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Headlines for Friday, July 23, 2021


Kansas Pins Hopes for Stopping Delta Variant on Vaccinations

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly is pinning the state’s hopes of keeping the COVID-19 delta variant in check on more people getting inoculated because it is spreading rapidly among the unvaccinated. Kelly acknowledged Thursday that there’s not enough time before K-12 schools resume classes in mid-August to get all students ages 12 and older fully vaccinated. But she added that the state will focus on giving at least the first of two doses to as many as of them as possible. She called more vaccinations the only thing that’s going to stop the fast-spreading delta variant. The number of confirmed delta variant cases in Kansas has tripled this month, to more than 1,100.


Some KC Area School Districts Discussing Return to Face Mask Mandates

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - An official with the Kansas City school district says students will likely be required to wear masks when classes begin next month. Sara Williams, a COVID-19 coordinator for the district, said no decisions have been made but she is recommending the district require students and staff to wear masks, even if they've been vaccinated. And some teachers in Columbia and St. Joseph are urging their school districts to consider mask mandates. School officials in those districts said no decisions have been made. The calls come as new COVID-19 cases rise throughout the state, sparked by the spread of the more contagious delta variant.


Kansas Will Continue Extended Federal Unemployment Benefits

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly said the state does not intend to stop paying expanded federal unemployment benefits that began in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Companies, business groups and Republican leaders are pressuring Kelly to end the benefits, which include $300 weekly payments. They argue the extra money is stopping people from seeking work, at a time when many businesses can't find enough employees. But Kelly said Thursday the state has focused on improving child care programs and other programs that would help people return to the workforce. The federal program is scheduled to end September 6.


Kansas School Districts Rush to Head off Labor Shortage

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) — Kansas students go back to school next month and some districts are in a hiring frenzy as a nationwide labor shortage begins to impact education. The state’s largest district in Wichita needs to hire about 80 teachers and more than 150 para-educators. Schools also need substitute teachers, custodians, and bus drivers. The Kansas Department of Education says districts statewide are in need of workers. Wichita schools raised pay for substitute teachers by 14% and will offer bonuses to attract workers. Para-educators will get health insurance and new bus drivers get a $1,000 signing bonus.  


Tentative Agreement Reached to End Strike at Topeka's Frito-Lay Plant

TOPEKA, Kan. (TCJ/KCUR) - A tentative deal has been reached to end a strike at Topeka's Frito-Lay Plant.  Negotiations between the company and the union representing workers have concluded. The Topeka Capital Journal reports that the two sides reached a tentative deal after three days of talks between the company and Local 218 of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers union. Union representatives say members will vote on the latest contract offer today (FRI).  The voting will remain open until 10 pm and the results could be known as early as 10:30 pm.  The agreement would raise wages by 3% and guarantee more time off.  If union members vote to approve the proposal, it would bring the local strike that began July 5 to an end. The local union represents about 850 employees at the Topeka plant. More than 500 of those workers have been on strike, citing a lack of pay raises in recent years and dismal working conditions.  


Court Upholds Convictions in Torture Killing of Kansas Man

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has upheld most convictions against a Wichita woman for torturing and killing a man in a crime that the trial judge called “horrific beyond imagination.” Heidi Hillard and her husband, Jeff, were convicted of participating in the November 2016 killing of 33-year-old Scottie Goodpaster Jr. of Wichita. She was sentenced in 2018 to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 50 years. The Supreme Court on Friday affirmed Heidi Hillard’s convictions and sentences for premeditated first-degree murder, felony murder, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated battery and rape. It overturned her conviction for conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance after concluding the state presented insufficient evidence to support that charge.


Shawnee Tribe Chief Wants Kansas Site Included in Unmarked Graves Search

UNDATED (AP) — The leader of an American Indian tribe wants the federal government to include a former boarding school for Native American children in Kansas in a new federal program investigating whether Indigenous children were buried in unmarked graves in the 1800s and early 1900s. Shawnee Tribe Chief Ben Barnes says the tribe wants to know what happened to children at the Shawnee Indian Mission in Fairway. It is unclear if the Shawnee site will be included because it was run by Methodists, not by the government. But Barnes says federal agents persuaded tribes to send their children to the church-run schools, and the government now has an obligation to locate any missing remains.


Teenager Injured in Crash While Fleeing Police in Atchison

ATCHISON, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol says a 15-year-old boy was seriously injured in a crash as he was fleeing from Atchison police. The patrol says officers began pursuing a pickup truck early Friday on Main Street in Atchison. The report does not indicate what prompted the pursuit. The truck eventually left the road and hit a building. The driver, who was not wearing a seat belt, was thrown from the truck. He was taken to the University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City, Kansas. No one else was in the pickup.


Police: 3 Bodies Found in Suburban Kansas City Home

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Sheriff's officials are investigating the cause of death of three adults found dead inside a suburban Kansas City home. The Clay County Sheriff's Office says the bodies of two women and one man were found Wednesday afternoon inside a Glenaire home. Officials say deputies found the bodies after a neighbor called police to say the residents of the home had not been seen for some time. Officials have not said how the three died, but say foul play is not suspected. Authorities say all three were related but have not released their names. Autopsies have been ordered.


Missouri Would Get $500 Million Under Opioid Settlement

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri could get as much as $500 million to help victims of the opioid epidemic as part of a tentative settlement with the three biggest U.S. drug distribution companies and the drugmaker Johnson & Johnson. Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt on Thursday announced Missouri's share of the $26 billion deal with states and local governments. Schmitt says it would be the biggest “victim-centric” settlement ever in Missouri. All of the settlement money would go to treatment and prevention programs in Missouri. Schmitt says Missouri counties need to sign on to the agreement for the state to get its full share.  It remains unclear how much Kansas might get under the settlement.


Police ID Man Killed in Crash While Walking on KC Interstate

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police have identified a man killed in a crash as he walked in a northbound lane of Interstate 435 in Kansas City. Police say 56-year-old Ronald Jackson died in the crash that happened early Tuesday morning near Front Street. Investigators say a northbound car on I-435 entered a construction zone, which narrowed travel to a single lane in which Jackson was walking. Police say Jackson was wearing all dark clothing at the time and that the car's driver didn't see him until it was too late. Jackson was pronounced dead at the scene.


No Injuries Reported in Ellsworth County Natural Gas Pipeline Explosion

ELLSWORTH, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a natural gas pipeline has exploded in a rural western Kansas cattle pasture, igniting a large plume of fire seen by motorists on nearby Interstate 70 in Ellsworth County. No one was injured in Thursday’s explosion about 15 miles northeast of the city of Ellsworth. Emergency manager Keith Haberer says pipeline owner Northern Natural Gas shut off gas to the pipeline to put out the flames.  A grass fire ignited by the explosion also was brought under control.


Sedgwick County Removes EMS Director  

WICHITA, Kan. (KMUW/KNS) — Dr. John Gallagher has been removed as Sedgwick County’s director of emergency medical services. The decision comes after the county commissioned a third-party investigation into the department. Many EMS employees were critical of Gallagher's leadership and of the 2019 decision to merge the Emergency Medical Services Department with the Office of the Medical Director.  County Manager Tom Stolz says he made the decision to remove Gallagher after an independent investigation of the department commissioned by the county. Stolz also said the EMS department and the Office of the Medical Director will be separated into two branches again. The county commission will immediately start searching for an interim EMS director and a temporary medical director.


Missouri Supreme Court Reverses Medicaid Expansion Decision

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The Missouri Supreme Court has vacated a lower court’s decision in the state’s Medicaid expansion case, agreeing that the voter-approved plan to offer Medicaid to more people should stand. The unanimous decision on Thursday sends the case back to Cole County Circuit Court. The state Supreme Court ruled that the 2020 ballot measure approving expansion of the government-operated health care plan did not violate the Missouri Constitution because it “does not appropriate money and does not remove the General Assembly’s discretion in appropriating money to MO HealthNet.” Last month, a Cole County judge overturned the constitutional amendment that Republican Governor Mike Parson had refused to implement after the GOP-led Legislature didn’t provide any funding.


Evergy Reports Numerous Complaints About Scam Calls

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — Evergy, the largest energy company in Kansas, is warning that scammers are threatening customers with disconnection of service in a fraudulent attempt to collect payments. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Evergy has received numerous customer complaints about scammers falsely claiming to be company representatives and asking customers for immediate payment. The scammers threaten to disconnect service unless the victim provides credit card numbers or other personal information. Evergy officials say that real company representatives never call customers about late payments on the same day as a scheduled disconnection and will never ask customers to make payments with a prepaid debit card or gift card. Evergy advises customers who have gotten the scam calls to report the crime to local law enforcement.


Police Say Man's Shooting Death at Wichita Apartment Was Accidental

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police say the shooting death of a 19-year-old man at a central Wichita apartment complex was accidental, and officers have arrested an acquaintance of the victim. Police say the shooting happened Tuesday night when 21-year-old Jordan Williams, of Wichita, was handling a handgun inside an apartment and it accidentally fired. The bullet hit 19-year-old Jyrez Ricks of Wichita, who was later found dead in the apartment complex parking lot. Police say Williams remained at the scene and was arrested on suspicion of involuntary manslaughter.


Wichita Police ID Man Killed in Crash While Fleeing Police

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police have identified a 28-year-old man who died in a crash near Park City while he was fleeing from officers. Police say Gabriel Christian Seim was behind the wheel of a small sport utility vehicle that sped away from a traffic stop and collided with a pickup truck. The truck driver suffered injuries that are not considered life threatening. Police spokesman Charley Davidson says that before the traffic stop, officers had received a report of Seim selling drugs while armed. Police who spotted Seim's vehicle pulled him over and say he sped away when officers ordered him out the vehicle. Davidson says police found possible evidence of drugs in Seim's car after the crash.


Southwest Missouri Man Once Given 7 Life Terms for Child Sex Abuse Resentenced; Gets More Prison Time

MOUNT VERNON, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri man who was once sentenced to seven life terms for child sexual abuse has been resentenced to two concurrent 12-year sentences. Marcus Yoder was sentenced Wednesday after pleading guilty to two counts of statutory rape. Yoder was given seven life sentences in 2016 after he pleaded guilty to several counts of statutory rape and statutory sodomy. The guilty plea was set aside in 2020 after a judge ruled Yoder did not fully understand the consequences of his plea. Yoder, who once lived in Webb City and Carthage, is currently imprisoned at a state prison in Licking. He will be given credit for time he has already served.


Rabid Bat Found in Shawnee County

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas county health department says it found a rabid bat. A spokesman says the Shawnee County Health Department was notified that the bat tested positive for rabies Tuesday. A Shawnee County health official says a dog pulled the bat out of a tree July 12. There are no signs that the bat had contact with humans. But the dog will be monitored for 50 days as a precaution. The health department says people should not touch wild animals and should get their pets vaccinated.


Texas, Oklahoma Reportedly Reach Out to SEC About Joining Conference

HOOVER, Ala. (AP) — The University of Texas and the University of Oklahoma have reportedly expressed interest in leaving the Big 12 to join the Southeastern Conference. The Houston Chronicle newspaper cited an unidentified official and says an announcement could come in the next couple of weeks. SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey and the two schools all declined comment and Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby did not return messages. Such a move would give the SEC 16 football teams. It would be a devastating blow to the 10-member Big 12.


Chiefs Start Reporting for Training Camp with Roster 90% Vaccinated

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Patrick Mahomes and several of his Kansas City Chiefs teammates reported for training camp with 90% of the team’s roster having received the COVID-19 vaccine. The Chiefs are among six NFL teams that are over 90% vaccinated. The Chiefs are holding training camp on the campus of Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph and Reid says fans will notice new procedures when attending practices this summer. Players will not be signing autographs and other measures are being taken to increase health safety for players and other club employees. Reid reported that 100% of his staff has received a vaccine.


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 and by 1 pm on weekends. This news summary is made possible by KPR listener-members. Become one today!   


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