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Regional Headlines for Monday, December 2, 2013


UPDATE: Shooting Probe in Topeka Leads to 3 Bodies

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka police say they haven't identified any suspects in the deaths of three residents and a shooting that left a woman seriously wounded. Police said Monday their investigation of the woman's shooting Sunday afternoon led them to the bodies of two men and a woman at her central Topeka home, blocks away. They did not say how the three were killed or discuss other details. The shooting victim was identified as 45-year-old Carla Jean Avery. She remained in critical condition in a Topeka hospital. Police Major Jerry Stanley said Avery's 43-year-old brother, Eric Christopher Avery, and her ex-husband, 56-year-old Marvin Louis Woods, were found dead in her home. A 34-year-old woman was also found dead in the home, but her name has not yet been released.


UPDATE: Police ID 30-Year-Old Man Killed in Arrowhead Parking Lot

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police have identified the man who died in Arrowhead Stadium's parking lot on Sunday as 30-year-old Kyle A. Vanwinkle of Smithville. Police spokesman Darin Snapp says an examination of Vanwinkle's body did not show obvious signs of trauma. He says it could be four to six weeks before the cause of death is determined. Officers responded at 5:20 pm Sunday to an altercation in the parking lot and found Vanwinkle unconscious on the ground. Snapp says a Jeep owner and his son returned to the vehicle during the Chiefs game against Denver and found Vanwinkle inside, leading to a fight. He says Vanwinkle was taken to a hospital, where he was declared dead. Three people taken into custody for questioning were released Monday with no charges filed.


KS Governor Appoints New Ag Secretary

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has named a deputy Kansas secretary of agriculture to lead the department. Brownback said in a release Monday that Jackie McClaskey will succeed Dale Rodman as secretary of the state's Agriculture Department after Rodman steps down December 10. McClaskey has been with the department since January 2011, when she became an assistant secretary. She was named deputy secretary of the department in July. McClaskey, who grew up on a family farm in Girard, was assistant dean of the Kansas State University College of Agriculture before joining the Agriculture Department. Rodman was appointed secretary of agriculture in January 2011. In July, he was elected chair of the Board of Directors of the Kansas Bioscience Authority, where he will continue to serve.


Group Accuses KS School of Free Speech Violation

BONNER SPRINGS, Kan. (AP) — A group has filed a federal lawsuit accusing a Kansas middle school of violating a student's free speech rights by prohibiting the student from posting fliers about a prayer event. The lawsuit was filed in Kansas City, Kansas by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian group that advocates for religious rights. The suit contends the Robert Clark Middle School in Bonner Springs violated the student's free speech rights when a counselor prohibited the student from posting fliers containing Biblical references promoting the September 25 prayer event before school. Bonner Springs School Superintendent Dan Brungardt said Monday the district hasn't heard about the lawsuit. He also says it hasn't received any complaints about posting fliers before the event, which he says was announced over the school's intercom system.


Ex-Wichita Officer Sentenced in Bribery Scheme

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former Wichita police officer has been sentenced to one year of probation for conspiring to bribe a car-theft victim in an unsuccessful effort to keep her job. The U.S. Attorney's office says 35-year-old Joletta Vallejo was sentenced Monday in federal court in Wichita, where she pleaded guilty in August to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Vallejo admitted failing to follow procedures when two citizens reported being victims of crimes, then lying to department investigators about her actions. She also admitted arranging for co-defendant Patrick Melendrez to pay the car-theft victim $150 to recant his statement about her actions plus $150 if she kept her job. Melendrez was sentenced earlier to two years of probation. Vallejo served with the police department from January 2006 to August 2012.


Large Oil Companies Pulling Up Stakes in Kansas

ANTHONY, Kan. (AP) — The future seemed so tantalizing just two years ago as the nation's big oil firms rushed into Kansas. They snapped up mineral leases from landowners for high prices and drilled horizontal wells to extract unknown riches from the same Mississippian Lime formation that had spawned an oil boom in neighboring Oklahoma. Now most of those big players are gone. The biggest blow came when oil giant Shell Oil Company halted its Kansas exploratory drilling program in May and has since put up for sale 625,000 acres of leases it owns in the state. Exploration is ongoing and growing more modestly. It's now driven by the Kansas producers who for decades have drilled here and the few out-of-state die-hards like SandRidge Energy of Oklahoma City who stayed with scaled-down operations.

Report: Free Trade Pact Approval Could Net Thousands of KS Jobs

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new report finds Kansas could see about 7,000 new jobs if the U.S. and the European Union reach a free trade agreement. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the report estimates Kansas' exports to the E.U. would increase by 23.4 percent if a comprehensive agreement is reached. Kansas Department of Commerce spokesman Matt Keith says Kansas had $1.8 billion worth of exports to the European Union in 2012. That makes the E.U. countries Kansas' second-largest export destination, behind Canada. The report projected Kansas exports to the E.U. would increase most in the chemicals sector, with $351 million more in sales. Other areas predicted to see substantial increases are transportation equipment, $278 million; machinery, $97 million; and processed foods, $76 million. Report sponsors include the British embassy in Washington.

KS Statehouse to Mark Hanukkah

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback will help mark the eighth night of Hanukkah during a ceremony at the Kansas Statehouse. Wednesday evening's event will feature the lighting of the menorah by Brownback, Lieutenant Colonel Moran Omer of the Israel Defense Force and Spec. Eliezer Godblatt of the Army's 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley. Secretary of Labor Lana Gordon, members of the Legislature and hundreds of members of Jewish communities from across Kansas plan to be on hand. Organizers say there will be a parade of lights with cars and buses with menorahs on top driving to Topeka from across the state. The evening is sponsored by Chabad of Kansas and will be conducted by Rabbis Zalman Teichtel and Mendy Wineberg.


Wichita on Track for Low Homicide Total This Year

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — With about one month left in the year, Wichita is on track to have one of its lowest homicide totals in a decade. So far, 16 homicides have been reported in 2013. Only 2005, which had 15 homicides, recorded fewer homicides in the last 10 years. The highest number of homicides in the last decade was in 2007, with 43. The Wichita Eagle reports that city police are reluctant to discuss the reasons for the lower number of violent deaths. Captain Brent Allred notes last year there were only 17 homicides through November, but then 11 more occurred before the end of 2012. Of the 16 homicides this year, four remain unsolved.


Man Arrested Over 4 KS Slayings Appears in Court

PARSONS, Kan. (AP) — A man held in connection with the deaths of a southeast Kansas mother and her three children has had his first court appearance. KWCH-TV reports that 22-year-old David Cornell Bennett Jr., of Cherryvale, appeared Monday in Labette County District Court through a video feed from the county jail. The judge found probable cause to continue holding Bennett on $5 million bail in connection with the deaths of 29-year-old Cami Umbarger and her children, 9-year-old Hollie Betts, 6-year-old Jaxon Betts and 4-year-old Averie Betts. The attorney general's office is handling the case and has until December 10 to file charges. Umbarger and her children were found dead November 25 at their Parsons home. Authorities have not said how they died. Bennett has filed paperwork to obtain a court-appointed attorney.


KC Police Officer Fatally Shoots Firefighter

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police are investigating the death of a third-generation firefighter who was fatally shot by an off-duty police officer hours after the firefighter's weekend wedding. Fire Department spokesman James Garrett said Anthony Bruno was shot early Sunday in downtown Kansas City. Police say the officer, who hasn't been identified, was working an off-duty job when he responded to a reported assault on a cab driver. Authorities say when the officer approached, the man attacked him. Police say the officer feared for his life and fired at Bruno, striking him in the chest. Bruno was pronounced dead at a hospital. Police say the officer was also taken to a hospital with severe head injuries, but has been released. Police spokesman Captain Tye Grant says the investigation "is still in progress."


WI Trucker Sentenced in Koch Cyberattack

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wisconsin truck driver who joined a cyberattack on Wichita-based Koch Industries has been sentenced to two years' probation for the onslaught that briefly took the company's website offline. Eric Rosol, of Black Creek, Wisconsin was also ordered Monday to pay $183,000 in restitution for taking part in the attack on Koch Industries. He pleaded guilty earlier to a misdemeanor count of accessing a protected computer. Prosecutors agreed in Rosol's plea deal to recommend a sentence at the low end of guidelines. Koch's website was offline for about 15 minutes during the 2011 attack organized by the hacking collective Anonymous. The parties agreed the direct loss to Koch was less than $5,000. But Koch contends it spent $183,000 for a consulting group when it learned of the planned attack.


Police: Victims of Crash Were KCK Siblings

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police say two people killed in a rollover crash in Kansas City were siblings. The victims were identified Sunday as 28-year-old Randy Cannon, who is believed to be the driver, and his sister, 21-year-old Aerosha Cannon, both of Kansas City, Kansas. A third person suffered critical injuries in the crash. Police said the crash happened around 3 am Friday on U.S. 71.

KS Women Make Tree Skirt for Sandy Hook Victims

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — Two Kansas women have memorialized each victim of the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting in a custom-made Christmas tree skirt. The Hutchinson News reports that Patti Smith of Great Bend had grandchildren around the age some of the 20 children killed last December at Sandy Hook Elementary School and was glued to the news coverage. She had created personalized Christmas tree skirts for her three grown children, and decided to make one for Sandy Hook. For personal touches, she read the biographies of the victims. There's a baseball on the skirt for one victim and a Giants helmet for another. Smith received help making the tree skirt from Sheila Smither, who owns and operates Roth Embroidery. Smith is now working on finding a place to send the tree skirt.

Students Find Frog-Killing Fungus in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An amphibian-killing fungus has turned up in streams and ponds in Kansas, raising concerns among biologists. The Wichita Eagle reports that the discovery was made by students working with biologist Mary Liz Jameson in her Wichita State University field ecology class. Called chytrid, the infectious disease has killed millions of frogs worldwide. Jameson calls the discovery a "huge, big deal." She says frogs aren't becoming resistant to the fungus. And she worries that the die-off of amphibians from chytrid is a sort of canary-in-the-coal-mine warning, that humans using toxins, pesticides, herbicides and antibiotics might be creating unforeseen problems. One of her graduate students, Timothy Eberl, said a news release that the discovery has implications beyond the death of frogs. He says there may be a "trickle-down effect."


Survey: Slow Growth Predicted in Midwest, Plains States

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The temporary resolution of the budget stalemate in Washington D.C. has made business leaders more optimistic in nine Midwest and Plains states, but only modest economic growth is expected in the near future. The monthly survey's overall economic index crept up to 51.2 in November. That's just above the growth-neutral 50 score recorded in October. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says business leaders are feeling more optimistic after the nation's leaders agreed to a temporary fiscal deal that ended the partial government shutdown on October. The region's employment index rebounded to 51.2 in November from October's 48.2. The region's heavy manufacturers reported solid increases in new export orders in November. States included in the survey are Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.


Hutchinson Tapped as Site for Firefighter Training

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Construction is expected to start soon on a building that Hutchinson officials hope will make the city a regional firefighter training center. The Hutchinson News reports that the city and Hutchinson Community College are collaborating on a new, 20,000-square-foot building for the school's fire science program. The building will be located next to the Hutchinson Fire Department's command and training center. It will replace the college's existing fire science building — a World War II-era building on the school's South Campus, near the Hutchinson suburb of Yoder. Hutchinson Community College will lease the land for the new building from the city for $1 a year and pay the $2 million construction cost. Officials say the building will allow working firefighters and students to train together.

K-State Works to Improve Astronaut Outerwear

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State University researchers are laying the groundwork for a next-generation spacesuit that could monitor astronauts' health and use body heat to power electronics. A team of students and professors in electrical and computer engineering is working with a model spacesuit. The replica is made of multiple layers of material, including metalized fabrics to model the layers in real suits that protect astronauts and keep them warm. The university says batteries are too dangerous to place in a spacesuit's oxygen-rich environment, so the team is developing new energy harvesting methods to gather energy. These methods use the temperature difference between body heat and the spacesuit's cooling garment to power radios and other electronics. Funding for the project comes from a three-year, $750,000 NASA grant.

WSU Researcher Wants to Make Google Glass Safer

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita State University instructor is conducting research aimed at making Google's Internet-connected eyeglasses safer for drivers. Assistant psychology professor Jibo He runs the school's Human Automation Interaction Lab, which uses an advanced driving simulator, eye trackers and sensors to study how driving is affected by things like texting. He says texting impairs drivers' ability to follow the car in front of them and stay in their lane. Currently, He is evaluating whether using Google Glass would influence driving performance the same way. He's goal is to help improve Google Glass by making it less distracting and to develop new technologies to reduce driver distractions. His research also could inform lawyers, legislators, driver trainers and insurance companies on how to evaluate the risks of driving with Google Glass.


NH Hospital Worker Gets 39 Years in Hepatitis Infection Case

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A traveling medical technician has been sentenced to 39 years in prison for infecting dozens of patients in four states with hepatitis C through tainted syringes. David Kwiatkowski was a cardiac technologist in 18 hospitals in seven states before being hired at New Hampshire's Exeter Hospital in 2011. The 34-year-old admitted stealing painkillers and replacing them with saline-filled syringes tainted with his blood. Kwiatkowski had moved from job to job despite being fired at least four times over allegations of drug use and theft. He pleaded guilty in August to 16 federal drug charges and was sentenced Monday in Concord, New Hampshire. Since his arrest last year, 46 people have been diagnosed with the same strain of hepatitis C he carries. The patients were in New Hampshire, Maryland, Kansas and Pennsylvania.




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