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Headlines for Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Kansas news headlines from the Associated Press, as compiled by the KPR news staff.
Kansas Public Radio
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Kansas AG-Elect Kris Kobach Nominates Primary Rival Tony Mattivi as New KBI Director

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Attorney General-elect Kris Kobach says he is nominating a former longtime federal prosecutor who also was among his Republican primary opponents to be the Kansas Bureau of Investigation's next director. Kobach has picked Tony Mattivi to replace retiring KBI Director Kirk Thompson. Mattivi was a federal prosecutor for more than 20 years and coordinator of anti-terrorism and homeland
security efforts in Kansas when he retired in November 2020. Kobach cited that experience in announcing Mattivi's nomination. Kobach defeated Mattivi and state Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Kellie Warren in the GOP primary in August. Mattivi's appointment would have to be confirmed by the Kansas Senate.

Kobach cited Mattivi's experience as a federal prosecutor. For five years, Mattivi led the team prosecuting Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, accused of orchestrating the USS Cole bombing in Yemen in 2000 that killed 17 sailors. That case has yet to go to trial before a military commission. Mattivi also has worked for the attorney general's office and Shawnee County District attorney's office.

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Company Starting to Recover Oil from Kansas Pipeline Spill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The company operating a pipeline that leaked about 14,000 bathtubs’ worth of crude oil into a northeastern Kansas creek is recovering at least a small part of it. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday that Canada-based TC Energy had recovered almost 2,600 barrels of oil mixed with water from the 14,000-barrel spill. It occurred last week on a creek running through rural pastureland in Washington County, Kansas, about 150 miles northwest of Kansas City. The spill prompted federal regulators to order TC Energy to take corrective action, and the order noted that the company was testing its pipe for internal problems when the spill occurred.

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City Officials Begin Clearing Homeless Campsite in North Lawrence

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - The City of Lawrence has begun issuing notices to people to clear their campsites in preparation for closing a city-managed campsite in North Lawrence for those experiencing homelessness. The camp is located on city-owned property behind Johnny’s Tavern in north Lawrence. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that city opened its Winter Emergency Shelter in the Community Building (115 W. 11th St.) on December 1. And as of Friday, city officials said the largest number of people who have stayed there has been 38. The capacity at the emergency shelter is 75, with the potential for 12 overflow beds at the Lawrence Community Shelter in eastern Lawrence. The city's goal is to have everybody moved out of the encampment by January 15. (Read more.)

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One Dead, Another Injured as Fire Destroys 154-Year-Old House East of Topeka

SHAWNEE COUNTY, Kan. (TCJ) - One person died and another suffered minor injuries in a jump from a second-floor window late Sunday during a raging fire that destroyed a house near the Tecumseh community in eastern Shawnee County. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the names of the two people have not yet been made public. According to the Shawnee County Appraiser's Office, the house (at 7240 S.E. 2nd) was built in 1868. The property had an appraised value of $152,560. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

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Kansas City Man Sentenced to 30 Years in Shooting that Killed Mother, Son

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KC Star) - A 34-year-old Kansas City man has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for a February 2021 shooting that left his girlfriend and her adult son dead in their West Side townhome. The Kansas City Star reports that Dmarius Bozeman was handed the sentence Friday during a hearing in Jackson County Circuit Court. In September, Bozeman was convicted during a jury trial of eight felonies, including second-degree murder for the killing of 35-year-old Khasheme Strother, who died alongside the eldest of her five children, 19-year-old Raymon Hill.

On February 17, 2021, Kansas City police officers were dispatched to the 1900 block of West Pennway Terrace after Bozeman called 911 to report a shooting there. During the call, Bozeman allegedly admitted to shooting Hill and Strother. He had a gunshot wound to the leg when police arrived. The killings unfolded during a domestic dispute inside the residence as other younger juveniles were present in the home. Bozeman allegedly told police he fired two “warning” shots at Strother and did not intend to shoot her; he also allegedly said he shot Hill out of self defense afterward when the 19-year-old confronted him with a gun.

Three more of Strother’s children were inside the home at the time. They told investigators that Bozeman had been in a physical fight with their mother right before the shooting unfolded, and described a history of domestic abuse. Prosecutors did not charge Bozeman with a crime in Hill’s killing. During the court hearing Friday, Judge Jalilah Otto sentenced Bozeman to serve 25 years on the murder charge and five additional years for the other felony convictions, which included child endangerment and armed criminal action.

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Ex-Johnson County Choir Teacher Admits in Court to Taping Students While They Changed

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (KC Star) - A longtime former teacher and choir director at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park pleaded guilty Monday to more than two dozen felonies for secretly filming students as they were undressing. The Kansas City Star reports that 46-year-old Joseph Heidesch entered the guilty plea in Johnson County District Court during a video teleconference hearing Monday afternoon. Following an agreement struck between prosecutors and his defense attorney, Heidesch admitted to 24 counts of privacy invasion and one count of possession of sexually explicit material of a juvenile.

Heidesch appeared by video from Georgia as he remains free on bond. Judge Michael P. Joyce ordered him to appear in person for his sentencing hearing. Under the terms of the plea agreement, prosecutors and Heidesch’s lawyer are jointly requesting that he spend nearly 6 years in a Kansas prison. He would also be required to register with the state as a sex offender.

On a hard drive taken as evidence, authorities say hundreds of videos were discovered showing 25 identified victims in various states of undress, including some who were nude. The secret camera was placed in Heidesch’s office, a space students were known to use for changing into clothes for choir practice. Authorities found that the recordings were made between August 2016 and October 2021, when Heidesch was first arrested and charged. Allegations outlined in the criminal case have led to civil lawsuits filed against St. Thomas Aquinas over the past year.

Last month, a former student filed a civil petition saying Heidesch, who worked for the school 22 years, would require students to change outfits over and over again under the guise of trying on different clothing sizes — with the aim of having them undress in front of his hidden camera. Heidesch was scheduled on Monday to appear in court for sentencing on April 17.

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2 Plead to Misdemeanors in Missouri Boarding School Abuse Case

OZARK, Mo. (AP/KPR) — Two men charged with felony counts of abusing students at a private Christian boarding school in Missouri have pleaded guilty to misdemeanors, and the case against a third employee has been dropped. The Kansas City Star reports that 46-year-old Scott Dumar, the medical coordinator at the Agape Boarding School near Stockton, pleaded guilty last week to two misdemeanors and was placed on two years probation. Forty-year-old Everett Graves pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor. The case against Chris McElroy was dropped when the alleged victim didn't show up for the hearing. They were among five staff members charged in September 2021 with low-level felonies after an investigation into accusations by former and current students of widespread abuse at the school.

The Missouri Attorney General's Office had recommended prosecuting 22 staff members with a total of 65 counts on behalf of 36 students. But Cedar County Prosecutor Ty Gaither charged only the five employees. Last year, Agape's longtime doctor, David Smock, was charged with several child sex crimes involving students. He has pleaded not guilty.

After hearing testimony from the former students Thursday, Cedar County Associate Circuit Court Judge Thomas Pyle determined Dumar's actions did not warrant felony charges and suggested Dumar plead to the two misdemeanors. If he violates his probation, Dumar could be sent to jail for a year. Pyle made the same determination in allowing Graves, who like Dumar has no prior convictions, to plead guilty to a misdemeanor. A fourth defendant, Trent Hartman, has been bound over for trial on two felony counts of third-degree assault. The preliminary hearing for the fifth staffer, Seth Duncan, is scheduled for next week.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt's office filed a motion in early September to close Agape, calling it "an immediate health and safety concern" for children living there. Later that month, the Republican speaker of the Missouri House, Rob Vescovo, sent a letter to U.S. Attorney Teresa Moore in Kansas City also urging closure of Agape.

In October, Pyle canceled hearings that had been scheduled to consider Schmitt's motion. No new hearings have been scheduled, and the school continues to operate.

Abuse allegations at Agape and a nearby Christian boarding school for girls, Circle of Hope, resulted in a new Missouri law last year that among other things established minimum health and safety requirements for boarding schools, required background checks for employees and required adequate food, clothing and medical care for students. Circle of Hope, in Humansville, closed during an investigation in 2020 and its husband-and-wife co-founders face 99 charges, including child abuse and neglect and sex crimes.

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Latest Iowa Bird Flu Cases Push December Total Near 700,000

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Four new cases of bird flu at Iowa turkey farms in the past few days will push the number of birds slaughtered nationwide this month to limit the spread of the virus up to nearly 700,000. The latest cases announced by the Iowa Department of Agriculture only add to the toll of this year's ongoing outbreak that has prompted officials to kill more than 53 million birds in 47 states. Several other bird flu cases have been confirmed this month in Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, Missouri and Colorado. Officials say the virus doesn't represent a significant threat to human health, but the outbreak has contributed to rising prices of eggs, chicken and turkey. Anytime the virus is found, the entire flock is killed to help control the disease.

Iowa officials said the latest cases found since Friday involved 240,000 birds on turkey farms in Sac, Buena Vista, Cherokee and Ida counties all in the northwest corner of the state. Iowa leads all states with nearly 16 million chickens and turkeys slaughtered this year. That's more than double the next closest state of Nebraska, largely because it is the nation's largest egg producer and egg farms can include millions of chickens.

Several other bird flu cases have been confirmed this month at other turkey farms in Iowa, South Dakota, Minnesota and Missouri. An upland gamebird producer in Colorado also had to slaughter 18,000 birds to limit the spread of the virus. Experts believe the virus that causes bird flu is spread primarily by wild birds as they migrate across the country. The virus spreads easily through droppings or the nasal discharge of an infected bird, which can contaminate dust and soil and be carried onto farms on boots and clothing or on truck tires. Even though wild birds can often carry avian influenza without developing symptoms, the virus has killed a large number of eagles, vultures, ducks and other wild birds.

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KPR Still Seeking Kansas Statehouse Bureau Chief to Join Station's Award-Winning News Team

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - Kansas Public Radio, located at the University of Kansas, is looking for a new Kansas Statehouse Bureau Chief to cover all aspects of state government in Topeka for KPR and its statewide
reporting partners. This exciting position requires skill, professional experience and curiosity. To apply, log on to: https://employment.ku.edu/staff/23463BR. A review of applications began in October and will continue until a robust pool of qualified applicants is identified.

KU is an EO/AAE. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), age, national origin, disability, genetic information or protected Veteran status.

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Kansas City Emergency Rooms at Capacity from "Tripledemic"

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCUR) COVID-19, RSV and the flu cases are filling up emergency rooms in the Kansas City metro. Many area hospitals are at capacity, with some even putting beds in the hallways. KCUR Radio reports that all of this is overwhelming nurses already stretched thin. The combination of COVID-19, RSV and the flu has created a “tripledemic” - filling up hospital beds across the metro. According to the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC), more than 82% of all area hospital beds are currently full. The CDC reports that flu activity in Missouri and Kansas is very high. During the week of November 27 - December 3, Kansas City, Missouri, and surrounding counties had 1,486 laboratory-confirmed flu cases. MARC has reported a 17% increase in COVID cases from the week of November 26. This increase is especially pressing in emergency departments.

Children’s Mercy reported last week that its downtown hospital was at capacity due to the strain of respiratory infections. An overflow of emergency care patients and admitted patients needing beds in the emergency department has pushed Saint Luke’s and The University of Kansas Hospital to put patients on beds in the hallways. Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer at The University of Kansas Health System, said the hospital has had no choice but to temporarily use hallway beds.

(-Related-)

Kansas Pharmacies Running Short of Tamiflu, Antibiotics

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) - A shortage of drugs, especially those that treat childhood illnesses, is straining Kansas pharmacies. The Kansas News Service reports the shortage is coming just as the flu, RSV and COVID-19 continue to spread across the state. Tamiflu, which treats the flu, is in short supply nationally and in Kansas. So is Amoxicillin, a common antibiotic and one often prescribed to kids with chest infections. Mandilyn Coffman is the pharmacy manager at Dandurand Drugs Wellness in Wichita. She says that’s forcing pharmacists to find workarounds. “So we’re doing a lot of compounding, we’re having to make things that we haven’t had to make in the past," she said. "But we’re
also switching up antibiotics as best as we can.” Hospital officials say some people are also finding it harder to locate certain over-the-counter medications, like children’s Tylenol and ibuprofen.

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Does Kansas Pay State Workers Enough? Salary Survey Says "No"

TOPEKA, Kan. (TCJ) - A salary survey of various state government jobs indicates that it’s past time for Kansas lawmakers to give raises to several classes of public employees. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Kansas is underpaying workers in most of the 100-plus job classifications in this year's market survey. That's based on data presented last month to a legislative committee. The revelation comes after lawmakers appropriated $225 million to increase salaries this fiscal year. According to the survey, law clerks for state government are compensated 32% below their peers, accountants are paid 24% below market, both administrative officers and senior equipment mechanics are 21% below, social workers 20% below, drivers license examiners and epidemiologists are 19% below, among others.

Meanwhile, job classes compensated above market rates include Kansas Highway Patrol master troopers 30% above market, Capitol area guards 27% above their peers, economic development representatives 17% above, graphic designers 16% above and database administrators 14% above.

State Senator Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, suggested there should be more focus on increasing compensation for the lowest-paid positions. (Read morel.)

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Overland Park Removing Trees to Fight Invasive Emerald Ash Borer

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (KCTV) - Overland Park has a plan to remove thousands of trees being wiped out by an invasive beetle. According to KCTV, there are about 8,000 ash trees on the streets throughout the city, but some have been eliminated in recent years. The root of the problem is a tiny green beetle called the Emerald Ash Borer, an invasive species that’s been sweeping through ash trees in the Midwest. The beetle has swept through ash trees in Missouri and Kansas, with few options for prevention. That’s why Overland Park and other communities are trying to get ahead of the problem. The city is using funds to hire contractors to help tackle the problem faster. About $2 million will be used to eliminate ash trees and plant replacement trees.

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Kansas Women Return to AP Poll for First Time Since 2013

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) – On the heels of a 9-0 start to the season, the Kansas Women’s Basketball team moved into the Associated Press Top 25 poll on Monday as the No. 22-ranked team in the country. The national ranking is the first for the program since January 14, 2013, when the Jayhawks occupied the No. 23 spot in the AP Poll. Kansas was ranked for nine weeks during the 2012-13 season. The Jayhawks were also named the ESPN Team of the Week following a 2-0 week with victories over Wichita State, 72-52 on Sunday, and at No. 12 Arizona, 77-50 on Thursday night in Tucson. Kansas is now 9-0 for the fourth time in program history and first since opening the 2019-20 season with a record of 11-0. The Jayhawks have not only been winning games but winning decisively with seven-straight victories by 20 or more points. The last time KU had a seven-game streak with a winning margin of 20+ points came during the 1980-81 season.

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These area headlines are curated by KPR news staffers, including J. Schafer, Laura Lorson, Kaye McIntyre, and Tom Parkinson. Our headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays, 11 am weekends. This news summary is made possible by KPR listener-members. Become one today. And follow KPR News on Twitter.