Court Rules State Should Increase Aid to Schools
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A three-judge panel has ruled in favor of parents and schools who say the state's formula for funding education is unconstitutional. Parents and school districts had argued the state has failed to live up to its promises to increase elementary and secondary education funding as ordered by the Kansas Supreme Court in 2006. They say schools have had to make cuts that have hurt student achievement. Friday's 245-page ruling from Shawnee County District Court will likely trigger an appeal from the state, though it's unclear how quickly that case would be heard. In the ruling, the judges barred lawmakers from further cuts to per-pupil spending. But the ruling also acknowledged the state would likely appeal its findings. Multiple news outlets are reporting that the state will appeal the decision, according to Kansas attorney general Derek Schmidt.
Hawker Beechcraft Plans Wichita Furloughs
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Hawker Beechcraft plans to furlough about 240 employees now that negotiations with the government have fallen behind schedule. The Wichita Eagle reports that the furloughs will affect hourly workers on T-6 and AT-6 production and will begin later this month. Hawker Beechcraft spokeswoman Nicole Alexander says the furloughs will likely be in one- or two-week increments and total several weeks throughout the year to match production. The company builds T-6 military trainers to sell to the U.S. government as part of the Joint Primary Aircraft Training Systems contract. The company is currently negotiating with the government for the next lot of airplanes, and negotiations are behind schedule. Each lot is negotiated separately and pricing for the next lot of airplanes is a main piece of the negotiations.
KBI Seeking Man in Connection with Mayetta Fatal Shooting
MAYETTA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas authorities are searching for a man described as a person of interest in a shooting death in northeast Kansas. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that an alert was issued Friday after 29-year-old Kevin Stanley was found shot to death late Thursday at a Mayetta home. Jackson County Sheriff Tim Morse says the man being sought is listed as a person of interest and is possibly in a dark Chevy pickup with chrome bed rails. Morse says authorities believe he's in the Topeka area. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation joined Jackson County authorities Friday in the investigation. A KBI spokesman says that agency is assisting at the crime scene. Mayetta, a town of about 340 residents, is about 20 miles north of Topeka.
Kansas Considering New Red Card for Food Stamps
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas officials are considering replacing the current benefits card for residents who get food stamps with a bright red card. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the current Vision cards have an artistic impression of a sunflower, while a prototype of the new card is red with the "Kansas Benefits Card'' label. The Kansas Department of Children and Families says the existing card would be replaced because the agency has a new vendor. The Vision cards were introduced in the 1990s to allow food stamp recipients to use a plastic card to buy food at stores and for people who get temporary cash assistance. Tawny Stottlemire, of the Kansas Association of County Action Programs, says the proposed redesign could return Kansas to an era when public assistance recipients were unnecessarily stigmatized.
Kansas Governor Places 2 Trial Judges on Appellate Court
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has named two Kansas trial judges to the state Court of Appeals. Brownback on Friday announced the appointments of Sedgwick County District Judge Tony Powell and Stevens County District Judge Kim Schroeder to the state's second-highest court. Powell served in the Kansas House for eight years and was a leader among conservative, anti-abortion Republicans before becoming a judge in 2003. He'll fill a vacancy on the appeals court created by the October death of Chief Judge Richard Greene. Schroeder was appointed to the trial court in Stevens County in 1999 by then-Governor Bill Graves, a moderate Republican. He will replace Court Appeals Judge Christel Marquardt, who's retiring. Each came from a separate pool of three finalists named by a statewide nominating commission.
Kansas Experiencing Widespread Flu Outbreak
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The flu season has hit Kansas hard this year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Kansas is one of 41 states designated as having a "widespread" flu outbreak. Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Robert Moser told The Topeka Capital-Journal that KDHE uses several methods to track the illness, including monitoring the percentage of patients seeking health care who exhibit influenza-like illness. The typical peak for flu cases is February, and Moser says the rates in Kansas so far are higher and earlier than what Kansas usually reports. KDHE spokeswoman Barbara Hersh says more than 460 influenza and pneumonia deaths have been reported in Kansas this flu season. During the 2011-2012 influenza season flu and pneumonia contributed to or directly caused more than 1,300 deaths in Kansas.
Kansas Court Upholds $33M Deal in Gas Royalties Case
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The Kansas Supreme Court has upheld a $33 million settlement in a lawsuit from property owners who thought a Texas company wasn't paying them enough for the natural gas pumped from their land. The court issued a unanimous decision Friday against a property owner who thought the 2009 settlement with Anadarko Petroleum Corporation wasn't generous enough. The case began in 1998, when holders of leases for gas in the huge Hugoton field in southwest Kansas sued Anadarko in Stevens County, claiming it had underpaid royalties. The case eventually covered 6,000 royalty owners. But royalty owner Stan Boles objected after District Judge Tom Smith approved the settlement, saying the company should pay roughly $149 million. The Supreme Court said Smith didn't abuse his authority in declaring the settlement fair.
Number of Kansas Gun Prosecutions Ranked 3rd in Nation in 2012
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. attorney's office in Kansas has filed so many firearms cases that the state ranked third last year among the 93 judicial districts nationwide in the numbers of gun prosecutions. Justice Department statistics show only Puerto Rico and the Western District of Texas had more federal gun prosecutions than Kansas in 2012. Kansas had been first in the nation in gun prosecutions in 2011, but fell to third place in 2012 despite prosecutors filing even more cases. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom told the Wichita Pachyderm Club on Friday that fighting gun violence and protecting the safety of law enforcement officers are among Justice Department priorities. Grissom's office filed gun-related charges against 447 people last year in Kansas, up nearly 85 percent from the average of the four previous years.
Kansas Man Pleads Guilty to Killing Grandmother
EL DORADO, Kan. (AP) — A south-central Kansas man has pleaded guilty to killing his grandmother while burglarizing the 69-year-old preschool teacher's home with his girlfriend. The El Dorado Times reports that 20-year-old Jacob Hoyt entered the plea Friday in Butler County District Court. Hoyt was initially charged with premeditated first-degree murder for the December 2011 strangling death of Loyce Cody at her Augusta home. He pleaded guilty instead to first-degree murder in the commission of a felony — in this case, aggravated burglary. Hoyt and Lyndsey Giovinazzo were arrested shortly after the killing while leading officers on a two-county chase in Cody's car. Giovinazzo pleaded guilty earlier to first-degree murder. She was sentenced last month to 25 years to life in prison. For Hoyt, prosecutors recommended a life sentence with a chance for parole after 20 years.
Kansas Growers Plant Fewer Wheat Acres Amid Drought
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas growers have planted fewer acres for their 2013 winter wheat crop amid widespread drought conditions and lack of soil moisture. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Friday that Kansas farmers planted 9.3 million acres of wheat last fall for harvest in 2013. That is down 2 percent from the 9.5 million acres planted in the state the previous year. Nationwide, winter wheat seeded for 2013 is expected to total 41.8 million acres, or up 1 percent. But hard red winter wheat, the type grown in Kansas, is down about 2 percent nationwide with just 29.1 million acres seeded. The agency says growers in Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas planted significantly more acres. The numbers of wheat acres declined in Colorado, Montana and the Dakotas as well as in Kansas.
Concrete Gorilla Found in Kansas Park Restored to Owners
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — The mystery surrounding a 300-pound concrete gorilla that showed up in a northeastern Kansas park has been partly solved. Overland Park police said Friday the owners have been identified as residents of nearby Olathe, who reported it stolen from their front yard around December 15. Still unknown is who swiped the statue and took it to Overland Park, where it showed up last weekend by a gazebo in a neighborhood park. The concrete gorilla was so heavy that police brought in a tow truck with a crane to haul it away. Police say the owners are grateful for the statue's recovery but do not want to be identified.
Work Begins on Kansas Retail-Museum Development
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Construction is under way in northeastern Kansas on a massive retail and housing development that will also feature an American Museum of Natural History exhibition hall. KSHB-TV reports groundbreaking on the first phase of the 60-acre Prairiefire project took place Thursday in southern Overland Park. The schedule calls for the first phase to open in October with a Fresh Market gourmet grocery store and an REI store, the first in Kansas and western Missouri for the outdoor and sporting goods outfitter. Additional retail space, apartments and a large space for exhibits from New York's American Museum of Natural History are expected to open in 2014.
Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Against Topeka Police
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit that a Kansas City, Missouri man filed against the Topeka Police Department and Shawnee County District Attorney's Office. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that U.S. Senior District Judge Sam Crow dismissed Donzell A. Jones's lawsuit in which Jones alleged police and prosecutors violated his rights when he was arrested and charged with drug crimes in 2011. The charges were dismissed in 2012. Crow dismissed Jones's lawsuit in December and said Jones didn't comply with the judge's request to fix several deficiencies in his complaint and submit financial information required to proceed without prepayment of fees. Jones had alleged Topeka police illegally detained him and that the district attorney's office did not have reasonable cause when it charged him.
Kansas Inmate, 92, Released from Prison
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A 92-year-old Kansas man convicted of murder in a 1992 shooting death has been released from prison. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Joseph Johnson was released on parole Thursday from El Dorado Correctional Facility. Kansas Department of Corrections records show Johnson will live in Shawnee County. The Kansas Prisoner Review Board decided last year to grant parole to Johnson effective January 1. The board said the release was contingent on Johnson going to a structured living environment that could address his medical needs. The state didn't release additional details about Johnson's living arrangements. Johnson was convicted of first-degree murder in the August 1992 shooting death in Topeka of 48-year-old Chang Nam Kim. He had been the second-oldest inmate in the Kansas prison system, behind 93-year-old Francis Patrick Doyle.
Missouri Man Draws 100-Year Sentence for 2 Holdups
LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — A 28-year-old Kansas City man has been sentenced to 100 years in prison for robbing a pair of fast-food restaurants. Authorities said Daniel Dumond Brown had been paroled for a previous robbery conviction just weeks before the holdups at a Pizza Hut in Gladstone on June 30, 2011, and an Arby's in Liberty three days later. Brown was convicted in November on two counts each of robbery and armed criminal action. On Friday, a Clay County judge sentenced him to 25 years on all four counts, and ordered the sentences to run consecutively. Clay County (Missouri) prosecutor Dan White told KMBC-TV he believes Brown will become eligible for parole in about 45 years. Police said Brown had a gun during the holdups but did not use it.
Reno County Inmate Trial Postponed
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Reno County officials have postponed a trial for an inmate accused of trying to kill an employee at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility. The Hutchinson News reports that the January 15 trial for 36-year-old DaJuan L. Wilkerson has been postponed and a new trial date has not been set. Wilkerson has pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted second-degree murder, aggravated battery on a state correctional officer and trafficking contraband into a correctional facility. The charges stem from a July 6 attack on William Kendall, a former prison sergeant who was hospitalized for 15 days with a laceration to the head and jaw fractures. Wilkerson is serving time for a first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder in 2001 in Sedgwick County.
New Kansas Senate Leader Jokes About Being 'Marxist'
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate's next majority leader says he's an avid Marxist. But Hutchinson Republican Terry Bruce means he's a follower of Groucho, not Karl. Bruce is a fan of the Marx Brothers, and the decor of his new office at the Statehouse hints at his affinity for their classic comedy films from the 1930s. He's displaying a photo of Groucho and two of his brothers, as well as a small poster for their film "Animal Crackers." They're near a photo of President and famed Kansan Dwight Eisenhower. But there may be some internal dissension over Bruce's choice of comedy icons. Chief of staff Peter Northcott is a big fan of the Three Stooges and has two metal signs honoring them in his office.
KC-Area Police Finish 'Kill List' Investigation
LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. (AP) — Suburban Kansas City police say a so-called "kill list" found in a student's planner never progressed beyond jotting down names. Lee's Summit police announced Friday that the department has finished an investigation that began after a student found the list December 7. Police have said that the list had pictures of guns and knives on it, as well as the names of four or five students. Police said an unidentified juvenile confessed to writing the note in another student's planner. Police said previously that the suspect had borrowed the planner and not returned it. The suspect then moved to an out-of-state district. Police plan to submit the case file to the juvenile court, and officials there will determine whether charges will be filed.
Hays 4th Grader Scores Big in Chess Tournaments
HAYS, Kan. (AP) — An 8-year-old Hays girl is gaining notoriety for her chess skills. The Hays Daily News reports that Sheena Zeng, a fourth-grader at O'Loughlin Elementary School, won about $2,000 over the Christmas holidays at chess tournaments in California and Nevada. Sheena captured second place, and about $1,800, in her age division at the North American Open in Las Vegas, and won another $364 at the New Year's Open in Santa Clara, California. Her father Hongbiao Zeng is a math professor at Fort Hays State University, where his wife, Michelle, is an instructor in the same department. Sheena is also a U.S. Junior Open champion and has had top four finishes in numerous other national and international competitions.
KC Man Sentenced to 22 Years for Murder
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 30-year-old man has been sentenced to 22 years in prison for killing a Kansas City businessman. Andre M. Broadus was sentenced Friday to 22 years in prison in the May 2011 shooting death of 50-year-old David Bledsoe, owner of Bledsoe's Rental. The Jackson County prosecutor's office says in a release that Broadus was convicted in October of second-degree murder, robbery and armed criminal action in Bledsoe's death. Another defendant, Anthony C. Britton was sentenced earlier to 25 years for second-degree murder and other charges in Bledsoe's death. Prosecutors said the two men were trying to rob the business when they shot Bledsoe, who chased the men until he collapsed.
Interim Kansas Secretary of Administration Named
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has appointed Mark McGivern as interim secretary of the Department of Administration. Brownback named McGivern on Thursday as the temporary replacement for Dennis Taylor, who is leaving to become executive director of the Kansas Lottery. A permanent secretary is expected to be named in the coming months. McGivern currently directs the Office of Facilities and Property Management within the Department of Administration. The department oversees state purchasing, upkeep of state office buildings and computer and phone services for state agencies. Taylor's appointment as head of the Kansas Lottery becomes effective Friday. He succeeds Dennis Wilson, who resigned in November for health reasons.
KC Chiefs Announce Several Assistant Coaches
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — New Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid began filling out his staff Friday, hiring former Eagles quarterbacks coach Doug Pederson to be his offensive coordinator and longtime Jets assistant Bob Sutton as the defensive coordinator. Pederson spent the past four seasons on Reid's staff in Philadelphia, while Sutton had stints as the Jets' defensive coordinator and was their assistant head coach this past season. Reid, who was hired by the Chiefs last week, also announced that David Culley will serve as assistant head coach and work with the wide receivers. Matt Nagy will coach the quarterbacks, Eric Bieniemy the running backs and Tommy Brasher the defensive line.
Judge to Hear Petition for Custody of Belcher Baby
INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) — A petition filed by the mother of a Kansas City Chiefs player who killed his girlfriend before taking his own life is scheduled to be considered in a brief court hearing. Cheryl Shepherd, mother of Jovan Belcher, is seeking custody of 4-month-old Zoey Belcher and to be named administrator of her son's estate. A court spokeswoman says the only action expected at Friday's probate hearing is to change the status of the custody petition to contested from uncontested. Belcher fatally shot Zoey's mother, Kasandra Perkins, at their Kansas City home December 1 before killing himself in front of coaches and Chiefs officials outside Arrowhead Stadium. Shepherd, of West Babylon, New York, took temporary custody of Zoey after the shooting. Relatives of Perkins have filed a petition in Texas also seeking custody.
SD Jail with History of Escapes Boosting Security
HURON, S.D. (AP) — A county jail in South Dakota with a history of prisoner escapes is taking steps to beef up security. A man with a criminal history in Kansas and North Dakota escaped from the Beadle County (South Dakota) Jail in Huron on Tuesday by using a makeshift weapon to hold a guard hostage. He was later caught. In 2005, two inmates escaped by bending bars and breaking a window in their cell. One of the men also had escaped in 2003 by scaling a recreation area wall. In 2004, three girls in juvenile detention locked guards inside a cell and escaped. Sheriff Doug Solem tells KELO-TV that the jail recently upgraded its surveillance system and is working to boost staff. The jail also plans more extensive background checks on incoming inmates.
Johnson County Library Manager to Take Alaska Job
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Robert Barr, the Information Services Manager for the Johnson County Library, has been chosen as the new library director for the City and Borough of Juneau, Alaska. KINY reports that Barr will begin his new duties on February 25.
Wichita Man Sentenced for Sex with Young Girls
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 49-year-old Wichita man has been sentenced to 17 life terms for having sex with two young girls who were provided to him by their mother. James Lamont Brown will not be eligible for parole under the sentences imposed Thursday by Sedgwick County District Judge Gregory Waller. Brown was already a registered sex offender when he was charged with repeatedly molesting two sisters, then 11 and 12 years old, at a Wichita hotel. He was convicted in November 2011 of nine counts of rape and eight counts of trafficking. The girls' mother has admitted driving them to Wichita from their home in Kansas City, Kansas, to have sex with Brown. The mother is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to multiple counts of sex trafficking and child endangerment.