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Regional Headlines for Monday, August 5, 2013


Heavy Rains Flood Central Kansas Communities

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Heavy rain over the weekend caused flooding in a number of central Kansas communities, including parts of Hutchinson, McPherson, Great Bend, Ellinwood, Lyons, and Haven. Drivers have been urged to stay off Hutchinson streets after more than 4 inches of rain deluged the town and caused widespread flooding. The Hutchinson News reports even large military-type vehicles couldn't get through some streets Sunday morning. Several cars flooded and stalled out in floodwaters early Sunday and blocked local streets. Several basements also were flooded, including one with up to a foot of water. The National Weather Service described the flooding as big. Rainfall amounts ranged from 3.8 inches to 4.8 inches. Rain continued through the morning, adding to the flooding woes.


Swollen Rivers Pose Hazards in Much of Kansas

IOLA, Kan. (AP) — Rain-swollen rivers in southeast and northeastern Kansas have claimed one life and nearly took another. Crews in Allen County recovered the body of 23-year-old Iola resident Zane Forbis-Burgardt in Elm Creek around 9 am Sunday. The sheriff's department says three men on inner tubes went over a small dam on the creek Saturday afternoon. The others were able to escape after their tubes flipped, but Forbis-Burgardt drowned. In northeastern Kansas, a bystander helped Wamego police officers rescue a 9-year-old girl from the Kansas River on Sunday afternoon. The high water and swift current had pulled the girl about a mile from where she and her 17-year-old sister had been sitting on the bank. Emergency management officials say high water remains a concern in much of central and southeastern Kansas.


Kansas Governor Won't Set Date for Selecting Court Nominee

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback promises to move "aggressively" to nominate a new Kansas Court of Appeals judge, but he won't pin down a date. The Republican governor responded Monday to a call from Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley to name the new judge this week. Brownback isn't legally required to make the appointment until August 29. But a special legislative session begins September 3, and the Senate will be required to consider the appointment during the session. Hensley said lawmakers need time to review the nominee's background. Brownback said he'll ensure there's time but said potential appointees also must have a background check performed by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. Brownback called the special session to revise a law allowing convicted murderers to be sentenced to at least 50 years in prison.


Kansas Nursing Board Allowed to Hire 2 Investigators

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback and legislative leaders are allowing the Kansas Board of Nursing to hire two additional investigators to help it regulate a growing number of nurses. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the plan approved Monday will cost the state an additional $148,000 a year. The board will cover the cost from regulatory fees it already collects from nurses. The board now has five investigators. Executive Administrator Mary Blubaugh said the board has seen investigators' average caseloads grow from 240 to 455 since 2007. Blubaugh said Kansas has about 64,000 nurses, an increase of more than 12,000 since 2007. She said the new investigators will help the board get closer to its goal of closing 80 percent of its cases within nine months, instead of the current 40 percent.


Lawrence Police Report Cracking Case of Burglary Ring

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence police say they have solved at least 20 burglaries and thefts that involved so much loot the thieves had trouble finding places to store it. Police say two men and a woman arrested last week committed the thefts in April and May, and more suspects and arrests are possible. Sergeant Trent McKinley says the thefts involved an estimated $77,000 in stolen items, many from storage units. He says there was so much loot that police had to store some of it in rented moving trucks parked outside the police station. McKinley says patrol officers who investigated the case believe the suspects were involved with methamphetamine. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that many of the victims had some, but not all, of their property returned to them.


State of Kansas Extends Hours for 2 Major Driver's License Offices

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Driver's license offices in two Kansas cities will be open for four additional Mondays in August to help keep pace with summer demand. The Division of Vehicles will keep offices in Wichita and Mission open from 8 am until 4:45 pm through August 26. The offices are the two largest in Kansas. All other offices in the state will remain closed on Mondays. Division of Vehicles Director Donna Shelite says more than 3,000 people have taken advantage of the extra day of operations since July 8 when the extended hours began. Residents can shorten the wait at license offices through a system that allows them to reserve a spot by texting their name or signing up online.


Former KUMed Students Receive over $17M in Tax Refunds

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — More than 1,100 former medical students at the University of Kansas Medical Center have received a total of $17.7 million in reimbursements for taxes they shouldn't have paid. State officials said Monday the refunds from the Internal Revenue Service are for Social Security and Medicare taxes withheld from medical residents' paychecks from 1993 to 2005. The average refund will be about $15,570. The state is expected to receive $25 million, representing the employer's share of FICA withholding. The IRS agreed to issue refunds after medical schools across the country sued, saying medical residents were students and therefore exempt from FICA taxes under regulations in place during those years. In response, the IRS clarified in April 2005 that medical residents were full-time employees and not eligible for the student exemption.


For Critics, Kansas Abortion Law's Form Also Matters

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two Kansas doctors challenging a sweeping new state abortion law are attacking its form as well as its substance. Doctor Herbert Hodes and daughter Doctor Traci Nauser, perform abortions at their health center in Overland Park and filed a lawsuit against the new law in Shawnee County District Court. They're asking a judge to strike down the entire law before their lawsuit goes to trial in Shawnee County. In a filing late last month, they argued that the bill approved by legislators violates the state constitution's rule that bills contain only one subject. The doctors contend the law's provisions are so far ranging that they represent multiple subjects. But Kansans for Life executive director Mary Culp calls their attack "a desperate move."


Kansas Leaders Approve Sale of Home Near Capitol

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback and Kansas legislative leaders have approved the proposed sale of a 100-year-old home near the Statehouse for $700,000. Brownback and the lawmakers Monday unanimously approved a bid for the Hiram Price Dillon home from the president of the Pioneer Group. The bid came from an auction in June. The Pioneer Group converts historic properties into affordable housing and could use the home for its offices. State officials said Pioneer plans to make the first floor available for public events. The 12,000-square-foot home is on the National Register of Historic Places. It's known for its Italian Renaissance-style architecture. The state has owned the house since 1998, when a church traded the property for a parking lot. The house has been largely vacant in recent years.


General: Cuts to State National Guard Units Not Yet Determined

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The chief of the National Guard Bureau says units should be able to maintain their readiness and deployment capabilities indefinitely despite a murky federal military budget outlook. General Frank Grass told soldiers and airmen of the Kansas National Guard on Monday that the 460,000-member force is capable of continuing missions both overseas and domestically. Grass is a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He says while fewer soldiers and airmen may deploy in the coming years, those rotations will be for shorter durations than in the past decade. Grass says the National Guard isn't immune to the federal spending challenges facing the Pentagon, but any decision about cutting the number of reserve forces in uniform hasn't been made yet.


Kansas Police Seize Blasting Caps, Suspicious Van

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka police are looking for the owner of a suspicious van parked by the Kansas River that contained a large number of blasting caps. The police department's bomb squad secured the van, parked near boat ramps on the north side of the river, late Saturday after a park police officer looked through the window and saw the blasting caps. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the bomb squad obtained a search warrant and secured the blasting caps, but didn't find any other explosive devices inside. The caps were placed in safe storage and officers continued Sunday looking for the vehicle's owner. The van had an "out-of-county" license plate and was seized, towed away and impounded.


1993 Attack on Federal Building in Topeka Recalled

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 1993 attack on the Frank Carlson Federal Building and U.S. Court House in Topeka still causes nightmares for some people who were working that day. On August 5, 1993, Jack Gary McKnight shot and killed court officer Gene Goldsberry. He shot at several others and threw homemade bombs before he eventually killed himself. He also rigged his car to explode in Topeka and a pickup truck to blow up in Jefferson County, where he lived. One of the wounded, Terry Lee Morrow, says he still has nightmares. He was wounded and played dead for hours, with Goldsberry's body lying on top of him. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that McKnight was a convicted marijuana grower who was to be sentenced that day to a probable 10-year prison sentence.


Charges Filed in Pregnant Woman's Shooting Death

PRATT, Kan. (AP) — A man accused of killing a pregnant Pratt woman is scheduled for his first court appearance after being charged with two counts of first-degree murder. Bryant Seba will be in court Monday. He was charged Friday in the shooting deaths of 22-year-old Alexandria J. Duran and her unborn child. Seba is also charged with attempted first-degree murder in the shooting of Brandon Wright. Witnesses told police Duran and Wright were shot July 24 while walking in front of a house in Pratt. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says if Seba is convicted of any charges less than first-degree murder, the state will ask the jury the find that the crimes were racially motivated. Seba remains jailed on $2 million bond. It's not immediately clear if he has an attorney.


Former Police Instructor Sentenced to Life for Wife's Death

KINGMAN, Kan. (AP) — A defiant former Kansas police instructor has been sentenced to life in prison for the April 2011 shooting death of his wife. Before he was sentenced Monday, Brett Seacat accused the judge of helping to convict him by hiding evidence that proves Seacat's innocence. The 37-year-old Kingman man told Judge Larry Solomon in a rambling courtroom statement that the judge helped convict him because Solomon wants a Kansas Supreme Court nomination. Seacat was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years for premeditated first-degree murder in the death of 34-year-old Vashti Seacat. He also got more than six years in prison for aggravated arson and child endangerment. He will not be eligible for parole for more than 31 years.


Kansan Sentenced in Scheme That Led to Arson Death

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Manhattan man who took part in an armed robbery that ultimately led to a deadly arson fire has been sentenced to 20 months in federal prison. Twenty-year-old Dennis James Denzien pleaded guilty in May to aiding and abetting a robbery. The U.S. Attorney's office says he was sentenced Monday in federal court in Topeka. Denzien was one of five people charged in a series of incidents February 6 that ended with an arson fire at a Manhattan apartment building. The fire killed 34-year-old tenant Vasanta Pallem, a postdoctoral researcher in chemical engineering at Kansas State University. Denzien admitted driving another defendant to and from a convenience store for a robbery. Two other defendants have pleaded guilty to setting the fire to distract police investigating the robbery.


Crackdown on Exploding Targets in 5 States

DENVER (AP) — Federal authorities are cracking down on the use of exploding targets on U.S. Forest Service land in five states to prevent them from sparking wildfires. Monday's order covers forest and grasslands in Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota. Violators could face a fine of up to $5,000 and be sent prison for up to six months. Exploding targets can be purchased legally. They're used for shooting practice and explode when hit by a bullet. According to the Forest Service, they've caused at least 16 wildfires nationally in the last year. In the five state region, they're blamed for starting seven since the beginning of 2012. The largest was Springer Gulch near Colorado's Lake George. It cost $2.7 million to fight. The Bureau of Land Management is considering a similar ban.


Hutchinson to Consider Public Nudity Ordinance

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — The Hutchinson City Council is scheduled to take a peek at an ordinance that would ban public nudity in the city. The Hutchinson News reports that the ordinance before the council Tuesday includes very specific definitions of what constitutes public nudity. City Attorney Paul Brown says laws against disturbing the peace and lewd and lascivious behavior don't address the issue. He says those laws require that someone who is nude in public must have the intent either to disturb others or achieve sexual gratification before charges are allowed. Brown acknowledges the city doesn't have a serious public nudity problem, but he says police occasionally get calls about someone nude in public. The law wouldn't apply to anyone under 10 years old, a nude model or a breastfeeding mother.


Drivers, Police Seek Ways to Make KC Buses Safer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — An outbreak of violent incidents on Kansas City's Metro buses in July has drivers, police and bus executives looking for ways to protect drivers and passengers. The Kansas City Star reports that the July incidents included the beating and stabbing of a bus driver, a shooting that wounded a young man and hurt others with glass shards, and an attack by a woman who doused passengers with gas and tried to light it. The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority is hiring more off-duty police officers to ride on the buses and is offering its drivers more training to address the violence. About 100 drivers met last week with police and transit authority officials to voice their concerns about safety.


Kansan in Shot-Filled Chase Sent to Nebraska Prison

TECUMSEH, Neb. (AP) — A 35-year-old Kansas woman has been give five years in a Nebraska prison for her involvement in a gunshot-filled police chase. Johnson County (Nebraska) Attorney Julie Smith says Jamie Engstrom was sentenced on Monday. Engstrom pleaded guilty in April to felony child abuse after prosecutors dropped several other charges. Jamie Engstrom and her husband, Michael Engstrom, of Topeka, were charged with child abuse and several other felony charges. Court documents say police didn't realize that Jamie Engstrom's 14-year-old daughter was in the couple's car during the chase last February 13. Michael Engstrom has pleaded not guilty to all the Nebraska charges. The Engstroms also are charged with a fatal shooting in Topeka earlier that day and a subsequent robbery in Pawnee County, Nebraska.


Ex-Church Director Pleads Guilty to Sex Charges

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 53-year-old man who worked as a church youth director in Arkansas and western Missouri has pleaded guilty to child sex crimes. The U.S. Attorney's office says Monday's plea by Dennis Myers in federal court also requires him to plead guilty to charges in Missouri state court. Myers, of Blue Springs, is a former youth director at First United Methodist Church in Springdale, Arkansas and at Christ United Methodist Church in Independence, Missouri. He admitted engaging in illegal sexual activity with a 16-year-old Arkansas girl in the early 1990s and later bringing her to Kansas City, Missouri for the same purpose. He also pleaded guilty to receiving child pornography over the Internet. The plea agreement requires Myers to plead guilty to Missouri charges of statutory sodomy and attempted child enticement.


Final Four Berth Leads to Record Donations for WSU

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A groundswell of school pride after the Wichita Shockers made it into the Final Four of this year's NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament has resulted in a record year of donations for the university. The Wichita Eagle reports that the WSU Foundation's fiscal year 2013 ended with a three-year record of $22.5 million in total giving. It also led to record contributions to a variety of campus organizations. Foundation president Elizabeth King says the biggest key to the record donations was the number of estate gives the university received during the year, most of which had nothing to do with the Final Four. Still, she says the team's performance in the tournament clearly had an impact on giving patterns.


Oklahoma Segment of Chisholm Trail Placed on Historic List

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A path associated with the Chisholm Trail in central Oklahoma is now on the National Register of Historic Places. The trail was used in the late 1800s for driving cattle from Texas to Kansas. A landowner in Canadian County (Oklahoma) preserved the old road, which ran about one and a half miles east of the trail itself. The road was used by support vehicles, travelers and others. The road was parallel to the trail and a reasonable distance away from the cattle. Herds of up to 10,000 head were driven to Kansas on the trail from 1867 into the mid-1880s. The Oklahoman reports the location of the trail segment isn't being publicly released. No other portions of the trail in Oklahoma survived.



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