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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, July 10, 2013



Topeka Temperatures Set New July 9 Record

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The year's first triple-digit temperatures prove to be a record-breaker in Topeka, where the thermometer hit 105 degrees to eclipse the previous high for July 9 set in 1980. National Weather Service meteorologist Kris Craven tells the Topeka Capital-Journal that Tuesday's heat index topped out at 109 degrees at the weather service's office near Philip Billard Municipal Airport. It was the first time since September 3 that temperatures reached 100 degrees. Temperatures in Topeka hit the century mark 25 times in both 2011 and 2012. That's less than half of the city's record of 59 100-degree days set in 1936.


UPDATE: Shots Fired in Wichita Kmart Store; No Injuries

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A police SWAT team has surrounded an apartment complex where the suspect in a shooting at Kmart store in south Wichita is believed to be holed up. Early reports indicate the man went to the pharmacy and demanded prescription drugs before pulling out a gun. Police say the robbery suspect fired some shots in the store and then fired back toward the building as he fled the scene.  Lieutenant Doug Nolte says authorities believe a woman who was in the store fainted, but she was not shot. KWCH-TV reports that witnesses described panic as customers and employees ran to the back of the store after the shots rang out. About 70 people were inside the store at the time.


Inmate Attacks Kansas Prosecutor at Hearing

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A 27-year-old Hutchinson man who sexually assaulted a 4-month-old girl has attacked a Reno County prosecutor while appealing his life sentence. The attack happened Wednesday while Michael Sherman was objecting to being sentenced under Jessica's Law. The statute mandates a life sentence with no possibility of parole for 25 years for adults convicted of certain sex crimes against children younger than 14.  Sherman had performed oral sodomy on the infant and then turned himself in.  Reno County Sheriff Randy Henderson says that after the judge upheld the original sentence, Sherman jumped on top of prosecutor Keith Schroeder. The sheriff says the shackled Sherman was immediately subdued, and information will be forwarded to the Kansas attorney general's office for possible charges. Schroeder sustained a slight abrasion to his forehead.


Kansas Reports 12 Drowning Deaths Since May

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — State parks officials say a dozen people have drowned in Kansas waters since mid-May. The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism said Tuesday the 12 drowning deaths include four during the extended Fourth of July weekend. The department notes that only one of the victims was wearing a life jacket. And nine of the 12 deaths occurred when the victims were swimming or wading, rather than in boats. Major Dan Hesket, boating law administrator for the department, says everyone should wear a life jacket while boating or swimming. And he says people should be aware that Kansas lakes have underwater obstacles, sudden drop-offs and soft bottoms, while rivers often have strong currents. Hesket also notes waterways are murky, making finding someone underwater difficult.


Kansas Concealed Carry Permits Set Record in 2012

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Applications for permits to carry concealed weapons in Kansas set a record in the fiscal year ending June 30, more than doubling the record set in the previous year. Attorney General Derek Schmidt says Wednesday that 25,340 applications for permits were filed with the state between July 1, 2012 and June 30. The old mark was 12,408 applications in the fiscal year 2012. Kansas has been issuing permits since 2007 with 63,455 active licenses in the state as of July 1, an increase of nearly 20,000 from the previous year. New changes taking effect July 1 expand the number of public places where concealed guns are permitted, including state and municipal buildings, unless adequate safety measures such as guards and metal detectors are installed.

Koch Plans $200,000 Media Ad Campaign in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wealthy industrialist Charles Koch is planning a $200,000 ad campaign in Wichita focused on political issues. The chairman of Wichita-based Koch Industries told The Wichita Eagle that the four-week media campaign that begins Wednesday will laud economic freedom and warn about government overreach. It is funded by the Charles Koch Foundation. Koch said if people like it, he might expand the campaign to other cities. Koch told the Eagle that he believes his ideas on economics will help disadvantaged people. He contends government regulations, including the minimum wage, tend to hold everyone back. The campaign promotes the idea that countries with economic freedom have the most wealth. Koch acknowledged the move will draw fire from people who criticized him for his campaign spending last year.

Grant Boosts Efforts to Modernize Kansas Courts

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An infusion of federal grant money is expected to improve access to court records and reduce expenses by expanding electronic case filing to more Kansas district courts. Chief Justice Lawton R. Nuss announced Wednesday that the Kansas Supreme Court was awarded a $205,152 grant via the Kansas Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. The money will be used to fund installation of electronic district court case filings in Wyandotte, Butler, Reno, Saline, Finney and Geary counties. Pilot programs are already in place at the Kansas Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, as well as in Leavenworth, Douglas and Sedgwick counties. Some 443,779 cases were filed in Kansas district courts last year, and with the grant 65 percent of the state's caseload will now be documented in the e-filing system.

Wichita Woman Arrested After Leaving Kids in Car

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police arrested a 26-year-old woman after she left her three young children in the car alone on a day when the heat index reached 110 degrees. A bystander called police Tuesday after noticing the children in the car for six to seven minutes with the windows rolled down. The mother left a 6-year-old girl and boys ages 3 and 1 while she went into a nearby business. The children were placed with relatives. The temperature reached 107 in Wichita Tuesday, the hottest day in the city so far this year.


Kansas Considers Licensing for Out-of-State Teachers

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Education wants to study a proposal to make it easier for out-of-state teachers to become licensed in Kansas. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that a national organization of state education agency officials issued a report listing 10 recommendations for how states could improve the teaching profession. One of those calls for allowing reciprocity across state lines. That organization is now making grants available to states to study implementing the recommendations. Kansas Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker says the education department is applying for one of those grants. She says the grant application would not commit the state to changing any of its licensing regulations.

Kansas Veteran Faces Trial in Explosives Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas veteran accused of illegally possessing explosives faces trial next week while attorneys wrangle over what evidence jurors will hear. U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten on Tuesday set a hearing for July 16 in the case against Alfred Dutton. The Army and Marine veteran from Eureka faces trial later that day for unlawful possession of unregistered destructive devices. His attorney is seeking to bar evidence about computer documents and photos of fireworks, chemicals and firearms. Federal prosecutors say Dutton possessed one or more grenade bodies and the necessary parts to convert them into a destructive device. The defense contends the inert grenades are not destructive devices, portraying the veteran as a collector of military items who was preparing to sell the collectible vintage hand grenades on eBay.


KCK Police Still Trying to Identify Remains

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities in Kansas City, Kansas are working to identify human remains found this week in a vacant lot. Police said the remains of a decomposed body were found Tuesday in the northeastern part of the city. Police spokesman Tom Tomasic said in a release Wednesday that the victim was likely a white man older than 40, with possible facial hair, dentures and a surgical plate in his right ankle. The victim also may have served in the military and has likely been missing for several months. Tomasic says police are encouraging people with possible information about the victim to call police.

Railroad Worker Loses Legs in Accident

WELLINGTON, Kan. (AP) — A Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway worker has lost both of his legs after getting pinned beneath a railroad car in south-central Kansas. The Wichita Eagle reports that the man was found around 2:20 am Tuesday in Wellington, 35 miles south of Wichita. It took paramedics 45 minutes to extract the man from beneath the railcar's wheels as emergency crews used a jack to lift the car off him. The victim, who has not been identified, was airlifted from an area hospital to Wichita in critical condition. Wellington Fire Chief Tim Hay says both of his legs were removed.


Sentencing Hearings Set in KC Hereford House Fire

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Three men convicted in the 2008 arson that destroyed a landmark Kansas City restaurant will be sentenced in September. The Kansas City Star reports that Rodney J. Anderson, Vincent Pisciotta and Mark Sorrentino will be sentenced on September 9 for setting the fire at the Hereford House restaurant. The three men were convicted in 2012 of conspiracy, arson and using fire to commit a federal crime. Anderson, a part owner of the restaurant, also was convicted of mail fraud. Prosecutors said Anderson was in debt and conspired with Pisciotta and Sorrentino to burn the business and to get insurance money to rebuild. A federal arson conviction carries a mandatory minimum sentence of at least five years, and using fire to commit a federal crime carries a minimum 10-year consecutive sentence.

Saline County Moves to Take Control of Health Department

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Saline County commissioner says the county is moving ahead with a proposal to take over the Salina-Saline County Health Department. County commissioners presented a proposal Tuesday to Salina city commissioners requesting that the city pay $500,000 toward the $1 million cost of roof repairs at the health department building. The Salina Journal reports that the proposal also noted the city's involvement with the health department would stop at the end of the year. County Commission Chairman Randy Duncan says the county is considering increasing the property tax levy to pay for the loss of city funding for the department. The city and county currently each pay about $720,000 a year to operate the department. City Commissioner Aaron Householter says the city will take the county's latest proposal under consideration.

Hearing Set in Salina on Westar Rate Hike Request

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A public hearing is scheduled for this week in Salina on Westar Energy's proposed increase in electric rates. The Salina Journal reports that the hearing is set for Thursday evening at the Salina College Center at Kansas State University-Salina. Westar has applied to the Kansas Corporation Commission for a 1.7 percent increase worth $31.7 million. The utility company says it needs the increase to meet federal requirements. Westar also wants to readjust rates so residential and small-business customers pay more while industrial consumers pay less. Under the proposal, residential bills will increase nearly 9 percent, or about $7.50 a month for 900 kilowatt hours of usage. Bills for large industrial companies would drop about 8 percent. Utility bills for public schools would also drop more than 7 percent.

Wichita Council Won't Issue Bonds for Library

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita City Council members agree the city's current downtown library needs improvements but they say the money isn't available to pay for a new one. The council voted Tuesday to solicit proposals for architectural plans for a proposed $29 million library. But the council opposed issuing bonds to pay for the project. Instead, the council directed the city's library board to find alternative funding. Officials said the city could not afford to issue more bonds while it is considering water, sewer and road projects. No one disputes the city's current library, which was built in 1965, has problems. It does not have enough space for its books and offers too few computers. Some of the alternative funding ideas include a two-year quarter-cent sales tax, donations and public-private partnerships.

Pittsburg to Vote on Half-Cent Sales Tax Increase

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — Pittsburg residents will vote in September on a proposed half-cent sales tax increase to help fund police and fire operations. The Pittsburg City Commission voted Tuesday night to put the issue up for a vote on September 17. If the proposal is approved, the tax would take effect on Jan. 1, 2014. Police Chief Mendy Hulvey said the police department is understaffed and the city "sorely needs" a narcotics unit. The Joplin Globe reports that the increase would provide about $1.2 million to fund 10 additional officers and updated technology. The increase also would fund five officers in an investigative unit. And Fire Chief Michael Simons said the tax revenues would fund a new pumper and other gear, as well as provide money for training.

Larned State Hospital Plans Mental Health Conference

LARNED, Kan. (AP) — The state hospital for the mentally ill in western Kansas plans to hold its 10th annual conference on mental health next month. Larned State Hospital's event is scheduled for August 12-15 at the Larned Community Center. Superintendent Tom Kinlen says the conference provides professional development for psychologists, psychiatrists, nurses, social workers and corrections officials but is open to anyone who's interested in mental health issues. Topics to be addressed at the conference include suicide prevention and advances in the diagnosis and treatment of depression.

Photographer Arrested After Flying over Feedlot

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Finney County authorities say a freelance photographer working for National Geographic was arrested and briefly detained after he shot pictures of a feedlot near Garden City while on a paraglider. George Steinmetz, of Glen Ridge, New Jersey, and his paraglider instructor, Wei Zhang, of Beijing, China, were arrested for misdemeanor criminal trespass on June 28 after flying over the feedlot. The Hutchinson News reports that the two were held briefly in the Finney County jail before each paid a $270 bond and were released. Finney County Sheriff Kevin Bascue says Steinmetz and Zhang didn't have permission to launch their paraglider from private property and they didn't tell anyone they were going to take photos from the air. National Geographic spokeswoman Beth Foster says the organization doesn't believe Steinmetz broke the law.


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