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Regional Headlines for Thursday, January 9, 2014


Brownback to Propose Improvements to KS Veterans' Services

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has proposed improving services for veterans with a $1.4 million renovation of a residential facility, opening a housing unit and adding outreach staff. The upgrades to the Fort Dodge home in Dodge City would be completed during the next two fiscal years. The housing facility in Winfield would be re-opened to serve 40 more veterans. Brownback also proposed Thursday hiring four staff at the Kansas Commission on Veterans Affairs. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that about 12 percent of Kansas's 230,000 veterans get some form of military benefit. Comparable states with stronger outreach programs have pushed that figure to nearly 20 percent. The recommendations will be included in the budget presented next week to the 2014 Legislature. They were drawn from study group formed two years ago.


Kansas Senate Leader Splits Elections Committee

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate is dividing a committee on ethics, elections and local government issues into two new panels. Senate President Susan Wagle of Wichita announced Wednesday the chamber will have one committee on local government and another on ethics and elections. Wagle said Republican Senator Dennis Pyle of Hiawatha will chair the Local Government Committee, while GOP Senator Mitch Holmes of St. John will lead the Ethics and Elections Committee. Republican Michael O'Donnell of Wichita will be the vice chairman for both committees. The Senate president's office said the workload for the combined committee proved too large and splitting it into two panels will make the handling of legislation more efficient.

Report: Kansas Jobs Forecast Shows Slight Uptick

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Researchers at Wichita State University predict Kansas will see slightly higher job growth in 2014 than it did last year. A forecast issued Wednesday by the Center for Economic Development and Business Research predicts Kansas employment will increase by 1.4 percent this year, with a gain of 18,000 jobs. By sector, professional and business services are expected to see the biggest increase at 3.3 percent, with more than 5,300 new jobs. The education and health services sector is second with anticipated growth of 2.7 percent, or roughly 5,100 jobs. A net loss of 700 jobs is forecast for public employment, with growth in local governments partly offsetting an expected loss of 1,000 state and federal jobs in Kansas. The report said Kansas employment grew by an estimated 1.1 percent last year.


Kansas 3rd in Nation in Federal Gun Prosecutions

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Federal prosecutors in Kansas have filed so many firearms cases that the state ranked third last year among the 94 judicial districts nationwide in the number of gun prosecutions. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom says in a news release Thursday that his office prosecuted 298 firearms cases in 2013, up from 291 the previous year, when the District of Kansas also ranked third. The Kansas district led the nation in federal firearms prosecutions in 2011 with 279 cases. Only Puerto Rico and the Western District of Missouri prosecuted more firearms cases in 2013. Federal statutes prohibit convicted felons from possessing guns. It is also a federal crime to possess firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking or violent crimes.

Feds Collect $12.1M in KS Criminal, Civil Cases

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom says federal prosecutors collected about $12.1 million in criminal and civil legal actions last year. Grissom says in a news release that $6.1 million of the total came from criminal cases and $6 million from civil actions. His office also worked with other U.S. attorney's offices in other states and the Justice Department to collect an additional $2.8 million in cases pursued jointly in civil actions. Among the Kansas collections were environmental violation penalties of $1.7 million from Coffeyville Resources Refining and Marketing and $1.6 million from Ash Grove Cement. More than $853,000 came from Hutchinson Regional Medical Center in a settlement over allegations of false Medicare claims.

Body Found in Burned-Out KS Home Remains Unidentified

SOLOMON, Kan. (AP) — Investigators in north-central Kansas are still trying to identify a body found earlier this week in the ruins of a burned-out home. The Salina Journal reports that Solomon Fire Chief Randy Paden says an autopsy will be needed to make a positive identification. The cause of the fire that broke out around 4 am Tuesday is also under investigation. Neighbors said the house was engulfed in flames as the Solomon volunteer fire department arrived. Firefighters found the body in the wreckage about six hours later. The neighbors also said the home was occupied by a man in his late 80's. The man had not been accounted for by Thursday afternoon.

Car Crashes into NE Kansas Store; 1 Injured

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Police in northeast Kansas are investigating why a woman smashed her car into a payday loan store, pinning an employee behind a desk. KCTV reports the incident happened around 10 am Thursday at Ameribest Payday Loans and Check Cashing, located in a strip mall in the city of Olathe. Police said the 65-year-old driver was trying to park her car but instead crashed through the store's front window and an interior wall. A female employee suffered an ankle injury and was briefly pinned by her desk and debris. She was taken to a hospital to be checked. Authorities are investigating whether the driver confused the brake and gas pedal.


Fort Riley Honors 5 Who Died in Afghanistan

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — Five Fort Riley soldiers killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan are remembered by colleagues for their personalities, dedication and professionalism. Nearly 500 people filled an Army chapel Thursday to honor the soldiers who were among six soldiers who died in December. A firing squad and bugler braved frigid temperatures to offer a 21-volley salute and play taps. The Fort Riley soldiers who died were Chief Warrant Officer 2 Randy L. Billings, of Heavener, Oklahoma; Chief Warrant Officer 2 Joshua B. Silverman, of Scottsdale, Arizona; Sergeant Peter C. Bohler, of Willow Spring, North Carolina; Sergeant 1st Class Omar W. Forde, of Marietta, Georgia; and Specialist Terry K.D. Gordon, of Shubuta, Mississippi. Also killed was Staff Sergeant Jesse L. Williams, of Elkhart, Indiana, who was based in Vilseck, Germany.


Fort Riley Soldier Dies in Motor Pool Incident

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — Officials at Fort Riley say a soldier has died at the northeast Kansas Army post in what was described as a vehicle-related incident. The soldier was identified Wednesday as 29-year-old Specialist Ryan Christensen of Layton, Utah. Christensen was a petroleum supply specialist assigned to Company A, 101st Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. Officials issued a brief statement saying Christensen died Tuesday at a motor pool at Fort Riley. The incident is under investigation, and no other details were released.


CareFusion to Pay $40.1M in False Claims Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — CareFusion Corporation has agreed to pay $40.1 million to settle allegations it paid kickbacks and promoted its medical technology products for uses not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The Justice Department announced the settlement Thursday with the California-based company of a whistleblower lawsuit unsealed in U.S. District Court in Kansas. The deal also resolves claims that CareFusion paid more than $11.6 million in kickbacks to a physician who co-chaired the Safe Practices Committee at the National Quality Forum, a nonprofit group that recommends health care practices. Dr. Cynthia Kirk, a former CareFusion vice president, initially filed the whistleblower lawsuit under provisions of the False Claims Act. The Justice Department says her share of the settlement is $3.26 million.


2 Arrested in Threats Against Mulvane High School

MULVANE, Kan. (AP) — Two Mulvane High School students are charged with criminal threat after they allegedly made threats on social media to "shoot up" the high school. Mulvane Police Chief Don Williams says the two were arrested Monday morning before school started. Someone who saw the threats on Twitter notified authorities. Williams says the students told officers they were joking and had no plans to harm anyone. He says the students didn't have any weapons when they were arrested. District spokesman Tom Keil says school proceeded normally after officers determined the school was safe.

Topeka Man Charged with 2nd Murder

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 40-year-old Topeka man already facing a murder charge in a 2012 case has been charged with murder in a case from 2000. Shawnee County court records show that Monroe Eugene Lockhart III was charged Thursday with a first-degree murder in the shooting death of 25-year-old Damon J. Anderson, of Topeka, on Valentine's Day 2000. The records didn't list a lawyer for Lockhart in that new case. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Lockhart is incarcerated on a nearly 10-year sentence after he was convicted in 2013 for his role in a violent home invasion. Lockhart is also charged with premeditated first-degree murder and aggravated arson in the 2012 death of Corey M. Brown, whose body was discovered in Douglas County.


Kansas Mother Admits Trying to Drown Daughters

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas woman has pleaded guilty to trying to drown her two young daughters in a bathtub. The Kansas City Star reports that 24-year-old Johnna Green, of Kansas City, Kansas entered the pleas Thursday to two counts of attempted second-degree murder. Wyandotte County prosecutors initially charged her with attempted first-degree murder. Green called 911 last April 2 saying she had just killed her daughters, ages 1 and 4, by drowning them because they were sick. The dispatcher told her to take the girls out of the bathtub, and a police officer who found them unconscious on the floor began resuscitation efforts until an ambulance arrived. Attorneys in court Thursday did not discuss the girls' current conditions. Green's plea agreement calls for a sentence of nine years and 10 months.


Boeing Success Sparks Hiring at Spirit AeroSystems

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Demand for Boeing commercial jetliners is sparking more hiring of production workers at Spirit AeroSystems in Kansas. Spirit spokesman Ken Evans told The Wichita Eagle that the company is looking for 200 more mechanics and inspectors in the first part of this year. He says the company is also studying its needs this year for its salaried work force. Spirit AeroSystems is the biggest employer in Wichita with 10,800 workers. It began hiring more workers last year to meet the rising demand. Evans said there is an increased demand for Boeing's 737 single-aisle aircraft and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Boeing has announced plans to increase production of the 737 to 47 a month by 2017. It is also increasing its 787 production to 12 per month.


Man Charged with Murder After Fatal Car Chase

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man is charged with second-degree murder after a police chase led to an accident that killed a 34-year-old woman. Prosecutors on Wednesday charged 23-year-old Javier Rizo in the October 27 death of Maria Martinez. She was in a vehicle that was hit by a van allegedly driven by RIzo while it was fleeing from police. Investigators say the van ran a stop sign and hit Martinez's vehicle. The van drove away. Rizo was arrested on Sunday after police received an anonymous tip. Other people in the van had already been arrested Rizo is being held in Sedgwick County Jail on $500,000 bond while awaiting a preliminary hearing.

KU Research Helps Uncover Greenland Aquifer

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas researchers have played a role in discovering a massive aquifer within the ice layers of a glacier in Greenland. The school says radar technology that was used to find the hidden pool of water was developed by researchers at the university's Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets. The aquifer is the size of Ireland. Scientists say its discovery could provide more details on how much old compacted snow flows into the sea when it melts and how much is left behind in the ice sheet to refreeze. The discovery was detailed in the December 22 issue of the scientific journal Nature. A University of Utah professor led the research project, and four University of Kansas researchers were cited as contributing authors.

Black Rhino Dies at Garden City Zoo

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — A 24-year-old black rhinoceros at a Garden City zoo has died. The Garden City Telegram reports that Ahadi, the lone black rhinoceros at Lee Richardson Zoo, died late Tuesday after becoming ill over the weekend. Keepers had been watching the rhino, nicknamed "Howdi," around the clock after he first showed signs of illness and decreased appetite on Saturday. Veterinary staff on Sunday removed an abscessed tooth, but over the next two days, the animal's condition declined. The rhino died during a procedure to close a hole in his palate caused by the infected tooth. Final pathology results are pending, but the preliminary cause of death is attributed to an esophageal blockage, compounded by advanced heart and lung disease. The median life expectancy for black rhinos is about 18 years.


KC Apartment Complex Fined in Disability Case

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The federal government has fined the owners of a Kansas City apartment complex $20,000 for refusing to allow a disabled tenant to have a live-in caretaker. The Department of Housing and Urban Affairs announced Wednesday that the refusal by Brentwood Manor Apartments violated the Fair Housing Act. The apartment owners were ordered to pay the fine for refusing to waive a policy requiring the tenant to live in the apartment for six months before adding someone else to the lease. The Kansas City Star reports that the woman had to move out because of the policy. The department also said the apartment owner and managers must have a reasonable accommodation policy and train employees about fair housing.


2 Enter Guilty Pleas in Military Contract Scheme

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Two former officials of a San Antonio military medical center have pleaded guilty to their roles in a fraudulent scheme involving more than $7 million in military contracts. Federal prosecutors say retired Army Master Sergeant Lawrence Peter Fenti of New Braunfels, Texas and Dr. Heidi L. Webster of Manhattan, Kansas each pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of conspiracy and one count of bribery. The 43-year-old Fenti was the chief administrator for Brooke Army Medical Center's radiology department and the 50-year-old Webster worked at the center. Prosecutors say they steered contracts to two Kansas companies run by Webster that she registered as defense contractors. They each face six years in prison. Prosecutors seized about $500,000 in the investigation and are seeking restitution of $400,000 from Fenti and about $600,000 from Webster.


KU Plans Apartment Complex for Basketball Players

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas is planning a $17.5 million apartment complex to house up to 32 men's and women's basketball players. The complex is scheduled to open near Allen Fieldhouse for the 2016-17 school year. The estimated cost for each of the students would be $265,000, compared with $68,000 per student in two freshman halls being built on campus at a cost of $47.8 million. The Kansas City Star reports that each apartment in the basketball complex would have a full kitchen and living and dining rooms. There would be lounges on each floor, two team meeting rooms, tutoring space and a multipurpose room. The university will pay for the project through private donors and bonds that would be paid from revenues generated by the apartment complex.

Salina Man Plans Trips to Denver for Pot Users

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A man is planning to offer rides from Salina to Denver for people who want to buy legal marijuana. Bart Allen says he hopes to drive a 12-passenger Mercedes van for Saturday overnight trips to Denver, beginning this weekend. He says his target customers will be people 45 or older who want to learn whether the drug could help them ease medical conditions. The Salina Journal reports Allen says his passengers will tour at least one marijuana dispensary and grow site, and then enjoy a night out in Denver before returning on Sunday. Allen said he thinks the $420 cost of the trip will deter recreational pot users from reserving a seat on his van.


Northwest Missouri Man Accused of Rape Charged with Misdemeanor

MARYVILLE, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri man accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old schoolmate when he was 17 has been charged with misdemeanor child endangerment. The charge against 19-year-old Matt Barnett was filed Thursday in Nodaway County Court in Maryville. Special prosecutor Jean Peters Baker has been re-examining the girl's allegations that Barnett raped her at a January 2012 house party, when he was a Maryville High School senior and she was a freshman. Barnett says the sex was consensual. He is to be arraigned Thursday afternoon. Baker stepped in after the local prosecutor was criticized for dropping the case because he alleged that Daisy Coleman's family had stopped cooperating. The Associated Press generally doesn't name alleged victims of sexual assault but is naming Daisy because she and her mother have granted public interviews.




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