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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, June 13, 2012



Couple Arrested in Bizarre Child Abuse Incident at Lawrence Walmart

A man and a woman from Illinois have been arrested on child abuse charges following a strange incident at a Wal-Mart store in Lawrence.  Police say children -- who were bound and blindfolded -- were discovered sitting near a vehicle in the parking lot late this (WED) morning.  A total of five children were taken into protective custody following the incident.  The children range in age from five to 15.

Click here to read all the details contained in the official news release from the Lawrence Police Department. 


Major Drug Bust in Douglas, Johnson Counties - 25 Arrested

Federal drug charges have been filed against more than two dozen defendants in Johnson and Douglas counties.  Prosecutors filed a criminal complaint in Kansas City, Kansas alleging that all 25 defendants were part of a drug ring that distributed high-grade marijuana in Douglas and Johnson counties from 2008 through 2012.  The single-count complaint alleges that all defendants conspired to possess and distribute more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana.  Search warrants were served and arrests were made today (WED) by federal agents and local law enforcement agencies.  If convicted, the defendants face a penalty of not less than 10 years and not more than life and a fine of up to $10 million.

Click here to see the list of defendants named in the criminal complaint.


New Abuse Claims Surface at Salina Military School

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — More allegations of abuse at a Kansas military boarding school been raised by parents of former cadets from California, Colorado and Texas.  Officials of St. John's Military School in Salina strongly deny the claims.  A motion filed in federal court in Wichita seeks to add four more plaintiffs to the case against the school. The families also want to amend the lawsuit to add St. John's president as a defendant, and to add a claim that evidence was destroyed after the lawsuit was originally filed.  St. John's has issued a three-page statement denying the latest allegations of abuse. The school also says claims that it destroyed evidence are untrue.  In addition, St. John's argues that federal law prevents its president from being personally named in a civil lawsuit.


Kansas Reports 56 Cases of Whooping Cough

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas health officials say the state has had 56 confirmed cases of whooping cough so far this year, four more than in all of 2011.  The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported the numbers yesterday (TUE).  Officials say KDHE and local agencies have investigated eight outbreaks since early 2011, including an ongoing outbreak in Johnson County.  Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a highly contagious bacterial illness spread by coughing and sneezing. It's especially serious for infants.  KDHE says inoculation is the best protection against whooping cough. The agency says the vaccination is recommended for children 2 months through 6 years old, with a one-time booster recommended for adolescents and adults.


Kansas Cracks Down on Repeat Drunk Drivers

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new Kansas law will require jail time for repeat drunken drivers who refuse breath and blood tests.  The law takes effect July 1. First-time offenders are exempted from the law.
The Kansas City Star reports under current Kansas law, refusing the tests generally leads to a driver's license being suspended.  Supporters of the new law say that doesn't deter chronic offenders who drive with or without a license. They say the new law takes away incentives to refuse the tests. Drivers will face the same penalties as a DUI conviction, up to a year in jail for those with multiple convictions.  But critics say it will cost the state hundreds of thousands of dollars in increased costs for incarcerations and potential court challenges.


Traffic Accident Claims 2 Andover Sisters

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — Two sisters from Andover died when the vehicle they were riding in collided with a semi-trailer truck near Emporia. The Kansas Highway Patrol says 19-year-old Holland Moody died at the scene of the Tuesday afternoon accident on Interstate 35. Her 18-year-old sister, Kyle Moody, died hours after the accident at Stormont-Vail Hospital in Topeka. The driver of the car the sisters were in, 18-year-old Jessica Lotz of Andover, was treated and released from an Emporia hospital, as was 44-year-old Linda Cunningham of Centralia, Missouri, a passenger in the truck. The driver of truck, 48-year-old Jimmy Cunningham of Centralia, was not injured. The patrol says it's unclear why the vehicle the sisters were in crossed the center line and collided with the truck.


Algae Byproduct Affecting Lawrence Drinking Water

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence officials say the city's water is safe, despite its having an odd taste and smell. The city's utility department says tests found that a byproduct of dead algae is causing the problem. A spokeswoman for the department says the product does not pose any health concerns for people or animals.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports tests found elevated levels of geosim, a compound produced when algae die. Tests were taken from untreated water coming out of Clinton Lake.  The city hopes the taste and odor issues will be less noticeable soon. But that is difficult to predict because future levels will fluctuate with the weather.  The city is adding carbon to its water treatment process but that does not completely solve the problem.


Group Challenging Ordinance that Protects Gays and Transgendered

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita-based group has begun an effort to repeal a Salina ordinance that outlaws discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  Robert Noland, executive director of the Kansas Family Policy Council, said the group met Monday night to distribute petitions and instructions for collecting signatures.  The petition asks city commissioners to repeal a decision in May to protect people from discrimination in employment, public accommodation and housing based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. The change took effect June 4.  The Salina Journal reports that if the group gathers enough signatures, city commissioners will have 20 days to address the issue or call for a special election. The city would pay for the election unless it is included on the primary or general election ballot.


KS Official Wants Evolution Concerns Considered

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas State Board of Education member says he hopes that scientists and educators drafting new science standards will seriously consider the concerns of people who have questions about evolution.  Republican Ken Willard, of Hutchinson, says people who have doubts about the theory shouldn't be treated as "crackpots."  Willard spoke yesterday (TUE) after the board got an update about work by Kansas, 25 other states and the National Research Council on new science standards designed as voluntary guidelines for all states.  A draft released last month describes evolution as a well-established, core scientific concept. Kansas has its own standards, adopted in 2007, that reflect the same view of evolution.  State law requires the board to review the science standards at least once every seven years.


Sedgwick County Investigating Jail Rape Allegation

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Sedgwick County authorities and two Wichita lawyers are investigating allegations that a county deputy raped a male inmate in his cell in early June.  Sheriff Robert Hinshaw confirmed a rape allegation is being investigated. He said the deputy has been reassigned to a job in which he has no contact with inmates.  The lawyers, Kurt Kerns and Mark Schoenhofer, say they plan to file a notice with the county. That's the first step toward a possible lawsuit alleging multiple civil rights violations and negligence.  Kerns says the inmate is a younger man who was jailed on a non-violent drug offense.  The Wichita Eagle reports the rape allegation comes at a time when the jail has been sued in federal court over treatment of mentally ill inmates.


Diocese Ordered into Arbitration over Settlement with Abuse Victims

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A judge has ordered the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph into arbitration over a 2008 settlement with people who alleged they were abused by priests.  The Kansas City Star reports lawyers for 42 of the 47 plaintiffs who settled their claims against the diocese for $10 million demanded arbitration last year.  They say the diocese had not lived up to requirements in the settlement in its handling of two priests who are accused of sexual misconduct.  The Rev. Shawn Ratigan is scheduled for trial in August on federal child pornography charges. And the Rev. Michael Tierney faces civil lawsuits alleging that he abused the plaintiffs.  Ratigan has pleaded not guilty and Tierney has denied any wrongdoing.


Suspect Arrested in Eastern Kansas ATM Theft

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — A three-week search for the suspect in the bumbled theft of a cash machine outside an eastern Kansas bank has ended.  Franklin County authorities had identified a person of interest shortly after an ATM was removed the morning of May 20 outside Patriots Bank in Princeton. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the 33-year-old man was arrested yesterday (TUE) outside a hospital in Emporia.  The suspect was being held on several charges including felony theft, criminal damage and fleeing.  Franklin County deputies responded to a bank alarm the morning of the crime and arrived to see the ATM being slowly pushed along a street by a pickup truck.  The driver abandoned the cash machine and sped away, then crashed the truck several miles away and ran off.


Ex-Public Works Director in Barber County Sentenced to 14 Months

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The former public works director for a south-central Kansas county has been sentenced to 14 months in prison for thefts that a federal judge said violated the public trust.  Forty-nine-year-old Steven E. Collier appeared crestfallen yesterday (TUE) as U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren not only rejected his plea for leniency, but imposed a longer sentence than the government had recommended. He was also ordered to pay more than $116,000 in restitution.  Collier was the public works director for Barber County. In a guilty plea earlier this year, he admitted stealing from the county and selling heavy equipment, then keeping proceeds from the sales.  Barber County Commissioner Paul Harbaugh testified that Collier manipulated other county employees into helping him by telling them they would be fired.


Kansas Students Win National Auto Skills Contest

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) — Two Kansas teenagers have won the Ford/Triple A Student Auto Skills Competition National Finals at Ford World Headquarters in Dearborn.  The team of 18-year-old Bryce Banks and 17-year-old Jedediah Redger and their instructor from Newton High School finished with the highest score yesterday (TUE), beating out 98 other students.  A team from Saline near Ann Arbor finished second.  The competition consisted of a written test and timed event to find and repair deliberately installed glitches in 2012 Ford Fiestas. More than 12,500 students compete each year in the competition that tests automotive knowledge, workmanship and problem-solving abilities.  Banks and Redger will shadow the Wood Brothers Racing's 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion team during the July 7th Coke Zero 400 in Daytona Beach, Florida. The also will serve as honorary pit crew members.



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