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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, December 18, 2012



Snow Heading for Kansas  

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) _ The season's first big snowstorm is forecast to blow into Kansas beginning tomorrow (WED). The National Weather Service offices in Dodge City and Goodland posted blizzard watches  for 29 counties from the Colorado line to as far east as Hays. Forecasters expect snow to begin falling in western Kansas sometime early Wednesday and spread eastward throughout the day. This storm also includes a winter storm watch for much of northeast Kansas. Over wednesday evening the storm is expected to hit the area, snow totals could vary from around 1 to 5 inches. Winds gusting over 40 mph are expected to create blizzard conditions in many places throughout the state.

Forecasters are also warning that holiday travel could be disrupted by snow and high winds in the Southern Plains on Christmas night. An exact track of that storm is not yet known, but meteorologists say that by next week, they're likely to have better predictions of where that storm may hit.


Turnout at Police Officers' Vigil in the Hundreds

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Hundreds of people attended last night's candlelight vigil for two Topeka police officers who were shot to death while investigating a suspicious car. The governor and the state's attorney general also attended the vigil for 50-year-old Corporal David Gogian and 29-year-old officer Jeff Atherly.


Police Investigating Abuse of Turkey at KU Fraternity

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ Lawrence police are investigating reports that members of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity at the University of Kansas abused and killed a turkey at a party. Police say they received a report of possible animal cruelty at a party that drew about 150 people Friday night. The Kansas City Star reports that witnesses said some fraternity members broke the turkey's cage, chased the animal, choked it and broke its wing and  leg. Police say they were told a fraternity member killed the bird to end its suffering. A message left after hours for the Beta Theta Pi Foundation and Administrative Office wasn't immediately returned. The university said in a statement that the fraternity's national chapter and the KU Interfraternity Council are also investigating the complaint.


Kansas School Efficiency Panel Chair Urges Consideration of 2-Year Budgets

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The chairman of Governor Sam Brownback's task force on school efficiency says Kansas legislators should consider establishing two-year budgets for school districts. State Board of Education member Ken Willard told a legislative committee Tuesday the idea is one of several recommendations being considered by the task force, which met throughout the fall. A final report is due to Brownback before the Legislature convenes in January. Brownback created the School Efficiency Task Force to study how schools could put more of their state funding directly into classrooms. Willard says multiple-year budgets would let districts use their money wisely and plan spending on programs and other expenses. But Senate Education Chairwoman Jean Schodorf says legislators have tried multi-year budgets previously, only to abandon such blueprints.


Life Sentence Issued for Death of Manhattan Man

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A Manhattan man who provided the weapon used in a murder has been sentenced to life in prison. Forty-two-year-old Domingo Soto was sentenced Monday for aiding and abetting the death of 31-year-old Steve Freel in December 2011. He was also sentenced to four concurrent years in prison for drug charges. KMAN reports the sentence came after a judge denied a motion to grant Soto a new trial. Prosecutors say Soto provided the .45-caliber handgun that 20-year-old Michael Layne used to kill Freel, whose body was found along a rural road near Manhattan. Layne pleaded no contest to second-degree murder in Freel's death. Prosecutors say Freel and Layne committed several armed robberies together but had a disagreement, which led to Freel's murder.

Lawrence Schools to Seek $92.5M Bond Issue

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence residents will be asked to approve a $92.5 million bond issue for the city's public schools. The Lawrence Board of Education voted Monday to put the bond issue to a vote. It is the maximum amount the district could issue without needing permission to exceed a state cap on bonded indebtedness. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the district would not have to raise its property tax mill levy because it is retiring other bonds this year. If approved, nearly $71 million of the bond proceeds would be used for 14 elementary schools. The city's two high schools would get about $4.5 million and the career and technology programs would get $5.7 million. Remaining money would go to technology and upgrades needed to support the new technology.


Kansas Teen Arrested over Threatening Tweet

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita-area boy is in trouble for a statement posted on his Twitter account about school killings, even though police doubt the threat was credible. The 15-year-old lives in west Wichita and goes to school in the nearby town of Maize. The Wichita Eagle reports that officials in Maize contacted Wichita police Monday after the boy allegedly tweeted a threat to kill 20 students, his mother and himself. He was interviewed at his home and arrested on a juvenile misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct. Police Lieutenant Doug Nolte says the boy told officers he wasn't serious about the threat and did not have the means to carry it out. Nolte says police don't believe the threat was credible but take all threats of violence seriously.

Shawnee County to Pay Family of Inmate Who Died

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Shawnee County commission agreed to pay $150,000 to the survivors of an inmate who died while in the county prison. The commission voted Monday night to pay the settlement to the family of 34-year-old John Bradley Rippee, who died in November 2009 at the jail. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the family alleged in its lawsuit that Rippee was given several of his medications without proper clearance before he overdosed on the medicine. The family also alleged the jail did not provide proper medical attention that would have saved Rippee's life. County counselor Rich Eckert says Rippee died of cardiac arrest. He said the county might have prevailed but fighting the lawsuit would have been too costly.

Kansas Exhumes Bodies of 'In Cold Blood' Killers

LANSING, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials have exhumed the bodies of two men executed for the 1959 slayings of a Kansas family made infamous in Truman Capote's nonfiction novel, "In Cold Blood." The Kansas Bureau of Investigation said the bodies of Richard Hickock and Perry Smith were exhumed Tuesday at the Mount Muncie Cemetery in Lansing at the request of Florida officials. The Sarasota County, Florida sheriff's office asked for the exhumation to collect DNA that could help solve the 1959 murders of Cliff and Christine Walker and their two children in Osprey, Florida. The Walkers were killed soon after the slayings of Herb Clutter and his family in Holcomb, Kansas. Sarasota officials say Hickock and Smith fled to Florida after the Kansas killings, and were in the area when the Walkers were killed.

Judge OKs Settlement in Kansas Meatpacker Lawsuit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has found that a proposed class-action settlement in a lawsuit by employees of a Kansas meatpacker is fair. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren held a fairness hearing Monday on the motion for approval of the settlement with Creekstone Farms of Arkansas City. A court notation indicated final orders would be issued Tuesday. The lawsuit alleged that Creekstone failed to pay employees for all of the time they worked. The proposed $195,000 settlement calls for $110,000 to be divided among the 144 class members, based on the overtime weeks each of them worked during a three-year period. Most of the rest of the money would go to the employees' attorneys.

New Trial for Man in Topeka Woman's Death

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A prosecutor is not contesting a motion for a new trial for a Topeka homicide suspect after the first trial was tainted by juror misconduct. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports a Shawnee County judge said Monday she will issue a written order for a new trial for Anceo Stovall. Stovall is one of nine people charged in the July 2011 death of Natalie Gibson and the wounding of her life partner. His first trial in July ended with Stovall convicted of one count and acquitted on another. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on nine other charges. The judge ruled earlier this month that a juror committed misconduct by posting remarks on the Capital-Journal's website while the jury was deliberating. The retrial is scheduled to start January 31.

Emergency Planning Begins for Next Year's Drought

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Most emergency preparations this time of the year focus on winter weather. But state and local officials are already discussing ways to protect the state's dwindling water supplies if the drought persists through next year. Kansas Water Office director Tracy Streeter says most public water supply systems in Kansas have conservation and drought emergency plans in place. But he says the state is encouraging water districts to review those plans based on last year's drought and update them if needed. Streeter says the drought is predicted to continue next year. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that all 105 Kansas counties remain in a state drought emergency. And some communities are continuing to limit certain water uses, such as for outdoor watering.


Judge Orders Disclosures in Military School Lawsuit

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge says St. John's Military School in Salina must turn over most of the information sought by plaintiffs in a lawsuit alleging a culture of abuse at the school. U.S. Magistrate Judge Kenneth Gale also said Tuesday the school's position in refusing to identify students allegedly branded with hot metal during the past five years "borders on the absurd," and ordered it to disclose that information. The lawsuit filed by 11 former cadets and their families alleges that a program allowing higher-ranking cadets to discipline students encourages physical and mental abuse. St. John's has vehemently denied the existence of a culture of abuse and has vowed to fight the lawsuit. Neither side immediately responded to emails Tuesday seeking comment.

Remains Found in Northeast Oklahoma Identified as Kansas Man

MIAMI, Okla. (AP) — The state medical examiner's office has identified skeletal remains found in northeastern Oklahoma as that of a 22-year-old Kansas man. The body is that of Joshua Sousa of Treece, Kansas, which is just across the Oklahoma state line from the former towns of Picher and Cardin. Medical examiner's spokeswoman Amy Elliott told the Miami News Record that the cause and manner of death have not been determined. The body was found near the former town of Cardin. Cardin, Picher and Treece were all located in the Tar Creek area that was contaminated with lead pollution blamed on decades of zinc mining. A federally funded buyout of residents led to the abandonment of the towns.


Water Releases into Missouri River Will Be Increased

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) _ The amount of water flowing into the lower Missouri River will be increased this week because of concerns about colder temperatures, but the increase isn't likely to boost the level of the Mississippi River downstream. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it plans to gradually increase the amount of water it releases out of Gavins Point dam on the South Dakota-Nebraska border to 18,000 cubic feet per second by Thursday. That's an increase of 4,000 cubic feet per second over current levels. The corps' Jody Farhat says the change is needed because ice will begin forming on the river with the cold weather and reduce the flow. The additional water will make sure the river remains high enough for cities that rely on its water.


Parking Signs Stolen from Arrowhead Stadium Parking Lot

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police in Kansas City are alerting scrap-metal businesses to watch for some of the 41 valuable signs stolen from the parking lot at Arrowhead Stadium. The Kansas City Star reports that the signs indicating rows and lot numbers weigh about 100 pounds and cost $1,000 each. They had been removed from light poles and piled on the ground while crews renovated the poles. It's not clear exactly when the signs were stolen. Arrowhead officials reported the disappearance Tuesday, but police Sergeant Keith Ericsson says the thefts could have occurred over several days. Arrowhead will host an NFL game Sunday when the Chiefs play the Indianapolis Colts at noon.

Investigation into Chiefs LB Killing Completed

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities have completed their investigation into the deaths of Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher and his 22-year-old girlfriend, formally ruling them a murder-suicide. The Kansas City Star reported Tuesday that Jackson County (Missouri) prosecutors closed the case Friday. Newly released police reports show Belcher sent a text message to a girlfriend several weeks before he killed Kasandra Perkins on December 1. Afterward, he drove to the team's practice site and committed suicide in front of his coach and general manager. In the text, he wrote he "would shoot" Perkins "if she didn't leave him alone." Belcher and Perkins were the parents of a 3-month-old daughter. Belcher also told his girlfriend that Perkins had "threatened to take all his money and his child if they split up."

Former Pop Star Is Now Church Pastor in Kansas

SYRACUSE, Kan. (AP) — A pop star from the 60s and 70s, Frankie Valens, has a new gig — as a preacher at a small church in western Kansas. The Garden City Telegram reports that the singer, who was the lead singer for a New Jersey band called Eminent Domain, had hits with cover versions of "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," and "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." Valens became the pastor of First Christian Church in Syracuse about a month ago. Valens's father pastored the same church in 1978 and 1979. After his recording career ended, Valens and his wife, Phyllis, toured the country performing gospel songs and skits at various functions. The 70-year-old Valens says he's never preached from a pulpit but that he says he's been testifying about his faith for years, so he is ready for the new challenge.


Iraq Subcontractor Admits Tax Evasion

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) _ A northeastern Kansas man has admitted failing to pay nearly $82,000 in income taxes on money he earned as a subcontractor in Iraq. The U.S. Attorney's office says 43-year-old Gregory Light of Louisburg pleaded guilty Monday to one count of tax evasion. Sentencing was scheduled for next April. The government says Light was wired a monthly salary by one contractor, but received cash from another. He reported only the wired salary on his tax returns. In all, the government says Light failed to report more than $310,000 of income to the government.


KS Governor Names Weight-Loss Team

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Let the fitness begin. Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has picked the four members of his team that will compete in a state employee weight-loss contest. Brownback issued the challenge last month to encourage Kansas residents to live healthier and shed extra pounds. Joining Brownback's team are Commerce Secretary Pat George, Adjutant General  Lee Tafanelli, acting Labor Secretary Lana Gordon and Transportation Secretary Mike King. The contest will run from January 15 through May 15, coinciding with the annual session of the Legislature. Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer is also fielding a team. Brownback invited businesses and local governments to hold similar contests. Two counties have expressed interest in forming teams but will not be part of the official state competition.

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