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Regional Headlines for Monday, July 15, 2013


Democrat Ponders Challenge to Jenkins

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Lawrence Democrat is considering challenging GOP incumbent Representative Lynn Jenkins next year for the 2nd District U.S. House seat in eastern Kansas. Margie Wakefield, a family law attorney, says Monday that she is meeting with Democrats in the district to assess her potential to be a candidate. She will spend the next two months meeting with voters before making a formal decision. Wakefield worked for Republican U.S. Senator Bob Dole after graduating from college. She said 2nd District voters need representation that will work with Republicans and Democrats on issues. Jenkins, a former state legislator and state treasurer, was elected to the U.S. House in 2008 when she defeated incumbent Democrat Nancy Boyda. The 2nd District includes the cities of Topeka, Lawrence, Pittsburg and Leavenworth.


Brownback Names New Secretary of Administration

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has appointed a former utility executive to be the new secretary of the Department of Administration. Brownback named Jim Clark, a former vice president of Kansas Gas Service, to lead the Department of Administration, which oversees purchasing, upkeep of state office buildings and computer and phone services for state agencies. Clark was also a former vice president for Topeka-based Westar Energy. He replaces interim Secretary Mark McGivern who had filled the post since January when Dennis Taylor left the agency to become the executive director of the Kansas Lottery. Clark is a certified public accountant with a degree from Regis University in Denver. He serves as the chairman of the Ethics Committee of the Kansas Society of Certified Public Accountants.


Police Chief Made Decision to End Wichita Standoff

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police chief Norman Williams says he made the final decision to order a shot that ended a 32-hour standoff last week at a Wichita apartment complex. Williams told reporters Monday that authorities had tried numerous times to negotiate with the suspect. He says the decision to "take him out" was based on the man firing shots earlier at a Kmart store and at officers during the ensuing standoff. He also noted the length of the standoff. The police chief declined to say who took the kill shot because the investigation is continuing. Authorities used water pressure cannons to knock down sheet rock to see inside the barricaded apartment and explosive devices to gain entry. The Reno County sheriff is leading an ongoing investigation into the incident.


Osage County Sheriff Seeking Missing Man, Age 67

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Osage County Sheriff's Office is asking for the public's help in finding a 67-year-old man. The sheriff's office said in a release Monday that Raleigh D. Heskett of Lyndon, was last seen late Sunday in Coffey County driving a 2002 GMC full size brown van, bearing Kansas license plate 417DCF. The sheriff's office says Heskett has a severe laceration to his right forearm that occurred Saturday. If Heskett is located, he may need immediate medical attention. Heskett is 6 feet tall, 200 pounds, and has a grey beard and mustache. He also has a panther and cobra tattoo on his left arm and was last seen wearing blue jeans and a black ball cap.


Analysis: Names Disclosure Dispute Actually About Future of Kansas Courts

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican Governor Sam Brownback has riled his centrist and liberal critics by declaring that he won't release the names of the applicants for a new seat on the Kansas Court of Appeals. But a bigger issue fuels the angst of Brownback's critics. They see the changes for the state's second-highest court as part of a larger campaign to ensure that GOP conservatives take over the state's appellate courts. Under a law that took effect this month, Brownback will appoint Court of Appeals judges, subject to Senate confirmation. In the old system — still in place for the Kansas Supreme Court — a statewide commission screened applicants and named three finalists, with no role for legislators after the governor's appointment. The nominating commission served as a check on the governor's power.

Brownback Monitoring Kansas Scale Issues

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback is monitoring efforts by the Kansas Department of Agriculture's Division of Weights and Measures to increase the accuracy of heavy capacity scales. The department's efforts to regulate more than 4,000 large scales used to weigh scrap metal, recyclables, agricultural products and other goods has been criticized for lack of accuracy. Brownback, a Republican and former state agriculture secretary, tells the Topeka Capital-Journal that a Kansas system that uses licensed private inspectors to certify scales, with follow-up inspections by state staff, may need some tweaks. However, the governor says the result is better than when scales were examined only by state inspectors. The governor helped develop the semi-privatized system when he was secretary from 1986 to 1993.


Colloton to Lead Human Trafficking Fight in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Attorney General's office has named a former legislator to lead a unit aimed at implementing state laws on human trafficking. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Attorney General Derek Schmidt said Monday that Pat Colloton, a Leawood Republican, will be the assistant attorney general in charge of the newly-formed Anti-Human Trafficking Unit. Colloton's job will involve implementing legislation passed this year that includes increased penalties for trafficking and services for victims. Colloton is a lawyer and served four terms in the House, starting in 2004. Colloton was also chairwoman of the House Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice.


Tree-Killing Beetle Found in Johnson County

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A beetle that has killed millions of ash trees in the eastern U.S. and parts of the South has been detected in Johnson County. The Kansas Department of Agriculture said Monday that the emerald ash borer was found in a tree near the Johnson County landfill. Trees there were being inspected after the presence of emerald ash borer was found last summer in Wyandotte County. The U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed the beetle's presence in Johnson County on July 11. Ash trees become infested when adult beetles lay eggs on the bark, leading to larvae that bore into the tree. Kansas has enacted an emergency quarantine for Johnson County, similar to a quarantine in place in Wyandotte County, to prevent the further spread of the emerald ash borer in Kansas.

Missouri and Kansas See Increase in Drowning Deaths

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Drowning deaths have risen dramatically in both Missouri and Kansas this year. State officials say that before this weekend, 24 drownings had been reported this year in Missouri, four more than all of last year. And in Kansas, 12 drownings had been reported before this weekend, double the average for an entire year. The Kansas City Star reports that officials in both states say the pleasant summer weather likely has contributed to the increase, with more people venturing out to the states' waterways. Most of the drownings have occurred in lakes and man-made ponds, not swimming pools. Water patrol officials warn people to always wear life jackets and to be aware that lakes and ponds often have steep drop-offs that swimmers can't see.


Ellsworth Man Drowns in Wilson Lake

SYLVAN GROVE, Kan. (AP) — Russell County authorities say a man drowned during the weekend at Wilson Lake in central Kansas. The victim was identified as Monday as Richard Roach of Ellsworth. Fishermen competing in a bass tournament found the body near the lake's dam early Sunday. Russell County authorities say in a news release that alcohol appeared to be a factor in Roach's drowning. It was the second drowning at the lake in a week. The body of 38-year-old George Willenberg of Hoisington was found a week ago Sunday at the lake. He drowned while apparently trying to swim across a cove after the boat he was on experienced mechanical problems.

Authorities Search for Missing Man in Kansas River

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are searching for a man who disappeared in the Kansas River while attempting to swim across it. The Kansas City Star reports that the 30-year-old man last was seen swimming around 7 pm Saturday near an Interstate 435 bridge. Kansas City, Kansas Fire Department deputy chief Craig Duke says the man's friends lost sight of him. Authorities using boats searched until 10 pm Saturday and then resumed the search Sunday morning. One of the boats being used in the search is equipped with sonar equipment.


Body Found in Kansas River

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Rescue crews have recovered a body from the Kansas River. The Kansas City Star reports that the Kansas City, Kansas fire department declined to say if the body appeared to be the man who disappeared while swimming in the river Saturday evening. Searchers from several area agencies looked for the man, who was last seen about 7 pm Saturday swimming in the river. They suspended the search later Saturday before resuming efforts Sunday without success.


Muslim Inmates at HCF Engage in Sacred Observance

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Muslim inmates at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility are joining their religious brethren in the observance of Ramadan. That takes some effort from prison officials, who change procedures to allow about 60 inmates to follow the practice of not eating or drinking during daylight hours. Food services provide the inmates with a small meal before daylight and another meal after the sun has gone down. Those who are able to gather together four of the five times during the day to pray. Ramadan began July 8 and ends August 7. The Hutchinson News reports that Chaplain Oscar Gomez and prison staff plan for Ramadan for months. But Gomez says prison officials will reject some requests if they pose a safety risk.


Kansas Survivalist Faces Trial over Grenades

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A survivalist who feared the world economy was on the verge of collapse faces trial in federal court in Wichita for possession of unregistered destructive devices. Alfred Dutton,a 67-year-old veteran of both the U.S. Army and U.S. Marines, goes to trial Tuesday for illegally having grenades. Investigators also found anti-government materials on his computer along with a "manifesto" on how make an ammonium nitrate bomb. Numerous containers of that chemical were found along with fireworks, ammunition, gunpowder and firearms. The defense contends the prosecution is trying to paint Dutton as a "mad bomber" with plans to take on the U.S. government. His attorney portrays him as a veteran who collected military items and was preparing to sell collectible World War II era hand grenades through the online auction site eBay.


1 Dead, 4 Injured in Overnight Wichita Shooting

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police have identified a man shot to death at a weekend party. The Wichita Eagle reports that 27-year-old James Gary was killed in the shootout early Sunday. Lieutenant Scott Heimerman says four other people were injured, including two critically. The shooting occurred at a warehouse that had been rented out for a party. Police say more than 100 people had gathered at the warehouse and parking lot when arguments broke out and shots were fired. Heimerman, head of the department's gang unit, says the shooting is gang-related. Heimerman says police have also identified a suspect but have not released the suspect's name or description. Captain Brent Allred says it's the ninth homicide of the year in Wichita.


Man Killed in Drive-By Shooting in Overland Park

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Overland Park police are investigating the death of a man killed in a drive-by shooting outside his home. Police identified the victim as Raymon K. Thomas, who is in his 30s. He was shot Sunday afternoon as he was walking out of his house to his car. No one else was injured. Overland Park police are looking for two male suspects who witnesses said were in a red or maroon Ford Taurus with Missouri license plates. One of the men got out of the car and shot Thomas several times before the suspects drove away. Witnesses described the shooter as a heavy set black man with a shaved head or very short hair. He was wearing a white T-shirt and blue jeans.


KC Man Charged in Motorcyclist's Death

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 24-year-old Kansas City man is charged in a traffic accident that killed a Belton man whose wife and daughter were killed earlier in a separate traffic crash. The Jackson County prosecutor's office said Monday that Ronald J. O'Kelly is charged with first-degree involuntary manslaughter and leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident in the April death of Leroy "Buddy" Bronson. Bronson's wife, Diane K. Bronson, and their 11-year-old daughter, Anna, died in July 2011 after their car was hit by a vehicle going the wrong way on an area interstate. The driver of the oncoming car had a blood-alcohol level more than twice the legal limit and is serving 15 years in prison. Online court records didn't list a lawyer for O'Kelly.


KU Endowment Receives $1M Gift

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas Endowment Association has announced a $1 million unrestricted donation. The KU Endowment says Barbara Werbe Meek, a 1960 KU graduate who lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has committed to a $1 million gift to the university. The gift is unrestricted, which means it can be used for any purpose at KU with the approval of the Endowment's executive committee. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Meek chose to give the unrestricted gift because it was the wish of her late husband, Richard Meek, who died in 1999. The Meeks met at KU and were married for nearly 40 years. Barbara earned a bachelor's in education in 1960, while Richard received a bachelor's in 1958 and a master's in 1962, both in geology. He worked for Exxon.


Kansas Reports Higher-Than-Average Skin Cancer Rate 

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — As a state with a large number of outdoor workers, Kansas has a problem with skin cancer. The Hutchinson News reports that a 2009 study by the Center for Disease Control shows that more than a million people in the United States have been diagnosed with skin cancer. That makes it the most common cancer. Kansas has 9 percent more new melanoma cases than the national average. About 80 Kansans die from skin cancer every year. Bill Heer has had several suspicious spots removed from his arms, including a few that were pre-melanoma skin cancer. The former head agronomist at Kansas State's South-Central Kansas Research Field recalls burning often while growing up on a farm in the 1950s and 1960s. Experts say those early burns put people at risk.


Teen Hurt in Joyride with 12-Year-Old Driving

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a 15-year-old boy is hospitalized with a head injury after four minors took a car for a joyride. Police say two 15-year-olds, a 12-year-old and a 9-year-old took their mother's rental car without permission Sunday morning and started driving around the neighborhood. Sergeant Scott Brunow says the 12-year-old was driving when one of the 15-year-olds tried to climb out onto the vehicle's back end. The 15-year-old slid off and hit his head on the street. The 12-year-old drove the injured teenager to the hospital.


6-Year-Old Girl Burned in Fire Last Week Dies

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 6-year-old Wichita girl who was burned last week in a fire has died. Wichita fire investigator Chris Dugan said Monday the girl died Sunday. She had been hospitalized since being burned Thursday in the fire in southeast Wichita. The fire began when she and her two sisters - ages 7 and 4 - were alone in the home. Fire officials say the 6-year-old used a lighter to set plastic on fire, which set her clothes on fire. Neighbors pulled the girls from the home. The 7-year-old was treated and released at a hospital. The 4-year-old was not hospitalized. The 6-year-old had second- and third-degree burns on 40 percent of her body. Police say the Sedgwick County District Attorney's Office will consider possible charges against the mother.


Carjacker Drives Away with Sleeping Children

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) — Two children who were sleeping in a car when it was stolen from an Independence (Missouri) motel were still snoozing when officers rescued them. The Kansas City Star reports that the car was stolen early Sunday while the mother was checking into America's Best Value Inn. She had left the children unattended with the keys in the car. Shortly after midnight, Independence police alerted law enforcement agencies across the area. Kansas City police officers called about 45 minutes after recovering the car. The children were still asleep and unharmed in the car. They were reunited with their mother. Independence detectives continue to investigate at the motel.


Kansas Attraction Changes Name to Rolling Hills Zoo

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Salina attraction is getting a new name. The Salina Journal reports that Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure is becoming Rolling Hills Zoo. Executive director Robert Jenkins says the new name is a better reflection of what the 64,000-square-foot museum and 60-acre zoo has to offer. He says the name "Wildlife Adventure" is a little confusing to the general public. He says the new name will make billboards clean and allow people to know what to expect. The zoo started in 1999 as an area dedicated to the conservation and propagation of rare and endangered species in a natural setting. It now includes a wildlife museum, conference center, traveling exhibit area, children's exploration room and theater. There also are projects in science education, conservation and animal care and welfare.

Some Kansas Residents to Receive Help with Energy Bills

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Eligible Kansas residents will receive additional assistance through a state program to help them pay their summer utility bills. The Kansas Department for Children and Families says that low-income residents who received assistance during the winter months to help will receive a supplemental payment of approximately $103. Those checks would be on top of average payment of $386 issued to 48,000 residents this winter through the Low Income Energy Assistance Program. DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore says the extra financial assistance helps residents stay safe from extreme heat. She says the funds are in the process of being distributed. The program is provided through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and is available for qualifying residents with disabilities, older adults and families with children.


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