has begun on a Kansas woman who died this weekend, days after she was sexually assaulted and set on fire in a park. Sedgwick County spokeswoman Brittany Clampitt said Monday that coroner's officials were investigating, but it wasn't clear when the examination would be complete. Relatives held a memorial for Letitia "Tish" Davis on Sunday evening in Wichita's Fairmount Park, where she was found November 14 with burns on more than half her body and cuts on her head. Cornell McNeal has been jailed and charged with attempted murder and rape. He doesn't yet have a lawyer. Wichita Police said that charges would be amended after Davis died Saturday. The district attorney's office said prosecutors would determine appropriate charges based on the new evidence.


Ferguson Shooting Galvanizes Wichita Protest


WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Some activists in Wichita say the police shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri, shows the city's black community needs to become radical again. About 40 people gathered in Wichita Tuesday to draw attention to police shootings in the south-central Kansas community. Rueben Eckels, the deputy director of the Sunflower Community Action, told the crowd the government seems to take action only when people use violence. He says it is time to make change and it has to be radical. Elisa Allen says she wants the Wichita officer who shot her mentally ill brother, Icarus Randolph, held accountable. Police contend he threatened officers with a knife in July but the family says police did not follow proper procedure when they called for help getting him to a treatment facility.


Topeka Man Pleads Guilty in Girlfriend's Death

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka man pleaded guilty in the death of the mother of his child at their home. Trevor William Adkins entered the plea Tuesday to intentional second-degree murder of 22-year-old Lacie Atchison. Atchison was originally charged with premeditated first-degree murder after Atchison's body was found at the top of a wheelchair ramp outside their home in September. Officers went to the home when neighbors reported seeing a naked man fighting with another man in the neighborhood. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Adkins also pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of battery of a neighbor. As part of the plea, a charge of endangering a child was dismissed. The couple's young daughter was inside the home but was not hurt.


Wichita Man Sentenced in Child Porn case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas man has been sentenced to federal prison after AOL's automatic detection system caught him emailing child pornography. Fifty-six-year-old Walter Ackerman of Lebanon was sentenced Monday to 14 years and two months in prison after pleading guilty to distributing and possessing child pornography. Prosecutors say Ackerman possessed more than 750 sexually explicit images of children. AOL Inc. sent information to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, who alerted authorities. Ackerman's attorney argues the email evidence was obtained through cyber "snooping" in an illegal search and seizure. A federal judge ruled AOL and the center didn't violate the Fourth Amendment.


Hunter Sentenced in Kansas Bird Hunting Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A Texas man has been sentenced to one year of probation after pleading guilty to violating a federal law protecting birds while he was in Kansas. The U.S. Attorney's office says 52-year-old George Morgan of Gordonville, Texas, pleaded guilty Monday to violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. He was also ordered to pay a $2,000 fine and $3,000 in restitution to the state of Kansas. Morgan is the last of eight hunters to plead guilty after a meetup in Graham County for a dove hunt in September 2013. They also were sentenced to probation and ordered to pay fines. The federal law classifies mourning doves as migratory game birds.


Police: Wichita Paramedic Found with Child Porn

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Wichita police have arrested a county paramedic who they say possessed pornographic pictures of girls he met through a program for teens interested in becoming EMTs. A police spokesman said Monday the 23-year-old Sedgwick County Emergency Medical Service employee was arrested over the weekend. He faces charges of indecent solicitation of a child, sexual exploitation of a child and electronic solicitation. Investigators say the illegal activity took place in 2011 and the suspect had photos of the teenage victims on his phone. Police say the suspect has worked for the county since 2010. The county says he has been suspended.


Deputy Escapes Serious Injury When Semi Hits Car

LEON, Kan. (AP) — A Butler County sheriff's deputy escaped serious injury when a semi-trailer truck hit his patrol car in south-central Kansas. The Kansas Highway Patrol says the accident happened Monday morning near Leon on westbound U.S. 400. The westbound truck hit the patrol car while the deputy was helping a stalled motorist. The truck driver was taken to Wesley Medical Center with non-critical injuries. The deputy was treated for minor injuries at the scene. Traffic on westbound U.S. 400 was reduced to one lane while the accident was investigated.


Man Sentenced for Role in Heroin Trafficking Ring

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City man was sentenced to 30 years in prison without parole for participating in a drug trafficking ring that led to a man's death. Federal prosecutors say 48-year-old Matthew Davis was sentenced Monday for distributing heroin, cocaine and other drugs in the Kansas City region for more than 10 years. Joshua Webb died in 2002 from heroin given to him by the drug ring. Davis and a co-defendant, 34-year-old Timothy Kirlin were convicted of conspiracy in April. Kirlin was sentenced last week to life in prison. Prosecutors say Kirlin obtained heroin and cocaine in Dallas and Davis distributed the drugs. The Kansas City Star reports that Davis previously pleaded guilty to abandoning the corpse of his girlfriend, Amber McGathey, when she died of a drug overdose in 2004.


Woman Pleads for Not Reporting Teen Prostitute

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas woman has pleaded guilty to not reporting that a 17-year-old girl was working as a prostitute. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said in a news release that 25-year-old Brittany Morris of Winfield pleaded guilty Monday to misprision of a felony. Prosecutors say Morris and the girl were arrested after meeting two undercover officers at a hotel near DeSoto for prostitution. Officers learned the girl was only 17 and had worked with Morris as a prostitute in New Orleans, Wichita and Kansas City. Morris and the girl advertised sexual services on the internet. Sentencing is set for February 18, 2015. Attorneys recommended a sentence of between eight and 14 months in federal prison.


Capital Murder Suspect Seeking to Change His Name

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man whose capital murder conviction was overturned because of ineffective counsel is seeking to change his name, which prosecutors said will have no impact on his upcoming retrial. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Phillip Delbert Cheatham Jr. has filed court documents seeking to change his name to "King Phillip Amman Reu-El," and is scheduled for a hearing next month before a judge who will decide whether to grant the change. Cheatham was convicted in 2005 of killing 38-year-old Annette Roberson and 42-year-old Gloria Jones in 2003. The 41-year-old is charged with capital murder, with two alternative counts of premeditated first-degree murder in the deaths of Roberson and Jones and attempted first-degree murder of Annetta Thomas. His trial is scheduled for early next year.


Kansas Sorghum and Soybean Harvest Nearly Finished

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - The latest government farm snapshot shows the fall harvest is wrapping up in Kansas. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that 90 percent of the sorghum and 96 percent of the soybeans have now been cut in the state. The sunflower harvest is 86 percent finished. Winter wheat is faring well so far despite the recent cold temperatures. The agency rated the state's wheat condition as 6 percent excellent, 55 percent good, 35 percent fair and 4 percent poor About 95 percent of the winter wheat has emerged.


KC Prepares for Holiday Lighting Tradition

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Kansas City Royals left-fielder Alex Gordon will flip the switch that lights up Kansas City's Country Club Plaza on Thanksgiving night. Gordon will be accompanied by Kansas City GM Dayton Moore. The annual event attracts tens of thousands of people to the upscale shopping and dining district, where several blocks of buildings will be outlined in holiday lights through January 18. A local celebrity gets the honor each year of flipping the switch. Musical performances also will be part of Thursday night's festivities.


Kansas Jumps to 87-60 Win Over Rider

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — No. 11 Kansas rebounded from an embarrassing loss to Kentucky with an 87-60 victory over Rider on Monday night. Svi Mykhailiuk, the 17-year-old Freshman from the Ukraine, made his first start for Kansas, finishing with 10 points and five rebounds. Wayne Selden Jr. led the Jayhawks (2-1) with nine asists. Xavier Lundy led the effort by Rider (3-2) scoring 13 points.


K-State Beats Purdue 88-79 in Maui

LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP) — Marcus Foster scored 24 points and Kansas State held on to beat Purdue 88-79 after blowing most of a big early lead Monday in the opening game of the Maui Invitational. Coming off a disappointing loss to Long Beach State, Kansas State (3-1) attacked Purdue (3-1) early, hounding the Boilermakers into one mistake after another while building a 15-point halftime lead.


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