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Regional Headlines for Friday, February 14, 2014


Senate President Doubts Passage of Anti-Gay Marriage Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The president of the Kansas Senate says her chamber is unlikely to pass a bill that would prevent lawsuits against someone who refuses, for religious reasons, to provide services to gay and lesbians. The bill passed the House on Wednesday, drawing strong reaction from across the country. It would prohibit government sanctions or lawsuits over faith-based refusals to recognize same-sex unions or to provide goods, services, accommodations or employment benefits to couples. Senate President Susan Wagle issued a statement Thursday night saying a majority of Republicans in the chamber don't support the bill. She says most Republican senators support traditional marriage and protecting religious freedom, but they also don't condone discrimination. Most Democrats in the Senate have already said they oppose the bill.


Ex-KBI Official's Attorney: No Child Was in Danger

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The attorney for a former Kansas Bureau of Investigation deputy director charged with sexual exploitation of a child says no child was ever in danger. Thomas Haney told The Associated Press on Friday that his client, 57-year-old Kyle G. Smith, isn't accused of approaching, touching or having any communication with a child. Haney says the charge involves claims that Smith looked at an image. Smith was charged Thursday with one count of looking at a sexually explicit image of a child. He also faces two counts of interference with law enforcement, alleging he tried to destroy evidence on a telephone and on a computer. Haney says Smith's first court appearance will likely be scheduled in April when the case appears on a criminal assignment docket. Smith is free on bond.


Kansas AG Office Awards Crime Victim Funds

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A program administered by the Kansas attorney general's office has awarded more than $296,000 to victims of violent crimes in its latest round of distributions. Attorney General Derek Schmidt's office says the Kansas Crime Victims Compensation Board approved the payments for 233 individuals at its February meeting. The program was established in 1978 to help victims and those affected by violent crime meet such expenses as medical bills, mental health counseling, lost wages and funeral costs. Funding for the program comes from court costs and fines, parole fees, restitution paid by offenders and wages earned by inmates for work they perform in state prisons.

House Committee Rejects Bonds for KU Basketball Apartments

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas went one-for-two before state legislative committees considering bonding authority for two major projects. A House committee Thursday rejected the university's request for $17.5 million in bonding authority to build 66 high-end apartments, with 32 used by student-athletes. University officials say they need the upscale living to compete for basketball recruits. Two state representatives on the House Education Budget Committee said the project was extravagant, and the university's sports boosters could pay for it. Earlier Thursday, a House-Senate committee approved the university's request for bonding authority for a $75 million health education building at the KU Medical Center. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the university wants the state to pay $15 million over several years. The committee recommended approval of the first $1.4 million.


KS Supreme Court Overturns Lawrence Man's Conviction

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A former Lawrence man will get a new trial in the 2004 death of his wife. The Kansas Supreme Court on Friday overturned the murder conviction of Martin Miller. He was convicted of strangling his 46-year-old wife, Mary Miller, at their home because he was having an affair and wanted to collect $300,000 in life insurance. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the Kansas Court of Appeals ruled in February 2012 that Miller should get a new trial because of errors in jury instructions at his 2005 trial. The Kansas Supreme Court agreed on Friday that the jury instructions were incorrect. The court said the jurors were told they could acquit Miller only if they had a reasonable doubt on every element of the charge, rather than on just one element.


Bond Set at $1M for Suspects in Woman's Murder

JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (AP) — A judge has set bond at $1 million for three people arrested after this week's discovery of a woman's body in rural northeast Kansas. KJCK-AM in in Junction City reports that a woman and two men made first appearances Friday in Geary County District Court. Formal charges have not been filed, but two suspects were arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder and the third on suspicion of aiding a murder. Investigators looking for a Junction City woman missing since Feb. 7 found a body Wednesday in rural Geary County. The identity has not been confirmed, but authorities say the body matches the description of 24-year-old Amanda Clemons. Witnesses reported seeing Clemons being placed in a car outside a Junction City motel the night she disappeared.


Judge Sets Fall Trial Date Over Use of Restraints

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has scheduled a trial for a man who claims the juvenile detention center in Sedgwick County violated his rights by using a restraining chair as punishment. U.S. District Judge Monti Belot set the October 14 date in the wake of last year's appeals court ruling that Brandon Blackmon is entitled to a trial. Blackmon sued as an adult in 2005 over treatment he received at the facility as an 11-year-old while awaiting trial on criminal charges that were later dismissed. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said jailers had made "liberal use" of the restraining chair, in which a person is immobilized with straps. The appeals court upheld a lower court's refusal to dismiss Blackmon's lawsuit against the Sedgwick County Board of Commissioners and its employees.


Topeka Officials: Bullying Claims Unsubstantiated

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka officials have found nothing to substantiate anonymous allegations of office bullying at city court. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that city manager Jim Colson said Thursday that the city's human resources and legal department interviewed 11 municipal court employees while investigating the claims. The complaint was made in a letter sent to the city and media outlets. It centers on the municipal court, which is overseen by administrative judge Vic Miller. The letter didn't allege Miller directly bullied anyone, but claimed he didn't stop two employees from engaging in what the letter writer called hostile behavior. City spokeswoman Suzie Gilbert says the people mentioned in the letter remain employed in the same capacities.


Report: KS Crop Values Declined in 2013

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. Agriculture Department is estimating the total value of Kansas crop production last year at $7.79 billion, a drop of 4 percent from 2012. The agency's National Agricultural Statistics Service calculates crop values by multiplying the average marketing price by the amount of production in each state. Friday's report said Kansas wheat production in 2013 was valued at $2.22 billion, down 22 percent from the previous year. The value of Kansas corn produced for grain was pegged at $2.31 billion last year, a drop of 13 percent. Soybean values for 2013 were estimated at $1.59 billion, up 30 percent from the previous year.


Commuter Plane Makes Belly Landing at KS Airport

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Officials at Salina Regional Airport are investigating the belly landing of a small commuter plane with only the pilot and co-pilot on board. Kansas Public Radio reports the SeaPort Airlines Pilatus PC-12 turboprop plane came down with its landing gear up shortly after 10 am Friday. Medical personnel reported no serious injuries to the two crew members. A spokeswoman for the Salina Airport Authority says it's not yet known whether pilot error or equipment failure was to blame. SeaPort Airlines is based in Oregon and flies to nine states.


Man Convicted in Death of Wichita Football Player

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man will face a minimum sentence of life without parole for 25 years for killing a former Wichita high school football star. Twenty-one-year-old Kristofer JaQuinton Wright was convicted Thursday of premeditated first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the death of Jordan Turner. The former star at Wichita South High School was shot to death in a field last March. Prosecutors say Turner was killed because he cheated a woman out of $300 in a marijuana deal. The Wichita Eagle reports that three other people were charged in Turner's death. Wright's lawyer argued that the shooting was intentional but was not premeditated.

Missing Lawrence Man Found Dead in Car at Hospital

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Lawrence man who was the subject of a Silver Alert earlier this week was found dead inside his vehicle in the parking lot of Lawrence Memorial Hospital. Authorities said Thursday no foul play is suspected in the death of 65-year-old George Sundstrom. Lawrence police Sergeant Trent McKinley said officers found a man dead inside his car at the hospital Tuesday night. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that officers were called by people searching for Sundstrom, who was the subject of a Silver Alert earlier that day. McKinley says officers immediately confirmed the vehicle belonged to Sundstrom but couldn't confirm the body's identity. Sundstrom had been missing since February 6.

KC Corps Officials Urge Caution Around Ice

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Officials are urging people to be cautious around ice-covered Midwestern lakes as temperatures rise this week. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said in a news release Thursday that there is no such thing as 100 percent safe ice. The corps' Kansas City district urged people to watch for deteriorating conditions at its 18 lakes throughout Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska. The corps says it's impossible to judge the strength of ice by its appearance, thickness or temperature. Strength also is based on the depth of water under the ice, size of the water body, water chemistry and currents. The corps also noted that ice seldom freezes uniformly. That means it may be a foot thick in one location but only an inch or two thick just a few feet away.


Man Pleads Guilty in St. Joseph Homicide

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — A St. Joseph man has pleaded guilty to participating in the beating death of a man whose body was dumped near the Missouri River in Leavenworth. Forty-nine-year-old Martin Rilinger pleaded guilty Thursday to second-degree murder in the September murder of 38-year-old Jason Davies. Authorities say Davies was killed at a St. Joseph apartment before his body was taken to the river. Another suspect, 39-year-old Robert Jarrell, is also charged in the case. The St. Joseph News-Press reports that Rilinger was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Rilinger told the court Jarrell was beaten with a frying pan and baseball bat during a fight. No one in the apartment stopped the fight, and they eventually took the body to the river, using a wheelbarrow to dispose of it.


NCAA Reinstates WSU Baseball Players Snagged in Apparel Dustup

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita State says it has received word that the NCAA is reinstating 16 baseball players who had been declared ineligible for competition this year for receiving discounted merchandise and apparel. The university said Friday that eight players will be withheld from competition for a period correlating to the amount of benefits each received. Depending on the player, that could be three, six or nine games missed. Athletic director Eric Sexton says in a news release the university feels the outcome is fair, and that the university had been working with the NCAA since first discovering the potential eligibility issues. Head baseball coach Todd Butler called this an unfortunate situation for all involved. He says the players and program will overcome and move on to the upcoming season.




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