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Headlines for Wednesday, December 13, 2017

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

Former Kansas Official Accused of Sexual Misbehavior is Fired from New Job

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A company helping to manage the Kansas Medicaid program has fired an employee facing allegations of sexual misconduct from a previous job as a state social services administrator. Amerigroup Kansas spokeswoman Olga Gallardo said in an email Tuesday that Brandt Haehn no longer works for the company. Amerigroup is among three companies managing Medicaid health coverage for the needy. Gallardo didn't provide further details. Haehn formerly was the administrator overseeing in-home and community services in the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services. He left in June after being disciplined over his alleged conduct toward a woman who formerly worked for a provider of services to the disabled. The woman, Jennifer Gill, told The Topeka Capital-Journal that Haehn solicited sex from her and offered her a better job in exchange.

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Kansas DCF Secretary to Review Foster Care Programs

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The new leader at the Kansas Department for Children and Families has promised a thorough review of the state's foster care system. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel was hired on December 1 to lead the agency.  Meier-Hummel met on Tuesday with a legislative task force studying weaknesses in the state's foster care system. The meeting touched on several issues, including how to better prevent deaths of children in contact with the agency. Task force members say the agency needs to improve how it tracks children who've left their assigned foster homes without permission. The agency has said it's searching for nearly 80 children considered absent without leave. Meier-Hummel says the agency has "really great staff attending to this need." She also emphasized improving public transparency and says she'll review internal and contracting operations.

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Family Loses Lawsuit After SWAT Style Raid on Their Home 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. - A Leawood family whose home was raided more than five years ago by Johnson County sheriff’s deputies in a fruitless search for a marijuana growing operation lost their lawsuit alleging the deputies violated their Fourth Amendment rights. Robert and Adlynn Harte had sought $7 million in damages from the Johnson County Commission and the deputies who conducted the early morning raid of their home on April 20, 2012. The raid happened nearly eight months after Robert Harte and his two young children were observed visiting a hydroponic-gardening store. Johnson County deputies later rummaged through their curbside trash and found wet green vegetation, which they believed to be marijuana but which tests later showed was loose-leaf tea. After securing a search warrant, seven armed officers burst into the Hartes’ Leawood home but, after a search lasting more than 2 hours, found no traces of marijuana. An attorney for the Hartes says they plan to appeal the jury’s verdict. 

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Kansas Families Struggle to Find Child Care in State

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new report shows that Kansas is experiencing a shortage of child care services. The report was released by Child Care Aware of Kansas. The agency administers the state's child care referral service. The Wichita Eagle reports the agency found that Kansas counties on average have capacity to meet only about half the potential demand for child care. Sedgwick County can meet 45 percent of potential demand. The lower the percentage, the less likely that parents will find the right child care provider. The report says nearly 164,000 children under age 6 potentially need child care in Kansas. The nonprofit Kansas Action for Children wants lawmakers to strengthen the state's child care tax credit to improve access to child care. Lawmakers reinstated the credit in June.

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Image Released in Kansas College Town Rape Inquiry

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) _ Authorities have re-released a sketch of a man investigators say could have information about a series of more than a dozen rapes since 2000 in the college towns of Manhattan and Lawrence. Police in Riley County and in Lawrence say the image is of a man seen near the location of the first attack in Manhattan. Investigators say they want to speak with him to see if he has relevant information. The man is described as between 5 feet 10 inches and 6 feet tall. Police say the image was released after that first rape, but generated no leads. They've released the image again in hopes that someone may recognize the person and call police. 

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Off-Duty Officer Cleared in Costco Self-Defense Shooting

LENEXA, Kan. (AP) — The Johnson County District Attorney says an off-duty police officer who shot and killed an armed man who was threatening customers at the Costco in Lenexa will not face any charges. District Attorney Steve Howe said Wednesday that Kansas City, Kansas, police Capt. Michael Howell saved innocent lives during the confrontation on November 26. Ronald Hunt entered the store with a gun and was threatening to shoot customers. While store employees and customers were being evacuated, Howell identified himself as a police officer and told Hunt to drop the weapon. Investigators say Hunt ignored the commands and threatened Howell, who shot him. No one else in the store was injured. Howe said Howell acted in self-defense and in defense of others, which is allowed by Kansas law.

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Big Aviation Plant in Kansas Will Add Jet Engine Work

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — GE Aviation plans to add new jet engine work to its Strother Field plant in Cowley County. Company spokesman Rick Kennedy said starting in January, GE's CF34-8E jet engine will be built at the plant halfway between Winfield and Arkansas City. He says the new work will stabilize the employee count at the plant, which employs about 720 people. The Wichita Eagle reports the Strother plant currently overhauls GE's CF34 family of jet engines. They also assemble the company's new Passport engine, which is expected to enter service next year. Kennedy said GE decided to move the engine assembly work to Strother because its plant in Durham, North Carolina, needed room to assemble the company's new Leap jet engines that are used on Boeing's new 737 Max aircraft.

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Lawrence Teen Wants to Withdraw Plea in Grandmother's Death

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Lawrence teenager who pleaded guilty to killing his grandmother wants to withdraw that plea. Eighteen-year-old Jaered Long was scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday for second-degree murder in the December 2015 death of 67-year-old Deborah Bretthauer. Instead, Long's attorney, Forrest Lowry, told the Douglas County court that his client wanted to withdraw his plea. The Lawrence Journal-World reports a hearing was scheduled for February 20 to consider the request, or to sentence Long if the request is denied. Authorities said Bretthauer was stabbed dozens of times with a knife while she was in bed in her Lawrence apartment. One of Long's therapists previously testified that she asked Bretthauer to consider residential treatment for her grandson's worsening abusive and threatening behavior but Bretthauer didn't agree to the plan.

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Kansas Woman Plans to Change Plea in $5 Million Embezzlement 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A southeast Kansas woman accused of embezzling more than $5 million from a now-defunct credit union has notified the court she plans to change her plea. The federal court filing on Wednesday comes just weeks before Nita Rae Nirschl was scheduled to go to trial on Jan. 30. The Parsons woman is accused in an 81-count federal indictment of embezzlement and money laundering. The crimes allegedly took place while Nirschl worked for the Parsons Pittsburg Credit Union based in Parsons. Federal prosecutors say that after an audit found the credit union was insolvent, it was placed in conservatorship and ultimately liquidated in March 2014. A change-of-plea hearing was scheduled for 9:45 a.m. Monday before U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten in Wichita.

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University of Kansas Given $2 Million Gift from Graduate

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A University of Kansas graduate is giving the school $2 million to endow a scholarship in the School of Law and a research fund in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The university announced the gift from William Bradley Jr. to the KU Endowment on Wednesday. The money will provide $1 million for the Bradley Family Scholarship for law school students. The other $1 million will endow the Bradley Family Research Excellence Fund, which will provide awards to faculty in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences whose research involves undergraduates. Bradley earned a bachelor's degree in English in 1977 and a law degree in 1980. He eventually became the third-largest individual shareholder in NIC Inc., an Olathe-based information service provider for federal and state governments. He is retired.

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Alleged Carjacker Charged in Dragging Death of 86-Year-Old Man

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) _ An alleged carjacker has been charged with dragging an 86-year-old man to death in Kansas City, Kansas. Frank Davila was trying to stop his pickup truck from being stolen. Thirty-one-year-old Dominic McGee has been charged with first-degree murder in the November 29 death of Frank Davila. Police say Davila was dragged when he confronted McGee trying to steal his truck. He later died at a Kansas City hospital. The carjacker fled in the truck, which was later found unoccupied across the state line in Kansas City, Missouri. McGee is jailed in Jackson County, Missouri on a $500,000 bond.

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3 Found Dead in Burning Kansas City, Kansas, Home

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Fire officials say a third body has been found after a house fire at a Kansas City, Kansas, home. The blaze was reported early Tuesday. Firefighters searching the single-story home found two bodies at that time. A third body was found later in the day as firefighters sifted through the house. Kansas City, Kansas, police spokesman Tom Tomasic said evidence found at the home was leading investigators to believe the deaths were suspicious but they had not been ruled homicides. Tomasic says the fire department will look for accelerants and an autopsy will be performed to determine how the people died.  

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Former Frontenac City Administrator Admits Misusing City Money

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) - A former city administrator from southeast Kansas has admitted that he misspent taxpayer money, including buying GPS devices that he used to track his former mistress. Former Frontenac city administrator Doug Sellars pleaded guilty Tuesday to misuse of public funds. As part of the plea agreement, three other felony charges and a misdemeanor were dropped. An affidavit said Sellars placed GPS devices bought with city funds inside the bumper of his former mistress' car. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation uncovered the thefts on a city credit card after Sellars was accused of stalking the woman. He resigned in September 2016. Crawford County Attorney Michael Gayoso says Sellars will likely get a suspended sentence and probation. He also will be required to make restitution of about $8,000.

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Kansas City Man Charged with Killing Father, Another Man

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A Kansas City, Missouri man has been charged with fatally shooting his father and another man outside a convenience store. Eighteen-year-old Reginald Jones Jr., of , was charged Tuesday with two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of armed criminal action in the deaths of 36-year-old Reginald Jones Sr. and 57-year-old Darryl Singleton. He surrendered to police Monday, four days after the shooting at LP's Grocery and Liquor. A witness says the younger Jones showed up at the store after arguing on the phone with his father. The witness says the father then went outside to talk to his son. Court records say the younger Jones pulled a gun and shot his father and then shot Singleton before driving away. 

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FedEx Driver Killed in Multi-Vehicle Crash in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Authorities say a FedEx driver has been killed in a fiery, multi-vehicle wreck in Kansas City. Police say the crash happened Tuesday on Interstate 435 when the FedEx driver rear-ended a pickup truck that was stopped in traffic. The FedEx truck then crashed into a guardrail. The Kansas City Star reports that several people tried to help the driver but were unable to reach him. Four vehicles were involved, and the crash stopped traffic for several hours while police gathered evidence. There were no other serious injuries. The driver's name has not been released, pending notification of relatives. FedEx offered condolences to the family in a statement. The statement also said that the company is cooperating fully with authorities. 
    
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Missouri Mother Charged with Drowning Baby

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri woman has been charged in the drowning death of her 6-month-old son.  The St. Joseph News-Press reports that 27-year-old Sydney Jones, of St. Joseph, is scheduled to be arraigned today (WED) on a charge of abuse or neglect leading to the death of the child at her apartment. She's jailed on $100,000 bond.  A police detective wrote in the probable cause statement that Jones pinned her son down to an inflatable child's tub inside of a bathtub last week while water was running. A witness stated that the drowning was intentional. Buchanan County Prosecuting Attorney Dwight Scroggins says the charge carries a sentence of up to life in prison. He wouldn't say whether other children were in the home.

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Public Reprimand Recommended for Missouri County Prosecutor

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A disciplinary panel is recommending that Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd be publicly reprimanded for professional misconduct.  The panel's recommendation now goes to the Missouri Supreme Court for a final decision.  KCUR Radio reports a complaint was filed against Zahnd in August over his reaction to residents of a northwest Missouri town defending a convicted child sex offender. Zahnd reportedly threatened people who wrote letters supporting the offender before his sentencing. He then sent out news release publicly naming the residents after the man was sentenced.  A public reprimand does not limit Zahnd's right to continue practicing law. If state Supreme Court follows the recommendation, the reprimand would become a public record.  Zahnd said he disagreed with the panel's recommendation and is still determining what his response will be.

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No Charges in Deadly Officer-Involved Shooting in Kansas

MCPHERSON, Kan. (AP) — No charges will be filed in an officer-involved fatal shooting in McPherson County in August. McPherson County Attorney Gregory Benefiel announced Tuesday that a county deputy who fired the shot that killed 24-year-old William Holmes reasonably believed that another officer was in serious danger.  The shooting occurred after a chase started in Newton when police responded to a burglary call. The vehicle eventually was disabled near Moundridge. Benefiel says Homes and a passenger yelled obscenities at officers and Holmes yelled "shoot me."  Benefiel says officers unsuccessfully used non-lethal means such as bean-bags and a Taser to try and subdue Holmes. Benefiel says Holmes eventually was shot while trying to gain possession of a Newton officer's gun during a struggle.  The Newton officer suffered minor injuries.

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Central Kansas Sheriff Pleads Not Guilty to Mistreatment

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — A central Kansas sheriff who's accused of striking a handcuffed man has pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor. The Great Bend Tribune reports that Barton County Sheriff Brian Bellendir entered the plea last week through his attorney to the charge of mistreatment of a confined person.  The charge, which was filed last month by a special prosecutor, alleges that Bellendir spoke in a "vulgar, rude and/or angry manner" to a man after he was booked into jail in August on a probation violation charge. Bellendir also is accused of striking the man on the side of the head.  The sheriff was issued a summons in October after an investigation by Kansas Bureau of Investigation agents. Bellendir later issued a statement noting he was still on the job.

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Free Dental Clinic Planned for Hutchinson

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) _ A free dental clinic is coming to the Kansas State Fairgrounds in Hutchinson next year and is expected to draw massive crowds. The Hutchinson News reports that the Kansas Mission of Mercy clinic is planned for February 9 and 10. The outgoing president of the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund in Hutchinson is Kim Moore. He recalls that people lined up at 4 a.m. at a 2003 Mission of Mercy clinic in Garden City, despite a snowstorm. Moore says the demand illustrates the problem with access to dental care. Some employers do not offer dental insurance, and insurance coverage can be limited. Medicare does not have a dental care benefit, and Medicaid recipients may or may not have dental coverage. Nearly 30,000 have attended past clinics. 
 

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