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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, May 7, 2013


3 Bodies Found on Farm in East-Central Kansas

OTTAWA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities in eastern Kansas are investigating the deaths of three people whose bodies were found on a rural property. The bodies of two adult men and one woman were found Monday on the farm west of Ottawa, which is located about 60 miles southwest of Kansas City. Sheriff Jeff Richards said at a news conference Tuesday that the deaths are being investigated as homicides. Richards declined to release other details, including the victims' identities or how they were killed. Friends of a resident of the farm said they went to the farm Sunday and called police after smelling a foul odor. They said police looked over the home and area and attributed the bad smell to garbage. Police returned to the farm Monday and found the bodies.


Link Sought Between Farm Deaths and Missing Olathe Mom, Baby

OTTAWA, Kan. (AP) _ Olathe police are waiting to learn whether one of the three bodies found in a neighboring county is that of a young mother reported missing along with her daughter. Sergeant Brad Caldwell said Tuesday that 21-year-old Kaylie Bailey and her one-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Lana Bailey, were last seen Wednesday. They were reported missing Friday. Caldwell says Olathe police have sent detectives to the Franklin County crime scene because of the open missing person case. Olathe police had provided the Franklin County Sheriff's Department with an address to check Friday. But Caldwell declined to say whether it was the same address where the bodies of an adult woman and two adult men were found Monday. Caldwell says the case of the missing girl doesn't meet the criteria for an Amber Alert.


Kansas Democrats Say They Lack Enough Details on NBAF

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic leaders in the Kansas Legislature say they're not getting enough information from Republican Sam Brownback's administration to justify authorizing another $202 million in bonds for a national biodefense lab. Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka said Tuesday that lawmakers haven't "been brought into the loop" on Brownback's latest proposal for the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility at Kansas State University. The $1.2 billion facility will study animal diseases. President Barack Obama's latest budget proposal contains $714 million for the project. The state has already issued $105 million in bonds. Brownback spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag said the new bonds will fulfill the state's commitment to the project. But House Minority Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence said Brownback's administration hasn't been forthcoming with details about the proposal.


Kansas Judicial Selection Change Still Being Pursued

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The chairmen of the Kansas House and Senate Judiciary committees say they're still pursuing changes in how state Supreme Court justices are selected. Republican Senator Jeff King of Independence and GOP Representative Lance Kinzer of Olathe said Tuesday they're working on a compromise for changing the state constitution to alter the selection system. The Senate has approved a measure to have the governor appoint the justices, subject to Senate confirmation. Currently, a nominating commission screens applications and names three finalists for each vacancy. The governor makes the appointment, with no role for lawmakers. The Senate's plan has stalled in the House. If both chambers pass a change, voters would have to approve it in a statewide election. Legislators reconvene Wednesday to wrap up their business for the year.


Kansas Democratic Leader Doubts Proposed Judicial Selection Change Can Pass

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House's top Democrat says he doubts supporters of changing the process for selecting state Supreme Court justices can muster enough support to get a measure passed. House Minority Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence said Tuesday that any attempt at forging a compromise with his fellow Democrats or moderate Republicans is likely to cost votes from GOP conservatives who want a change. Under the process spelled out in the state constitution, a nominating commission screens applications for Supreme Court vacancies and names three finalists. The governor makes the appointment, with no role for legislators. Many GOP conservatives want to amend the state constitution to have the governor make Supreme Court appointments, subject to Senate confirmation. Key Republicans said Tuesday that they're working on a compromise.


DA to Discuss Slayings of 2 Topeka Police Officers

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have scheduled a news conference to discuss the killings of two Topeka police officers. The Topeka Capital-Journal reported that Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor plans to discuss the December 16 deaths of Corporal David Gogian and officer Jeff Atherly at 9 am Wednesday. The two were shot to death while checking possible drug activity outside a Topeka supermarket. Their killer, 22-year-old David Tiscareno, was shot and killed by law enforcement officers December 17. The Shawnee County Sheriff's Office investigated the shooting because Atherly and Gogian were police officers. Also, a third officer in the grocery store parking lot fired shots at the officers' shooter.


Haskell University President Leaving for Oklahoma Job

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The president of Haskell Indian Nations University plans to resign soon to take another position in Oklahoma. The Lawrence Journal World reports that Chris Redman made the announcement Tuesday in a message to students, faculty and staff. In the memo, Redman said he'd be moving closer to his family after being offered a new position. Redman wrote that the "choice was difficult." But he added that he's been given a "great opportunity to continue to serve Indian Country in a new capacity." The note included no additional details about Redman's new job. Haskell spokesman Stephen Prue says Redman and other officials would decline to comment beyond the memo, out of a desire not to draw attention away from Friday's commencement ceremonies. Redman says more information will be released after commencement.


Court Proceedings Begin in Topeka Homicide Retrial

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Court proceedings in the retrial of a Topeka man whose death penalty conviction was overturned will begin Thursday. A status conference for Phillip D. Cheatham Jr. is scheduled in Shawnee County District Court, with the focus on scheduling the upcoming trial. Cheatham was convicted in 2005 of capital murder in the deaths of Annette Roberson and Gloria Jones and wounding a third woman at a Topeka home in December 2003. The Kansas Supreme Court overturned his conviction in January, citing ineffective counsel from his attorney. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that prosecutors have 90 days to start Cheatham retrial unless he seeks a continuance. Cheatham will be retried on charges of capital murder, first-degree premeditated murder, attempted first-degree murder, aggravated battery and criminal possession of a weapon.

Suspect in Doctor's Death Found Dead in Jail Cell

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Johnson County authorities say a man charged in the death of a South Carolina pediatrician died in his jail cell. Master Deputy Tom Erickson says 45-year-old John Meredith Hodges was found unresponsive in the cell on Monday. Efforts to resuscitate him failed. Erickson says the death is being investigated as a suicide but released no other details. Hodges was charged with first-degree murder in the death of 39-year-old Franchesca D. Brown, of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Brown's body was found last September near an Overland Park hotel. She was in the city to attend a medical conference. Police say Hodges and Brown had an off-and-on relationship. The Kansas City Star reports that Hodges told detectives he strangled Brown during an argument inside her hotel room.


Kansas Governor Concluding Higher Education Tour

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback is concluding his statewide tour aimed at building support for protecting spending levels for the Kansas higher education system. The Republican governor began his tour more than two weeks ago while legislators were on their monthlong recess. He finishes the tour Tuesday at Fort Hays State University, along with a stop at the University of Kansas School of Medicine's Salina campus. Brownback wants legislators to keep funding for the higher education stable in the 2014 budget. Legislators are going the opposite direction, with the House seeking a 4 percent cut and the Senate a 2-percent cut. The governor also wants to keep the state's sales tax rate at 6.3 percent instead of reducing it to 5.7 percent as scheduled in July. Legislators resume their session Wednesday.


Kansas Physician Pleads Not Guilty to Drug Charges

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas doctor has pleaded not guilty to four federal charges, including illegally distributing prescription drugs out of his Manhattan medical clinic. Fifty-three-year-old Michael Schuster, of Manhattan, was indicted last week on multiple counts alleging he operated a pill mill from his clinic. Prosecutors are seeking forfeiture of money and property. Schuster entered his plea Tuesday after being read the charges by U.S. Magistrate Judge Gary Sebelius in Topeka. The indictment alleges that from April 2007 until at least August 2012, Schuster engaged in a scheme to unlawfully distribute controlled substances. He's accused of directing and allowing staff members to dispense controlled substances in his absence, using blank, signed prescription pads he left behind while traveling. A detention hearing for Schuster will be continued Thursday.


3 Vehicles Impounded in Fatal KCK Party Bus Case 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol has impounded three of the vehicles suspected of striking a woman who died after falling from a party bus. The Kansas City Star reports that 26-year-old Jamie Frecks died this weekend after tumbling onto Interstate 35 in Kansas City, Kansas. Patrol spokesman Howard Dickinson says it's likely that there were more than three vehicles that struck Frecks. The initial report suggested three hits. Troopers also have obtained warrants allowing them to conduct a full safety inspection on the 1999 Ford shuttle bus. The bus company's website said it had been outfitted as a party bus with stereo, a cooler storage area and dance pole.


Man Pleads No Contest in Accident That Killed 2

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A former Kansas State student has pleaded no contest to two counts of involuntary manslaughter in an accident that left two people dead and four injured. Twenty-five-year-old Miles Theurer, of Wellington, entered the plea Tuesday in an agreement that included dropping two counts of aggravated battery. Theurer will be sentenced June 17 for the May 2012 accident on Kansas 18 two miles from Manhattan that killed Elizabeth Young and Micheal Stanley. Theurer and three of his passengers were injured. Prosecutors say Theurer was drunk and driving the wrong way on the highway when he ran head-on into a car driven by Young. KMAN reports that authorities say Theurer's blood alcohol content at the time of the accident was .190.


Kansas Court Upholds Ex-Councilman's Life Sentence

ARLINGTON, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Court of Appeals has upheld the life sentence of a former Arlington City Council member for molesting a 7-year-old girl. Thirty-nine-year-old Shane R. Zink had appealed a sentence of 14 concurrent life terms in prison for sex crimes involving the girl. Reno County District Attorney Keith Schroeder said Monday the court upheld the sentence in an unpublished ruling. Zink pleaded guilty in June 2011 to committing crimes against the girl between March 2009 and April 2010, including taking sexually explicit photos of her at his Arlington home. The Hutchinson News reports that Zink's earliest possible release date is in May 2035. Zink was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Arlington council in 2009 but resigned after his arrest in spring 2010.



Wet Spring Brings Troubling Start to Corn Planting

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Farmers in the nation's breadbasket who only recently were praying for an end to a withering drought are now pining for enough sunshine and heat to dry their muddy fields in time to plant their corn and other crops. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says only 12 percent of the nation's cornfields have been planted. That's about a quarter of the amount farmers had planted by this point in the season over the last five years. In Iowa, which is the nation's biggest corn producer, only 8 percent of the corn crop is in the ground. That's down from 62 percent at this point last year. Farmer John Reifsteck says if he has to wait much longer, he may have to plant less corn on his 1,800-acre central Illinois farm.



Motorist Killed When Train Hits Car in Kansas

WELLINGTON, Kan. (AP) — Authorities in south-central Kansas are investigating the death of a motorist in a collision with a train as a suicide. KSNW-TV reports that the crash happened around 2:30 pm Monday north of Wellington. The Sumner County sheriff told the station the male driver had parked the car on the tracks and made no effort to move it as the train approached. Officials from Wellington, Belle Plaine and the railroad company were investigating Monday night.

Wichita Approves $3 Million to Upgrade School Security

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita's schools will be getting an upgraded security system. The Wichita School Board voted Monday night to approve a $3 million contract to improve the district's surveillance system and other security upgrades. The board authorized the district to buy hardware, software, and services from Aventura Technologies. The company will also design and install a centralized surveillance system. The district's current security system was installed nine years ago and uses analog cameras and dial-up modems. Superintendent John Allison says the system breaks down and is inefficient. The proposed upgrades would include high-definition cameras, new computers, and a centralized dispatch center to watch over the district's nearly 100 schools.

Kansas Board Nominates 10 Sites for US Register

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas board has nominated 10 properties around the state for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, including two public school buildings. The Kansas State Historical Society says the state Historic Sites Board of Review nominated the sites during its quarterly meeting earlier this month. The nominees include the historic Belleville High School building in Belleville, which opened in 1931. The structure is now a middle school that the local school district plans to close. Another nominee is the former Franklin Elementary School in Kansas City, Kansas. It opened in 1898 and closed in 1973. The Kansas board also nominated apartment buildings in Wichita, barns in Chase County, a Mitchell County farmstead, houses in the cities of Douglass and Wamego and Santa Fe Trail sites in Rice County.

Wichita Schools Have Record Number of Homeless Students

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita school officials say they are serving a record number of homeless students this year. As of Monday, educators and social workers said they had identified 2,251 homeless children attending the city's public schools. That's 518 more than last year. The Wichita Eagle reports that district officials say just under 50,000 students attend Wichita schools, meaning more than 4 percent of the city's schoolchildren are homeless. Cynthia Martinez, who is in charge of finding homeless children in the Wichita district, says most of the homeless children are from working families, rather than from families on welfare. Many of them are living with other families but the district identifies them as homeless.


State Fair Clown's Estate Up for Auction

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — People who love the circus or the Kansas State Fair will have a chance to acquire some special memorabilia this month. The estate of J.B. Holdren will be put up for auction on May 18. He became a fixture at the fair while working for years as Bardo the Clown, and as an artist. The auction will include collectibles such as hand-carved carousel horses and circus posters that Holdren accumulated during his 67 years as a circus clown, sign painter and artist. Holdren also was a wood carver and some of his woodworking tools will be auctioned off. The Hutchinson News reports the fair plans to construct a memorial for Holdren. The auction will begin at 9 am at the Domestic Arts Building on the state fairgrounds.

Dog Survives Nearly a Month in Impounded Car

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City animal shelter is caring for a puppy that authorities say survived in a locked car that was impounded for nearly a month in a city lot. The 12-week-old puppy, which has been named Kia, apparently survived by eating trash left in the car. The terrier and schnauzer mix didn't have access to water. Toni Fugate, a spokeswoman for the city's animal shelter, says the puppy is dehydrated and malnourished but is expected to survive. Records show that the car was towed to the lot April 8. A lot employee saw the dog Monday afternoon and called police, who broke into the car. The Kansas Pet Project is working to find a foster home for Kia. She won't be available for adoption for some time.

Passenger Rail Supporters Plan Announcement

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Passenger rail supporters in Wichita are planning what they describe as a "major announcement" this week. The Wichita Eagle reports the announcement will be made during a news conference Friday afternoon at Wichita's Union Station. City officials are characterizing the news conference as an "update on significant developments regarding passenger rail advocacy in this area." Wichita Vice Mayor Pete Meitzner will lead the news conference, along with business representatives who serve on his local steering committee. Rail backers have been trying to persuade Amtrak to bring passenger train service to the city. One proposal would expand the route of the Heartland Flyer, which travels between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth.

KC Pipeline Company Merging with Texas Firm

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City-based pipeline operator has agreed to a $7 billion merger with an affiliated company. The Kansas City Star reports that Inergy L.P. agreed Monday to the merger with Houston-based Crestwood Midstream Partners L.P. The buyout involves a series of cash-and-stock transactions and will result in Crestwood Holding, which is affiliated with Inergy, taking over Inergy and a related company, Inergy Midstream L.P. Crestwood Midstream is controlled by the private equity firm First Reserve, which owns all of Crestwood Holdings and about 43 percent of Crestwood Midstream. A statement from both companies said the transaction requires shareholder and regulatory approvals, and is expected to be completed in the third quarter this year.

Cool Temperatures Slow Corn Planting, Wheat Development

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Cool temperatures and wet fields are stalling corn planting in Kansas and slowing development of the state's winter wheat crop. Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that just 17 percent of the planned corn is now in the ground. That is two weeks behind average. The weather is also slowing wheat development. The reports says just 3 percent of the crop has headed, about three weeks behind normal. Forty percent of the wheat crop is rated in poor to very poor condition. Of the rest, 33 percent is rated fair, 24 percent is in good condition and 3 percent is rated excellent. Producers are still feeding supplements to cattle herds because pasture growth has also been slowed by the cool weather.

Kansas Man Admits to Possession of Child Porn Images

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A northeastern Kansas man will be sentenced in August after admitting he possessed more than 12,000 images of child pornography. The U.S. Attorney's office says 45-year-old James Christmas of Olathe pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to one count of possessing child porn. Prosecutors said the investigation began when Christmas's estranged wife alerted Olathe police in September 2010 that she found child porn on his computer. Besides the 12,000 images, investigators also reported finding 26 videos of child porn. Christmas faces maximum penalties of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine at his sentencing August 12.


Police Investigate Phoenix Suns Forward Michael Beasley

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Scottsdale police are investigating Phoenix Suns forward Michael Beasley in connection with an alleged sexual assault. Police spokesman Officer David Pubins says the allegation involves an incident that took place on January 13. Pubins says police are interviewing those involved and processing any physical evidence to determine if criminal charges are appropriate. More details weren't available. Team officials did not immediately return phone messages seeking comment Tuesday. It wasn't clear if Beasley had legal representation. Beasley was the number-2 overall pick of the 2008 draft after playing for Kansas State University. Beasley has been in trouble before. He was cited earlier this year on suspicion of speeding, driving on a suspended license and driving without a license plate or registration.

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