UPDATE: Kansas Federal Redistricting Trial Concludes
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The fate of political boundaries in Kansas is now in the hands of three federal judges who will digest two days of testimony and draw new maps. Attorneys for elected officials, business leaders and residents completed closing arguments Wednesday in the trial over redistricting. The judges gave no hint how they would draw the boundaries, but did suggest they would be holding themselves to a higher standard for population deviation among the districts. Evidence presented at the trial showed that courts have traditionally deviated from optimum district sizes by plus or minus 2 percent of the ideal population. Redistricting was handed to the federal court because Kansas lawmakers failed to approve new maps for legislative, State Board of Education and U.S. House districts.
UPDATE: Man and Woman Found Dead in Topeka Identified as Separating Couple
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Shawnee County authorities say a man and woman found dead at their Topeka home were separating after more than 30 years of marriage. County sheriff's office Lieutenant Jay Simecka says the coroner has not determined the cause of death for 57-year-old Andrew Jackson Sr. and 52-year-old Carolyn R. Jackson. Their bodies were found in their home Tuesday evening. No one else was in the house. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports court records show Carolyn Jackson filed a petition for separation maintenance March 16. Records indicate the couple had three adult children.
Source of Arkansas River Contamination Found, Given Temporary Fix
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita city officials temporarily plugged a leaky valve at the city's main sewage treatment plant that was sending contaminated water into the Arkansas River. The leak prompted the state health department to issue a public health advisory. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment said Tuesday the river's water quality was improving after the repair was installed. But spokeswoman Miranda Steele said inspectors couldn't determine if the leak was completely sealed because the valve is under water. The Wichita Eagle reports the city will test the water every day for at least the next two weeks to determine if the fix is working. Meanwhile, health officials say people and animals should have no contact with the river between the Lincoln Street bridge and the Oklahoma border.
Fort Riley Garrison Chaplain Retiring
FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — From serving with the Navy off the coast of Vietnam in 1969 to counseling soldiers as an Amy chaplain in Iraq, Colonel Edwin Ahl has seen a lot in his military career. Now he's retiring from active duty as garrison chaplain at Fort Riley and planning a new way of life in North Carolina — maybe teaching, playing some golf and going to church on Sundays. He'll be honored Thursday at the northeast Kansas post. Ahl left the Navy in 1972 and earned a bachelor's degree in geography, then joined the National Guard. During a night of prayer, he says, God called him to become an Army chaplain. He earned a master's degree in divinity and returned to active duty in the Army in 1988.
KBI Assists with Rooks County Death Investigation
PLAINVILLE, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Bureau of Investigation is helping Rooks County authorities investigate the death of a Plainville man. Little information is being released about the death of 54-year-old Robert Foster II, who died sometime around May 21. The Salina Journal reports that KBI deputy director Kyle Smith declined to release any information on the case because it is under investigation.
SE Kansas Farmer Dies in Combine Accident
YATES CENTER, Kan. (AP) — Woodson County authorities say a man in his late 60s died in an accident during wheat harvest. Undersheriff Glen Smith says the accident occurred Tuesday afternoon in rural Yates Center. KFRM-AM reports that David E. Stockebrand was cutting wheat with his son, who was unloading a combine. When he finished, the son began to drive away and the father was caught under the rear wheel of the combine.
Olathe Girl Advances to National Spelling Bee Semifinals
Fifty spellers have advanced to the semifinals of the National Spelling Bee, including the sister of the 2009 winner and two of last year's finalists. Vanya Shivashankar, a 10-year-old fifth-grader from Olathe, Kansas, was the only competitor to earn a perfect score in the preliminary rounds. Those included two words spelled onstage and a 50-word computer test. Shivashankar's older sister, Kavya, won the 2009 Scripps National Spelling Bee. Six-year-old Lori Anne Madison of Lake Ridge, Virginia, the youngest speller in bee history, did not make the semifinals. Spelling Bee director Paige Kimball said "it was close." The computer test was much tougher than last years, when spellers who got more than two words wrong did not make the semifinals. This year, spellers could miss eight words and still advance.
Witness: Kansas Commune Leader Foretold Death of Slain Woman
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A witness who was 12 years old when authorities allege a member of a Kansas commune was killed by the group's leader says the suspect foretold the death and was with the woman when she died. The woman testified Wednesday during a preliminary hearing for Daniel U. Perez, who's accused of killing 26-year-old Patricia Hughes in 2003. The woman isn't being identified by The Associated Press because authorities allege she was raped by Perez. She testified Hughes willingly went toward the pool on the commune's property the day she died, kissing her baby daughter goodbye and reassuring others she would return from the dead. The witness said Perez told her to tell police Hughes had fallen and hit her head while trying to rescue her daughter from the pool.
Topeka Meth Dealer Sentenced to Life in Prison for Killing Woman
OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A 37-year-old methamphetamine dealer from Topeka has been sentenced to life in prison for killing a mother of five who he thought was a police informant. The Kansas City Star reports Jason Munjak will be eligible for parole after serving 20 years of the sentence he received Wednesday in Johnson County District Court. He was also sentenced to 37 months for distributing methamphetamine. Munjak pleaded guilty in April to shooting and killing 37-year-old Toby Marie Rock on January 19 at a motel in Merriam. Rock, who had lived in Kansas and western Missouri, had gone to the motel to buy drugs from Munjak. Witnesses said Munjak pulled out a gun and shot her in the head.
Brett Takes to Twitter to Find Missing Dog
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Hall of Fame third baseman George Brett fired up his Twitter account late Tuesday night and early Wednesday to find his beloved dog Charlie, who went missing during a storm that rolled through the Kansas City area. Brett sent out a tweet shortly before midnight that read: "Please help: My dog has gone missing. His name is Charlie and he is a black labradoodle. HELP Please. Pic to follow!" Brett's son, Jackson Brett, also tweeted about the missing dog. Local television and radio stations joined Royals fans in getting the word out. Brett tweeted shortly before 8:30 am (WED) that Charlie had been found. The former Royals star opened a Twitter account on May 4, but had tweeted only a few times to his 11,000-plus followers before his dog went missing.
Big 12 Officials Favor 4-Team Playoff for National Football Championship
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Big 12 favors a four-team playoff to decide college football's national champion, and supports some kind of selection committee to determine its participants. Interim commissioner Chuck Neinas also said the league is content with 10 members after inviting TCU and West Virginia, though he left open the possibility of revisiting expansion. Neinas spoke after meeting with Big 12 athletic directors Tuesday in Kansas City. Several configurations of a four-team playoff are being presented at conference meetings around the country. How the teams will be picked is one of the items up for debate. Neinas said "we're in favor of taking the four highest-ranked teams."
MO Appeals Court Reinstates Lawsuit in Boy's Drowning
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri appeals court has reinstated a lawsuit filed against Kansas City after a 10-year-old boy drowned in a drainage ditch. The parents of Christopher Dill sued the city after the fourth-grader died in 2007 when rain swept him into the drainage ditch, which was on school property in north Kansas City. The Kansas City Star reports Christopher's parents contend in their wrongful-death lawsuit that the ditch was poorly designed and not maintained by the city. A Clay County (MO) judge dismissed the lawsuit, saying the city had immunity against being sued in the death. The city said the drainage ditch was owned by the North Kansas City School District. The appeals court on Tuesday reversed that decision and sent the case back to Clay County (MO) Circuit Court.
Despite Changes, Eisenhower Family at Impasse with Architect on Memorial Design
WASHINGTON (AP) — The family of President Dwight D. Eisenhower is welcoming design changes by architect Frank Gehry for a memorial honoring the World War II general but says any monument should be simple, sustainable and affordable to honor his values. In a statement Wednesday, the family says it continues to oppose the use of large metal scrims to frame a memorial park near the National Mall. Gehry has called them tapestries that would depict Eisenhowers boyhood home in Kansas. The family says the scope and scale of the images woven in metal remain "controversial and divisive." Gehry and his team proposed changes this month. He replaced images carved in stone with 9-foot-tall statues of Ike as World War II hero and a president. The family is thanking Gehry for making changes.
Police Identify Blue Springs Victims of Murder-Suicide
BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. (AP) — Police say two young girls who died along with two adults at a Blue Springs duplex were shot to death. The adult male who died suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Police say the children's mother also was found dead in the family's duplex last Friday but investigators have not determined how she died. Blue Springs police on Tuesday identified the victims as 22-year-old Lindsey Money; 2-year-old Jazmine Money; 4-year-old Shenayah Money-Wilson and 23-year-old Jessy Letellier. The Kansas City Star reports investigators found a handgun near one victim, but police have not said which victim. Police say no one reported any gunshots or disturbances before the bodies were found.
Kansas Man Pleads Guilty to Sex Trafficking
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas City, Kansas man has admitted in federal court that he took a 16-year-old girl across state lines to work as a prostitute. The U.S. Attorney's office says 26-year-old Otis Warren pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of transporting a minor for illegal sexual activity. He faces a maximum 30 years in prison at sentencing, scheduled for September 25. Warren was arrested after undercover police investigators from Prairie Village agreed last November to pay $250 an hour to have sex with the girl. Prosecutors said Warren drove the girl from Kansas City, Missouri to a house in Prairie Village and dropped her off. He was arrested while driving away. Investigators said the girl worked for Warren, who kept most of the money she earned.
Kansas Turkey Hunters Find Stolen Explosives
EL DORADO, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say they believe they finally have some answers about the mysterious theft of 185 pounds of explosives from a southeastern Kansas company nearly four years ago. Burglars made off with the explosives in September 2008 from a Martin Marietta facility in Butler County. The company used the explosives in its gravel-mining operations. KWCH-TV reports that a pair of turkey hunters called authorities after spotting the tubes of explosives Monday night near Towanda. Sheriff Kelly Herzet says cardboard boxes containing the tubes apparently deteriorated over time. He says the explosives weren't dangerous because they lacked detonators, but he's glad they've been recovered. The ATF in Wichita is continuing to investigate.
Garden City's 'Big Pool' Opens to Big Crowds
GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — One of the world's largest swimming facilities is open and ready to welcome throngs of people hoping to escape the high Kansas summertime temperatures. Last Saturday's opening day for the "Big Pool" in Garden City drew an estimated 1,200 people, and business figures to pick up this weekend as temperatures are forecast to hit the 90s. Billed as the world's largest outdoor municipal concrete swimming pool, the pool is about the size of a football field and holds more than 2.5 million gallons of water. More than 40 lifeguards work at the Big Pool, with about 20 on duty at any given time. Officials say the pool is so big, they aren't really certain how many people it could hold. It takes about 24 hours to fill the pool with water.
Closing Arguments Expected in Federal Redistricting Lawsuit
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Closing arguments are expected today during a federal trial over the Kansas redistricting process. A three-judge panel in U.S. District Court will hear testimony from final witnesses in the case that was prompted by the Kansas Legislature's failure to redraw the state's legislative, congressional and board of education districts. The judges are being asked to resolve the dispute and produce maps in time for the August primary. Yesterday (TUE), a southeast Kansas senator testified that Republican Governor Sam Brownback and his staff got involved late in the legislative session to help end a redistricting impasse. Senator Jeff King, an Independence Republican, said Brownback and Senate Majority Leader Jay Emler asked King and others to work with the governor's staff to draw new maps. One of those maps is similar to one offered to three federal judges to consider.
**this story has been updated. Please see above.
Testimony Ends in Kansas Redistricting Lawsuit
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Testimony has ended in a federal court trial over the Kansas redistricting process. Closing arguments were scheduled to start this (WED) afternoon. Attorneys were asked to focus final remarks on the constitutionality of the maps being considered by the court. The three judges hearing the case suggested that they would be willing to draw maps for the Kansas House, Senate, State Board of Education and four U.S. House seats, even though legislators generally agreed on where the 125 state House districts would be drawn. Robyn Renee Essex, a Republican precinct committee member from Olathe, filed the lawsuit earlier this month against Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the state's chief elections official.
**this story has been updated. Please see above.
2 People Found Dead in Topeka
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Shawnee County authorities are investigating the deaths of a man and a woman whose bodies were found in their home. Lieutenant Jay Simecka says in a news release that deputies went to the home after being asked to check on the welfare of a person at the home. Police say no one else was in the residence. Simecka said the names of the deceased won't be released until relatives are notified.
**this story has been updated. Please see above.