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Regional Headlines for Thursday, April 19, 2012



UPDATE: State of Kansas Pulls Inmates from Ottawa County Jail

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas prison officials have removed all inmates housed at a county jail after four inmates escaped, including a convicted murderer who remains at large. Department of Corrections spokesman Jeremy Barclay said Thursday that the remaining 18 prison inmates who were being held in the Ottawa County Jail because of prison overcrowding have been returned to the state prison in Ellsworth. Barclay says the temporary decision was made after four inmates escaped Wednesday morning from the jail in Minneapolis, a small town about 120 miles west of Topeka. Two of those men, including a convicted killer, were still missing Thursday. Barclay says the move is temporary as the department investigates the escape and reassesses placing inmates in the jail. Kansas allows some county jails to house prison inmates under state contracts to help alleviate prison overcrowding.


Sheriff: Escaped Inmates Used Homemade Knives

MINNEAPOLIS, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas sheriff says four inmates who escaped from his jail were armed with homemade knives and overpowered guards after complaining about a broken water line in the holding cell area.  Two of the four are still at large, including a convicted murderer. They'd been transferred to the Ottawa County jail in January to help alleviate prison overcrowding.  Sheriff Keith Coleman tells The Salina Journal that the inmates overpowered the guards, opened the cell doors and got outside. He says the guards suffered only minor injuries.  The inmates escaped around 5am.  One was quickly apprehended and another was captured late yesterday (WED) afternoon in North Platte, Nebraska.  Prison officials say the jail in Minneapolis had passed an inspection before it was allowed to house prison inmates.


KS Prison Agency Considers Ways to Help County Jails

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A spokesman for the Kansas Department of Corrections says it is discussing supplemental training for staff at county jails that house state inmates.  Department spokesman Jeremy Barclay says that the informal discussions were prompted by the escape of four inmates from the Ottawa County Jail in Minneapolis.  Two inmates were apprehended yesterday (WED), but two others -- including a convicted murderer -- remain at large.  The four inmates were sent to the Ottawa County Jail because of overcrowding at the state prison in Ellsworth. Five counties, including Ottawa County, have passed a state inspection and are certified to house state inmates.  


Kansas School Board Revokes Teacher's License

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Board of Education has revoked the license of a teacher who was accused of failing to promptly report suspected child abuse. The case is being called unusual and possibly the first of its kind.  The Wichita Eagle reports that 51-year-old Donna L. Ford surrendered her teaching license to the state board. Members voted 6-2 on Tuesday to accept the surrender and revoke Ford's license.  She had been a teacher for 17 years, most recently working at Cleaveland Elementary School in Wichita. She said in a letter to the board that said she surrendered her license as a condition of her resignation with early-retirement benefits.  The Wichita district declined to discuss specifics. But Kansas National Education Association general counsel David Schauner says the punishment was too severe.


KDHE Announces Medication Disposal Program

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Officials from two Kansas health agencies have collaborated on changes in the way residents can dispose of unused or expired medications, preventing the drugs from accidental ingestion or flushing down the toilet. Dr. Robert Moser, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said Thursday that changes in agency policy interpretation will allow for establishing medication collection centers. The program is in conjunction with the Board of Pharmacy, as well as KDHE's Bureau of Hazardous Waste. Moser said allowing pharmacies, law enforcement and household hazardous waste centers to collect and safely dispose of the medications will reduce the number of accidental poisonings of children. It also will prevent contamination of water supplies that can occur when the medications are flushed or poured into municipal sewer systems.


Spirit AeroSystems Workers Return to Work Monday

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Spirit AeroSystems workers in Wichita will return to work Monday after a tornado slammed the aircraft parts maker Saturday night.  The Wichita Eagle reports that employees will be paid for their normal work schedule this week. Workers aren't required to be at work this week unless contacted by their manager and told otherwise.  Spirit AeroSystems President and CEO Jeff Turner said in a statement that the company is committed to doing what needs to be done to have the factory up and running. Turner said the facility has made good progress with the recovery already.  The tornado tore up roofs and blew out windows. Turner says the facility doesn't have to be "perfect or pretty." It just has to be "safe and operational" to allow work to resume.

Kansas Authorities Seek Identity of Man Hit by Train

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Douglas County Sheriff's officers are asking the public for help identifying a man who apparently was hit by a train north of Lawrence. The Lawrence Journal World reported that the man's body was discovered Tuesday morning near Riverfront Park. Sheriff's spokesman, Sgt. Steve Lewis, said officers' initial investigation indicates the man was struck by a train. But authorities are working with Union Pacific Railroad officials to try to determine exactly when that happened. Anyone with information is urged to call the sheriff's office.


Kansas Man Sought in Toddler's Abuse Death

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Salina are looking for a man charged in the abuse death earlier this month of an 18-month-old girl. The Saline County prosecutor has issued an arrest warrant charging 25-year-old Troy Love II with first-degree murder and child abuse. Authorities say Love was an acquaintance of the mother of Bre'elle Jefferson, who died April 10 at a hospital in Wichita. The toddler had been transferred there from a Salina hospital the previous day, after emergency crews went to her home on a report of a baby not breathing. Police have not disclosed the nature of the toddler's injuries, but say they were consistent with abuse.


Missouri Man Charged with Robbing Kansas Banks

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Missouri man has been charged with holding up four northeastern Kansas banks at gunpoint and trying to rob one of them a second time. The U.S. Attorney's office says 54-year-old Charles E. Shaw, of Kansas City, Missouri, was indicted Thursday by a federal grand jury in Kansas City, Kansas. The indictment charges Shaw with robbing Kaw Valley State Bank in Topeka in October 2010 and the Main Street Credit Union in Leavenworth the following month. He's also accused of holding up Citizens National Bank in Leavenworth in February 2011 and the Educational Credit Union in Topeka in December 2011 — and attempting to rob the credit union again six weeks later. Court records did not list an attorney for Shaw on Thursday.


KU Dean of Engineering School Named as LSU Provost

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana State University has named Stuart R. Bell, dean of the School of Engineering at the University of Kansas, as LSU's new executive vice chancellor and provost, effective August 1, pending approval by the LSU Board of Supervisors. If approved, Bell will replace John Maxwell Hamilton, who held the post on a two-year appointment that began July 1, 2010. Chancellor Michael Martin welcomed Bell on Thursday, saying his vision and experience "will continue the momentum of maintain the academic standards, quality education and research that Louisiana has come to expect from its flagship university."  Bell was one of four finalists for the position. He has served in higher education for more than 25 years and has broad administrative experience encompassing departmental, school/college, university and system activities.


KS Regulators Grant Westar $50M Rate Increase

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas regulators have granted Westar Energy a $50 million rate increase that will add an average of $3.54 a month to residential customers' bills.  Topeka-based Westar is the state's biggest electric utility. The increase was contained in a multi-party agreement approved Wednesday by the Kansas Corporation Commission.  The agreement allows Westar shareholders to earn a 10 percent profit on their investments. Westar says the extra revenue will also help it maintain customer services, including tree pruning.  Westar originally sought a rate increase of $91 million, while the Corporation Commission staff recommended a hike of $33 million.


KS Senate Panel to Finish Budget Plan Next Week

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee has postponed a vote until next week on a proposed state budget exceeding $14 billion.  The Ways and Means Committee reviewed dozens of budget issues yesterday (WED) and began fashioning a spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1. But the panel didn't finish its work.  The committee has yet to consider an increase in general state aid to public schools or providing funds to cities and counties so they can keep their property taxes in check.  The committee now plans to complete its budget proposal and vote on it after the full Legislature returns April 25 from a long break.  The House Appropriations Committee plans to draft its own version of the budget and has scheduled meetings for today (THUR) and tomorrow (FRI).  


Kobach Still Seeks Change in KS Citizenship Rule

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Secretary of State Kris Kobach (KOH'-bahk) remains optimistic that he can persuade Kansas legislators to put a proof-of-citizenship rule for first-time voters in place ahead of this year's presidential election.  A critic of Kobach's efforts yesterday (WED) said tactics his allies are using to keep the issue alive are underhanded. But Kobach said they're trying to make sure both chambers vote.  A law enacted last year will require people registering to vote for the first time in Kansas to give election officials proof that they're U.S. citizens. But the rule doesn't take effect until January, and Kobach wants to move its effective date up to June 15.  His proposal passed the House, but a Senate committee hasn't voted on it. Kobach's allies are now trying to get around the Senate committee.


Missouri Man Gets 10 Years for Receiving Child Porn

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — A registered sex offender from southwestern Missouri has been sentenced to 10 years in prison without parole for receiving child pornography.  The U.S. Attorney's office says 35-year-old Austin Wayne Ploof, of Springfield, pleaded guilty in December and was sentenced yesterday (WED) by U.S. District Judge Gary Fenner.  Ploof is a registered sex offender based on a 2004 felony conviction in Kansas for sexually exploiting a child.  Prosecutors say Ploof's girlfriend found child porn on his computer in June 2011. The woman took the computer and flash drive from Ploof's home to the Greene County Sheriff's Department.  Investigators found eight videos and eight images of child pornography on a flash drive hooked up to the computer.


Wichita Man Headed to Prison for Fatal Crash

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man who pleaded guilty in a head-on crash that killed a college student is going to prison for more than 18 years.  KAKE-TV reports that 37-year-old Tommie Cameron received the maximum sentence yesterday (WED) in Sedgwick County District Court.  Police said Cameron was driving under the influence on July 25, 2010, when he sideswiped one vehicle before crashing into a car driven by 21-year-old Kari Rinehart, a student at Wichita State University. The crash killed Rinehart and injured her two passengers, one of whom was her identical twin sister.  Cameron pleaded guilty in February to involuntary manslaughter while under the influence and two counts of aggravated battery. Judge Anthony Powell imposed the maximum sentences on all three charges plus 34 months for attempted robbery in an unrelated case.


Former Team Owner Admits Tax Evasion, Fraud

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The former owner of a minor league basketball team has pleaded guilty in Kansas to tax evasion and bank fraud.  The U.S. Attorney's office says 52-year-old James Clark, of Overland Park, entered the pleas yesterday (WED) in federal court in Kansas City, Kansas.  Clark owned the Kansas City Knights, who played in the early 2000s at Kemper Arena in Kansas City.  Clark admitted withholding more than $500,000 in payroll taxes from employees of his company, SWISH Holding Corp., but failing to pay the money to the Internal Revenue Service. He used the money for other purposes, including operation of the basketball team.  Clark also admitted submitting false information to a bank when he applied and received a line of credit worth more than $1 million.  Sentencing is set for July.


Man Pulled from Burning House Remembered as Good Neighbor

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A possible homicide victim pulled from a burning Kansas City home is being recalled as a good neighbor and father.  The Kansas City Star reports that 78-year-old George Graham was found sitting in a chair yesterday (WED) inside his burning home. Fire department spokesman Battalion Chief Lew Hendricks says firefighters were able to pull him from the house but he was pronounced dead at a hospital.  Graham was the father of six children. One of his sons, Jeffrey Graham, says his father was active in his church and in his neighborhood watch program.  The Rev. Rodney Williams is pastor of Swope Parkway United Christian Church, where Graham worshipped. Williams says Graham regularly took communion to the sick and shut-ins, drove the church van and served on the church's deacon board.


KS Launches New Online Parks Reservation System

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has launched a new system for reserving cabins and camp sites as state parks, fishing lakes and wildlife areas.  The state Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism says its online reservation service — — makes it easier to find available cabins and camp sites.  The agency temporarily stopped taking reservations online or by phone at the start of the month so that its new system could get up and running. A San Diego-based company, Active Network, is working with the Kansas agency to provide the system.  Wildlife and Parks officials say only about half of all camp sites and cabins will be available for online reservations. The rest will be set aside for visitors to claim on the spot.


Kansas City Royals Looking Forward to 2012 All-Star Game 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City Royals owner David Glass believes his young team will be in contention by the All-Star break, despite starting 3-9 and failing to win a home game yet this season. Glass said he has "no concern" that the Royals will turn things around. He spoke Thursday at a public appearance in Kansas City to promote the All-Star Game, which the Royals will host in July. Kansas City took its opening series against the Angels before losing two of three to Oakland, and opened a 10-game homestand by getting swept by Cleveland and Detroit. The Royals had Thursday off before starting a series against Toronto. Even if the Royals are out of contention, baseball fans in Kansas City can still look forward to the Midsummer Classic. It will be the first All-Star Game the city has hosted since 1973.


TX Man Learns Mother's '89 Death in KS Was Homicide

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A former Lawrence man who long believed his mother died of natural causes has learned she was killed. Brian Torres made the discovery last week when he stumbled across a Lawrence Journal-World article detailing his mother's unsolved 1989 killing. He had been searching for information needed for a replacement birth  ertificate at the time. The Journal-World reported that the Dallas construction worker called the discovery "a bit of a shock." Torres was 7 years old when his 37-year-old mother's strangled body was found stuffed into a culvert west of Lawrence. At a foster care home in Lawrence, relatives told Torres that his mother died of natural causes. He later was adopted by relatives in Pennsylvania. No one ever told him his mother was killed.


Truancy Measure Put on Hold Again in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A city council committee in Kansas City has again delayed taking action on a measure aimed at cutting down on truancy in the city.  The Kansas City school district and police sought the measure, which is a daytime curfew law intended to deter children ages 7 to 16 from loitering unsupervised during school hours.  The Kansas City Star reports that Councilman Scott Taylor argued against the delay, which follows another delay last month. He says it reminds him of the way Congress drags its feet on deciding issues.  Opposition has come from home-school parents who worry their children could be stopped for visiting libraries or museums unattended. Also generating concerns is a provision that would impose $100 fines on parents of chronically truant children.


TransCanada Submits New Route for Oil Pipeline

WASHINGTON (AP) — TransCanada says it has submitted a proposal for a new route through Nebraska for the disputed Keystone XL oil pipeline.  The company said in a statement Wednesday that it has submitted a planned route for the pipeline to Nebraska officials. The state has become a focus of concern for the 1,700-mile pipeline, which would carry oil from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast. President Barack Obama blocked the pipeline earlier this year, citing uncertainty over a planned route intended to avoid Nebraska's environmentally sensitive Sandhills region.  Details of the new route were not immediately available. A spokeswoman for the State Department said officials had not received notification of a new route. State Department approval is need because the $7 billion pipeline crosses a U.S. border.


2 KS Jail Inmates Back in Custody, 2 Remain at Large

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A convicted murderer and another inmate remain at large after escaping from a Kansas jail where they'd been transferred because of overcrowding at a state prison.  Two others were apprehended yesterday (WED).  One turned himself in at a Walmart in Nebraska.  All four escaped early yesterday (WED) from the Ottawa County Jail in Minneapolis, about 120 miles west of Topeka.  The two inmates still at large are Santos Carrera-Morales and Eric James, both 22. Carrera-Morales was convicted of first-degree murder in connection with two killings in 2007.  One inmate was apprehended quickly after the escape.  Authorities said the other inmate, 21-year-old Drew Wade, traveled by minivan to North Platte, Nebraska, about 240 miles northwest of the Kansas jail. They say he walked into the local Walmart and asked a manager to contact police.

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

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