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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, November 26, 2013


KS Governor Encouraging Reconciliation in State

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has issued a proclamation urging Kansas residents to observe a week of reconciliation as the nation celebrates Thanksgiving. The Republican governor announced the proclamation Monday, saying the holiday season is a time when families and friends celebrate traditions. He encouraged Kansans to "consider the importance of reconciliation and forgiveness." Brownback has issued similar proclamations since being elected governor in 2010. He says forgiveness is a sign of strength and that reaching out to others who may have caused pain in the past is a way to build a bridge.


KS Governor Raises Pension Costs as School Funding Issue

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The focus of the Kansas school finance debate for many years has centered on the amount per student spent by the state for traditional expenses of teacher salaries, buildings and textbooks. That debate may be shifting to raise more attention on other costs paid by the Legislature, including the amount put each year into teacher pensions, which previously haven't been considered an expense of doing business. During a meeting Monday with a small group of superintendents and legislative leaders, Governor Sam Brownback reinforced that more money has gone into education spending, including millions set aside for retirement. A top state school official says Tuesday the practice of having the retirement show up on local district budget sheets is a good reminder of the total cost of education to taxpayers.


Lawrence Man Found Competent to Stand Trial for Murder

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A 67-year-old Lawrence man accused of fatally shooting his wife has been found competent to stand trial. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Larry L. Hopkins appeared in Douglas County court Tuesday for a competency hearing after being evaluated by a mental health specialist earlier this month. Judge Michael Malone found Hopkins competent to stand trial and scheduled a preliminary hearing in the case for January 2. Hopkins is charged with first-degree murder in the November 5 shooting death of his 61-year-old wife, Margaret Hopkins, at the couple's Lawrence Home. Police say Hopkins told authorities he shot his wife because of her ongoing health concerns. He's being held on $150,000 bond. If convicted, Larry Hopkins faces the possibility of life in prison without parole for 25 years.


Suspect Sought in Deaths of KS Mother, Children

PARSONS, Kan. (AP) — Police in southeast Kansas are investigating the deaths of a mother and her three young children. The Kansas Attorney General's Office said in a release Tuesday the victims are 29-year-old Cami Umbarger, of Parsons, and her three minor children. The attorney general's office did not say how the four were killed or provide other details about their deaths. The attorney general's office said authorities are seeking a male suspect, but no charges have been filed. The Parsons Sun reports that police received a call Monday from concerned co-workers and family members that Umbarger didn't show up for work. Parsons police, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement agencies are investigating. Parsons has about 10,500 residents and is about 125 miles southeast of Wichita in Labette County.


Topeka House Catches Fire for 2nd Time in 6 Months

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka fire officials are investigating a second fire at a vacant Topeka house that also caught fire in June. Fire Investigator Rusty Vollintine told The Topeka Capital-Journal that it appears the second fire, which was reported Monday, was intentionally set. Topeka Fire Battalion Chief Ron Hufford said when firefighters arrived the house appeared to be vacant, and windows had been boarded over. No injuries were reported. Vollintine also said a preliminary investigation shows the fire likely started in the kitchen. Fire crews also responded to a fire at the site on June 24.


KCK Apartment Manager Faces 4.5 Years in Prison

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A former Kansas City, Kansas assistant property manager accused of stealing federal housing funds faces more than four years in prison. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said in a release that 28-year-old Mary Amador was sentenced Monday to four and a half years in prison and ordered to pay more than $300,000 in restitution. She pleaded guilty earlier to charges including theft of public money, aggravated identity theft and making false statements. Federal prosecutors say several residents of the apartment Amador helped manage were in the U.S. unlawfully, and that Amador took bribes from those residents in exchange for accepting counterfeit citizenship documents. Prosecutors say she also falsely reported to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that the tenants were eligible to receive Section 8 housing subsidies.


Kansas Lottery Closing Great Bend Office

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Lottery officials are announcing a restructuring plan, closing the Great Bend office and shuffling responsibilities in the coming weeks. The lottery said Tuesday the Great Bend office will close to the public on December 13. Four people currently work in the office. Three will be reassigned to other duties and one position will be eliminated. Interim Lottery Director Sherriene Jones-Sontag says that most of the prizes claimed from winners were already collected at the Topeka headquarters. Prizes worth $599 or less can still be collected at retailers statewide. Larger prizes can be claimed in Topeka by mail or in person. The lottery is also redefining positions within its sales division in an effort to recruit new retailers, educate players about various games and increase sales.


Preliminary Hearing in KS Murder Case Delayed

LINCOLN, Kan. (AP) — A preliminary hearing in a second-degree murder case involving the son of a Kansas sheriff has been postponed again. The Salina Journal reports the hearing for Scott Weigel had been scheduled for Monday in Lincoln County District, but it was rescheduled to December 12. The 33-year-old Weigel is charged in the September 9 shooting death of 21-year-old Keith Ancell of Lincoln. Weigel is being held on $750,000 bond. The hearing was first postponed in September. Darrell E. Miller, acting Lincoln County attorney, asked the court to delay Weigel's preliminary hearing during a proceeding Monday afternoon. Weigel's lawyer, Roger Struble, said the motion was faxed to his office Monday. Weigel is the son of Lincoln County Sheriff Mike Weigel.


Hutchinson Police Say Coaches Didn't Condone Hazing

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Hutchinson police have concluded in a recent report that there was no evidence coaches at Hutchinson High School condoned hazing. Hutchinson USD 308 on Monday posted a statement online from Hutchinson Police Chief Dick Heitschmidt concerning the police investigation into accusations that high school football players used a heated wire hanger to brand other students. Three Hutchinson High School football players — two 18-year-olds and a 16-year-old — are charged with felony aggravated battery in connection with the alleged incidents on October 30 and 31. The Hutchinson News reports police say none of the 31 people police interviewed said any of the coaching staff knew of the hazing. Hutchinson school officials say they have no tolerance for hazing.


Plans for Northwest KS Wind Farm Move Forward

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — Plans for a 200-megawatt wind farm in northwest Kansas are moving forward with approval of three key agreements by the Ellis County Commission. The Hays Daily News reports that the agreements approved Monday for Buckeye Wind Energy cover road maintenance, payment in lieu of taxes and decommissioning of the project. The company plans to build the wind farm on roughly 28,000 acres north of Interstate 70 between the cities of Hays and Ellis. The energy would be the equivalent of powering 104,000 homes. Proposals for wind farms in Ellis County have prompted opposition and lawsuits in the past. County Commissioner Swede Holmgren says he hopes that some residents have changed their minds.


KCMO City Council Considers Change to Red Light Law

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The City Council in Kansas City is considering changes to the city's red-light camera law that will try to address concerns raised in a recent Missouri Court of Appeals ruling. The City Council's Public Safety Committee endorsed the changes Monday. The Kansas City Star reports that if the council approves the proposed changes, the new law would take effect 10 days after that and red-light camera enforcement could resume. The proposed change involves allowing the vehicle's owner to tell the court whether someone else was driving at the time. Kansas City had to stop writing red-light camera tickets on November 6 after the appeals panel voided the red-light camera law in the St. Louis suburb, Ellisville. Kansas City's law is similar to the Ellisville law.

Teen, Biological Mom Charged in Shooting of Teen's Adoptive Parents

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A teenager and his biological mother have been charged in the shootings of the teen's adoptive parents at the couple's home near Wichita. Eighteen-year-old Anthony Bluml was charged Monday with first-degree murder in the death of 53-year-old Melissa Bluml in Valley Center. He's also charged with attempted first-degree murder in the November 15 shooting of Roger Bluml, who suffered a critical head wound. The teen is also charged with aggravated robbery, burglary and theft of items authorities say were taken from the home. Bluml's 35-year-old biological mother, San Diego resident Kisha Schaberg, faces the same charges, as do two 18-year-old men from Park City, Kansas. All four had first appearances via video hookups Monday in Sedgwick County District Court. Defense attorneys had no comment or had not yet been assigned.

Leavenworth High School Teacher Named 2014 KS Teacher of the Year

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A language arts teacher at Leavenworth High School is the 2014 Kansas Teacher of the Year. Jeff Baxter won the honor during ceremonies Saturday night in Wichita. As Teacher of the Year, Baxter receives a $4,000 cash award from Security Benefit Life, a major sponsor of the Kansas Teacher of the Year program. He'll also receive an educational technology package valued at $7,250 from SMART Technologies ULC of Canada. The other seven finalists were Jenny Nash of the Paola school district, Katie Perez of the Hutchinson district, Mary Lonker of the Wamego district, Brandi Leggett of the De Soto district, Jennifer Smith of the Blue Valley district, Marney Hay of the Maize district and Jennifer Bailey of the Valley Center district. The finalists each get a $2,000 cash award.

4 Dead in Wichita Mobile Home Fire

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita fire officials say four family members, including two children, have been killed in a mobile home fire. Fire Chief Ron Blackwell told KAKE-TV that the four family members died in a fire at their mobile home early Tuesday. Three other people were injured. He says the two children were found sleeping side-by-side in a bed. Their identities have not been released. Blackwell says another nearby fire in a mobile home was reported about four hours earlier, but officials don't think the fires are related. One person was also injured in the first fire. Fire officials are investigating the causes.

Wheat Condition Mostly Good Heading into Winter

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The latest government snapshot of the Kansas winter wheat crop looks mostly good as cold weather sets in across the state. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that 7 percent of the wheat was in excellent condition. Fifty-six percent was in good condition and 33 percent was rated fair, with just 4 percent in poor to very poor shape. The agency says a hard freeze helped dry crops that are still in the field before a wintry storm halted harvesting. The update says 98 percent of the corn crop, about 97 percent of the sorghum and 95 percent of the soybeans have been cut. Sunflower harvest is 94 percent complete.

Santa to Arrive in Downtown Lawrence Friday Night

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Firefighters in Lawrence are gearing up for the annual rescue of Santa Claus from a downtown rooftop. Santa is expected to "land" at 6 pm Friday on the roof of Weaver's Department Store. Firefighters then will climb up and rescue him. Once on the ground, Santa will listen to the Christmas wishes of children and pose for pictures. The event coincides with the Lawrence holiday lighting ceremony. There also will be musical performances.


KC Chiefs Mascot Injured During Practice at Arrowhead

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A man who has performed as the Kansas City Chiefs' mascot for more than two decades is in stable condition after a weekend accident at Arrowhead Stadium. His attorney said Tuesday the injuries appear to have been caused by human error. Dan Meers has played KC Wolf since the mascot's inception in 1989. He was seriously injured Saturday while rehearsing a zip line routine ahead of Sunday's game against the San Diego Chargers. No details about the injury have been released. Attorney Tim Dollar says Meers's injuries appear to have been caused from how an outside company secured the riggings. He says an investigation is pending. According to the website, Meers previously performed as Fredbird, the St. Louis Cardinals' mascot, and the University of Missouri's mascot Truman the Tiger.



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