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Regional Headlines for Thursday, August 23, 2012



Report: Drought Intensifies in Key Farming States 

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The latest update on the nation's drought shows that the parched conditions continue worsening in key farm states, even as the situation across all of the continental U.S. leveled off. The weekly U.S. Drought Monitor map shows that more than two-thirds of Iowa, the nation's biggest corn producer, was suffering extreme or exceptional drought — the worst two classifications — as of Tuesday. That's up more than 5 percentage points from last week, despite cooler temperatures. Nearly all of Nebraska and Missouri are in extreme or exceptional drought, narrowly ahead of Illinois and Kansas in those two categories. The amount of Nebraska afflicted with exceptional drought conditions — the most-serious level — remained unchanged while dropping only slightly in Illinois.


Kansas Statehouse Rotunda to Reopen Next Month

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The rotunda of the Kansas Statehouse will reopen next month, four years after workers sealed it off as part of the massive, ongoing renovation of the Capitol. It's a sign that the renovation of the building's interior from the first to its top, fifth floor is nearing completion. Statehouse Architect Barry Greis says construction workers will start the first week of September to remove temporary walls that have closed off the rotunda and north wing since 2008. They plan to start on the fifth floor and work their way down. Greis says the last of the temporary walls should be down by September 21. The renovation began in 2001, and its total cost is expected to reach at least $319 million.


Kobach Leading Federal Employee Lawsuit to Block Deferred Action Immigration Program

WASHINGTON (AP) — Ten employees at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement are suing the Obama administration to block a new program to let many young illegal immigrants avoid deportation and get a work permit. Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state and an immigration adviser to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, is representing the employees. The lawsuit was filed Thursday in federal court in Dallas. The 22-page filing, which names Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and ICE Director John Morton as defendants, contends that the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals plan violates federal law and forces ICE employees to break the law by not arresting certain illegal immigrants. The Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Napolitano has previously defended the plan.

Fire Hits KU Fraternity; No Injuries Reported

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Fire investigators are trying to determine what caused a fire at the Sigma Chi Fraternity at the University of Kansas. All 82 members of the fraternity were able to get out of the building safely after the fire was reported Wednesday afternoon. No injuries were reported. The fire was confined to the fraternity's roof. Firefighters had it under control within two hours. Fraternity members were able to move back into the building Wednesday night. No damage estimate was immediately available.


UPDATE: Searchers Recover Woman's Body from Topeka Lake

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Crews have recovered the body of a woman who drowned at Lake Shawnee. Shawnee County authorities say the body of 28-year-old Latonya Merriweather of Topeka was found late Wednesday near the marina on the west side of the lake. Merriweather was swimming with friends when she went underwater and never resurfaced. Her body was found near the area where she was last seen. Shawnee County Sheriff's Lieutenant Jay Simecka said a preliminary investigation indicates Merriweather died from accidental drowning.

Kansas Governor Names New District Judge

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has appointed an Overland Park attorney to serve on a state court in Johnson County. Kevin M.P. O'Grady will fill the vacancy on the 10th Judicial District court in Johnson County created by the retirement of Judge Peter V. Ruddick. Brownback announced the appointment Wednesday, selecting O'Grady from a list of three nominees. O'Grady earned his law degree from the University of Kansas and was admitted to the bar in 1987. He is a shareholder in the Overland Park firm of Ferree, Bunn, O'Grady and Rundberg.


Suspicious Item Empties Dodge City Library

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — The public library in Dodge City has been evacuated while officers including bomb technicians check a suspicious package left by a man who was taken into custody. Authorities emptied the library Thursday morning and expected the evacuation to last throughout the day. Library employees alerted Dodge City police after hearing the man make alarming comments on a pay phone. The man was being questioned Thursday afternoon. Nearby streets were closed to traffic during the investigation.

KS Health Officials: Third Hays Patient Tests Positive for Hepatitis C

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials say a third former patient at Hays Medical Center has tested positive for a strain of hepatitis C linked to a cluster of New Hampshire cases traced to a traveling hospital technician. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment says 474 people were potentially exposed to hepatitis C when David Kwiatkowski worked at the Hays hospital's cardiac catheterization lab from May 24th to September 22nd, 2010. KDHE says 366 former Hays patients have been tested so far. Two were reported positive earlier this month. KDHE reported the third positive test this week. Some former patients are still being tested. Kwiatkowski has denies allegations that he stole drugs from the New Hampshire hospital, injected himself and contaminated syringes later used on patients. He previously worked in seven other states, including Kansas.


Data Storage Company to Add 400 Jobs in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A high-tech data storage company will add 400 new jobs and invest $85 million in equipment at its Wichita plant. Officials with NetApp announced the expansion on Thursday. The company already has 450 workers in Wichita. The company says the average annual salary of the new jobs will be $73,000. Most of the work will be in product development and customer support. The Wichita Eagle reports NetApp also plans to invest $85 million in equipment and renovation at its plant, although the plant will not expand. NetApp is based in California and has 170 offices worldwide.

Kansas Beauty Shop Owners Face Federal Gun Charges

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A southeast Kansas couple who operate a joint beauty salon and gun shop are facing federal firearms charges. The U.S. Attorney's office says 50-year-old Jeffrey Eberhart was charged Wednesday with unlawful possession of a firearm and dealing firearms without a license. Forty-one-year-old Tracey Eberhart is charged with aiding a felon in possessing firearms and providing firearms to a convicted felon. The Eberharts run Traceys Dream Weavers Salon and Sporting Goods in Augusta, which marketed guns to women. Investigators said Tracey Eberhart failed to mention her husband — a convicted felon — when she sought a federal license to sell firearms. Agents reported seeing Jeffrey Eberhart selling guns at Dream Weavers' booth at a January gun show in Topeka. Neither Eberhart has an attorney. A call to their shop was unanswered.


UPDATE: Jamaican Woman Convicted in Sham Marriage Trial

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Jamaican immigrant has been found guilty of conspiring with a Kansas soldier to enter into a sham marriage. Jurors in U.S. District Court deliberated less than two hours Thursday before convicting 28-year-old Shannakay Hunter of marriage fraud, conspiracy and lying to the government. Hunter, who now lives in New York City, faces up to five years in prison on each count. Hunter was married in 2010 to Joshua Priest, who was then an Army private stationed at Fort Riley. Prosecutors argued the marriage was fraudulent and intended only to gain legal immigration status for Hunter and extra military benefits for Priest. Priest testified against Hunter during the three-day trial in Wichita. He pleaded guilty earlier to conspiracy and wire fraud and faces sentencing in October.

KU Plans Center to House Original Basketball Rules

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — James Naismith's original rules of basketball will get a new home at the University of Kansas. University officials said Wednesday the school will build a two-story student center near Allen Fieldhouse to house the basketball rules. Dale Seuferling, president of the Kansas Endowment Association, says plans for the center are still preliminary. An architect could be selected by next month. He says the building will be funded entirely by private donors. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the basketball rules will be the focal point, but the building will be connected to other historical exhibits in the Booth Family Hall of Athletics. David Booth, a Texas investor, paid $4.3 million for the rules and donated them to KU. Naismith, the first basketball coach at the University of Kansas, wrote the 13 rules in 1891.


Baby of Person of Interest in KCK Homicide Found

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Police say the 7-month-old baby of a man sought in a Kansas City, Kansas homicide was found unharmed after a brief disappearance. The Wyandotte County Sheriff's office says 28-year-old Lorenzo M. Pulliam of Kansas City, Kansas turned himself in just before 9 o'clock this (THUR) morning, even though the police department continued looking for him until almost noon. Officer Tom Tomasic says Pulliam took his son from his home shortly after a man was wounded and another was killed earlier Thursday.  Tomasic declined to provide details about where the child was discovered. The name of the person killed in the shooting wasn't immediately released. The condition of the survivor wasn't known.

Rendezvous Honors Buffalo Soldiers

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An event focused on telling the stories of the black Buffalo Soldiers and American Indians is planned for this weekend in the south-central Kansas town of Haysville. The Wichita Eagle reports that the 8th annual Mid-Kansas Indian Wars Rendezvous takes place from 8:45 am to 5 pm Saturday and from 10 am to noon Sunday. Events include mounted military maneuvers and drills by Buffalo Soldiers. There also will be quick draw shoot-outs, blacksmithing, tomahawk throwing and other late 19th century-era demonstrations and activities. The Nicodemus Buffalo Soldier Foundation is sponsoring the events. Frontier-era Indians bestowed the name "Buffalo Soldier" to the black enlisted men. Fort Leavenworth served as the headquarters for the 10th U.S. Cavalry. The soldiers also served at other Kansas forts including Hays, Larned and Dodge City.

KC Children's Hospital Shows Off Delivery Facility

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City has a new facility for delivering high-risk babies. Only a few freestanding children's hospitals deliver babies. Children's Mercy began doing so in spring 2011 in a temporary space at its main hospital. A permanent space known as the Elizabeth J. Ferrell Fetal Health Center will open next month, and the hospital is showing it off on August 28. The center caters to high-risk babies with problems that will require surgery or other treatment soon after delivery. The facility includes two specialized delivery/operating rooms, four labor and recovery rooms and a sibling playroom. The goal is to eliminate the need to transport the delicate newborns. Children's Mercy spokeswoman Melissa Novak says more than 100 babies have been delivered in the temporary space.


KC Mail Carrier's Death Heat-Related

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City area mail carrier who collapsed while working in triple-digit heat died of heat-related causes. The Jackson County medical examiner says John Watzlawick died of heat-related illness in July. The death report says Watzlawick had a body temperature of 108 degrees when he arrived at the hospital, and that a heart attack was a likely secondary cause of death. Watzlawick's wife, Kay, told The Kansas City Star that her husband was feeling ill with the heat since the day before, and was refused permission to end his route early. Postal spokesman Richard Watkins said he couldn't discuss the case but said letter carriers are reminded to take precautions in the heat, like taking breaks when needed. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Postal Service are investigating.


KC Cop Busted for Taking Official Car on Vacation

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police are investigating a detective's use of an official undercover vehicle, including a Florida vacation where he was caught running a red light. The detective is a 28-year veteran and has not been charged with a crime. The Kansas City Star reports that he ran a red light on March 13 in Florida, and the ticket was sent to the Kansas City police, which is the registered owner of the leased vehicle. The ticket included a photo showing the vehicle pulling a trailer hundreds of miles from Kansas City. Police department policy restricts the vehicle's use to within 50 miles of the city. Police Chief Darryl Forté said he could not talk specifically about the investigation, but said he won't tolerate this type of misuse of resources.


Catholic School Enrollment Up in Tiny Kansas Town

OST, Kan. (AP) — While many rural schools struggle to survive, a Catholic school in an unincorporated Reno County town is attracting so many students that an addition is being planned. St. Joseph's Catholic School in Ost needs the extra room for students who are enrolling from surrounding communities. The growth comes eight years after the Renwick School District closed the school and returned the property to the Catholic Diocese of Wichita. It reopened as a Catholic school in 2004 with 83 students. On Wednesday, the first day of this school year, 103 students were enrolled in kindergarten to eighth grade, with 33 preschool children. The Hutchinson News reports the Reno County Commission is expected to approve a special-use permit for the addition next week. Nearly all the work will be donated.

Search to Continue for Apparent Drowning Victim in Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities will continue searching for a woman who apparently drowned in Lake Shawnee. Shawnee County Sheriff Herman Jones says the woman was in the water near the docks area Wednesday evening when she went under and did not surface. Friends were unable to find her and called for help. Emergency responders searched until last Wednesday and the recovery effort resumed early Thursday. The woman's name has not been released.

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

Closing Arguments Expected in Sham Marriage Trial

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The trial of a Jamaican immigrant accused of entering into a sham marriage with a Kansas soldier is nearing an end in federal court in Wichita. Closing arguments were expected Thursday in the trial of Shannakay Hunter on charges of marriage fraud, conspiracy and lying to the government. Prosecutors have portrayed Hunter's marriage to Joshua Priest as a fraudulent arrangement aimed at gaining legal immigration status for her and certain benefits given to married soldiers for him. Priest was an Army private stationed at Fort Riley when he and Hunter married in 2010. He pleaded guilty earlier and has testified against Hunter. The lone defense witness so far has been a victim advocate who helped Hunter after a domestic abuse incident involving Priest.

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


Jury Deliberating in Sham Marriage Trial

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The trial of a Jamaican immigrant accused of marrying a Kansas soldier in order to become a legal immigrant has gone to the jury in federal court in Wichita. Attorneys presented closing arguments Thursday after 28-year-old Shannakay Hunter declined to testify. Hunter, who lives in Bronx, New York, is charged with marriage fraud, conspiracy and lying to the government. The government contends the marriage was fake so Joshua Priest, a Fort Riley soldier, could get added military benefits and Hunter could get legal status. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brent Anderson said the evidence makes no sense in the context of a loving relationship between the two. In her closing arguments, defense attorney Molly McMurray attacked the credibility of the government's witnesses.

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

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