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Headlines for Wednesday, August 17, 2016

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

Judge Agrees to Appoint Special Master to Probe Jailhouse Recordings 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge in Kansas has agreed to appoint a special master to determine whether a private prison violated attorney-client privilege by video recording meetings between inmates and their attorneys. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson on Tuesday asked attorneys to provide her with their thoughts on the special master's scope. The master would investigate defense attorneys' claims that Corrections Corporation of America made video and audio recordings of confidential conversations and passed some on to prosecutors. Robinson said she didn't expect to appoint the master until next month. The practice at CCA — a private, for-profit company that manages dozens of U.S. facilities — surfaced in a case over distribution of contraband at the Leavenworth Detention Center in which audio-less video recordings were subpoenaed by a grand jury.


Health Officials Rescind Manhattan Boil Water Advisory 

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Health officials have rescinded a boil water advisory that was imposed in Manhattan after a power outage created the potential for bacterial contamination. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment made the announcement Tuesday, one day after the order was issued. The agency said in a news release that laboratory testing samples collected from Manhattan's public water supply showed no evidence of contamination.


Kansas Cancels 5 Public Meetings on Medicaid Issues 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The state will not host five previously-scheduled meetings to gather public input on Medicaid services in Kansas. Instead, Kansas officials are mailing about 200,000 letters this week to explain Governor Sam Brownback's decision to impose a 4 percent reduction on some groups that provide Medicaid services to patients. The letters also will give recipients alternative ways to express their feelings about KanCare, the state's privately run Medicaid program. The meetings were scheduled August 22-26 in Topeka, Wichita, Pittsburg, Dodge City and Overland Park. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the cancellations come after a House and Senate oversight committee on KanCare in early August, when lawmakers, service providers and customers strongly criticized the state's Medicaid services.


State Launches Audit of Kansas Mental Hospital's Finances 

LARNED, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has launched an audit of a state mental hospital's finances a day after the announcement that its chief financial officer no longer was affiliated with the site. The Wichita Eagle reports that the Larned State Hospital's superintendent and special counsel announced David Fender's departure Monday in an email to staff. Fender was hired last year. A spokeswoman for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, Angela de Rocha, declined to discuss reasons for Fender's departure, calling it a private personnel matter. De Rocha said Tuesday that though the department has "no reason to believe anything is amiss" at Larned, the agency's internal auditing unit is scrutinizing the hospital's finances.


Kansas State Employees to See Higher Health Care Costs 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas's Health Care Commission has made changes that will lead to higher premiums, copayments and some deductibles for state employees as officials try to increase cash reserves for its employee health plan next year. The Wichita Eagle reports that the health plan's cash reserves are below a $59 million target and the goal is to increase the funds back to that level over the next two years. The state will increase its employer premium rate by 7 percent and its employee premium rate by about 9 percent. The Kansas Organization of State Employees has criticized the changes, citing that state workers will pay more and get worse benefits.


More Entities to Intervene in Westar, Great Plains Merger 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Corporation Commission has granted several requests to intervene in the proposed $12.2 billion merger between Topeka-based Westar Energy and Great Plains Energy. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that requests from Occidental Chemicals, Midwest Energy and two local chapters of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers were granted Tuesday. At least 15 other entities have either filed or been granted permission to intervene in the proposed merger. They say they have a particular interest in whether the merger receives approval and how the merger is structured. Kansas City Power and Light's parent company, Great Plains, wants to purchase Westar for $8.6 billion, plus $3.6 billion to acquire Westar's debt. Great Plains and Westar hope to finalize the merger next year.


Police Arrest Man in Pittsburg Killing

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have arrested a suspect in the killing of a man whose body was found in a wooded area of Pittsburg. Police say the 38-year-old man is jailed in Crawford County on suspicion of second-degree murder in the death of 46-year-old Raymond Cleffman of Pittsburg. The Pittsburg Morning Sun reports that Cleffman's body was found Sunday near an automotive salvage business. His death was classified as a homicide. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation, Crawford County Sheriff's Department and Pittsburg State University Police Department are assisting with the investigation. 


Judge Tosses Indictment Against Former Kansas Policeman 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has thrown out the indictment against a former Bel Aire police officer accused of making a false statement during a federal investigation. The move Wednesday is at the request of prosecutors and comes just days before Robert S. McCaslin was to go to trial. Former Bel Aire Chief John Daily faces sentencing Friday for his role in the scheme to buy and sell discounted firearms by falsely claiming they would be used for law enforcement purposes. He has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor theft charge. Another former Bel Aire police officer, Ricky L. Swanson, is scheduled for a change-of-plea hearing on Sept. 8. Bel Aire is a small suburban community just north of Wichita.


New Hearing Date for Kansas Woman Accused of Supplying Guns 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A plea hearing date has been changed for a woman accused of giving her former boyfriend guns that he used in a shooting at a Kansas lawn equipment factory. The Wichita Eagle reports that 28-year-old Sarah Jo Hopkins pleaded not guilty in March to one count of transferring weapons to a prohibited person. A notation in her case file indicates she plans to change her plea. She had been scheduled to do so Friday, but her hearing is now set for September 8 in federal court in Wichita. She is accused of giving Cedric Ford a semi-automatic rifle and a .40-caliber handgun that he used in the February 25 attack at Excel Industries in Hesston. Four people were killed, including Ford, and 14 others were injured.


Child Sex Crimes Case Against Ex-Wichita Teacher Dismissed 

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have dismissed child pornography charges against a former teacher but the investigation is continuing. Finney County authorities said Wednesday that three counts of sexual exploitation of a child filed in January against Steven Thompson were dismissed. KAKE-TV reports that assistant county attorney William Votypka says if the ongoing investigation discovers more evidence, authorities wouldn't be able to pursue those charges if they are still prosecuting the original case. The investigation began while Thompson while working at Garden City Community College. Authorities say they found child pornography on his work computer, another computer, and other devices. Thompson was hired in April 2015 by the Wichita school district. His background check didn't indicate his legal problems because he hadn't been charged when he was hired in Wichita.


Man Charged with Murder in Shawnee Woman's Death

SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) — A 54-year-old man has been charged in the May death of a Shawnee woman.  Authorities have brought Gregory P. Wright back from Virginia to Johnson County, where is charged with first-degree murder in the May 9 death of 44-year-old Monica Lee. She was found dead in her apartment. The Kansas City Star reports that Wright was arrested in Virginia Beach, Virginia, in June and was being held on a fugitive warrant.  He's being held in Johnson County on $1 million bond.


Wichita Police Scale Back Animal Shelter Photo Ban 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- A public campaign has led Wichita police to back away from a total ban on photographing dogs and cats in the city animal shelter. The Wichita Eagle reports that the ban went into effect Friday, drawing an angry reaction from animal rescuers and their supporters. They say the ban would cover up problems in shelter care and limit their ability to publicize and save animals. An online petition was started against the ban, and police said during a news conference Monday that they would scale back the ban. Photos and videos of animals will still be barred in some parts of the shelter, including where sick and dangerous animals are housed. Captain Doug Nolte says the ban was put in place after a dog that had been adopted through the rescue process attacked and seriously injured another dog.


OSHA Probing 2 Workplace Deaths Last Week in Missouri 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Federal workplace safety officials are investigating two separate on-the-job deaths last week in Missouri. The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced the investigation Monday of a 25-year-old tree trimmer killed in Columbia. Police said that worker died at a hospital August 10 shortly after the limb fell on top of him. OSHA also is probing the suspected heat-related death August 11 of a worker who was found unresponsive after prepping soil and laying sod for a new housing project in Kansas City, Missouri. OSHA says preliminary reports indicate the worker sustained heat stroke while working outdoors in conditions with a heat index of 105 degrees. The victims' names haven't been released.


Ex-Officer Plans to Change Plea in Kansas Embezzlement Case
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A retired Wichita police officer accused of embezzlement has agreed to change his plea in a federal prosecution stemming from a $56,400 contract to train law enforcement agencies on responses to armed engagement. A court notice posted Tuesday shows Kevin P. Vaughn of Wichita is scheduled for a change of plea hearing on August 23. Vaughn retired in March 2015 after 28 years with the Wichita Police Department. He is charged embezzling Department of Homeland Security funds, mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering. Vaughn is accused of falsifying reports to make it look like his company, Red Mist Tactical, had completed 15 eight-hour classes the company agreed to provide last year. The indictment alleges he fabricated student sign-up sheets for the classes and forged signatures of officers.


Kansas Boy Drowns in Neighborhood Lake

SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a juvenile has died while swimming and paddle boarding with friends at a neighborhood lake in suburban Kansas City. Shawnee police said in a news release that officers were called Tuesday to Lakeview Estates after the  victim went missing. The release said the victim's friends weren't sure if he left or if he was still in the water because they didn't see him go under. A search began, and a dive team found the boy's body. His name wasn't immediately released, pending notification of  his extended family. An autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday.


Father of Boy Killed on Kansas Waterslide Thanks Supporters

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas lawmaker whose 10-year-old son was killed on the world's tallest waterslide is thanking supporters and hoping such a tragedy never happens again. Scott Schwab says in a statement supplied by his lawyer to the Kansas City  Star that "words will never convey the appreciation" his family has for the outpouring since Caleb Schwab died August 7 while riding the 168-foot tall "Verruckt" ride at the Schlitterbahn Waterpark in Kansas City, Kansas. Scott Schwab says the family hopes the investigation provides "answers and assurances that such a tragedy would not strike again." As a partner in the law firm hired by the Schwabs, Michael Rader says Schlitterbahn has cooperated with his independent investigation.


Prison Sentence for Kansas Man Who Embezzled from Company 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 42-year-old Kansas accountant faces nine years in prison for defrauding clients of more than $4 million. Thomas Hauk of Overland Park was sentenced Wednesday in federal court in Kansas City. He pleaded guilty earlier to federal fraud charges, stemming from thefts from a financial services company. The Kansas City Star reports that the thefts took place for nearly a decade and were discovered in 2015. Hauk used some of the money to buy expensive cars and motorcycles, which federal authorities seized and auctioned off, raising more than $1.4 million for restitution. At Wednesday's hearing, defense attorney Erin Thompson asked the judge to deviate from sentencing guidelines and impose a less severe sentence. But Senior U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs said nine years "is well-justified in this case."


Police Identify Victim of Crash Outside Kansas Hospital 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - Police say a woman has died after a rear-end collision outside a Kansas City, Kansas, hospital. Police said in a news release Wednesday that the victim of Monday night's crash outside Providence Medical Center was 74-year-old Sotera Sebastian. The crash happened when a sport utility vehicle struck another SUV that was stopped while waiting to turn into the hospital. After the crash, the driver of the striking SUV fled on foot before he was located about a block away and taken to a hospital to be treated for his injuries.


Cement Truck Driver Killed in Western Kansas Crash

HAYS, Kan. (AP) - Authorities say a cement truck driver has died after crashing off a western Kansas bridge. The Kansas Highway Patrol says the truck was headed southbound Tuesday on U.S. 183 when it hit a bridge rail about 10 miles south of Hays. The Hays Post reports that the truck went over the edge and struck an embankment. The patrol identified the victim as 28-year-old Joseph Michael Barringer, of Ellis


Royals Hammer 4 Homers to Beat Tigers, 6-1

DETROIT (AP) — Royals starting pitcher Danny Duffy allowed one run in 7 2/3 innings as Kansas City batters hit four home runs in a 6-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday night. Raul Mondesi, Alex Gordon and Eric Hosmer all homered off Justin Verlander (12-7), while Kendrys Morales went deep off Detroit reliever Mark Lowe. Jarrod Saltalamacchia homered for Detroit's only run. Duffy (10-1) allowed three hits and two walks, striking out five. Verlander gave up five runs, four hits and a walk in seven-plus innings while striking out six.


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