Kansas House, Senate Budget Committees to Convene Monday
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House and Senate committees are planning to resume work on budget issues before the Legislature formally returns from its annual spring break. The Senate Ways and Means Committee has scheduled meetings for April 17 and 18. The House Appropriations Committee expects to convene April 19 and 20. The full Legislature returns April 25. The committees are expected to draft rival versions of a $14.1 billion state budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1. Last month, lawmakers were close to taking final action on a spending plan crafted by House and Senate negotiators who settled dozens of differences between the two chambers. But their agreement unraveled just before lawmakers adjourned last week for their spring break.
UPDATE: Man Guilty of Murder in Kansas Cheerleader's Death
GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man has been found guilty of murder in the killing of a 14-year-old cheerleader whose charred body was found at the asphalt plant where he worked. The jury deliberated for less than four hours before returning their verdict Friday in the case of 38-year-old Adam Longoria. The Great Bend man was charged with capital murder in the August 2010 death of Alicia DeBolt. To convict him of capital murder, jurors had to determine Longoria committed criminal sodomy, aggravated criminal sodomy or attempted rape during the killing. The teen disappeared the weekend before she was due to start her freshman year at high school. Text messages show she thought she was going to a party. Her remains were found three days later, burned beyond recognition.
UPDATE: KS Mega Millions Winner Will Remain Anonymous
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Lottery officials say the winner of a share of a $656 million Mega Millions jackpot wants to remain anonymous. Lottery Director Dennis Wilson says the person came to the agency's Topeka headquarters Friday morning with an attorney and some financial advisers. Wilson says the person does not want to be identified, even by gender. The winner did not take part in the lottery's news conference Friday afternoon. Wilson says the winning ticket for the March 30 drawing was bought at a Casey's General Store in Ottawa, about 40 miles southeast of Topeka. The person is taking the winnings in a lump sum of almost $158 million, or roughly $110 million after taxes.
UPDATE: Police Say Charges Unlikely in Kansas Woman's Death
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say it's unlikely charges will be filed against family members in the death of a morbidly obese woman who fell off a couch and remained on the floor for several days before help was summoned. Police Lieutenant Doug Nolte says the fire department was called to the 54-year-old woman's home February 25. Firefighters called police because it appeared there had been some neglect, and the woman was taken to a hospital for treatment. Police said Friday the woman died of bed sores and infections within in the past few days, though Nolte didn't know the exact date. He says the woman's 90-year-old mother and 55-year-old brother were unable to lift the woman, but did feed her while she was on the floor. The mother told KAKE-TV her daughter weighed 350 pounds.
Governor Brownback Names New Chief of Staff
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback's chief of staff is leaving that job, but David Kensinger won't be leaving politics or Kansas behind. The Republican governor announced Kensinger's departure Friday, along with the promotion of his policy director, Landon Fulmer, to chief of staff. Kensinger says he's joining the campaign of U.S. Representative Mike Pence for governor of Indiana. Pence is unopposed in that state's May 8 Republican primary. Kensinger will also serve as chairman of Brownback's policy organization, Road Map Solutions. He says the job will allow him to work on such issues growth of personal income and private-sector jobs. Fulmer worked for Brownback in the U.S. Senate and joined his Topeka staff after Brownback's election as governor. He'll be replaced as policy director by Jon Hummell, currently Brownback's operations manager.
Kansas Governor Vetoes Barber Regulations Change
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback says he wants to send a clear message that Kansas won't accept unnecessary government burdens on the free market. And so, on Friday, he vetoed a bill that could have required more ex-barbers and barber school instructors to take exams before re-entering their professions. The state Board of Barbering pushed for the change as a public safety measure. It would have required a former barber or instructor to take a licensing exam again if they'd been out of the business for two years. Current law allows a three-year gap. Brownback, a conservative Republican, decried the bill as an example of growth in government power over economic activity. He said government's role must be limited for the state's economy to flourish.
Topeka Man Admits Guilt in Johnson County Murder
OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — An alleged methamphetamine dealer from Topeka has admitted to killing a mother of five at a Johnson County hotel because he thought she was a police informant. The Kansas City Star reported that 37-year-old Jason Munjak pleaded guilty Friday to a charge of felony first-degree murder for killing 37-year-old Toby Marie Rock of Topeka. Munjak also pleaded guilty to distributing methamphetamine. The prosecution said Rock was killed January 19 when she went to the Merriam hotel to buy methamphetamine from Munjak. A witness later told detectives that Munjak began acting nervously when Rock showed up. Rock reportedly asked Munjak what was wrong, and then he shot her in the head. The prosecution said Munjak confessed to police. Sentencing is scheduled for May 30 in Johnson County District Court.
New Spirit AeroSystems Factory Opens in Chanute
CHANUTE, Kan. (AP) — Spirit AeroSystems has officially opened a new plant in Chanute. Governor Sam Brownback helped cut the ribbon Thursday at the Chanute plant. KFDI reports the plant will produce engine assembly parts that will be shipped to Wichita. It currently has 16 employees but the company hopes to have more than 100 employees in the next two years. The work in Chanute is currently performed by workers in Wichita, who will be assigned to new tasks. Spirit CEO Jeff Turner said the decision to open the plant in Chanute was based on the quality of the workforce and the low cost of opening a plant there.
Kansas Agency Urging Removal of Dead Pine Trees
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Agriculture is urging residents to remove dead pine trees in April to prevent the spread of disease. Trees that are killed by pine wilt can become hosts to the pine sawyer beetle, which spreads the disease from tree to tree. The agency says pine wilt disease has been established in the eastern half of Kansas but can be controlled. Plant pathologist Jon Appel says pine sawyer beetles typically emerge from dead trees in May and continue through July. The Agriculture Department recommends removing and cleaning up dead pine branches more than an inch in diameter. Dead pine wood can be chipped and buried, or taken to landfills to be burned. But the chips should not be used as mulch on pine, or used as firewood.
Kansas Nixes "Roll-Your-Own" Automated Cigarette Machines
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas State Fire Marshal has pulled the plug on about 20 automated roll-your-own cigarette retail outlet stores in Kansas, citing fire hazards from the machines. The Topeka Capital-Journal reported Friday that the Kansas Department of Revenue licenses the venues, which involve dual machines that allow customers to convert bags of loose tobacco and boxes of unfiltered papers into cigarettes. Cease-and-desist letters went out in February noting a fire-safety law stipulating cigarettes rolled at commercial establishments had to use a type of paper that resists quick burn rates. Seth Valerius, general counsel with the Kansas fire marshal, said it's a public safety issue. Kansas regulators applied the safety standard only to operation of the rolling machines. There is no state law prohibiting individuals from rolling their own cigarettes.
Agency Announces Grants for Kansas Specialty Crops
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Agriculture is accepting applications for its 2012 specialty crop grant program. Kansas will receive nearly $260,000 for the program this year from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service. The money is given to projects and organizations in Kansas that promote competitiveness of specialty crops. The Agriculture Department defines specialty crops as fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, floriculture and nursery crops. Deadline for applications is May 18.
HHS Receives Complaint About Inappropriate Abortion Records Disposal
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal agency has received a civil rights complaint about a former Kansas abortion provider's disposal of hundreds of patients' files in a recycling bin near his Kansas City-area home. Leon Rodriguez, director of the Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, confirmed Thursday the office received a complaint March 26th about Krishna Rajanna's handling of files. The files were from an abortion clinic that closed in 2005 after Rajanna's Kansas medical license was revoked. The complaint came two days after the files were discovered in the bin near Rajanna's home in the Kansas suburb of Overland Park. Rodriguez said the complaint was assigned to a regional office in Kansas City, Missouri for review. He declined to comment further. Rajanna also declined comment Thursday.
Rodman Named to Kansas Bioscience Authority Board
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has named Secretary of Agriculture Dale Rodman to the board of an agency set up to nurture bioscience companies. Rodman's appointment to the Kansas Bioscience Authority was announced Thursday. He replaces Sandra Lawrence. Brownback cited Rodman's nearly 50 years of experience in agribusiness as a factor in his appointment, which must be confirmed by the state Senate. The Kansas Bioscience Authority was established in 2004. It has come under scrutiny from Brownback and other Republicans over its management and investments under former CEO Tom Thornton, who resigned last year for a job in Ohio. Rodman led the administration's oversight of an audit of the KBA's activities dating to its creation. The audit raised questions about perceived conflicts of interest and misuse of funds by Thornton.
Korean War Veteran's Remains to Be Buried in Wichita
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A veteran who died 61 years ago in a North Korean prisoner of war camp will be buried in Wichita on Saturday. Army Corporal Henry Johnson's great-niece and her mother live in Wichita, and are the only known remaining relatives of Johnson. He had no known ties to Wichita. A memorial service for Cpl. Johnson will be at 11 am Saturday at Jackson Mortuary and burial will be in Lakeview Gardens Cemetery. The Wichita Eagle reports Johnson's Army record shows he was taken prisoner in North Korea in 1950. Soldiers returning from prison camps in 1953 said Johnson died of starvation and exposure. He was 21 when he died. Johnson's remains were among 31 boxes of remains returned by North Korea in the 1990s. DNA analysis recently identified him.
Wichita Medical Transport Company Expands Service to Nebraska
SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb. (AP) — A medical transport company will use a grant of $70,000 from the city to establish a base at the airport in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. The Scottsbluff Star-Herald reports that the City Council has approved the grant for EagleMed LLC. The company airplanes are used to fly people who need emergency medical care. The company is based in Wichita. Its website says it has several bases in Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri. City Manager Rick Kuckkahn says EagleMed will receive a base grant of $70,000 to create 14 new jobs in the community. The council also approved a tiered grant that will supplement the base grant as the company creates higher-paying at its Scottsbluff location after the first year.
Corps Says Missouri River Reservoirs in Good Shape
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says this spring's drier than normal weather has helped keep space free for floodwaters in the reservoirs along the Missouri River. The corps said Friday nearly all of the 16.3 million acre-feet of the planned storage space for floodwater remains free because March was so dry. The corps now says runoff into the Missouri River should be about 94 percent of normal this year, but that could change because it is still early. Last year, late spring rains combined with heavy snowpack to force the release of massive amounts of water from the dams and record flooding along the 2,300-mile-long river. Corps officials say there appears to be enough water this year to provide for full navigation from Sioux City, Iowa, to St. Louis.
Kansas Sextuplets Celebrate 10th Birthday
NORWICH, Kan. (AP) — Imagine having to celebrate the birthdays of six children in the same day. Sondra and Eldon Headrick of Norwich face that task Friday, and they couldn't be happier about it. The Headricks' sextuplets — three girls and three boys — turn 10 Friday. Ethan, Melissa, Grant, Sean, Jaycie and Danielle were born April 6, 2002, after Sondra underwent fertility treatments to try and have a sibling for the couple's first child, Aubrianna. After 10 years of too much laundry and not enough sleep, the Headricks say their life functions as an "organized chaos." The Wichita Eagle reports the next challenge will be paying for braces for all seven of their children. The couple says they are grateful the children are healthy and have developed their own personalities.
US Agriculture Secretary Plans Visit to KC, Kansas State
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will use a Kansas City convenience store as a stage to talk about combatting high gas prices with biofuels. The former Iowa governor plans to use Monday's speech to highlight a step the federal government has taken toward wide distribution of gasoline mixed with 15 percent ethanol by allowing manufacturers to register as suppliers. While the Environmental Protection Agency is moving the process forward by allowing the registration, E15 still must clear another set of federal tests and become a registered fuel in individual states. Ethanol makers then must convince petroleum marketers to sell it at gas stations. The new blend would be restricted to 2001 and newer vehicles. On Tuesday, Vilsack will head from Kansas City to Kansas State University to participate in the school's Landon Lecture series.
Bank Sues Cleaver, Company for $1.5 Million
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Bank of America is suing Missouri Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, his wife and their Kansas City company for more than $1.5 million the bank says it is owed from a 2002 loan. A petition filed last week in Jackson County (MO) Circuit Court names the Democratic lawmaker, his wife and the Cleaver Company. It says they failed to make payments on more than $1.3 million borrowed for a car wash in suburban Grandview. The petition seeks unpaid principal of roughly $1.2 million, plus interest of $240,000, late fees of more than $54,000 and $12,000 in other fees. The bank says interest is accruing at the rate of $158 a day. The lawsuit was first reported by a Kansas City blogger, Tony Botello. Calls to a Cleaver spokeswoman Thursday afternoon were not immediately returned.
KC Council Rejects Anti-Nuke Ballot Measure
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City residents will not vote in August on the city's role in future weapons plants. The council on Thursday voted 12-1 against placing a petition initiative on the August ballot. The petition sought to prevent the city from participating in any future projects such as a weapons plant being built in south Kansas City. Opponents collected about 3,600 signatures to put the issue to a vote. The plant will replace a facility at the Bannister Complex, which manufactures non-nuclear components for nuclear weapons. Council members said the petition was unconstitutional and could threaten future defense work and federal jobs in the city. The Kansas City Star reports opponents say they will begin gathering signatures to put a new ballot measure with different language on the November ballot.
Kansas Teacher Admits to Sex with Students
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — A former Shawnee Mission West High School teacher has admitted to having sex with students. Twenty-eight-year-old Michelle Preston pleaded guilty Thursday to three felony counts involving students age 16 or older. A judge set her sentencing for June 1st. The Kansas City Star reports Preston taught psychology and world geography and coached cheerleading at Shawnee Mission West. She was suspended after the allegations surfaced last March and the district did not renew her contract. Preston is free on bond pending sentencing.
Mormons Mark Return to KC Area with Opening of New Temple
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is opening its new, multimillion-dollar Kansas City temple. The Mormon temple is on eight acres north of downtown and opens to the public for about two weeks beginning this weekend. After the temple is dedicated May 6th, it will be open only to church members. The temple will largely serve about 25,000 members in the Kansas City area and about 100,000 members in Kansas and Missouri. The only other Mormon temple in Missouri is in St. Louis. Kansas does not have a Mormon temple. The new building includes offices and several rooms for various events, including weddings, instruction and baptism. Church officials said the temple in Kansas City was needed to address the needs of the growing Mormon population in the area.
UPDATE: Jury Has Reached Verdict in Kansas Teen Murder Case
GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — Jurors have reached a verdict in the capital murder trial of a Kansas man accused of killing a 14-year-old cheerleader whose badly burned body was found at the asphalt plant where he worked. The verdict is being announced Friday afternoon. Prosecutors earlier Friday recounted in closing arguments the hundreds of text messages that Adam Longoria of Great Bend exchanged with Alicia DeBolt before her August 2010 death. Prosecutor Kevin O'Connor also noted Longoria's semen was found mixed with DeBolt's DNA in his vehicle. The defense conceded the relationship between the then-36-year-old man and the teenage girl was inappropriate but insisted he didn't kill her. To convict Longoria of capital murder, jurors must determine he not only killed Alicia but that he committed criminal sodomy or attempted rape during the slaying.
**this story has been updated. Please see above.
UPDATE: Great Bend Teen Murder Case Sent to Jury
GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — Jurors have begun deliberations in the capital murder trial of a central Kansas man accused of killing a 14-year-old cheerleader whose badly burned body was found at the asphalt plant where the suspect worked. Prosecutors recounted in Friday's closing arguments the hundreds of text messages that Adam Longoria of Great Bend exchanged with Alicia DeBolt before her August 2010 death. Prosecutor Kevin O'Connor also noted that Longoria's semen was found mixed with DeBolt's DNA in his vehicle. The defense conceded that the relationship between the then-36-year-old man and the teenage girl was inappropriate but insisted he didn't kill her. To convict Longoria of capital murder, jurors must determine not only that he killed Alicia but that he committed criminal sodomy or attempted rape during the slaying.
**this story has been updated. Please see above.
Closing Arguments Planned in Kansas Teen Murder Case
GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — Attorneys are delivering closing arguments in the trial of a central Kansas man accused of killing a 14-year-old cheerleader whose burned body was found at the asphalt plant where he worked. Both sides rested Thursday in the capital murder trial of 38-year-old Great Bend resident Adam Longoria, who is charged in the August 2010 death of Alicia DeBolt. Closing arguments were expected Friday in Barton County District Court. A conviction for capital murder would require jurors to determine whether the killing was done in connection with criminal sodomy or attempted rape. Alicia disappeared after leaving her Great Bend home the weekend before she would have started her freshman year of high school. Her body was found three days later.
**this story has been updated. Please see above.
54-Year-Old Obese Kansas Woman Dies on Floor of Home
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas agency is investigating the death of a morbidly obese Wichita woman who spent days...and possibly weeks...on the floor of her home after falling off a sofa. The 54-year-old woman was unable to get up, and her mother and brother told police they were unable to lift her. The woman's mother told KAKE her daughter weighed 350 pounds. Several details remained unclear Thursday, including when the fall occurred. A police report says the woman was on the floor somewhere between three days and three weeks before her family called paramedics. The woman had bed sores and an infection and later died at Via Christi Hospital, which would not say when she died. The Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services is investigating.
**this story has been updated. Please see above.
KS Lottery Officials: KS Mega Millions Winner Has Come Forward
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Lottery officials have said the holder of a winning Mega Millions ticket has come forward to claim a share of a record $656 million jackpot. Lottery officials declined Friday to provide any details about that person or where the winning ticket was purchased. They scheduled an afternoon news conference. They've previously said the state's winning ticket was purchased a store in northeast Kansas. Winning tickets also were purchased in Illinois and Maryland, making the Kansas ticket worth almost $219 million. The winner has waited almost a week since the Friday drawing that produced the three winning tickets for the multistate game. But Kansas law allows lottery winners to wait up to a year to claim a lottery prize — and permits them to remain anonymous.
**this story has been updated. Please see above.