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Headlines for Friday, February 16, 2018

Area news headlines from the Associated Press

Kobach Tries to Halt In-State Tuition for Non-U.S. Citizens

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Secretary of State Kris Kobach is renewing a 14-year campaign to repeal a Kansas law granting in-state tuition rates to qualifying college students who aren't U.S. citizens.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Kobach testified Thursday on behalf of a bill that would end the benefit offered to those who graduated from an accredited Kansas high school or earned a general equivalency degree and started the process of acquiring citizenship. Kansas's in-state tuition is about a third of the out-of-state assessment.  Kobach tells the House Higher Education Budget Committee that state law perversely incentivizes immigrants living in Kansas illegally to attend college.  Bishops leading the Kansas Catholic Conference are asking the committee to have compassion for youth who would have tuition benefits taken from them.  The bill's hearing will continue Monday.

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Kansas Public Schools Face Brewing Backlash in Budget Debate

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators see plenty of needs for spending across state government and are starting to complain that a court mandate puts schools first in line. Prison staffing, state mental hospitals and highway projects are among the items lawmakers would like to fund. But an October state Supreme Court ruling that the $4 billion-plus the state spends on schools each year isn't adequate means that most conversations about money at the Statehouse revolve around schools. House Majority Leader Don Hineman says the state can't gut most functions of state government to meet schools' demands. But educators and others say that schools and state agencies are living with the consequences of past state income tax cuts. Lawmakers are awaiting a school funding study due in March before acting on the budget questions.

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University Repays Kansas $7.1 Million After Auditing Medicaid Work

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas has reimbursed the state for more than $7.1 million after auditors concluded last year that its social welfare school overbilled the state's Medicaid program.  Chancellor Douglas Girod formally notified Gov. Jeff Colyer and other officials of the reimbursement this week in a letter released to The Associated Press by the university. It said the repayment occurred in January.  According to Girod's letter and interviews with state officials, the university audited contracts with the Department for Aging and Disability Services.  The review came after the department and a now-closed research center in the social welfare school could not agree on an annual contract in 2016.  The center's work included training for community mental health centers. Girod's letter said the overpayments occurred between July 2010 and June 2016.

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Westar Warns Customers That Gift Card Promotion Is a Scam

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Westar officials are warning customers that people claiming to be utility employees are calling and trying to force them to buy prepaid money cards. Utility officials say if you get one of those calls, hang up and report it. The company put out a statewide alert Friday saying scammers are threatening to turn off customers' power unless they buy a prepaid money card and call back with the number on the card. Spokeswoman Gina Penzig says the scammer then uses the card and calls another victim. Penzig says the callers sometimes target restaurants just before or during the lunch rush, when managers are busy and don't want the power shut off. She says Westar will never demand immediate payment or shut off power without multiple warnings.

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Topeka Man Sentenced for 2 Killings; 1 Person Was Dismembered

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka man will spend more than 50 years in prison for the slayings of two men, one of whom was dismembered.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports 63-year-old Maximo Campillo-Echevarria was sentenced Thursday for the September deaths of 61-year-old Thomas Paul O'Conner and 22-year-old Chance Christian Crank, who was dismembered. He was sentenced to 51 years for O'Conner's death and a concurrent term of nearly 13 years for Crank's death.  O'Conner was found suffering from stab wounds at an apartment building in September. At the same time, firefighters found Crank's dismembered body while extinguishing a fire at Campillo-Echevarria's nearby apartment.  Campillo-Echevarria was convicted in 1981 of first-degree murder in the death of 34-year-old Pedro Machado. He was paroled from a life sentence in 2000.  Campillo-Echevarria fled Cuba in the 1980 Mariel boat lift.

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Former Kansas Deputy Charged with Official Misconduct

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former Sedgwick County sheriff's deputy who's accused of not turning over evidence during a narcotics investigation has been charged with official misconduct.  The Wichita Eagle reports that the charge was filed Tuesday against Justin Price, whose four-year tenure with the department ended a couple weeks ago. Sheriff Jeff Easter says a resident involved in the narcotics investigation raised concerns in December.  The Wichita Police Department investigated the complaint against Price. Easter described the allegations as an isolated incident. His attorney, Steven Mank, didn't immediately return a phone message from The Associated Press on Thursday.

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Man Sentenced to Life in Deaths of Kansas Mother, 3 Kids

PARSONS, Kan. (AP) — A former Montgomery County man was sentenced to life in prison without parole in the death of a southeast Kansas woman and her three children. The Kansas Attorney General says 26-year-old David Cornell Bennett Jr., formerly of Cherryvale, was sentenced Friday for capital murder and three counts of first-degree murder. He pleaded guilty in December 2017 to killing 29-year-old Cami Umbarger and her three minor children in Parsons in November 2013. The state dropped its intention to seek the death penalty as part of the plea deal. Testimony at a preliminary hearing in October 2014 indicated the victims were strangled. Witnesses testified Bennett repeatedly tried to contact Umbarger after they met at a club in Independence. Family members said the two had dated briefly but Umbarger tried to end the relationship.

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Man Sentenced to 41 Years in Kansas Deputy's Abduction, Rape

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A man has been sentenced to 41 years and three months in prison for kidnapping and raping a suburban Kansas City sheriff's deputy with the help of another man.  The Kansas City Star reports that 26-year-old William Luth, of Blue Springs, Missouri, was sentenced Thursday after the prosecutor read a statement from the deputy in which she described "two hours of hell." The deputy wasn't in uniform when she was abducted in October 2016 from the parking lot of a detention center in Olathe, Kansas, while headed to work. She was released in the Missouri suburb of Lee's Summit.  Charges in the attack also are pending against Brady Newman-Caddell. Luth and Newman-Caddell also are charged with sexual assaulting a Missouri woman while her 2-year-old daughter was in the same bed.

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Juvenile Corrections Head Reassigned over Battery Allegation

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Corrections has reassigned the superintendent of the state's juvenile corrections complex after he allegedly grabbed and shoved a female worker.  The agency announced Thursday that Kyle Rohr is reassigned to the central office until his criminal case is resolved. The Topeka city prosecutor's office said Rohr has been issued a citation on a charge of battery.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Rohr is accused of twice grabbing a female employee at the Topeka juvenile complex and shoving her into a cubicle. Rohr reportedly was upset with the planning of a holiday event for incarcerated juveniles.  More than a dozen Democratic lawmakers called Thursday for Rohr's firing.  The corrections department said Megan Milner, director of community-based services in the agency, would be acting superintendent of the complex.

-Related-

Democratic Lawmakers: Corrections Officials Blew Inquiry

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic lawmakers say a Kansas agency didn't adequately investigate allegations that the superintendent of the state's juvenile corrections complex grabbed and shoved a female worker.  The Wichita Eagle reports that Democratic Representative John Alcala, of Topeka, says Kansas Department of Corrections Secretary Joe Norwood told him witnesses weren't interviewed during the investigation into Kyle Rohr. He's been issued a citation on a charge of battery.  The corrections department announced Thursday that Rohr is reassigned to the central office until his criminal case is resolved. Alcala is among more than a dozen Democratic lawmakers calling for Rohr's firing.  KDOC spokeswoman Liz Rice says the agency conducted an investigation in December when the allegation was made but that the inquiry can't be discussed because it's a "personnel matter."

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Topeka Man Dies After Shooting During Home Invasion

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka police say a 42-year-old man has died after being shot during a home invasion. Police say Tyrone Bagget was shot about 2 a.m. Friday in southeast Topeka. He died later at a hospital. Officers say a man and another person were inside the home when more than one suspect broke in. No arrests or information on a possible suspect have been made released.

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Kansas Man Pleads No Contest to Killing

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A man in central Kansas has pleaded no contest to second-degree murder in connection with the stabbing death of a man. The Salina Journal reports that 38-year-old Leobardo Velasquez waived his right to a preliminary hearing that had been scheduled for Thursday in Saline County District Court and entered the plea that reduced his original first-degree murder charge. Police found 52-year-old Raul Lopez-Vargas dead in the back seat of his car September 10 while the vehicle was parked in a driveway. A probable cause affidavit says the Solomon was struck and stabbed more than 100 times, and that DNA evidence and shoe prints connects the crime to Velasquez. Velasquez's sentencing is April 2. He faces up to more than 41 years in prison.

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Kansas Man Was Bloody, Naked Before Federal Officer Shooting

SEDONA, Ariz. (AP) — Authorities say a Kansas man was walking along an Arizona highway naked and bleeding before he was fatally shot by a federal officer last month. Reports released this week by the Coconino County Sheriff's Office contain details about the condition of 51-year-old Tyler Miller before the Jan. 5 shooting. The FBI's Phoenix office says a U.S. Forest Service officer initially stopped to help Miller on Highway 89A in Oak Creek Canyon, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) north of Phoenix. According to family, the Hutchinson man was heading to a retreat in Sedona when he crashed his truck. A deputy wrote Officer Krista Kuhns sounded "shaky and was speaking loudly" over a radio and then shots were fired. The Miller family's attorney did not immediately return a message seeking comment Friday.

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French Auto Technology Supply Plant to Open Near Kansas City

BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. (AP) — A French automotive technology supplier plans to open a $60 million production facility and bring 300 jobs to the Kansas City area.  Faurecia Interior announced Thursday that it will open a plant in Blue Springs. The company develops and makes interior vehicle and emissions components.  Faurecia used to have a location in Riverside with as many as 300 employees but it closed. The Kansas City Star reports a company spokesman said the Blue Springs location is not a relocation of the Riverside operation, because different Faurecia Interior facilities serve different customers and components.  The news comes after the Kansas City region has endured closings of the Harley Davidson motorcycle facility and Proctor & Gamble's in Kansas City, Kansas, so far this year.

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Applebee's Permanently Closes Restaurant in Missouri Profiling Incident

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) — Applebee's has closed a Kansas City-area restaurant where two black women said they were falsely accused of not paying for meals in an earlier visit.  The Kansas City Star reports that it's unclear whether if the closure was directly related to the racial profiling incident because the Independence Center Mall where it's located is scheduled for a foreclosure sale Friday.  Applebee's announced earlier this week that it fired three employees and temporarily closed the restaurant after the two women posted a video showing an employee, a police officer and a mall security guard confronting them for "dining and dashing" during a previous visit, which the women denied.  Applebee's spokeswoman Melissa Hart said Thursday the restaurant would be permanently closed.  Independence police also said they investigated the officer's conduct during the incident but wouldn't comment on the review's findings.

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A Kansas Candidate for Congress Won't Stop AR-15 Raffle

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas congressional hopeful says he plans to raffle off an AR-15 rifle to support his campaign, even after a suspect reportedly used that type of weapon in Wednesday's mass shooting at a Florida high school.  Republican Tyler Tannahill of Leavenworth announced the raffle on Tuesday, saying it was a show of support for the Second Amendment. He told the Kansas City Star after Wednesday's shooting that the raffle would continue. He says he supports weapons training for educators and more laws wouldn't have prevented the Florida shooting.  He says the raffle was planned a month ago to coincide with this weekend's Kansas Republican Convention.  Tannahill, a Marine veteran and former medical devices salesman, is seeking to replace U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins in Kansas' 2nd Congressional District.

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Former Pittsburg State Professor Arrested for Third Time

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — One of the two former Pittsburg State University associate professors arrested for stalking and breach of privacy last year has been arrested again.  Pittsburg police say 47-year-old Peter Rosen was arrested Wednesday on charges of stalking and violations of a protection from stalking order. He was released on $2,000 bond.  The Pittsburg Morning-Sun reports Rosen has been arrested three times since a search in December found illegal videotaping of someone who was nude or nearly nude.  Rosen, former associate professor and chairman of Accounting and Computer Information Systems, also was arrested in November on a misdemeanor stalking charge.  All three arrests involve the same person.  Barry Wilson, former associate professor and chairman of Graphics and Imaging Technology, was arrested at the same time as Rosen in December. He was released $2,000 bond.

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Kansas Lawmakers Consider "Don't Tread on Me" License Plates

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Drivers would be able to choose a "Don't Tread on Me" license plate under proposed legislation.  The Wichita Eagle reports that the state would model the plates after the Gadsden flag, which features a yellow background and hissing snake. It dates back to the Revolutionary War.  Republican Representative Blake Carpenter, of Derby, is among the more than 30 sponsors. The flag has been popularized in recent years by the Tea Party movement, although Carpenter says it's not intended to be associated with the political movement.  Carpenter says he finds the "historical context" appealing. American colonists liked the rattlesnake, which symbolized their willingness to strike back if provoked. Several states have their own version of the plates.  Kansas lawmakers also are seeking "Choose Life" and Special Olympics plates.

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Authorities: 2 Die in Northeast Kansas House Fire 

NETAWAKA, Kan. (AP) — Two people were found dead in a house fire in northeast Kansas. Jackson County authorities say the bodies were found after the fire in Netawaka was extinguished Friday. Netawaka is about 42 miles north of Topeka. Sheriff Tim Morse says the home was fully engulfed when crews from a dozen area fire departments responded to the scene. The fire was brought under control in about an hour. The cause of the fire and the identities of the two people inside have not been released.

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