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Regional Headlines for Friday, December 21, 2012



Kansas Education Groups Respond to NRA School Proposal

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two Kansas education groups are criticizing the National Rifle Association's call to put an armed security officer in every school in the U.S. in the wake of last week's mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school. Even a state legislator known as a gun rights proponent had some doubts Friday about the NRA's idea. Kansas teachers union lobbyist Mark Desetti said the NRA's proposal would turn schools into armed fortresses. Kansas Association of School Boards official Mark Tallman said the move could prove expensive. Republican state Representative Forrest Knox, of Altoona, agreed that someone with a firearm would help stop and prevent mass shootings. But he said a killer would likely try to take out an officer first. The Kansas State Rifle Association said it fully supports the NRA proposal.


Kansas Jobless Rate Falls to 5.4 Percent

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — State labor officials say the unemployment rate in Kansas fell to a seasonally adjusted 5.4 percent in November despite slowing job growth. The Department of Labor reported Thursday the unemployment rate had fallen from 5.7 percent in October. The rate is a full 1 percent below the seasonally adjusted rate in November 2011. Interim Labor Secretary Lana Gordon said the job market is moving in the right direction. Kansas added 1,100 private sector jobs in November and employers have increased payrolls by 4,900 jobs over the past year. The workforce has shown slight growth in recent months, standing at 1.49 million in November, up about 7,000 people since September. On a county level, Wilson had the highest jobless rate in Kansas at 7.8 percent.


Kansas Chamber to Seek Pensions Debate

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Chamber of Commerce plans to push legislators next year to reopen a debate over public pensions and start a 401(k)-style plan for new teachers and government workers. Two chamber officials said Friday in an interview with The Associated Press that a further overhaul of the state pension system is on the group's legislative agenda because pension costs help boost state spending. The powerful chamber plans to formally release its agenda next month, but Vice President Kent Eckles and Legislative Affairs Director Eric Stafford provided details during the interview. Legislators approved measures earlier this year and last year to deal with a projected $9.2 billion long-term funding gap faced by the state pension system. But lawmakers stopped short of putting new hires in a 401(k)-style plan.


Kansas Supreme Court Upholds Murder Conviction

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has upheld the murder conviction of a Topeka man in the shooting death of a retired jeweler. The court on Friday denied the appeal of 41-year-old Allen Dale Smith, who was convicted in 2008 of killing 77-year-old Clarence David Boose. Smith's attorneys argued that prosecutors made prejudicial comments during closing arguments at Smith's trial. The court said in its opinion that the comments did constitute misconduct but weren't enough to reverse Smith's conviction. The Lawrence Journal-World reports Boose was shot in the head when he surprised burglars at his home in 2005. Smith and his cousin, Leonard Wayne Price, shot Boose as part of a crime spree in northeast Kansas to get money to buy methamphetamine. Smith and Price were sentenced to life in prison.


Parents in Lawrence Parking Lot Abuse Case Plead No Contest 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Two Illinois parents accused of binding and blindfolding two of their children in a Walmart parking lot in Kansas have pleaded no contest to charges. Adolfo Gomez of Northlake, Illinois pleaded no contest Friday to two counts of felony child abuse and three misdemeanor counts of child endangerment. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that his wife, Deborah Gomez, pleaded no contest to three counts of child endangerment on December 14. Sentencing for Adolfo Gomez is scheduled for February 8. Prosecutors are recommending a 30-month sentence for Adolfo Gomez and a year of probation for Deborah Gomez. Both parents were arrested June 13 when Lawrence police found two children, ages 5 and 7, tied up near their vehicle in the Walmart parking lot. Three other children were in the car unrestrained.


Newtown Deaths Have KS Governor Focusing on Services

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback says he wants to examine whether the state is providing adequate mental health services in the wake of last week's mass killings at a Connecticut school. But in an interview Thursday with The Associated Press, Brownback also said he's wary of having a debate about gun control. The Republican governor says the issue is so politically polarized, and debating it would prevent discussion of other issues. Brownback has previously limited his comments about the killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School to expressing support for the victims' families. A gunman killed 26 people, including 20 children, before turning his weapon on himself last Friday. Brownback said he's examining whether Kansas spends enough on mental health services and whether the money is spent effectively.


2nd Traffic Fatality in Kansas Blamed on Icy Roads

GRANDVIEW PLAZA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol is reporting a second fatality blamed on this week's winter weather. The patrol says 26-year-old Jason Skyler Harper of Manhattan died in the accident Thursday afternoon on Interstate 70 in Geary County at Grandview Plaza. KMAN reports the patrol says Harper lost control of his car because of icy conditions and hit a dump truck that was parked on the side of the road. A passenger in Harper's car was taken to Geary Community Hospital. The truck driver was not hurt. A crash Wednesday evening in Ford County killed 21-year-old Roy Gaytan of Dallas, Texas. He was a passenger in a vehicle that collided head-on with a tractor-trailer truck in the midst of a blizzard. A third vehicle then ran into the other two vehicles.


Governor Hears Report on Kansas Drought Conditions

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback says Kansas farmers, ranchers and communities should review their water use and conservation plans as drought conditions persist. Brownback received an update Thursday on the drought and steps being taken around the state to maintain adequate water levels. Officials said water supplies remain critically low, especially at the 24 federal reservoirs around the state. Several are more than 30 percent below normal levels. The officials noted that the John Redmond Reservoir in east-central Kansas is at 46 percent capacity. Brownback says it's difficult to predict when the drought will end. He urged water users to update any conservation or emergency plans should conditions worsen.


Lawrence Woman Gets Probation in Child's Death

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Lawrence woman whose daughter died after ingesting drugs found in a plastic Easter egg has been sentenced to three years of probation. Twenty-five-year-old Rebecca Lynn Wynne was sentenced Thursday after pleading no contest in November to reckless involuntary manslaughter and two counts of aggravated child endangerment. Prosecutors say Wynne's 5-year-old daughter died in April after ingesting opiates in her parents' home. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the child endangerment charges involved Wynne's 6- and 4-year-old children, who have been in protective custody since April. All three of the children were playing with morphine and Oxycontin pills that Wynne obtained the day before her daughter died. At the sentencing, Judge Paula Martin said Wynne posed no danger to the community and was dedicated to rehabilitating herself.


Northeast Kansas Couple Win $50M Powerball Jackpot

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas husband and wife have come forward to claim a $50 million Powerball jackpot. The Johnson County couple, both retired and in their 70s, were announced Friday as the winners in Wednesday night's drawing of the multistate lottery. They've chosen to remain anonymous, as allowed by Kansas law. The couple said they've spent a couple of sleepless days trying to decide what to do with their winnings. They've chosen the cash option, which works out to a lump sum of nearly $23 million after taxes. They have three children and five grandchildren and plan to share some of the money with family and friends. The winning ticket was purchased at a 7-Eleven store in the Johnson County town of Shawnee.


KC Man Found Guilty of Killing Man Who Was Apologizing

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 32-year-old Kansas City man was convicted of killing a childhood friend who was trying to apologize to him. Curtis Bradley will be sentenced February 8 for second-degree murder and other convictions in the March death of 31-year-old Wiley Garner Jr. The Kansas City Star reports the two men were childhood friends but had argued before a picnic. Prosecutors say Garner wanted to apologize but Bradley began shooting as Wiley approached with his hand outstretched. Two other people were wounded.


Wichita Officials Apologize for Icy Streets

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Top officials in Wichita have apologized for failing to prevent streets from icing up just before a morning rush-hour that saw dozens of accidents. Mayor Carl Brewer and city manager Robert Layton issued the apologies Thursday and pledged to do a better job the next time freezing precipitation is in the forecast. With the forecast late Wednesday calling for a light dusting of snow, city crews were prepared overnight to treat and clear intersections, hills and curves. But the snow was preceded by rain, and the temperature stayed above freezing. Layton says crews were caught by surprise when the temperature suddenly plummeted after 6 am, creating a glaze of ice on the roads.


2 Dead in Wichita House Fire

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Investigators are seeking the cause of a house fire that killed two people in Wichita. Firefighters were called to the scene in southeast Wichita around 9:40 am Friday. One person was found dead in the house. The other died later at a hospital. Relatives told KAKE-TV the victims were a man in his 60s who had trouble walking and a younger nephew who lived with him. Wichita Fire Chief Ron Blackwell says a 911 caller reported the fire and said pets may have been trapped in the home. Crews quickly brought the flames under control and found one victim in the living room and the other in a bedroom.


Two People Killed in I-70 Crash East of Denver

DEER TRAIL, Colo. (AP) — Two people are dead after a tractor-trailer and a pickup collided in eastern Colorado. The crash happened just before 9 am Thursday on Interstate 70 at Deer Trail about 60 miles east of Denver. State trooper Josh Lewis says both the dead were in the pickup. The truck driver wasn't injured. The crash temporarily shut down eastbound lanes. Skies were clear at the time but temperatures were below freezing after a storm on Wednesday. Lewis says investigators are determining if the weather was a factor. I-70 westbound was shut down for several hours near Glenwood Springs in western Colorado because of several crashes there. No injuries were reported. Separately, a collision in Colorado Springs killed one person. The Colorado Springs Gazette reports the coroner identified him as 26-year-old Orlando Medina-Cauich.

Census: Kansas Lagged Nation in Population Growth

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new report shows the Kansas population growing more slowly than the nation and most other states. The U.S. Census Bureau is estimating that the population in Kansas grew by one-half of 1 percent from July 2011 to July 2012, while the nation's population grew by three-quarters of 1 percent. The Census Bureau said Kansas ranked 30th among states and the District of Columbia in population growth. According to the figures, Kansas gained 15,000 new residents to make its population almost 2.9 million. But North Dakota, the leader, saw its population grow nearly 2.2 percent during the same period. Among neighboring states, Colorado, Nebraska and Oklahoma saw greater growth than Kansas, while Arkansas, Iowa and Missouri lagged behind the Sunflower State.


Bond Reduction Denied in Salina Homicide

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A judge denied a request for a bond reduction for a Salina homicide suspect who wanted to spend Christmas with his grandparents. During a hearing Thursday, Salina County Judge Rene Young denied a request from 29-year-old Kyle Nelson to reduce his $500,000 bond. Nelson is charged with second-degree murder in the July 31 killing of 37-year-old Jeffrey B. Powell. The Salina Journal reports testimony at a preliminary hearing indicated Nelson shot Powell over the theft of a go-kart that belonged to Nelson's children. Nelson's attorney argued that Nelson had no history of violence and should be allowed to get out of jail for the holidays. Saline County Attorney Ellen Mitchell said someone who shoots another person for taking a go-kart shouldn't get to go home for the holidays.


Manhattan Man Sentenced to 24 Years for Homicide

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A 20-year-old Manhattan man is going to prison for 24 years for last year's shooting death of a father of five. WIBW-TV reports Michael Blake Layne was sentenced Thursday in Riley County District Court. Prosecutors agreed to the sentence when Layne pleaded no contest last month to reduced charges of second-degree murder, robbery and kidnapping. Layne admitted shooting 31-year-old Steven Freel and dumping his body along a dirt road in December 2011. Layne claimed self-defense, but prosecutors said he feared that Freel would talk to authorities about robberies the two had committed together. Another man, 42-year-old Domingo Soto, was sentenced earlier this week to life in prison for aiding and abetting in Freel's killing. Prosecutors described Soto as Layne's boss and said he provided the gun used in the murder.


Hepatitis C Cases Linked to NH Hospital Worker Rise

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Five more people have been diagnosed with the same strain of hepatitis C a former traveling hospital worker is accused of spreading through tainted needles. The total is now 44 in four states. David Kwiatkowski is charged with stealing painkillers from New Hampshire's Exeter Hospital and replacing them with saline-filled syringes tainted with his own blood. Thirty-two New Hampshire patients have tested for the same strain of the liver-destroying disease he carries. A dozen other cases have emerged in states where he previously worked. He remains jailed in New Hampshire. Maryland health officials announced four new cases Friday from Johns Hopkins Hospital. There are also six cases in Kansas, along with one case from the Baltimore VA Medical Center and one at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Pennsylvania.


University of Missouri Sued by Camera Operator

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City cameraman is suing the University of Missouri after he fell off a platform while he was videotaping a basketball game at Mizzou arena. In a lawsuit filed in Boone County this week, Jeron Swann alleges that a wooden platform he stood on to videotape the game had no stairs, handrails or other method to climb on or off. Swann says he fell onto the concrete floor while trying to get off the platform. His attorney says Swann has undergone several surgeries and can no longer perform certain types of work. A spokeswoman for the University of Missouri System says the school does not comment on litigation. The Columbia Daily Tribune reports that Swann is seeking more than $25,000 for himself and another $25,000 for his wife.


Ski Resort Emerges from Bankruptcy Under KC-Based Real Estate Trust Ownership

MCHENRY, Md. (AP) — Maryland's only ski resort says it has emerged from bankruptcy protection under a new management firm. The Wisp Resort in McHenry, Maryland said Friday that the Salt Lake City-based Pacific Group will run the business for new owner EPT Ski Properties. The local management team, headed by General Manager Tim Prather, will remain in place. Prather says Wisp is planning improvements in the coming year. They include expanded offerings for both winter and warm-weather recreation. The previous owners filed for bankruptcy protection last year after defaulting on loans to build a golf course community near the ski hill. That project was sold to another party during bankruptcy proceedings. EPT is a unit of Kansas City-based real-estate investment trust EPR Properties. It bought the resort for $23.5 million earlier this month.


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