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Headlines for Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Kansas Man Sentenced to Nearly 49 Years in Toddler's Death

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man has been ordered to spend nearly 49 years in prison in the fatal beating of his girlfriend's toddler who died several months after state welfare officials received reports that he was being abused.  KSNW-TV reports that 26-year-old Lucas Diel of Wichita was sentenced Tuesday for second-degree murder in the May 2018 death of 2-year-old Anthony Bunn. He died two days after he was found unresponsive in his Wichita home.  Anthony's grandfather, Zak Woolheater, described Diel as a "monster" and recalled the horror of sitting next to the dying toddler's hospital bed.  Woolheater's attorney said in a court document filed last year that the state was aware of a previous abuse report involving Anthony and didn't follow procedures.  The boy's mother, Elizabeth Woolheater, also has been charged with murder.

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Man Convicted in Shooting that Killed 3 in Downtown Lawrence

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A man has been convicted in a shooting that killed three people in a popular downtown area of a Kansas college town.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that jurors found 22-year-old Anthony Roberts Jr., of Topeka, guilty on Tuesday of two counts of first-degree felony murder and second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder.  Prosecutors said Roberts opened fire in October 2017 as people were leaving bars, concerts and other events on the main downtown Lawrence street. Roberts' attorneys argued that he acted in self-defense after a confrontation. The shooting killed 22-year-old Leah Brown, of Shawnee; 20-year-old Colwin Lynn Henderson, of Topeka; and 24-year-old Tre'Mel Dupree Dean-Rayton, of Topeka. Two others were wounded but survived.  A second defendant was convicted previously of attempted voluntary manslaughter, and a third of misdemeanor battery.

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Kansas Abortion Ruling Prompts New Attack on Death Penalty

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A recent Kansas Supreme Court ruling declaring that the state constitution protects access to abortion opened the door to a new legal attack on the death penalty.  Attorneys for five of the 10 men on death row in Kansas argue that the abortion decision means the state's courts can enforce the broad guarantees of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" in the Bill of Rights in the Kansas Constitution. The lawyers contend the convicted killers cannot be executed because capital punishment violates their "inalienable" right to life.  They include Frazier Glenn Miller Jr., a white supremacist convicted of killing three people at two Jewish sites in the Kansas City area in 2014, and Jonathan and Reginald Carr, two brothers who, authorities said, forced five people to remove money from ATMs and have sex with one another before killing four of them in Wichita in 2000.  Defense attorneys launched the new legal attack on capital punishment in filings with the state Supreme Court in May, less than two weeks after the abortion decision. The justices took the claims seriously enough to order defense attorneys and prosecutors to file additional written arguments, with the last ones due in mid-November.  (Read more about this story.)

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Kansas City Police Investigate Death of Transgender Woman

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police are investigating the death of a transgender woman whose body was found at an abandoned home as a homicide.  Police said in an email that the body was found Tuesday morning on the porch of the home. Police say the victim showed obvious signs of foul play but the cause of death was not immediately clear.  Police added that homicide detectives are conducting their investigation to determine the identity of the victim and how that person was identified in the community. No other details were immediately available.  FBI spokeswoman Bridget Patton says the agency is aware of the death but that it is being investigated by police at this time. She says she can't comment further.

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Boys' Mock Government Proposed Eliminating Women's Vote

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — An organization that sponsors an all-male Kansas student mock government apologized after this year's teenage governor proposed eliminating the constitutional amendment that gave women the right to vote. The teenager from Leavenworth made the proposal in the final moments of his term during the annual Boys State gathering at Kansas State University on June 2-7, The Kansas City Star reported. The American Legion sponsors Boys State programs in most states, and the American Legion Auxiliary sponsors a separate Girls State program. The programs are aimed at teaching teenagers about government. This year's Kansas student governor ignored Boys State staff who advised him not to suggest the executive order to repeal the 19th Amendment, said spokesman Brad Biles. When brought to the mock state Senate and House, both chambers voted it down. The American Legion Boys State of Kansas Leadership Academy said in a statement that the student governor's "actions were highly advised against by our staff and do not reflect the Boys State of Kansas values of respect and inclusion of all people." The American Legion Boys State of Kansas Leadership Academy apologizes for any insensitivity expressed by this unenforceable order," the statement said. "It is a teachable moment for everyone."

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Massage Parlor Owner Sentenced to Probation for Conspiracy

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 54-year-old woman who operated massages parlors in Lawrence and Topeka has been sentenced to three years of federal probation. U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said in a news release that Weiling Nielsen was sentenced Wednesday for conspiracy. She pleaded guilty in February. She was ordered to pay a $650,000 judgment. She owned Naima Asian Massage and Serenity Health Spa in Lawrence, along with Jasmine Massage in Topeka. In her plea, Nielsen admitted that customers at the massage parlors could pay cash for sex. The services were advertised on the Internet. Nielsen and her husband deposited cash into various bank accounts and deposited money orders in bank accounts in California.

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Man Charged in Underground Shooting Threat in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A man accused of threatening to shoot people in an underground business complex in Kansas City is charged with making a terrorist threat. Clay County prosecutors charged 45-year-old Kevin Becknal on Wednesday. Becknal, of Orrick, Missouri, had been fired days earlier from one of the businesses at the Hunt Midwest SubTropolis, which is a massive subterranean network of businesses in old limestone mines. The Kansas City Star reports that court records say Becknal returned to the complex Tuesday and told a former co-worker to call a supervisor. He said he had 45 bullets to "shoot people around here.'' Becknal drove off about 10 minutes later but police were unaware of that, so they closed the caves and told workers to remain in their offices.  Becknal was arrested later in Prairie Village, Kansas. 

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Pharmacist Sentenced to Probation in Medicaid Billing Scheme

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City pharmacist has been sentenced to three years of probation after he was caught in a $9.5 million Medicaid billing scheme. The Kansas City Star reports that 67-year-old Steven Baraban also agreed Tuesday to pay about $125,000 in restitution. That's in addition to the $2.2 million that he paid to resolve his role in a whistleblower suit brought by a Lenexa, Kansas, pharmacist who worked under Baraban while he was in charge of a Stark Pharmacy that rented space from Research Medical Center. Prosecutors said they agreed to a plea deal that gives Baraban no prison time because of the amount of money he has paid and because he agreed to surrender his Missouri pharmacist license. His Kansas license expires on Sunday.

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Teen Pleads No Contest to Bringing Gun to Lawrence School

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A teenager has been convicted of bringing a handgun to Lawrence High School in his backpack. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that a judge convicted the teen after he pleaded no contest Wednesday to a misdemeanor, juvenile charge of criminal use of a weapon. As part of the plea, a property damage charge was dismissed. Prosecutor Bryant Barton says the gun was found in the teen's backpack in February after he was sent to the office when he tossed his school-issued laptop computer at a door. The impact broke a window in the door. Records show the teen was born in 2004, making him either 14 or 15. School officials said previously that no students or staff members were threatened with the gun. The teen's sentencing is set for July 29.

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Hallmark's New President and CEO Not Member of Hall Family

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Hallmark has named a 30-year veteran of the company who is not a member of the founding Hall family as its new president and CEO. The Kansas City Star reports Mike Perry's appointment is only the second time the company's board has selected a chief executive outside the Hall family since Hallmark was founded in 1910. The company's announcement said Perry's appointment would preserve the company's private ownership.  Perry started at Hallmark in 1989 and was most recently president of Hallmark Greetings. Under management changes announced Wednesday, Don and Dave Hall will step aside from their current respective roles as CEO and president of Hallmark Cards Inc. Don Hall will become Hallmark's executive chairman and Dave Hall will be executive vice chairman.
  
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Airplane Maintenance Company to Bring 450 Jobs to Salina

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — An Iowa airplane maintenance company is planning to open a facility in Salina, bringing 50 new jobs this year and up to 450 employees within three years.  Officials with 1 Vision Aviation, a Sioux City, Iowa-based company, said the company does maintenance and repairs on commercial, corporate, private planes and performs other general aviation maintenance work.  The Salina Journal reports the Salina Airport Authority board on June 20 approved financing for $2.6 million in repairs and improvements to an airport hangar to house 1 Vision Aviation.  Another company, LifeSave Transport of Wichita, has rented a hangar at the airport to provide emergency medical transportation services to Salina and north-central Kansas. LifeSave will base 16 pilots, paramedics and flight nurses in Salina, and operations may begin as early as July 15.

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Officer Charged with Helping Woman with Outstanding Warrant

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita police officer has been charged with helping a woman with an outstanding warrant avoid being located. Officer Charley Davidson, a police spokesman, said in a news release that Officer Matthew Powell was placed on unpaid administrative leave Wednesday after he was charged in Sedgwick County District Court. Powell faces one misdemeanor count of obstructing apprehension or prosecution and two misdemeanor counts of official misconduct. The release says Powell helped the woman in May, but it offered no details about what type of assistance he provided or the type of warrant the woman faced. Powell had been with the department for seven years. The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office investigated the allegations at the request of police.

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4-Seat Plane Lands on Its Belly at Wichita Airport

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say no one was hurt when a pilot landed a four-seat plane on its belly at a Wichita airport.  The Wichita Eagle reports that emergency crews were called around 10:15 am Tuesday after the 1966 Mooney M20C landed wheels up at Jabara Airport.  The Kansas Highway Patrol said the pilot had been doing "touch and go" landings — a maneuver in which pilots land on a runway and take off again without coming to a full stop. The patrol says that after the first landing, the pilot forgot to retract his landing gear. When the pilot attempted a second landing, he thought he was extending the landing gear but was actually retracting it.  The rough landing closed the runway, which will have to undergo an inspection.

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Sheriff: Mom Abused Children, Tortured and Killed Pets and Made them Watch

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico woman is facing charges she beat and tortured her children and forced them to watch her kill their pets.  Martha and her husband Timothy Crouch of Aztec, New Mexico, were arrested Monday. Court records show they have not been assigned public defenders yet. Documents also say they had prior complaints in Missouri, Kansas, Alaska and Montana.  The investigation began after a San Juan County sheriff's deputy arrested an adult child of the Crouches on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon.  Court documents say one daughter told authorities stories of physical and emotional abuse. She said her mother boiled puppies and poisoned a kitten as punishment.  Martha Crouch was charged with child abuse and extreme cruelty to animals. Timothy Crouch is facing an obstruction charge.

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Haskell University Extends Search for Next School President

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Federal officials are reopening the search for Haskell Indian Nations University president after an initial round of interviews failed to produce a strong candidate.  Officials with the Bureau of Indian Education said Tuesday in Lawrence the position was reopened through Sept. 30. Agency director Tony Dearman said if the right candidate applied, he or she could be hired before September 30.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports nearly 80 people applied in the first round of the search but many of them didn't have the necessary post-secondary experience.  The president's job is open after several leadership changes at Haskell beginning in November 2018, when then-President Venida Chenault left for a special assignment with the BIE.  The federal agency will appoint someone soon to be acting president for up to one year.

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Leader of Wichita Drug Ring Gets 15 Years in Prison

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 54-year-old Wichita man who admitted he led a drug ring has been sentenced to 15 years in prison.  Federal prosecutors announced that Daniel Nicholson was sentenced Monday after pleading guilty to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.  Nicholson admitted in his plea that he bought methamphetamine outside of Kansas and used a network of subordinates to store and distribute the drugs in Wichita.  Investigators found 27 pounds of methamphetamine when they searched Nicholson's home. They also found $31,952 in cash.

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More Tips Sought on 3rd Anniversary of Woman's Killing

ASSARIA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are asking for more information about the killing of a Kansas dog breeder on the third anniversary of her death.  The Kansas Bureau of Investigation said in a news release that it's followed up on hundreds of leads in the slaying of 57-year-old Lori Heimer. She was found dead on June 25, 2016, in her home in Assaria in rural Saline County. She operated a dog breeding business there called Lori's Poodle Patch.  Authorities continue to seek information from anyone who had contact with Heimer through the business in June 2016. KBI says that callers may remain anonymous.

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Kansas State to Focus on Recruitment in Face of Budget Cuts

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State officials say the university is planning to increase its recruiting efforts in response to a 4% budget reduction for the upcoming year.  Linda Cook is chief of staff and director of community relations at the university. She told community and Riley County representatives Monday that the university plans to invest in recruiting more students, particularly those from out of state.  The Manhattan Mercury reports the university has cut its operating budget by $37 million in the last five years. Kansas State has asked for a 3.1% tuition increase for next year but the Board of Regents last week decided all state universities should keep tuition flat.  Cook said the university needs to spend money on some programs that will help recruitment, which means cutbacks in other areas.

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Hutchinson Zoo Gets Fundraising Support After Flooding

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — When a nonprofit group asked for donations to help the Hutchinson Zoo recover from flood damage, it hoped to raise $10,000 in a month or two.  Supporters passed the goal in five days.  A Facebook fundraiser organized by Friends of the Hutchinson Zoo started June 18 and passed the $10,000 goal Saturday.  The Hutchinson News reports the zoo has been closed since May 21 because of flooding. The animals are safe in temporary housing but playgrounds and five buildings were damaged.  Zoo director Ryan VanZant says staff hasn't been able to estimate the cost of repairs because the water that forced the zoo to close is still standing in the buildings.  The Facebook fundraiser continues to accept donations and a new goal might be set when damages are calculated.

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