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Regional Headlines for Friday, July 5, 2013



Kansas Ends 2013 Budget Year on High Note

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new report shows Kansas collected nearly $87 million more in taxes than expected in the fiscal year that ended June 30. The state Revenue Department said Friday that tax collections totaled about $6.2 billion in the 2013 fiscal year, nearly $160 million more than in the previous year. Collections in June were $567 million, about $25 million more than expected. New laws enacted last year reduced the state's personal income tax rates and eliminated taxes on roughly 191,000 businesses in certain categories. The Kansas Legislature approved more tax cuts in its latest session.


2 Workers Injured in Fireworks Mishap in NE Kansas

VALLEY FALLS, Kan. (AP) — Two workers were reported injured after a malfunction at a public fireworks display in northeast Kansas. Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Herrig told The Topeka Capital-Journal that at least two people associated with the company putting on the annual fireworks show in Valley Falls were injured Thursday night. Herrig says officials believe fireworks stored in an uncovered tote apparently detonated, touching off a large volume of fireworks. He says one male worker from Valley Falls sustained severe burns to his arm, and a woman from Ozawkie sustained a broken arm. Both were transported by ambulance to a regional hospital. He says at least three other people declined medical treatment for minor injuries.

KS School Board to Review Budget Issues

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State Board of Education members will open discussions next week about pushing for more state funding for public schools. The agenda for Tuesday's meeting includes a review of proposals for increased state aid and more money for professional development and school lunch programs in the fiscal year that starts in July 2014. One proposal would raise the state's base aid to school districts by $640 per student, or by almost 17 percent. The current figure for the next fiscal year is $3,852 per student. The board will make budget recommendations to Republican Governor Sam Brownback later this year and lobby legislators next year. A lawsuit over education funding is currently pending before the Kansas Supreme Court.


New Leader Selected for 35th Infantry Division

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new commander has been selected to take the lead of the 35th Infantry Division headquartered at Fort Leavenworth. Major General Lee Tafanelli, adjutant general of the Kansas National Guard, says Brigadier General Michael D. Navrkal has been chosen to replace Major General John E. Davoren. Davoren is retiring after 37 years of military service. The selection of Navrkal was made by the 35th Division Council, which is comprised of adjutants general from Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri and Illinois. Tafanelli is chairman of the council. Navrkal is assistant adjutant general of the Nebraska Army National Guard. He received his military commission in 1981 at Fort Benning, Georgia. A formal change of command is scheduled for October 5 at Fort Leavenworth. Davoren has commanded the 35th Infantry Division since August 2010.

Emporia Festival to Celebrate All Things Twinkie 

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — In Emporia, Twinkies are more than just snack cakes. They're something to celebrate, which the city will do with a Twinkies Festival on July 15, the day Hostess Brands plans to return them to store shelves. The Emporia Gazette reports that the event will also honor the company that's reopening the city's Hostess bakery after buying the snack cake lines out of bankruptcy. More than 500 people lost their jobs when Hostess closed the Emporia plant last November following a strike by union bakers. The new owners, doing business as Hostess Brands LLC, decided to reopen it as their flagship bakery. It's reopening this summer with an expected 250 employees to start. The Twinkies Festival at Flinthills Mall will feature such activities as a Twinkie-eating challenge and a Twinkie costume competition.


Crews Search Kansas Lake for Missing Man

PAOLA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are searching for a 29-year-old man reported missing in an eastern Kansas lake. The Kansas City Star reports that the man, a resident of Kansas City, Kansas, was in the water at Hillsdale Lake when he was last seen Thursday. The Miami County Sheriff's Office says the search for the victim was suspended later Thursday and resumed early Friday. The missing man's name has not been released. Hillsdale Lake is about 20 miles southwest of Olathe in Miami County.


Kansas Boy Remains in Custody on Murder Charges

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas boy accused of killing his father during a custody exchange with the man's ex-wife will remain in juvenile detention for now. KSHB-TV reports that a Johnson County judge refused Friday to release the 14-year-old to his mother pending his next court date on July 16. Prosecutors have charged the boy with first-degree premeditated murder in Tuesday's fatal shooting outside a Shawnee business. Police say the teen was being delivered by his mother and stepfather for an arranged visit with his 46-year-old father when he pulled out a handgun and shot the man. Investigators say the boy surrendered the gun and waited while his stepfather called 911. The Associated Press is not naming the father because of the son's age.

Illnesses Prompt Wide Whole Foods Cheese Recall

NEW YORK (AP) — Whole Foods Market is recalling Crave Brothers Les Freres cheese in response to an outbreak of a bacterial infection that has sickened people in several states and killed at least one. Whole Foods says the cheese may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. It was sold in 30 states and Washington DC under names including Les Freres and Crave Brothers Les Freres. The company is posting signs in its stores to inform customers about the recall. Public health officials in Illinois say one resident became sick after eating contaminated cheese in May. Minnesota officials say one elderly person in the state died and another was hospitalized after illnesses linked to the cheese. Listeria can lead to severe illness for women who are pregnant or people who have weakened immune systems.


Hutchinson Man Injured By Illegal Fireworks

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A Hutchinson man has been hospitalized after being injured by an illegal firework during an Independence Day celebration. Fire Battalion Chief Rex Albright says the 22-year-old man was injured in the left leg with fireworks being set off in a section of Hutchinson where fire crews had warned homeowners about shooting off illegal fireworks. The Hutchinson News reports that the man is hospitalized in good condition Friday. A new city ordinance prohibits fireworks that go above six feet in the air. The measure was a result of several issues last year, including a home that was destroyed by a fireworks-related blaze.

Father, 3 Children, Girlfriend Killed in Missouri Crash

ARCHIE, Mo. (AP) — A father, three of his children and his girlfriend died in a crash while headed to buy fireworks on the Fourth of July in western Missouri. The Missouri State Highway Patrol reports the accident occurred Thursday afternoon when the victims' westbound vehicle ran off a Cass County road just east of Archie, over-corrected and skidded sideways across the roadway. Their vehicle was then struck in the side by a second vehicle. The patrol identified the victims as 22-year-old Aleah Lucas of Olathe; 8-year-old Anna Rittermeyer; 32-year-old Jason Rittermeyer; 10-year-old Noah Rittermeyer, and 9-year-old Sage Rittermeyer. The patrol says the Rittermeyers were all from Archie. Noah Rittermeyer and an older brother belonged to a Boy Scout troop that Jennie Whiteside leads. She described the family as "awesome."

Hearing Set in Kansas Abortion Clinic Threat Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A judge next week will consider whether to dismiss the case against a pastor accused of stalking the woman who opened Wichita's first abortion clinic since Dr. George Tiller was murdered. Julie Burkhart, executive director of Trust Women, currently has a temporary stalking order against Mark Holick. She is seeking to make it permanent. Sedgwick County Judge James Beasley on Tuesday will consider her motion and a defense motion to dismiss the case. Holick is accused of picketing Burkhart's home and handing out "wanted-style" fliers listing Burkhart's address. He also allegedly used a bullhorn and pointed a sign at her house that read, "Where's your church?" Holick contends the protest activities are protected by the First Amendment. Tiller was gunned down in 2009 at his church.

Wichita Boy Burned in Game with Gasoline, Matches

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita boy was spending the Fourth of July recovering from burns caused not by fireworks but a game involving matches. Authorities say the 8-year-old boy initially told officers Wednesday night he was burned when stray fireworks hit a can containing a flammable liquid. When no fireworks could be found, police say, the boy admitted he was lying. Relatives say the boy was lighting sticks on fire when a couple of them fell into a can of gasoline. The adults said the boy and other children were mimicking a video game that involves torches. The boy was burned on his lower body. He was in fair condition Thursday at a hospital.


FCC Approves Softbank Bid for Sprint Nextel

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Communications Commission says it approved Softbank Corporation's bid for Sprint Nextel. The FCC gave thumbs up to the $21.6 billion deal on Friday, completing the U.S. government's review of the Japanese company's investment in Sprint. Softbank will have a 78 percent stake in Sprint, the third largest U.S. wireless carrier. The FCC also approved Sprint's plan to buy the half of wireless operator Clearwire that it does not already own. Softbank, based in Tokyo, has said it expects the Sprint deal to close this month, once it received FCC approval. Sprint is based in Overland Park, Kansas.

Judge Delays Prison Sentence for Garden City Man

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has given a former employee of the Garden City prosecutor's office a few extra weeks of freedom before he goes to prison for theft. U.S. District Judge Monti Belot granted an unopposed defense request this week to stay the 16-month sentence of Pedro A. Castro until July 26. His attorney made the request so Castro could sign documents at the closing for the sale of his home. Castro had been scheduled to report Tuesday to a federal prison in Mississippi. His sentence also includes an order to pay nearly $52,000 in restitution. Castro worked as a diversion coordinator for the Garden City prosecutor's office from 2009 to 2012. In his plea deal, he admitted stealing diversion funds during his employment.

Wichita Teacher Facing Handgun Charge

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita school district official says an elementary teacher charged with carrying a concealed handgun on school premises doesn't work for the district anymore. Wichita school district spokeswoman Susan Arensman told The Wichita Eagle in a text message Thursday that 31-year-old Daniel C. Nagel "is no longer an employee" of the district. She would not say if Nagel was fired or when his employment ended. Nagel was arrested May 20 at an elementary school on suspicion of carrying a concealed gun on school property. He's scheduled for his first appearance in Municipal Court on Monday. Nagel's lawyer, Nicholas Means, says Nagel has a state-issued concealed-carry permit. State law prevents anyone other than law enforcement officers from carrying a gun into a school that has an obvious sign banning guns.

Missing Kansas City Man Found in Chicago Suburbs

ADDISON, Ill. (AP) — Police say a Missouri man with dementia who went missing in the Chicago suburbs has been reunited with his family. Authorities say 79-year-old Robert Tribbitt of Kansas City, Missouri was reunited with his family Friday. Police say he went missing in Addison on Thursday. Addison Deputy Chief Mike Simo said that Tribbitt had no apparent injuries but was taken to a hospital for observation. Tribbitt was in suburban Chicago with a church group. Simo says police "looked for him all night."


Kansas Man Arrested After Backing Car into Woman, Son

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Hutchinson police have arrested a 26-year-old man accused of backing his car into a woman and child after the woman took exception to how he was talking to a child. Sergeant Eric Buller told The Hutchinson News that the man was arrested Thursday for aggravated assault and aggravated battery. Buller says the woman was in a store parking lot with her son in a shopping cart when she saw the man verbally abusing a child. She stopped to write down his license tag number when the man backed his car up, knocking the woman and child down. Neither required medical treatment. The man drove away, but returned and threatened her with a baseball bat. Police later arrested him at his home using the license-tag information the woman had taken down.

Kansas Woman Wins $25K Thanks to Cain Grand Slam

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A lifelong Kansas City Royals fan is the first winner in several years of a promotion that awards $25,000 to one contest entrant if the team hits a grand slam during the sixth inning. Overland Park resident Debbie Hassed found out earlier this week she would be the Sonic Slam contestant for the Royals' Fourth of July game at Kauffman Stadium. She was watching the game at home with her family when the Royals loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth inning. Then came outfielder Lorenzo Cain's first career grand slam, which erased most of a 5-0 deficit against the Cleveland Indians en route to a 10-7 comeback win. It's the first time anyone has won the contest since 2004.

Kansas Drive-In Theater Threatened by Move to Digital

OSAWATOMIE, Kan. (AP) — A drive-in theater in eastern Kansas is facing a threat from the movies' switch to digital, but the community is pitching in to help. Owners of the Midway Drive-In Theater in Osawatomie say now that film distributors' move to digital is drawing closer, the Midway is struggling to make the transition. The Midway is only equipped to use 35 mm film. Going digital requires theaters to buy new projectors at up to $100,000 per screen. Paul Dimoush, who run the Midway, told The Kansas City Star that  he hopes to raise about $30,000. Community leaders are offering their support, organizing everything from charity golf tournaments to carhop fundraisers in a bid to keep the drive-in. So far they've raised about $5,300 toward the $75,000 the Midway needs to upgrade.


Wichita Woman Wants Purse Thief to Return Urn

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita woman wants the thief who stole her purse to know she was also robbed of a very special possession: an urn with her father's ashes. Melissa Stout told KAKE-TV that her purse was stolen from her car when she and her family were downtown Thursday night to watch fireworks. Stout says she has carried the ashes with her since her father died four years ago. She thought she was keeping them safe. She says everything else in the purse can be replaced, but the urn is priceless. Stout says she's concerned that whoever took her belongings may have dumped the urn in the trash, which she says doesn't seem right.


Autopsy: KC Woman Died from Inhaling Sewer Gas

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — An autopsy has determined that a 44-year-old Kansas City woman died in March from inhaling sewer gas, and that drug use and another health problem contributed to the death. The Kansas City Star reports that the Jackson County (Missouri) medical examiner's office ruled recently that Bernice Weaver's death was an accident from "hydrogen sulfide intoxication." Hydrogen sulfide is commonly known as sewer gas and is produced from the decay of organic material. When high levels of sewer gas are inhaled, the gas starves the victim's cells of oxygen, similar to carbon monoxide. The autopsy results noted that methamphetamine abuse and asthma were also contributing factors in Weaver's death. The results say Weaver was found underneath a sink and had apparently used a powerful drain cleaner to unclog a pipe.

Petition Movement Hopes to Get Frank White into Hall of Fame

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A group of Kansas City fans is circulating a petition to get former Royals second baseman Frank White into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. White won eight Gold Glove awards during the 1970s and 1980s at a time when the Royals were among the best teams in baseball. So far, George Brett is the only player from that era to get into the Hall of Fame. Bob Snodgrass wrote White's biography and is among those asking a new veterans committee to take another look at White's career. KMBC reports that the panel was formed to consider players who have been passed over during their initial period of eligibility. The petition currently has about 5,000 names.


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