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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, July 24, 2012

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Air quality advisories remain in effect for Kansas metropolitan areas as a heat wave continues to grip the region. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment says a combination of extreme heat, low wind and clear skies is raising ozone levels in urban areas. The advisories cover Kansas City, Topeka and Wichita. Elevated ozone levels are of particular concern for children, the elderly and people with chronic lung illnesses. Meanwhile, Governor Sam Brownback is touring northwestern Kansas to view the damage from prolonged heat and drought. Brownback visited central and southeastern Kansas last week. The U.S. Drought Monitor showed 64 percent of Kansas experiencing extreme drought as of last week.


Plains Ranchers Selling Cattle as US Drought Spreads

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Cattle are streaming into auctions across the country as ranchers sell animals amid a spreading drought that has shriveled pastures and driven up the price of feed corn. Beef from those animals will start showing up in grocery stores in November and December, temporarily driving down meat prices. But prices are expected to rise sharply by January in the wake of dwindling supplies and smaller livestock herds. The number of cattle has been dropping for years, but the pace picked up last year as Texas ranchers liquidated herds. Experts say that while the drought in the Southern Plains last year was bad, the cattle industry nationally was able to absorb the impact. This year's drought is much wider, so the market implications are larger and more industry players are affected.


Thieves Target Farm Equipment Radiators

HOLTON, Kan. (AP) — A northeastern Kansas sheriff says thieves in pursuit of scrap metal have been going after radiators from tractors and other farm equipment. Jackson County Sheriff Tim Morse says most of the thefts have occurred in the rural Holton area. He's urging residents to keep a close watch on machinery equipped with radiators and lock up the machinery. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that one resident had a close brush with possible radiator thieves over the weekend. The man had put out several radiators for pickup after removing them from his machinery. He reported that two women in a suspicious vehicle sped away after claiming to have car trouble.

Former Topeka Deputy Fire Chief Sues City

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A former Topeka deputy fire chief is seeking more than $1.3 million in a federal discrimination lawsuit filed against Topeka and a firefighters union. The lawsuit was filed by Kathy Petty, a former deputy chief of the fire department, against the city and the Local 83 of the International Association of Firefighters. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the lawsuit accuses the city of gender discrimination and retaliation. And it claims the union supported the city's actions to terminate Petty and hire less-qualified men. City spokesman David Bevens says the city doesn't comment on pending litigation. Randy Phillips, president of the union, referred calls to the union's lawyer, who did not immediately return a message.

Judge: Lawrence Sidewalk Ordinance Constitutional

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Douglas County judge says Lawrence's ordinance that prohibits obstructing people on sidewalks is constitutional. The ruling reverses a decision last February by a municipal court judge, who said the ordinance was unconstitutional because it was too vague. The city had appealed that ruling, which acquitted 54-year-old Randy Gilmore of three counts of obstructing people from passing on a downtown sidewalk. The Lawrence Journal-World reported Monday that District Judge Paula Martin ruled last week that the ordinance was not too vague. The city asked the judge to rule only on the constitutionality of the law, not to overturn Gilmore's acquittal.


UPDATE: Mistrial Declared as Jury Fails to Reach Verdicts in Topeka Murder Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The trial of a man charged with killing a Topeka woman and injuring another ended in a mistrial. After three days of deliberation, a Shawnee County jury on Tuesday said it could not reach verdicts on the major charges against 27-year-old Anceo Stovall. He faced 11 charges, including first-degree murder in the July 2011 shooting death of 40-year-old Natalie Gibson. Prosecutors say Gibson and her partner, 42-year-old Lori Allison, were shot during an attempted robbery by a gang of nine people at the women's home. Allison survived. The jury found Stovall innocent of one count of burglary of a vehicle and guilty of aggravated robbery of a co-defendant. District Attorney Chad Taylor said after the hung jury was announced that he would try Stovall again on the remaining charges.

Hawker Beechcraft Execs Seek $5M in Bonuses

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Justice Department's bankruptcy watchdog agency is fighting a move by Hawker Beechcraft to pay eight senior executives more than $5.3 million in bonuses. In a court filing Monday, U.S. Trustee Tracy Hope Davis argues that the Kansas-based plane maker hasn't shown that its proposed bonus plan isn't a disguised retention plan. Bonuses are allowed, but must include more than a reward for staying with a company. Hawker Beechcraft calls it an incentive award and says its plans are consistent with its commitment to strongly emerge from bankruptcy. A hearing on the proposed bonuses is set for Thursday. The company filed for bankruptcy protection in May. The court approved exclusive talks with a Chinese firm that has offered nearly $1.8 billion to purchase the company's business jet and general aviation operations.


Kansas Jail Escapee Pleads Guilty to Carjacking

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — One of four inmates who escaped from a north-central Kansas jail in April has pleaded guilty to carjacking. The U.S. Attorney's office says it will recommend an 18-year sentence for 22-year-old Eric Jerome James following his plea Tuesday in federal court in Wichita. The sentence would follow the 12 years that James still has to serve for robbery and other state charges. James and three other men escaped April 18 from the Ottawa County jail, where they had been transferred from an overcrowded state prison. James was the last to be captured when he was arrested two days later in Omaha, Nebraska. James admitted that after escaping, he assaulted a man who was leaving his Ottawa County home for work and stole the victim's Nissan Altima.


2 SE Kansas Residents Sentenced for 2011 Death

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two southeast Kansas residents have been sentenced for their roles in the death of man in 2011. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says in a release Monday that 29-year-old Amber Bright and 28-year-old Kansas Sundown Campbell pleaded guilty earlier this year to second-degree murder in the death of Gordon Scott Smith. Both defendants are from Oak Valley in Elk County. Bright was sentenced to more than 17 years in prison. Campbell was sentenced to about 13 years for second-degree murder and 15 months for a drug charge. Bright and Campbell also have to pay restitution of $2,045.


Baby Dies After Being Pulled from Wichita Swimming Pool 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Wichita say a 1-year-old boy has died after being pulled from a backyard swimming pool. KAKE-TV reports the baby's 18-year-old mother found him unresponsive in the water around 11 am Tuesday. The toddler had gone outside while the mother and five other children were sleeping. The boy had been pulled from the pool by the time first responders arrived. He was taken to a hospital in extremely critical condition and died a few hours later.

Monument Rocks in Gove County Up for Auction

ULYSSES, Kan. (AP) — One of the Eight Wonders of Kansas is up for auction. Monument Rocks, also known as the Chalk Pyramids, is part of a private phone auction being conducted for the Pyramid Ranch in Gove County. The formations are part of ancient chalk beds that were carved into unusual shapes when the central U.S. was covered by water. The Hutchinson News reports the acreage up for auction also is the site of prehistoric fossil finds, a stagecoach route and a post-Civil War fort. And the sale includes more than 12,000 acres of mineral rights. It's currently a working cattle ranch. Faulkner Real Estate of Ulysses is conducting the auction. Bids can be placed through August 14.

Kansas Congressional Candidate Changes Name

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Libertarian candidate for a Congressional seat in Kansas has changed his name to Thomas Jefferson. The U.S. House of Representatives candidate formerly known as Jack Talbert is seeking to unseat Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, in Kansas's 4th District. Pompeo also faces two Democratic opponents, Esau Freeman and Robert Tillman. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Talbert changed his name to Thomas Jefferson recently as a way to pay tribute to his idol and possibly win some votes. He says when people see the name on the ballot it will make them think about the founding fathers and "whether we have that form of government still." The Kansas Libertarian Party supports Jefferson's name change, and says it included legal documents proving the switch when it filed his candidacy with the state.


Investigation of Traveling Technician's Misdeeds Expands 

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Health officials are casting a wider net as they look for people who may have contracted hepatitis C from a traveling medical technician that worked in at least eight states, including Kansas. The New Hampshire public health director, Dr. Jose Montero, said Tuesday that testing is being recommended for anyone who had surgery at Exeter (NH) Hospital or was admitted to the intensive care unit between April 1, 2011, and May 25, 2012. He says the testing is being expanded because the person believed to be responsible for the outbreak had access to those areas. Officials previously had asked anyone treated at the New Hampshire hospital's cardiac catheterization lab since October 2010 to get tested. David Kwiatkowski was charged last week with federal drug crimes.  Thirty people are believed to have contracted the illness from Kwiatkowski. Records indicate that Kwiatkowski had previously worked at Hays Medical Center in Kansas from May to September of 2010. 


Omaha Storm Chasers Hosting Peanut-Free Game

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) _ Anyone going out to the Omaha Storm Chasers ball game on August 1 won't be able to buy peanuts or, for that matter, Cracker Jack. The Pacific Coast League affiliate of the Kansas City Royals will take anything containing peanuts off its concessions menu for the game against the Reno Aces. The Storm Chasers and an Omaha allergy clinic are holding Peanut Free Night to bring awareness to people who have peanut allergies. Several minor-league baseball teams have held peanut-free games for years, and major-league teams occasionally reserve sections of their stadiums for people who have peanut allergies. About 3 million Americans are allergic to peanuts or foods containing peanuts.


Former KC Chiefs Player Suing NFL Over Football-Related Concussions  

DETROIT (AP) — Former NFL player Derrick Walker has sued the league in federal court, accusing it of not warning him about the risk of football-related concussions. Walker's lawsuit, filed Monday in Detroit, is one of many across the country by retired players. Walker played tight end in the 1990s for the San Diego Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders. He lives in West Bloomfield, a Detroit suburb. Walker says he suffers from memory loss, headaches and sleeplessness. Besides the NFL, his lawsuit also names football equipment companies as defendants. The NFL has vowed to vigorously defend itself against such lawsuits. The 45-year-old Walker played college football at Michigan.


Dodge City to Begin Public Transportation Services to Surrounding Areas

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — Dodge City began offering round-trip public transportation to several smaller communities this week. Two new routes between Wright, Spearville and Dodge City began Tuesday. On Thursday, routes will be provided between Bloom, Kingsdown, Bucklin, Ford and Dodge City. The costs range from $2 to $5 one way. The buses will stop in Minneola on Thursdays if prior arrangements are made. Kathy Denhardt, mobility manager for the city of Dodge City and Ford County, says the busses will make two trips per day on a loop between the towns. The Dodge City Daily Globe reports that buses currently running in Dodge City average about 8,000 rides a year. The new routes are expected to add 1,500 rides from each route every year.

2 Kansas Men Plead Guilty to Wire Fraud

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Two Wichita men have pleaded guilty to charges stemming from allegations that they listed stolen goods for sale online. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom says in a release Monday that 23-year-old Jordan Smith pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud. He says 21-year-old Thomas Griffin pleaded guilty to one count of aiding and abetting wire fraud. Prosecutors said the scheme involved listing more than $115,000 worth of stolen personal property for sale on Craigslist. The stolen goods included building materials and supplies, machinery, appliances and jewelry. Sentencing is set for October 15.

Jurors Deliberate for Fourth Day in Murder Trial

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Shawnee County jury will begin its fourth day of deliberations in the trial of one of nine people charged in a Topeka homicide. Jurors left court Monday afternoon without reaching a decision in the trial of 27-year-old Anceo Stovall. Deliberations were scheduled to resume Tuesday morning. He's charged with premeditated first-degree murder and 10 other counts in the shooting death of 40-year-old Natalie Gibson and the wounding of Gibson's partner in July 2011. Prosecutors say the women were shot during an attempted robbery. The jury ended deliberations early Monday afternoon. WIBW reported that one of the jurors was not feeling well.

**this story has been updated. Please see above.

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