UPDATE: Kansas AG Says Delays on Gun Permits Will Be Fixed
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt acknowledges that his office is taking longer than the 90 days specified by state law to process applications for permits to carry concealed weapons. But Schmidt also said Thursday he expects the delays to be eliminated by the end of the month. Schmidt said decisions on permits are being delayed only a few days beyond the 90-day period and that his office now has 11 employees working on applications. Gun-rights supporters have said the attorney general's office has been struggling to process a record number of applications for permits over the past three months. Schmidt's office received nearly 11,000 from January through March. And gun-rights advocate and Edwardsville resident John Altevogt has filed a professional ethics complaint against Schmidt and members of his staff.
Hail Cited in Crash That Injured 8 Near Russell
RUSSELL, Kan. (AP) —Eight people, including six students and their teacher from Clifton-Clyde High School, were treated and released at a Russell hospital after an accident in northwest Kansas on a hail-covered road. The Kansas Highway Patrol says the two-vehicle accident happened Wednesday on Interstate 70 five miles east of Russell. The patrol says a sports utility vehicle carrying six students from Clifton-Clyde High School slid across a median when the driver, 29-year-old Laura Kay Stunkel of Palmer, lost control after driving over some hail. The SUV struck a vehicle driven by 53-year-old Shawnee resident Melinda Smith. All the injured were taken to a hospital in Russell. The extent of their injuries was not immediately available. Clifton-Clyde High School is located in Clifton, and has about 80 students.
KCC Approves Agreement in Fatal Topeka Explosion
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An agreement arising from a fatal natural gas explosion in Topeka will fine one company and require another company to change its operations. The Kansas Corporation Commission on Wednesday approved the agreement in response to a January 2012 explosion that killed 81-year-old Lucinia Tolliver at her home. The Topeka Capital Journal reports that the agreement fines N-Line Lawn Service $5,000. The company was installing a sprinkler system in a yard behind Tolliver's home when one of its machines moved a Kansas Gas Service line. Kansas Gas Service will be required to make such changes as amending its emergency plan, revising its training and identify areas where gas mains and sanitary sewers are close together. However, the utility will not be fined.
Kansas Governor Picks Judge for 9th District Court
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has appointed a lawyer from McPherson to serve as a district judge for Harvey and McPherson counties. John Klenda will replace Judge Carl Anderson in the 9th Judicial Circuit. Brownback announced the appointment Wednesday, saying Klenda's experience in criminal and civil cases made his a good candidate for the court. Klenda is a partner in the law firm of Kastetter and Klenda and serves as the McPherson city prosecutor and McPherson County counselor. He earned his law degree at Washburn University.
2 Plead Guilty in Arson That Killed KSU Researcher
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Two people have pleaded guilty in the arson death of a Kansas State University researcher. The U.S. attorney's office says 20-year-old Patrick Scahill and 19-year-old Virginia Griese, both of Manhattan, pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count each of arson resulting in death. The apartment fire killed Vasanta Pallem, a 34-year-old postdoctoral researcher in chemical engineering. In his plea, Scahill admitted to setting the fire in February to create a diversion that would prevent police from finding evidence of an armed robbery and other crimes. Prosecutors said Griese paid for the gas used to start the fire and drove around with Scahill looking for something to burn. They face a maximum sentence of life in federal prison. Sentencing is set for July 15th. Three others are charged.
2 Arrested in Wal-Mart Vandalism
DERBY, Kan. (AP) — Police in south-central Kansas report two arrests in a vandalism rampage that caused about $1 million in damage to a Wal-Mart store under construction. KAKE-TV reports that Derby detectives arrested two men, ages 22 and 23, on Thursday. They were being held in the Sedgwick County Jail. Contractors discovered the damage on March 18 when they arrived for work at a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market being built in Derby. The vandals had broken in over a weekend and used scissor lifts to ram freezer and cooler units located along one wall and in the center of the store. Doors were broken on 47 of the units, which were also pushed backward into plumbing and electrical systems. Police said most of the freezer and cooler units are beyond repair.
Wichita Abortion Protest Violence Cited in Stalking Case
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Attorneys for the woman who opened an abortion clinic in Wichita have cited the city's decades-long history of anti-abortion violence in a case seeking to protect her from a pastor. Trust Women founder Julie Burkhart wants to make a protection from stalking order against Mark Holick permanent. A Thursday hearing on the request was delayed. Holick is accused of picketing Burkhart's home and handing out "wanted-style" fliers with Burkhart's address. He also allegedly held a sign that read, "Where's your church?" Holick contends his actions are protected under the First Amendment. A new filing calls Holick's statements incitements to violence. The Trust Women clinic opened in the building that housed a clinic run by Dr. George Tiller, who was gunned down in 2009 at his church by an abortion opponent.
Cleanup of Kansas River Cancelled by High Water
LINWOOD, Kan. (AP) — This weekend's cleanup of the Kansas River has been put on hold because of rising water and potentially dangerous conditions. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the group Friends of the Kaw planned to lead the cleanup Saturday. But KDHE said Thursday the event has been postponed indefinitely. The schedule called for canoes to put in near Eudora and pick up trash en route to an illegal dump site near Linwood, where volunteers would haul tires from the water and the river bank. Officials say the Kansas is too high and muddy for the cleanup this weekend. A decision on rescheduling will be made later.
Drivers, KS Speedway to Honor Victims of Boston Bombings
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Speedway and several drivers plan to honor the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings during this weekend's NASCAR races. The track is working with NASCAR on a moment of silence before Sunday's Sprint Cup race to remember the three people killed and more than 170 wounded in Monday's blasts. Michael Waltrip, who ran the Boston Marathon in 2000, plans to honor them with special door numbers painted on his three Sprint Cup entries. The numbers will replicate the style of bib numbers pinned on the nearly 30,000 runners in this year's marathon. Waltrip said, "It was a great moment of pride when they pinned the Boston Marathon bib on me, so it would be great to pin bib numbers on our races cars this week in Kansas."
Man Pleads No Contest in 17 Salina Burglaries
SALINA, Kan. (AP) — One of two men charged with several burglaries at Salina businesses pleaded no contest to 18 felony and misdemeanor charges. Thirty-one-year-old Michael S. Cox of Salina entered the pleas Tuesday to 13 felonies and five misdemeanors. He will be sentenced May 23. The Salina Journal reports a nine-page affidavit accompanying Cox's plea lists about $33,500 in total losses at 17 Salina businesses. Cox's co-defendant was scheduled to plea in the case Thursday.
Wichita Police Looking for Cop Impersonator
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police are looking for the driver of a 1980s Ford Bronco who allegedly posed as a police officer. A Kingman woman called police Wednesday to report the Bronco pulled up behind her with flashing lights while she was driving in west Wichita. The lights appeared to be flashing from a visor, and there was no siren. The woman was suspicious and refused to pull over, causing the Bronco to speed up and pass her. The woman said the Bronco had a white top and blue lower half, with partial Kansas license plate number of 883.
Drought Eases in Parts of Midwest; Kansas Still Dry
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Soaking rain across much of the nation's midsection has helped further alleviate drought in the crop growing states of Iowa, Missouri, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Small portions of Nebraska also saw improvement. A weekly drought monitor, released Thursday by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, showed a few regions missed out from the wet weather, including Texas, where southern counties are in exceptional drought — the driest level possible level. Eastern Nebraska and the western edge of the state improved. Most of Nebraska remains in extreme drought. Kansas saw little change, remaining in exceptional or extreme drought. With snow in parts of Nebraska and heavy rain in much of the Midwest, some farmers are now hoping for a dry spell so they can get into fields.
Opening Statements in Petro America Trial
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Federal prosecutors say a Kansas City, Kan., man and four other people continued to sell stock in a Kansas City, Missouri company for two years after Missouri regulators ordered them to stop. Company founder Isreal Hawkins and four others are on trial in federal court, accused of bilking 14,000 investors out of more than $7 million by selling worthless stocks in Petro America, an oil and mining company. Prosecutors said Thursday in their opening statements that many of the investors were poor, elderly churchgoers who were persuaded by their pastors to buy the company's stock. Hawkins and the other defendants, Teresa Brown, Johnny Heurung, William Miller and Martin Roper, have pleaded not guilty in the case.
Emporia State University Names NC Educator as New Provost
EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — A North Carolina educator will become provost of Emporia State University in July. Emporia State President Michael Shonrock announced the appointment of David Cordle on Wednesday. He will replace Gwen Alexander, who has been serving since August as interim provost and vice president for academic affairs at the eastern Kansas school. Cordle is currently a professor of music and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. He also is a former faculty member and administrator at William Woods University in Fulton, Missouri; Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond; and Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia.
Mennonite Relief Sale Raises $469K
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — The 45th annual Kansas Mennonite Relief Sale raised more than $400,000. The Wichita Eagle reports that last weekend's sale at the Kansas State Fairgrounds in Hutchinson brought in $469,000. The money goes to the Mennonite Relief Committee, a world-relief organization. The Kansas organization says a 1942 Studebaker sold for $14,750, and the quilt auction raised about $120,000 from more than 250 items. More than 30 quilts were sold for $1,000 or more. A "Broken Star" quilt made by the Yoder Amish Church sold for $5,000. The general auction raised about $66,000. The organization says its 2014 sale is scheduled for April 11 and 12.
Rural Midwest Bankers Expect More Economic Growth
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A monthly survey of bankers says that strong farm income continues to boost the economy in rural areas of 10 Midwest and Plains states. The overall economic index for the region grew to 58.3 in April from March's 56.9. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss oversees the survey. He says agricultural businesses and energy-producing firms continue to thrive in the region. But the continued growth in farmland price index that hit 66.9 in April remains a concern for smaller farmers. The index ranges from 0 to 100, with 50 representing growth neutral. Any score above 50 suggests economic growth in the months ahead. The index is based on a survey of rural bankers in Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.
Westboro Lawsuit Seeks to Invalidate Iowa's Flag Abuse Laws
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — A lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union is seeking an order stopping the enforcement of Iowa laws that make it a crime to abuse the American flag. ACLU filed a lawsuit Thursday on behalf of Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, whose members are known for protesting outside soldiers' funerals with anti-gay messages. The lawsuit says police in Red Oak and Council Bluffs threatened to enforce Iowa's flag abuse statutes against during protests between 2010 and 2012. The lawsuit argues the laws are unconstitutional, and were invalidated by a federal judge's ruling in 2007. Lawmakers amended one of the laws after that ruling, but ACLU attorney Randall Wilson says they remain an unconstitutional restriction on free speech. Church members drag, stand and spit on flags during protests.
Nebraska Man Accused of Hunting Deer Without License
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A southeastern Nebraska man accused of hunting deer without a license and while being a felon has been charged in a five-count federal indictment. The indictment announced Wednesday says 44-year-old Ward Hunnel, of York, did not have a license to hunt deer in November 2011 when killed two deer in Nebraska. The indictment also accuses Hunnel of taking the deer from Nebraska to Kansas and of being a felon in possession of firearms. If convicted of all the counts, Hunnel could face up to 27 years in federal prison.
Kansas Man One of 22 Heroes Honored After Risking Lives for Others
PITTSBURGH (AP) — A Kansas man who intervened and saved a teenager from an assault is one of 22 people across the country receiving Carnegie medals for heroism. The awards announced on Thursday honored James Linthicum, who rescued 16-year-old Edgar Arreola from a 2011 attack. Other medal winners honored were from Michigan, Canada, Vermont, Tennessee, Oregon, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New Jersey, Florida, Nebraska, and Georgia. Carnegie medalists or their heirs receive financial grants approved by the commission.
Kansas Gun Rights Advocates: Permits Slow in Coming
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Gun rights advocates say the Kansas attorney general's office is struggling to process a record number of applications for concealed carry permits on time. Edwardsville resident John Altevogt said Thursday that Attorney General Derek Schmidt's office told him last week it would be lucky to process applications in 120 days. Kansas law says applications must be reviewed in 90 days. Altevogt applied for a permit in February. On Wednesday, he filed a professional ethics complaint against Schmidt and members of his staff. Kansas State Rifle Association president Patricia Stoneking said her group has received dozens of complaints in recent weeks. Schmidt's office received nearly 11,000 concealed-carry applications in January, February and March. He and his spokesman didn't immediately respond to telephone and email messages seeking comment Thursday.
**this story has been updated. Please see above.