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Regional Headlines for Monday, July 9, 2012




Kansas to Review Acquisition of Medicaid Contractor

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The state of Kansas will review plans by the nation's second-largest health insurance company to buy another company recently awarded a contract to help manage the state's Medicaid program. WellPoint Inc., based in Indianapolis, announced Monday it will acquire Amerigroup Corporation, headquartered in Virginia Beach, Virginia, for about $4.46 billion. WellPoint expects to close the transaction early next year. Kansas awarded one of three contracts to manage its $2.9 billion-a-year Medicaid program to an Amerigroup subsidiary two weeks ago. Medicaid covers health care for the needy and disabled. Kansas is among 15 states that must review the transaction. Bob Hanson, a spokesman for Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, said that process should take about two months. Meanwhile, a state health department spokeswoman says the Medicaid contract with the Amerigroup subsidiary remains in place.


Kobach Defends Kansas Proof-of-Citizenship Policy

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Secretary of State Kris Kobach is confident the courts would uphold a Kansas law that will require some potential voters to prove their U.S. citizenship starting next year. That's despite an ongoing legal dispute over a similar policy in Arizona. Kobach contends his state's proof-of-citizenship law is sound because it was drafted to avoid the legal issues facing the Arizona law, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported this week. The law will require people registering to vote for the first time in Kansas to present proof that they're American citizens to elections officials. The proof-of-citizenship requirement was included in a package of elections changes approved by legislators in 2011 at Kobach's urging. Another measure in the package, requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls, took effect this year.


Hawker Beechcraft Announces Sale to Chinese Firm 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Hawker Beechcraft says it has reached a $1.79 billion agreement with a Chinese firm for the sale of the struggling Wichita-based business jet maker. The deal does not include Hawker Beechcraft Defense Company, which would remain a separate entity. Hawker Beechcraft said in a news release Monday that under terms of the agreement Beijing-based aerospace manufacturer Superior Aviation Beijing Company, Ltd., will make payments over the next six weeks to support ongoing operations at Hawker Beechcraft. The company says Superior will keep Hawker Beechcraft's existing operations, saving thousands of jobs in Wichita and Little Rock, Arkansas. Its exclusivity agreement gives them 45 days to negotiate a definitive agreement. If the deal collapses, Hawker Beechcraft said it would proceed with its bankruptcy reorganization plan that contemplates emerging as a stand-alone entity.


Penalty Phase Begins in Kansas Capital Murder Trial

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Jurors are returning to court to decide whether a northeastern Kansas man convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend and their son should be executed or receive a lesser sentence. The Manhattan Mercury reported that the penalty phase of Luis Aguirre's capital murder trial gets under way Monday. Jurors in Riley County District Court deliberated only a few hours last month before convicting Aguirre of suffocating 18-year-old Tanya Maldonado and the couple's 13-month-old son, Juan, in September 2009 at the young woman's home in Manhattan. A hunter found the bodies the following month in a shallow grave near Ogden. Evidence in the trial included video of Aguirre telling investigators the deaths were accidental.

Kansas High Court Names Panel to Hear Complaint

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The state Supreme Court has appointed three people to hear a lawyer's complaint against the state's top legal ethics official. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the Kansas Supreme Court has named Overland Park attorney Nancy Anstaett, retired Kansas Court of Appeals judge J. Patrick Brazil and Wichita attorney Mikel Stout to hear the complaint filed by Keen Umbehr in May against state disciplinary administrator Stanton Hazlett. Umbehr accuses Hazlett of falsely telling him that an ethics review panel made a finding of probable cause against Umbehr in a dispute with the Kansas Department of Corrections. Umbehr was cleared of any wrongdoing. Hazlett denies any misconduct and says he welcomes an investigation.

Judge Plans Hearing on Ex-KU Consultant's Sentence

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge wants to hear more evidence before he rules on a request by a former consultant for the University of Kansas who is seeking to have his sentence shortened in a ticket scalping conspiracy. U.S. District Judge Monti Belot on Monday ordered U.S. Marshals to bring Thomas Ray Blubaugh back to Kansas from Oklahoma, where he's serving his sentence. The hearing date will be set after Blubaugh returns. Blubaugh pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to defraud the United States through wire fraud, tax obstruction and interstate transportation of stolen property. He's seeking to reduce his 46-month prison sentence to 33 months. He claims the court improperly considered the value of so-called deadwood tickets he had hidden. He also claims ineffective counsel. Prosecutors oppose the request.

Kansas Woman Pleads Guilty to Embezzling $85K

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A central Kansas woman has pleaded guilty to a federal charge related to stealing from the credit union where she worked. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom says Monday that 46-year-old Deborah Bomia of Enterprise pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement. She's accused of stealing $85,000 from the Enterprise Credit Union in Dickinson County from 2005 to 2011. Grissom says Bomia also agreed to repay the money. She's scheduled to be sentenced October 10.


Kansas Again Appeals Order over Clinic Funding

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has again appealed a federal judge's order prohibiting the state from stripping federal family planning funds from Planned Parenthood clinics in Wichita and Hays as well as an unaffiliated clinic in Dodge City. Monday's appeal notice seeks to put both the 2011 and 2012 statutes before the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals more quickly. The lawsuit stems from a Kansas law requiring the state to first allocate federal family planning money to public health departments and hospitals, which leaves no funds for specialty clinics. Planned Parenthood and the Dodge City Family Planning Clinic earlier won an extension of a 2010 injunction after the Legislature this year re-enacted those funding restrictions. U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten found last month that the statute unconstitutionally bars the plaintiffs from eligibility.


Victim of Horton House Explosion Tentatively Identified 

HORTON, Kan. (AP) — Horton police have tentatively identified the victim of a house explosion in northeast Kansas. The Horton Police Department said Monday that the body found inside the home Friday in Horton is believed to be that of 58-year-old Ronnie L. Tulk. Police Chief Beau Hasenohr says tests are still being conducted to confirm that the body is Tulk's. Hasenhor says in a news release that preliminary reports indicate the explosion was caused by gas but an investigation is continuing. Tulk lived alone at the house, which was severely damaged by the explosion and fire. Kansas Gas Service spokeswoman Dawn Ewing said testing at the site found no leak in the company's natural gas system.


Some Wildlife Officials Upset with Shawnee County Poaching Law Enforcement 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Some state wildlife officers are upset with what they call lax enforcement of poaching laws in Shawnee County. Jason Sawyers, a wildlife department lieutenant, says those caught breaking hunting and fishing laws in the county often have their cases dismissed, or receive small fines. And he says poachers almost always get their guns returned. He tells The Topeka Capital-Journal people know that they won't be prosecuted for hunting or fishing violations in the county. Lee McGowan, spokesman for current District Attorney Chad Taylor, says Taylor's administration has improved on previous administrations' enforcement of hunting and fishing laws. Sawyers said lax prosecution of wildlife and parks violations have been a problem throughout his 14-year tenure. But he says fines have fallen again recently.


Dead Carp Reported at Lawrence Area Pond

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The hot weather has claimed hundreds of carp at a nature preserve outside Lawrence. The state Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism says the dead carp lining the banks of the pond at the Kanza Southwind Nature Preserve outside Lawrence died from the excessive heat. Chuck Bever, regional fisheries supervisor with the department, told The Lawrence Journal-World that the hot weather and decaying plants take oxygen out of the water, leaving little for fish. The heat effect is most often seen in small lakes and ponds.

2 People Die after Fleeing Driver Crashes in KCK

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Two Kansas City, Missouri residents died when a vehicle fleeing from police crashed and caught fire in Kansas. The Kansas Highway Patrol says five other people were thrown from the vehicle in the accident early Sunday in Kansas City, Kansas. The patrol identified the dead as Alexis Medina and Karla Robledo, both 18. The patrol says Medina was driving the sport utility vehicle. The five other teens, ranging in age from 15 to 19, were taken to hospitals. The chase began when Roeland Park police tried to stop the vehicle early Sunday because it was being driven suspiciously. The driver lost control near an entrance to Interstate 35 and crashed into a pillar under the highway. The occupants were ejected, and the vehicle caught fire and burned.


UPDATE: Authorities End Search for Man in Central Kansas

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — Barton County authorities have stopped searching for a parole violator last seen in central Kansas. The Barton County Sheriff's Department called off the search Sunday afternoon for Michael Aaron Jayne, who is wanted for a parole violation in Oregon. Undersheriff Larry Holliday told The Hutchinson News that federal authorities confirmed Jayne was out of the area. The 30-year-old Jayne reportedly led officers on a chase in Rooks County on Thursday night. A pickup stolen from Rooks County on Thursday was discovered near Cheyenne Bottoms on Friday. Another vehicle was reported stolen Friday evening from the Barton Hills area. Multiple law enforcement agencies were involved in the search, using aircraft and police dogs.

Kansas Delegation at England Air Show

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials will be in England this week promoting the state's aviation industry. Senator Jerry Moran, Governor Sam Brownback and Kansas Commerce Secretary Pat George will be discussing Kansas aviation at the Famborough International Airshow near London. Leaders of Wichita's Spirit AeroSystems, Hawker Beechcraft, Cessna Aircraft, Boeing, Airbus and Bombardier also will be there. Brownback says the Kansas delegation is working to promote current companies and recruit more companies to Wichita. The Wichita Eagle reports Wichita builds and delivers more than 40 percent of the world's general aviation airplanes.

Reno County Seeking to Increase Inspection Fees

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Reno County health officials have proposed increasing several inspection and permit fees to make up for a state grant that was lost in a line-item veto from Governor Sam Brownback. The Reno County Commission has tentatively approved the fee hikes, and formally takes up the issue in August. The Hutchinson News reports that the increased fees will be for such services as inspections of rural home water and wastewater systems and inspecting private water wells or septic system installations. Under the proposal, several inspection fees would increase, including for private wells, which would increase from $60 to $175. Health Department Director Julia Hulsey says the state grant to the county of $17,774 for the program was included in the state budget. But Brownback eliminated it in a line-item veto.

Missing Man's Body Recovered from Lake Afton

GODDARD, Kan. (AP) — The man whose body was recovered from Lake Afton has been identified as 47-year-old Dwight Givens of Wichita. KFDI reports Sedgwick County authorities recovered the body about 6 am Monday at the lake in south-central Kansas. Sheriff's spokesman Sergeant Terry Litton says Givens was swimming late Saturday afternoon and tried to turn around to go to shore, but went under and wasn't seen again. Litton says Givens was at the lake with his wife and family. His body was found floating about 25 yards offshore. Dive teams from the Wichita and Sedgwick County fire departments searched the lake for several hours Saturday and most of Sunday.

Kansas Man to Get New Trial in 2008 Killing

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Court of Appeals has ruled that a Wichita man convicted of second-degree murder will get a new trial. In the ruling, the court found Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers did not have probable cause to search the Cadillac 32-year-old Felton Williams Junior was driving. The Hutchinson News reports that the search happened hours after the September 2008 shooting of 21-year-old Kenneth White at his Hutchinson home. The search yielded $2,000 worth of cocaine and two guns reported stolen from Hutchinson. One of the weapons was a .40-caliber gun that authorities allege was used to kill White. The appeals court also rejected Reno County District Attorney Keith Schroeder's argument that the odor of alcohol on Williams gave troopers probable cause, under Oklahoma law, to search Williams' vehicle.

3-Day Kansas Event to Honor Black Civil War Soldiers

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A group that publicizes Kansas history is planning a three-day celebration in Topeka next month to mark the 150th anniversary of the formation of the first unit of black soldiers to go into battle during the Civil War. The Kansas Fever Committee plans to have events starting August 3. The site will be Cushinberry Park, near the national historic site dedicated to the U.S. Supreme Court's historic Brown v. Board decision in 1954 declaring segregated schools unconstitutional. The celebration will honor the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteers, which formed in 1862 and went into its first battle in Missouri in October 1862. That was nine months before the first battle in South Carolina for the better-known 54th Massachusetts, subject of the 1989 film, "Glory."

KU Expert to Discuss Heat at Brewery Event

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A University of Kansas professor is conducting class at a popular Lawrence brewery to discuss just what constitutes extreme weather. Nathaniel Brunsell, an associate professor of geography and atmospheric science, will lead the discussion Tuesday at Free State Brewery in Lawrence. The event is prompted by recent weeks of extreme heat conditions across Kansas and the Midwest. The event is sponsored by the university's Natural History Museum and is patterned after science cafes in other cities where experts have held discussions with the public about relevant science topics in informal settings. The discussion will focus on the extreme weather conditions and the implications for agriculture and urban and natural environments. Brunsell will talk about what constitutes extreme conditions and the effects of global climate change on extreme weather.


Wichita Police See Blurring of Gang Boundaries, Memberships

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say they are seeing changes in the way the city's gangs operate. Police say members of what were once rival gangs are sometimes joining forces. In the past, gang members were usually severely punished if they associated with members of other gangs. Police call them hybrid gangs. Wichita detective Chad Beard says the hybrid gangs will sometimes form to accomplish a specific task, whether it's a crime or just going to movies together. Then they usually disband. The Wichita Eagle reports hybrid gangs have been around for a decade but they are becoming more common. And experts say they are more likely to form in smaller cities like Wichita than they are in larger cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.


Lineups Announced for Major League Baseball All-Star Game 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers has been named as the starting pitcher for the American League in Tuesday night's All-Star game against the San Francisco Giants' Matt Cain. The AL's batting order has Derek Jeter leading off and playing shortstop, followed by Yankees teammate Robinson Cano at second base, Texas Rangers left fielder Josh Hamilton, Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista, Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder, Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre, Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, Texas catcher Mike Napoli and Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson.

The NL has the Colorado Rockies' Carlos Gonzalez leading off as the DH, followed by Giants center fielder Melky Cabrera, Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun, Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto, St. Louis Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran, Giants catcher Buster Posey, Giants third baseman Pedro Sandoval, Atlanta Braves second baseman Dan Uggla and Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal.


Major League Baseball Stars Gather for All-Star Game 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The stars of Major League Baseballworked out at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City for the start of the All-Star break that begins today (MON). Tony LaRussa has come out of retirement to guide the National League, after leading the Cardinals to the World Series title last year. He'll be trying to engineer a third straight win for the NL,  which holds a 42-38 edge in the mid-summer classic over the American League. The Rangers' Ron Washington skippers the AL All-Stars. The game is set for tomorrow night. Tonight (MON), swinging for the fences will be the theme with the staging of the power-hitting-packed Home Run Derby. The American League sluggers taking part are defending champ Robinson Cano; Jose Bautista, who is the current major league co-leader with 27 homers; Prince Fielder; and Mark Trumbo. National Leaguers who will try to clear the fences are Matt Kemp, Carlos Gonzalez, Carlos Beltran and Andrew McCutchen.

Wildfire-Ravaged Colorado Lifting Burn Ban

DENVER (AP) — Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper says cool, wet weather has allowed him to lift the statewide fire ban he ordered last month. Hickenlooper said Sunday that "Mother Nature is finally giving us some relief," and extreme fire conditions have abated in all of Colorado's 64 counties, including those bordering western Kansas. Recent widespread rainfall has allowed crews to gain the upper hand on several fires, including the two most destructive in state history. The High Park Fire near Fort Collins is fully contained, and the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs is 98 percent contained. The fire ban ordered June 14th applied to all open burning, including campfires, charcoal grill fires and the private use of fireworks. Hickenlooper says local authorities and federal land managers can resume control over fire bans in their jurisdictions. Many counties still have bans in place.

County Launches Court for Veterans

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Jackson County, Missouri, has launched a new court that will offer military veterans alternatives to jail for some non-violent offenses. The court is a combined effort of the circuit court, the prosecutor's office and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The Kansas City Star reports that the Jackson County court for veterans will focus on intervention and treatment instead of putting veterans on the usual prosecution track. In some cases, charges against the veterans will be dismissed if they successfully complete the program and others will be offered services such as drug counseling or job training as part of their probation after being found guilty. Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker says the court won't hear some cases, including crimes involving sex offenses, drive-by shootings or murders.

Missouri Governor Signing Kansas City 'Land Bank' Bill

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has signed legislation intended to help spruce up vacant property in Kansas City. Nixon traveled to the city Monday for a signing ceremony on legislation that would authorize the city to create a so-called "land bank." The new governmental entity would have authority to acquire abandoned and blighted properties so they can be improved and resold. The land bank could borrow money but could not use eminent domain. Last year, the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City said there were about 12,000 vacant residential properties in Kansas City.

Authorities Search for Man in Central Kansas

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have been searching in central Kansas for a man wanted for a parole violation in Oregon. Barton County Undersheriff Larry Holliday says 30-year-old Michael Aaron Jayne is wanted by U.S. Marshals. Barton County officials have alerted residents around the Cheyenne Bottoms area to keep an eye out for Jayne. He is accused of leading officers on a high-speed chase in Rooks County Thursday night. On Friday night, a vehicle reported stolen from Rooks County was recovered in the Cheyenne Bottoms area. Multiple law enforcement agencies have been involved in the search, bringing in aircraft and even police dogs. Authorities are urging anyone with information to call 911.

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

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