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Your local and regional news for Northeastern Kansas and the surrounding communities, brought to you by the KPR news staff.

6th Grader Submits Antifreeze Safety Law to KS Legislature

 






Photo from antifreezecoolantpro.com














WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas elementary school student is honoring the memory of his dog by asking the Kansas Legislature to regulate antifreeze. Wichita 6th grader Aaron Coash says his dog, Nikko, died in January after wandering from home and at some point drinking anti-freeze. KAKE-TV reports that Nikko is one of about 10,000 animals and 1,400 children who die each year from poisoning from anti-freeze, which smells and tastes sweet. Coash and the Humane Society of the United States wrote a bill that asked the state Legislature to require manufacturers to put a bittering agent into antifreeze. The chemical would make it less likely that anyone would accidentally drink antifreeze. The bill was submitted Friday, and Coash is now waiting to hear back from state senators.

Regional Headlines for Monday, February 13, 2012

KS Lawmakers Resume Debate over Competing Tax Plans

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Legislative committees have scheduled additional hearings this week to consider several plans to cut the Kansas tax rates. Today (MON), House Republicans are expected to introduce their plan to cut individual income tax rates. The plan builds on a proposal from Republican Governor Sam Brownback, but makes modifications in the elimination of tax credits and the state sales tax rate.
Senators have hearings planned Tuesday and Wednesday on the governor's plan, which would reduce the number of income tax brackets from three to two and cut rates. It also would eliminate the earned income tax credit for low-income taxpayers. The House plan keeps the three tax brackets but reduce the rates. It also cuts the earned income tax credit in half.

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Kansas House Panel Opens Hearings on Immigration

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House committee has opened a week of hearings on immigration issues and will study competing proposals that represent opposing philosophies. The Federal and State Affairs Committee started Monday with a bill backed by a coalition of business groups to help some illegal immigrants hold down hard-to-fill jobs in agriculture and other industries with labor shortages. The committee planned two days for hearings on the bill drafted by the coalition, which includes agriculture groups and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce. But the committee also plans to start hearings Wednesday on multiple bills designed to crack down on illegal immigration. Those measures are backed by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the former law professor who helped draft tough immigration laws in Alabama and Arizona.

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Abortion Providers in KS Lawsuit Seek Attorney Fees, Costs

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas abortion providers who won a federal injunction to keep temporary clinic regulations from taking effect are asking a judge to award them more than $221,000 in attorneys' fees and costs. Dr. Herbert Hodes and his daughter, Dr. Traci Nauser, filed a motion Monday seeking about $174,000 in attorneys' fees, expenses and costs. A second Kansas clinic, Central Family Medical, also filed its own motion Monday seeking $47,000 for its attorneys' fees and costs. Their federal lawsuit named the Kansas health secretary as a defendant. The parties have jointly moved to dismiss that lawsuit once the court decides on the attorneys' fees and other costs. Abortion providers have filed a separate lawsuit in state court in Shawnee County challenging the final version of the health and safety regulations for abortion clinics.

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12-year-old KS Girl Dies after Being Hit by Police Car

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Investigators say a 12-year-old girl who died after she was hit by a police car ran in front of the car at a south Wichita intersection. The Kansas Highway Patrol says the patrol car was responding to a burglary when the accident occurred Sunday. Deputy Chief Nelson Mosley said the girl and her 14-year-old cousin ran into the street. Witnesses said the 14-year-old stopped on the median and told her cousin to stop as well, the the 12-year-old ran into the patrol car's path. The Wichita Eagle reports Mosley would not say how fast investigators think the patrol car was traveling at the time. Police say investigators are trying to determine if the officer's view was obstructed by an SUV that was in the lane next to him. 

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1 to 3 Inches of Snow Hits Sections of KS

Wichita, Kan. (AP)_ A storm dropped between 1 and 3 inches of snow across central and eastern Kansas.  That caused cars to slide off the roads in the season's first measurable snowfall for many areas.  Dozens of accidents were reported in parts of Sumner, Butler and Cowley counties. Kansas Department of Transportation spokeswoman Kimberly Qualls said highways in northeast Kansas were completely snowpacked, except where they were treated in the Topeka and Kansas City regions.   The weather service said flurries were likely to end in much of the state by late morning, followed by a cold, windy day with highs in the mid-30s and winds sometimes reaching 30 mph.

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Independence, Missouri Woman Found Dead in Apartment

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) — Independence police say a woman died long before her body was found in her apartment. Police were called to the apartment complex Sunday afternoon after a janitor found the woman dead in her apartment. Police are unsure how long the woman was dead but said it apparently was an extended period of time. KSHB-TV reports that neighbors said that they hadn't seen the woman in two to three weeks. They said she lived in a part of the apartment complex that didn't have many residents or visitors. The woman's identity was not released, but police said she was a senior citizen.

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Death of Former KC Med School President, Karen Pletz, Ruled Suicide

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A medical examiner has ruled the death of a former Kansas City medical school president as a suicide. Karen Pletz, former president of the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, was found dead November 22nd in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The Kansas City Star reports that Darin Trelka, interim chief medical examiner of Broward County, ruled Friday that Pletz died of acute intoxication from a combination of drugs and alcohol. Pletz led the osteopathic medical school for 14 years. In 2009, she was fired amid questions about her handling of the school's finances. A federal grand jury indicted her last year, alleging she had embezzled more than $1.5 million from the medical school, engaged in money laundering and falsified tax returns. The charges were dismissed after her death.

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Woman Sentenced for Credit Union Robbery

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A central Kansas woman has been sentenced to four years and three months in federal prison for the 2009 holdup of a Wichita credit union. The U.S. Attorney's office says 52-year-old Vicki Arce, of Moundridge, must also pay more than $15,000 in restitution under the sentence she received today. Arce pleaded guilty earlier to one count of bank robbery, admitting she held up the Telephone Employees Credit Union in Wichita on April 30, 2009. Prosecutors said Arce handed a teller a plain white envelope and said she needed the teller's cash. She also told the teller there was "someone in the car with a gun." The teller handed over some cash, and Arce left the bank.

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6th Grader Submits Antifreeze Law to KS Legislature

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas elementary school student is honoring the memory of his dog by asking the Kansas Legislature to regulate antifreeze. Wichita 6th grader Aaron Coash says his dog, Nikko, died in January after wandering from home and at some point drinking anti-freeze. KAKE-TV reports that Nikko is one of about 10,000 animals and 1,400 children who die each year from poisoning from anti-freeze, which smells and tastes sweet. Coash and the Humane Society of the United States wrote a bill that asked the state Legislature to require manufacturers to put a bittering agent into antifreeze. The chemical would make it less likely that anyone would accidentally drink antifreeze. The bill was submitted Friday, and Coash is now waiting to hear back from state senators.

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Topeka Man Charged with Poaching 14-Point Buck

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a Topeka man has been charged with poaching a 14-point whitetail buck that could have broken a state record that has stood for more than 35 years. The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism says David V. Kent was charged in Osage County with eight counts related to the November 11 shooting of the deer. He faces charges of hunting with an artificial light and hunting during a closed season. A message left for Kent at his business Friday was not immediately returned. The Wichita Eagle reports that the deer was unofficially scored at 198 7/8 inches of antler on the Boone & Crockett system. The state record for a typical whitetail deer shot with a gun is 198 2/8 and is from 1974.

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KS Legislature Considering Several Alcohol Bills

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Legislature is spending more time than usual on alcohol-related bills during the current session. The Topeka-Capital Journal reports one lobbyist said 13 alcohol-related bills are in various stages of the legislative process. Senator Pete Brungardt, chairman of the Federal and State Affairs Committee, says much of the liquor legislation is minor tweaking of current laws. But he acknowledges that it's unusual to have so many bills on liquor in one session. The bill that has drawn most of the attention would allow groceries and convenience stores to acquire liquor licenses. Opponents and supporters argued the merits of the bill during two days of testimony before a House committee. The bill has been referred to House subcommittee, while a similar bill sits in a Senate committee.

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AP Analysis: KS GOP Defensive Over Private Meetings

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican legislators in Kansas are growing defensive over ongoing questions about whether private gatherings they had with GOP Governor Sam Brownback at his official residence violated the state's Open Meetings Act. A pattern emerged from interviews by The Associated Press with three dozen of the 91 legislators invited to seven dinners in January at Cedar Crest, the governor's residence. The interviews revealed that, during several events, Brownback made remarks that touched on legislative issues and took a few questions. Republican legislators' irritation also surfaced during interviews. Lawmakers attending the events generally saw them as social events, not business meetings worthy of the investigation launched by Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor. The legislators said the events weren't different from past gatherings with Democratic governors.

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KS Judge Rejects Change-of-Venue Bid in Longoria Murder Trial

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas judge has refused to move the trial of a  man charged with killing a 14-year-old Great Bend girl. A spokesman for the state's judicial branch said Monday he received an email from the office of Barton County District Judge Hannelore Kitts indicating she denied a change of venue for 38-year-old Adam Longoria. Longoria faces trial March 26 on charges of capital murder and sexual offenses in the August 2010 death of Alicia DeBolt. Defense attorneys contend Longoria can't get a fair trial in Barton County. They cite a survey of 400 county residents that found all were familiar with the case and 94 percent thought Longoria was guilty. But the judge sided with prosecutors who say Longoria can get a fair trial in Great Bend.

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GPS Evidence Considered in KC Area Murder Trial

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City man accused of killing his wife is expected to find out this week if prosecutors can use GPS evidence collected after his wife disappeared three years ago. The Kansas City Star reports that lawyers for 39-year-old Shon Pernice asked that the evidence be omitted because investigators failed to obtain a search warrant to place the GPS device on Pernice's vehicle. Pernice faces a first-degree murder charge in the death of Renee Pernice, who disappeared in January 2009. Her body has not been found.
At a hearing Friday, an officer testified about how the GPS device monitored Pernice's movements. His lawyers have cited a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that restricts authorities' ability to use GPS devices to track suspects. Pernice's trial is scheduled to begin February 27.

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Trial Set in Sedgwick County Jail Death

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The federal trial is scheduled to begin this week in Wichita in the case of a jail inmate whose family is suing two Sedgwick County jail deputies. Relatives of 46-year-old Terry A. Bruner are seeking a total of $10 million. The Wichita Eagle reports that the Sedgwick County jail deputies said they didn't think Bruner was seriously ill when he was incarcerated. The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Wichita says Bruner died of streptococcal meningitis. The family contends Bruner wrongly suffered without medical help before he died a "completely preventable" death in 2008. The jury will decide if two deputies showed "deliberate indifference" to his serious medical needs -- or whether Bruner didn't show serious medical problems.

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Funds Available in KS for Saving Water

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Kansas farmers and producers can now apply for federal funding for conserving water. The Garden City Telegram reports that the deadline for applying for the funding from the Ogallala Aquifer Initiative for fiscal year 2012 is Februrary 24. The funding is from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service. The vast Ogallala aquifer supplies water to several states, but it's being depleted, largely from widespread irrigation. The NRCS in Garden City says the funding is available for farmers and producers who engage in water-conservation practices such as switching from irrigated crops to dryland crops and converting flood irrigation system to center-pivot irrigation systems. The land has to be used for agriculture or livestock production that produces at least $1,000 of products within the year.

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No Powerball Jackpot Winner in KS, $336 Million Prize Ticket Sold in Rhode Island

CRANSTON, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island Lottery officials say the winning ticket in Saturday's $336.4 million Powerball jackpot was sold at a Stop & Shop supermarket in Newport. Officials said Monday that no one has come forward yet to claim the prize. The winning numbers were 1-10-37-52-57 and the Powerball was 11. The jackpot was the third largest in Powerball history. The ticket price increased from $1 to $2 last month, and rising sales nearly doubled the jackpot from $173.5 million on February 1. Powerball is played in 42 states, including Kansas. The chance of matching all five numbers -- plus the Powerball number -- is about 1 in 175 million.

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KU Women's Basketball Loses Leading Scorer to Knee Injury  

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Leading scorer Carolyn Davis will miss the remainder of the season for the University of Kansas women's basketball team after tearing her ACL and dislocating her left knee in a loss to Kansas State. Jayhawks coach Bonnie Henrickson announced the extent of the injury Monday. Davis felt to the court clutching her knee in the opening minutes of the Jayhawks' 47-43 loss Sunday. Her leg was immobilized and she was removed from the arena on a stretcher. The 6-foot-3 junior had been averaging 17.5 points and scored at least 20 points eight times this season. KU (17-7, 6-6 Big 12) missed a big opportunity to improve its NCAA tournament resume against the Wildcats, and now must play the stretch run without its best player. The Jayhawks' first game without Davis is Wednesday night at Iowa State.

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Big Monday Game: Sunflower Showdown Looms in Manhattan

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas, ranked 4th in the nation in this week's Associated Press college basketball poll, is hitting the road for another Big Monday matchup. This time, the Jayhawks visit rival Kansas State for the marquee televised game. Since the inception of the Big 12 in 1996-97, the Jayhawks are 43-16 on Big Monday, though just 18-15 on the road. That includes a 24-8 mark since Bill Self took over as KU's coach. Only recently has Kansas State risen to the level of such marquee matchups, making four Big Monday appearances last season. Their game against the Jayhawks is their only one this season. The quick turnaround from a Saturday game to Monday night is one of the reasons that Kansas State coach Frank Martin says he has such respect for Bill Self and Kansas.

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Judge in Great Bend Expected to Rule on Murder Trial Location

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Barton County Judge Hannelore Kitts is expected to rule today (MON) on whether to move the trial of a Kansas man accused with killing a 14-year-old Great Bend girl. Attorneys for 38-year-old Adam Longoria contended at a hearing last week that their client can't get a fair trial in Barton County because most residents already think he is guilty. A survey of 400 Barton County residents conducted through Pittsburg State University found all were familiar with the case and 94 percent thought Longoria was guilty. Prosecutors say the survey is not representative and argue Longoria could still get a fair trial. He is scheduled to go on trial March 26 on charges of capital murder and sex crimes for the August 2010 death of Alicia DeBolt.

 

 

Regional Headlines for Sunday, February 12, 2012

 

 

Lawmakers Consider Disaster Fund

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators are modifying a proposal from Governor Sam Brownback's administration to establish a fund covering the state's share of federally declared disasters. Brownback wants to use $12 million from taxes collected each year on insurance premiums to establish what would be a rainy day fund for disasters that cause extensive damage.

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USDA Funds Water Conservation Efforts 

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Kansas farmers and producers can now apply for federal funding for conserving water. The Garden City Telegram reports that the deadline for applying for the funding from the Ogallala (oh-guh-LAH'-lah) Aquifer Initiative for fiscal year 2012 is February 24th. The funding is from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service.

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Oldest Judge Remembered

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Some 400 mourners gathered yesterday (SAT) to honor a judge whose sheer stamina and devotion to justice kept him on the federal bench in Wichita up to his death last month at age 104. U.S. District Judge Wesley Brown was the nation's oldest working federal judge in history, but colleagues at his memorial service said that while he was widely known for his age, he seldom gave it any thought.

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KC Schools Promote Efforts at Open Houses 


KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The recently unaccredited Kansas City School District has open houses planned this weekend at 18 sites to highlight efforts to make improvements. After test scores failed to improve, the Missouri State Board of Education voted in September to revoke the accreditation for the district, effective January 1st.



Regional Headlines for Friday, February 10, 2012

 




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Governor Brownback Gets Deal on New Congressional District Remap

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback says he's struck a deal with Republican legislative leaders to settle a key issue in congressional redistricting. The deal is likely to result in a plan that helps the state's senior Republican congresswoman. Brownback told The Associated Press on Friday that he wants to keep the northeast Kansas community of Manhattan in the 2nd Congressional District of eastern Kansas. He said both Senate President Steve Morris, a Hugoton Republican, and House Speaker Mike O'Neal, a Hutchinson Republican, have agreed. The Senate has approved a plan expanding the 1st District of western and central Kansas so that it includes Manhattan — something officials there don't want. Morris supported that plan, but many Republicans complained it would leave Republican Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins with a slightly more Democratic district.

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Proposed State Abortion Ban Blocked By House Committee Chair

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A leading anti-abortion legislator is blocking a push to enact a constitutional amendment that would ban on abortion in Kansas. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lance Kinzer's decision highlights a split among abortion opponents over tactics, and it frustrated the group advocating the "personhood'' proposal. Kinzer, an Olathe Republican, said Friday he won't have a Judiciary Committee hearing on the proposed constitutional amendment, which is sponsored by 25 fellow House members. He said he doesn't believe the proposed constitutional amendment would withstand a court challenge and could lead to a U.S. Supreme Court decision that could hamper abortion opponents' attempts to enact new restrictions. But the Personhood Kansas Committee, the Wichita-area group promoting the proposed amendment, strongly disagrees. Chairman Bruce Garren said he's surprised Kinzer won't agree to a hearing.

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Kansas House GOP Issues Tax Plan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — House Republican leaders are proposing a plan to cut Kansas income taxes, removing one key objection to an earlier proposal from Gov ernor Sam Brownback. The plan outlined Friday calls for reducing the rates in all three individual income tax brackets, with emphasis placed on the lowest bracket. However, unlike Brownback's plan that eliminated the earned income tax credit for the poorest households, the House plan cuts the rate from 18 percent to 9 percent. Under the plan, all incomes would pay less in taxes. House Tax Chairman Richard Carlson of St. Marys said the plan is less expensive than the governor's, costing the state $41.7 million to implement compared to the $89.9 million in Brownback's plan. Carlson said the bill will be introduced Monday and hearings would begin soon.

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KS Supreme Court Affirms Judgment in Wichita Murder Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ The state's highest court has upheld the capital murder and aggravated kidnapping convictions of a Wichita man paid to kill a pregnant 14-year-old girl. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled Friday that Theodore Burnett is not entitled to a new trial in the 2006 death of Chelsea Brooks. The Wichita teen was nine months pregnant when the father of the baby paid Burnett $200 in cash and $150 in crack cocaine to kill her. Brooks disappeared on June 9, 2006. Her body was found six days later in a shallow grave in Butler County. Everett Gentry testified Elgin Ray Robinson Jr. wanted to kill Brooks because she carried his child, and feared her parents would charge him with statutory rape. Gentry said he was driving the car when Burnett strangled Chelsea.

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Kansas House Approves Bipartisan Redistricting Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Power in the Kansas House is likely to shift next year from rural parts of the state to the Kansas City area after members overwhelmingly approved a bipartisan bill Thursday for redrawing their districts. The House's 109-14 vote means the new district lines specified by the bill are likely to become law, starting with this year's elections. The bill goes next to the Senate. But the Senate's approval is considered a formality because by tradition, neither chamber alters the other's plan for redrawing members' districts. The bill had the support of House Speaker Mike O'Neal, a Hutchinson Republican, and Minority Leader Paul Davis, a Lawrence Democrat.

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Kansas House Chair Trims Teacher Rating Measure from Education Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A proposal from Governor Sam Brownback to post teacher evaluations on school district websites has been trimmed from a House education bill. The Topeka Capital Journal reports that Republican House Education Committee Chairman Clay Aurand decided to take the action after a hearing Thursday. Under the proposal, the formula for the rankings would be based 50 percent on student achievement growth, 40 percent on input from supervisors, peers, parents and students and 10 percent on the teachers' contributions to the profession. The State Board of Education would define the exact criteria. Teachers rated ineffective two years in a row would not be allowed to teach and schools could fire them if professional development opportunities had been provided. The proposal would also offer $5,000 bonuses for some highly rated teachers.

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Committee Rejects Augmented Funding for Public Broadcasting

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House committee has rejected a request from public broadcasters to restore $800,000 in state funding. Governor Sam Brownback's budget proposal included $600,000 for public broadcasting, a cut from the current $2 million state appropriation. A House budget subcommittee restored $800,000. But Thursday, the full House Appropriations Committee removed that $800,000 and returned the state appropriation to $600,000 for the next fiscal year. The Lawrence Journal-World reports State Representative Pete DeGraaf, a Mulvane Republican, said government needs to get out of public radio. Others said the state's financial problems required them to make difficult funding cuts. But several western Kansas legislators said their constituents depend on public radio and public television. Others said public television's emphasis on early learning and children's programming was a service to the state.

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Shawnee County Approves Settlement with ACLU

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Shawnee County has agreed to pay $75,000 to settle a lawsuit over a jail policy that bans inmates from receiving books and publications in the mail. The Topeka Capital-Journal reported that county commissioners Ted Ensley, Shelly Buhler and Mary Thomas unanimously approved the settlement during their meeting Thursday. The American Civil Liberties Union represented Vermont-based Prison Legal News in a lawsuit filed last year against the Shawnee County Commission and the director of the county's corrections department. The suit contended that the ban violates the inmates' constitutional rights to free speech and other civil rights. With the settlement, the jail now will permit Prison Legal News, renewal notices for the journal, book fliers, order forms/catalogs and "similar types of mail" into the facility. The jail is prohibited from enforcing the previous policy and from making amendments that create more restrictions on publications protected by the settlement. County counselor Rich Eckert said the $75,000 settlement was a "very good settlement for Shawnee County" compared to similar lawsuits throughout the states. Most other cases settled for between $150,000 and $250,000, Eckert told commissioners. The most recent, he said, was in South Carolina, which settled for $600,000. "The difference between South Carolina and us is that we immediately recognized that our policy needed to be fixed," Eckert said. "South Carolina fought it vigorously and paid for that."

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Judge: City of Lawrence Sidewalk Ordinance Unconstitutional

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Lawrence Municipal Court judge says part of a city ordinance that makes it illegal to obstruct traffic on sidewalks is unconstitutional. Judge Randy McGrath ruled Wednesday in the case of 54-year-old Robert Gilmore, who faced three misdemeanor counts after being accused of blocking downtown sidewalks last year. Gilmore is often seen in downtown Lawrence wearing a robe or bed sheet. The Lawrence Journal-World reports his mother says Gilmore is mentally ill. McGrath ruled that parts of the ordinance making it illegal to "continue to obstruct traffic" and forcing people to walk around someone are vague and unconstitutional. He ruled sections on leaving objects in a right of way and intentionally obstructing traffic are constitutional. The city has until February 22 to decide whether to appeal the decision.

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Topeka Bank Officer Charged with $2.8 Million Fraud

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A former vice president of Heritage Bank in Topeka has been charged with bank fraud for allegedly falsifying loan applications from otherwise unqualified buyers who were purchasing real estate from her as the seller. A criminal information filed Friday in U.S. District Court charges Jennifer Hughes-Boyles with bank fraud and seeks forfeiture of property and money connected with the crime. Prosecutors alleged the 40-year-old Topeka woman falsified tax return information, credit scores and other information to qualify buyers who were purchasing real estate property from her. The fraud caused the bank to fund about $2.8 million in loans. The charges allege her profit from the sales of real estate was more than $500,000. Her defense attorney, Ben Swinnen, declined to comment on the case.

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Court Finds Kansan Competent for Trial over Threatening President

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has found a Kansas man competent to stand trial on charges of threatening the president of the United States. Today, U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten set an April 3 trial date for Michael Scott Ramsey. The judge conducted a competency hearing for Ramsey yesterday. Ramsey is charged in a two-count indictment with making threats in 2009 and 2011 against Barack Obama. Thursday's hearing was held after Ramsey underwent a psychological examination and evaluation at a federal medical center. Officials determined he had the ability to understand the proceedings against him and assist in his own defense.

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Missing Marshall County Man Found Dead 

FRANKFORT, Kan. (AP) — Marshall County authorities said they have found the body of a 77-year-old Frankfort man who had been missing for a week. Francis H. Kramer was last seen last Friday on his way to an area casino. The sheriff's department said Kramer's body was found Friday morning inside the car he had been driving in southern Brown County. An autopsy has been ordered, but foul play is not suspected.

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Kansas AARP Opposes Westar Energy Rate Increase

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — AARP Kansas says it is opposed to a proposed settlement before regulators that would allow the state's largest electric company to increase its rates by $50 million. Topeka-based Westar Energy reached an agreement with the staff of the Kansas Corporation Commission, which regulates utilities, and other parties. Westar initially sought a $91 million rate increase, arguing it needed higher revenues to cover rising costs. The agreement for the smaller increase still must be approved by the commission, and it plans to start hearings on the proposal Monday. AARP Kansas Director Maren Turner said the agreement would allow Westar stockholders to earn excessive profits from rates paid by struggling families. The agreement would set the monopoly service provider's allowable profit at 10 percent.

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Kansas House Hears Testimony on Youth Diverted from Mental Health Programs

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — About 220 troubled young Kansans who have been diverted from psychiatric residential treatment facilities were the subject of a joint hearing before two House committees. The diversions occurred after the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services began reviewing the screening process for the residential facilities last spring. SRS acting deputy secretary Gary Haulmark said 25 of the 220 youths diverted from residential care from July 2011 to February appealed their diversions. Twelve of those diversions were overturned. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that all but 33 of the rest of the youths received some community-based mental-health service. But Linda Davis, of Manhattan, testified that her grandson attacked her after he was twice denied admittance to a residential treatment facility in favor of home-based services.

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Congressman Seeks Delay in Eisenhower Memorial Construction

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A Virginia congressman is asking a federal panel to reject a design for a memorial honoring President Dwight D. Eisenhower in Washington, saying the World War II general's family objects to it. In a letter Friday to the National Capital Planning Commission, U. S. Representative Frank Wolf said he is worried the approval process is being rushed and won't have public support.  Last month, The Associated Press reported the Eisenhower family was asking the commission to delay any final approval and have the memorial redesigned. Gehry has proposed a memorial park framed by large metal tapestries depicting Eisenhower's boyhood home in Kansas. Eisenhower as military hero and as president would be represented in stone on a smaller scale. The family says the design overemphasizes "Ike's" humble roots and neglects his accomplishments.

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Sumner County Leads State of Kansas in Wheat Acreage, Production

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service says Sumner County was tops in Kansas for winter wheat production and acreage last year. The agency's report on wheat county estimates released Thursday shows Sumner County led the state in production with 10.5 million bushels. McPherson County was second with 8.9 million bushels, followed by Sherman County with 7.4 million bushels. Sumner County also led the state in harvested acres with 329,000 total acres. Harper came in second with 225,000 and Reno was third with 218,000 acres. However, the best yields came out of Miami County where growers were getting average yields of 57.6 bushels per acre. The worst average yields were in Morton County with 16.3 bushels per acre. Statewide, Kansas produced 276.5 million bushels of wheat last year, down 23 percent from 2010.

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KC Mayor Wants $1 Billion for Infrastructure

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City Mayor Sly James says the city needs $1 billion to fix its crumbling streets and infrastructure. James on Thursday asked the Kansas City Council to approve what would be the largest general obligation bond infusion in the city's history. He called for issuing $100 million in bonds every year for the next 10 years. Voters would have to approve such a large bond authority, and it probably would require annual property tax increases. In 2004, the city authorized $300 million in general obligation bonds for infrastructure improvements. The Kansas City Star reports the $300 million will be exhausted in May and the maintenance backlog remains. Council members made no commitment but praised James for his bold discussion of the city's maintenance problems.

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Trial over KC transfer policy set for June 25
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A June 25 trial date has been set in a lawsuit over the unaccredited Kansas City School District's policy for allowing students to transfer to accredited school systems. Jackson County (MO) Judge Brent Powell set the trial date during a hearing Friday. Missouri law requires unaccredited districts to pay to send students to accredited districts. The Blue Springs, Independence, Lee's Summit, North Kansas City and Raytown districts sued the Kansas City district, arguing its plans for covering certain costs are vague and inadequate. A judge refused in December to block the transfers. But the suburban districts insist they won't accept students unless their policies governing out-of-district transfers are followed. One issue is that the Kansas City district wants to pay tuition in monthly installments. The surrounding districts want the money upfront.

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Man Who Inspired 'Catch Me If You Can' Speaks in Salina 
SALINA, Kan. (AP) — The Salina business community has received some advice from the man who was the inspiration for the film "Catch Me If You Can." Frank Abagnale gained his expertise as one of the world's most famous con men of the 1960s. The Salina Journal reported he spoke Thursday at a business security seminar and to the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce. He says the best way to punish an embezzler is to file an IRS Form 1099 rather than a police report. He says the police and courts may well prosecute the crime, and the embezzler may be ordered to pay restitution — but court-ordered restitution is rarely paid. He says that one advantage of going to the IRS is that the business can write off the stolen amount.

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Santorum Endorses Fracking, Condemns Keystone Decision

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum is accusing President Barack Obama of actively seeking ways to allow Iran to gain a nuclear weapon. In a speech Thursday in Oklahoma City, Santorum drew connections between the administration's opposition to the Keystone pipeline project, which would bring oil from Canada through Kansas and other Plains states, and U.S. dependency on Mideast oil producers like Iran. Santorum says the U.S. will say it doesn't want Iran to have a nuclear weapon but will tolerate an Iranian bomb in return for stable global oil markets. The U.S. doesn't purchase oil from Iran, but its Asian allies Japan and South Korea buy Iranian crude. The Obama campaign says that the president has been leading an international effort to sanction Iran. Earlier on Thursday, Santorum endorsed hydraulic fracturing in a speech before hundreds of people at an Oklahoma City hotel. The controversial drilling technique has been dramatically expanded nationwide in recent years and is being tested by drillers in western Kansas.

Regional Headlines for Thursday, February 9th, 2012







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Kansas House Approves Bipartisan Redistricting Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas House has approved a bipartisan bill redrawing members' districts so power shifts in the chamber from rural areas to the Kansas City region. The measure, approved on a 109-14 vote today, had the support of Speaker Mike O'Neal, a Hutchinson Republican, and Minority Leader Paul Davis, a Lawrence Democrat. The bill would go to the Senate. But by tradition one chamber doesn't revise the other chamber's plan for its own members' districts. The legislation eliminates one district each in southeast, southwest and central Kansas and adds three districts to the Kansas City area. Lawmakers must redraw political boundaries to reflect changes in population. The job was made easier because three Republican lawmakers thrown into districts with GOP incumbents are running for state Senate seats.

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Kansas to Receive $50M from Mortgage Settlement

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Attorney General Derek Schmidt says Kansas residents will share about $50 million of a $25 billion settlement reached between the federal government, states and several mortgage lenders. The deal announced Thursday is the largest industry settlement since the 1998 multistate tobacco settlement. Schmidt said the state's share of the settlement would be direct payments to some homeowners who lost their homes to foreclosure. Under the agreement, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Ally Financial will reduce loans for about 1 million households. They will also send checks of $2,000 to about 750,000 Americans, including about 4,000 Kansas residents, who were improperly foreclosed upon. The banks will have three years to fulfill the terms of the deal.

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KS House Takes Up Bill to Change Abortion Procedures

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A House committee is hearing testimony on a bill that would make several changes to laws surrounding abortion. The hearings began Wednesday on the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act." The bill would, among other things, require physicians to tell women that abortion increases the risks of premature birth and breast cancer. It also would require medical providers to try to locate the fetal heartbeat and give the woman the chance to hear it before she undergoes an abortion. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the bill also would eliminate tax credits for drugs used for abortions and some credits for medical institutions that perform abortions. Abortion-rights groups called the bill intrusive and that it will risk women's lives. Supporters say the bill would protect babies and parents.

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Kansas House Chair Trims Teacher Rating Measure

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A proposal from Governor Sam Brownback to post teacher evaluations on school district websites has been trimmed from a House education bill. The Topeka Capital Journal reported that Republican House Education Committee Chairman Clay Aurand decided to take the action after a hearing Thursday. Under the proposal, the formula for the rankings would be based 50 percent on student achievement growth, 40 percent on input from supervisors, peers, parents and students and 10 percent on the teachers' contributions to the profession. The State Board of Education would define the exact criteria. Teachers rated ineffective two years in a row would not be allowed to teach and schools could fire them if professional development opportunities had been provided. The proposal would also offer $5,000 bonuses for some highly rated teachers.

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Kansas Democrats Offer School Funding Alternative

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Democrats are offering an alternative to Governor Sam Brownback's plan for rewriting the state's school funding formula. Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka shared his proposal Thursday with the Senate Education Committee to increase school funding by $180 million over the next three years. The plan would add $45 million to K-12 budgets in each of the next two years and $90 million in the third. It also includes a companion bill to give cities and counties some $45 million in property tax relief. Earlier this week the committee began taking testimony on Brownback's plan, which would rewrite the funding formula, giving local districts more authority and responsibility for raising education dollars locally through property taxes. Brownback's plan also makes changes to teacher evaluation systems and technical education.

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Kansas House Approves Junction City Debt Measure

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House members have given final approval to a bill that will give Junction City more time to pay down debt related to growth at Fort Riley. The bill passed 98-25 on final action today. It gives the city an additional three years to reduce the ratio of outstanding debt to its total property valuation. The limit would remain at 37 percent under the bill through June 30, 2016. Approval by the House sends the bill to the Senate. Junction City issued the bonds in the past decade to make improvements related to the return of the 1st Infantry Division to Fort Riley. City officials and supporters of the debt extension said the anticipated growth didn't occur to the level expected, leaving the city in financial difficulty.

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Former KS Congressman Dennis Moore Has Alzheimer's

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Former Congressman Dennis Moore, who represented Kansas for 12 years in the U.S. House, has announced he has Alzheimer's. Moore, a Democrat from Kansas' 3rd District, says in a statement that he is in the "early phases of Alzheimer's disease" and that he received the final diagnosis in June 2011. The 66-year-old said he hopes to help "others in the same situation" by making his illness public. Moore, who did not seek re-election in 2010 after holding the seat since 1998, said he wanted to help draw attention to Alzheimer's and early onset dementia. He and his wife, Stephene, plan to work with a local chapter of the Alzheimer's Association.  Stephene Moore sought to replace her husband in Congress in 2010, but was defeated by Republican Representative Kevin Yoder.

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Four More Pupils Accuse KC Area Teacher of Molestation

GRAIN VALLEY, Mo. (AP) — Four more young children have come forward to say a suburban Kansas City second-grade teacher touched them inappropriately in his classroom, raising the number of alleged victims to eight. Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker announced new charges Wednesday against 33-year-old Matthew Nelson, a teacher at a Grain Valley elementary school and former "Teacher of the Year." Nelson now is facing five felony counts of first-degree child molestation and three felony counts of first-degree statutory sodomy. Prosecutors say all of the charges involve boys. They say the new victims came forward after Nelson was first charged in January with abusing four others.

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KS House Panel Endorses Kobach Citizenship Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House committee has endorsed Secretary of State Kris Kobach's proposal to require some potential Kansas voters to prove their U.S. citizenship ahead of this year's presidential election. The Elections Committee approved a bill to impose the proof-of-citizenship requirement starting June 15th for people registering to vote in Kansas for the first time. The state enacted the rule last year, but it isn't scheduled to take effect until January 1st, 2013. The committee's endorsement of the bill allows a debate in the House. Kobach has said he wants to impose the proof-of-citizenship rule ahead of schedule because voter registration peaks once every four years in the months before a presidential election. But critics say the bill will hurt voter participation.

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Brownback, GOP Press Need for KS Tax Changes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback, fellow Republicans and business groups are stepping up their pressure on legislators to make changes to the Kansas income tax code. During a news conference Wednesday outside his office, Brownback said the state needs to get its income rates down to stimulate job creation and create more personal income for all residents. The governor wants to reduce the number of income tax brackets from three to two and lower overall rates. His plan targets small businesses and eliminates a number of credits and exemptions. House Taxation Committee Chairman Richard Carlson, a Saint Marys Republican, says a bill is being introduced that will contain the details of the House tax plan. Carlson declined to give details until they are finished, perhaps by Friday.

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KS Senate Passes Congress Map Derided by State GOP

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has passed a congressional redistricting bill that has bipartisan support but has drawn criticism from the state Republican Party. The bill, approved on a 23-17 vote, creates a slightly more Democratic district for Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins, the senior member of the state's all-GOP U.S. House delegation. The proposal split the 32 Republicans in the 40-member Senate, with 15 of them supporting it. All eight Democrats voted yes before the bill went to the House. The proposal expands the 1st District of western and central Kansas to include Manhattan, home of Kansas State University. Local officials want to stay in Jenkins' 2nd District of eastern Kansas. Supporters said they didn't have politics in mind in redrawing lines to account for population changes over the past decade.

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Kansas Teachers Deliver Pension Petitions to Capitol

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Teachers from Kansas City-area school districts have delivered petitions on pension issues signed by more than 6,400 school employees to the Statehouse. The signers are protesting the Legislature's consideration of a proposal to start a 401(k)-style pension plan for new teachers and government workers. The teachers represented five school districts in Johnson County and presented the petitions Thursday to their legislators and Governor Sam Brownback's office. Brownback supports proposal as a way to rein in the long-term costs facing the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System. KPERS faces a projected $8.3 billion funding shortfall through 2033. Its plans guarantee benefits up front, based on a worker's salary and years of service. A 401(k)-style plan would tie benefits to investment earnings. A Senate committee planned hearings on the proposal.

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House Appropriations Nixes Public Broadcasting Funds

The Kansas House Appropriations Committee has rejected an augmented funding request for public broadcasting. Governor Sam Brownback included $600,000 in funding for public broadcasting in his budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1st. A budget subcommittee had recommended adding $800,000 to that funding. Today's action by the Appropriations Committee removes that recommendation. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Republican state Representative Anthony Brown of Eudora said voting against the funding was "one of the tough decisions legislators had to make to be 'real fiscal conservatives.'" State Representative Peggy Mast of Emporia said that legislators needed to re-prioritize given all the funding needs on state and national levels. Several western Kansas legislators spoke in favor of the recommendation, saying their constituents depend on public radio and television broadcasts. The motion to remove the $800,000 funding recommendation was deadlocked at a vote of 10-10. Appropriations Chairman Marc Rhoades of Newton broke the tie and voted to kill the additional funds. Today's vote will have no effect on the Governor's original $600,000 proposal.

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Kansas Judge Sets Trial Date in Abortion Threat Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A judge has set a trial date in the government's lawsuit against an abortion opponent accused of sending a threatening letter to a Wichita doctor training to offer abortions. U.S. Magistrate Judge Kenneth Gale scheduled the trial against anti-abortion activist Angel Dillard for February 5, 2013. His order on Thursday also sets a timeline for the parties to try to settle the case. The Valley Center woman told Dr. Mila Means in January that she would have to check under her car every day because someone might place an explosive under it. No abortions have been openly done in Wichita since Dr. George Tiller was shot and killed by an abortion opponent in 2009.

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Kansas Grocer Faces Sentencing in Food Stamp Scam  

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The owner of a Kansas grocery store is pleading with a federal judge to spare him from prison for his role in a scheme that targeted people willing to sell their food stamps for cash. Ahmed Ajami Al-Maleki asked the judge in a letter for mercy so he can return to his family and live an honest life. His letter was part of a filing Wednesday by his attorney, Kurt Kerns, who is seeking a probationary sentence below the federal sentencing guidelines. Kerns said his client was a conduit for the food stamp scheme rather than a leader of the conspiracy. Today, prosecutors sought a continuance for next week's scheduled sentencing so they could prepare a response. Al-Maleki pleaded guilty to conspiracy, wire fraud and food stamp fraud.

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KC Police Officer Charged with Drunken Driving

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — An off-duty Kansas City officer has been charged with drunken driving, resisting arrest and assaulting other officers after being pulled over on the city's north side. Megan Laffoon was on North Oak Trafficway around 3am Wednesday when an officer saw her driving eratically. Police say the 29-year-old Laffoon became enraged after failing field sobriety tests and being told she was under arrest. Prosecutors say she scratched the officer's neck and continued to fight after being pepper sprayed. She also is accused of head-butting a police office as he attempted to strap her into the back of a police wagon. Laffoon was scheduled to make a court appearance today (THUR).

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Missing Kingman Man Found Dead

KINGMAN, Kan. (AP) — Police say an 89-year-old Kingman man who was the subject of a Silver Alert has been found dead. The search for Wallace "Gene" Fairchild ended after his body was found late Tuesday. His body was found at Calvary Cemetery south of Danville in eastern Harper County, which is south of Kingman. Fairchild, who suffered from dementia, was last seen about noon Tuesday driving on U.S. 54 near Kingman. Family members contacted police after he didn't show up at either of two daily visits with family members.

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Kansas Woman Delivers Baby after Hit-and-Run Crash

GARDNER, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas woman injured after a hit-and-run crash involving a tractor-trailer has delivered a healthy baby girl. The Kansas City Star reported that 33-year-old Nikki McClure is in critical but stable condition following Wednesday's collision on Interstate 35 near Gardner. The Kansas Highway Patrol reported that McClure had to be extricated from her car after rear-ending the slow-moving tractor-trailer. After the crash, the rig's driver drove off with the hood of her car impaled on the back of the trailer. As of today, the truck and its driver hadn't been found. McClure's husband calls the baby a "little miracle."

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Audit Clears State Department in Keystone Review

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The State Department's internal watchdog has cleared the agency of any impropriety in its review of a permit for a controversial pipeline that that would carry Canadian oil across the continental United States. In a report released to Congress on Thursday, the department's inspector general's office said it found no evidence that State Department employees were improperly influenced by proponents of the Keystone XL pipeline, including the applicant TransCanada. Opponents of the pipeline, which was ultimately rejected, had alleged that TransCanada had an inappropriately cozy relationship with some State Department employees conducting the review. They suggested that this affected an environmental impact statement. The report said the department incorporated relevant concerns from other federal agencies in the review but expressed concern that its limited resources and expertise affected the process.

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Survey: Most Think Suspect Guilty in Great Bend Teen's Death

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — Attorneys for a man accused of killing a 14-year-old Great Bend girl say their client can't get a fair trial in Barton County because most residents already think he's guilty. There was no decision on Wednesday's request in Barton County District Court to move the trial of 37-year-old Adam Longoria. He is scheduled to go on trial March 26 on charges of capital murder and sex crimes for the August 2010 death of Alicia DeBolt. KWCH-TV reports Judge Hannelore Kitts said she would rule on Monday. A survey of 400 Barton County residents conducted through Pittsburg State University found all were familiar with the case and 94 percent thought Longoria was guilty. Prosecutors say the survey is not representative and argue Longoria could still get a fair trial.

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KS Senate Considers Bill to Require Certification of Abuse Programs

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate is considering a bill that would require certification of programs that treat domestic violence offenders. Under the bill, the attorney general's office would certify and regulate the batterer intervention programs. Advocates say many current domestic violence programs are cursory, drop-in efforts that don't take domestic violence seriously. Assistant Attorney General Travis Harrod said the proposed legislation follows up on a 2010 bill that established tracking of domestic violence convictions and sent offenders to batterer intervention programs. He says if batterers are not going to be sent to jail, the state needs to ensure that treatment programs are beneficial. Harrod said the bill would set uniform standards for the programs and ensure the same level of service across Kansas.

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Two Men Will Stand Trial for Death of Hutchinson Woman

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Two men will stand trial for allegedly gunning down a Hutchinson woman in what apparently was a case of mistaken identity. A Reno County judge Wednesday ordered Billy Joe Craig Jr. and Charles Christopher Logsdon to stand trial for the June, 2011, killing of 27-year-old Jennifer Heckel. Craig and Logsdon face first-degree murder and several other charges in the death of Heckel, who was shot at her home while her 5-year-old son was nearby. The Hutchinson News reports testimony during the hearing indicated the men intended to rob a drug dealer but went to the wrong home. The men's attorneys argued no DNA evidence or alleged murder weapon connected their clients to the homicide. And they argued that many of the prosecution's witnesses weren't credible.

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Flags Will Fly at Half-Staff Saturday for Federal Judge

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has ordered flags at state buildings to be flown at half-staff Saturday to honor a Kansan who had been the oldest sitting federal judge in U.S. history. Judge Wesley Brown died January 23 at an assisted living center in Wichita at age 104. A memorial service for Brown is scheduled for 11am Saturday, and Brownback ordered flags to remain lowered from sunrise to sunset. Brown was appointed as a federal district judge in 1962 by then-President John F. Kennedy. In 1979, Brown officially took senior status, a type of semiretirement that allows federal judges to work with a full or reduced case level. But he continued to carry a full workload for decades.

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Sumner County Tops State in Wheat Production & Acreage

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Agricultural Statistics Service says Sumner County was tops in Kansas for winter wheat production and acreage last year.The agency's report on wheat county estimates released Thursday shows Sumner County led the state in production with 10.5 million bushels. McPherson County was second with 8.9 million bushels, followed by Sherman County with 7.4 million bushels. Sumner County also led the state in harvested acres with 329,000 total acres. Harper came in second with 225,000 and Reno was third with 218,000 acres. However, the best yields came out of Miami County where growers were getting average yields of 57.6 bushels per acre. The worst average yields were in Morton County with 16.3 bushels per acre. Statewide, Kansas produced 276.5 million bushels of wheat last year, down 23 percent from 2010.

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Kansas City's Union Station Reports 2nd Year of Operating Surplus

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ The once financially troubled Union Station in Kansas City has brought in more money than it spent for the second straight year. The Kansas City Star reported that the attraction recorded a net operating surplus of $3.25 million in 2011 before depreciation. Figures presented Wednesday show revenues were ahead of budget in every area except for the KC Rail Experience museum. Much of the success is attributed to the popularity of the Princess Diana exhibit. The station also received a boost from rent-paying tenants such as the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and the Internal Revenue Service. The station management's business model calls for aggressively containing costs, outsourcing services and not staging money-losing exhibits or programs. An exhibit focusing on the Titanic promises to be one of the venue's highlights in 2012.

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Kansas Star Ahead of Schedule on Building Permanent Casino

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Construction of the Kansas Star Casino's permanent facility is running ahead of schedule, thanks to the mild winter weather. The Wichita Eagle reports the permanent casino is scheduled to open by the end of the year. Its temporary casino opened in December. The permanent casino will be more than 180,000 square feet. That is much more space than the 100,000 square feet it now has in the arena facility, with its 53,000 square feet of casino space. It will offer expanded gaming, including a poker room, as well an events center, five restaurants and a 150-room hotel. The final phase in early 2014 will double the number of hotel rooms and include the opening of an equestrian center.

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KS Lawmakers Likely to Give Junction City More Time to Pay Debt

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House members are expected to give final approval to a bill that will give Junction City more time to pay down its debt related to growth at Fort Riley. The bill on final action today (THUR) would give the city an additional three years to reduce the ratio of outstanding debt to its total property valuation. The limit would remain at 37 percent under the bill through June 30, 2016. Approval by the House sends the bill to the Senate. Junction City issued the bonds in the past decade to make improvements related to the return of the 1st Infantry Division to Fort Riley. City officials and supporters of the debt extension said the anticipated growth didn't occur to the level expected, leaving the city in financial difficulty.

 

Regional Headlines for Wednesday, February 8th, 2012







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Governor Brownback and GOP Leaders Press Need for KS Tax Changes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback, fellow Republicans and business groups are stepping up their pressure on legislators to make changes to the Kansas income tax code. During a news conference today outside his office, Brownback said the state needs to get its income rates down to stimulate job creation and create more personal income for all residents. The governor wants to reduce the number of income tax brackets from three to two and lower overall rates. His plan targets small businesses and eliminates a number of credits and exemptions. House Taxation Committee Chairman Richard Carlson, a St. Marys Republican, says a bill will be introduced today that eventually will contain the details of the House tax plan. Carlson declined to give details until they are finished, perhaps by Friday.

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Kansas Income Tax Debate Accelerates

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Opponents of Governor Sam Brownback's proposal for cutting Kansas income tax rates say during a Statehouse event that Republican's plan is misguided and would punish working families.
Brownback and his supporters were planning a news conference of their own today, touting support for tax cuts. Both events were held ahead of the first of three planned days of hearings over the proposal by the House Taxation Committee. The governor proposes to collapse the state's three income tax brackets into two and eliminate a number of credits and exemptions, a move he says makes the Kansas tax system flatter and fairer. He's seeking to end the state's earned income tax credit for low-income residents, saying the money would be invested in other social programs aimed at the working poor.

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Kansas Senate Approves Congressional Redistricting Plan 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has passed a congressional redistricting bill that has bipartisan support but has drawn criticism from the state Republican PartyThe bill, approved on a 23-17 vote, creates a slightly more Democratic district for Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins, the senior member of the state's all-GOP U.S. House delegation. The proposal split the 32 Republicans in the 40-member Senate, with 15 of them supporting it. All eight Democrats voted yes before the bill went to the House. The proposal expands the 1st District of western and central Kansas to sweep in Manhattan, home of Kansas State University. Local officials want to stay in Jenkins's 2nd District of eastern Kansas. Supporters said they didn't have politics in mind in redrawing lines to account for population changes over the past decade.

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House Gives Preliminary Approval to Proposed Redistricting Map

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The Kansas House has given first-round approval to a bill that redraws its members' districts and shifts power within the chamber from rural communities to the Kansas City area. House members advanced the bill on a voice vote today, setting up final action tomorrow. The bill is expected to pass with bipartisan support.
Lawmakers must adjust the boundaries of their districts and the state's four congressional districts to account for changes in population over the past decade. The plan for the state House eliminates a single district each in southeast, southwest and central Kansas, and adds districts in the Kansas City area. Senators were expected to consider multiple plans during their debate on congressional redistricting this afternoon.

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Former Kansas Congressman Reveals He Has Alzheimer's Disease

Former Congressman Dennis Moore, who represented the state of Kansas for 12 years in the U.S. House, has announced that he has Alzheimer's. Moore, a Democrat from the 3rd District in Kansas, says in a statement that he is in the "early phases of Alzheimer's disease" and that he received the final diagnosis in 2011. The 66-year-old said he hopes to help "others in the same situation" by making his illness public. Moore, who did not seek re-election in 2010 after holding the seat since 1998, said he wanted to help draw attention to Alzheimer's and early-onset dementia. He and his wife, Stephene, plan to work with a local chapter of the Alzheimer's Association. Stephene Moore sought to replace her husband in Congress in 2010, but was defeated by Representative Kevin Yoder, a Republican. 

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Kansas Teachers to Deliver Pension Petition to Governor

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A group of Johnson County teachers are headed to the Kansas Statehouse to deliver signatures they've gathered in protest of plans to change the state employee retirement system.  Tomorrow (THUR) at 1 o'clock, group members will present binders -- with more than 6,400 signatures from school employees from every district in Johnson County -- to Republican Governor Sam Brownback's office.  Brownback and the Republican-controlled Legislature are proposing to change the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System from a defined benefit program to a defined contribution program. The changes are designed to close a projected $8.3 billion gap between pension obligations and what the KPERS system is projected to have in assets over time. Legislators are debating the plan during the current session. School employees are covered by the pension system.

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KS House Panel Endorses Kobach Citizenship Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House committee has endorsed Secretary of State Kris Kobach's proposal to require some potential Kansas voters to prove their U.S. citizenship ahead of this year's presidential election. The Elections Committee approved a bill to impose the proof-of-citizenship requirement starting June 15 for people registering to vote in Kansas for the first time. The state enacted the rule last year, but it isn't scheduled to take effect until January 1, 2013. The committee's endorsement of the bill allows a debate in the House. Kobach has said he wants to impose the proof-of-citizenship rule ahead of schedule because voter registration peaks once every four years in the months before a presidential election. But critics say the bill will hurt voter participation.

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GOP Lawmaker Uncomfortable with Gov's Private Meeting

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Republican Kansas House member says he was uncomfortable with a private meeting he and other lawmakers had in January with GOP Governor Sam Brownback at his official residence. Representative Charles Roth, of Salina, said Tuesday he thinks the January 9 session he attended violated the Kansas Open Meetings Act because a majority of the House Pensions and Benefits Committee was there. Roth said the lawmakers heard a pep talk from Brownback urging them to pass pensions legislation. It was the first of seven meetings Brownback had with GOP members of 13 legislative committees in January. Brownback spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag said she remains confident that the law wasn't violated. Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor, a Democrat, is investigating the legality of the meetings.

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Newspaper Attorney Still Convinced Gov's Meetings Were Illegal

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — As new details emerge, a Kansas newspaper's attorney remains convinced that private meetings legislators had with Governor Sam Brownback at his official residence were illegal. Topeka Capital-Journal attorney Mike Merriam said meetings in January violated the Kansas Open Meetings Act because a majority of some legislative committees were present and legislative issues were discussed. Brownback had seven meetings in January with fellow Republicans on 13 legislative committees. He had another meeting Monday evening for a bipartisan group of lawmakers not tied to specific committees. Brownback allowed The Associated Press to observe and later said the gathering was typical of previous meetings he had held. But Merriam said if that's true, the earlier meetings violated the law because Brownback talked about issues. Brownback spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag said the governor is confident the meetings were legal.

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KS Lawmakers Surprised that Gov Sees Threat to NBAF

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Some Kansas legislators are surprised by remarks from Governor Sam Brownback that the state and its congressional delegation face an ongoing fight to obtain federal funds for a new biosecurity laboratory.  State Rep. Don Hineman, a Dighton Republican, said Tuesday it's troubling to learn that the funding may not be as solid as previously thought. Hineman was one of two dozen legislators who attended a meeting with Brownback at his official residence Monday evening. Brownback said he expects the legislative battle over the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility to last another five years. A site in Manhattan, near the Kansas State University campus, has been cleared for construction of the $650 million biosecurity lab. Rep. Jan Pauls, a Hutchison Democrat, said she was surprised by Brownback's comments.

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Elderly KS Man with Dementia Still Missing

KINGMAN, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Bureau of Investigation has issued a Silver Alert for an 89-year-old Kingman man who hasn't been seen since driving away from his home. Wallace "Gene" Fairchild left his home about noon Tuesday in Kingman in his 2005 red Ford Ranger. The license tag is WCJ-100. His family says he suffers from dementia and has vision problems that make it difficult for him to drive at night. Another resident saw Fairchild driving west on U.S. 54 in Kingman. Family members say he was wearing overalls. Anyone with information is asked to call Kingman police at 620-532-3138.

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Santorum Wins Missouri's Nonbinding Presidential Primary

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum won Missouri's nonbinding Republican presidential primary Tuesday, claiming momentum in his challenge against national frontrunner Mitt Romney even though the victory won't earn him any delegates. Santorum was the only Republican candidate to campaign for Missouri's primary. He had expressed hope that it could help cement him as a conservative alternative to Romney heading into a big round of state primaries in early March. Missouri's primary was essentially a glorified public opinion poll. That's because state Republicans chose to award their delegates to the Republican National Convention using a caucus system that will begin in mid-March.

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Donated Diamond Ring Brings More than $6,000 for Charity

SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) — A diamond that was dropped into a Salvation Army red kettle in Kansas has sold for more than $6,000. An unknown, out-of-state buyer paid $6,325 Tuesday in an eBay auction. The diamond, which was set in a ring donated by a Kansas City jeweler, drew 86 bids during a weeklong auction. It has a cut that is no longer used and is thought to have been cut more than 100 years ago. The Salvation Army in Kansas City, Kansas, said the proceeds would be used in Wyandotte County.

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KS Prosecution of Genocide Case Proves Costly

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The government spent close to $1 million prosecuting a Kansas man suspected of participating in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Partial records obtained through an open records request by The Associated Press show the government spent $397,600 for travel, meals, hotels, translators, witness fees and transcription costs to prosecute Lazare Kobagaya. The one-page summary offers only a glimpse of partial expenses since the Justice Department withheld nine pages responsive to the AP request, claiming exemptions for "unwarranted invasion of personal privacy." Kobagaya's court-appointed attorney says defense costs and attorney's fees were more than $350,000. Jurors say the judge told them after trial that the government spent more than $1 million on the case. In the end, all charges were dismissed against Kobagaya, a Burundian immigrant who is a U.S. citizen living in Topeka.

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Lawsuit Accuses George Brett of Making False Advertising Claims

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Lawyers are seeking class-action status for a lawsuit that claims Hall of Fame slugger George Brett has been falsely advertising bracelets and necklaces as being able to help improve health and sports performance. A lawsuit filed Monday in federal court in Des Moines claims that Brett Brothers Sports International, based in Washington state, has falsely claimed the products help customers relieve stiffness, recover from sports fatigue and improve focus. An Iowa man, Seth Thompson of Adel, says he bought one of the necklaces at the College World Series in Omaha but did not receive any of those benefits. His lawyers are asking a federal judge to approve a class-action lawsuit on behalf of all customers who have bought the products in the last four years.  The company had no immediate comment.

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Arrest Made in Beating Death of KS Homeless Man

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A homeless man is jailed in the beating death of another homeless man. Wichita police say they arrested a 39-year-old homeless parolee Tuesday in the death of 41-year-old Marshall Hauschulz. Hauschulz was found dead last December 16 under a bridge along the river near the Keeper of the Plains statue. KFDI reports
that a motive for the killing has not been released.

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Longoria Attorneys: Survey Indicates Client Can't Get Fair Trial in Barton County

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — Attorneys for a man accused of killing a 14-year-old Great Bend girl say their client can't get a fair trial in Barton County because most residents already think he is guilty. There was no decision on today's request in Barton County District Court to move the trial of 37-year-old Adam Longoria. He is scheduled to go on trial March 26 on charges of capital murder and sex crimes for the August 2010 death of Alicia DeBolt. KWCH-TV reports Judge Hannelore Kitts said she would rule on Monday. A survey of 400 Barton County residents conducted through Pittsburg State University found all were familiar with the case and 94 percent thought Longoria was guilty. Prosecutors say the survey is not representative and argue Longoria could still get a fair trial.

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Man Trying to Scam Churches in Kansas

NEWTON, Kan. (AP) — A scam artist claiming to be a down-on-his luck military man is trying to scam some Kansas churches. The man claims his truck broke down while he was on his way home from his mother-in-law's funeral. The Newton Kansan reports that he says he attended the church a few times and asks that money be sent to Walmart or any place with wire transfers. Jason Reynolds, Harvey County sheriff's department chaplain and minister, says the man gets belligerent and threatens to go AWOL if he can't get the money. Reynolds says at least five churches in Newton have had contact with the man, as well as churches in Wellington, Wichita, Emporia and Udall. Law enforcement officers say never send a wire transfer to anyone unless you know them.

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KC Museum to Mark Death of Last Known WWI Veteran

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The National World War I Museum in Kansas City is planning a wreath-laying ceremony to mark the death of the last known veteran of the Great War. The remembrance for Florence Green will take place today (WED) on a glass bridge that overlooks a field of 9,000 silk poppies. They represent the 9 million combatants who died in the fighting. Green was 110 when she died Saturday in eastern England. She was serving with the Women's Royal Air Force as a waitress when the guns fell silent in November 1918. The museum also had a ceremony to mark the February 2011 death of Frank Buckles, the last known American World War I veteran. Museum head Brian Alexander says it's more important than ever to keep the memory of the veterans alive.

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Hutch Mayor Helps Capture Suspected Burglar

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Hutchinson Mayor Ron Sellers is being credited with helping nab a 19-year-old thief who stole two computers from the mayor's home. Sellers called police yesterday (TUE) when he saw suspicious people in his neighborhood. Police found a car filled with stolen items from several burglaries, including items that had been taken from Seller's own house. The mayor says he didn't know he'd been robbed while he and his wife slept.

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KS Lt. Governor: Medicaid Firms to be Picked in Summer

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A key Kansas legislator says the state can't let a fear of change prevent it from overhauling its $2.9 billion Medicaid program. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Marc Rhoades responded Tuesday to criticism from fellow lawmakers and others that Governor Sam Brownback's administration is moving too quickly with changing Medicaid, which provides health coverage for the poor, disabled and needy. Rhoades, a Newton Republican, acknowledged concerns about Brownback's plan to have three private companies manage the program.
But he said the state can't sustain its current program because of rising costs and can't let fear lock it into doing nothing. Lt. Governor Jeff Colyer, who led the team that drafted the administration's Medicaid plan, says the state will award its contracts this summer.

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KS Lawmakers Tackle Redistricting Issues

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Both chambers of the Kansas Legislature are tackling political redistricting issues. The House had a bill for redrawing the boundaries of members' districts on the agenda for today's (WED) session. The measure encountered little opposition in committee. Lawmakers must adjust the boundaries of their districts and the state's four congressional districts to account for changes in population over the past decade. The plan for the state House eliminates a single district each in southeast, southwest and central Kansas, adding districts in the Kansas City area.  Senators are expected to consider multiple plans when they debate congressional redistricting this (WED) afternoon.
Their bill expands the under-populated 1st District of western and central Kansas to sweep in the Manhattan area in northeast Kansas. Local officials want to remain in an eastern Kansas district.

 

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Suspect in Great Bend Teen's Death to Return to Court

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — A man charged with killing a 14-year-old Great Bend girl is due in court as a judge considers his request to move the trial out of Barton County. The motion by attorneys for 37-year-old Adam Longoria is among a bevy of filings expected to be taken up during a hearing today (WED) in Barton County District Court. Longoria is scheduled to go on trial March 26 on charges of capital murder and sexual crimes for the August 2010 death of Alicia DeBolt. The girl's burned body was found at an asphalt plant near Great Bend where Longoria worked. Other pending motions deal with evidence, jury issues and trial proceedings. Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty, although the capital murder charge remains. Longoria faces life in prison without parole if convicted.

 

 

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