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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, December 10, 2013


KS Supreme Court Denies Kline Rehearing Request

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has denied former Attorney General Phill Kline's request for a rehearing to consider modification of a ruling that indefinitely suspended his law license. The denial was signed Tuesday by Justice Dan Biles on behalf of the court. Kline's attorney Tom Condit filed the motion with the court last week. Condit, who didn't immediately return messages seeking comment, argued that investigators in Kline's case were biased and facts about the former attorney general's investigations into abortions were misrepresented. The Supreme Court in October agreed with a state disciplinary panel that said Kline repeatedly misled or allowed subordinates to mislead others, including a Kansas City-area grand jury, during his investigations. The unanimous decision came after disputes between Kline, a Republican, and critics of his tactics.


UPDATE: KS Board Dumps Multistate Group for KU on Standardized Tests

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas State School Board has decided to have the University of Kansas develop new standardized tests for public school students in math, English and other subjects. The board's decision Tuesday ends active participation by Kansas in a multistate group, the Washington state-based Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, which has been developing tests. The vote was 8-2 to have the tests developed by the University of Kansas after the board split 5-5 on having the consortium develop them. Kansas Department of Education officials recommended going with the consortium. It could have its tests in place in spring 2015, a year before the Kansas center. But the cost of going with the consortium was estimated at $19 million over three years, compared to $16 million for the University of Kansas.


UPDATE: Lawrence Police: Body Found Monday Is That of Missing KU Student

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ Lawrence police have confirmed that a body found on Monday is that of a 23-year-old University of Kansas student from Peru. The body of Gianfranco Villagomez-Saldana, of Lima, Peru, was found outside a Lawrence home, near where he was last seen Saturday morning. Police say investigators are awaiting autopsy results to determine his cause of death but they do not currently suspect foul play. University officials released a statement Tuesday offering condolences to Villagomez-Saldana's family and friends. He earned a bachelor's degree in industrial design in May and was working on a master's degree in engineering. The Kansas City Star reports that one of Villagomez-Saldana's relatives arrived at Kansas City International Airport Monday.


Kansas Board Wants Kids to Continue Learning Cursive

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State Board of Education members want public school students to continue to learn how to write in cursive even in the age of keyboarding and text messaging. The 10-member board unanimously approved new handwriting standards for public schools Tuesday, saying that students are expected to learn to write in cursive in the third grade and write legibly in cursive by the fifth grade. Multistate academic standards adopted by Kansas in 2010 don't require schools to teach cursive, and some educators question whether it's still a necessary skill and whether they have time to teach it. Also, because Kansas doesn't have annual, statewide tests on handwriting, the board's standards can't really be enforced. But board members said they're hoping the strong language in the standards mean they won't be ignored.


Former KS House Member Ponders Run Against Huelskamp

ELLINWOOD, Kan. (AP) — A central Kansas lawyer who served several decades ago in the state Legislature as a Democrat is now considering challenging Congressman Tim Huelskamp in the Republican primary. Ellinwood attorney Kent Roth announced Monday that he's formed a committee to explore a run for the GOP nomination in the 1st Congressional District of western and central Kansas. Huelskamp has held the seat for the strongly Republican district since 2011 and had no opposition to his re-election in 2012. The 61-year-old Roth was in law school when he was elected to the Kansas House in 1976, and he served six years in the Legislature. A Democrat also has filed for the seat. He is Bryan Whitney, a Wichita State University political science student who graduated from high school in Syracuse.


Former KS Governor Tapped As Finalist for Time Person of Year

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Feelings are mixed in Kansas over the inclusion of former Governor Kathleen Sebelius as one of 10 finalists for Time magazine's Person of the Year award. Democratic Kansas House member Jim Ward told the Wichita Eagle it's an honor for everyone whenever someone from the state is recognized for influencing major world events. But former Republican Representative Brenda Landwehr called the selection ridiculous and said she couldn't think of anyone less deserving for the award. Sebelius serves as U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services. She has been in the spotlight since the October 1 problems with the launch of the national health care website. Other finalists include Pope Francis, Texas tea party Republican Ted Cruz, performer Miley Cyrus and whistleblower Edward Snowden.


AT&T Expanding in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — AT&T has announced plans to expand its mobile network in Kansas and to hire about 70 people in Wichita. Steve Hahn, AT&T Kansas president, said at a news conference in Wichita on Tuesday that the need for additional jobs is driven by demand for mobile technology. The Wichita Eagle reports that the new positions in Wichita will be for AT&T's customer care, U-verse and retail operations. AT&T reportedly spent $110 million in capital investment in Kansas in the first half of 2013, and $725 million between 2009 and 2012. AT&T officials say they're wrapping up an expansion of the AT&T mobile Internet network that will cover 98 percent of the state.


Jury Seated in Topeka Porn Trial

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Shawnee County jury has been selected for the trial of a Topeka man facing more than 100 counts of child pornography. Jason W. Hachmeister is charged in Shawnee County court with 108 counts of sexual exploitation of a child. He's also charged in another case with killing his mother in 2011. Prosecutors say the child pornography was found on Hachmeister's personal computer during an investigation into the September 2011 killing of 58-year-old Sheila R. Hachmeister of Topeka. Jason Hachmeister's homicide trial in Shawnee County is scheduled to start January 21, 2014. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the jury was selected Tuesday for his trial on child pornography charges, with opening arguments to follow. 


Creekstone Farms Beef Processing Company Expanding

ARKANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas meat-packing company has announced plans to expand its operation in south-central Kansas. The Kansas Department of Commerce said Monday that Creekstone Farms Premium Beef will expand in Arkansas City. The Arkansas City-based beef processing company has 720 employees and anticipates hiring 300 more workers during the next five years. Creekstone Farms processes Black Angus beef at its Arkansas City plant. The company says it plans to replace areas of the existing building damaged by a recent fire. The September 25 fire started in a conveyor belt. Ground beef and shipping operations resumed within a week after the fire.

KS NAIA Player Can Keep $20K Won in Half-Court Shot Contest

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A college basketball player who won $20,000 by hitting a half-court shot during an Oklahoma City Thunder game can keep the money. The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics announced Tuesday that Cameron Rodriguez could keep his winnings for use as a scholarship. Rodriguez is a sophomore forward for the Southwestern College basketball team in Winfield, Kansas. He nailed the half-court shot November 18 during the Thunder's home game against the Denver Nuggets. The NAIA says the decision to use the winnings as scholarship money was a joint recommendation by Rodriguez and the Southwestern College athletic department, which was supported by the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference. The NAIA initially informed Rodriguez that if he kept the money he would lose his amateur status, but Southwestern College appealed the decision.


KCP&L Seeking Rate Increase

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City Power & Light is seeking to raise electric rates for its Kansas customers. KCP&L has asked the Kansas Corporation Commission to approve the rate hike, which the utility says would help pay its share of a $1.2 billion environmental upgrade for the coal-fired La Cygne power plant in Kansas. If approved by the KCC, the increase would raise Kansas customers' rates 2.3 percent or $12.1 million a year. The Kansas City Star reports that a typical residential customer would be charged an additional $2.35 month. The KCC has eight months to consider the request. KCP&L's Missouri customers will also see their rates go up to pay for the plant's environmental work, but under Missouri rules a rate hike can't be requested until the upgrade is completed.


KS Patrol Honors KC Teacher for Crash Response

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol has honored a Kansas City teacher for her quick response during a school bus accident outside Bonner Springs. Jodie Stallard was the only teacher with 36 middle-school students from Pembroke Hill when their bus overturned in August, leaving the driver unresponsive, suspended by the seat belt strap around his neck. Stallard opened an emergency exit and helped children out of the wrecked bus before turning to the driver, unlatching his seat belt and lowering him to the floor. The patrol says her quick thinking may have saved his life. The Kansas City Star reports that the patrol Tuesday presented Stallard with an Honorary Trooper Award, its highest civilian honor. Captain Dek Kruger, commander of Troop A in Olathe, says the award isn't given out lightly.


Day Care Owner Guilty of Selling Crack

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Douglas County jury has convicted a 38-year-old woman of distributing crack cocaine out of her home, which was also the site of a Lawrence day care. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that a Douglas County jury found Tiffany C. Hubbard guilty last week of two counts of distributing cocaine, two counts of using a cellphone to distribute the drug and one count of drug possession. Jurors deliberated nearly a full day Friday before returning the verdicts against Hubbard, who operated the Children's Playpen group day care out of her home. Investigators discovered drugs at the home during a search Oct. 24, 2012. The next day state officials issued an emergency order to close the day care. Hubbard is scheduled to be sentenced January 31.

Emporia CFO Pleads Guilty to Embezzling

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The former chief financial officer of an Emporia manufacturing firm has pleaded guilty to embezzling nearly $266,000 from the company. The office of the U.S. Attorney for Kansas says in a release that 58-year-old Sandra Moore, former CFO of Sauder Custom Fabrication, pleaded guilty Monday to one count of embezzlement and admitted the crimes began in 2008 when she was CFO. Prosecutors accused her of using various methods to divert money from the company's accounts to her own. Moore is scheduled to be sentenced March 3 and faces up to 10 years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000.

KS Man Pleads Guilty in Fatal Fire

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 30-year-old Manhattan man has pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact in a fatal arson. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom says in a release that Gavin Taylor Hairgrove pleaded guilty Monday for his role in a February 6 fire at a Manhattan apartment building. Vansanta Pallem died as a result of inhaling gases from the fire. Grissom's office says Hairgrove admitted to being present when three co-defendants talked about what to do to keep the Riley County Police Department from searching an apartment where two of the co-defendants lived. One of the co-defendants later poured gasoline in a hallway of the apartments and started a fire to create a diversion. Hairgrove faces up to 15 years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for February 24.

KS Man Sentenced in 6-Month-Old's Death

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A 19-year-old Kansas man has been sentenced to nearly 27 years in prison for his role in the death of a 6-month-old boy. KMAN reports that Michael Dechant of Ogden was sentenced Monday for second-degree murder in the shaking death earlier this year of his girlfriend's son. Prosecutors say Dechant violently shook Dominick Lubrano on March 15. The baby died three days later. Dechant's girlfriend, Sabrina Lubrano, has said she left Dominick briefly with Dechant to run an errand. Lubrano said she returned to find a neighbor trying to revive her baby with CPR.

KC Company Illegally Transported Hazardous Waste

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City company has pleaded guilty to federal charges of illegally transporting hazardous waste. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Missouri says the company, Z-Group, has to pay a $50,000 fine and about $37,000 in restitution for the cleanup. Company president Friedrich-Wilhelm Zschietzschmann represented the company in court Monday to plead guilty. Zschietzschmann was also the president and CEO of Z-International, Inc., which specialized in the labeling industry and used large quantities of ink and ink-related products in its business. Prosecutors says that between July 2010 and April 2012, the company authorized personnel to hire others to transport hazardous waste to a separate location that did not have a permit to receive hazardous waste. The EPA Superfund Program cleaned up the hazardous waste at the site.


Haitian Women Undergo Surgeries in Kansas

GALENA, Kan. (AP) — Two Haitian women are the latest recipients of Joplin groups helping people in their country. Beatrice Massier and Esther Julnide both received new right hips in surgeries performed last week at Premier Surgical Institute in Galena, Kan. They were released Monday and will receive physical therapy for the next five weeks in Joplin. Julnide was born with a hip defect and has walked her entire life with a limp. Massier was injured after being buried in rubble in the January 2010 earthquake that struck near Port-au-Prince. The Joplin Globe reports that the surgeries continue a tradition of the Joplin area helping Haitians. Joplin doctors, volunteers and youth groups routinely travel to Haiti to work at a hospital run by the Haitian Christian Mission, a relief organization with ties to Joplin.


Missing KC Man Found

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police say a 65-year-old man who had been missing since Sunday was found and returned home safely. Police issued an alert for Anthony Stillwell Tuesday morning after his wife reported she hadn't seen him since about 9:30 pm Sunday at their Kansas City apartment. Stillwell, who police say has been diagnosed with dementia and schizophrenia, was found Tuesday. Police did not provide details on where he was found.


KC Police Shoot Man Who Drove Toward Them

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police shot and wounded a man who officer said sped toward them in his car. The man was able to drive away but later went to a hospital and was treated for gunshot wounds. He is in serious but stable condition. KMBC-TV reports that the shooting occurred Monday night at a gas station. Police say two officers feared for their lives when the man drove toward them. Neither officer was injured. Charges are expected to be filed against the suspect Tuesday.


KC Superintendent: Ruling Threatens Urban Schools

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The superintendent of Kansas City public schools says a Missouri Supreme Court ruling and an inadequate student transfer law threaten to take away healthy neighborhood schools for thousands of urban students. Superintendent R. Stephen Green says Tuesday's court ruling upholding a state law that requires unaccredited schools to pay for students to attend class elsewhere was not surprising. At a news conference Tuesday, he said the district doesn't think any transfers will happen before the 2014-2015 school year. Green said inaction by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to change the district's accreditation status has been devastating and threatens every accomplishment its students have made. Kansas City's school district has been unaccredited since 2012, but student transfers have been on hold because of the legal challenge.


Wichita Man Pleads Guilty to Stealing

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita maintenance technician has pleaded guilty to selling equipment he stole from two Wichita companies where he worked. The U.S. Attorney's Office for Kansas says 45-year-old Mark A. Lankford pleaded guilty Monday in U.S. District Court in Wichita to two counts of wire fraud. He admitted stealing equipment from Spirit Aerosystems and Fiber Glass Systems. Prosecutors say he made more than $150,000 from selling the stolen equipment. Lankford was an equipment maintenance technician for Spirit Aerosystems in Wichita from October 2010 to September 5, 2011. Prosecutors say he stole computer parts from Spirit worth about $466,000. He's also accused of stealing about $41,000 worth of equipment from Fiber Glass Systems from March 2008 to October 2010. Sentencing is February 24.


KS Trial Delayed for Man Accused in Meth Death

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A first-degree murder trial has been postponed at the request of lawyers for a 32-year-old Wichita man accused of injecting another man with a lethal dose of meth. The Wichita Eagle reports that Dang Sean was scheduled to stand trial this week in Sedgwick County District Court. The was continued Tuesday at the request of the defense. A new date for the trial has not been set. Prosecutors say they plan to seek a Hard 50 prison sentence if Sean is convicted. Sean is accused of injecting 34-year-old Shawn Lindsey with a lethal dose of meth on January 11, 2013. Prosecutors allege that Lindsey was killed to settle a debt that may have involved illegal drug transactions.


Woman Seeks New Judge, Venue for Murder Trial

CAMDENTON, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City lawyer charged in the deaths of her father and his girlfriend wants her trial moved out of Camden County. Susan Van Note is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the October 2010 deaths of 67-year-old William Van Note and 59-year-old Sharon Dickson at the couple's home at the Lake of the Ozarks. The Lake Sun Leader reports that during a hearing Monday in Camden County Circuit Court, a request for a new judge was granted but the change of venue motion will not be decided until January 2014. Dickson died at the scene of the shooting and William Van Note was hospitalized. Prosecutors allege his daughter forged durable power of attorney documents, leading doctors to remove the elder Van Note from life support.

Cosmosphere Hires Expert to Examine Attendance Issues

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Cosmosphere has hired a consultant to help determine why attendance is falling at the space attraction in Hutchinson. Cosmosphere president Jim Remar says the center hired Boston-based Verner Johnson Inc. to help the museum develop a plan for its future. The Hutchinson News reports venue ticket sales at the Cosmosphere have dropped 21 percent between 2007 and 2012. Attendance dropped below 200,000 last year for the first time since at least 1992. The numbers represent how many venues people visit, such as the planetarium and the theater, rather than actual visitors. The Cosmosphere doesn't count actual visitors. Verner Johnson is scheduled to present its recommendations by March.

Clark Visits KS, Hails Importance of Ethanol Industry

PRATT, Kan. (AP) — A retired Army general who is now a lobbyist says a strong ethanol industry is critical to national security because it reduces U.S. reliance on foreign oil-producing countries. The Wichita Eagle  reports that Wesley Clark, co-chairman of the national group Growth Energy, spoke Monday at the newly reopened Pratt Energy ethanol plant in southern Kansas. He is scheduled to testify Wednesday in front of the U.S. Senate Clean Air and Nuclear Safety subcommittee. The Pratt plant opened in 2008 but went into bankruptcy and closed a year later. Pratt Energy bought the plant in 2012 and spent millions of dollars on renovations before opening it in September. It currently produces 20 truckloads of ethanol and 45 truckloads of dried distillers grains for livestock per day.


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