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Regional Headlines for Monday, December 3, 2012



Wagle Elected Kansas Senate President; Merrick Elected Speaker of Kansas House

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Johnson County Republican Ray Merrick is the new speaker of the Kansas House. Merrick won on a second ballot Monday over fellow Johnson County representative Arlen Siegfried. Republicans elected Susan Wagle of Wichita as Senate president. Wagle is the first woman to lead either legislative chamber. She defeated Steve Abrams of Arkansas City. When the session begins in January, Republicans will outnumber Democrats 32-8 in the Senate and 92-33 in the House. Party primaries in August saw the conservative wing of the Republican Party oust several moderates, including Senate President Steve Morris. In the House, Speaker Mike O'Neal retired after 28 years in the chamber, including two terms as speaker. Democrats re-elected Anthony Hensley, of Topeka, as Senate minority leader and Paul Davis, of Lawrence, as House minority leader.

Analysis: New Faces to Influence Kansas Legislature

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Nearly a third of the Kansas Legislature's members will have no previous experience in either chamber when lawmakers convene in January. That will bring new energy and less predictability to the lawmakers' annual session. The large freshman class is likely to have a big influence over how lawmakers and conservative Republican Governor Sam Brownback plan to close a projected budget shortfall and tackle other issues. Turnover in the Senate will push it to the political right following the ouster of moderate GOP leaders who'd worked with Democrats to stall initiatives from Brownback and other conservatives. In the House, 49 of the 125 members will have no prior legislative experience. Four of 40 senators will have no previous service in the Legislature, but another 12 are new to the chamber from the House.

Leavenworth Penitentiary on Lockdown After Fights

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth is on lockdown after two separate fights broke out. Penitentiary officials say in a news release the lockdown was declared Sunday evening after a fight in one of the housing units. Another fight occurred earlier in the day in the recreation yard. Both fights were quickly contained and involved only a few inmates. Officials say security was never breached during the fights. No staff members were injured and two inmates suffered only minor injuries. No programs will be held and no visiting will be allowed until the lockdown ends.


Kansas Legal Services Closing Lawrence Branch

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — An agency that provides legal assistance to low-income Kansans is closing its branch office in Lawrence. Kansas Legal Service says it plans to shut the Lawrence office at the end of the year because of funding cuts. KLS managing attorney Bethany Roberts told The Lawrence Journal-World reports the agency's Topeka office will provide services to clients in Douglas and Jefferson counties. Roberts says Kansas Legal Services lost contracts with the state to help move people from state assistance to federal assistance. Two of those contracts were worth a total of nearly $1 million. KLS also closed a field office in Garden City last year because of a lack of funding.


Fire Damages SW Kansas Tank Manufacturing Plant

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Two employees of a Garden City manufacturing plant that makes fiberglass tanks suffered smoke inhalation after a fire consumed much of the building. The Garden City Telegram reports that  firefighters were called to Palmer Manufacturing just after 10 am Monday. Fire Chief Allen Shelton says about 50 percent of the plant was on fire when crews arrived. He says the two unnamed employees were reported in good condition after being taken to a local hospital. Shelton says winds of 31 to 41 mph made the blaze difficult to contain. Investigators had not yet determined what caused the fire as of Monday afternoon. More than two dozen firefighters from Garden City and Holcomb responded to the scene. No damage report was immediately available.


K-State's Collin Klein Named as One of Three Heisman Trophy Finalists

NEW YORK (AP) —  Kansas State University quarterback Collin Klein, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, and Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o have been named as the finalists for the 2012 Heisman Trophy.  The award is widely considered college football's most famous award given to an individual player. Klein would be the first player from K-State to win the Heisman. Manziel, however, is currently viewed as the favorite to win. He would be the first freshman to win the honor, and the first Texas A&M player since halfback John David Crow won the school's only Heisman in 1957. Te'o is trying to become the first defense-only player to win a Heisman, and the eighth player from Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish have had seven Heisman winners...tying the record for the most received by players from any one school...but none since Tim Brown in 1987. The finalists were announced on Monday. The award will be presented Saturday night in New York City. 


Pursuit in South Dakota Ends with Kansas Man in Custody

ALPENA, S.D. (AP) — A pursuit involving personnel from five different counties and the South Dakota Highway Patrol ended with a Kansas man in custody after the vehicle he was driving crashed in a field west of Alpena (South Dakota). Jerauld County Sheriff Jason Weber initiated the pursuit about 9:30 am Monday after receiving a report that a person driving a North Dakota-plated pickup had taken diesel fuel from a farm yard. The pursuit ended eight miles west of Alpena in a field when the driver of the pickup crashed the car into a creek. The driver, a 47-year-old man from Lansing, Kansas, was taken into custody. Authorities say the man has felony warrants from Kansas. The Jerauld County Sheriff's Office is continuing the investigation.


Donor Pays for Food Stolen from Kansas School

INDEPENDENCE, Kan. (AP) — An anonymous donor's generosity may have restored some Kansas elementary school students' belief in Santa Claus. Third- through fifth-grade students at Jefferson School in Independence were devastated when someone stole about $480 worth of food that had been donated for their food drive. But last week, a man walked into the Independence police department and donated $400 to replace the food. He told police to say Santa Claus brought the money. The students had collected the food as their monthly service project in November. As the items were being packed for delivery, teachers noticed some of the donations were missing. The Independence Daily Reporter reports that Jefferson principal Debbie Toomey says the students lost some faith in humanity after the theft, but the donor has restored that faith.


National Show Airs Controversial Commentary on Chiefs' Player Suicide/Homicide 

NEW YORK (AP) — The NBC "Sunday Night Football" halftime commentary from Bob Costas sparked a Fox News Channel debate Monday on whether NBC should fire him and a Twitter storm involving Ted Nugent, Rosie O'Donnell, Herman Cain and many more. The NBC sportscaster, who frequently delivers commentary at halftime of the weekly NFL showcase, addressed the weekend's murder-suicide involving Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher. Costas echoed the commentary of another sports writer who wrote that "if Jovan Belcher didn't possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today." There was no immediate comment on Monday from NBC Sports or from Costas.


Chiefs Begin Long Process of Healing, Recovery Following Murder/Suicide Incident

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs returned to work Monday at their practice facility near Arrowhead Stadium, trying to find a sense of normalcy. That was difficult. The locker that once belonged to Jovan Belcher, the linebacker who killed his girlfriend and then turned the gun on himself Saturday, still contained all his belongings. Coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Scott Pioli had to walk past the place in the parking lot where Belcher killed himself. Teammates gathered in meetings and to watch film and couldn't help but notice the empty seat. Crennel said that "time heals all wounds," and the Chiefs are hopeful the healing has begun.


Belcher Smashed Hand Through Window While in College

ORONO, Maine (AP) — Officials say Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher punched out a window and cut his hand during his freshman year at the University of Maine. An officer wrote that he was told that Belcher "was upset over a girl" during the April 1, 2006, episode. Former teammate Mike Brusko tells the Bangor Daily News that he didn't view it as foreshadowing an incident Saturday in Kansas City, Missouri, where Belcher killed his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, and then committed suicide. Belcher, who was from West Babylon, New York, studied at Maine from 2005 until 2008 and earned a bachelor's degree in child development and family relations. While in Orono, he took part in a for-credit class called Male Athletes Against Violence. He also participated in the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization.


Police: 11-Year-Old Avoids Abduction Attempt

LENEXA, Kan. (AP) — Lenexa police say a quick-thinking 11-year-old boy escaped an attempted abduction. Police say the boy was riding his bicycle Sunday afternoon when a white car drove past slowly and turned around. The boy says a passenger in the car pointed a gun at him and told him to get into the car. Lenexa police officer Dan Friesen says in a news release that the boy knew he couldn't get into the car under any circumstances. So he ran to a nearby liquor store, and police were called. The vehicle was a dirty, white four-door passenger car of an unknown make. The man with the gun was white with a dark complexion, with a small amount of facial hair. The boy didn't get a look at the driver.

Midwest Economic Index Rises Slightly

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A monthly economic index report suggests an economic slump will continue over the next three to six months for nine Midwest and Plains states. The Mid-America Business Conditions index rose slightly in November to a weak 48.0 from 46.5 in October. The figure was 50.4 in September. The survey of business leaders and supply managers uses a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. Survey organizers say any score above 50 suggests growth while a score below 50 suggests decline for that factor. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss oversees the survey, and he says it is tracking "economic weakness, particularly for nondurable-goods producers." The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.


Med Tech in "Serial Infector" Hepatitis C Case Pleads Not Guilty

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A traveling hospital worker accused of stealing drugs and infecting patients with hepatitis C through contaminated syringes has pleaded not guilty to the charges in New Hampshire federal court. David Kwiatkowski, whom prosecutors describe as a "serial infector," was indicted last week on multiple charges of tampering with a consumer product and illegally obtaining drugs. He had worked in 18 different hospitals in seven states, including Kansas. Kwiatkowski only said "yes" when asked in court Monday if he understood his rights. Trial was set for the first week of February. Until May, Kwiatkowski worked as a cardiac technologist at Exeter Hospital in New Hampshire, where 32 patients were diagnosed with the same strain of hepatitis C he carries. Patients in Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania have since been tested for hepatitis C.


Sale of KC Board of Trade to CME Group completed

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The CME Group of Chicago officially owns the 156-year-old Kansas City Board of Trade. The sale of the Board of Trade was completed Monday. The two commodities markets announced their $126 million cash deal in mid-October. The markets said the transaction will make it more cost effective for traders in both cities' markets to trade the other's wheat futures and wheat options contracts. The CME Group owns the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the Chicago Board of Trade and other markets. The Kansas City Star reports that CME will keep the Kansas City exchange's floor open for at least six months. Plans for the Kansas City trading pits after those six months have not been determined.

Suspect Arrested in Double Fatality in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police say a 19-year-old man is jailed as a suspect in the fatal shooting of two people at a Wichita discount store. The suspect was arrested Sunday afternoon. He had been sought since the shooting Friday at a Dollar General store. The victims of the shooting were 79-year-old Henry Harvey, a customer at the store, and 22-year-old Zachary Hunt, a store employee. The suspect is being held in the Sedgwick County Jail facing two charges of first-degree murder. Bond has not yet been set.

Redesign Lowers Costs of KC Collapse Memorial

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Promoters of a memorial for the victims and rescuers of the 1981 skywalks collapse at a Kansas City hotel say design changes will lower the costs of the project. The disaster at the former Hyatt Regency motel on July 17, 1981, killed 141 people and injured more than 200 others when two skywalks collapsed during a dance party. The nonprofit foundation supporting the memorial says it still needs to raise $150,000 to begin building the memorial. But the president of the Skywalk Memorial Foundation says he's optimistic the memorial will be built next year. The Kansas City Star reports that the new design eliminates some lighting, stairs and a masonry wall. The original construction cost was estimated at $600,000. The new design is expected to cost about $335,000.

Immigrant Sentenced in Marriage Fraud Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Jamaican woman has been sentenced to two years of probation and could be deported for entering into a sham marriage with a Fort Riley soldier to get legal immigration status. U.S. District Judge Monti Belot also ordered 28-year-old Shannakay Hunter to reimburse the U.S. Army $2,600 for medical services she wasn't entitled to receive. Hunter was convicted in August of conspiracy to commit marriage fraud, marriage fraud and lying to the government. She had faced up to five years in prison on each count. The man she married, former Army Private Joshua Priest, was sentenced in the case to 10 months for conspiracy to commit marriage fraud and wire fraud. He testified against his wife at her trial. Hunter now lives in New York City.

KC-Area School's Alumni Memorialize Accident Victim

PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. (AP) — Former students from a suburban Kansas City high school have been paying tribute across the country to a 17-year-old senior who died in a recent accident. On college campuses nationwide, Shawnee Mission East graduates have been wearing light blue and taking to social media to honor Tyler Rathbun, a soccer star who died a week ago Sunday in an all-terrain vehicle crash in Miami County. The Kansas City Star reports that Kansas State University freshman Logan Rose organized a photo on campus, thinking Tyler's family might appreciate the gesture. Things grew from there, with a vast social media outpouring for Tyler, from Instagram pictures, tweets and Facebook posts for Tyler. Graduates have gathered for photos at the universities of Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma State, Yale and more to honor Rathbun.

Oregon, K-State to Meet in Fiesta Bowl

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Oregon will meet Kansas State in another marquee matchup at the Fiesta Bowl. Still in the BCS championship chase just two weeks ago, the fifth-ranked Ducks and seventh-ranked Wildcats will play in the January 3 game at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. Oregon (11-1) has a Heisman Trophy contender in running back Kenjon Barner and one of the nation's most dynamic offenses. Kansas State (11-1) has a Heisman hopeful of its own in quarterback Collin Klein and a stingy defense. Once the top two teams in the BCS standings, the Ducks and Wildcats dropped to fourth and fifth after losing on the same day in November.

Jayhawks Finish Football Season Winless

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — If Charlie Weis had his druthers, he wouldn't have accompanied his team back to Kansas on Saturday night. He would have hopped on the next plane to Texas or Florida or California or some other recruiting hotbed. After watching West Virginia's Geno Smith torch his Jayhawks in a 59-10 defeat to West Virginia that left Kansas 1-11 and 0-9 in the Big 12, it became painfully evident that players with speed are lacking in Lawrence. Guys who can make plays on both sides of the ball. Weis said late Saturday that he has no intention of reflecting on his first season in charge of the Jayhawks. Instead, he'll be looking for recruits to plug holes on both sides of the ball. Said Weis: "I'm fully aware of our deficiencies."


KU Men's Basketball Ranked Number 9 in Nation

Indiana, Duke and Michigan remained the top three teams in The Associated Press' college basketball poll, but the University of Kansas Jayhawks climbed one spot in this week's ranking.  The Hoosiers (8-0) received 45 first-place votes Monday from the 65-member national media panel, two fewer than last week. Duke (8-0) had the other first-place votes for the second straight week. Syracuse was fourth followed by Louisville, Florida, Ohio State, Arizona, Kansas and Gonzaga. The KU women climbed three spots in this week's women's basketball poll to tie for 17th in the nation. Stanford, Connecticut and Baylor held on to the top three spots in that poll. 


Police: Chiefs Player Shot Himself Behind a Vehicle

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police say Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher moved behind a vehicle and shot himself in the team parking lot after he saw police arrive. Police say Belcher shot and killed his 22-year-old girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, at their Kansas City home Saturday before driving to Arrowhead Stadium, where Belcher committed suicide in the practice facility's parking lot. A police incident report released Monday says police arrived at the couple's home about 7:50 am and found Perkins on the floor of the master bathroom, dead from multiple gunshot wounds. The report says officers arrived 10 minutes later at Arrowhead Stadium, and when Belcher saw police, he moved behind a vehicle and shot himself in the head. Police also said that firearms found at Belcher's home were legally registered.


Family of Slain Woman Makes Statement

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Family members of the woman shot and killed by Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher this weekend says they are broken-hearted. Police say Belcher shot and killed his 22-year-old girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, at their Kansas City home Saturday before driving to Arrowhead Stadium, where Belcher committed suicide in the practice facility's parking lot. The Perkins family issued an emailed statement Monday saying they've appreciated the "outpouring of love and support'' and asked for privacy "during this difficult time.'' The family also asked that people keep the Belcher family in their prayers. Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles and his wife, Whitney, released a separate statement Monday, confirming that Perkins and Whitney Charles are cousins. Their statement said Perkins "was not only family, but a friend and a loving mother."


Belcher's Family: We're Praying for Perkins Family

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The family of Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher, who shot and killed his girlfriend before killing himself, says they're having difficulty dealing with the "inconceivable tragedy." Police say Belcher killed 22-year-old Kasandra Perkins at their Kansas City home Saturday before driving to Arrowhead Stadium, where he committed suicide in the practice facility's parking lot. One of Belcher's cousins, Yamiesse Lawrence, read a statement outside Belcher's boyhood home in West Babylon, New York, on Monday, saying words can't express the sorrow the family feels. Lawrence said the family is "overwhelmed with both sadness and confusion," and extends thoughts and prayers to the Perkins family. Belcher's niece, Quaresha Boston, said the football player "embraced life and excelled at all he put his energy behind" and that God alone could "mend our hearts."

Chiefs Defeat Panthers at Somber Arrowhead Stadium

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Against the backdrop of an unthinkable tragedy, the Kansas City Chiefs gave themselves a reason to be proud Sunday — and perhaps the impetus to let the healing begin. Brady Quinn threw for 201 yards and two touchdowns, and Jamaal Charles ran for 127 yards in the Chiefs' 27-21 victory over their Carolina Panthers. The win snapped an eight-game losing streak during one of the most difficult seasons the franchise has ever experienced. The win came just one day after Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher shot his girlfriend multiple times at a residence near Arrowhead Stadium, then drove to the team's practice facility and turned the gun on himself as general manager Scott Pioli and coach Romeo Crennel looked on. Pioli walked through the press box before the game and said he was doing "OK," though he didn't stop to talk. Before kickoff, the crowd was asked to observe a moment of silence for victims of domestic violence and their families. There was no mention of Belcher. Crennel was on the sideline, and coached his team to an uplifting victory.

Chiefs Owner Hunt: 'So Many People Are Hurting'

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt offered sympathy Sunday to the families affected by the murder-suicide involving one of his players, calling it "an incredibly difficult 24 hours for our family." Hunt spoke to The Associated Press on the field before the Chiefs' game against the Carolina Panthers. He said the Chiefs consulted with the league about whether to play the game as scheduled, but ultimately left it up to coach Romeo Crennel and the team captains to decide. Crennel and general manager Scott Pioli were in the parking lot of the Chiefs' practice facility Saturday morning when linebacker Jovan Belcher shot himself in the head. Belcher had shot his girlfriend multiple times at a nearby residence just minutes earlier. Hunt said Pioli called him from the parking lot immediately after the shooting, and said that Sunday's game would be "incredibly difficult for them."

Friend: Chiefs LB, Slain Girlfriend 'Seemed Fine'

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A friend of the woman killed by Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher says the couple briefly lived apart last month. But Brianne York said Sunday that Belcher and his girlfriend, Kasandra M. Perkins, had gotten back together by Thanksgiving. She said they had argued about "normal couple issues" and Perkins had gone to visit her family in Texas and briefly stayed with her cousin, who is married to Chiefs player Jamaal Charles. Recently, she said, the couple "seemed fine." She thought there was a mistake when she learned that Belcher killed Perkins at the couple's home Saturday. Police said Belcher then drove to Arrowhead Stadium, where he thanked his coach and fatally shot himself. Belcher and Perkins had a 3-month-old daughter. Police didn't release any additional information Sunday.

Garden City Zoo Prepares for Winter's Chill

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Winter's at the doorstep, and workers at Lee Richardson Zoo in Garden City are ready to meet the cold-weather needs of every animal — from tropical birds to snow leopards. The Garden City Telegram reports that preparations began months ago to ensure heaters are functioning, vents are closed and windows and doors don't let in drafts. The zoo has barns and shelters for all of its 250 to 300 animals. But some animals that aren't expected to warm up to snow are happy to be outside after a snowfall. Animal keeper Sara Niemczyk says the zoo's African lions like to go outside and play in the snow. The weather has to be pretty terrible, she says, for the big cats to stay inside.

KC Woman Seeks Money for Freeing Long-Imprisoned Men

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A monthlong trial of two men seeking $100 million for their wrongful conviction in a 1977 Council Bluffs killing could end next week, but a former prison barber who is largely responsible for their freedom wonders if she'll be compensated for her work. Anne Danaher of Kansas City spent years researching the case against Terry Harrington and Curtis McGhee, two Omaha teenagers who were convicted of killing a former police officer. They had spent decades in prison when Danaher discovered investigators withheld records from defense lawyers. This evidence led the men to be freed, and both received large settlements. Now they're seeking more money from investigators and Council Bluffs. Danaher says Harrington promised to share any settlement with her, but she's received no money. She's filed a lawsuit seeking compensation.


Kansas Legislators Meet to Pick Chamber Leaders

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Republican legislators have begun nominating their leaders for the next legislative session. Elections for Senate president and speaker of the House began Monday morning. When the session begins in January, Republicans will outnumber Democrats 32-8 in the Senate and 92-33 in the House. Party primaries in August saw the conservative wing of the Republican Party oust several moderates, including Senate President Steve Morris. In the House, Speaker Mike O'Neal retired after 28 years in the chamber, including two terms as speaker. Democrats are expected to re-elect Anthony Hensley, of Topeka, as Senate minority leader and Paul Davis, of Lawrence, as House minority leader.

**this story has been updated. Please see above. 

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