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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, Nov 20, 2013


KS Democrat Seeking 2nd District Seat Gets EMILY'S List Nod

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The EMILY's List political action committee has endorsed Democrat Margie Wakefield in race in the 2nd Congressional District of Kansas. The Washington-based PAC raises money for female Democrats supporting abortion rights. Wakefield is a Lawrence attorney who hopes to unseat Republican incumbent Lynn Jenkins. In a statement, EMILY's List described Jenkins as a Tea Party lawmaker. Jenkins was seen as a GOP moderate during her six years as state treasurer, but since winning her House seat in 2008, she's compiled a solid anti-abortion voting record, according to the National Right to Life Committee. Jenkins spokesman Bill Roe described EMILY's List as one of the most partisan, Democratic organizations in the nation and said its endorsement of Wakefield speaks for itself.


USDA Awards Kansas $100K for School Programs

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is receiving a $100,000 federal grant to promote the use of locally grown food in schools and agriculture education programs. The grants were announced Tuesday to 42 states and 71 programs nationwide by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Kansas Agriculture Secretary Dale Rodman says eight school districts that have agriculture education programs will be selected to receive $12,500 each to develop the means for getting local food products served in school meal programs. The goal will be to get a minimum of two locally produced food items served in school cafeterias each month. Other agriculture education materials and workshops will be required as part of receiving the grant. Kansas districts with significant percentages of participation in free and reduced-priced lunches will be given preference in the state's selection.


UPDATE: Federal Court Suspends Ex-Shawnee Co. Employee's Discrimination Lawsuit Appeal

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal appeals court has suspended the appeal from a former Shawnee County Juvenile Detention Center employee challenging the dismissal of her lawsuit against county employees and the state attorney general. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday abated the appeal for now because Ning Lu filed it before the district court had ruled on her pending motion to reconsider its decision. The appeals court told her to notify it in writing after district court makes its ruling. Lu filed the lawsuit in March when she was 47, contending she was a victim of age and racial discrimination at the juvenile detention center, where she worked from 2010 to 2012. She sought $4 million in damages in lost wages, emotional pain and harm to her reputation.


Lawyer Says He Lacked Death Penalty Case Training

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas attorney is proposing that he be allowed to keep his law license if he agrees to never again defend another murder case in court. Dennis Hawver faces disbarment or indefinite suspension of his law license for the handling of the capital murder case of Phillip D. Cheatham Jr. of Topeka. Cheatham was charged with the December 2003 shooting deaths of two women and wounding a third woman in Topeka. He was convicted and sentenced to death, but the Kansas Supreme Court reversed the conviction in early 2013, ruling that Hawver provided ineffective counsel. The Topeka Capital Journal reported Wednesday that Hawver acknowledged during a disciplinary hearing on Tuesday that he lacked the training to handle capital cases.


Worker Killed at FedEx Facility in Shawnee

SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) — Police in Shawnee say a worker has died after an accident at a FedEx facility in suburban Kansas City. Shawnee police said in a release Wednesday that 62-year-old Dwight L. Spencer of Gardner died of his injuries at a hospital. Emergency crews were sent to the FedEx facility on a report of an injured worker. Police say that when they arrived they found Spencer pinned between a trailer and a dock. He was taken to a hospital, where he died. The cause of the accident is under investigation.


Bullet Fired into KCK Elementary School

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Kansas City, Kansas police are investigating after a shot was fired into an elementary school as students were preparing to be dismissed. Police say no one was injured in the incident Wednesday afternoon at Whittier Elementary School. Police believe the bullet came from a drive-by incident about a block-and-a-half away. The Kansas City Star reports that the school was preparing to dismiss students when staff heard gunshots in the neighborhood. The district's chief of staff, David Smith, said staff made sure all doors were locked and everyone was kept inside. After about 20 minutes, police told school officials the threat had been cleared and it was safe to dismiss the students.


Kansas Teen Gets Life for Dollar General Slayings

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 19-year-old Kansas man has been sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison without parole for killing two people inside a Wichita Dollar General store late last year. The Wichita Eagle reports Marquis Marshall spoke few words Wednesday at his sentencing hearing. He was convicted in October of capital murder in the Nov. 30, 2012, fatal shootings of 22-year-old store employee Zachary Hunt and 79-year-old customer Henry Harvey. Prosecutors say they still don't know why Marshall shot the victims. A Sedgwick County jury deliberated less than two hours October 2 before convicting Marshall. His defense lawyer presented no evidence at his trial, and a motive for the shootings was never disclosed. About two dozen relatives of Harvey and Hunt attended the sentencing hearing.


Former Nursing Student Sues 2 Kansas Colleges

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former nursing student has filed a federal lawsuit against two community colleges in Kansas over an adverse and secret clinical reference she contends destroyed her educational and career opportunities. Rebecca Lemon sued Coffeyville Community College and a nursing program instructor Wednesday for defamation. Her lawsuit also claims the college falsely assured her when she enrolled that its nursing program would be accredited. Lemon is also seeking a court order requiring Labette Community College and its nursing director to disclose the identity of the person whose reference was the basis of her denial to that school's nursing program. She wants copies of her educational records and a court order forcing the college to admit her. The colleges and employees named as defendants did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment.


Lawrence Could Soon Have New Central City Park

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence could soon have a new city park, which someday might be part of a citywide trail system. City commissioners on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to accepting a donation of 8 acres of land that includes a large pond and forest. The land is owned by the Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that no work on the park will happen until grant funding is found, and that would be next year at the earliest. A private group is seeking funding for the first phase, which would be a concrete trail around most of the pond. City officials say the property could someday become an intersecting point for a trail system across the city.

Saline County Judge to Decide on DNA Testing

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Saline County judge says he'll decide as soon as possible on what DNA testing, if any, will be allowed in the case of a man convicted of raping and killing a woman in 1982. The Salina Journal reports that Saline County District Court Judge Patrick Thompson said Tuesday he'll decide soon about the DNA testing in the case of Robert H. Lackey II, who was convicted of first-degree murder and rape in the death of 22-year-old Sara Ann Brecheisen. Lackey's case was sent back to district court in 2012 by the Kansas Supreme Court for a hearing on whether Lackey should be granted DNA testing on some hair found on Brecheisen's body. Thompson says he'll also consider whether new testing procedures should be completed.

KC Area Man Charged with Stealing Donation Jars

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. (AP) — The Jackson County (Missouri) prosecutor has filed charges against a suburban Kansas City man accused of stealing two donation displays for the Children's Miracle Network. The prosecutor's office said Wednesday that 49-year-old Michael W. Sterbach of Overland Park is charged with two felony counts of stealing for allegedly taking the containers, which had about $90 in them. The money is used to help provide medical care for children. The prosecutor's office says each display was also worth about $500. The prosecutor's office says video images show a man hauling off the displays from a Lee's Summit store on October 26 and November 2. Sterbach told police he wanted to get money for drugs. Lee's Summit police say he surrendered to police after learning he was the focus of the investigation.

Appeals Court Rejects KS Man's Idaho Drug Conviction Appeal

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A Kansas man serving more than a decade in Idaho prison on a drug conviction will stay there, for now. The Idaho Court of Appeals Tuesday rejected Jonathan Ross Mathews's appeal contending police didn't have cause to call for a drug-sniffing dog that located two-pounds of marijuana in his trunk. The officer who arrested Mathews on U.S. Highway 93 near Twin Falls in June 2012 said numerous factors — his circuitous route, energy drinks in his car and food wrappers indicating somebody driving long distances without stopping — aroused his suspicion. However, Mathews, who is from Lawrence, Kansas, contends there was nothing suspicious about the things in his car. The Appeals Court backed the officer, deciding context was important for law enforcement in judging whether somebody should be scrutinized for illegal behavior.

DA: Man Shot Himself After Wichita Robbery

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett says a man fleeing a robbery in April died from a self-inflicted gunshot and not from a shot fired by a sheriff's deputy. Bennett announced Tuesday that an autopsy found that 26-year-old Horace L. Gwyn died after shooting himself in the head while trying to flee from a robbery at a Credit Union of America office in Wichita. He says at the same time Gwyn shot himself, a Sedgwick County sheriff's deputy shot him in the upper back. Bennett says that shot would not have been fatal. Bennett also says the deputy was justified in shooting at Gwyn, who had fired a shot at him.


4 Arrested in Sedgwick County Shooting

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities in Sedgwick County have arrested four people in a shooting that left a woman dead and her husband critically injured. The couple was rushed to a Wichita hospital Friday night after they were found suffering from gunshot wounds outside their home in Valley Center, which is north of Wichita. The Sedgwick County Sheriff's office said 53-year-old Melissa Bluml died Saturday. Her husband, Roger Bluml, remains hospitalized in critical condition. The sheriff's department says three men and a woman have been taken into custody. Sheriff's Captain Greg Pollock also says investigators expect to meet with prosecutors this week to determine if charges will be filed. Pollock says authorities don't expect any more arrests, but the investigation is ongoing.


Westar Energy Sends Crews to Aid in Michigan Power Restoration

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Westar Energy is sending crews to help restore power in Michigan, which was hit by heavy storms this week. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Westar says Michigan's DTE Energy put out a call for aid in restoring power to more than 300,000 people. Westar is a member of the Midwest Mutual Assistance Group, which allows utilities to call upon neighboring utilities and contractors for help getting power running after severe storms. Westar says in a release that 32 people from its service territory will also post online updates during their work with DTE in Michigan.

KS Dog Owner Seeks Justice After Animal's Death

ASHLAND, Kan. (AP) — A dog owner in western Kansas is seeking justice after his dog was apparently strangled. Justin Underwood told KWCH  that his 9-year-old Border Collie named Mac ran away last week. He says that two days later he got a call from a woman claiming she shot the dog because it was harassing her goats. Underwood says he went to the Clark County Sheriff's Office after finding no evidence of gunshots or metal fragments in the X-ray. The sheriff's office sent the dog's body to a research lab at Kansas State University, which found that the dog had been strangled. Underwood says Mac was trained to herd cattle and would not have hurt other animals. He says he does not understand why the woman killed him.

19-Year-Old Charged in Convenience Store Shooting

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 19-year-old Kansas man has been charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of a customer at a south Wichita convenience store. The Wichita Eagle reports Jackson Bryant also was charged Tuesday with aggravated robbery, attempted aggravated robbery, criminal possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and two misdemeanor counts of criminal damage to property. He is accused of killing 29-year-old Jeffrey Michael Jones while robbing the BD Convenience Store shortly before 7:30 pm Sunday. Police say Bryant entered the store and pointed a gun at the clerk, demanded money, then shot Bryant in the head after a short conversation. It was not immediately clear whether Bryant had obtained an attorney. He was being held on $1 million bond.

Small KS College Gets $1M Gift

MCPHERSON, Kan. (AP) — A small central Kansas college has received a $1 million gift from a deceased Arkansas woman. Central Christian College announced on Tuesday that it had received the estate gift from Lela Hudson Honkonen of Batesville, Ark., who died in April. It was the largest estate gift ever given to the college in McPherson. Honkonen graduated from Central Christian in 1937. She worked 43 years for the federal government as a transportation specialist. She wanted the gift used for tuition and books for financially challenged students. The Hutchinson News reports that her gift will go to the President's Opportunity Grant Program, which was started this summer to support students who work to pay for their education. In 2009, Honkonen's sister, Altha Hudson, left more than $800,000 to Central Christian College.

Smith Center Native Receiving Horatio Alger Award

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas native who owned Safelite Auto Glass in Wichita and other companies is a 2014 recipient of the Horatio Alger Award. The Wichita Eagle reports that Randall Dee Hubbard, a native of Smith Center, will receive the honor in April. The award recognizes business leaders who overcome challenges to achieve success and who demonstrate a commitment to philanthropy and higher education. About 200 people have received the award, which is presented by the nonprofit Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans. Hubbard has donated heavily to Butler Community College, which he attended, and to Wichita State University. He studied at Butler Community College before becoming general manager and president at Safelite. He later created and ran glass company AFG and bought and revived several horse racing tracks.


New KCK Water Slide Touted as World's Fastest

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — At about 17 stories tall, a water slide opening this spring in Kansas City, Kansas is being touted as a contender for the world's fastest. The Kansas City Star reports that the Schlitterbahn water park company is keeping the ride's exact height secret until an official measuring event this spring. But they promise it will exceed the height of the current world-record-holding slide in Brazil. Riders on that slide have been clocked at 65 mph. Thrill seekers will get their first chance to ride the new slide when the park opens May 23. Park marketing and sales director Layne Pitcher says the slide will attract "adrenaline junkies who are always looking for that next biggest, coolest thrill."





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