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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013


Accounting Change to Shift KPERS Debt to Local Governments

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — About $10 billion in projected pension debts will be moving from the state of Kansas to the balance sheets of local governments thanks to a change in national accounting standards. Alan Conroy, executive director of the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System, told a legislative committee Tuesday about the Governmental Accounting Standards Board's changes, which take place next year. KPERS serves state employees as well as public workers from about 1,500 cities, counties, school districts and other local government units. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that starting next year, those entities will need to carry the KPERS debt as an unfunded liability on their own balance sheets, rather than the state carrying it all. Conroy's office is working on a breakdown for each government entity.

KS Governor to Give State of State Address January 15

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is scheduled to give his annual State of the State address January 15. Brownback announced Tuesday that he had accepted an invitation from House Speaker Ray Merrick to address a joint legislative session on that date in the House chamber. The speech will come two days after lawmakers open their 2014 session. The speech will give Brownback a chance to lay out his legislative agenda. It's scheduled for 6:30 pm and the governor's office says it will be televised live on multiple stations. The House speaker traditionally issues a formal invitation to the governor to speak in the chamber. For years, it's been scheduled in the evening to guarantee a bigger audience.

Kansas Joins Bidding for Boeing Contract

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is assembling an economic incentive package geared at landing a new Boeing contract to build the aviation giant's 777X commercial aircraft. Administration officials say Wednesday they can't divulge details of the Kansas package, citing a nondisclosure agreement signed with Boeing when talks began in recent weeks. Governor Sam Brownback has said that Kansas would make a run at landing the contract, which could result in between 7,000 and 10,000 new aviation jobs in the Wichita area. Unlike Missouri, where legislators are meeting to approve a financial package, Kansas is relying on existing economic incentive programs related to job training, workforce development and provisions that could allow the expensing of new equipment purchases over several years.

KS Senator Roberts Visits Washburn Students

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — U.S. Senator Pat Roberts is concluding a two-day, three-city tour of Kansas with a visit to Washburn University in Topeka. The Republican senator was scheduled Wednesday to tour the campus and spend about 45 minutes talking with student leaders. He was expected to discuss a variety of topics ranging from the recent changes in the Senate debate rules to the status of the new farm bill. Roberts has also been a strong critic of the implementation of the federal health care law. He has called for former Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius to resign as secretary of Health and Human Services over troubles with the government's health care website. Roberts made stops Tuesday in Wichita and Manhattan.


Topeka Homicide Scene Burglarized

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka police have arrested two men suspected of burglarizing a home where three people were found shot to death on Sunday. WIBW-AM reports that investigators had released the home as a crime scene late Tuesday. Police responded to a report of a burglary in progress at the house at 4:30 am Wednesday and found two people in the backyard with items taken from inside. The suspects are 23 and 29 years old and live in Topeka. Police Captain Scott Conklin could not say if there was any connection to the homicides. Police are still investigating the deaths of 34-year-old Tamesha Lee, 43-year-old Eric Avery and 56-year-old Marvin Louis Woods. Their bodies were found after Avery's 45-year-old sister, Carla Jean Avery, was found wounded outside a restaurant. She died Tuesday.


KS Atty General Mulls Seeking Death Penalty for 4 Killings

OSWEGO, Kan. (AP) — An assistant Kansas attorney general says there's no decision yet on whether the state will seek the death penalty for a man accused of killing a Parsons woman and her three children. But Assistant Attorney General Amy Hanley declined to comment further Wednesday about the prosecution of 22-year-old David Cornell Bennett Jr., of Cherryvale. The alternative to a death sentence in a capital case is life in prison without parole. Bennett is charged with capital murder, rape and criminal threats in the deaths of 29-year-old Cami Umbarger and her children, ages 4, 6 and 9. Their bodies were found Nov. 25 in their southeast Kansas home. Bennett returned to Labette County District Court on Wednesday and listened quietly a judge read the charges during a 10-minute hearing.


Man Flees KC Police in Stolen FedEx Truck

PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. (AP) — Police have recovered a stolen FedEx delivery truck after a low-speed pursuit that wound through Kansas City, Missouri, and ended just over the state line in Prairie Village, Kansas. KMBC-TV reports the truck was stolen around 8:45 am Wednesday outside a Kansas City gas station, where the FedEx driver had left the keys inside while paying for fuel. Police began pursuing the truck in eastern Kansas City at mid-afternoon. News helicopters followed the chase as police stayed well behind the truck, whose driver frequently signaled to change lanes or turn corners. An officer with a gun drawn opened the truck's door at an intersection, but the vehicle hopped a curb and drove off. Officers finally disabled the truck with stop sticks and took the driver into custody without incident.


Feud at Atchison Company Ends; CEO Ousted

ATCHISON, Kan. (AP) — A battle for control of MGP Ingredients in Atchison apparently has ended, with an agreement to oust the CEO and drop all lawsuits. The company announced Tuesday that CEO Tim Newkirk will leave, with two other executives serving as co-CEO until Newkirk's replacement can be found. MGP's board of directors has been battling for most of the year with descendants of the company's founders, the Cray family. Six board members and Newkirk had proposed trying to sell at least part of the company. Two other board members, Cloud Cray Jr. and Karen Seaberg, opposed that plan. The deal also requires both sides to drop lawsuits and limits potential sales or purchases of corporate assets. And a long-delayed shareholders meeting will be held December 17.

State Plans to Build 2 Cell Blocks at El Dorado

EL DORADO, Kan. (AP) — State prison officials say they want to build two new cell blocks, with a total of 512 new beds, at the El Dorado Correctional Facility. If the Legislature agrees to fund the project, the El Dorado facility would become the largest prison in the state. Corrections spokesman Jeremy Barclay said the department hopes to open the first cell block on Jan. 1, 2017, with the second opening 18 months later. The Wichita Eagle reports the project would cost an estimated $24.3 million, with annual operating cost of $8.3 million. Barclay says if lawmakers refuse to approve the bonds for the project, the state will have to start housing inmates in other states or consider leasing space in county jails.


Arrowhead Stadium Parking Lot Death Ruled a Homicide

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A medical examiner has determined the death of a Missouri man in an Arrowhead Stadium parking lot during a Kansas City Chiefs game was a homicide. The Jackson County (Missouri) medical examiner announced his ruling Wednesday. But Kansas City police say the cause of 30-year-old Kyle Van Winkle's death Sunday has not been determined. Van Winkle was found unconscious at 5:20 p.m. Police spokesman Darin Snapp says detectives have been treating the case as a homicide from the beginning, so the investigation won't change. Van Winkle had gone to Sunday's game in a vehicle similar to the Jeep in which he was found by the owner. Police say he was involved in a fight, but it's not clear whether that contributed to his death.


Man Convicted of Trying to Run Over KHP Trooper

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A McLouth man will be sentenced December 18 for trying to run over a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper. The Kansas City Star reported Tuesday that 33-year-old Kevin Reed was found guilty of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer in Leavenworth County. The Leavenworth County prosecutor says the trooper tried to stop a car on May 22 for a traffic violation but the driver drove away. The trooper found the vehicle behind a barn with Reed at the wheel. When the trooper ordered him at gunpoint to get out of the car, Reed drove toward him. The trooper fired four shots but Reed continued driving. He eventually abandoned the car and was later found hiding in a barn. The trooper was not seriously injured.


Careless Smoking Blamed for Deadly Wichita Blaze

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita fire officials say careless smoking caused a blaze that killed four people last week. Captain Stuart Bevis said Wednesday that the November 26 fire started in an upholstered chair in the living room of a double-wide mobile home. Several adults had smoked in that area beforehand. Bevis says a combination of wood paneling and combustible ceiling tiles contributed to the blaze spreading rapidly. The fire killed 21-year-old Amanda Nichols; her 1-year-old son, Isaaca; 27-year-old Camaron McGowan, and his 2-year-old son, K'dyn McGowan. The home's smoke alarms apparently weren't working. And Bevis said it was fortunate that three other people in the mobile home managed to escape with their lives. Those three, a firefighter and a neighbor who helped sustained minor injuries.


Riley County Searching for 2 Missing Since 1981

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The Riley County police department says it is still looking for two people who have been missing since 1981. Police say Stevie Hammerle and Joseph Grashner have been missing since they left a party in Manhattan on August 22nd, 1981. WIBW reports that Hammerle and Grashner were last seen leaving the party with two other people. Anyone with information in the case is asked to call (785) 537-2112, ext. 3077, or may leave anonymous tips with the Manhattan-Riley County Crime Stoppers at (785) 539-7777 or 1-(800)-222-TIPS. Web tips can be left at A reward of up to $1,000 is offered by Crime Stoppers.


Topless Shopper Chases Peeper Through Kansas Store

LENEXA, Kan. (AP) — Police say an accused peeping Tom faces a misdemeanor charge after a topless woman chased him through a northeast Kansas department store. The Kansas City Star reports that 35-year-old Jeremy F. Bradley, 35, of Raytown, was charged Tuesday in Lenexa Municipal Court with breach of privacy. His home phone number is disconnected. Police say the woman was trying on bras Monday afternoon in the dressing room of a Kohl's store when she saw a hand holding a cell phone under the partition. Master Police Officer Dan Friesen says the woman "definitely got the attention of other shoppers" when she ran after the man. Although the man made it out of the store, Lenexa police were able to arrest a suspect several blocks away. Friesen says witnesses later identified him.


FAA Seeks $304,000 Fine Against Great Lakes Airlines for Hays Incident

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — The Federal Aviation Administration is seeking a $304,000 fine against Great Lakes Airlines for alleged improper use of de-icing fluid. The FAA says 19 flights out of Hays, Kansas in January 2011, were out of compliance with federal regulations. The problem had to do with the temperature of the de-icing fluid. The fluid was too hot — more than 180 degrees. The Great Lakes de-icing manual states that de-icing fluid heated to more than 180 degrees can damage aircraft. The fluid is sprayed onto planes to remove ice prior to takeoff. A spokeswoman for Cheyenne-based Great Lakes did not immediately return a message Wednesday seeking comment. The Casper Star-Tribune reports that Great Lakes averages 12 flights daily from Cheyenne to Sheridan, Denver, Billings, Phoenix, Los Angeles and elsewhere.


Children's Mercy Renames Main Campus After Benefactor

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Children's Mercy Hospital said Wednesday that it has renamed its main campus after the late Adele Hall, who was one of the hospital's main benefactors. The hospital's official name will now be Children's Mercy, Adele Hall Campus. In over 50 years of service, Hall was a volunteer, trustee and board chairman at the hospital before she died on January 26. The Hall family and the Hall Family Foundation have given tens of millions of dollars to the hospital. Her husband, Donald Hall, chairman of Hallmark Cards, says in a statement that Children's Mercy was always one of his wife's top priorities.


Thieves Hit Southeast KS Library Twice

COLUMBUS, Kan. (AP) — Somebody in southeast Kansas doesn't understand the concept of borrowing from a public library. The Cherokee County News-Advocate reports burglars broke into the Columbus Public Library twice in the past week, making off with cash and computers. Columbus Police Department spokeswoman Ann Sharp says the first break-in occurred sometime between the library's closing the day before Thanksgiving and its reopening on Saturday. The burglars entered through a basement window and stole money and a computer. Library personnel returned to work again Monday to find that thieves had again broken in through the same window and stolen several more computers. Sharp says police have no suspects but are investigating leads.

Lawrence Library Gets $275K Matching Grant

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Lawrence Public Library is getting a $275,000 matching grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the NEH will award the $275,000 grant in matching funds to the library for humanities programs. Kathleen Morgan, executive director of the Lawrence Public Library Foundation, says the NEH grant is contingent on the library's fundraising efforts over the next several years. Morgan says the grant gives the library five years to raise enough money to meet the full match. The NEH will meet 30 percent of all donations up until it has contributed $275,000. Morgan says the money will go toward a speakers' series, community reading programs and technology purchases that would enable the library to digitize local records and place them online.

Wichita State Investigating Alleged NCAA Rules Violations by Baseball Team

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita State's athletics department says it's investigating improper clothing and apparel benefits to baseball players. The Wichita Eagle reports the university announced Tuesday that it has hired an Overland Park law firm that specializes in NCAA rules violations to help investigate. Wichita State says the violations came to light during the transition that followed the June 4 firing of longtime head baseball coach Gene Stephenson. He was replaced in mid-June by Arkansas assistant Todd Butler. No details of the violations or the number of Shocker players involved were disclosed in a brief statement issued by athletic director Eric Sexton. Sexton says officials believe the problem involves only the baseball program. He says the school is determined to ensure its compliance with the rules of the NCAA and the Missouri Valley Conference.

Dodge City Man to Be Tried in Death of 3-Year-Old

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) _ A Dodge City man has been bound over for trial in the 2008 death of his girlfriend's 3-year-old daughter. KWCH-TV reports that a Ford County judge ordered Brock Cunningham to be tried on charges of first-degree murder and child abuse. The death of Natalie Pickle was ruled a homicide, but Cunningham was not arrested until earlier this year. An autopsy showed the toddler died of blunt trauma to the head. Cunningham testified at his preliminary hearing Tuesday that Natalie was jumping on a bed at his home and fell off. And Cunningham's mother testified the girl had fallen down the stairs a day earlier at a motel where she worked. But doctors testified Natalie had severe brain injuries that were not consistent with a fall or minor trauma.

Plans for Wider Highway Endanger 'Points of Rock'

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — Historic preservationists are fighting a plan to widen U.S. 50 in western Kansas, which would require demolishing a longtime landmark near Dodge City. State transportation officials say the four-lane expansion from Dodge City to Cimarron would likely require leveling the "Points of Rock" monument, a steel sculpture of several horsemen sitting on top of a rock outcropping, with the words "Dodge City." The Hutchinson News reports the plans include a 60-foot-wide median between the old and new lanes of the highway, which would take down a big part of the hill where the sculpture stands. Transportation spokesman Kirk Hutchinson says state officials and preservationists have met to consider alternatives, but the options are limited. Preservationists say the monument is an important landmark along the Santa Fe Trail.

Woman Charged in 1990 Northwest MO Slaying

SMITHVILLE, Mo. (AP) — Clay County (Missouri) authorities say a woman has been charged in the stabbing death of a Smithville man in 1990. Authorities announced Tuesday that Annette Davis of Kansas City was charged with second-degree murder in the slaying of 70-year-old Clifford McClanahan. She is being held on $500,000 bond. McClanahan was found dead in his Smithville home in August 1990. Sheriff Paul Vescovo, who originally investigated McClanahan's death, reopened the case in January. Investigators said handprints on McClanahan's bathroom sink were matched to Davis. Vescovo says Davis was never a suspect in the death until that evidence was found. Court documents say Davis told detectives McClanahan caught her smoking crack and slapped her, and she stabbed him and ran out of the house. It wasn't immediately clear if Davis has an attorney.



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