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Headlines for Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Kansas News Headlines From the Associated Press

Kansas Congressman Pompeo Evades Questions About Senate Run

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Republican Congressman Mike Pompeo has repeatedly evaded questions about whether he is considering a primary challenge to Kansas Senator Jerry Moran.  Speculation has been fueled by an unusual and at times demeaning, written statement Pompeo put out earlier about his Kansas colleague's shifting positions on whether President Obama's Supreme Court nominee should have a hearing.  Pompeo says he never comments on his campaign activities. He told The Associated Press he did not realize the political speculation his written statement had generated until contacted by media outlets.  Moran says that he is not surprised Pompeo has suggested he is not running for the U.S. Senate. Moran says he wouldn't have expected Pompeo to run against him without the courtesy of a conversation.


Kansas Wildfires Mostly Contained 

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Kansas authorities say wildfires in several Kansas counties have been largely contained. The Kansas Adjutant General's office said in an emailed statement Wednesday that the fires in the northeast Kansas counties of Wabaunsee, Geary, Riley and Pottawatomie are for the most part contained. The office says crews continue to monitor small smoldering patches in the region. The office also says a grass fire in Morton County in southwest Kansas has been contained with the exception of hot spots. The grassfire in northern Oklahoma is also no longer threatening Comanche County, Kansas. The adjutant general's office also says the State Emergency Operations Center in Topeka has returned to normal operations but is maintaining contact with local officials in the affected counties.


Kansas Wildfires Burn More Than 18 Square Miles 

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) —  More than 18 square miles of rangeland has burned in the latest Kansas wildfires. Ben Bauman, spokesman for the Kansas Adjutant General's Office, says two homes, one mobile home and at least eight outbuildings were destroyed Tuesday. Residents of several rural communities were urged to leave their homes before the blazes were brought mostly under control. No injuries have been reported. In northern Kansas, fires burned about 6,000 acres in Geary County, about 600 acres in Wabaunsee County and more than 1,500 acres in Riley County. Another 3,800 acres burned in Morton County in extreme southwest Kansas. The blazes come less than a month after a fire that started in Oklahoma and spread into Kansas, burning hundreds of square miles. Most of the damage was in Kansas's Barber County.


Public Support Sought for Cheney Firefighter 

CHENEY, Kan. (AP) — A volunteer Kansas firefighter has been hospitalized after he collapsed while working to extinguish a weekend grass fire. The Cheney Volunteer Fire Department says the 48-year-old firefighter became unresponsive Sunday afternoon while he was operating a water truck used to battle the blaze. Cheney Fire Chief Brad Ewy told KAKE that the firefighter suffered a brain bleed. The man's name hasn't been released. He's been in critical condition at a Wichita hospital. Ewy says he's been a volunteer firefighter and EMT for seven years and that a fund has been set up to help the firefighter and his family.


Advocacy Group to Seek Probe of Federal Election Official 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A nonprofit public advocacy group is calling for an investigation into the conduct of a top federal elections official. Allied Progress says it will send a letter Thursday to the Inspector General of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission asking for an investigation of communications between that agency's executive director, Brian Newby, and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Newby and Kobach did not immediately respond to phone and email messages seeking comment. The request follows a story by The Associated Press based on emails obtained through an open records request showing that Newby used ties to Kobach to help secure the job at an agency entrusted with making voting accessible, then used the position to implement rules requiring residents of three states to provide citizenship documentation to register to vote. 


Kansas Could Block Transgender People from Updating Records 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback's administration is moving forward with a policy change that would make it harder for transgender people to change their gender on their birth certificates. The Wichita Eagle reports that under current regulations, one can change the gender listed on his or her birth certificate by showing medical paperwork that indicates an anatomical or physiological change occurred. The governor's administration has proposed changing the regulations so that the gender on a person's birth certificate can only be changed if the person signs an affidavit saying the gender was incorrectly recorded on the original certificate and also provides medical records backing up that claim. The change developed by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment seems to block transgender people from changing their birth certificates after transitioning.


Topeka Racetrack Owner Says High Taxes Could Close Track

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka racetrack owner doubts his property will survive if the property tax bill remains high. Owner Chris Payne says that the facility faces "hundreds of thousands of dollars" in repairs. Heartland Park Topeka has deteriorated quickly in the last few years and now has cracked tracks, broken water pipes, perforated roofs and piles of garbage. Payne estimates that Heartland Park would need to net a profit of $27,000 monthly, or $324,000 yearly to break even. He says that with an annual tax bill of nearly $342,000, he believes the operating cost will surpass the park's revenue. Payne appealed the county appraiser's assessment of the property as worth nearly $9 million in March. 


Man Who Killed Doctor George Tiller Back in Court 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The man convicted of killing abortion provider George Tiller may have more leeway at his resentencing in Kansas to argue before a new jury that he was acting in defense of others. Scott Roeder's life sentence with no chance of parole for 50 years was among many vacated after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that juries, not judges, must decide whether aggravating circumstances existed to warrant increasing the punishment. Sedgwick County Judge Warren Wilbert said Wednesday consideration of mitigating factors for lesser sentences could allow such evidence. Wilbert also said Tiller did not live to see another day, prompting an outburst from Roeder. Roeder was convicted of first-degree murder in the May 2009 death of Tiller.


Evaluation Begins for Kansas Woman Charged in Child's Death

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas woman charged in the death of her 7-year-old stepson is being transferred to a state mental hospital for an evaluation. Heather Jones and her husband, Michael Jones, are charged with murder in the death of Michael Jones's son. They're both in custody in on multi-million dollar bonds. Police investigating a disturbance in November found juvenile remains in a livestock area on the couple's Kansas City, Kansas property. Authorities haven't said if the remains were those of Michael Jones' missing son. They also haven't addressed reports that the remains were fed to pigs. A spokeswoman for the Wyandotte County Detention Center says Heather Jones left Wednesday for Larned State Hospital to begin a mental health evaluation. It's unclear how long the evaluation will take. Michael Jones's next court date is in June.


Missouri Postal Worker Accused of PCP-Shipping Scheme 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Federal prosecutors are accusing a Kansas City, Missouri postal carrier and a California man of plotting to distribute gallons of PCP through the mail. Authorities say 64-year-old postal worker Carol Barfield and 56-year-old Michael Garrett of Victorville, California, were charged on March 29. Prosecutors announced the charges Tuesday after the defendants were arrested and appeared in court. Prosecutors say Garrett mailed packages of PCP from Victorville to addresses on Barfield's postal route. That's allegedly so Barfield could mark them as delivered but keep them and divert them to intended recipients elsewhere. Postal records showed Barfield allegedly delivered all of the packages on her route. PCP is a hallucinogenic drug also called "angel dust." Online court records don't show whether Barfield or Garrett have attorneys.


Judge Grants Defense Bid for Acquittal in Manslaughter Trial 

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A south-central Kansas judge has abruptly halted trial for a man who had been accused of causing a deadly 2012 wreck, ruling prosecutors failed to sufficiently prove the defendant was impaired at the time. The Hutchinson News reports Reno County District Judge Trish Rose on Wednesday granted a defense request for an acquittal in 46-year-old Troy Meitler's trial. The prosecution had just wrapped up its case. Rose ruled that prosecutors failed to show beyond a reasonable doubt that Meitler of Halstead was under the influence of drugs during the 2012 head-on crash that killed 49-year-old Brian Bush of Plevna. Meitler was charged with involuntary manslaughter, aggravated battery and driving under the influence. Andrew Davidson, a prosecutor, demanded a mistrial after Rose's ruling Wednesday.


KC, St. Louis Voters Approve Extension of Earnings Tax

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Voters in Kansas City and St. Louis, Missouri's two biggest cities, voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to renew an earnings tax. The tax requires people who work in the cities to pay a 1 percent tax on their pay. Because non-residents also must pay, thousands of commuters from suburbs in the neighboring states of Kansas and Illinois are affected. The cities are required to ask voters to renew the measure every five years. Supporters in both cities said losing the hundreds of millions of dollars in yearly revenue would mean cuts in services. Opponents countered that the tax is unfair and drives businesses and workers to the suburbs, and that eliminating it would force the cities to weed out fraud, waste and redundant services. Unofficial results in Kansas City show 77 percent of voters approved reauthorizing the tax. St. Louis residents also approved renewal of the tax for another five years. Kansas City generates about $230 million a year from the tax, roughly 40 percent of the city's budget.


$4.2 Million Primary Care Clinic Planned in Pittsburg

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — Construction is expected to begin next month on a new $4.2 million primary care facility in Pittsburg. Officials from Via Christi Hospital and Joplin's Mercy Medical Center announced plans Monday for the 13,500-square-foot facility. The Pittsburg Morning Sun reports that it is being built through a joint partnership.  The facility will be located at the Via Christi Pittsburg campus and it should initially house four primary care physicians and support staff, with the capacity to eventually house up to nine physicians.


Man Denied New Trial in Kansas Attack of 8-Year-Old Girl

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka man convicted of kidnapping and repeatedly sexually attacking an 8-year-old girl has been refused a new trial.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports a Shawnee County judge last week rejected 30-year-old Jeremy James Lindsey's push for a new trial. He's to be sentenced April 21.  Lindsey's two-week trial ended with his January convictions of three counts of rape and two of aggravated burglary. He also was found guilty of single counts of aggravated kidnapping, battery, child endangerment, felony criminal property damage and unlawful drug administration.  The victim disappeared from her home in September 2014 and was held captive, bound with a telephone cord, before freeing herself and seeking help from a nearby home.


Ellis County Man Dies When Tree Falls on Him

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a western Kansas man has been killed while cutting down a tree.  The Salina Journal reports that 39-year-old Jarrod Depenbush, of rural Ellis County, died Saturday when the tree fell on him. The Ellis County Sheriff's Office said in a news release that his death is under investigation.


Dust Storm Blankets Much of Texas Panhandle 

AMARILLO, Texas (AP) — Forecasters say a dust storm virtually engulfed the Texas Panhandle overnight. The National Weather Service says a cold front that moved southwards through the Panhandle Tuesday night carried winds of up to 60 mph and spread dirt picked up from Colorado and Kansas. Forecaster Nicholas Fenner (FEN'-er) in Amarillo said Wednesday that the storm threw dust about 2,000 feet into the air. Fenner says the storm reached as far north as Oklahoma Panhandle and as far south as Lubbock, Texas. He says the dust was so heavy that evidence of the storm turned up on National Weather Service radar. The Texas Department of Public Safety says no injuries have been reported in the dust storm.


Royals Fall to NY Mets, 2-0 in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City were shut out Tuesday afternoon losing to the New York Mets, 2-0, after the Royals were given their 2015 World Series rings in a pre-game ceremony. The Mets' Noah Syndergaard threw six scoreless innings. Syndergaard (1-0) was the only pitcher to beat the Royals in the World Series last year, winning Game 3 after intentionally throwing his first pitch above Alcides Escobar's head. In Tuesday's game, Syndergaard allowed three hits, walked one and struck out nine. Neil Walker hit his first homer with the Mets on a fastball from Chris Young (0-1) in the fourth inning. The Royals next face the Minnesota twins in a Friday night game at Kauffman Stadium.


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