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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, July 9, 2013








UPDATE: Kansas Governor Mulls Releasing Names of Appeals Court Hopefuls

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is considering releasing the names of applicants for a new seat on the state Court of Appeals. Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley said Tuesday the Republican governor had not made a final decision, however. The governor's office had said previously that it wouldn't release the names. Then, Hawley said Tuesday that Brownback had changed his position because wants the focus to be on appointing a high-quality judge to the state's second highest-court. Later in the day, Hawley revised that statement, saying she had been premature in announcing that the governor had decided to release the names. Brownback had faced criticism for not releasing them. Under a selection process enacted this year, the governor will appoint judges to the court of appeals, subject to state Senate confirmation.


Judge Won't Seal Documents in Ottawa Quadruple Homicide

OTTAWA, Kan. (AP) — Pretrial hearings in the case of a man accused of killing four people on an Ottawa farm are expected to stretch into 2014. A Franklin County judge on Monday set a schedule of pretrial hearings for 27-year-old Kyle Flack of Ottawa that will take more than seven months. Flack is charged with capital murder and several other charges in the deaths of two men, a woman and her 18-month-old daughter in May. During a hearing Monday, Franklin County District Judge Thomas H. Sachse said some documents filed in the case could be open to the public. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the judge also said he will rule later this week on whether prosecutors can order DNA testing that might destroy several potential pieces of evidence in the case.


UPDATE: KS School Board Seeks $670M Increase

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State Board of Education members are asking state legislators and Gov. Sam Brownback to increase school funding in the next state budget by more than $670 million. The request, approved by a 7-3 vote Tuesday afternoon, asks legislators to boost education spending starting next year by more than 20 percent. The request includes general state aid and money for professional development and school lunch programs during the fiscal year that starts in July 2014. A similar request was made by the state board last year. The board's budget recommendations go the Republican governor and GOP-controlled Legislature. The board would begin lobbying legislators after they open their next annual session in January. A lawsuit over education funding is pending before the Kansas Supreme Court, with arguments set for October.


Kansas Foes of Common Core Standards Focus on Tests

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Opponents of multistate reading and math standards adopted for Kansas public schools are pushing the state school board not to join other states to develop annual tests to measure how well students learn. Critics of the Common Core standards urged the board Tuesday to rely on a center for educational testing at the University of Kansas to develop the annual tests. Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker said having the Kansas center develop the tests remains an option, as is joining with one of two coalitions of states. DeBacker said the board isn't likely to make a decision until at least November. The board adopted the Common Core standards in 2010, concluding that they'd improve teaching. Critics worry that Kansas is giving up some control over its schools.


State of Kansas Considers Tolls for KC-Area Highways

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas officials are considering the long-term possibility of adding toll costs to some Kansas highways in the Kansas City area. The Kansas Department of Transportation says tolls may be an option decades from now for commuters on parts of Interstate 35, Kansas 10 and other highways on the Kansas side of the Kansas City metropolitan area. The Kansas City Star reports that state officials stress that any new tolls would apply to new lanes, not existing ones, so taxpayers won't have to pay double for roads they use. Express lanes for drivers willing to pay more to avoid traffic are seen as a possible way to address hundreds of millions of dollars in highway needs in the Kansas City area, where there can be considerable traffic congestion.


Utility Crews Find Human Remains in KCK

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Utility crews have found a decomposed body in a vacant lot in northeast Kansas City, Kansas. Police spokesman Tom Tomasic says the remains were found early Tuesday. He says authorities have not been able to identify the victim's gender, age or race because of the advanced state of decomposition. Police are asking anyone with information about the case to contact the department.

K-State Student Gets 30 Years for Arson Death

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas State University student who set a fire that killed a university researcher has been sentenced to 30 years in federal prison. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson sentenced 20-year-old Manhattan resident Patrick Martin Scahill on Monday for starting the February 6 fire at Lee Crest Apartments in Manhattan that killed 34-year-old Vasanta Pallem. Scahill admitted he started the fire as a diversion that would prevent police from finding evidence in his residence of an armed robbery and drugs. Robinson also sentenced 20-year-old Virginia Amanda Griese of Manhattan to 20 years for her role in the fire. In her guilty plea, Griese admitted buying a 5-gallon gas can and filling it with 4.7 gallons of fuel that Scahill dumped in the apartment complex's lower-level hallway and ignited.


Wichita Police Identify Type of Vehicle Suspected in Fatal Collision

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police have identified the type of car they suspect was involved in a collision that killed a horseback rider and injured a 6-year-old boy. Police say a silver or gray Mercury Grand Marquis likely struck the horse carrying 49-year-old Lloyd Ferguson and the child Friday night. Ferguson died, and the child has been hospitalized. The horse was reportedly euthanized. Captain Brent Allred told The Wichita Eagle that investigators are using parts of the car knocked off by the collision to identify the vehicle. Two witnesses who tried to help the man and boy also were hospitalized after they were hit by a different car shortly after the first collision. Police said area street lights were knocked out by recent storms and had not yet been repaired by Westar Energy.


State Librarian Names Notable Kansas Books for 2013

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A biography of President Dwight Eisenhower, a history of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and novels set in the state and elsewhere are among this year's 15 notable Kansas books. State Librarian Jo Budler announced the list Monday. It honors books published last year by a Kansas author or on a Kansas topic. Annual lists began being issued in 2006. This year's list includes "Beyond Cold Blood," a history of the KBI by former Director Larry Welch. Also honored is "Eisenhower in War and Peace," by Jean Edward Smith. The novels include "The Yard," by Alex Grecian, about London's murder squad in the late 19th century, and "The Chaperone," by Laura Moriarty, a story of a young actress and her visit to New York.

Wichitan's Nephew Facing Execution in Iraq

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man says he's doing all he can to save his nephew from execution in Iraq. Musadik Mahdi, a Wichita aerospace engineer, says he fears his efforts will be in vain because his nephew is being held at a prison where executions happen on a whim. His nephew, Osama Jamal 'Abdallah Mahdi, was sentenced to death after an Iraqi army officer was killed in an explosion. Musadik Mahdi says his nephew confessed to a crime he didn't commit after being tortured. The Wichita Eagle reports that Amnesty International has taken up the Mahdi case after verifying that he had been tortured. And his uncle says he has appealed to the Iraqi president, parliament, prime minister and human rights minister, with little success.

KU's Research Funding Sets Record

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas says its research funding set a record in 2011-12, reaching $275.2 million. It's the fifth straight year the funding increased but university officials say federal budget cuts might halt that trend. University official Steve Warren says the school is likely to set another record for 2012-13. But Warren says mandatory federal budget cuts of about 5 percent that took effect in March is already affecting funding for the university's research. Federal funding accounted for $223.4 million in research money at KU in the 2011-12 year. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the university's School of Education is already feeling the effects of the federal cuts. The U.S. Department of Education has awarded almost no new research grants this year.


Wichita Schools Get $3 Million More for Repairs

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Wichita school board has approved $3 million more to repair buildings damaged by storms that hit the city May 19. The money approved Monday comes on top of $2 million in funding for repairs the board already approved at its June 10 meeting. School officials say all but about $250,000 should be reimbursed by the district's insurance. District officials say rain, hail and wind damaged more than a dozen school sites, including major damage at Brooks Middle School. The school board also approved $225,000 in funding for repairs at Wilbur Middle School, which was damaged by a storm on June 27.

2 Die in Barton County Oilfield Accident

CLAFLIN, Kan. (AP) — Barton County officials say a man and his son-in-law died in an oilfield-related accident. Sheriff Brian Bellendir says the men died Monday about one mile northeast of Claflin. The victims, 50-year-old Curtis Hoffman and 30-year-old Kebby Myers, apparently died after being overcome by hydrogen sulfide gas. KWCH says that preliminary reports indicate Hoffman was working on a valve and called Myers to bring some parts. Hoffman apparently was overcome by the gas and Myers was also overcome when he arrived with the parts. Family members went to check on the men when they didn't arrive home. Hydrogen sulfide gas is a byproduct of the production of oil and natural gas. A hazardous materials crew was called in to clean up. The accident is under investigation.


Former UMB Employee Indicted for Embezzlement

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City woman and several of her friends and family members have been indicted on charges accusing them of stealing more than $650,000. The office of the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri said in a release Tuesday that a federal grand jury has indicted 53-year-old Lisa Taylor and 11 of her friends and relatives on charges accusing them of taking part in embezzling more than $650,000 while Taylor worked at UMB Bank from 2006 to 2010. The 12 defendants were charged in a 44-count indictment that was unsealed Monday after several defendants were arrested and made their initial court appearances. The indictment includes charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and bank fraud. Taylor's public defender wasn't available for comment Tuesday.


Man Riding Bicycle Killed in KCK Collision

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Kansas City, Kansas police say a bicyclist in his 30s has died after colliding with a car at an intersection in the city. Police say the man was riding north around 2 pm Tuesday when he went into the intersection and struck a westbound car. The victim, who is not being identified until family members have been notified, was transported to an area hospital where he died.


Judge Sets Resentencing in KS Hunting Camp Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A judge has set for resentencing the case of two Texas brothers who ran a Kansas hunting camp where hunters paid thousands of dollars to illegally shoot deer. U.S. District Judge Monti Belot on Tuesday set an August 28 resentencing for James and Marlin Butler after an appeals court overturned their prison terms. Belot told attorneys he would hear testimony at the resentencing about the fair market price of wild deer parts. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals said last year that the district court made a mistake in 2011 in calculating sentences based on the full price of a guided hunt, rather than the actual value of the animals. The Butlers, of Martinsville, Texas, ran Camp Lone Star near Coldwater, Kansas.

Several Kansas Sites Added to Historic Register

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Wamego home and a former high school in Belleville are among the newest Kansas sites added to the National Register of Historic Places. The Kansas Historical Society said in a release that the listings were entered into the National Register on June 25, bringing the total number of Kansas listings in the National Register to 1,317. The several new listings include the Cassius and Adelia Baker House in Wamego. The Craftsman-style home was built in 1910 for Baker, who was a prominent member of the local business community. Belleville High School in Belleville, which dates back to the early 1930s, was also added to the list. It was designed by Wichita architect Samuel Voigt and is an example of the Collegiate Gothic style.

Body in River Identified as Missouri Man Who Jumped with Daughter

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say a body found in the Missouri River in May was that of a 64-year-old man who jumped into the river with his daughter. The 29-year-old daughter's body has not been found. Witnesses said the two, who lived in Peculiar, were holding hands when they jumped into the river from the Christopher Bond Bridge in Kansas City. Fishermen found the father's body May 10. The Kansas City Star reports that the man's ex-wife asked that names not be published. She says the father's body was cremated but won't be buried until her daughter's body is found. Relatives had reported that the father and daughter battled depression.

Former Doctor Seeks Delay of Kansas Gun, Drug Trial

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A court document is offering a glimpse into the government's case against a former Kansas doctor accused of unlawfully possessing drugs and a firearm. The attorney for Lawrence Simons asked a judge on Monday to delay until September a trial scheduled for later this month. A defense filing cites the "overwhelming" contents of storage lockers where authorities found prescription drugs. Video and photos depict nine tables covered with drugs and medical paraphernalia. Prosecutors have also turned over multiple CDs. Simons's attorney seeks more times to prepare a defense. Simons is a convicted felon who allegedly gave a bondsman a gun as partial payment for bailing him out of jail in an unrelated criminal threat case. Simons had surrendered his license to write prescriptions, and could not lawfully possess controlled substances.


Sprint Completes Acquisition of Clearwire

NEW YORK (AP) — Majority owner Sprint has completed its acquisition of wireless network operator Clearwire Corporation. Sprint Nextel paid $5 per share for the 51 percent of Clearwire it didn't already own. Bellevue, Washington-based Clearwire runs a mobile broadband network that Sprint uses to provide "4G" service on many of its phones. Clearwire shareholders voted to sell to Sprint on Monday. Its stock will stop trading on the Nasdaq after the market closes on Tuesday. Sprint hopes the deal will make it more competitive with rivals Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc. It raised its original bid for Clearwire to overcome a competing bid from Dish Network. Meanwhile, Overland Park-based Sprint has agreed to sell 78 percent of itself to Japan's Softbank for $21.6 billion. That deal is expected to close Wednesday.

Mizzou Music Fest to Offer Shuttles from KC, STL

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — An annual music composition festival in Columbia is offering free transportation for a limited number of concert-goers from St. Louis and Kansas City. The Mizzou International Composers Festival begins July 22 and continues through July 27. Venues include the downtown Missouri Theatre and several concert halls on the University of Missouri campus. Performers include the ensemble Alarm Will Sound. The 20-person MoX shuttle rides leave for Columbia on Friday and Saturday afternoon and return after the concluding Saturday night concert. Reservations will be taken on a first-come, first-serve basis through Friday. Patrons are responsible for their own tickets and any lodging. The St. Louis pick-up point is Mid Rivers Mall in St. Charles County. The Kansas City pickup is the Kauffman Center. More details can be found online at



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