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Headlines for Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Attorney: Judges Still Pursuing Lawsuit on Judicial Budget 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An attorney for four Kansas judges says they will continue pursuing a lawsuit over the court system's budget despite an order in another case protecting its funding. Lawyer Pedro Irigonegaray questioned Wednesday whether a petition filed Tuesday by Attorney General Derek Schmidt in Neosho County District Court was flawed. Schmidt successfully sought to block enforcement of a law dealing with the judiciary's budget until March 15. The law was enacted this year to preserve a change in how chief district court judges are selected. The law said if the change was overturned, the judiciary's entire budget was nullified. A Shawnee County judge last month struck down the selection-process change. The judges represented by Irigonegaray then filed their lawsuit against this year's budget measure in Shawnee County.


Brownback Meets with Group Assigned to Shape Social Policy 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback meets for the first time with members of a newly formed council that will make recommendations on how the state should approach poverty and other social issues. The governor appointed the Social Services Policy Council in February to advise him on issues related to social service policies. Several state agency chiefs met Wednesday with council members at Sporting Park in Kansas City in a largely introductory session. Several members listed concerns they have about issues such as prison recidivism, the chain of welfare from generation to generation and where money dedicated to providing social services is being spent. The group is expected to meet at least twice a year. It will receive ongoing staff support from the Kansas Department for Children and Families.


Expert: Fracking Restrictions Coincide with Lesser Quakes 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A state geologist says a limit on the injection of saltwater into the ground by oil producers coincided with less intense earthquakes in south-central Kansas. Interim director of the Kansas Geological Survey Rex Buchanan says the reduction in earthquakes' magnitudes mirrored the adoption of the Kansas Corporation Commission's injection restraints in March. But he says a drop in drilling due to falling oil process and a potential lack of tension along fault lines are other probable factors. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the Kansas Corporation Commission is expected to renew another six months of injection restraints in Harper and Sumner counties. The injection restraints were inspired by the proliferation of earthquakes in the area. About 125 earthquakes shook Kansas in 2014.


Authorities Search Salina After Girl's Abduction Claims

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are searching a wooded area in northwest Salina after a girl said she was abducted. Saline County Sheriff's Office Lieutenant Jim Hughes says the girl, who is about 10 years old, showed up at a house shortly before 7 pm Tuesday, saying she'd been grabbed by a man and dragged into a wooded area. The Salina Journal reports that the girl told officers she was able to escape from her abductor. The girl's parents called police to report that she was missing soon after the people whose home the girl fled to called police. Hughes estimated the girl was missing for only a few minutes. Hughes says the girl appeared to be "shaken up." He said he did not think she would require medical attention.


Bel Aire Police Arrest 3 Students After Online Threats

BEL AIRE, Kan. (AP) — Three high school students in Bel Aire have been arrested after a threat was posted on social media. According to Bel Aire police, one 16-year-old student and two 15-year-old students who attend Northeast Magnet High School were arrested Tuesday morning. Bel Aire Police Chief Darrell Atteberry said a threat was posted Monday night, and additional security was sent to the school the next morning. Atteberry said students were checked with magnetic wands before being allowed into the building. Authorities have not released details about what was posted, but Atteberry said "it was a credible threat."


Kansas Health Care Worker Convicted of Second-Degree Murder 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas health care worker has been convicted of second-degree murder in the asphyxiation death of a disabled client. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that a Douglas County jury on Wednesday found 49-year-old Ronald Eugene Heskett guilty in the September 2014 death of 65-year-old Vance Moulton, who suffered from cerebral palsy. The jury, which deliberated about four hours, could have found Heskett guilty of first-degree murder. Heskett admitted he helped Moulton die by twisting a towel around his neck. But he said he did so after repeated requests from Moulton to help him die. Prosecutors argued throughout the trial that Moulton was murdered. They contended during closing arguments that no evidence was presented to show Moulton was suicidal. They said Heskett killed Moulton for money.


Kansas Doctor, Wife Face New Sentencing in Overdose Deaths 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas doctor and his wife convicted of a moneymaking conspiracy prosecutors have linked to 68 overdose deaths will return this week to a federal courtroom in Wichita. Stephen and Linda Schneider have a re-sentencing hearing set for Thursday. It comes after a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a separate case. The high court ruled that a victim's drug use had to be the actual cause of death — not merely a contributing factor — to impose the harshest punishments under the federal Controlled Substances Act. The Haysville couple was convicted in 2010 of conspiracy to commit health care fraud resulting in those deaths, unlawfully prescribing drugs, health care fraud and money laundering. The doctor was sentenced 30 years. His wife was sentenced to 33 years.


Judge Dismisses Felony Charges Against Galena Officials 

GALENA, Kan. (AP) — To settle a private-party lawsuit, a judge has dismissed felony charges against a southeast Kansas mayor and six current or former city council members who were accused of misusing public funds. The charges were dismissed Monday after a prosecutor said in court documents that they weren't compatible with the alleged actions of Galena Mayor Dale Oglesby and the others. The prosecutor said the grand jury indicted the officials "without proper guidance." Baxter Springs-based attorney John Gutierrez advised the grand jury. The Joplin Globe reports that he didn't respond to attempts for comment. The officials are accused of authorizing $100,000 to buy land for the city and settle a lawsuit against a company owned by Oglesby's business partner.


Bicyclist Injured in Shawnee Hit-and-Run Crash

SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) — Police say a bicyclist has been injured in a hit-and-run crash in the Kansas City suburb of Shawnee. The Kansas City Star reports that the crash happened Wednesday morning. Police are looking for a white truck that has possible front-end damage. Both the truck and the bicyclist were headed west at the time of the crash. The driver didn't stop and continued west. An ambulance took the bike rider to a hospital. The extent of the bicyclist's injuries weren't immediately known.


Brownback Intervenes in Auction of Illegally-Hunted Deer Heads

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A 14-point whitetail deer head was removed from a state auction of illegally hunted trophy deer heads at the request of Governor Sam Brownback's office because of a continuing dispute over its ownership. A spokesman for the governor says the Legislature asked that the state remove the deer head until lawmakers consider several issues raised by the ownership dispute. The Salina Journal reports the owner of the land in Osage County on which the deer was illegally shot in 2011 is fighting for ownership of the deer head. The Legislative considered a bill in 2014 that would require state government to give landowners first rights to buy wildlife illegally poached on their land. The auction of more than 100 deer trophy heads, antlers, guns and boats brought in $90,000.


KC Judge Orders Minimum Wage Proposal Removed from Ballot

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A proposal that called for Kansas City's minimum wage to increase to $15 per hour won't appear on the November ballot. Jackson County Circuit Judge Justine Del Muro ordered the measure's removal on Tuesday. Del Muro said a new Missouri state law clearly prohibits the city from adopting its own minimum wage. A citizen group had collected enough signatures to force a vote on the proposed minimum wage hike. Assistant City Attorney Sarah Baxter told the court that Kansas City shouldn't be forced to spend $500,000 for an election on an issue that state law forbids. But backers of the initiative argued the new state law is flawed and can be challenged in court, if Kansas City voters signal their approval for a higher minimum wage.


Ruling Gives KC Chiefs Age Discrimination Suit Fresh Life

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) _ A lawsuit claiming that that the Kansas City Chiefs fired an older maintenance manager because of his age has received fresh life. On Tuesday, the Missouri Supreme Court vacated a Jackson County jury's decision that the club didn't discriminate in firing Steve Cox in 2010. The judges found that it was wrong to preclude 20 other former employees from testifying that they also lost their jobs because they were older. The state Supreme Court has sent the case back to the lower court for reconsideration. Cox was 61 when he was fired and replaced with a 37-year-old worker. The Chiefs have argued that Cox was terminated for performance issues and insubordination.


'Improvised Explosive Devices' Blamed in Blast That Injured Boy

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Newly released court records say a Topeka car explosion that severely injured a 4-year-old boy also peeled back the vehicle's metal roof. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that it obtained an affidavit Tuesday in the case against Jacob Daniel Schell. The 37-year-old was charged earlier this month in the July 5 explosion. The affidavit says that a sack containing "several improvised explosive devices'' blew up in the lap of Schell's son. A Kansas Highway Patrol trooper said the ignition source was a "little cap gun'' the boy was using. Schell described what exploded as leftover fireworks from a campout. But the state fire marshal's agent said damage to this vehicle was consistent with commercially made or homemade explosives. 


Kansas Man Driving Combine Leads Police on Chase

ELLINWOOD, Kan. (AP) _ A central Kansas man has been arrested after stealing a large piece of farm equipment and hitting power poles and law enforcement vehicles as he fled. Barton County Sheriff Brian Bellendir says the pursuit started Tuesday night after reports that someone was driving a combine recklessly.  The combine damaged power poles and struck a pickup truck along a highway in the town of Ellinwood. Police say that when they arrived, the driver put the machine in reverse, ramming into a police cruiser. The sheriff's department says a deputy set up a road block but that the combine driver rammed into the deputy's patrol car. Ultimately, authorities fired at the combine to disable it. 


Ex-Osawatomie Official Pleads Guilty in Embezzlement 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The former recreation director for Osawatomie has admitted embezzling more than $125,000 from the city. Federal prosecutors said in a news release that 53-year-old Ron Maring of Osawatomie pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of tax fraud and false statement, and one count of money laundering. He admitted that he wrote checks on the Osawatomie Recreation Commission's account to himself and to American Legion Baseball and used the money for personal expenses. Maring said he persuaded recreation commission board members to sign blank checks, used his own signature as an endorsement and instructed a recreation commission employee to endorse checks. He also failed to report the embezzled income on his 2010 federal tax return, which would have added $14,902 in taxes owed. Sentencing is set for December 11.


Wichita State Reviving Master's Degree in Physics

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Wichita State University is reviving its master's degree physics program. The move announced Tuesday comes a month after the Kansas Board of Regents green-lighted the proposal. The regents suspended the program in 2003 because of low enrollment and graduation numbers. The program is officially restarting the spring of 2016, but the school is taking applications starting immediately.  Wichita State has 40 undergraduate physics students, but that number is expected to increase now that undergraduates can be recruited to the master's program. 


Insect Researcher: Drones Will Help Feed Growing Population 

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) — Drones aren't quite ready to feed the world, but a college researcher who studies insects says unmanned aircraft can help grow better crops and produce more food. Kansas State University entomology professor Brian McCornack says it's an important application because the world's population is projected to increase by 2 billion people in the next 30 years and there will be "the same sliver of land" to produce food. McCornack says in addition to targeting pests and other problems with production, drones should have the robotic capabilities to collect insect samples or set traps. McCornack spoke Wednesday during the final day of an annual unmanned aircraft summit in Grand Forks. He told the group that making an entomologist part of a drone discussion shows how far the industry has advanced.


Body Found in Vehicle at Fort Riley

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) _ Authorities say a body was found in a vehicle at Fort Riley military base. The military base said in news release that emergency services discovered the body of an unidentified person in a vehicle around 6 p.m. Tuesday. According to the news release, Fort Riley police and special agents from the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command are investigating the incident. 


Seattle Mariners Beat Royals, 11-2 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Seattle Mariners romped past the slumping Kansas City Royals, 11-2 Tuesday night. The AL Central-leading Royals have dropped 12 of their last 17 games. Their magic number for clinching the division remained at three. Seattle has the league's best record in September at 13-6 but is still three games under .500 (74-77). The Mariners' Robinson Cano hit a three-run homer in a seven-run third inning. Cano's next hit will be the 2,000th of his career.


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