UPDATE: Kansas Chief Justice Announces Employee Furloughs
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss says furloughs for judicial branch employees will begin April 13. Nuss said Wednesday that furloughs would take place every other Friday after that in order to close a shortfall in court operating funds. Legislators failed to appropriate additional money last week after a House and Senate agreement on a proposed $14.1 billion state budget unraveled. Lawmakers began their annual spring break last week without passing a spending plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1. They won't reconvene until April 25. The spending plan also covered a $1.4 million shortfall in the judicial branch's current budget. Nuss warned lawmakers in a February letter that without the extra funding, Kansas courts would have to close five extra days this spring.
UPDATE: Kansas Driver's License Stations to Resume Services Thursday
The Kansas Department of Revenue has announced that the state Division of Motor Vehicles will resume issuing and renewing driver’s licenses and identification cards Thursday morning. The DMV had been unable to issue new driver's licenses or non-driver identification cards because of problems with a computer server operated by a vendor. Spokeswoman Jeannine Koranda says that the outage had affected all 111 driver's license offices statewide.
Storms Spawn Scattered Funnel Clouds in Kansas
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The National Weather Service says a number of funnel clouds reported around eastern and southern Kansas were spawned by a combination of weak storms and cold upper air. No tornado watch was posted Wednesday for anywhere in Kansas, and Weather Service meteorologist Robb Lawson in Wichita said the funnel clouds being seen Wednesday afternoon weren't expected to reach the ground. One such cloud was observed from Lawson's office for 17 minutes beginning shortly after 5 pm. Several others were spotted between 4 and 5 pm in Kingman County, Chase County and other parts of Sedgwick County. Lawson says that such funnels tend to remain several thousand feet in the air and — from a meteorologist's point of view — are "neat to look at."
Democratic Kansas House Member Won't Seek Re-Election
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The only Democrat from Johnson County in either chamber of the Kansas Legislature has decided against seeking re-election. Mike Slattery, of Mission, says he's giving up his House seat because he plans to go to graduate school to study business management and law. Slattery is a construction projects manager and has served in the House since 2009. Johnson County is the state's most populous county. Seven of the 40 state senators and 22 of the 125 House members represent part of the northeastern Kansas county. Slattery is the son of Jim Slattery, a Democrat who served in both the Kansas Legislature and the U.S. House. The Kansas House minority leader's office say Mike Slattery hasn't decided which university he'll attend but has been accepted at Georgetown University, in Washington, D.C.
Garden City to Challenge Census Results for Second Time
GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Garden City officials are ready for a second round in a fight with the U.S. Census Bureau over the western Kansas city's population. The city first challenged the federal agency after it said in 2011 that the city had 26,658 residents. Last week, the Census Bureau added seven people to the population count. That prompted the Garden City Commission to decide Tuesday to file a second challenge. City officials believe the population is between 28,000 to 30,300 residents. They contend the bureau didn't count six areas of the city in its 2010 count. The Garden City Telegram reports commissioners acknowledged the challenge might be more symbolic than productive. They said census officials have said they won't send anyone to the city or use other documentation to reconsider the count.
Topeka Social Service Agency Adding Programs to Fight Budget Cuts
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 111-year-old agency in Topeka that provides residential and outpatient care for at-risk girls is fighting back after losing almost one-third of its budget in the last two years. Florence Crittenton Services, Inc., lost Medicaid funding as the number of clients it helped declined. And United Way of Greater Topeka stopped funding the organization. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the agency has responded by adding four new programs it hopes will bring in more revenue, while also improving community service. Crittenton was once known primarily as a sanctuary for pregnant teenagers. It now offers an outpatient therapy clinic, an exercise program, a wellness program and respite services on the weekends for severely emotionally distressed children. CEO JoLana Pinon says the agency knew it needed to diversify and losing the funding provided motivation.
Topeka Sees Rise in Car Thefts by Tow Truck
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities in Topeka are reporting a new trend in crime — thieves using a tow truck to steal cars. Police spokeswoman Kristen Veverka tells the Topeka Capital-Journal that thieves are hooking up cars on city streets, usually in residential neighborhoods, then towing them to another spot to strip the parts. Authorities aren't sure of the number of such crimes, but it's happened often enough that police issued a statement Wednesday urging people to watch for suspicious tow trucks. Police said residents can protect vehicles by parking in a garage if possible, locking their car doors and taking the keys with them.
Man Enters No Contest Plea to Manslaughter, Rape Charges
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) _ A 25-year-old Manhattan man has pleaded no contest to killing a former Army combat medic and raping a female jogger who was training for a marathon. Justin Taylor entered the pleas yesterday (TUE) in Riley County District Court under an agreement with prosecutors. Taylor pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter in the death of 31-year-old Kevin Cockrum, who was beaten with a heavy flashlight last August in Manhattan's Aggieville district. Police said Cockrum had objected to comments about a female friend. While Taylor awaited trial in Cockrum's death, authorities used DNA to tie him to the June 2010 rape of a 57-year-old woman attacked while jogging in Manhattan. Taylor, a former Kansas State University student, will be sentenced in May -- the same month he would have graduated.
State Testing Postponed at Some Lawrence Schools Due to NCAA Championship
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas Jayhawks trumped state testing at some Lawrence schools this week. Several Lawrence schools postponed state assessment testing scheduled for Tuesday out of concern that students would be tired or absent after watching Monday's NCAA championship game between Kansas and Kentucky. The Lawrence Journal-World reports schools can take the assessments between February 15 and April 20. Many Lawrence schools scheduled the tests this week, which is the week after spring break. But New York School principal Nancy DeGarmo said she knew many of the school's students and teachers would be up late Monday because the game didn't tip off until 8:30 pm. The school moved the testing to Friday. Other principals said they were concerned many students would miss school Tuesday.
Kansas Man Seeks Reversal of 1974 Murder Conviction
OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A former school janitor who is serving a life sentence for the 1974 killing of a 13-year-old Johnson County girl is asking a judge to reverse his conviction. John Henry Horton was in court Tuesday to ask a judge to throw out his conviction for the killing of Lizabeth Wilson. She disappeared while walking to her Prairie Village from a swimming pool. Her remains were found six months later in a Lenexa field. The Kansas Supreme Court last year ordered the hearing so the Johnson County Court can determine if "prejudicial error" was committed during his second trial in 2008. The Kansas City Star reports that the judge will rule after a second hearing is held in May. The second hearing was needed because some witnesses could not attend Tuesday's hearing.
Voters Approve Construction of New Cloud County Jail
CONCORDIA, Kan. (AP) _ Voters in Cloud County have approved a proposal to build an 80-bed jail and detention center. Unofficial results from yesterday's (TUE) vote showed the measure passed by a vote of 1,218 to 567...more than a two-to-one margin. Supporters of the plan said before the election that the jail, which will cost an estimated $5.7 million, could raise revenue for the county by housing prisoners from other counties.
KU Jayhawks Return to Warm Reception in Lawrence
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ University of Kansas basketball players and coaches took a curtain call before adoring fans in Lawrence last (TUE) night. More than 5,000 fans filled Allen Fieldhouse as the Jayhawks returned from New Orleans, following Monday night's loss in the NCAA championship game. Fans say that despite the loss, the team exceeded expectations all season.
Roaming Zebra Returned to Kansas Rancher
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Oh give me a home, where the — zebras roam? Not for long, they don't...at least not when the Kansas Highway Patrol is around. The patrol says one of its troopers came across a zebra Tuesday grazing beside an Interstate 70 ramp west of Topeka. The striped animal turned out to be an escapee from a nearby ranch, whose owner came to the scene and coaxed it back into a fenced area with treats. Authorities didn't specify the kind of treat that would persuade a zebra to give up its freedom.
Civil Rights Symposium Scheduled at JCCC
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — A researcher who investigates hate groups for the Southern Poverty Law Center will be the featured speaker at a June civil rights symposium in Kansas. Michelle Bramblett is information manager for the group's Intelligence Project. Bramblett is expected to talk about the center's work tracking and exposing the activities of hate groups. Bramblett will be among several speakers June 8 at the daylong event sponsored by the U.S. attorney's office on federal civil rights enforcement in Kansas. Other topics will include human trafficking, civil rights for returning veterans and the rights guaranteed under the Americans With Disabilities Act. The symposium takes place at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park. It's free and open to the public, but registration is required.
Analyst Testifies About Texts Sent by Accused Killer of Kansas Teen
GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors have begun showing jurors text messages outlining a Kansas man's obsession with a slain cheerleader whose badly burned body was found at the asphalt plant where he worked. The evidence came during the fifth day of testimony in the capital murder trial of 38-year-old Adam Longoria. The Great Bend man is accused in the August 2010 death of 14-year-old Alicia DeBolt. Analyst Stephanie Smith of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation on Wednesday discussed the texts as they were projected on a screen in the courtroom. The texting began the morning after Longoria met the girl at a party. In them, Longoria calls the teen "miss shy" and "hot stuff." When she asks his age, the then 36-year-old man told her he was 25.
Cloud County Community College to Adjust Height of Wind Turbines
CONCORDIA, Kan. (AP) _ A north-central Kansas community college plans to lower three wind turbines that have been deemed too tall by the Federal Aviation Administration so the school doesn't lose about $1 million in federal grants. The Salina Journal reports that Cloud County Community College officials have decided to pay for the roughly $150,000 project rather than lose the grants. The windmills are 110 feet tall and sit on a hill south of campus. A year ago the FAA told the college the windmills are in Blosser Municipal Airport's airspace but were not considered a hazard. But sometime later the turbines were deemed a "presumed hazard,'' which prompted the FAA to adjust flight patterns to and from the airport. Community college officials say the turbines will be lowered 20 to 30 feet each.
Manning Joins Impressive Tulsa Coaching Lineage
TULSA, Okla. (AP) — It didn't take long for Danny Manning to realize the lineage he was joining when he got hired as Tulsa's new basketball coach. In the coaches' locker room that he'll now occupy, the former NBA All-Star noticed the pictures of Nolan Richardson, Tubby Smith and Bill Self — three coaches who all went on to win national championships after their time coaching the Golden Hurricane. Manning was formally introduced as Tulsa's new coach Wednesday, two days after wrapping up his tenure as a University of Kansas assistant coach when the Jayhawks lost to Kentucky in the national championship game. Manning says he plans for the Golden Hurricane to play up-tempo, with a motion offense and pressure man-to-man defense that shouldn't give up easy baskets.
Kansas Woman Charged in Toddler's Death
Prosecutors have charged a southeastern Kansas woman with first-degree murder in the death of her 18-month-old daughter. KAKE-TV reports that 23-year-old Alyssa Haag made a first appearance Wednesday in Butler County District Court. The El Dorado woman remains held on $500,000 bond, with a preliminary hearing scheduled May 9. The charge stems from what investigators believe was the abuse death of Jayla Haag. The toddler died last week at a Wichita hospital, where she was treated for injuries the mother said were caused when the girl fell down stairs.
Review of Disputed Meetings Won't Conclude Until End of April
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A spokesman says a northeast Kansas prosecutor's investigation into private meetings of Republican legislators with Governor Sam Brownback won't be finished until the end of the month. Lee McGowan, chief of staff to Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor, said Tuesday that staff still must interview a few lawmakers and members of the governor's staff. McGowan said interviews won't be completed until the Legislature returns from a break April 25. Brownback, a Republican, had seven meetings in January with GOP members of 13 legislative committees. Taylor, a Democrat, began his investigation in February. Brownback spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag says the governor is confident the gatherings didn't violate the Kansas Open Meetings Act. Many lawmakers who attended the events said they were social gatherings, not business meetings.
KS Mega Millions Winner Still Keeping Mum
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas officials still haven't heard from anyone claiming to hold a Mega Millions ticket for a share of a $656 million jackpot. Kansas Lottery spokeswoman Cara Sloan-Ramos said Tuesday the winner may wait weeks to come forward. Kansas law allows up to a year to claim a lottery prize. The ticket was for Friday's drawing in the multistate game, and state lottery officials have said only that it was purchased at a store in northeast Kansas. Winning tickets also were sold in Illinois and Maryland, making the Kansas ticket holder's share about $218 million. Sloan-Ramos said the ticket holder is likely seeking lots of advice and considering whether to take advantage of a Kansas law allowing winners to remain anonymous.
Hawker Beechcraft Facing Debt, Losses
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Hawker Beechcraft says it anticipates losses of about $482 million for 2011. The company will file its annual report this month and says it will include a statement from an independent accounting firm expressing what it calls "substantial doubt" about the company's ability to continue as a going concern.
Witness: DNA from KS Teen, Suspect Found in SUV
GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) _ A forensic scientist has testified that DNA from a 14-year-old Great Bend girl was found in the vehicle of the man accused in her death. James Newman of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation took the stand for the state Tuesday in the trial of 38-year-old Adam Longoria. Newman testified about testing body fluids found in the driver's side floor mat of Longoria's vehicle. He said the test showed a mixture of DNA from both Longoria and Alicia DeBolt. Longoria is being tried on a charge of capital murder in Alicia's August 2010 death. Newman said a tiny amount of DNA from an unknown male was found in a sample taken from the dead girl's mouth. But he said that sample may have been contaminated. He returns to the stand Wednesday for cross-examination.
Oil Sought on State Land in Wichita
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ The state of Kansas will join with private companies and the city of Wichita in searching for oil in Sedgwick County. The Wichita Eagle reports that the Kansas revenue department will open bids this month for five-year oil and gas lease rights on state-owned land along the Arkansas River. The 125-acre site is the second drawing attention from mineral explorers along the Arkansas in Sedgwick County. County recorder of deeds Bill Meek tells The Eagle the number of mineral leases recorded in his office has been surging. Meek says there's been more filing of lease-related documents in the past year than in the past decade.
Leads Tapering Off in KC Baby Disappearance
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police say tips have tapered off in the disappearance of a baby reported missing from her Kansas City home six months ago. Lisa Irwin was 10-months old when she was reported missing October 4. Lisa's parents, Deborah Bradley and Jeremy Irwin, have said they believe a stranger broke into their house and kidnapped their daughter as Bradley slept. Police Captain Steve Young told The Kansas City Star that the case remains classified as a missing or abducted child but that tips in the case have dwindled. A $100,000 reward is still available to anyone with information that returns the child. Young also said detectives last met with the parents on February 2 before they taped a national television interview, but he said police didn't learn anything significant.
UPDATE: Kansas Driver's License Processing Remains on Hold
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Division of Motor Vehicles remains unable to issue new driver's licenses or non-driver identification cards because of persistent computer problems. Spokeswoman Jeannine Koranda says Wednesday that problems with a vendor's server brought down the system at all 111 driver's license offices statewide. She says the state will continue to issue 15-day extension slips for licenses and ID cards set to expire between March 30 and April 6. The offices receive about 13,000 visitors a week. The division is in the midst of a $40 million computer upgrade that will integrate driver's license records with vehicle title and registration data. Koranda said technicians were still working on repairs to the malfunctioning computer server.
Computer Glitch Continues to Sideline KS Driver's License System
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The state Division of Vehicles offices won't immediately be able to issue new driver's licenses or non-driver identification cards when they open today (WED). A server problem yesterday (TUE) took down the license-issuing system statewide. In the meantime, the offices are issuing paper slips extending licenses or ID cards for 15 days. The division is in the midst of a $40 million computer upgrade.
**this story has been updated. Please see above.