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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, January 7, 2014


Governor Brownback Raises $1.6M in 2013 for Re-Election Bid

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A close ally of Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says the Republican raised more than $1.6 million in cash contributions last year for his re-election campaign. David Kensinger also said Tuesday that Brownback ended 2013 with nearly $2 million in his campaign treasury. Kensinger managed Brownback's successful 2010 campaign. Kensinger said Brownback has had 10,000 donors and that last year's fundraising figures show enthusiasm for Brownback and the policies he's pursued as governor. Candidates for governor have a Friday deadline to file finance reports on their 2013 campaign activities with the secretary of state's office. But Kensinger confirmed Brownback's totals early. Kansas House Minority Leader Paul Davis is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor. His campaign said it would respond later Tuesday to Brownback's totals.


Former Northeast KS Mayor Ponders Congressional Candidacy

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A former northeast Kansas mayor is considering running as a Democrat for the 1st Congressional District seat held by Republican Tim Huelskamp. Former Manhattan Mayor Jim Sherow announced Monday that he's formed an exploratory committee. Sherow served six years on Manhattan City Commission, deciding not to see re-election last year. He is a history professor at Kansas State University. Huelskamp won the seat in the strongly Republican U.S. House district in 2010 and faced no opposition in seeking re-election in 2012. One Democrat already has filed for the seat. He is Bryan Whitney, a political science student at Wichita State University. On the Republican side, Ellinwood attorney Kent Roth has formed an exploratory committee for a possible challenge to Huelskamp in the GOP primary.


Kansas Chamber of Commerce to Outline Agenda

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Leaders of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce say they plan to work to be sure tax cuts enacted in the past two years are not rolled back during the 2014 legislative session. Chamber president and CEO Mike O'Neal said Tuesday the organization would defend the reduction in rates for thousands of businesses and individual income tax payers. He says some business owners believe the rates are still too high. In recent years, the chamber has been influential in helping Republican Governor Sam Brownback and the GOP-controlled Legislature push through cuts in the state's income tax rates. O'Neal, from Hutchinson, was Republican House speaker in 2012 when the first reductions were approved. Critics of the cuts say they are too deep and will lead to reduced state services.


KS Utility Commission Launches Electronic Filing

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Corporation Commission is now allowing consumers, attorneys and the utilities it regulates to file documents electronically. The agency launched its e-Filing Express system Monday, making it available through its website. Commission executive director Kim Christiansen said the new system will be more convenient for parties in regulatory cases and reduce costs. The commission receives about 8,500 paper documents a year. Companies and individuals using the system won't be required to file paper copies. But parties in regulatory cases also won't be required to use electronic filing. Users will be required to create accounts to access the commission's secure portal.


KU Medical School Names New Executive Dean

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas School of Medicine has named a professor of medicine at Minnesota's Mayo Clinic as its new executive dean. Dr. Robert Simari will be the permanent successor to Barbara Atkinson, who retired in 2012. The appointment was announced Tuesday by Douglas Girod, executive vice chancellor of the University of Kansas Medical Center. Simari earned his medical degree from the University of Kansas in 1986. At the Mayo Clinic, he is vice chairman of the Division of Cardiovascular Diseases and co-director of the Mayo Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences. Simari is also the co-founder of Anexon, a company licensed to develop a method of protecting kidney function during heart failure.


Delivery Driver Credited with Saving Former Mayor

SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) — An alert newspaper delivery driver is credited with saving a former suburban Kansas City mayor after hearing the man's cries for help in the pre-dawn darkness of one of the coldest mornings in decades. The Kansas City Star reports Jeff Stockwell was delivering papers in Shawnee at 3:30 am Monday when he heard what sounded like the wail of a cat trying to get indoors. He says the sound registered as strange the next time he heard it, so he got out of his vehicle and found 77-year-old former Shawnee Mayor Tony Soetaert leaning against a vehicle in his open garage. Stockwell says Soetaert thought he had been there about an hour. He was taken to a hospital in stable condition and kept overnight Monday as a precaution.

KC Shelter Filled by Animals Left Outside in Cold

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Animal Shelter says it is bulging at the seams with animals brought in as bitter cold settled over the region. The shelter says about 90 animals have been brought in to the shelter in recent days, either by the public or animal control officers. The Kansas City Star reports that some were taken from yards with little or no shelter and frozen water bowls. City officials on Monday reminded citizens that animal control officers will impound pets found outside in freezing conditions and issue citations to their owners. Shelter spokeswoman Tori Fugate says the shelter is getting "close to desperate" and need the public's help finding homes for the animals. Beginning Friday, the shelter will offer special rates for some pet adoptions.

Children's Mercy, KU Med Working to Combine Pediatric Programs

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas Medical Center and Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri are moving closer to combining their pediatric program. The hospitals announced in a joint news release that Children's Mercy has been named the primary teaching hospital for University of Kansas Medical Center students. Pediatrics programs at both institutions will be overseen by Dr. Michael Artman. Plans to develop a single, integrated pediatric program were first announced in December 2012. Artman says the partnership will give patients and families greater access to high-quality clinical care. Artman also says medical students and residents will learn from the best in the field, and physicians and researchers will be able to consult and collaborate more easily. The two institutions already collaborate on training, clinical trials and pediatric research.


Body Found in Burned-Out KS Home

SOLOMON, Kan. (AP) — Firefighters have recovered a body from the ruins of a north-central Kansas home destroyed by flames overnight. The Salina Journal reports that the volunteer fire department in Solomon was called to the scene around 4 am Tuesday. Neighbors said the house was fully engulfed as fire trucks approached. The home's occupant was not immediately accounted for. The body was recovered several hours later, but Fire Chief Randy Paden declined to release an identity until relatives were notified. Neighbors said a man in his late 80's lived in the home. Solomon is located about 15 miles northeast of Salina.


Man Pleads Not Guilty in Lincoln County Homicide

LINCOLN, Kan. (AP) — The son of a Kansas sheriff pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the shooting death of a central Kansas man. Scott Weigel entered the plea Monday in the September death of 21-year-old Keith Ancell of Lincoln. His trial is scheduled to begin February 24. The Salina Journal reports that Weigel is being held in a jail outside of Lincoln County. He is the son of Lincoln County Sheriff Mike Weigel. He is accused of shooting Ancell on September 9 near downtown Lincoln.

$50,000 Reward Yields No Clues in Missing Boy Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A $50,000 reward has yielded no new information about a southeast Kansas boy who has been missing since 1999. An anonymous donor put up the reward in late December in an effort to solve the disappearance of 11-year-old Adam Herrman, who was last seen at his family's home in Towanda. The Wichita Eagle reports that Butler County Sheriff Kelly Herzet says by late Monday, only about a half-dozen people had called and none of those calls brought in any new clues in the case. Adam's parents say he ran away from home. His disappearance was not reported until 2008, when Adam's sister contacted law enforcement. The parents claimed they didn't report him missing because they were afraid their other children would be taken away.


KS Man Accused of Fatally Stabbing Girlfriend

INDEPENDENCE, Kan. (AP) — A 41-year-old Independence man has been charged with first-degree murder in connection with the fatal stabbing of his 35-year-old girlfriend. The Independence Daily Reporter says Russell McQueen Arndt was arrested early Monday in the death of Rebecca Ann Whittley. Montgomery County prosecutor Larry Markle says the stabbing death occurred sometime over the weekend, but Whittley's body wasn't found until 2:30 am Monday when officers went to the couple's home to check on her. Earlier that night Arndt was picked up in the northern part of the county and told deputies his girlfriend may have been injured at their residence. Arndt was being held on $1 million bond. The Southeast Kansas Public Defender's office has been appointed to represent him, but nobody was available Tuesday to discuss his case.


KC Mom Pleads Guilty to Keeping Girl in Closet

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City woman has pleaded guilty to abusing her 10-year-old daughter who was found in a locked closet in 2012. The woman entered the plea Tuesday to felony child abuse, child endangerment and assault charges. The Associated Press is not naming her to protect the child's identity. The woman will be sentenced April 25 and prosecutors have agreed to seek a prison sentence of no more than 20 years. The girl weighed just 32 pounds when she was found in a urine-soaked closet. She told authorities that she hadn't been allowed to eat for days and hadn't attended school since kindergarten. The Kansas City Star reports that the woman told a judge Monday she was pleading guilty because she believes the state's case is strong enough to convict her.


3rd Suspect Arrested in Theft from Dying Woman

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say they have arrested a third suspect in a robbery from of a dying woman at a fast-food restaurant. Police say the suspect was arrested after he turned himself in Monday night on a probation violation. Two other 19-year-old men were arrested earlier Monday in the case. On December 29, 43-year-old Danielle Zimmerman suffered a brain aneurysm after she pulled into a Taco Bell. While she was unconscious in her car, someone stole her purse, phone and wedding ring. Zimmerman died the next day. Some of her items were found but her wedding ring is still missing.


Topeka Firms Donate Services to Housing Program

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Four engineering and surveying businesses have donated a combined $20,000 worth of services to Topeka Habitat for Humanity. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that officials of the nonprofit organization announced the contribution Tuesday. Firms making the donation are Schmidt, Beck and Boyd Engineering; Professional Engineering Consultants; CFS Engineers; and Bartlett and West. Topeka Habitat for Humanity provides financial education to low-income families and the opportunity to become homeowners through interest-free loans. Students from three Topeka area high schools build the homes for academic credit.


Report: Video Describes Wrong-Airport 747 Landing

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The company that landed a Boeing 747 at the wrong airport in Kansas in November says one of the pilots was not sure they were landing at the right place, but kept silent. The description is in a training video produced by Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings and obtained by Aviation International News. Atlas confirmed the accuracy of the AIN report on Tuesday but declined to provide the video to The Associated Press. The Atlas pilots landed near Wichita, 9 miles from their intended destination. AIN reported that one of the pilots abandoned the plane's instrument-guided approach after spotting a runway to the left and began heading there. It turned out to be the wrong airport. AIN reported that the other pilot was uncertain about the runway but didn't say anything.


Woman Sentenced to Probation and Rehab in Thefts Case

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Lawrence woman was sentenced to a year of probation and inpatient drug treatment for her role in storage unit burglaries that netted the thieves tens of thousands of dollars in loot. Thirty-four-year-old Cori Nehrbass, who pleaded no contest to felony theft and misdemeanor theft, also will be required to pay restitution. Nehrbass told the court Monday she participated in the robberies because she is addicted to methamphetamine. Her attorney says she will be admitted to rehab in Topeka on Thursday for 30 days. Investigators say the suspects drove trucks into several storage units in the spring of 2013 and emptied them. Co-defendant Jacob P. Paine was sentenced in October to two years' probation. Cases against Travis M. Darrow and Cheri L. Sponholtz are still being decided.

KS Woman Gets Probation in Omaha Prostitution Case

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A Kansas woman has been given five years of probation in an Omaha prostitution case. Omaha television station KETV says Tabatha Ashburn, of Junction City, Kansas had made a plea deal with prosecutors who had indicted Ashburn and four other people. Christopher Tierney also was given probation. The station says Ashburn's mother, Tammy Schuck, of Omaha, is serving prison time, as are William Knox and Kim Bivens. Authorities say Schuck operated three "spas" in Omaha from April 2008 to January 2012 where customers paid for sex acts from workers, rather than receiving legitimate spa services.


Charges Amended in Kansas Sex Trafficking Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal grand jury has amended the charges against a massage parlor owner and his wife accused of sex trafficking in Wichita. The four-count indictment returned Tuesday charges Gary Kidgell and Yan Zhang with sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion. One count also charges Kidgell with harboring for financial gain an immigrant who was in the country unlawfully. The couple is charged with recruiting women to come to Wichita to work at massage parlors, then coercing them into prostitution. A woman who worked for them has pleaded guilty to a harboring count. The amended indictment makes moot a defense request to dismiss two of the counts over the government's earlier failure to specify that the alleged conduct was related to interstate commerce. Trial remains set for January 14.


KS Officials Confirm Cause of Illness Outbreak

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — State health officials have confirmed the cause of an illness that struck patrons of a southwest Kansas restaurant last month. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment said Monday the gastrointestinal upset among people who ate food from a Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches in Garden City was caused by norovirus. County and state agencies began investigating the outbreak December 18. KDHE says it found that 209 people came down with norovirus symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea within three days of eating the restaurant's food between Dec. 10 and Christmas Eve. The Jimmy John's closed for three days in late December for a special cleaning and disinfection. State officials say no new cases of the illness have been reported since the restaurant reopened on December 27th.

Ex-KS Bank Worker Admits Stealing

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A fourth defendant in the embezzlement of up to $84,000 from a southwest Kansas bank has pleaded guilty. The U.S. Attorney's office says 33-year-old Hattie Wiginton pleaded guilty Monday to one count of theft from Western State Bank in Ulysses. She faces up to 10 years in federal prison at her sentencing March 24th. Three of Wiginton's former co-workers at the bank pleaded guilty earlier. Ashley Cravens, Linda Wise and Amber Gutierrez, all of Ulysses, will be sentenced in February. Prosecutors said the defendants began stealing in 2008 by making deposits into each other's accounts, hiding the shortage by lying about the balance in the bank's vault. In July 2010, three of the women staged a holdup of the bank to cover up the shortage of cash in the bank.


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