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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, March 6, 2013



Kansas House Panel Endorses Concealed Carry Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House committee has endorsed a bill expanding the number of public buildings where people with concealed-carry permits may bring firearms. The Federal and State Affairs Committee also amended the measure Wednesday to allow local school boards and state university and college presidents to designate employees who can carry concealed weapons inside their buildings, even if their institutions don't generally allow it. The committee's voice vote sent the bill to the House for debate. Kansas now prohibits concealed firearms in most government buildings. The bill would let the state, cities, counties and townships ban concealed guns in their buildings only if they had electronic equipment and officers at public entrances to check for weapons. Public institutions of higher learning could still exempt themselves from the requirement for four years.

Kansas Panel Examines Teacher Bargaining Rights Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House committee has heard conflicting opinions about the merits of a bill that would narrow the topics for negotiation in teacher contract talks. Proponents told the committee Wednesday that school districts need more flexibility in contract negotiations. They said the changes would give school boards and administrators more options in assigning teachers and organizing schools. But educators say the changes would be demoralizing to public school staff members and damaging to classroom learning. Opponents include the Kansas National Education Association, which calls the measure part of a broader attack on teachers and their profession. The bill would reduce the number of issues that teachers could negotiate with local school boards. For example, teachers could still negotiate such things as pay and sick leave, but not performance evaluations.


Two Found Dead in Northeast Kansas Park

SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) — Two women have been found shot to death along a trail in a suburban Kansas City park. Shawnee police called Johnson County Med-Act around 2:30 pm Wednesday to verify that two bodies found along a trail in Gary Haller Streamway Park were dead. The trail is part of a 17-mile system of walking and bicycle trails that runs from the Kansas River south through the cities of Shawnee, Lenexa and Olathe, Med-Act spokeswoman Angela Fera says the emergency medical services crew found two women in their 50s with gunshot wounds to the head and obviously deceased. She says it appears the bodies had been on the trail for some time. Fera says police didn't say who found the bodies.

Kansas Insurance Regulator Backs Medicaid Expansion

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger says she supports an expansion of the state's Medicaid program encouraged by the federal government's overhaul of health care. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Praeger said Tuesday that Kansas is hurting poor residents by not expanding Medicaid coverage for the needy and disabled. The federal health care law promises to pay for most of the expansion. Praeger already has broken with many fellow Kansas Republicans, including Governor Sam Brownback, over the 2010 federal health care law. The insurance commissioner has praised the overhaul as a step toward universal access to health care. A resolution expressing opposition to expanding Medicaid is pending in the Kansas House. Brownback has not taken a position on the issue, saying he will leave it to the Legislature.

Kansas Supreme Court Hears Appeal in Student's Death

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A defense attorney is asking the Kansas Supreme Court to order a new trial for a man convicted of raping and killing an El Dorado teenager who led a secret life as an Internet porn model. Capital appellate defender Debra Wilson argued during a Wednesday hearing on behalf of Israel Mireles. He received a life sentence for the 2007 death of 18-year-old Emily Sander in an El Dorado motel room. Wilson said jurors should have been instructed they could find that Mireles was so intoxicated after leaving a bar with Sander that he could not have formed the intent to kill her. The state contends evidence that Mireles intended to kill the Butler Community College student was overwhelming. Sander was also known as Internet model Zoey Zane.


Kansas Gov's Office Taking Internship Applications

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's office is taking applications from college students for internships in his office and some state agencies. The application deadline is March 15. The internships are open to college juniors and seniors, as well as graduate students and law students. Brownback's office says the goal is to give the students hands-on experience in state government. Not all of the internships will be paid positions. The administration typically has had from 15 to 20 interns in the past. Agencies that have had interns include the departments of Commerce, Revenue and Transportation. Information about the program is available on the governor's website.

KBA Investing $375K in Medical Device Company

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Bioscience Authority is investing $375,000 in an Olathe company that develops medical devices. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the authority's executive committee approved the equity investment for Novita Therapeutics on Monday. Novita has received a total of $900,000 in equity investments from the KBA in 2011 and 2012. It's based at the headquarters of the Bioscience Authority, which is an autonomous agency created by Kansas lawmakers to nurture and invest in emerging biotechnology. Among Novita's medical products being developed are devices to aid in dialysis treatments and treat brain aneurysms. A Novita official says the company aims to provide the authority with a return of five to 10 times its investment.

State Closes 10 Taco Tico Locations for Unpaid Taxes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The state has closed 10 Taco Tico fast-food restaurants and seized their assets for failure to pay $400,000 in taxes. The Kansas Department of Revenue closed six of the restaurants Tuesday in Wichita, and one each in Topeka, Derby, Dodge City and Arkansas City. The state says the restaurants' owner, Ajax International Group, owed $434,939 in state sales taxes from June 2011 through October 2012. An attorney for the owner of Ajax International told The Wichita Eagle that the company will try to reopen the restaurants Wednesday. Attorney Bill Zimmerman says the two options are either to get on a payment plan or declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Taco Ticos in Augusta, Newton and El Dorado are not corporate restaurants and remained open.


Lawrence Approves Agreement for Sports Complex

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence city commissioners have approved agreements for a city-owned recreation center and tax abatements for a larger project that will include athletic facilities for the University of Kansas. The commissioners Tuesday night approved a development agreement for a $25 million Rock Chalk recreation center. And they approved an ordinance to give a 100 percent property tax abatement for the next 10 years for the larger project, which includes privately owned athletic facilities for the university. The commission approved the property tax abatement even after its key advisory board on economic development failed to recommend it earlier Tuesday. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the larger Rock Chalk Park project will include track and field, soccer and softball stadiums for the university.

State to Take Over Operation of Nature Center

GALENA, Kan. (AP) — The state says it will take over the operation of a southeast Kansas nature center. The Kansas Wildlife, Parks & Tourism announced Tuesday it will begin running the Southeast Kansas Nature Center in Galena, pending approvals from the center's board and Galena City Council. The Joplin Globe reports that the state already is advertising for a director. Mike Rader, of the parks department, says services and operations at the center will not change much, unless the new director proposes new programs. The center currently is funded mostly by donations and run by volunteers. Supporters say it is the only area in Kansas that still contains part of the Ozarks. The state also operates a nature center in Junction City.

Salina Baby Dies at Wichita Hospital

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Salina police are investigating the death of baby girl as a possible case of child abuse. The baby's name and age have not been released. KAKE-TV reports the child was brought Monday from Salina to Wichita's Wesley Medical Center. She died Tuesday afternoon. Doctors called Wichita police after X-rays showed the baby had 13 broken bones in various stages of healing. The Salina Police Department has taken over the investigation.


Authorities Identify Fugitive Shot by Kansas Farmer

WELLINGTON, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have identified a 42-year-old Iowa fugitive who was fatally shot by a farmer in south-central Kansas. Sumner County Sheriff Darren Chambers says Joseph L. Lamasters, of Creston, Iowa, was wanted in that state for a probation violation stemming from drug charges. KSN-TV reports that Kansas authorities began searching for Lamasters after he left his ID at a Kansas Turnpike tollbooth Monday, apparently to retrieve money to pay the toll. That's when authorities learned he was wanted in Iowa. Lamasters ran into a wooded area and was spotted later Monday afternoon by a farmer. The farmer says he opened fire after Lamasters jumped out from a pile of feed sacks and threatened to kill him. The sheriff says it was self-defense and he does not expect the farmer to be charged.


Evaluation Sought in Kansas Sperm Donor Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A lawyer representing a 3-year-old girl who is at the center of a sperm donor child support case is seeking input from a psychologist. The Topeka Capital-Journal reported Wednesday that Jill Dykes wants a Shawnee County judge to order a psychologist to evaluate the child and offer a recommendation. Dykes made the request in a motion filed Monday. A Topeka man says he signed a contract waiving his parental rights and responsibilities when he answered an online ad from a lesbian couple seeking a sperm donor. But because no doctor was involved in the artificial insemination, the state sought to hold him financially responsible when the women split and the birth mother sought public assistance. The birth mother's former partner is seeking the right to co-parent the girl.

Kansas State Parks Offering Open Houses

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Just in time to start thinking about getting outdoors again, Kansas is offering free admission and special activities at all 21 state parks on Saturday. The Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism says the open houses will include camping at offseason prices and the opportunity to reserve cabins and campsites for the season ahead. Hours and activities on Saturday will vary from park to park. At Cedar Bluff, there's a free hot dog feed starting at 11:30 am, while courtesy boat inspections will be offered at Crawford, Milford and Tuttle Creek. Elk City will have a one-mile nature hike and a fishing derby for kids. And several parks will have presentations or instruction on archery, fishing and other sports. Information about Kansas state parks is available on the department's website.


Hundreds Attend Benefit for Former KC Restaurant

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Hundreds of people gathered to celebrate a Kansas City restaurant that was destroyed in an explosion at a benefit for its former employees. More than 1,200 people attended the benefit Tuesday for JJ's restaurant, a Country Club Plaza restaurant destroyed February 19 by the explosion. One employee was killed and 15 other people were injured. About three dozen restaurants contributed to Friends of JJ's Benefit and several Kansas City artists performed. Part of the event's proceeds will go to the Megan Cramer Foundation for the Arts. Cramer, a server at JJ's, died in the explosion. Other proceeds will help the injured and workers who lost their jobs. Owner Jimmy Frantze said he was overwhelmed by the response. He has not said if he will rebuild the restaurant.

74-Foot Screen to Debut at KC's Union Station

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A movie screen billed as the largest in the region is making its debut at Kansas City's Union Station. Union Station officials say they'll open the 74-foot Extreme Screen Theatre at 9 pm Thursday with a special advance showing of Disney's 3D film, "Oz The Great and Powerful." Starting Friday, when the film opens nationwide, five daily show times will be offered. The five-story-high screen is part of a renovation that transformed the movie theater into a 3-D digital theater. The screen was trucked to Kansas City from Canada.

20 Years Later, I-70 Killings Still Unsolved

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ A central Indiana police chief is still hoping for a break in the unsolved killings of six people two decades after that multistate crime spree. Cumberland, Indiana Police Chief Michael Crooke was an Indianapolis homicide detective when 26-year-old Robin Fuldauer became the first victim in April 1992. She was slain at an Indianapolis shoe store. Crooke retired from the Indianapolis police force in 2004, but he tells The Indianapolis Star that he continues working on the case and hears from someone about once a month about the killings. Four of the six killings were in strip malls along Interstate 70: two in Missouri and two in Indiana. Two other victims were slain at a Wichita bridal shop near Interstate 35. All six victims were killed by the same .22 caliber weapon.

Wichita Man Pleads Guilty in Good Samaritan's Death

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A Wichita man pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the stabbing death of a man who was trying to break up a fight. Twenty-two-year-old Christopher Cervantes was scheduled to go on trial this week for second-degree murder. Instead, he pleaded guilty Wednesday to voluntary manslaughter in death of 30-year-old Bradley J. Wellbrock. Wellbrock was killed in January 2012 after intervening in a dispute between a man and a woman. Cervantes's attorney said the stabbing occurred during a brawl involving two groups of people. Cervantes will be sentenced April 24.


Family Still Hoping to Solve 2008 Olathe Homicide

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — The family of an Olathe woman whose burned body was found in 2008 is still hoping someone will come forward to help solve the case. Tammy K. Cochran's body was found on March 5, 2008 near a boat ramp close to the Kansas River. Her family says she was strangled before her body was burned and police are investigating the death as a homicide. A reward of up to $18,000 is still available for tips that help solve the case. Her family says Cochran struggled with drug addiction but was trying to turn her life around when she was killed.

Kansas Man Enters Alford Plea in Child Sex Case

ARKANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — An Arkansas City man has entered an Alford plea in case involving the sexual abuse of four girls between the ages of 12 and 16 years old. Fifty-year-old Jerry Wayne Mills entered the plea Tuesday on four counts, including one rape charge. He had originally faced 11 charges involving a total of seven victims. With an Alford plea, Mills maintains his innocence but acknowledges the state had enough evidence to convict him. Mills' attorney says he decided to accept the plea bargain to avoid facing several life sentences. The Arkansas City Traveler reports that Mills will be sentenced April 11. Mills remains in the Cowley County Jail on $100,000 bond.

Woman Sentenced to 25 Years in Drug Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas woman was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison for her role in trafficking prescription drugs that led to a man's death. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom announced Tuesday that 61-year-old Connie Edwards, of Ottawa, led a drug trafficking ring that sold drugs to a man who died in May 2009. The man used prescription drugs and a toxic white power that he had been told was methamphetamine. Edwards led the drug ring from November 2007 to February 2012. Authorities began investigating Edwards in 2010 after they were told she let her tenants pay rent in pills and pay for pills with stolen goods. Another Ottawa resident was sentenced to five years of probation and eight others are awaiting sentencing for their parts in the drug distribution.

Another Missouri Town Restricts Funeral Protests

WEBSTER GROVES, Mo. (AP) — Webster Groves has joined the list of St. Louis-area towns placing restrictions on protests at funerals. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Webster Groves City Council approved the limits Tuesday. Other St. Louis County towns like Clayton and Creve Coeur have also passed laws restricting protests by groups such as the Topeka-based Westboro Baptist Church. The Webster Groves measure, passed 7-0, bans picketing within 300 feet of where a funeral or burial service is taking place, as well as one hour before and after the service. Westboro Baptist members often hold anti-gay protests at military funerals and other events.

Missouri Senator Introduces New Tax Overhaul Proposal

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri senator is rolling out a new proposal to overhaul the state's taxes in an effort to keep pace with neighboring states such as Kansas. A proposal expected to be debated Wednesday in the Senate would gradually reduce the state's income tax rate by 1 percent over five years while gradually increasing the state sales tax by one-half percent over that same period. The plan, from Republican state Senator Will Kraus, of Lee's Summit, is estimated by his office to result in a roughly $600 million state tax reduction once fully phased in. In addition to an overall income tax cut for individuals and businesses, the plan includes an extra tax reduction for lower-income residents. It also attempts to collect taxes from more Internet sales.

Royals' Hosmer to Replace Teixeira in WBC

SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer will replace the injured Mark Teixeira on the United States team at the World Baseball Classic. Teixeira strained his forearm while swinging off a tee on Tuesday. Hosmer will leave the Royals' spring training complex and meet up with the USA before its exhibition game against the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday night in Scottsdale, Arizona. Hosmer received a text message Tuesday night from Tony Clark of the players union, asking if he'd be interested in a spot on the roster.

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