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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, August 20, 2013


Governor Nominates Top Lawyer for Kansas Appeals Court

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has nominated his chief counsel for the state Court of Appeals. Brownback announced the nomination of Caleb Stegall Tuesday. The Senate must confirm the nomination. It will convene for a special legislative session September 3. Stegall is best known for defending American missionaries who were detained in Haiti after trying to remove 33 children they mistakenly believed had been orphaned in the country's 2010 earthquake. His nomination to the state's second-highest court is likely to draw criticism from the governor's opponents, especially as it is Brownback's first appointment to a judgeship without screening by lawyers. Brownback's office released endorsement letters from a bipartisan group of lawyers, including former Kansas Attorney General Steve Six, a Democrat who faced Stegall in abortion-related litigation.

Stegall Notes Support from Kansas Democrats

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican Governor Sam Brownback's choice to fill a vacancy on the Kansas Court of Appeals is thanking Democrats for supporting his nomination to the bench. Caleb Stegall, a Republican, says Tuesday he received support from prominent Democrats, including former Attorney General Steve Six and Lawrence attorney Dan Watkins. Six and Stegall have been on opposite sides of abortion litigation. Stegall was introduced by Brownback during a Statehouse news conference. The Senate will have to confirm his nomination. Last year the nominating commission passed over Stegall for two vacancies on the Court of Appeals. When lawmakers created a 14th judgeship on the court this year, speculation immediately centered on Stegall as the leading candidate.

Brownback Defends Process for Selecting Appeals Court Judge

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback is defending the new process for selecting Kansas Court of Appeals judges, saying it involves more people and encourages the best candidates to apply. Brownback says Tuesday that the old system that put the power to select judges in the hands of a nominating commission left elected officials with little involvement, except when the governor made the final selection. He says his nomination of Caleb Stegall to fill an opening on the Court of Appeals will involve the executive branch and the Kansas Senate, increasing the amount of scrutiny that nominees must face. Kansas changed the process for selecting appeals court judges earlier this year, moving to a federal model where the governor accepts applicants and advances a nominee for Senate confirmation.

Key Democrat Eyes Kansas Court Nominee Hearing

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee says plans to ask Governor Sam Brownback's nominee to the Kansas Court of Appeals how the courts can remain independent under the new judicial selection process. Senator David Haley of Kansas City says he doesn't have any predetermined opinions about the choice of Caleb Stegall to fill a vacancy on the court. Haley says the two have only exchanged greetings in the Statehouse but never had conversations of any substance. Haley says he wants to know Stegall's financial and political ties to Brownback may influence Stegall's rulings on cases. Haley says those concerns factored into his opposition to the changes in the judicial nominating process legislators approved this spring.

Topeka Changing Firefighter Overtime Policy

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Top officers in the Topeka Fire Department will stop qualifying for overtime pay in November after a city official revised the compensation policy. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that City Manager Jim Colson issued a release Tuesday saying the practice of paying overtime to battalion chiefs and shift commanders will end November 9. Those positions will be considered exempt slots under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and not eligible for overtime. The Capital-Journal reported last week that 11 battalion chiefs and shift commanders earned a collective $145,000 in overtime in 2012. Colson also says he'll work with city leaders to review compensation policies and recommend any changes within the next six months.


Unilever to Expand Northeast Kansas Margarine Plant

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Global consumer products maker Unilever is planning a $152 million expansion of its margarine and spreads plant in northeast Kansas. The Kansas City Star reports that the project announced Tuesday will double the size of the plant at the New Century AirCenter industrial park in Olathe. About 170 people now work at the plant, which makes such products as Country Crock, Promise, Imperial spreads. Unilever says it will hire 100 additional employees when the expansion is complete. Unilever makes personal care, home care and food products, including Axe deodorants, Lipton tea and Ben & Jerry's ice cream. The company is headquartered in London and the Netherlands and has more than 173,000 employees worldwide, including 10,000 in the U.S.


Suspect in Manhattan Sexual Assault Found Dead

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Police say the suspect in a reported sexual assault in Manhattan has been found dead. The assault occurred early on the morning of August 11 near the campus of Kansas State University, prompting authorities to caution students and the general public against walking alone at night. Riley County police said Monday that investigators had located a 26-year-old suspect outside their jurisdiction, but the man had died before officers arrived to make an arrest over the weekend. The man was from northeast Kansas, but police declined to be more precise or to release any details about the death. Police also said the man was not suspected in any other crimes in the Riley County area.


Ex-Soldier on Trial in Manhattan Homicide

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Opening statements are due Tuesday morning in the trial of a former Fort Riley soldier in the shooting death of a Kansas National Guardsman outside a Manhattan motorcycle club. WIBW-TV reports that a jury was chosen Monday in Riley County District Court for the first-degree murder trial of Daniel Parker. Parker is accused of killing 21-year-old Frederick Beverly, who suffered a fatal head wound early on New Year's Day of 2012 while manning the gate at the "Assassin Street Rydaz" motorcycle club. Prosecutors say Parker opened fire from a passing car following a disagreement earlier in the night with a member of the club.


Wichita Police Turn to Facebook in Sex Crime Probe

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police have turned to Facebook in search of two men who are believed to have committed crimes of a sexual nature in public places. KAKE-TV reports it's the first time the department has used social media to seek help in solving a sex crime. Police aren't saying exactly what the two men are accused of doing, other than to say it's not rape. Police say one reason they're staying vague is that revealing too much too soon could hurt their case. They also say they have to be more careful what they say when dealing with sex crimes. Spokesman Lieutenant Doug Nolte says Facebook has become one of the department's best crime-fighting tools since it joined the site in 2009.


Lawrence Groups Seeking Policy on Drones in City Limits

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence leaders say the city doesn't have any drones nor is planning to get any, but five area civil rights groups and political organizations are pushing for a policy limiting their use, just in case. Ben Jones heads the Lawrence-based group Kansans for Responsible Drone Use, which asked city commissioners in May to consider a local policy. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the issue hasn't come up for discussion since then, so Jones now has gotten the support of four other groups seeking a Lawrence policy. Douglas County Republican Party chairwoman Jana Rea says the idea of a local policy makes sense in light of national news about the federal government's surveillance programs. Among other limitations, the groups want any policy to ban the city from ever using weaponized drones.


Ex-Army Doc Pleads Not Guilty in Texas Fraud Case

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — A former military physician in South Texas has pleaded not guilty in a $7 million Army medical equipment contract fraud and bribery investigation. The San Antonio Express-News reports that Dr. Heidi Webster, who is from Manhattan, Kansas, has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and bribery. Webster was freed on a $100,000 unsecured bond following her initial appearance in federal court in San Antonio. The radiologist once worked at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. A co-defendant who worked with Webster, retired Army Master Sergeant Lawrence Peter Fenti of New Braunfels, faces the same charges and earlier pleaded not guilty. Both were named in a 40-count indictment returned in July.


Bulletin Board Detailing Islamic Beliefs Removed from Wichita School

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita elementary school has removed a bulletin board explaining the Five Pillars of Islam after concerns arose when a picture of the display was posted on Facebook. The Minneha Core Knowledge Magnet Elementary school removed the bulletin board Monday. The school says the bulletin board was part of its students' study of major religions of the world. It says students study the historical context of religions. The Wichita Eagle reports that a photograph of the bulletin board was posted over the weekend on a Facebook page titled "Prepare to Take America Back." The post claimed the school had banned all forms of Christian prayer, which the school says is not true. The school said the bulletin board was taken down until the unit is taught later this fall.

FBI Says Suspicious Package on KC-Area Bus a Hoax

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Federal investigators say a suspicious package found on a suburban Kansas City bus late last week was a hoax designed to look like an improvised explosive device. KSHB-TV reports investigators were on the scene in Blue Summit for more than 10 hours Friday after a bus driver for First Transit found the package. Special federal agents, the National Guard and ATF were called to investigate, and a robot was used to handle the package, which was taken apart and removed by late Friday night. FBI spokeswoman Bridget Patton said Monday investigators were extremely cautious because the package was made to look like an IED. She says creation of a hoax device is a federal crime. Patton says the federal investigation continues.

SW Kansas Man Dies After Severe Beating

LIBERAL, Kan. (AP) — A 51-year-old southwest Kansas man is dead after being severely beaten in a rural Seward County home over the weekend. The High Plains Daily Leader reports that Seward County deputies were called at 8:30 pm Saturday in the northwest part of the county on a report of an unresponsive man. They found Thomas Miller of Garden City, who was flown to a Wichita hospital where he died early Sunday morning. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation is helping the sheriff's office investigate the death, which is considered a homicide. Seward County Undersheriff Gene Ward says nobody has been arrested but people were being interviewed. An autopsy was performed Monday morning.


Man Charged with Animal Cruelty After Puppy Found Dead

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police responding to a reported burglary instead found a puppy that had been beaten to death with a baseball bat. KWCH-TV reports that someone called police Monday night to report a burglary, but when police arrived they found the dead dog. The 27-year-old man who lives at the home was arrested on a charge of cruelty to animals. A neighbor says she thinks the dog belonged to the man who was arrested. She says man had lived in the home for only a couple months. Police spokesman Lieutenant Doug Nolte says he did not know the age or the breed of the dog.


Judge Delays Sentencing in Kansas Hunting Camp Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has again delayed the resentencing of two Texas brothers convicted of running a Kansas hunting camp where hunters paid thousands of dollars to illegally shoot deer. U.S. District Judge Monti Belot postponed sentencing of James and Marlin Butler until October 28. The brothers had been scheduled for sentencing in September. A federal appeals court last year threw out their initial sentences, ruling the district court mistakenly based them on the full price of a guided hunt instead of the value of the animals taken. The Butlers, of Martinsville, Texas, ran Camp Lone Star near Coldwater. James Butler was sentenced in 2011 to 41 months in prison plus $50,000 in fines and restitution. His brother was sentenced to 27 months plus $20,000 in fines and restitution.


Kansas College Plans Ag Learning Center

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — Dodge City Community College is planning to build an agriculture learning center in hope of attracting more students and filling unmet needs in southwestern Kansas. The Dodge City Daily Globe reports that the project is in its earliest stages, as officials consider financing and a location. A report by college president Don Woodburn says the center would initially include classrooms, offices and a student equestrian stable. Later additions would include barns, a breeding stable, greenhouses and an outdoor arena. Officials envision the center also hosting 4-H and FFA events as well as college judging camps and contests. They also believe the center would make Dodge City more attractive to prospective community college students, possibly attracting as many as 200 more each year.


Beechcraft's Light Attack Aircraft Takes Flight

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Beechcraft is celebrating the inaugural flight of its first production AT-6 light attack aircraft. The Wichita-based aircraft maker commemorated the event Tuesday at its headquarters as it tries to market the new military plane among U.S. partner nations. CEO Bill Boisture says the company has seen a growing interest in the plane from the defense establishment around the world. The company is trying to move on and find other markets for the AT-6 after losing a bitter competition earlier this year for an Air Force contract worth more than $427 million. The plane was initially designed to compete for that contract. Beechcraft is now touting the 1,600 hours already logged on its AT-6 test aircraft as it tries to market the aircraft to other countries.


Missouri Officials Report Fifth Cyclospora Infection

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — State health officials say a fifth case of cyclospora infection has been confirmed in Missouri. The Department of Health and Senior Services said Tuesday the latest report came from a health provider in the Kansas City metropolitan area. The agency says the source of the illnesses has not been confirmed, and it's not known whether the Missouri cases are connected to those in other states. Previously, cases of cyclospora infections have been reported in the Kansas City metro area and in Jackson, Taney and Miller counties in Missouri. Cyclospora infections are mostly found in tropical or subtropical countries. Symptoms include diarrhea, severe stomach cramps or nausea.


Arrest Made in Slaying of Former Oklahoma Police Officer

PONCA CITY, Okla. (AP) — Police in Ponca City have arrested a co-worker of a man wanted for murder in the stabbing death of a former Blackwell, Oklahoma police officer. The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation says 25-year-old Neshia Niemeyer was arrested Monday as an accessory to murder in the death of 29-year-old Janett Reyna. Online court records do not list an attorney for Niemeyer, but show she's being held on $25,000 bond. A first-degree murder warrant has been issued for Luis Frias for Reyna's death. Investigators believe Frias stabbed Reyna to death on August 8 at her home in Blackwell and called Niemeyer for help in leaving town. Niemeyer later told authorities that she didn't know where Frias was. Agents say Frias has been tracked to Wichita, but has not been found.


Victims of Plane Crash Identified

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Jackson County (Missouri) Coroner says the victims of a single-engine plane crash at the downtown Kansas City airport were a couple from Ohio. John and Diana Lallo, of Girard, Ohio, died when their plane crashed shortly after taking off Sunday afternoon from the Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport. No one else was on board and no other injuries were reported when the aircraft went down just south of the main runway. The couple's daughter, Melissa Lallo-Johnson of Kansas City, told The Kansas City Star that her parents were in Kansas City to visit family. She says her father was an avid pilot. The Lallo family owns McRoyal Industries, which provides products to the food service industry. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the crash.

400 Parcels of Junction City Land Up for Auction

JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (AP) — The Geary County Sheriff's Department says it plans to auction off up to 400 parcels of land, some of it complete with infrastructure. WIBW reports that the lots were seized after owners failed to pay delinquent taxes. Sheriff Tony Wolf says the properties were partially developed during a real estate boom, but they were never finished by developers. He says some of the land already has infrastructure such as streets, curbs, sewer, water and electricity. The tax sale will take place August 28 at Brown Auction Service in Junction City, starting at 9 am.


2 Accused of Moving into Garage of Vacant Home

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a 29-year-old woman who was checking on a house she owns found that a couple had moved into the garage and were doing drugs inside. The Wichita Eagle reports that the woman went to check on her house shortly after 7:30 pm Sunday when she heard people in the garage. Police spokesman Lieutenant Doug Nolte says the woman called 911 and officers arrested a 32-year-old man and 35-year-old woman when they came out. Nolte says it looks like the two had moved into the garage. A police report indicates the two broke windows and knocked down an inside wall while there. The suspects were booked on suspicion of criminal damage, doing meth and other drugs, and possessing drug paraphernalia. The 35-year-old woman also was wanted on an outstanding warrant.


KS Woman Who Scammed SD Man Sent to Prison

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A Kansas woman who scammed a Sioux Falls man out of $161,000 has been sentenced to 1 ½ years in prison. The Argus (South Dakota) Leader reports that Holly Foster told federal Judge Karen Schreier that her actions took place in a "cloud of addiction," but the judge and Foster's victim rejected that reasoning. Authorities say the 34-year-old Foster, of Derby, Kansas scammed the father of her then-boyfriend in 2011 and 2012 with a bogus story that she had stomach cancer and could repay his financial help out of a pending $5.3 million inheritance. The victim cashed in his retirement account, borrowed money from friends, and took out title loans on two vehicles and a second mortgage on his home to support Foster. Schreier ordered Foster to pay back the money.


State of Missouri to Increase Oversight of Unaccredited Schools

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The State Board of Education is increasing its oversight of Missouri's unaccredited schools and hiring a consultant to help develop an improvement plan. The board's action Tuesday comes in advance of an August 28 effective date for a new law allowing the state to more quickly intervene in unaccredited schools. Three districts currently lack accreditation — Kansas City and the suburban St. Louis systems of Normandy and Riverview Gardens. State Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro says state personnel will increase their classroom visits and interaction with local education officials. The board also approved a contract with The Cities for Education Entrepreneurship Trust to analyze the reasons for failure in the Kansas City School District and make recommendations to improve it. The suggestions also could be used for other schools.



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