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Regional Headlines for Thursday, October 3, 2013


Online Health Marketplace Continues to Cause Delays for Kansans

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas residents hoping to find health insurance through a new online marketplace continue struggling to reach the point where they can buy coverage. Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger's office Thursday urged consumers to wait several weeks before going to the federally run marketplace. On its third day of operations, long delays in completing the first steps persisted. The Topeka public library opened its computer training center Thursday to people who wanted to buy health coverage. But after an hour, Topeka resident Lover Chancler was still waiting to even start the process for setting up her identification for the marketplace. After 45 minutes, Topeka resident Gary Hutley also was waiting to set up his ID. Federal officials have said such issues are caused by high online traffic.


Kansas NBAF Project Moves Forward Despite Shutdown

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Construction continues on a central utility plant for a new federal biosecurity research lab at Kansas State University despite the partial shutdown of the federal government. Kansas State vice president for research Ron Trewyn said Thursday that work was progressing on the plant, which will provide utilities for the $1.25 billion National Bio- and Agro-defense Facility. He says contracts for the utility plant were released in previous federal budgets and not affected by the current shutdown. Trewyn says funding for the main plant is on hold. But he expects Congress to act on the $404 million appropriation for the next fiscal year, which has already passed the House and a Senate budget committee. The lab will research deadly animal and livestock diseases, replacing an aging facility at Plum Island, New York.


Kansas National Guard Cancels Most Weekend Drills

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Monthly weekend drills for most soldiers and airmen of the Kansas National Guard have been canceled because of the partial federal government shutdown. Major General Lee Tafanelli, the state's adjutant general, says Wednesday that units will not report for drills until the federal situation has been resolved. The one exception is Company G of the 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation based at Topeka that is beginning training for an upcoming deployment. Tafanelli says that two change-of-command ceremonies have also been postponed, including one planned Saturday for the 35th Infantry Division. That event was moved to November 2 at Fort Leavenworth's main parade field. The general says Guard units would still be able to deploy under current budget conditions should there be a state disaster to protect lives and property.


Unusual Storm Front Threatens Midwest

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — An unusual strong storm front is threatening the Midwest from the central Plains to the Mississippi Valley over the next several days. The National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma says the system could bring heavy thunder, wind, rain and possibly tornadoes on Friday. Meteorologist Gregory Carbin says about one-third of Iowa and parts of southern Minnesota have a 45 percent chance of severe storms, More than 1 million people live in that risk area. Parts of Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri and Wisconsin are also in the storm front's path. Areas as far south as Oklahoma and Texas could be affected. Meteorologists say this is the first time since at least 2000 that a storm this size in the region has been forecast in October a day in advance.


Kobach to Stage Topeka Fundraiser

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach plans to hold a clay-shooting event next week to raise money for his re-election campaign. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the fundraiser is scheduled for October 12 at Ravenwood Lodge in Topeka. Those attending will pay $25 to $1,000 to participate in the clay-shooting activities. The Republican secretary of state also plans to discuss Second Amendment rights during the event. Kobach is running next year for a second four-year term. Former Republican state Senator Jean Schodorf, of Wichita, is now a Democrat and has said she plans to seek the Democratic nomination. Mission Hills businessman Randy Rolston has already filed to run in the Democratic primary.

Budget Shutdown Hits Kansas Army Posts

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Services have been curtailed, including the closing of post commissaries as the partial federal government shutdown takes effect at Kansas military installations. Major Martin O'Donnell, spokesman for the 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, says Wednesday that initially the impact isn't being noticed on the northeast Kansas post, though the effects will be felt the longer the shutdown lasts. About 1,000 civilian employees were put on emergency furlough until further notice. Functions related to the life, health and safety of soldiers and families were protected. But other activities have been altered, including the closing of the post commissary. In addition, the museum at Fort Riley will be closed during the week and open only on weekends. Another 2,300 employees were sent home at Fort Leavenworth, leaving 300 on the job.


KS Corrections to Tighten Security at KJCC

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Corrections has announced plans to improve security at Topeka's juvenile detention facility. The department took control of the Kansas Juvenile Correctional Complex as well as the state's other juvenile facility in Larned earlier this year when the Corrections Department was merged with the Juvenile Justice Authority. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Mike Gaito of the Corrections Department told the Joint Committee on State Building Construction on Wednesday that the perimeter security at KJCC doesn't meet standards. He says the department will add perimeter surveillance, as well as motion detectors to the perimeter fencing. He says the department also plans to upgrade the door locks at the Larned juvenile facility.


Fire Damage at KS Meatpacking Plant Estimated to Be in Millions 

ARKANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) -- The damage from last week's fire at a south-central Kansas packing plant is estimated in the millions of dollars. Doug Mackay, director of human resources at Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, shared the estimate Thursday with members of the Arkansas City Area Chamber of Commerce. The Arkansas City Traveler reports that Creekstone is insured for such massive damage, and is working with insurance adjusters on a more precise estimate. The fire broke out on the afternoon of September 25 in the plant's fabrication area. The cause is still being determined, but investigators have traced it to a conveyer belt. Mackay said hundreds of contract workers are tackling the cleanup. Creekstone officials hope to bring production up to 80 percent within a week. Creekstone processes Black Angus beef at the plant. 


Beloit Police Chief Fired

BELOIT, Kan. (AP) — The Beloit City Council has fired the town's police chief. The Salina Journal reports the council fired Police Chief Brenon Odle on Tuesday. Odle led the department for two years. The council members, who met in executive session Tuesday, did not offer reasons for firing Odle. Odle says he was "shell-shocked" about the decision and said there were never any complaints about his job performance. But he said council members would "get frustrated about spending, the vehicles and stuff." Lieutenant Dave Elam was named interim police chief. Beloit is a town of about 3,800 residents in north-central Kansas.

Escaped Emu Recaptured in JoCo Park

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — An escaped emu has been captured after causing a flap at a Johnson County park. The Kansas City Star reports that the flightless bird was found running loose Wednesday morning at Kill Creek Park in the western part of the county. Johnson County Park & Recreation District field biologist Matt Garrett says park staff managed to herd the creature into a building. By later in the day, officials believed they had located the emu's owner, a nearby landowner. Garrett says the emu wasn't mature. Kansas Emu Association secretary Mike Martin says emus are native to Australia and can grow to be 6 feet tall and weigh 100 to 120 pounds. They are raised for meat, leather, eggs and oil.

2 Charged in Topeka Carjacking, Kidnapping

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two men have been charged with a Topeka carjacking and abduction that came to an end when the victims were discovered during a Kansas City, Kansas traffic stop. Shawnee County prosecutors have filed aggravated robbery and kidnapping charges against 24-year-old Jakeem Coopwood and 20-year-old Lashon Stewart. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the men were moved Wednesday to Shawnee County from Wyandotte County. No attorneys are listed for them in online court records. Topeka police spokeswoman Kristen Veverka says the victims were found early Monday after the Kansas Highway Patrol pursued a vehicle on Interstate 70. After the fleeing car stopped, the suspects fled and then were arrested. Inside the car's trunk, troopers found two people who had been kidnapped Sunday night. Veverka says the victims were in good condition.


Suspect Sought in KS Double Homicide

EUREKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities in southeastern Kansas are searching for a 35-year-old suspect in connection with a shooting that left two people dead and another critically injured. The Greenwood County Sheriff's Department says the suspect, Kevin R. Welsh, is considered armed and dangerous. The Wichita Eagle reports that when deputies were headed to the Eureka home Wednesday evening on a burglary report, someone called 911 and said shots had been fired. When deputies arrived they found two people dead from gunshot wounds. A third person was taken to a Wichita hospital in critical condition with gunshot wounds. The sheriff's office says the suspect is driving a late-model gold Explorer with a license plate of 20AXY. Eureka has about 2,600 residents and is located about 60 miles east of Wichita.


Cremated Remains Back in Hands of Owner

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A small bag of cremated remains labeled "Grandma" that a customer left at a Wichita liquor store has been claimed. KAKE-TV reports that Kathy Leonard retrieved the bag Thursday after hearing about efforts by Charlie Nguyen to find the owner. Leonard says the ashes are those of her mother, Helen Dapron, who died in Arizona in 2010. She says she gave her three children small portions of the remains in plastic bags. She believes her son was carrying the bag in a pocket and put it on the counter at Charlie's Liquor and Smoke Shop while pulling out money for a purchase. Leonard said she'll be keeping the ashes for now and will talk to her son about being more respectful with his grandma's ashes.


Reno County Seeks to Try Teen as Adult in Fire

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — The Reno County District Attorney is seeking to try as an adult a Hutchinson teenager accused of setting a fire that killed his mother and sister. The Hutchinson News reports that Reno County District Attorney Keith Schroeder on Tuesday filed a motion to try the teen as an adult because the boy is an "extreme danger" to the community and shows no remorse. The September 26 fire at the family's home killed the 14-year-old boy's mother and sister and injured his father. Schroeder also says in the motion that the teen's father is afraid of him, and that the teen had plans for future violence. As a juvenile, he would be under the court's jurisdiction until he turns 23. If convicted as an adult, he'd face a life prison sentence.


KS Community Corrections Services Director Named

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A veteran Kansas Department of Corrections employee has been named director of the agency's community corrections services. The appointment of Marie McNeal was announced Wednesday. She will be responsible for administering grants awarded to community corrections agencies. She will also oversee a partnership with agencies that provide community-based supervision to felony offenders. McNeal joined the Corrections Department in 1998. She worked in community corrections and at the Ellsworth Correctional Facility before being named administrator of the Prisoner Review Board — formerly called the Parole Board — in 2008.


Costa Rica Guard Acquitted in US Teen Shooting

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) — Officials say a hotel security guard who shot a Kansas teen vacationing in Costa Rica two years ago has been acquitted of homicide charges in his second trial. Jorge Guevara fired on Justin David Johnston as the 16-year-old from McLouth tried to get into a northern Costa Rica hotel from another building on the hotel property early on the morning of June 2, 2011. Guevara said he thought the student was a burglar. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison but won a new trial on appeal and was acquitted this week. Judges said he was legitimately confused by Johnston's attempt to enter from a nearby building instead of the hotel's main entrance. The decision is likely to be appealed by Costa Rican prosecutors.

Wichita Police Arrest 3 After Toddlers Found

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police have placed two toddlers in protective custody after they were found crying and wandering outside a home. The Wichita Eagle reports that a neighbor spotted the 1-year-old boy and 2-year-old girl Wednesday morning and called 911. Lt. Doug Nolte says responding officers then found the children and began looking for their home. They spotted an open door to a house in a block next to Interstate 35. Nolte says several adults inside the home were "unresponsive due to alcohol and/or drugs." He says the toddlers had awakened and wandered outside in search of something to eat. Three people were arrested, including a 23-year-old woman and a 50-year-old man. Nolte says the children's 21-year-old mother wasn't arrested.


Missouri AG Sues KC Hospice over Honor Flight Funds


KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri's attorney general is suing a Kansas City hospice company for refusing to return nearly $40,000 that was intended to send elderly veterans to Washington, D.C. Attorney General Chris Koster announced Thursday he had filed a lawsuit against Kendallwood Hospice Company and had obtained a temporary restraining order freezing Honor Flight donations being held by the company. Koster says Kendallwood agreed to hold the donations in a separate bank account, from which an Honor Flight official could withdraw funds to pay for veterans to travel to see memorials in Washington. In February the hospice removed an Honor Flight official from the account's signature card, preventing the charity from accessing its funds. Koster says Kendallwood has refused repeated requests to return the money. Kendallwood officials were not immediately available for comment.


Former Wichita Educator Sues District

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former Wichita elementary school principal has filed a lawsuit accusing the school district of pressuring her to retire amid false accusations over testing irregularities. Former Enterprise Elementary School principal Pam Stead retired in April 2012 after 27 years in the district. Shortly after she retired, district officials said "protocol wasn't followed" when some Enterprise students had their state assessment tests reactivated, allowing answers to be changed after the tests had been completed and submitted. Stead contends in her lawsuit that she made clear to district officials last year that she had reactivated the tests for reasons that were "appropriate and consistent with all relevant testing standards." A lawyer for the district told The Wichita Eagle that the district stands by its investigation into state testing irregularities.


Topeka Having Trouble Keeping Lawns, Weeds in Check

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka residents appear to be having considerable trouble this year keeping their lawns mowed and weeds controlled in periods of wet weather. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that through September, the city issued nearly a record number of notices this year to property owners who had let grass or weeds grow more than a foot tall. The city issued nearly 3,400 notices — 7.5 percent more than the record 3,150 for all of 2006. This year's figure also represents nearly 1,000 more notices than in each of the last five years. The notices give property owners seven days to mow. If they don't, the city sends a crew of inmates from the Shawnee County jail to do the job — at the property owner's expense.

KCMO Officer Credited with Saving Suicidal Man's Life

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City police sergeant is being praised for stopping a suicidal man from jumping off a highway overpass last week. The Kansas City Star reports that Sergeant Steven Griswold caught the man by the legs as he tried to leap from an interstate bridge on September 28. Video from Griswold's dash-mounted camera shows the man trying to dive over the wall at 1:23 am before the officer pulls him back to safety. Police say the man could have fallen about 60 feet if Griswold hadn't saved him. The incident started after police received calls of a car that had broken down on the highway. Another caller said the man had called her and was suicidal. The man was taken to a hospital for mental health treatment.

KS Man Charged with Falsely Claiming Tax Refunds

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A southeast Kansas man is accused of falsely claiming more than $3.8 million in federal tax refunds. An indictment unsealed Wednesday in U.S. District Court charges Jerold D. Fisher, of Arma, with two counts of filing false claims. The indictment was initially returned in May. Prosecutors allege Fisher filed fictitious tax forms claiming an alfalfa farm in Crawford County paid him wages of more than $8.8 million between 2006 and 2009 and withheld nearly $4 million in taxes for those years. The indictment alleges Fisher filed for refunds of nearly $169,000 for 2008 and nearly $3.7 million for 2009. It's unclear if any claims were paid. No working phone number could be located for Fisher and court records do not show an attorney.

45-Year-Old Liberty Man Charged in Wife's Death

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — A Liberty man has been charged in his wife's shooting death. The Kansas City Star ( ) reports that Clay County (Missouri) prosecutors filed the second-degree murder charge Wednesday against 45-year-old Ervin Carroll. His wife, Linda Carroll, was killed Tuesday night in an apartment, and her female friend was shot in the foot. Ervin Carroll also faces charges of assault, unlawful use of a weapon and armed criminal action. Bond has been set at $500,000. It's not immediately clear if he has an attorney. Court documents say the friend told police that Ervin Carroll piled his wife's belongings on the floor and told her to leave. He later approached with a shotgun, and it went off as Linda Carroll tried to push it away. The Carrolls had been married for 23 years.

KS Academics Worry over Reaction to Prof's Tweet

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — More than 100 current and former University of Kansas faculty and staff are publicly affirming the free-speech rights of a professor whose Twitter post against the National Rifle Association sparked a political firestorm. The statement issued Wednesday described the tweet by associate professor of journalism David Guth as "intemperate" but said the signers support his right to express his ideas. Retired American Studies Professor Bill Tuttle said the statement is a response to comments from conservative Republican Kansas legislators that Guth should be fired. Guth is on indefinite paid leave and declined to comment. In his tweet after the September shootings that killed 13 people at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., Guth blasted the NRA and wrote, "Next time, let it be YOUR sons and daughters."

Suspect Convicted of Killing 2 at Wichita Store

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 20-year-old Wichita man has been convicted of capital murder in last year's shootings of two people inside a Dollar General store. The Wichita Eagle reports a Sedgwick County jury deliberated less than 90 minutes Wednesday before finding Marquis Marshall guilty. Prosecutors were not seeking the death penalty, meaning Marshall faces a mandatory life sentence on each of the two counts. Surveillance tapes from the November 2012 killings show a man entering the Dollar General holding a semi-automatic pistol and firing several times at 22-year-old employee Zachary Hunt and 79-year-old customer Henry Harvey. Both died at the scene. No robbery occurred, and no motive has been offered by police or by witnesses who testified in the three-day trial. Marshall was arrested two days after the killings during a traffic stop.


Opinions Differ on New Goodyear Tire for Kansas Speedway Race

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Chase leader Matt Kenseth would have been perfectly happy if Goodyear brought its old tires to Kansas Speedway this weekend. Instead, the two-time and defending winner at Kansas was among 38 cars on the track Thursday who were testing the new "multi-zone" tires that Goodyear has developed. It's rare that NASCAR changes tires between spring and fall races on the same track, but vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said it made sense at repaved Kansas Speedway. The tires, which made their debut in the September 1 race at Atlanta, are made of two distinct compounds. One compound features a more tractive tread for better grip and handling, and the other is a firmer compound that helps manage wear on the tire's inside shoulder for better durability.


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