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Regional Headlines for Thursday, August 15, 2013


Kansas Voters' Limbo Shows Hitch in Registration Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Nearly 15,000 Kansas residents who registered to vote are having their voting rights held up under a new law requiring voters to prove U.S. citizenship. The law took effect in January and aims to keep immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally and other noncitizens from casting fraudulent ballots. Critics say its enforcement in Kansas and a handful of other Republican-dominated states disenfranchises voters who haven't produced a birth certificate, passport or other acceptable proof. The voters in limbo in Kansas are enough to swing a close statewide race. The American Civil Liberties Union is threatening a federal lawsuit. Secretary of State Kris Kobach promises Kansas will keep enforcing the law. He says the state is lenient in allowing people to fill out registration forms but present papers later.


Wichita Lawmaker to Resign After Special Session

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A longtime Kansas House member says he'll resign from the Legislature at the end of next month's special session. Democrat Nile Dillmore told The Wichita Eagle on Thursday the decision is tied to his planned October retirement from his regular job with a Wichita credit union. The 65-year-old lawmaker says it's time for him to seek "some other things to do." Dillmore was first elected to the House in 2000. After a federal court-ordered redrawing of the state's political boundaries last year, he defeated Republican state Representative Brenda Landwehr of Wichita to retain his seat. He serves on the House Appropriations, Taxation and Elections committees. Lawmakers convene their special session September 3 to rewrite a law allowing judges to sentence convicted murderers to at least 50 years in prison.


Immigration Debate Heated at Kansas Lawmaker's Forum

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas congresswoman's town hall meeting grew heated as the discussion turned to immigration, and a pastor found himself shouted down for suggesting compassion for immigrants in the U.S. illegally. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the Reverend Jason Schoff faced shouts of "They're illegal" when he spoke during Wednesday's event at a Topeka hotel hosted by 2nd District Republican Lynn Jenkins. Jenkins discussed her support work by GOP leaders in the U.S. House on an alternative a bipartisan Senate proposal offering a path to citizenship for millions of immigrants. Schoff is director of Latino outreach for Mission Adelante, a Kansas City, Kansas church and mission group assisting immigrants. He told Jenkins that he's concerned "about the human condition" in immigration. He also said Kansas businesses need immigrant workers.


Kansas Anti-Abortion Groups Disagree over Concealed Carry Implications

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Two Kansas anti-abortion groups are distancing themselves from comments from another abortion foe suggesting the state's new concealed carry law could increase the threat of shootings outside a Wichita clinic. Mark Gietzen, chairman of the Kansas Coalition for Life, said in a recent release the threat of shootings at South Wind Women's Center in Wichita was enhanced by the Republican-led Legislature's adoption of a conceal-and-carry law. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Gietzen says an influx of advocates with concealed guns around the clinic means homes could "continuously be in the line of fire." Operation Rescue and Kansans for Life say while they're working with KCFL to get Wichita to rezone the site of the clinic, they don't agree with Gietzen's comments, which they say aren't appropriate for the re-zoning effort.


Judge Sides with Abortion Opponent in Kansas Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has found in favor of a Kansas abortion opponent accused of sending a threatening letter to a Wichita doctor who was training to offer abortion services. U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten summarily ruled Thursday that Angel Dillard's 2011 letter to Dr. Mila Means was not a "true threat." The Justice Department had filed the civil lawsuit against Dillard under a law aimed at protecting access to abortion services. The Valley Center woman wrote to Means saying she would have to check under her car every day because someone might place an explosive under it. Dillard has argued that the letter was constitutionally protected speech. Marten ruled the government supplied no evidence that actual violence against the doctor was likely or imminent.


GA Recognizes Kansas Concealed Carry Licenses

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas residents with concealed carry permits will now be allowed to carry their weapons in Georgia. Attorney General Derek Schmidt said Wednesday that Georgia has become the 33rd state to honor permits issued in Kansas. Schmidt said Georgia's decision came after Kansas lawmakers passed new gun legislation this year. The law recognizes all valid out-of-state permits when a non-resident permit holder is traveling in Kansas. The new Kansas law also requires people with concealed carry permits who move to Kansas to obtain a Kansas-issued license to legally continue carrying concealed guns. The changes took effect in July. There are more than 67,000 active Kansas concealed carry permits.


Hearings Upcoming on Massive Kansas Power Line

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — Public hearings are scheduled for a massive power line that will cross the state of Kansas and deliver electricity to Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. The Hays Daily News reports that the Grain Belt Express line will cross Russell and Osborne counties and send 600,000 volts of electricity from wind farms. The Kansas Corporation Commission already has found the project to be in the public interest. The hearings will focus on its location. Besides the hearings, comments also can be made in writing through August 28. The goal of the project is to enable wind farms to be built. So far, developers don't have any electricity to feed into the line. To improve efficiency, the line will use direct current, which carries nearly twice the electricity as an alternating-current line.


Kansas Among States Receiving Federal Warning on Teacher Evaluation

SEATTLE (AP) — U.S. education officials say three states have not fulfilled their promises to bring their teacher and principal evaluation systems up to federal standards. But Kansas, Washington, and Oregon will have one extra year to finish the work. The new teacher evaluation systems were part of the requirements for waivers from the federal education law known as "No Child Left Behind." If the states meet the waiver's requirements, they won't need to have every child meet state academic standards in reading and math by January 2014. So far, 40 states and the District of Columbia have been granted a one- or two-year reprieve from the requirements of the U.S. education law that was passed more than a decade ago.


Soldier Pleads No Contest in Fatal Kansas Chase

JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Fort Riley soldier faces up to 41 years in prison after pleading no contest to charges in a fatal, wrong-way chase on Interstate 70. WIBW-TV reports 22-year-old Gary Fisher Nelson, of Junction City, will be sentenced November 12. The Geary County prosecutor's office says Nelson pleaded no contest last week to second-degree murder and reckless driving. Authorities said Nelson intentionally drove the wrong way on I-70 the night of April 3. A sport utility vehicle that tried to avoid a head-on collision went off the highway and rolled over, killing 53-year-old passenger Jake Black of Manhattan. A Highway Patrol trooper continued chasing Nelson at speeds of up to 100 mph before the soldier surrendered after several miles. Investigators said Nelson told them and others he had planned to commit suicide.


Search of Wichita Home Yields Stolen Identification Documents

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Detectives in Sedgwick County are trying to contact more than 150 people whose personal documents turned up in a Wichita home. The sheriff's department says the mail, checks, credit cards and Social Security cards were found last week in the search of a 23-year-old woman's home. The woman was arrested on outstanding warrants, and more arrests are expected. Most of the documents were taken from mailboxes or vehicles, and some date back to 2008. The victims mostly lived in one part of Wichita, but the sheriff's office says there are others from throughout Sedgwick County. Authorities advise residents to check their mail every day and to review credit card and bank statements.


Driver in KC Day Care Crash Likely Hit Wrong Pedal

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police say a 74-year-old driver probably stomped the accelerator instead of the brake before knocking a parked car into a Kansas City day care last month. The Kansas City Star reports that the driver told police a maroon car pulled out in front of his sport utility vehicle and hit his Range Rover. The driver said he then lost control of his vehicle before knocking a parked Cadillac into the Christian Academy Child Care east of downtown. Three children were injured. But investigators said the Range Rover bore no evidence of a crash with a car other than the Cadillac. Investigators concluded that the primary factor in the wreck was the driver "failing to give his full time and attention to the safe operation" of his vehicle.


Kansas Officials Seek to Calm Data Concerns

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas education officials are seeking to calm concerns about the student data that is being collected as the state switches to new education standards. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that two Kansas State Department of Education officials answered questions during Tuesday's board meeting. The questions are coming amid the switch to the Common Core educational standards. The new standards replace a hodgepodge of educational goals that had varied greatly from state to state. Education department information technology director Kathy Gosa says information collected includes demographic data and test scores. Much of that data is aggregated without personal identifiers and used to determine state or federal funding. Speaking at the meeting, former board of education member Walt Chappell urged the board to "please stop collecting so much data on children and families."


Kansas Judiciary Spokesman to Retire in September

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas court system's public information officer plans to retire next month after more than 32 years in the job. Ron Keefover disclosed his plans in an email to the state Supreme Court, which released it Wednesday. His last day is September 13. Keefover was a longtime courts reporter for The Topeka Capital-Journal when he took the newly-created job with the judiciary in March 1981. In his email, Keefover praised the Kansas courts for initiatives aimed at promoting openness, including a policy of allowing cameras and electronic devices in courtrooms.


Fines Levied After Fatal Blast Levels MO Eatery 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The federal government is seeking stiff fines against a cable company subcontractor after a fatal explosion leveled a Kansas City restaurant. The U.S. Department of Labor released a statement Thursday saying Heartland Midwest was being cited for safety violations after a crew breached a natural gas supply line with an underground borer on February 19. The blast leveled JJ's restaurant near the Country Club Plaza, a busy outdoor shopping area. One restaurant worker died and 15 others were injured. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is seeking $161,000 in penalties against Heartland for violations including failing to provide a workplace "free of recognized hazards." JJ's also faces a proposed $2,000 penalty for having a deficient emergency action plan. Heartland attorney Brad Russell says the company strongly denies the allegations.


Olathe Police Investigate Report of $10K Theft

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Olathe police are investigating a report of a possible theft of more than $10,000 from an school's parent-teacher organization. The Kansas City Star reports that $10,640 was reportedly taken from PTO funds from Westview Elementary School between August 2010 and the end of June this year. It's the second time this year that PTO funds have been reported missing at a Johnson County school. In April, about $30,000 was reported missing from the PTO at Valley Park Elementary School in Overland Park. Prosecutors have charged the former treasurer of the Valley Park PTO with felony theft. John Hutchison, chief financial and operations officer for the Olathe school district, says school PTOs are independent from their schools and keep their funds funds separate from school district funds.


Fuel Charge Increase Approved for KCP&L Customers

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri regulators have approved a request from Kansas City Power & Light-Greater Missouri Operations to raise the fuel charge on electric bills. The Public Service Commission says the increase amounts to about 78 cents a month for residential customers in portions of Kansas City, and $1.29 for those in St. Joseph. They take effect September 1. The fuel adjustment charge allows power companies to recover most of its fuel costs. Charges appear in a separate category on customer bills. The charge is designed to help utilities address volatility in fuel pricing. The change affects about 313,000 electric customers in an area of Missouri that includes Kansas City and St. Joseph.


KC Councilman Acknowledges Online Relationship

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City councilman has acknowledged an online relationship with a woman involving suggestive text messages but denies the relationship had anything to do with his decision to help bring an event to Kansas City. Councilman Michael Brooks says in a letter to other council members he's sorry for "the horrible lack of judgment" in becoming involved online with the woman. Brooks's comments followed a report Wednesday by KSHB-TV quoting the unidentified woman as saying Brooks sent her messages that included photographs of his naked torso. She says she shared the photos last year with organizers of an event that was to feature boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. Brooks says the relationship didn't influence his decision to help get $15,000 in city money for the event, which was later cancelled.


Midwest Economic Growth Slows in August

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A new report suggests that healthy economic growth slowed down this month in rural areas of 10 Midwest and Plains states. The overall economic index for the region slipped to 55.8 in August from 57.3 in July but was far ahead of the 47.1 in August 2012. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss oversees the monthly survey of rural bankers. He says drought weighed down the economy last year. He says lower farm commodity prices are dampening the current outlook for the farm economy. The index ranges from 0 to 100, with 50 representing growth neutral. A 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.


Judge Sets Trial Date in Kansas Sex Trafficking Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge in Wichita has scheduled an October trial for three people charged in a sex trafficking scheme linked to Asian massage parlors. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren on Wednesday issued an order scheduling an October 15 trial for Gary H. Kidgell; his wife, Yan Zhang; and employee Xiuqing Tian. They are accused of conspiring to recruit women from around the country to come to Wichita to work at massage parlors, then coercing them into prostitution. Investigators who raided the parlors reported found ads in a Chinese-language newspaper in New York, Chicago and San Francisco offering "massage parlor hiring" in Kansas. The government alleges Kidwell and two co-defendants worked together and shared resources to operate nine Asian massage parlors in Wichita.


Kansas Bank Teller Derails Unfolding Con Game

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police say a bank teller stopped a customer from being conned into withdrawing money to prove U.S. banks are safe. Lieutenant Doug Nolte says the ruse was foiled when the 19-year-old customer at Commerce Bank in Wichita explained what he was doing to the teller, who then called 911. The Wichita Eagle reports that the con artists fled, likely after becoming suspicious when their intended victim stayed so long inside the bank. One of the suspects had claimed he was from South Africa where his brother had left him $150,000. He offered to donate money to the victim's church in exchange for withdrawing money. Police want to hear from anyone else who may have been victimized, noting that the scam has been used in the past.


Inactive Grenade Found in Goodwill Donations

DERBY, Kan. (AP) — Workers at a south-central Kansas thrift store found an inactive hand grenade in a box of donations. The Wichita Eagle reports that workers at the Derby Goodwill Store found the grenade Wednesday. Police Chief Robert Lee says store employees called police and reported finding what appeared to be a hand grenade. Police responded but were unable to determine if the explosive was live, so they called the bomb squad. The store was shut down for about an hour until crews determined the grenade was a dud and disposed of it.


KC Police: Overturned Cattle Truck Was Speeding

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police in Kansas City say a Colorado-bound cattle truck that overturned on Interstate 70 last week was traveling at least 28 miles per hour over the speed limit. The rig was carrying 72 cattle, at least six of which died in the pre-dawn wreck August 9 on a stretch of I-70 known as the Benton Curve. The Kansas City Star reports police said Wednesday the tractor-trailer was traveling at least 73 mph in the 45 mph zone. Police called their estimate of the speed conservative. It was based on measurements from the first skid marks to where the rig stopped. The 41-year-old driver, a Kentucky man, was ticketed for careless driving. His wife was travelling with him and suffered a broken arm.


Westwood's Only Homicide Remains Unsolved

WESTWOOD, Kan. (AP) — The only homicide in the Kansas City suburb of Westwood remains unsolved, but police say they're continuing to investigate the crime that took place a decade ago. The Kansas City Star reports that the identity of the gunman who killed David "Ray" Ninemire on August 15, 2003, remains a mystery. Ninemire, a 68-year-old father of four and grandfather to 10, was shot and killed during an attempted robbery at the Westwood grocery store where he worked as produce manager. With the 10th anniversary of Ninemire's killing, the Johnson County Sheriff's Office says it's making a renewed push to solve the crime. Becky Crabtree, lead detective on the case, says investigators also have recent leads to follow up on and will revisit previous clues and re-interview witnesses to the shooting.


MO Man Mistaken for Arkansas Escapee

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A reported sighting of an Arkansas jail escapee's truck in Kansas City turned out to be a case of mistaken identity. Thirty-three-year-old Derrick Estell broke out of the Garland County Jail in Arkansas on July 28th. He was believed to be headed into Missouri, and there was a reported sighting last week of a pickup truck he was thought to be driving in Overland Park, Kansas. KMBC-TV reports a nearly identical truck was seen Tuesday in Kansas City. Police went to the scene — but the man they surrounded with guns drawn was Jesse Phillips, the owner of a landscape company in suburban Lee's Summit. Phillips told the station Wednesday that officers quickly realized the mistake. He says the situation was a little stressful, but he could laugh about it 24 hours later.


KS Inmate Ordered to Trial in Disappearance of OK Woman

JAY, Okla. (AP) — A Kansas prison inmate charged with murder in the 1996 disappearance of a woman in Oklahoma has been ordered to stand trial. A judge in Delaware County on Wednesday found there is enough evidence to try 46-year-old old John Lee Weeks of Gentry, Arkansas for first-degree murder in the disappearance of 29-year-old Barbara Ann Johnson-Willard of Jay. Johnson-Willard disappeared in June 1996 and her car was later found in a ravine in Delaware County. Her body has never been found. Investigators say fingerprints and DNA taken from cigarette butts found in the car match that of Weeks. Weeks has pleaded not guilty. He's been in prison in Kansas since 2000 for several convictions, including rape and aggravated kidnapping.


Derby Church Youth Soccer Coordinator Sentenced

DERBY, Kan. (AP) — A youth soccer coordinator for a south-central Kansas church has been sentenced to nearly three years in prison for a sex crime involving a 5-year-old boy. The Wichita Eagle reports that on Wednesday a Sedgwick County judge ordered 57-year-old Leon James Knabe to serve the 34-month sentence. Court documents say Knabe had asked for probation. Knabe was arrested and charged in October with aggravated indecent liberties with a child. That crime is prosecutable under Jessica's Law, which draws a mandatory life sentence without parole for 25 years. But just before his trial was set to begin in June, Knabe accepted a plea deal that lessened the charge to aggravated indecent solicitation of a child. Prosecutors say Knabe will be required to register as a sex offender for life.


OKC Thunder Preseason Games Set in Tulsa, Wichita

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma City Thunder will play a pair of home games at Chesapeake Energy Arena while hosting contests in both Tulsa and Wichita as part of a seven-game preseason schedule leading up to the 2013-14 NBA regular season. Oklahoma City opens its domestic preseason schedule at in Oklahoma City on October 15 with a meeting versus the Denver Nuggets before facing off against the New Orleans Pelicans on October 17 at the BOK Center in Tulsa. The Thunder will host its second and final home preseason contest in Oklahoma City on October 20 against the Utah Jazz. The Thunder concludes preseason play with a road contest in Phoenix versus the Suns on October 22, followed by an October 23 meeting against the Chicago Bulls in Wichita.


Glenn Martin Stadium Demolition Given Go-Ahead

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Salina commission has approved plans to demolish a stadium at Kansas Wesleyan University. The Salina Journal reports that the Salina Heritage Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to approve the demolition of Glenn Martin Stadium at Kansas Wesleyan University. Wesleyan wants to tear down the grandstand to make way for a new athletic complex. Wesleyan has been playing its football games at Salina Stadium since 2007 because of the condition of the old stadium, which was built in 1940. The city designated the structure a Heritage Conservation property in 1997 because of its historical significance.


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