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Regional Headlines for Friday, November 8, 2013


District Court Says KCC Violated Meetings Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Shawnee County District Court has fined the Kansas Corporation Commission for violating the Kansas open meetings law. Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor said Friday the court fined the KCC $500, which is the maximum allowed. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the court also ordered the KCC to stop using "notational voting," which is when staff meet individually with the three KCC members to secure their opinions before writing a public order. Taylor says the decision ends the litigation he pursued against the KCC after receiving a complaint from the Citizen Utility Rate Payer Board. Taylor says that during the litigation, the KCC acknowledged a technical violation of KOMA when two commissioners met during a notational voting process while considering a rate request for a Saline County water district.


KS Supreme Court Upholds Murder Conviction

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has upheld the capital murder conviction and life sentence of a Montgomery County man. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the court rejected Christopher M. Lowrance's argument that he had not attempted to rape the victim, which is one of the standards necessary to establish capital murder. Lowrance was convicted in the 2007 death of Rachel Dennis. Lowrance said he did not remember killing or trying to rape her. The high court said in its decision released Friday that although there was no evidence of sexual trauma, testimony showed Lowrance drove an intoxicated Dennis to a place he used for sexual encounters. The victim was found partially unclothed, and her blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit, meaning she couldn't give consent to a sexual act.


Missouri Pet Food Manufacturer Moving to Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Pet food manufacturer Crosswind plans to move from Parkville, Mo., to Topeka. Crosswind president and CEO Doug Kinsinger told business officials Thursday that the move would create 62 jobs in Topeka. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Crosswind's pet food division produces foods and treats for generic and name brands. The company plans to spend about $4 million to convert a vacant Topeka building for its use.


Gingrich Endorses Roberts Senate Re-Election Bid

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich is praising Senator Pat Roberts for the Kansas Republican's lengthy career in Congress and says the state would lose much if it didn't re-elect him. Gingrich traveled Friday to the Kansas City area and helped Roberts formally open a campaign office in Overland Park. The appearance came a month after Leawood radiologist Milton Wolf announced that he'll challenge Roberts in next year's Republican primary. Johnson County is home to 21 percent of the state's registered voters, making it a key battleground. Wolf is running as a tea party candidate and has criticized Roberts as a career politician. But Gingrich said Roberts is a tough conservative. Gingrich served as House speaker from 1995 to 1999 and ran for the Republican presidential nomination last year.


Gingrich Blasts Push for Nuclear Deal with Iran

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich is strongly criticizing Secretary of State John Kerry's diplomatic push for an interim nuclear deal with Iran, calling it "a surrender." Gingrich said Friday that President Barack Obama's administration is punishing U.S. allies while trusting the nation's enemies. Gingrich was in Overland Park to campaign for Kansas Republican Pat Roberts's re-election to the U.S. Senate. The former House speaker called the diplomatic push "the Munich of the Middle East," a reference to the 1938 decision by major European powers before World War II to allow Nazi Germany to annex Czechoslovakia. Gingrich noted that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted any agreement was a "bad deal."


Kansas Flu Season Begins Quietly

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A state health official says flu season has started in Kansas but there isn't any indication that this year's outbreak will be any worse than previous years. Charlie Hunt, state epidemiologist for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, says Thursday that the first flu cases were reported in Sedgwick County but no widespread outbreaks have been reported. Hunt says many factors help spread the flu virus, but weather isn't the major indicator. He says the focus should be on the strain of the flu virus that is circulating. Residents are being offered two flu vaccines, one aimed at three seasonal strains and one targeting four.


Proposals Seek Room and Board Rate Hikes in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Room and board costs at the six public universities in Kansas would increase next year under a proposal before the state's Board of Regents. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that under the proposal, the traditional arrangement of two residents per room and a typical meal plan would increase 2.5 percent next year at the University of Kansas. Students would see increases of 4.5 percent at Kansas State University; 3.6 percent at Emporia State; 3 percent at Pittsburg State; and 2.1 percent at Fort Hays State. The proposed increase at Wichita State is not comparable to previous years because the school has a new housing facility. The Regents will take final action on the rates during their December meeting.

KCC Approves Route for High-Voltage Line

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Corporation Commission has approved a route for a Texas company's proposed $7 billion high-voltage line that would funnel power from wind farms in southwest Kansas to out-of-state sites. The KCC said in a release Thursday it's approved Clean Line Energy's route for the Grain Belt Express direct current line. In Kansas, the transmission line would run 370 miles from wind farms in Ford County to Missouri, across Illinois and into Indiana. Houston-based Clean Line Energy still needs approval in Missouri and Illinois. The proposed line has drawn objections from Kansas residents. Marshall County filed to intervene in its development, saying the project is a burden because it's tax exempt for 10 years, residents can't use the energy and the county would have to provide police and fire protection.

District Judge to Sit with Kansas Supreme Court in Atty Discipline Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas trial judge will sit with the state Supreme Court in December to hear a case involving attorney discipline. District Judge Martin Asher, who serves Atchison and Leavenworth counties, was named Thursday to sit with six of the high court's justices. Justice Marla Luckert recused herself from hearing the discipline case involving attorney Brendon Patrick Barker. Asher will only hear the one case on the docket and will participate in the court's deliberations and drafting of the opinion regarding Barker.


Federal Appeals Court: Man Deserves Trial over Use of Restraints

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal appeals court has ruled that a Kansas man is entitled to a trial over his claims that the juvenile detention center in Sedgwick County violated his rights by using a restraining chair as punishment. The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday mostly upheld the decision by a federal judge rejecting the request by the Sedgwick County Board of Commissioners and its employees to dismiss the lawsuit. The court said the defendants didn't have qualified immunity. Brandon Blackmon sued in 2005 over the treatment he had gotten as an 11-year-old at the Kansas facility while awaiting trial on criminal charges that were later dismissed. The court says officials made 'liberal use' of the restraining chair they had gotten a few weeks before the boy arrived at the facility.


Hutchinson Branding Defendant Appears in Court

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — One of the three Hutchinson High School students charged with branding younger football players has made his first court appearance. The Hutchinson News reports that a Reno County judge appointed the public defender's office to represent 18-year-old Kendric Hudson during Friday's hearing. He is charged with felony aggravated battery and misdemeanor hazing. Hudson is accused of using a heated wire hanger to brand two 15-year-olds and one 14-year-old in the school locker room last week. Aggravated battery carries a maximum sentence of 34 months in the Kansas Department of Corrections. Hazing carries a maximum six months in jail and a fine up to $1,000. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for December 3. Hudson is free on bond and didn't immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press.


Prosecutor Reviewing Kansas School Bus Accident

DOUGLASS, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas prosecutor is reviewing whether to file charges against the driver of a school bus that toppled into a fast-moving creek. The Wichita Eagle reports that the Kansas Highway Patrol investigated the October 31 accident at a low-water crossing in rural Butler County. The bus toppled on its side, and ten Kansas children had to scramble through an emergency side exit. They sat on top on the bus until they were rescued. One child and the driver were treated at a hospital. Trooper Gary Warner says the patrol gave its report to Butler County Attorney Darrin Devinney late this week.


Hoisington Opposes New Date for Kansas State Fair

HOISINGTON, Kan. (AP) — A proposal to move the Kansas State Fair to Labor Day weekend is getting bad reviews from supporters of another long-time tradition. Leaders in Hoisington and Barton County are concerned the proposal would overshadow Hoisington's 117-year-old Labor Day celebration. The Hutchinson News reports Hoisington city council members plan to pass a resolution saying they oppose an idea pushed by Governor Sam Brownback to start the state fair on Labor Day weekend. Barton County Commissioners signed a similar resolution Monday stating they strongly oppose the idea. Brownback has said moving the start date of the State Fair would increase attendance. Hoisington's celebration started in 1896 and is one of the state's largest Labor Day events.


KCK Man Found Guilty of Killing Using Box Cutter

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas City, Kansas man has been found guilty of killing a man at a hotel with box cutter. A Johnson County jury this week convicted 26-year-old Maurice Orlando Stewart of killing 57-year-old Stephen Cook of California at an Olathe hotel. He was convicted of first-degree murder, aggravated robbery and theft. Olathe police found Cook's body in June 2010 inside the bathroom of his motel room at an Econo Lodge in Olathe. The Kansas City Star reports that an autopsy found Cook bled to death from numerous cuts. He also suffered a broken sternum and broken ribs. Stewart had occupied the room next to Cook.


Trial Reset in Kansas ID Theft Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has delayed the trial of a Canadian man living in south-central Kansas on charges of stealing the identity of an infant brother who died decades ago. U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten on Thursday set a January 28 trial date for 58-year-old Leslie Lyle Camick, of Winfield. The trial had been scheduled for November 19 but prosecutors sought a delay, citing the complexity and logistics of a case where witnesses and documents span two countries. Camick, a telecommunications field engineer, was indicted in March. He's charged with mail fraud, aggravated identity theft, immigration document fraud and lying to the U.S. Patent Office. Prosecutors say Camick used his dead brother's birth certificate to flee Canada in 2006 to avoid overdue child support, back taxes and other legal difficulties.


Finney County Need for Foster Homes Growing

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Finney County child welfare official says the county is facing a severe shortage of foster homes. Angela Webster, recruitment specialist for TFI Family Services in Garden City, says the number of foster children in the county is growing at an alarming rate. The Garden City Telegram reports that in the last three to four months, the number of children needing foster care in Finney County has increased from 70 to 107. And since April, only 26 foster homes provided placement to children who can't live with their own families in the county. Webster says of the 26 foster homes, Family Services has only five. Webster and members of Family Service say they are trying to spread information about the need throughout the county.

WVU Players Help Habitat for Humanity in Lawrence

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — West Virginia's volleyball team could have spent Thursday moping about the previous night's loss at Kansas. Instead, the Mountaineers headed to a Habitat for Humanity site in Lawrence to help build a house. 6NewsLawrence reports the women said working on the foundation of a Habitat home helped strengthen their own foundation. Mountaineers outside hitter Jordan Anderson says the volunteer work helped the players get closer as a team. Lawrence Habitat for Humanity outreach coordinator Maddie Hinds appreciated the athletes' efforts, calling them "hard workers, so fun, so upbeat and really positive." Mountaineers coach Jill Kramer says it was good for her players to remember there are bigger things in life than volleyball. This was the team's first project with Habitat for Humanity; Kramer says it won't be the last.

Restaurant Destroyed in Downtown Caldwell

CALDWELL, Kan. (AP) — Residents in a small south-central Kansas town say they hope a restaurant damaged by fire can reopen. Investigators say the fire Thursday at Richard's Last Chance Bar and Grill in Caldwell started in the kitchen but the cause has not been determined. No one was in the building when the blaze broke out. One firefighter was treated for heat exhaustion. No one else was hurt. KAKE-TV reports that the town's 1,000 residents are hoping the restaurant returns. They say residents gathered at the bar and grill every day, and the business drew visitors from across south-central Kansas and north-central Oklahoma. Jill Crumbliss, who owns the restaurant with her husband, Richard, says they are waiting to see how much their insurance will cover.


Grads of Dodge City Helicopter Program in Demand

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — Graduates of a Dodge City Community College program that trains helicopter pilots are finding they are in high demand. The community college operates outreach campuses in Salina, Arizona and Utah. Students take the academic part of the program in Dodge City and the flight training through Universal Helicopters, based in Arizona. Universal Helicopters hires all the graduates as part-time flight instructors while they complete their bachelor degrees at Kansas State University - Salina or Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Arizona. The Wichita Eagle reports about 120 students are enrolled in the program, including 12 in Dodge City. Between 150 and 160 students are expected to enroll in the spring semester. Program officials say the graduates are finding work with oil rigs, medical evacuation operations or other companies.


Wichita Man Sentenced to Life in Neighbor's Death

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man who was sentenced to life in prison without parole for 25 years continues to insist he is innocent. Thirty-four-year-old Victor Gonzalez was sentenced Thursday for the January 2012 stabbing death of Michael Salyer in Salyer's apartment. The Wichita Eagle reports that Gonzalez said he didn't want to appeal the sentence but insisted he was innocent. However, prosecutors said Gonzalez's DNA was found on Salyer's clothing. Gonzalez also was sentenced to serve a consecutive 2½-year prison term in an unrelated burglary case.

VFW Picks Kansas City as Site of 2018 National Convention

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Veterans of Foreign Wars will hold their 2018 national convention in Kansas City, choosing its home community over 11 other cities that were in the running. The Kansas City Star reports officials of the Convention and Visitors Association announced the booking Thursday. The gathering is expected to draw more than 10,000 people, with an estimated impact of $6.5 million for the local economy. The VFW has its national headquarters just a few blocks from the National World War One Museum at Liberty Memorial. The 2018 convention will coincide with the 100th anniversary of the war's end, and officials of the museum and the VFW are working together on commemoration events.


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