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Regional Headlines for Friday, September 6, 2013


UPDATE: Kansas Governor Signs 'Hard 50' Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has signed legislation revising the Kansas law allowing convicted murderers to be sentenced to at least 50 years in prison. Lawmakers approved the measure this week during a two-day special session. Brownback signed it Friday and delivered it to the secretary of state's office. The law will take effect September 12 when it is printed in the Kansas register, the state's official digest for legal notices, which is published each Thursday. The measure provides for juries rather than judges to determine whether a defendant convicted of premeditated, first-degree murder gets the "Hard 50" sentence. Kansas judges have traditionally made the decision, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled earlier this year in a Virginia case that juries must do so.


Kansas Court Revives Suit Filed by Ex-House Speaker

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Court of Appeals has reinstated a 2010 lawsuit over a state budget-balancing move filed by then-House speaker Mike O'Neal as a private attorney for businesses, insurance funds and trade groups. Friday's ruling by a three-judge panel sent the case back to Shawnee County District Court for a trial. The lawsuit alleged that the Legislature exceed limits in the state constitution in diverting regulatory fee revenues to general government programs in 2009. The lower court said the complaining parties didn't have legal standing to sue. The appeals court disagreed. The lawsuit received an unusual amount of attention at the time because of O'Neal's involvement. Democrats filed a complaint against the Hutchinson Republican, but a House investigating committee dismissed it.


Kansas Childhood Poverty Group Releases Report

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A panel appointed by Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is recommending several strategies for reducing childhood poverty, including strengthening marriages, improving educational opportunities and reforming welfare-to-work programs. The Governor's Task Force on Reducing Childhood Poverty released its report Friday, calling its recommendations a starting point for policymakers. The report urges more targeted use of public funds to reduce high school dropout rates, help low-income residents get off government assistance and provide counseling to couples before marriage. Task force members noted the recommendations follow traditional strategies for reducing childhood poverty. They said federal and state government efforts have historically been unsuccessful. The Republican governor created the task force in November 2012. It was chaired by Phyllis Gilmore, secretary of the state Department for Children and Families.


SE Kansas House Representative Bideau Dies at Home

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House Speaker Ray Merrick's office says southeast Kansas Representative Ed Bideau has died at his home in Chanute a day after the Legislature ended a two-day special session. Rachel Witten, spokeswoman for the speaker, says Friday that the 62-year-old Bideau died Thursday. She declined to give a cause of death, citing family privacy. Information about funeral services was not available Friday. Bideau was an attorney in Chanute and was elected to the House in 2012. He previously served in the House from 1985 to 1988 before leaving office to establish his law practice. According to his official campaign website, Bideau graduated from Chanute High School and Neosho County Community College. He earned business and law degrees from Washburn University in Topeka. He was elected county attorney in Neosho County in 1976.


UPDATE: Suspect Charged with Trying to Kill KS Deputy

EL DORADO, Kan. (AP) — A man captured after a four-day search across southern Kansas has been charged with attempted capital murder in the shooting of a Butler County sheriff's deputy. Forty-one-year-old Jan Tracy Kilbourne made a first appearance Friday afternoon in Butler County District Court. The Wichita Eagle reports that his court-appointed lawyer did not object when the state requested he be held on $1 million bond. Kilbourne had been sought since early Monday, when the deputy was shot in the shoulder during a traffic stop near Augusta. The deputy is recovering at home. Wichita police found Kilbourne around 3 am Friday in a car outside a home. He was arrested without resistance. The Butler County prosecutor cited Kilbourne's previous criminal convictions in asking for the high bond. Kilbourne declined to speak in court.


4 Arrested in NW Kansas Methamphetamine Bust

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — Four people are behind bars following a drug bust in a northwest Kansas county where officers reported seizing more than 2.5 pounds of crystal meth. KAYS-AM reports that officers from Ellis County and the cities of Hays and Ellis executed search warrants Thursday at four homes in the two communities. The warrants were part of a continuing investigation of drug trafficking in the area. Authorities did not place a value on the methamphetamine, but the drug can sell for several thousand dollars a pound. Three men and one woman were booked into the Ellis County jail. Officials expect charges to be filed later.

Lawrence Police Unit Taking Aim at Unruly Partiers

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas students say a special Lawrence police detail set up to curb dangerous behavior among partiers downtown is unfairly targeting them as a way to raise revenue for the city. But police say the special patrols that began August 14 are meant to protect students and the rest of the public from problems typically associated with alcohol consumption. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the special detail has cited more than 180 people for offenses ranging from possession of alcohol by a minor to using a fake ID. Fourteen have been arrested, including several for driving under the influence. Sergeant Trent McKinley says it's unclear how long extra officers will be assigned downtown, but he says it's not a permanent unit.


Report: More Kansas Wheat Graded Top Quality in 2013

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Newly released sampling data from 51 Kansas counties show slightly more of this year's wheat graded as top quality. The National Agricultural Statistics Service said Friday in its annual wheat quality report that 85 percent of the samples graded as No. 1 wheat, compared with 83 percent last year. About 14 percent of the samples graded as No. 2 and 1 percent graded as No. 3 or below. Protein content for the Kansas crop statewide was 12.2 percent, down slightly from 12.4 percent a year ago. Southwest Kansas had the highest levels with samples averaging 13.2 percent protein. Data from 16,143 samples found an average test weight of 60.9 pounds per bushel. Last year's crop averaged 61.1 pounds per bushel.


Kansas Court of Appeals to Hear Cases in Manhattan

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Judges of the Kansas Court of Appeals will hear arguments in four cases in Manhattan as part of Kansas State University's observance of Constitution Day. The panel will convene in the Student Union on September 17, the day the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1787. On the docket are the denial of tenure for a University of Kansas professor; a prosecutor's appeal of an order granting a new trial in a Salina murder case; and two cases involving the rights of people stopped on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. The arguments will be heard by Court of Appeals Judges Patrick McAnany, Anthony Powell and Steve Leben, as well as Riley County District Judge David Stutzman.


Kansas Deputy Arrested After Inmate Complaint

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Sedgwick County detention deputy is accused of stealing an inmate's debit card and using it to buy $50 worth of items at a store. Sheriff Jeff Easter said Friday the deputy was arrested the previous day on suspicion of theft and criminal use of a financial card. The deputy bonded out of jail and is now on administrative leave. Easter says an investigation began when the inmate complained that his $50 debit card was missing after he had been transported to a work release facility August 22. Surveillance video from a store shows a uniformed detention deputy using the card about eight hours after the inmate's transfer. The case will be presented to prosecutors within a few days for a decision on charges.


Trial Set for Ex-Wastewater Manager for Lying on Reports

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has set a fall trial date for the former Hays wastewater manager charged with lying about nitrogen levels in the city's discharges. Court records show the case against 57-year-old Charles L. Blair was scheduled Thursday to go before a federal jury on November 5. A four-count indictment charges Blair with making false statements about nitrogen levels in effluent at the city's wastewater treatment plant. Three counts relate to statements made in discharge monitoring reports. One count charges him with lying to agents of the Environmental Protection Agency when he said he had provided accurate levels for the report. Blair has denied lying. He is free on a $10,000 bond after a brief court appearance Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Wichita.

Leavenworth VA Hospital Adding 2 Buildings

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — The Eisenhower VA Medical Center in northeastern Kansas is expanding to meet new needs and standards. The Leavenworth Times reports that construction is underway on a $2.75 million women's health clinic. Meanwhile, bidding on a construction contract for a stand-alone, 27,000-square-foot nursing home closed Thursday. Jim Gleisberg, a spokesman for the VA Eastern Kansas Health Care System, says the medical center already offers health services for women. But the number of female veterans has grown, Gleisberg says, and the new, 4,700-square-foot clinic will be able to serve more women. The Eisenhower VA Medical Center also has an existing Community Living Center, as the nursing home is called. But it's located on the third floor of a building, and current standards call for such facilities to be on the ground floor.

Ex-Kansas Firefighter Pleads Guilty to 3 Arsons

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A former volunteer firefighter in Reno County pleaded guilty to setting three grass fires after prosecutors agreed to drop 11 other charges. Nineteen-year-old Cody Knox, of Arlington, was a volunteer for Reno County Fire District No. 4, which covers Arlington, Langdon, Plevna and Abbyville. The Hutchinson News reports that Reno County District Attorney Keith Schroeder previously said Knox used a cigarette lighter to set the fires, all of which occurred near Arlington last October and November. At the time of the fires, Knox was studying fire science at Hutchinson Community College.

Kansas City Airport Will Get Expedited Screening

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Security checks at the Kansas City International Airport will soon move more quickly for some passengers. The Transportation Security Agency announced Thursday that KCI will be among 60 U.S. airports that will install its PreCheck expedited screening program, beginning October 1. The expedited screening allows qualified passengers to avoid removing shoes, belt and outerwear such as a jacket. They also won't have to remove laptops or quart-sized plastic bag for gels, liquids and aerosols from their luggage. The Kansas City Star reports that KCI will limit the process at first to Terminal B, which is used by Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines. Delta will start the program in October and Southwest in November.

KCUR Receives $320K Grant

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The National Public Radio station in Kansas City has received a $320,000 grant so it can take on more reporting projects that get its listeners involved. A news release says KCUR-FM will use the two-year grant from the William T. Kemper Foundation to hire a three-person community engagement team. The former program director for Detroit radio station WDET, Ron Jones, will lead the effort. KCUR also is hiring a reporter and a social media producer. The community engagement team will focus on topics that include the arts, entrepreneurship, neighborhoods and community diversity. The goal is to coordinate community conversations about important issues on-air, online and in person.

Agreement Reached to Improve Capacity of Redmond Reservoir

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An agreement between Kansas and a federal agency will increase the capacity of the John Redmond Reservoir by nearly 30 percent. State officials say the agreement signed Thursday would alleviate a sediment problem at the reservoir near Emporia. The federally-owned reservoir provides water source the cooling lake at Wolf Creek Nuclear Power Plant. It currently is 40 percent silted in. The Wichita Eagle reports that the agreement between the state and the U.S. Corps of Army Engineers will raise the reservation's elevation from 1,039 feet to 1,041 feet. And it increases the number of gallons available in storage from 16 billion to 22 billion. The second step to improving Redmond's capacity will be dredging the silt and strengthening the banks of the Neosho River to reduce the flow sediment.


KC Federal Reserve President Urges Slowdown of Bond Purchases

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two voting members of the Federal Reserve panel that sets interest rates are expressing clashing views over when the Fed should reduce its $85 billion a month in bond purchases. Esther George, president of the Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank, suggests that the Fed should slow the purchases after it meets September 17-18. She says she could support an initial reduction of $15 billion a month. Charles Evans, president of the Chicago Fed, says he isn't confident enough that the economy is gaining momentum or that inflation is rising. The Fed's bond purchases have been intended to keep borrowing rates ultra-low Evans spoke before the government issued a subpar August jobs report — a report the Fed will weigh in deciding whether to slow its bond buying. George spoke afterward.


Man Charged in Derby Death, Attack on Victim's Son

DERBY, Kan. (AP) — A man suspected of killing a Derby woman and stabbing her son earlier this week has been charged with first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder. Forty-year-old Charles Alfred Beck Jr. was charged Thursday. He is accused in the Sunday death of 44-year-old Lonnie Staggs and attempting to strangle and stabbing her 15-year-old son. The woman's 11-year-old daughter was also in the home but was not injured. Beck was arrested Sunday night in Texas County, Missouri after he turned himself in. During a hearing Thursday, Beck requested a court-appointed attorney. His preliminary hearing was scheduled for September 19. Beck was released August 28 from parole for convictions on drug possession and violating a protection order.

Researchers Using Overland Park Data to Study Disaster Recovery

ROLLA, Mo. (AP) — If a massive tornado ever strikes Overland Park, researchers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology have created a model that could speed the city's recovery. The researchers gathered data from the Kansas City suburb on water, sewer lines, transportation, communication and electricity. They also worked with meteorologists to determine the average width, direction and path of an EF-5 tornado. Researchers also know the average size of the devastation and collateral damage zones. The model also includes information about the availability of raw materials and the number of skilled workers who would be needed to get Overland Park back on its feet. Next up, the team plans to model what would happen in the St. Louis area if a severe earthquake occurred along the New Madrid fault.


UPDATE: MO Teacher Accused of Threat Faces Drug Charges


MARYVILLE, Mo. (AP) — An instructor at Northwest Missouri State University accused of writing on Facebook that he might climb to the campus bell tower with weapons has a different problem after authorities searched his home. The Kansas City Star reports Nodaway County officials said Friday that 57-year-old Matthew Rouch won't be charged with making a terrorist threat. Instead, the prosecutor charged him with producing and possessing marijuana. Prosecutor Bob Rice says an "elaborate growing operation" was found at Rouch's Maryville home. The operation included marijuana plants growing beneath heated lights. The search was conducted after Rouch claimed he was joking in the Facebook post and said all he had was a pellet gun. No attorney is listed for Rouch in online court records. He is being held on $25,000 bond.


Fed Official Promotes $20M KC Streetcar Grant

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is coming to Kansas City to promote a $20 million federal grant to help build a two-mile downtown streetcar route. Congressman Emanuel Cleaver and Mayor Sly James announced Thursday that Foxx is scheduled to speak at 9:15 am Friday at Union Station. Plans call for streetcars to start running from Union Station to the River Market area in 2015. The project has an estimated cost of about $100 million. Voters previously approved a 1-cent sales tax increase and property tax increases to help pay for the streetcars. Supporters hope it will be the first leg of a more extensive public rail system. James said in a news release that the grant announcement is worth celebrating "because it sets Kansas City apart from other cities."

Wichita's Bid for Rail Line Grant Rejected

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita lost its first bid for a federal grant to help bring an Amtrak line to downtown but city officials say they'll try again. The city had sought a $12.7 million grant to complete the planning for a possible extension of Amtrak's Heartland Flyer line to Wichita and Newton. The Wichita Eagle reports that the plan would connect the Heartland Flyer with the Southwest Chief line to close a rail line gap between Wichita and Oklahoma City. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx on Thursday announced 52 grants in 37 states from the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, program. Wichita Vice Mayor Pete Meitzner says the city will work with Kansas Department of Transportation to improve its grant application for the future.

KSU Professor Uses 'The Office' in Economics Class

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The NBC workplace comedy "The Office" is being used as a teaching tool. Kansas State University director of economic undergraduate studies Dan Kuester says fictional manager Michael Scott and employees of Dunder Mifflin Paper Company provide numerous examples of economics principles. Kuester worked with two other people to create a website called "The Economics of The Office" containing 35 clips from the show. While it may be useful in some high schools, its primary use is in entry-level college economics classes. To illustrate supply and demand, teachers can play a short clip of office oddball Dwight buying the remaining inventory of a popular Christmas toy, Princess Unicorn dolls. Dwight then sells the dolls at a profit. But more often than not the characters provide examples of what not to do.


Man Killed by Hit-and-Run Driver Near Lee's Summit

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. (AP) — Police in the Kansas City suburb of Lee's Summit are looking for the driver of a vehicle that hit and killed a pedestrian. Police say 34-year-old Edward Moody of Lee's Summit died Thursday evening when he was struck while trying to cross Highway 50. Moody was pronounced dead at the scene. Witnesses said the vehicle was a four-door that was "boxy." Debris found at the scene indicated it was an Oldsmobile Cutlass, Oldsmobile Achieva or Chevrolet Malibu. Police say it would be damaged on the left side front end.


Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for Child Abuse

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A former Salina man will serve decades in prison after being sentenced for his second conviction of sexually abusing a young girl. Forty-year-old Shawn T. Vogan was sentenced Thursday to life in prison with a minimum of 40 years. He pleaded guilty in July to aggravated indecent liberties with a child after admitting he abused a girl who was 8 years old when the abuse began. The Salina Journal reported the sentence is to be served after Vogan completes a life sentence with a minimum of 25 years that he is currently serving for the 2009 Sedgwick County rape of a girl younger than 14. Prosecutor Christina Trocheck said the Saline County girl was sexually abused by Vogan before his Sedgwick County conviction, but didn't tell anyone until last year.


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