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Headlines for Friday, April 30, 2021

UPDATE: Vocal Trump Ally Kobach Opens Launches Bid for Kansas AG

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Polarizing conservative Kris Kobach has launched a campaign for Kansas attorney general. His kickoff Thursday means he is attempting a political comeback in 2022 after losing nationally watched races for governor and U.S. Senate. Kobach is a former Kansas secretary of state who built his political brand by advocating restrictive immigration policies and tough voter identification laws. He also was the first prominent Kansas elected official to endorse Donald Trump for president in 2016 and was vice chairman of a short-lived Trump commission on voter fraud. But he lost the GOP primary for U.S. Senate in 2020 after losing the 2018 governor's race.

(–Earlier reporting–)

Kobach Signals Intent to Run for Kansas Attorney General

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Polarizing conservative Kris Kobach has appointed a treasurer for a run for Kansas attorney general. It's a strong signal that he plans another attempt at a political comeback after losing races for governor and U.S. Senate. Kobach’s appointment of a treasurer is necessary under Kansas law for him to raise money for a 2022 campaign, and he did it late Wednesday. He scheduled a 1 pm news conference in Wichita to announce his plans. Kobach is a former Kansas secretary of state known nationally for advocating restrictive policies against illegal immigration and tough voter identification laws. He also was the first prominent Kansas elected official to endorse President Donald Trump in 2016.

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Kansas Supreme Court Upholds Law Banning "Wrongful Birth" Lawsuits 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas's highest court has upheld a law barring so-called "wrongful birth" lawsuits against doctors, in a case in which a couple sued because they weren't told of serious fetal defects until after an abortion could have been obtained. The state Supreme Court ruled Friday against the parents of a girl born with a severe brain abnormality who said they would have opted for an abortion had they known of her medical problems months before her May 2014 birth. The doctor argued that their lawsuit was barred by the law against wrongful birth lawsuits. It was enacted in 2013 by the Republican-controlled Legislature and under GOP Governor Sam Brownback at the urging of abortion opponents. 

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Kansas COVID-19 Case Count Totals More than 309,000; Death Toll Nears 5,000

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) reports there have been 309,130 cases of COVID-19, including 4,982 deaths related to the coronavirus, since the pandemic began. That is an increase of 620 cases and four deaths since Wednesday. Another update is expected Monday. 

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Missouri COVID-19 Cases Top 500,000; More than 8,700 Deaths

O'FALLON, Mo. (AP) — The number of Missourians who have been infected with the coronavirus has now topped the half-million mark. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services on Tuesday cited 524 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to 500,071. The state also reported 37 new deaths, though 34 of those occurred between November and earlier this month and were uncovered in the state’s weekly review of death certificates. All told, 8,732 Missourians have died from the virus.

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200 Athletes Told to Quarantine at Kansas City Area School

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas City-area high school athletic director is pleading with families to take pandemic safety protocols seriously after instructing about 200 students to quarantine this week. The Kansas City Star reports that Shawnee Mission South High School Athletic Director John Johnson said in a message to parents and athletes that “there are more students with positive tests, and that is causing an extreme domino effect of COVID transmission concerns.” Health officials in Johnson County, which is the state’s most populous, have warned that while the number of new coronavirus cases is down, the drop in testing makes it more difficult to know how widespread transmission of the virus has become.

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Battle Brews over How to Spend COVID Relief Funds

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A big political battle is brewing over whether top Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature will have the final say over how the state spends more than $4.8 billion it expects to receive from the latest federal COVID-19 relief package. The move comes as elected officials voted Thursday to drop mask mandates in Johnson and Riley counties in coming days. Masks have been part of an ongoing fight that has pitted Democratic Governor Laura Kelly against the GOP-controlled Legislature. This week, Kelly vetoed a provision in a spending bill that would have given legislative committees more power over how to allocate federal relief funds.

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Evergy Moves up Timeline to Close Coal-Fired Plants

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Evergy officials say the utility plans to close two coal-fired plants in the next nine years as part of its effort to reduce its use of fossil fuels. The company said in a report to regulators filed Friday that it will close its coal-fired plant near Lawrence by the end of 2023. The plant is the utility's oldest, with some units dating back to the 1960s. Evergy also will close Unit 3 of the Jeffrey Energy Center near St. Marys, Kansas, in 2030, rather than 2039 as originally expected. Evergy's plan is to reduce its carbon emissions by 70% by 2030 and reach net-zero emissions by 2045.

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Kansas House Member Arrested After Incident at Local School

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House member was arrested for possible misdemeanor battery in what authorities say was an incident involving a student while he was substitute teaching at a public school in his hometown. Republican state Representative Mark Samsel was booked Thursday into the local county jail and released on $1,000 bond. His arrest came after a student reported an incident Wednesday at school in his hometown of Wellsville, a town of about 1,700 people some 55 miles southwest of Kansas City. The 36-year-old Samsel has yet to be formally charged with a crime but has a first appearance scheduled for May 19 in district court. Samsel did not answer a phone call Friday afternoon.

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Governor Kelly Visits Wichita Schools in Pandemic Recovery Tour

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) — Governor Laura Kelly visited Wichita-area high schools Thursday as part of her "Back to Work, Back to School" tour. During a roundtable discussion at Wichita North High, the governor asked principals about lessons they learned from the pandemic and how the state should approach education moving forward. Some of the principals said more funding would help to expand after-school programs and other efforts to make up for learning that was lost during the pandemic. The governor said incoming federal aid should help districts boost tutoring and other programs.

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Lance Leipold Named Kansas Head Football Coach

LAWRENCE, Kan.(KPR) -- Lance Leipold has been hired as the new head coach for the University of Kansas football program. Leipold is a six-time National Champion, a five-time conference coach of the year and the fastest coach in NCAA history to reach 100 career wins. Leipold arrives at Kansas after a six successful years at the University of Buffalo. He won 24 games over the last three seasons marking the most successful three-year run in Buffalo history. Before leading the Buffalo team, Leipold served as the head coach at Wisconsin-Whitewater for eight seasons from 2007 to 2014 winning six NCAA Division III national championships and earning a record of 109-6. He also served as an assistant coach at Division II Nebraska-Omaha from 1994-2000. KU Director of Athletics Travis Goff says the university conducted an extensive national search before signing Leipold to a six-year contract. Leipold is a 1987 graduate of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where he was a standout quarterback.

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Overland Park Releases Report on Officer's Shooting of Teen

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — A newly released report says an Overland Park police officer fired at a minivan because he thought the teenager driver was going to hit him. Officer Clayton Jennison told investigators that 17-year-old John Albers did not listen to his commands in the moments before Jennison shot and killed him in January 2018 as Albers backed out of his family's driveway. Overland Park officials released a nearly 500-page report on the shooting Thursday. Jennison was not charged in the shooting and has left the police force. Albers's mother, who fought for years to get the report released, said she thought the investigation was aimed at clearing the officer and largely blamed her son for the shooting.

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Former Member Accuses Fraternity at Fort Hays State of Racism

HAYS, Kan. (KNS) — Fort Hays State University has opened an investigation into one of its fraternities for allegedly creating a hostile environment for its African American members. The Sigma Chi chapter at Fort Hays State is under investigation after allegations from a former member accusing the fraternity of nurturing a racist culture. Jarad Dean joined Sigma Chi in 2017. He was one of two Black men in the predominantly white group. He says that in his year with the fraternity, members regularly told racist jokes, made light of slavery and called him the n-word. Dean says he wrote letters to Sigma Chi’s national headquarters and set up a meeting with leaders of the local chapter, but that his claims weren’t taken seriously. Dean says he hopes the investigation will lead to at least a temporary suspension for the fraternity from campus. University administrators say that once the school’s investigators submit their report, the university will determine any potential sanctions.

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Kansas Woman Charged in School Parking Lot Assault

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A 39-year-old woman suspected of running over another mother in a Kansas middle school parking lot is now facing six charges. Wyandotte County District Attorney Mark Dupree charged Tyla Jack with aggravated battery and other counts after she turned herself in Thursday afternoon. Authorities allege Jack ran over and seriously injured another woman Tuesday in the parking lot of Carl Bruce Middle School. Police say the assault started with a fight between two girls. After school officials broke up the fight, they called the girls' parents, who showed up on the scene and, police say, made matters worse.

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Police Say Worker Crushed to Death at Kansas Towing Business

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Authorities in suburban Kansas City, Kansas, say a man has died in a workplace accident. Overland Park police say in a news release that the accident happened Thursday at Midwest Tow Turbo and Diesel, when a vehicle fell off a tow truck and crushed a worker underneath trying to secure it. Police have not released the victim's name, but say he was n his late 60s or early 70s.

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UPDATE: Man's Death in Coffeyville Ruled a Homicide

COFFEYVILLE, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says the death of a man in Coffeyville is being investigated as a homicide. Coffeyville police were called to a home Wednesday evening and discovered the man's body inside. The KBI said it will take time to identify the victim because of the body's advanced state of decomposition. The agency did not say how he died. Authorities said 37-year-old Jennifer Garnett, of Coffeyville, was arrested Friday in connection to the case. She was booked into jail on possible charges of burglary, theft, forgery and criminal use of a credit card. The KBI did not explain her possible connection to the death.

(–Earlier reporting–)

Police Find Man Dead in Kansas Home; Autopsy Ordered

COFFEYVILLE, Kan. (AP) — Police in southeastern Kansas say a request to check on the welfare of a person in Coffeyville led officers to discover the body of a man inside a home. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says in a news release that Coffeyville officers went to the home Wednesday evening and discovered the man's body. Officials say the victim was not immediately identified because of the advanced state of decomposition of the body. An autopsy is scheduled for Friday to help identify the man and determine his cause of death. The KBI was asked to help following the discovery of the body.

KBI Investigates Unattended Death in Coffeyville

Coffeyville, Kan. (KPR) – The Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) and the Coffeyville Police Department are conducting a death investigation at a residence in Coffeyville. On Wednesday evening, the Coffeyville Police Department received a request from a citizen to check on the welfare of a resident (at 1709 S. Spruce Street). When police arrived at the home, they discovered a deceased male inside. Due to the state of decomposition, the man has not yet been positively identified. The KBI was asked to assist and special agents and the Crime Scene Response Team arrived at the residence. Anyone with information related to this death investigation is asked to call the KBI at 1-800-KS-CRIME or the Coffeyville Police Department at 620-252-6160.  An autopsy is scheduled for Friday.

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Friend of Homicide Victim's Son Charged in Topeka Killing

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The friend of a Topeka woman's son has been charged in her death. Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay announced Thursday that he charged a 16-year-old as a juvenile in the death of 46-year-old Hester Workman. Kagay said he plans to seek to try the teen as an adult. Workman was found lying dead in the attached garage of her home on Saturday. Kagay said she died from severe head trauma. At a hearing Thursday, defense attorney Mike Francis recommended a mental health evaluation and asked the judge to release his client to the custody of his grandmother. The judge instead ruled that the teenager will remain in custody.

(–Related–)

Police Dub Suspicious Topeka Death as Homicide, Arrest Teen

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Topeka have determined that the death of a woman initially dubbed suspicious was a homicide and have arrested a teenager in the case. Police say officers sent to a Topeka neighborhood Saturday night for a 911 call requesting medical help found the body of 46-year-old Hester Workman, of Topeka. On Monday, police declared her death a homicide and arrested a 16-year-old on suspicion of first-degree and felony murder, as well as burglary, theft and obstruction. Police have not said how Workman died.

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KBI Conducts Probe After Human Skeletal Remains Discovered Along Mitchell, Cloud County Line

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - Just before noon Monday, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation was asked by the Mitchell County Sheriff’s Office and the Cloud County Sheriff’s Office to investigate after they located human skeletal remains near Highway 9 and County Road 757, east of Beloit. KBI agents and the Crime Scene Response Team responded. Authorities began searching the area after a resident notified law enforcement of the discovery late Monday morning. The KBI is working to determine what caused the person’s death. The remains have not yet been positively identified.

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Patrol: Crash in Northwestern Kansas Kills 16-Year-Old Girl

PLAINVILLE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a 16-year-old girl was killed this week when a pickup truck crashed into another vehicle that was broken down on the side of the road in northwestern Kansas. The Kansas Highway Patrol reports that the crash happened just before 10 pm Wednesday on state Highway 18 a few miles west of Plainville. The patrol says a westbound truck crashed into the disabled sport utility vehicle, when then hit another truck. Troopers say 16-year-old Carole Adamson, of Plainville, was standing outside the SUV at the time of the crash and was hit. A 21-year-old Iowa woman standing outside the vehicles and the 20-year-old Stockton man driving the truck that crashed into the SUV were injured.

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UPDATE: Authorities: Woman Abducted Before She Was Killed

PAULINE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a woman was abducted by her former boyfriend before she was killed earlier this week. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that 61-year-old Jon Ewing, of Scranton, is charged with premeditated first-degree murder, first-degree felony murder, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated burglary, making a criminal threat and interfering with law enforcement. He is jailed on $1 million bond. The investigation began Tuesday after the body of 58-year-old Deborah Ann Stephens was found by law enforcement officers at a mobile home park in the unincorporated community of Pauline, south of Topeka. Authorities said she had trauma wounds to her face, arms and abdomen.

(–Earlier Reporting–)

Deputies Find Woman Dead at Mobile Home Park; Man Arrested

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Deputies in northeastern Kansas have arrested a man on suspicion of killing a woman whose body was found by law enforcement officers earlier this week at a mobile home park south of Topeka. The Capital-Journal reports that Shawnee County Sheriff's deputies were called Tuesday evening to the mobile home in the unincorporated community of Pauline. Officials have not released the woman's name or said how she died. On Wednesday, deputies arrested 61-year-old Jon Kelly Ewing, of Topeka, on suspicion of voluntary manslaughter. He remained Thursday in the Shawnee County Jail on $1 million bail.

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Sheriff: Man Hit Last Week in Wichita Parking Lot Dies

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Officials say a man hit last week by a truck in the parking lot of a Wichita airplane parts manufacturer has died from his injuries. The Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office says 48-year-old Jason Lee Patrick, of Haysville, died Tuesday night in a hospital. Officials say Patrick was an employee of Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita and was walking in the company's parking lot early Friday morning when he was hit by a pickup truck driven by a 39-year-old man.

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Kansas City Plans Village of Tiny Homes for Homeless

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City officials say they are planning a village of tiny homes for homeless residents. Officials announced on Wednesday that initial plans call for a 150-bed village of tiny homes ranging from single person to family size. A site for the development is not yet decided. City Manager Brian Platt says the goal is to establish a pilot project of about a dozen homes in the next several weeks. From there, he said, the city would begin working with homeless people currently being housed in area hotels and encouraging them to take advantage of the new option.

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Willow Gets Maximum Matching Funds from HSN; Takes Home $11,000 in Donations

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - The Willow Domestic Violence Center in Lawrence will soon get $11,000 thanks to a partnership with HSN, formerly known as the Home Shopping Network. All day Wednesday, HSN profiled the domestic violence shelter and encouraged viewers to make donations to Willow on the HSN website. HSN donated $1,000 and then matched up to $5,000 in donations made online. Willow's Communications Director, Will Averill, says it was gratifying to see his agency qualify for the maximum amount of matching funds from HSN. Willow operates two domestic violence shelters in Lawrence and serves Douglas, Jefferson and Franklin counties.

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Judge Won't Dismiss Charges Against Kansas City Detective

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A judge has denied a motion to dismiss felony charges against a 42-year-old Kansas City police detective who shot and killed a Black man in 2019. Eric DeValkenaere was charged last year with first-degree involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action in the death of 26-year-old Cameron Lamb. DeValkenaere's attorneys argued he did not act recklessly in shooting Lamb, who was killed while sitting in his pickup truck in his backyard. They contend Lamb created the risks that led to his shooting. Lamb's family has disputed police accounts of the shooting. The Jackson County prosecutor said the judge could not determine before trial if the state has enough evidence to convict the detective.

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Kansas City Police Probing City's 50th Homicide of 2021

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police in Kansas City are investigating the city's 50th homicide of the year. Police report that the fatal shooting happened early Thursday morning at the East Hills Village Apartments near the south end of the city. Police have not released any information on the victim or details of the shooting, other than to say crime scene investigators and homicide detectives are on the scene. The Kansas City Star reports that the killing marked the city's 50th homicide for 2021. The city saw a record 182 homicides in all of 2020.

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Oil Pipeline Disputes Raise Tensions Between U.S. and Canada

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP/KPR) — Months after President Joe Biden snubbed Canadian officials by canceling the Keystone XL oil pipeline, a new showdown over a second crude oil pipeline threatens to further strain ties between the two neighbors. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has set a May 12 deadline for Canadian energy company Enbridge to shut down its Line 5, which delivers oil from Alberta to refineries in the U.S. Midwest and eastern Canada. Whitmer agrees with environmentalists who consider the pipeline an environmental hazard, mostly because one 68-year-old section crosses a channel linking two Great Lakes. Canadian officials say closing the pipeline would hurt the economy and cost jobs in both countries. Biden angered many in the energy sector earlier this year when he canceled construction on the remainder of the Keystone XL pipeline, resulting in the loss of more than 11,000 pipeline-related jobs. The original Keystone pipeline runs north and south through east-central Kansas, as well as portions of Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota and North Dakota.

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Wichita Police: Arrest Made in Fatal Apartment Shooting

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police have announced an arrest in a weekend shooting at an apartment complex that killed one teen and injured another. Police said in a news release Wednesday that 18-year-old Easton Palmer, of Wichita, was arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder and aggravated robbery in the death of 17-year-old Eric Stokes. Stokes died in the Sunday evening shooting at Morgan's Landing Apartments, while another 17-year-old was treated and released from a hospital after suffering minor injuries. Police said that following the release of surveillance video of suspects in the shooting, tips from the public led police to arrest Palmer.

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Senate Passes Bill to Award Congressional Gold Medal to All-Black, All-Female WWII Battalion

WASHINGTON, D.C. (KPR)– The U.S. Senate unanimously passed U.S. Senator Jerry Moran’s legislation to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the members of the Women’s Army Corps who were assigned to the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion – the “Six Triple Eight” – during World War II. The unit served at home and in Europe where they sorted and routed mail for millions of American service members and civilians. The Six Triple Eight was the only all-black, all-female battalion to serve overseas during World War II, and they were responsible for clearing out an overwhelming backlog of mail, making certain American troops received letters from home to boost their morale. Republican Senator Moran introduced this legislation in February. 

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