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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, Oct 16, 2013


U.S. Supreme Court Skeptical of Overturned KS Conviction

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court doesn't seem likely to agree with a Kansas court that overturned the conviction of a man who admitted killing a sheriff. The justices Wednesday seemed skeptical of a Kansas Supreme Court ruling that said Scott Cheever's rights were violated at his trial for the 2005 shooting death of Greenwood County Sheriff Matt Samuels. Cheever was sentenced to die for the killing. The conviction was set aside when the state court said a psychiatrist should not have been allowed to testify about Cheever's psychological records without his consent. Several justices did not seem impressed with that decision, with Justice Sonia Sotomayor at one point asking Cheever's lawyer if he had a preference in how the Supreme Court would rule against him. A decision is expected early next year.

$11K Reward Offered for Info on SE KS Murders

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — There's been a boost in the reward for information on a man being sought in two shooting deaths in southeast Kansas. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation told The Wichita Eagle that the reward for information leading to the arrest of 35-year-old Kevin R. Welsh has been increased to $11,000. Welsh is not been charged but he is a suspect in the fatal shootings earlier this month of 54-year-old Keith Kalen Kriesel and his wife, 52-year-old Sheila Kriesel. Their 26-year-old daughter was wounded and remains hospitalized. The KBI says the state earlier provided its $5,000 maximum reward, and private residents and businesses contributed the additional $6,000. State officials say Welsh is thought to be armed and asks anyone with information to call 911 or 800-572-7463.

Carmichael Sworn In to Kansas House Seat

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 56-year-old Wichita attorney has been sworn in as the newest member of the Kansas House of Representatives. John Carmichael, a Democrat, took his oath of office Wednesday at the Statehouse. Carmichael fills the seat vacated by Representative Nile Dillmore in the 92nd House District. Carmichael won a special election in September to fill Dillmore's seat. He will face re-election in November 2014. Carmichael is the former chairman of the Kansas Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training. He is a graduate of Wichita State University and the University of Kansas. Legislators will start the 2014 session on January 13.


Brownback Names KC-Area Attorney as Chief Counsel

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas City-area attorney will be joining Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's staff next month as his chief counsel. Brownback announced Wednesday that he had named Brant Laue (LAU) to the job. Laue will replace Caleb Stegall, named by Brownback to the state Court of Appeals and confirmed by the Kansas Senate last month. The governor's office said Laue will become chief counsel November 4, but Stegall will remain on Brownback's staff for several weeks to help with the transition. Stegall will be sworn in as a Court of Appeals judge January 3. Laue is a native of Hanover, and his family has a cattle ranch there. He is a 1986 graduate of the Cornell Law School in Ithaca, New York and formerly worked for the U.S. Justice Department in Washington.


KS Regulators to Review Consumer Agency Charges

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas regulators plan to review charges imposed on utilities by a state agency that represents residential customers and small businesses to finance its work. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the Kansas Corporation Commission opened an informal inquiry Tuesday after chairman Mark Sievers raised questions about the Citizens' Utility Ratepayers Board. The KCC still approved $109,000 worth of charges from CURB to the utilities, however. CURB Consumer Counsel David Springe said he worries that the inquiry could affect its efforts to keep rates in check. CURB finances its $816,000 annual budget through the charges to utilities. The agency relies on the KCC for some administrative services, but is otherwise independent of the commission and is overseen by a board appointed by the governor.


Judge: Blood Test in DUI Case Can Be Suppressed

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Douglas County judge has ruled a blood test from a DUI case in Lawrence will be suppressed, rejecting the state's argument that the test was lawful. The Lawrence Journal-World reported Tuesday that Douglas County District Judge Kay Huff granted Julian M. Kuszmaul's motion to suppress the results of a blood test. Kuszmaul is awaiting trial on four misdemeanor charges after an accident in August 2012 that forced doctors to amputate the legs of Colby Liston, who was pinned while standing behind a parked car. Kuszmaul refused to consent to a blood test but had his blood drawn at a hospital. The state argued that the implied consent statute made the blood test lawful. Judge Huff ruled officers should have obtained a search warrant before Kuszmaul's blood was drawn.


Kansas Board, Legislators Discuss Education Issues

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators and the State Board of Education have concluded a rare meeting to discuss the status of public education and what common ground they can find on key issues. Wednesday's meeting at the Statehouse included the 10-member state board and members of the House and Senate education committees. Most of the discussion focused on how Kansas can wring more efficiency out of the dollars it spends on public schools while boosting student achievement. Kansas spends more than $3 billion in state revenues on K-12 education annually. Legislators say while the state's costs have increased in the past decade, student achievement hasn't grown at the same rate. Board members agree more can be done to keep costs down working with legislators and local districts.


KS Education Officials Offering 2 Plans to Fund Technical Education

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — State education officials are offering two plans for Kansas legislator to consider that would increase state funding for career and technical education programs. The plans, depending on which formula legislators adopt, would increase education spending for the state's 286 school districts by between $9 million and $12 million. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Deputy Education Commissioner Dale Dennis said the figures were determined after surveying all districts about the costs of providing the classes. Legislators asked education officials in 2011 to come up with a funding mechanism for the programs that recognizes that some courses are more expensive than others, such as automotive or welding. The 2011 changes to technical education programs were aimed at providing students with necessary skills to enter the job market after graduation.


Topeka Airport Board Approves $32K in Upgrades

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Officials are planning $32,000 in terminal improvements at the Topeka Regional Airport to prepare for new service to Chicago. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the local airport authority on Tuesday approved purchases for upgrading restrooms and the terminal's public address system. The authority announced last month United Airlines will offer two daily flights to Chicago starting January 7. Each flight will hold 50 people, with fares expected to equal those from Kansas City International Airport. The state and federal governments have promised $2 million in subsidies if the flights aren't profitable enough. Topeka's last commercial air service was flights to Las Vegas offered by Allegiant Air in 2007.

Shawnee County Jail Population Increasing

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The inmate population at the Shawnee County Jail has been growing, and officials say the facility will need more space if the numbers continue to rise. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Corrections Director Brian Cole says he'll need more space within the next five years if the inmate population continues to grow. Cole says the increased population puts stress on staff, budget and the inmates. He says the average daily population for the adult detention center and annex is a combined 527 adults so far this year and the juvenile center has averaged 45 inmates a day. That's a nearly a 12 percent increase in the past decade. Cole says the increase can be attributed in part to longer jail terms and hikes in female and mentally ill inmates.


UPDATE: County Prosecutor Seeking Court-Appointed Special Prosecutor for MO Sex Assault Case

MARYVILLE, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri prosecutor who dropped charges in a sex assault case involving a 14-year-old girl says he's asking a court to appoint a special prosecutor to look at the case. Nodaway County prosecutor Robert Rice announced the development Wednesday. The girl's mother, Melinda Coleman, says her daughter was plied with alcohol and raped by a 17-year-old acquaintance. Coleman says the family was forced to move from Maryville because of harassment they faced in the small town. She says that after the alleged attack last January, her daughter was dumped on her family's front porch in freezing cold temperatures. Two months after the incident, Rice dropped charges against the 17-year-old boy. Rice and the county sheriff have insisted the case collapsed when the Colemans became uncooperative with investigators. Melinda Coleman denies that.


Missouri Town Cautious After Uproar over Sex Assault Case

MARYVILLE, Mo. (AP) — Maryville city and school officials say they are on heightened alert in response to negative attention the city is receiving over a sexual abuse case. City, school and police officials say they are concerned about reaction expressed on social media and in phone calls after the Nodaway County prosecutor decided to drop charges against a boy who allegedly sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl and another boy who allegedly filmed it. On Monday, the activist group Anonymous released a statement criticizing the city and police for not prosecuting the case. However, the case was handled by Nodaway County, not the city. The Maryville Daily Forum reports that police are increasing patrols to protect anyone involved with the case and school officials met Monday at all three city schools to discuss security.

Northwest Missouri County's Website Down After Threats

MARYVILLE, Mo. (AP) — The website for a northwest Missouri county that's facing criticism over the handling of a sexual assault case has been taken down because of security concerns. The online activist group Anonymous on Monday released a statement criticizing the decision not to prosecute two 17-year-old boys. One boy was accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl during a January 2012 party and another was accused of recording it on his phone. But charges were dropped. Prosecutors say the accusers refused to cooperate; the 14-year-old's family disagrees. Nodaway County Clerk Beth Walker says the county's site was taken down Monday for safety. The web hosting company, Midwest Data Center in Rock Port, said in a statement there were concerns the server would be overused and a risk the website would be defaced.


KS Woman Charged with Killing Man, Leaving Body

AUGUSTA, Kan. (AP) — A south-central Kansas woman has been charged with killing a man and leaving his body to decompose for weeks on her property. KWCH reports that 54-year-old Susan May made her first appearance Wednesday on charges that include first-degree murder. Prosecutors allege that May intentionally shot 55-year-old Richard Hrejsa around September 18. His decomposing body was found Monday evening after authorities were called to May's home near Augusta for a welfare check. May also is charged with trying to keep law enforcement from finding out or investigating Hresja's death and deliberately trying to keep a deputy from serving a legal warrant. Bond is set at $250,000. No information about the case is listed in online court records, and it's not immediately clear if May has an attorney.


ESU, WSU Sign Dual-Degree Agreement

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new agreement will allow students to start some science and math degrees at Emporia State University and finish them at Wichita State University. A news release says leaders of the universities signed the dual-degree agreement Tuesday. It allows students to spend their first three years at Emporia State and their last two at Wichita State. Students completing the so-called "3+2" program will have earned bachelor of science degrees in mathematics or physics from Emporia State. They'll also have bachelor's degrees in any of several engineering fields from Wichita State. Emporia State provost David Cordle says the program makes "good use of the resources and strengths" at both universities.

Fort Leavenworth Postpones Retiree Event

FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — The Army says it's postponing its annual Retiree Appreciation Day at Fort Leavenworth because of the federal government shutdown. A spokeswoman for the northeast Kansas post said Tuesday the event for military retirees and their families had been set for October 26 but will be rescheduled. No new date has been chosen. More than 32,000 military retirees live near Fort Leavenworth. The annual appreciation day has attracted as many as 1,800 people in the past. Other events impacted by the federal shutdown have included a change of command ceremony for the 35th Infantry Division and all community relations activities such as tours, displays, ceremonial drill teams and color guards. Fort Leavenworth is home to the Army's Command and General Staff College and the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks.


Wichita Man Pleads Guilty in Girl's Death

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man has pleaded guilty to a reduced charge in the stray-bullet killing of an 8-year-old girl as she slept in a mobile home. The Wichita Eagle reports that 25-year-old Zachary Gaston was to be tried next week on a charge of felony first-degree murder for the death of Kimbra Moore in September 2012. Instead, Gaston pleaded guilty during a recent, unscheduled hearing to reckless second-degree murder and weapons-related charges. Sentencing is set for November 21. Police have said the gunfire followed a dispute in a nearby parking lot between a group of four men and a man in a stolen car. Gaston was accused of shooting at the car while chasing it into the mobile home park. A bullet pierced the wall of Kimbra's mobile home, killing her instantly.


ID Sought for Body Found Outside KS Home

AUGUSTA, Kan. (AP) — A southeast Kansas sheriff is hoping fingerprints will identify a body partially hidden behind a home whose owner is in custody. Butler County Sheriff Kelly Herzet tells KSNW-TV it's also possible the identity won't be known for weeks because the body is badly decomposed. Officers found the body Monday in the backyard of a home southwest of Augusta after a neighbor requested a welfare check. The 54-year-old woman who owns the home was arrested on suspicion of voluntary manslaughter and other charges, and had a court appearance scheduled Wednesday. Herzet said Tuesday the body appears to be an adult, but investigators weren't sure if it is male or female. The sheriff says deputies have been to the home many times on domestic violence complaints.

Tiller Documentary Coming to Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A documentary about slain abortion provider Dr. George Tiller is being screened in Wichita, where Tiller was murdered. Martha Shane and Lana Wilson, co-directors and co-producers, of the film, "After Tiller," are bringing the movie to Wichita in November. They say they hope the movie will spur civic discourse about abortion. The Wichita Eagle reports that the movie focuses on four doctors who were Tiller's colleagues and who continue to provide late abortions. Tiller was shot to death at his church in 2009 by Scott Roeder, who's serving life in prison. Wilson says she wanted to explore the doctors who provide abortions and their relationships with their patients. The screening is scheduled for November 20 at the Orpheum in Wichita.

Hutchinson Shelter Fails to Secure Grant

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — The city of Hutchinson and a local shelter have been turned down for a $400,000 grant that officials hoped would go toward developing more single-family housing. The Hutchinson News reports that the New Beginnings shelter hoped to use the moderate-income housing grant as part of the $1.2 million cost of developing six more single-family housing units. New Beginnings president and CEO Shara Gonzales says the project still could move ahead. The Kansas Housing Resources Corp. announced recently that it had awarded about $2 million in grants ranging from $71,000 to $400,000 for 10 other Kansas projects. Gonzales says the winning applications all came from smaller communities and many were tied to growth in jobs at specific employers.


Trucker Loses Dog in KS; Finds Pet in CO

LIBERAL, Kan. (AP) — A truck driver has been reunited with his dog in Colorado after losing the animal last month in southwest Kansas. The High Plains Daily Leader & Times reports Billy King was at a Wal-Mart in Liberal on September 27 when Taz ran away. King checked with the city's shelter but was told Taz wasn't there. After leaving Liberal, King kept up the search using social media. Eventually, he learned that an animal rescue group had shipped Taz to Littleton, Colorado. King picked up a newly neutered Taz this month. King says he's glad the dog was neutered and hopes he will calm down now. Great Plains Angels for Animals volunteer Debra Huddleston helped with the search. She called the reunion "a miracle."


MO Authorities Charge Mom with Taking Kids

HARRISONVILLE, Mo. (AP) — Three siblings reported missing from their western Missouri home are safe in Canada, and their noncustodial mother faces a felony charge for taking them. The children, 11-year-old Tabitha Davis, 14-year-old Jasper Davis, and 15-year-old Jordan Davis, were reported missing Friday by their father, who lives with the children in Harrisonville. The Cass County Sheriff's Office says the children were found Tuesday in Alberta, Calgary, with their mother, Sherri Lynn O'Neal, who was charged Wednesday with custody interference. Records don't list a lawyer for O'Neal. The sheriff's office says O'Neal hasn't had known contact with the children for at least three years. Court records show a Cass County warrant was issued Wednesday for O'Neal, who's in custody in Canada. It's unclear when she and the children will return to Missouri.


Historic Western KS Bridge to Be Demolished

LORETTA, Kan. (AP) — An historic limestone bridge erected in 1936 in western Kansas apparently will be demolished. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is taking public comment until October 31 on a proposal to tear down and replace the bridge, which straddles Rush and Russell counties. Russell County officials refused to help repair and strengthen the limestone bridge, forcing Rush County to agree to a complete bridge replacement. Rush County officials say installing a concrete bridge will cut the project's cost in half, to about $100,000. The Hays Daily News reports that oilfield traffic is a factor in the decision. As many as 15 tankers use the bridge every day and have to drive 17 miles out of the way in bad weather.

Kansas Guard Headed to CO to Fix Highway

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — Members of the Kansas National Guard are headed to Colorado to fix a key highway damaged in last month's flooding. The soldiers are expected to leave for Boulder on Wednesday and remain in Colorado for about three weeks. They will replace members of the Utah National Guard who have been repairing U.S. Highway 36 leading to Rocky Mountain National Park. Colorado is paying for the work because of the federal government shutdown, but hopes to be reimbursed after the budget standoff ends.

Garden City College Considers Tobacco-Free Policies

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Garden City Community College is closer to becoming a tobacco-free campus. The school's Board of Trustees voted Tuesday to direct the administration to make the campus tobacco free by January 1 of next year. The trustees suggested that college President Herbert Swender use his discretion to implement the policy. The Garden City Telegram reports that Swender told the trustees a survey found that students and employees were about evenly split on the proposal. Some people at the meeting raised concerns that a proposed policy was too restrictive or questioned how it would be enforced. Swender says the school would enact a policy that would ensure that it would be enforced with increased consequences for each violation.

Kauffman Foundation Pledges $5 Million to UMKC

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kauffman Foundation says it has pledged $5 million to a product development center at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. The pledge will support the Free Enterprise Center, which will be for entrepreneurs, businesses and students who are trying to develop new products. It also will work to help business startups, and will be used by other university programs. The $14.8 million center will work with Kansas City area partners, including MRIGlobal and Metropolitan Community College. The Kansas City Star reports that the university plans to seek matching state funds for construction of the building.

Veterans Memorial to Be Dedicated in Leavenworth

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A new memorial to military veterans will be dedicated in Leavenworth on the anniversary of a local soldier's death in Iraq. The Leavenworth Times reports the ceremony will be held Thursday, seven years after Army Corporal David Unger and four other soldiers were killed in Baghdad by an improvised explosive device. Unger was a 2003 graduate of Leavenworth High School. His mother, Diana Pitts, chairs the committee that raised money for the Leavenworth Veterans Memorial. But Pitts emphasizes that the memorial honors all U.S. military veterans, not just those killed in war. The memorial is located near the main entrance to the Eisenhower VA Medical Center and will be donated to the facility. Pitts said about $70,000 has been raised for the memorial since the effort began in 2008.


Chiefs Pass Rush on Pace to Set NFL Sacks Record

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Justin Houston, Tamba Hali and the rest of the Kansas City Chiefs defense doesn't seem to worry about their place in history. Wins are more important to them. If they stopped to take stock through the first six weeks, they might be surprised. After piling up 10 sacks in a win over the Raiders last Sunday, the Chiefs now have 31 this season. That puts them on pace to not only shatter the franchise record of 60 set during the 1990 season, but the NFL record of 72 set by the '84 Bears. The sack became an official stat in 1982. Houston leads the Chiefs with 9½ sacks, tied with the Colts' Robert Mathis for the most in the NFL. Hali is fourth with 7½ on the year.



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