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Regional Headlines for Monday, June 18, 2012


Winfield Prison Escapees Still at Large, Stolen Truck Recovered

WINFIELD, Kan. (AP) — A box truck that two inmates used to escape from the Winfield Correctional Facility in south-central Kansas has been found abandoned about 15 miles away.  The Kansas Department of Corrections said in a news release that the truck sustained a blowout and was found Sunday morning.  The discovery was made one day after corrections officials identified 52-year-old Robert Cook and 48-year-old Frank Crutchfield as missing.  Now, officials say a truck belonging to the nearby city of Douglass is missing and that the fugitives are suspected of taking it. The vehicle is described as a dark blue 2006 GMC Sierra with a Kansas license tag of 74914.  Authorities are asking anyone with information on the whereabouts of the two men or the missing truck to contact law enforcement.

Click here to see photographs of the escapees.


Kansas Family Killed in Florida Plane Crash Remembered

JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas family of six who died in a Florida plane crash are being remembered for their kindness and generous contributions to their community and Kansas State University. More than 2,000 people filled a Junction City school auditorium on Monday for the funeral Mass for 45-year-old Ron Bramlage; his 43-year-old wife, Rebecca; and their children, 15-year-old Brandon, 13-year-old Boston, 11-year-old Beau and 8-year-old Roxanne. WIBW-TV reports the mourners included Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder. Ron and Rebecca Bramlage were active in the university's Alumni Association, President's Club and other groups. Kansas State's multi-purpose arena is named for Ron's grandfather.The family died June 7 when their private plane crashed in Florida as they were returning home from the Bahamas. The cause remains under investigation.


Trial Begins in Manhattan Capital Murder Trial

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Opening statements begin today (MON) in the capital murder trial of a man accused of killing his ex-girlfriend and her 1-year-old son.  Authorities allege Luis Aguirre suffocated Tanya Maldonado in the kitchen of her Manhattan home and then suffocated her son, Juan, while he slept in another room.  Their bodies were found October 25 in a shallow grave east of Ogden in Riley County.  Aguirre lived and worked in Ogden for about a year. Previously he lived in Chicago.  Aguirre has described several versions of that story to police.  The Manhattan Mercury reported that the case marks the first capital murder trial in Riley County in decades.


 KU Tax Law Expert Critical of New Kansas Changes

 LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A tax law professor from the University of Kansas says changes to the Kansas income tax code could benefit wealthier residents, lead to revenue shortfalls and have other unintended consequences for the state.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Martin Dickinson told a group of Douglas County Democrats on Saturday that the law signed in May by Republican Governor Sam Brownback could also prompt some taxpayers to manipulate the changes to their advantage. Dickinson, who is an expert in tax law, said the changes will reduce the amount of revenue available for the state. It also could lead to taxpayers reorganizing their business status to avoid paying any income tax by becoming limited liability companies. Brownback contends the changes will create jobs and wealth.


Emergency Workers Call Storm Tourists a Nuisance

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Tourists are flocking to sign up for vacation packages filled with storm chasing. For them it's a trip of a lifetime, but some emergency workers find the tour groups a nuisance during what can be life and death situations.  Rush County Emergency Management Director Jim Fisher recalled what happened in early May, the night a tornado wrapped in a wall of rain was about to roll through LaCrosse.  When he needed to move some storm spotters down a county road, it was blocked by a tour van and a group of sightseers with tripods set up in the middle of the road.  The Hutchinson News reported that one of the tour members told a Rush County storm spotter he had paid $1,000 to storm chase and he had every right to be there.


Dems Contesting 2 of 4 KS Congressional Seats

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Democrats hope voters unhappy with congressional partisanship will oust incumbents from the state's all-Republican U.S. House delegation.  Yet, congressional races could be difficult for them in GOP-leaning Kansas.  Democrats haven't fielded candidates against freshman GOP congressmen Tim Huelskamp and Kevin Yoder. Huelskamp represents the 1st District of western and central Kansas. Yoder serves in the 3rd, centered on the Kansas City area.  Still, three Democrats are running in the 2nd District of eastern Kansas, represented by two-term Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins. They are Scott James Barnhart, of Ottawa; Bob Eye, of Lawrence, and the Rev. Tobias Schlingensiepen (schling-ehn-SEE'-pehn), of Topeka.  In the 4th District of south-central Kansas, two Wichita residents, Esau Freeman and Robert Tillman, are running as Democrats for the right to challenge freshman Congressman Mike Pompeo.


Investigation into Meetings with KS Gov Winding Down

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An investigation is winding down into private dinner meetings between Kansas legislators and Republican Governor Sam Brownback.  A spokesman for Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor said the office has finished interviewing legislators for an investigation into whether dinners at the governor's mansion violated the Kansas Open Meetings Act.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that spokesman Lee McGowan says he believed investigators were currently talking to some of the governor's staff.  Brownback hosted Republican members of 13 committees at seven dinners at his official residence during January.  The governor has said he's confident the open meetings law wasn't violated. The law prohibits a majority of a legislative body from discussing government business without giving the public notice or access to the meetings.


Missouri 3-Year-Old Accidentally Shot Himself

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) — The family of a 3-year-old Missouri boy who died on Saturday says he shot himself with a gun he found in the home.  Independence police declined to say what killed Joshua Andrew Turner, known as J.J.  His family told The Kansas City Star that the boy found the gun moments after his mother, Dawn Turner, went into another room. The boy died in his father's arms.  No one has been arrested. Funeral services are still pending.


Contracts Awarded to Fix Missouri River Levees

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has awarded more contracts for fixing damaged levees on the Missouri River.  Corps officials say they're aiming to finish repairs by November on all of the levees within the district that were damaged by last year's massive flooding.  To date, the Corps says it has awarded 20 contracts worth more than $18 million to fix 25 segments of levees in the lower Missouri basin.  Nine projects have been completed for 11 levee districts. Work was finished Friday on the Kansas Department of Corrections levee system at Leavenworth.  Officials still need to award 10 contracts to repair 23 levee segments.


Under "Old Law," Many KS Inmates Serving Longer Sentences

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Hundreds of Kansas inmates sentenced before new guidelines took effect in 1993 are serving prison terms that would have been much shorter under today's law.  The Wichita Eagle reported that the news guidelines generally called for shorter sentences for property crimes and longer ones for crimes of violence.  The Kansas Legislature decided to apply the guidelines retroactively to more than 2,000 inmates who were serving time for relatively minor offenses. But more than 4,000 inmates convicted of more serious crimes were left to serve out their original sentences.  The sentencing guidelines law in effect created two classes of prison inmates. But the Kansas Supreme Court ruled in 1994 that it did not violate inmate's rights.  Today, about 400 of those "old law" inmates remain behind bars.


Honor Flights for KS WWII Vets Put on Hold

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Efforts to take World War II veterans to see the war's memorial in Washington are in flux in Kansas.  The Wichita Eagle reports that one organization that conducted the free flights is on the verge of disappearing, and another is trying to replace it.  Problems came to a head after Springfield, Ohio-based Honor Flight decided it no longer wanted Great Bend-based Central Prairie Honor Flights to help organize trips for the national network. Issues included a veteran breaking a rib after falling out of a top bunk bed in April 2011 and reports being filed late.  Two former Central Prairie volunteers are ramping up a new organization — Hutchinson-based Kansas Honor Flight. Meanwhile, Central Prairie Honor Flights is considering its options.  All the uncertainty has left supporters confused.


Armenians to Meet with KS National Guard Leaders

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two top military officers from the republic of Armenia are in Kansas this week to meet with senior National Guard leaders in Topeka and observe training in Salina.  The visit comes as Armenia's military transitions from a conscripted force to one with a professional noncommissioned officer corps. The Kansas National Guard has been joined with the former Soviet republic in a partnership program since 2003.  The program's director, Lt. Col. Brent Salmans, says the Armenian delegation will receive briefings in Topeka on the roles and responsibilities of noncommissioned staff officers.  On Wednesday and Thursday, the Armenians will observe operations at the Great Plains Joint Training Center in Salina. They'll also visit the Officer Candidate School at the 235th Training Regiment.


Gov Must Fill NE KS Judgeship by July 12

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has until July 12 deadline to pick one of three attorneys nominated to fill a district court judge's position in northeast Kansas.  There's a vacancy on the bench in Shawnee County because Judge Charles Andrews retired in March.  Eleven attorneys applied for the position, and a local nominating committee narrowed the field to three after interviews earlier this month. State law gives a governor 30 days to make the final selection.  The nominees include Jason Geier, a senior assistant Shawnee County district attorney, and Mary Mattivi, a judge pro tem for both the district court and the city of Topeka and city prosecutor in Maple Hill. The third nominee is Carl William Ossmann, chief litigation attorney for the state Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services.


Event Marks KS Territorial Capitol's Heritage

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — A bit of Kansas life from the 1850s will be re-enacted Saturday at the First Territorial Capitol State Historic Site at Fort Riley.  The celebration of Territorial Governor's Day will take place from 10am to 3pm with presentations, food vendors and activities for children. The event is free, but admission to the Army post requires photo identification.  The site was designated a capitol in June 1855 by Andrew Reeder, the first territorial governor of Kansas, near a small settlement known as Pawnee close to the Fort Riley boundary.  Territorial legislators met for five days in July 1855 in a stone building on the site. Several other capitols were designated around the Kansas territory in the following years before Topeka was chosen as the permanent location.


ND Zoo Animals Will Stay Longer in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — When the threat of flooding prompted a North Dakota zoo to send most of its animals to a wildlife park in Wichita last year, the animals were expected to stay in Kansas for four to six weeks.  A year later, the lions, leopards, giraffes and several other animals are still at the Tanganyika Wildlife Park.  No one at the wildlife park or at Roosevelt Park Zoo in Minot, North Dakota, knows when the animals will be returned to the zoo.  The Wichita Eagle reports the animals' old home in Minot is undergoing a major renovation after the Souris River flooded last summer.  In all, the zoo sent more than 200 animals to about 15 zoos around the country. Some animals originally sent to other zoos ended up in Wichita because those zoos didn't have room to keep them during the winter.


Kansas and Nebraska United Methodists Combine Conferences

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Teams from three United Methodists conferences are working to combine two Kansas conferences and one from Nebraska into a single conference that will be based in Wichita.  Members of the Kansas West, Kansas East and Nebraska United Methodist conferences voted earlier this month to unify the three conferences into one conference, beginning in January 2014.  The conferences are regional bodies that supervise churches and clergy within a geographic area.  The Wichita Eagle reports that members of the South Central United Methodist jurisdiction in late July will elect the new bishop for the Kansas-Nebraska conference.  The new bishop for the Kansas-Nebraska conference will live in Wichita but church headquarters will remain in Topeka and in Lincoln, Nebraska.


Pittsburg State begins Turf-Replacement Project

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — Pittsburg State University is replacing the turf its football team has played on for nearly a decade.  Work at Carnie Smith Stadium is expected to last until early August. Private donations will cover the $500,000 cost.  Director of athletics Jim Johnson says the field has "certainly seen its share of champions."  The school says the old turf has been home to eight national playoff games and two MIAA conference championships. Plus, one NCAA Division II National Championship runner-up and the 2011 NCAA Division II National Champion have played on it.  The school says almost all of the rubber infill will be recycled. Also several sections of the turf will be reused in other areas, such as the baseball and softball batting cages.


Jail Inmate Sues Shawnee County

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An inmate at the Shawnee County Jail alleges in a lawsuit that officials removed more than $1,600 from his inmate account that he didn't owe.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that inmate Gary Lee Baker is acting on his own attorney. In his hand-written lawsuit, he asks the county to repay him. At issue is money removed from his account to cover medical services. The county says the services were provided while he was a jail inmate in 2005 and 2008.  Baker was booked into the jail in March and charged with felony theft and misdemeanor driving while a habitual violator.  Baker pleaded guilty to felony theft last month, when the other charge was dismissed. Sentencing is set for next month, but he is seeking to withdraw his plea.


KC Group Works to Encourage Pet Spay and Neutering

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City group is working to get 10,000 dogs and cats spayed or neutered by the end of the year.  Volunteers and leaders of Spay and Neuter Kansas City went door-to-door this past week trying to persuade pet owners to have their animals operated on.  The group is on track to have 6,500 pets undergo the procedure this year but wants to reach the 10,000 mark.  The organization charges owners a sliding fee based on their income.  Executive Director Michelle Rivera says the clinic's veterinarians are used to operating on 40 to 50 pets a day, so the goal is attainable.  Rivera said spaying or neutering helps keep pets healthy. And it avoids unwanted litters that may become strays.


Boeing Lauds Tornado Recovery by Key Supplier

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Top executives from the Boeing Co. are praising the tornado recovery efforts by parts supplier Spirit AeroSystems. Kent Fisher is the vice president of supplier management for Boeing commercial airplanes. He told Spirit workers Monday that Spirit AeroSystems never missed a shipping date to Boeingafter the Spirit plant was hit by a tornado April 14. He says the incredible recovery effort is going to make the relationship between the two companies even stronger. The tornado struck the Spirit's Wichita plant while about 200 employees took refuge in storm shelters. The storm damaged 40 buildings. Employees and contractors restored power and water, repaired buildings and brought critical equipment online in the following days. All 10,800 Spirit workers were making parts for Boeingwithin eight days.


USDA Fines National Beef $32,500

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Federal regulators have fined National Beef Packing Co. a $32,500 civil penalty as part of a consent agreement stemming from the company's practices with livestock sellers.The Agriculture Department's Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration, or GIPSA as it is more commonly known, has also issued cease and desist orders to the Kansas City, Mo.-based company over the allegations.GIPSA ordered the company to give livestock sellers an accurate accounting of the cattle purchased and to correct freight charge deductions. It also ordered the company to tell sellers about data errors that affect prices paid for cattle, and to stop using an inaccurate scale for determining livestock carcass weights.National Beef did not immediately return a call for comment.



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