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Regional Headlines for Friday, March 08, 2013



Democrats Look to Join Kansas Education Funding Talks

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic leaders in the Kansas Legislature say they'll seek to intervene in negotiations aimed at settling an education funding lawsuit. Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley and House Minority Leader Paul Davis said Friday they expect to file their request with the Kansas Supreme Court on Monday. Davis is an attorney and is drafting the request. The Supreme Court has ordered mediation in the lawsuit filed against the state in 2010 by several school districts and parents and guardians of students. The high court gave the parties until Friday to agree on a mediator and planned to appoint one if they failed to do so. A three-judge panel in January ordered legislators to boost annual spending on schools by at least $440 million. The state has appealed the decision.


Kansas House Panel Rejects Bill Regulating Adult Businesses

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House committee has rejected a bill imposing new regulations on strip clubs, adult bookstores and other sexually oriented businesses. The Federal and State Affairs Committee first watered down the measure to remove provisions that would have banned alcohol and total nudity within such businesses. Members also removed a ban on seminude employees intentionally touching patrons and a requirement that dancers remain 6 feet away from customers. The revised bill still would have barred such businesses within 1,000 feet of schools, homes and houses of worship. But some social conservatives who backed the original bill wouldn't vote for the weaker version, and the committee rejected it on a voice vote. The action is likely to end debate on the issue for the year.

Bill Would Require Warrant for Police GPS Use

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A bill before a Kansas Senate committee would require police to obtain a warrant before attaching a GPS to a suspect's vehicle. The House already passed the bill, which complies with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Kyle Smith, deputy director the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, testified Thursday that Kansas law needs to be updated because it currently doesn't address GPS search warrants. The Wichita Eagle reports  that an amendment to the bill would require customers to provide identification information to retailers when buying prepaid cellphones or SIM cards. Police could get that information from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation if they find such devices while investigating a crime. The sponsor says it's aimed at drug dealers, who often use prepaid phones because they are nearly impossible to trace.

Lawmakers Eye College Savings Plan for Poor

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A House committee is considering a proposal to eliminate a program that helps poor Kansans save money for college. The program allows up to 1,200 state residents each year to receive up to a $600 yearly state match for contributions to the Kansas' 529 college savings plan. The program is open only to households at 200 percent or below the federal poverty level, or with incomes roughly below $47,100 a year for a family of four. Representative Pete DeGraaf, a Republican from Mulvane, questioned whether encouraging the poor to save for college is a proper function of government. The Kansas City Star reports 988 households are participating this year, costing the state about $500,000. Overall, the state has spent $2.1 million on the program since 2007.


Beechcraft to Protest Air Force Contract Decision

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Airplane maker Beechcraft will formally protest an Air Force decision to award a high-stakes contract worth more than $427 million to a competitor. Beechcraft, formerly Hawker Beechcraft, claimed Friday that an estimated 1,400 jobs in Kansas and other states are in jeopardy. The Machinists union is urging a reversal of the decision. Sierra Nevada, based in Sparks, Nevada, won the contract to build 20 light air support planes with Brazil-based Embraer in Jacksonville, Florida. The planes will be used in Afghanistan, and the contract could be worth as much as $1 billion, depending on future orders. The competition for the award has been going on for nearly three years and has been embroiled in legal challenges. The loss dealt a major blow to Beechcraft as it emerges from bankruptcy protection.


Army Leaders Discuss Impact of Federal Budget Cuts

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — A senior Fort Riley commander says steps are being taken to mitigate cuts in federal defense spending, ranging from changing training schedules to letting some contracted employees go early. Brigadier General Donald MacWillie held a briefing Friday at 1st Infantry Division headquarters in northeast Kansas, where the cuts could result in furloughs for some 2,700 civilian employees. The furloughs could start in April and run through September, resulting in a 20 percent pay cut. The general says Friday's discussion was his effort to inform the public and surrounding communities about the cuts and not part of a coordinated Army effort. Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, is holding a news conference Friday, and President Barack Obama has visited bases recently to ask Congress to act and avoid the cuts.


Fort Riley Soldiers to Alter Training

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — Soldiers at Fort Riley will be spending more time in simulators and computer training centers and less in the hills of northeast Kansas as they hone their skills in the coming months. Brigadier General Donald MacWillie said Friday the changes are part of the 1st Infantry Division's strategy to cope with automatic cuts in federal spending. MacWillie says the cuts are forcing unit leaders to be more creative in how they schedule training and make the most of reduced budgets. Fort Riley has the capability to train using simulators and virtual training centers in part because of new facilities built since 2006. MacWillie says soldiers and helicopter pilots will do more of such training, but will still get in the field and air to finalize training before deploying to war.


Fort Riley Looks Outside Gate for Budget Solutions

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — Fort Riley officials are continuing to meet with state and local officials on ways to share resources and services in the wake of automatic federal budget cuts. The military is expected to take a large proportion of the $85 billion in federal spending reductions through September. Officials at the northeast Kansas post said Friday they've been working with local cities and counties to discuss how to cooperate and share resources. About 2,700 civilian employees at Fort Riley could be furloughed one day a week without pay starting in April. Officials acknowledge nearby communities are likely to feel the pinch with fewer dollars being spent in the local economy.


Triggerman in Topeka Shooting Sentenced to Life in Prison

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka man was sentenced to life in prison for killing a Topeka woman and wounding her partner during an attempted robbery. Prosecutors say 19-year-old Jimmy Jermal Netherland shot and killed Natalie Gibson and wounded 43-year-old Lori Allison in 2011 when the women returned to their home after celebrating Gibson's 40th birthday. Nine people were charged in the shootings. Netherland was sentenced Friday to life in prison for killing Gibson and 114 months for wounding Allison. The sentences are to be served consecutively. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Netherland declined to speak before his sentencing but his mother told the court her son was a victim of injustice.


OSHA Proposes $7,000 Fine in Missouri AT&T Worker Death

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed a $7,000 fine against AT&T for not doing enough to protect its employees after a technician was killed in September on a late-night service call. Kevin Mashburn, an AT&T technician for 41 years, was clubbed in the head with a crowbar on September 19 in the Kansas City suburb of Gladstone. He pulled himself to his service truck and radioed for help, but emergency responders didn't arrive until nearly an hour later. In a citation issued last week, OSHA says the company failed to make sure workers have a means of continuous communication to summon help in emergency situations. AT&T issued a statement saying OSHA ignored the fact that Mashburn had several devices available to call for help, which he was able to do.


KC Police Find Body in Burned Truck

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police are investigating a body that was found inside a truck that had been burned. Police say in a release that they were called to a mid-town area Thursday night and found a burned truck with a body inside. The victim's identity has not been released. Police say the death is being investigated as suspicious.

Police: Sewer Gas May Have Killed KC Woman

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police say a 44-year-old woman may have died from sewer gas asphyxiation. The woman, Bernice A. Weaver, was found unconscious Wednesday in front of the kitchen sink in a friend's home. The plumbing underneath the sink had been disassembled. Police reports said the house smelled strongly of sewer gas when officers arrived. Weaver was taken to a hospital, where she was declared dead. The Kansas City Star reports a plumber told the homeowner that the removal of the trap under the kitchen sink left an open sewer line into the house. The plumber also detected sewer gas coming from a basement floor drain. The Jackson County (Missouri) Medical Examiner's office has not officially determined the cause of death.

Salina Man Seeks to Withdraw Plea in Child's Death

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Salina man who briefly escaped from jail says he wants to withdraw his no contest plea in the death of his girlfriend's son. Twenty-nine-year-old Antonio M. Brown Sr. was to be sentenced Thursday for the death of 14-month-old Clayden Lee Urbanek in October 2011. The original sentencing for first-degree murder and child abuse was delayed after Brown escaped from the Saline County jail in February. He turned himself in two days later in Wichita. The Salina Journal reports that Brown's attorney said his client wanted to withdraw his plea. His attorneys had already filed a motion seeking to withdraw as Brown's counsel. The toddler's mother, Brittney N. Betzold, is serving 13 years and one month for second-degree murder and one count of child abuse in her son's death.

Garden City Residents Question Dog Euthanasia

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — The deaths of three dogs at a southwest Kansas animal shelter have caused a ruckus on social media over policies governing when animals should be put down. The Garden City Telegram reports the Garden City Animal Shelter euthanized the dogs February 26 because they were aggressive. The dogs included at least one that had been scheduled to be transferred to another shelter. Police say a veterinarian recommended the dogs be put down because of their aggressive behavior. One was a female terrier due to give birth any day. The others were a young adult female shepherd mix and a male pit bull mix puppy. Several residents wrote emails and made calls to city and county officials and posted messages on social media sites seeking new policies.


Man Missing After Wichita Police Chase

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have stopped searching a water-filled sandpit in south Wichita for a man who may have jumped in while running from police. KWCH-TV reports that the search was halted Friday after rescue teams in boats spent several hours searching but failed to find anything. Wichita police Lieutenant Chris Halloran says officers tried to stop the man's car for traffic violations about 2 am Friday. The car sped off and eventually crashed through a chain link fence. The man got out and ran, and police believe he jumped into the pond. Two other people in the car during the chase were taken into custody.


Judge Sets Date for New Trial for Kansas Veteran

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A judge has scheduled a new trial for a Kansas veteran accused of possessing explosives after an appeals court tossed out key evidence from his first trial. U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten on Thursday scheduled a May 7 trial for Alfred Dutton. The Army and Marine veteran from Eureka is charged with unlawful possession of unregistered destructive devices. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last month the judge at Dutton's first trial should have suppressed evidence taken from a storage unit where authorities found five jars of homemade napalm with fuses attached. The appeals court said authorities lacked reason to suspect criminal activity. Defense attorney John Henderson has argued Dutton was preparing for an economic collapse. His apartment was filled with nonperishable foods, medical supplies and other survival items.

KS Legislation Would Ban Planned Parenthood Sex Ed Materials

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The head of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri is criticizing Kansas legislation that would bar abortion providers from having any relationship with public schools. President and CEO Peter Brownlie said Thursday his chapter offers materials and instructors for sex education classes to Kansas public schools if they ask. Kansans for Life Executive Director Mary Kay Culp says parents shouldn't have to worry about their children getting sex education instruction from a group that she considers to promote abortion. The bill aimed at keeping abortion providers out of schools was approved Thursday by the House Federal and State Affairs Committee. The measure bars abortion providers from furnishing materials for school sex education classes. It also says that school employees and contractors providing educational services cannot be involved in abortions.

Judge Orders Kansas Abortion Activist to Respond

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has ordered a Kansas anti-abortion activist to answer questions about her relationship and communications with Scott Roeder, the man who killed Wichita abortion provider George Tiller. U.S. Magistrate Judge Kenneth Gale on Thursday also ordered Angel Dillard to answer the Justice Department's inquiries about her contacts with one of Roeder's fellow inmates. The inmate alleges the Valley Center woman solicited his participation in unlawful activities against abortion providers. Gale rejected Dillard's argument that those conversations were protected by clergy-communicant privilege, noting that Dillard is not a minister. The Justice Department sued Dillard in 2011 under a law aimed at protecting access to reproductive services. The department accuses her of sending a threatening letter to Dr. Mila Means, who was training to offer abortions after Tiller's 2009 murder.

Kansas Park Deaths Identified; Presumed to Be Double Suicide

SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) — The two women found shot to death in a northeast Kansas park have been identified. Investigators say that Sharon E. Bartley and Susan E. Howard,  both of Johnson County, took their own lives. The bodies of the women, who appeared to be in their 50s, were discovered Wednesday by a visitor to Mill Creek Streamway Park in Shawnee. Both had been shot in the head, and a gun was found nearby along the Gary Haller Trail. Johnson County Sheriff's Master Deputy Rick Howell said Thursday afternoon investigators have concluded the case was a double suicide.  Authorities had said Wednesday evening that they were not looking for a third-party shooter. A vehicle connected to the women had been parked at the trailhead, about 150 feet from where the bodies were found.

Dog Survives 40-Foot Fall from Kansas City Overpass

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A young German shepherd that fell or was thrown more than 40 feet from a Kansas City overpass will get badly needed surgery thanks to generous donors. KSHB-TV reports the 2-year-old shepherd, nicknamed Lindey, broke all the tendons and ligaments in her front paws in the fall. She also needed operations on her teeth and spleen. Witnesses reported seeing the dog soar off a viaduct onto snow in the Hale Arena parking lot of Kansas City's West Bottoms area last Friday. She was taken to Piper Heritage Vet Clinic in Kansas City, Kan., where a doctor said Lindey would need $10,000 worth of surgery. By Thursday, donations were nearing $15,000 for the medical care. Lindey has been getting around with bright pink splints on her front legs.

Kansas Man Sentenced for Colorado Boy's Death

GOLDEN, Colo. (AP) — A Kansas man visiting friends in suburban Denver has been sentenced to prison after his friends' 5-year-old son was killed by another child playing with the man's handgun. Adam Laham of Wichita was sentenced Thursday in Colorado to 16 years in prison. He pleaded guilty in November to negligent child abuse causing the death of 5-year-old Rolyn Javier. Prosecutors say Laham was staying at the home of friends with three young children while visiting Colorado in 2011. They say he had left his Kel-Tech semi-automatic handgun out while he was in another room, and Rolyn's sibling picked it up and accidentally shot the boy. Prosecutors say that while Laham was awaiting sentencing in Colorado, he was arrested three more times on drug and gun charges in Kansas and Arkansas.

New Team Leadership Leads to New Ticket Sales for Chiefs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs have a new coach, a new general manager — and plenty of new season-ticket holders. New season sales are up 112 percent over this time last year, according to figures provided to The Associated Press on Friday. Season renewals are also up 5 percent over last year, and the Chiefs are on pace to have their best renewal since coming off their 2010 playoff season. The Chiefs finished 2-14 last season. Invoices were sent out January 7, three days after coach Andy Reid was hired to replace Romeo Crennel, and five days before John Dorsey was hired to replace Scott Pioli as GM. Already, they've made a series of moves, trading for quarterback Alex Smith, signing long-term deals with wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and punter Dustin Colquitt, and making left tackle Branden Albert their franchise player.


Maine Couple's Deaths Ruled Murder-Suicide

CHAPMAN, Maine (AP) — State police say the death of an elderly couple who'd recently moved from Missouri to Maine was a murder-suicide. The state medical examiner's office concluded Friday that 81-year-old Marcus Sykora and his 77-year-old wife, Sheila Sykora, both died from single gunshots to the head. The couple had recently moved from Kansas City, Missouri to the northern Maine town of Chapman to live with their daughter. Police say the daughter was in another section of the house when the shootings took place Thursday. She heard the gunshots, went to her parents' apartment, and then called 911. Detectives say Marcus Sykora shot his wife and then turned the handgun on himself. Marcus Sykora died at the scene; his wife was pronounced dead at a hospital. Police say both had had medical issues.

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