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Regional Headlines for Thursday, Nov 21, 2013




Kansas Group, Voters Sue over Registration Rules

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach faces a lawsuit aimed at blocking him from imposing a new registration policy as he attempts to enforce a proof-of-citizenship law. The lawsuit was filed Thursday in Shawnee County District Court by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the gay-rights group Equality Kansas and two prospective voters. It seeks to prevent Kobach from creating a "dual'' registration system under which some voters could cast ballots only in federal races. The different treatment would apply to people using a national registration form, which doesn't require proof of citizenship. People using a Kansas form could vote in any race by providing a birth certificate, passport or other papers. Kobach has said Kansas could be forced to adopt such a system.

'Dreamlifter' Finally Reaches Intended Destination

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A cargo-hauling jumbo jet that was mistakenly landed at a small Kansas airport has safely reached its intended destination. The "Dreamlifter'' took off from Jabara Airport in Wichita Thursday afternoon, hours after it landed eight miles away from McConnell Air Force Base where it was supposed to land. It touched down at McConnell a few minutes later. It's still not clear why the plane went to the wrong airport Wednesday night. The pilot sounded confused in his exchanges with air traffic control, according to audio provided by The Federal Aviation Administration will investigate whether the pilot followed controllers' instructions or violated any federal regulations. Boeing owns the plane, but it is operated by Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings, a New York-based cargo-hauler that also provides crews or planes to companies that need them.

KCC Approves $30.7M Westar Rate Increase

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The Kansas Corporation Commission has formally approved Westar Energy's rate increase request, signing off on a $30.7 million settlement reached in September. Regulators announced the unanimous approval of the settlement Thursday. The deal was brokered by Westar, KCC staff and the Citizens' Utility Ratepayer Board. The increases in electric utility bills will take effect December 1. Westar applied for the rate increase mostly to pay for required environmental upgrades at its La Cygne power plant in eastern Kansas. Under terms of the settlement, residential customers will get the biggest increase, $18 million, followed by small businesses with a $12.7 million increase. Westar is the largest utility company in Kansas with nearly 700,000 customers and 7,200 megawatts of electricity generating capacity.


Kansas Congressman Seeks End to Wind Energy Tax Credit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas congressman is pushing for an end to a federal tax credit that has helped make the state a leader in the wind energy development industry. Republican Representative Mike Pompeo of Wichita says he is urging his colleagues to let the wind production tax credit expire at the end of the year, saying the tax code shouldn't be picking winners and losers. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Pompeo's position on the credits is counter to that of some fellow Republicans, including Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and the state's two senators. Brownback was part of a national coalition last year that successfully pressed for preservation of the tax benefit. Senator Jerry Moran says the tax credit makes the nation safer, while Senator Pat Roberts also has supported extending the credit.


Number of On-Hold KS Voter Registrations Rising

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The number of voter registrations on hold in Kansas because of the state's proof-of-citizenship requirement is rising again. Secretary of State Kris Kobach's office said Wednesday that almost 17,700 registrations were on hold because new voters hadn't provided a birth certificate, passport or other papers documenting their U.S. citizenship to election officials.  The figure peaked at about 18,500 in October but dropped to fewer than 17,200. That decline occurred in late October. The state Department of Revenue sent election officials information about 6,000 people who had presented one of several required documents when obtaining or renewing a driver's license.  The proof-of-citizenship requirement took effect in January, and Kobach argues that it prevents election fraud. Critics say it suppresses voter turnout.


Mental Health Evaluation in Slaying Pushed Back  

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ A mental competency hearing for a Lawrence man accused of fatally shooting his wife has been pushed back until next week because his attorney had a scheduling conflict. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that 67-year-old Larry Hopkins was supposed to have a hearing Wednesday, but that has been delayed until next Tuesday. Judge Michael Malone granted the defense's request for a mental health evaluation last week.  Hopkins is charged with first-degree murder in the November 5 shooting death of his 61-year-old wife, Margaret Hopkins, in the couple's Lawrence Home.  Police say Hopkins shot his wife because of her ongoing health concerns. If he is found incompetent to stand trial, he will be taken to the state hospital in Larned for rehabilitation and be re-evaluated in 90 days. 

Reward Increased to $5,775 in Jogger's Death

RAYTOWN, Mo. (AP) _ The reward has been increased for information in the death of Kansas City area man who was shot and killed while he was jogging. The Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers said in a release Thursday that a family member has donated more money to the reward fund for information in the death of 60-year-old Harry Stone. Crime Stoppers says the total possible reward is up to $5,775.00. Police say Stone was shot and killed May 13 as he jogged in Raytown. Police are looking for a dark, four-door car with at least two occupants who fled the scene.

Board Closes Elementary School; 3 Members Resign

CHEROKEE, Kan. (AP) _ A school board in one of Kansas's smallest and poorest districts voted to close an elementary school after three of the board members resigned their positions. The board of the Unified School District 247, which covers 326 square miles of rural Crawford and Cherokee counties, voted Wednesday night to close the school in McCune, which has 39 students in grades one, two and four. Students in kindergarten, third and fifth grades were bused this year to Weir and Cherokee because the class sizes were too small. The Joplin Globe reports that the vote came after three board members resigned. One said he was moving out of the district's boundaries but the other two cited the decision to close the school in their resignations.

Kansas Man Pleads Guilty in 1980 MN Stabbing Death

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ A cold case revived by Minneapolis police with newly discovered DNA evidence has resulted in a guilty plea to a 1980 murder. Robert Skogstad has entered the plea in the fatal stabbing of 22-year-old Mary Steinhardt at a Minneapolis apartment building where he was a caretaker. A Minneapolis police detective working on a cold case project in 2010 found additional DNA samples in archive files that had not been tested. She submitted those samples and additional profiles were recovered. Those profiles were entered into local and national databases and a match was made to Skogstad, a sex offender. Prosecutors say his profile matched DNA evidence recovered from the victim. The 58-year-old Skogstad was living in Edgerton, Kansas. He will be sentenced January 3 on a second-degree murder conviction.

Distracted Teen Injured After Walking into Traffic

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A 15-year-old Topeka boy was in stable condition after walking into traffic while talking on his cellphone and being hit by a car. Police spokesman Lieutenant Mike Cross says the Hayden High School student was hit around 3:35 pm Wednesday after walking in front of a car whose driver didn't have time to react. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that witnesses told authorities the boy had just pushed the button on a lighted crosswalk and "didn't even wait a half a second'' before stepping into oncoming traffic. The woman driving the vehicle and three young children in the car weren't injured. Cross says there has been a big push against driving while distracted, but pedestrians also are part of the roadway and need to pay attention to what they're doing.

New Executive Director Chosen for Lied Center

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ The University of Kansas has chosen an executive of the Lincoln Center in New York City as the new executive director of the Lied Center.  The university announced Derek Kwan's appointment on Wednesday. He previously was vice president of concerts and touring at Jazz at the Lincoln Center. He will take over in January, replacing Tim Van Leer, who is retiring.  Robert Walzel, dean of the university's School of Music, said he hopes Kwan can attract students to the Lied by giving them a more active role in programming. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that when Kwan starts in January, a priority will be finalizing programming for the 2014-15 year.  

KU Business Center Hires New President, COO  

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ The University of Kansas has hired a new president and chief operating officer for its Bioscience and Technology Business Center. The university announced Wednesday that G.R. Underwood has taken the position after working as CEO for a company spun out of the University of Texas that specialized in software for the oil and gas industry.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Underwood served as vice president of client services for the Lawrence Regional Technology Center from 2007 to 2010.  Underwood has a master's degree in business administration from the University of Oklahoma.  The center provides offices, lab space and professional services for startups and small companies in the area.

Fund Created for Widow of Wichita Man Killed in Fire

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A fund has been set up to help the widow of the 95-year-old Wichita man killed in a recent house fire.  The Wichita Eagle reports that Charlie Adams died in the fire at his home Friday. His wife, 58-year-old Pat Adams, already had left for work as a school bus driver when the fire broke out.  The cause of the fire is under investigation, but Fire Captain Stuart Bevis says investigators suspect an electrical malfunction sparked the blaze. Friends say Pat Adams has found a place to live and is receiving help from the Red Cross and her church congregation. But additional help can be provided through the Charlie Adams Memorial Fund, which has been set up at the Capitol Federal Credit Union in Wichita.


Military High Court to Hear Kansas HIV Assault Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ The highest U.S. armed forces court will hear oral arguments next month in the appeal of a Kansas airman convicted of assault for exposing multiple sex partners to HIV at swinger parties in Wichita.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces has set arguments for December 16 in the case of David Gutierrez.  Gutierrez was a sergeant serving at McConnell Air Force Base when he was sentenced in 2011 to eight years in prison and stripped of his rank for aggravated assault.  The court also will consider whether the evidence supports his adultery conviction, since his wife participated with him in the "swinger's lifestyle." Defense attorney Kevin McDermott says in an emailed statement the case has the potential to impact HIV testing and prosecution in the military.

Group Wants Hotel Removed from National Register  

MINNEAPOLIS, Kan. (AP) _ The Kansas Historic Sites Board of Review has asked that a prominent structure that partially collapsed earlier this year be removed from the National Register of Historic Places.  The two-story Parker House Hotel in Minneapolis, Kansas, was built in 1887 and partially collapsed June 7. The Salina Journal reports that some of the debris hit a natural gas riser and forced the evacuation of downtown Minneapolis.  The City Council voted later to pay $76,800 to have the hotel torn down.  Staff from the National Register in Washington, D.C., will consider the request.  

10 KS Sites Nominated for National List

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Ten sites have been nominated by a board of the Kansas Historical Society to be added to the National Register of Historic Places.  The list announced Wednesday includes an eastern portion of the University of Kansas campus in Lawrence and two locations where the Oregon and California trials converged in Kansas.  Other sites include two buildings in Kansas City, Kansas that have ties to the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, a former school in rural Douglas County, the City Square Park Bandstand in Humboldt, and a youth cabin in Manhattan constructed during the Great Depression.  The list will be forwarded to Office of the Keeper of the National Historic Places in Washington, D.C., for evaluation.

KS Man Struck and Killed by Car After Accident

COLUMBUS, Kan. (AP) _ An elderly man from southeast Kansas died after he was hit by a car when he got out of another vehicle that had hit a deer. The Cherokee County Sheriff's Department says 90-year-old Louis Nicoletti of Columbus was struck Tuesday as he crossed U.S. 160 about three miles east of Columbus. He died later at Freeman Hospital West in Joplin.  Nicoletti was walking across the highway after a car he was riding in had hit a deer. Neither Nicoletti or his wife, who was driving the car, was injured in that accident.  

KS Woman Won't Pay Total Restitution Ordered in Horse Case

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) _ A judge has ordered a Hutchinson woman to pay half of the restitution the state sought from her after she was found guilty of neglecting several horses.  LindaSue Adams was ordered Wednesday to pay $4,500 in restitution for the care of the horses. The state had sought $8,369 to pay Reno County for caring for 13 horses seized from Adams's property. Reno County Magistrate Judge Randall McEwen said the reasonable efforts were not made to assess the horses' value.  When the horses were taken from Adams' home, many were malnourished and needed medical care. Reno County Sheriff's deputies also found three dead horses on her property in April. The Hutchinson News reports that a recent civil injunction will prevent Adams from owning horses ever again.

Slow Growth Likely in Rural Parts of 10 States

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) _ The overall index in a new monthly survey matches the previous index and also suggests the economy will continue growing at a slow pace in rural areas of 10 Midwest and Plains states. The report for the Rural Mainstreet Index was released Thursday and says the index remained unchanged at 54.3 in November. The index is based on surveys of rural bankers in Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. It ranges from 0 to 100, with 50 representing growth neutral. A score above 50 suggests growth in that factor in the months ahead. The confidence index, which reflects expectations for the economy six months out, rose to a still weak 48.3 from 44.7 in October.

Lenexa Teacher Pleads Guilty in Teen Sex Case

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) _ A former Johnson County high school teacher pleaded guilty to having sexual contact with two teenage boys he met through online ads.  Forty-three-year-old Jeremy John Way, of Shawnee, entered the plea Wednesday to two counts of criminal sodomy with the boys. The boys did not attend St. James Academy in Lenexa, where Way taught science until the allegations against him surfaced in February.  Before going to St. James in 2008, Way taught at Mill Valley High School in Shawnee.  The Kansas City Star reports that the investigation began when the parents of a 14-year-old boy called police after discovering sexually explicit emails on his cellphone. Police traced phone records to Way and during the investigation learned about the second boy.   Sentencing is scheduled for January 21.  

Buchanan County Deputies Cleared in Shooting Death

GOWER, Mo. (AP) _ Two Buchanan County (Missouri) deputies involved in a fatal shooting on Halloween night will not be charged.  Andrew Country Prosecutor Steven Stevenson said Wednesday the deputies acted lawfully when 28-year-old Eric Christopher Auxier of Gower was shot to death after a pursuit.  The deputies, William Miller and William Fisher, began chasing Auxier's car after seeing it go the wrong way on a St. Joseph street. Auxier's car reached speeds of 70 to 90 mph into Andrew County and the pursuit ended near Amazonia. The St. Joseph News-Press reports that when the deputies got out of the car, Auxier backed his car, pinning Miller's legs between the vehicles. Fisher heard Miller screaming but couldn't see him and fired six shots into Auxier's car. Auxier was pronounced dead at the scene.  

Wichita Man Sentenced in Death of Child

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A Wichita man has been sentenced to nearly 23 years in prison for the stray-bullet killing of an 8-year-old girl as she slept in a mobile home. The Wichita Eagle reports that 25-year-old Zachary Gaston pleaded guilty last month to reckless second-degree murder for the death of Kimbra Moore in September 2012. A judge gave Gaston the maximum sentence of 22 years and eight months. Police have said the gunfire followed a nearby dispute between a group of four men and a man in a stolen car. Gaston was accused of shooting at the car while chasing it into the mobile home park. A bullet pierced the wall of Kimbra's mobile home, killing her. A second shot grazed a neighbor's head.

2 Killed in Western KS Crash

TRIBUNE, Kan. (AP) _ Two men have been killed in a single-vehicle crash in western Kansas. The Kansas Highway Patrol says 25-year-old Christopher Jones and 27-year-old Matthew Bender died in the crash early Thursday outside Tribune. Both men were from Tribune. The patrol says the crash occurred when the truck Jones and Bender were in left a Greeley County road, hit a power pole and rolled. KAKE-TV reports another passenger in the truck was hospitalized. The patrol says no one in the truck was using a seat belt.

Group Named to Find Replacement for FHSU President

HAYS, Kan. (AP) _ A search committee has been appointed to find candidates to replace the president of Fort Hays State University. The Kansas Board of Regents has appointed the search committee to recommend candidates to replace Fort Hays State University President Ed Hammond, who's retiring. Hammond will retire as president in June 2014 after 27 years in the position. The Lawrence Journal-World reports Denis Miller, president of the FHSU Foundation, will chair the search committee. The committee will also include members of the student body and faculty, as well as Robba Moran, a regent from Manhattan, former regent Janie Perkins of Garden City, and Andy Tompkins, president and chief executive officer of the regents. The search committee will select three to five candidates by April 22, 2014, for the board to consider.

Arts Panel Voices Concerns on Eisenhower Memorial

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A powerful arts panel that must approve designs for memorials in the nation's capital is again objecting to plans for a memorial honoring President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Architect Frank Gehry designed a memorial park framed by large metal tapestries depicting the Kansas landscape of Eisenhower's boyhood home. Statues of Ike as president and World War II hero would stand at the center. Several members of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts said Thursday that they object to the towering columns and side tapestries in the design. They raised similar concerns about the large scale in July but voted to approve the general concept. No further action was taken this week. The commission will provide written comments to the group working to build the memorial and will meet again next year.

KC City Council Approves Streetcar Study

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ The City Council in Kansas City has approved studying several corridors as the next phases for a city streetcar system. The Kansas City Star reports that the city council approved the study Thursday. The evaluation, which should be completed by April, would set the stage to build the next eight to 10 miles of streetcar line over the next decade. City officials say any streetcar system would be part of a larger transportation network that would also be linked together by buses. A 10-mile streetcar expansion is projected to cost up to $400 million, and the funding method hasn't been set. Leaders hope federal and state dollars and other money could provide half the cost. Local dollars may have to cover up to 50 percent of the cost.

Bullet Fired into KCK Elementary School  

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas City, Kansas police are investigating after a shot was fired into an elementary school as students were preparing to be dismissed. Police say no one was injured in the incident Wednesday afternoon at Whittier Elementary School. Police believe the bullet came from a drive-by incident about a block-and-a-half away.  The Kansas City Star reports that the school was preparing to dismiss students when staff heard gunshots in the neighborhood. The district's chief of staff, David Smith, said staff made sure all doors were locked and everyone was kept inside.  After about 20 minutes, police told school officials the threat had been cleared and it was safe to dismiss the students.  




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