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Headlines for Friday, June 8, 2018

Court: Kobach Can Be Investigated by Citizen Grand Jury

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A citizen grand jury should investigate whether Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach intentionally chose not to process online voter registrations and prevented qualified residents from voting, the state Court of Appeals ruled Friday. The ruling comes in a case that began in 2016, when Steven Davis, of Lawrence, filed a petition seeking a citizen grand jury in Douglas County to investigate voter tampering allegations against Kobach and his office. The Douglas County District Court rejected that petition and a second petition Davis filed in 2017, saying there wasn't enough evidence to support the allegations, The Kansas City Star reported . The appeals court ruled the lower court was incorrect when it said Davis needed to provide specific allegations of a crime, when the state law requires only general allegations. The court ordered Douglas County to summon the grand jury. Davis, 29, currently a Democratic candidate for Kansas's 45th House district, said he believes the investigation is justified. "The question of whether or not there's enough evidence for an indictment, that's for the grand jury," he said.

Kansas is one of six states that allow citizens to request grand juries through petitions. Citizens must gather 100 voters plus 2 percent of the number of people who voted in the county's last gubernatorial election. In Douglas County, that is 860 signatures. Davis collected 910. The Court of Appeals noted that lawmakers changed the law in 2013 to make it easier to call a citizen grand jury — changes primarily supported by conservative Republicans at the time. Kobach, a conservative Republican who is running for governor, is nationally known for promoting tough immigration and voter identification laws. In April, a federal judge found Kobach in contempt in a lawsuit challenging a Kansas law requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote. His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday's ruling. Kobach said in 2016 that he supports the citizen grand jury law, but that it "doesn't permit randomly going after a public figure with vague allegations unsupported by any facts." The court acknowledged in its ruling that calling a grand jury without probable cause to believe a crime has been committed and without the guidance of a professional prosecutor could have serious personal and professional consequences for the target of the investigation.

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Kansas Stepmom Dead After Leading Investigator to Dead Boy

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A prosecuting attorney says law enforcement will continue to work to determine how a 5-year-old Wichita boy died, despite the death of his stepmother, who had been the focus of the investigation. Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said Friday that Emily Glass's death does not mean authorities plan to wrap up their work in the case of Lucas Hernandez, whose body was found last month after Glass reported him missing in February. Glass was found dead early Friday after Lucas' father reported she had committed suicide. Authorities have not determined the cause of death. Bennett said Glass was the main person of interest in the case and he couldn't say whether other people might have "levels of culpability" in the boy's death.
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 A woman who led an investigator to the decomposing remains of her 5-year-old stepson three months after reporting him missing was found dead early Friday in a Wichita home with three suicide notes and a rifle at her feet, police said. Officer Charley Davidson said during a press briefing that officers responded around 1:40 a.m. after Jonathan Hernandez called to report finding his former girlfriend, Emily Glass, dead of a gunshot wound at his Wichita home. Hernandez said in a statement that Glass killed herself. Davidson said the official cause of death will be determined by the coroner's office and that he didn't know whether Glass was living at the home or who owned the rifle. Davidson did not say to whom the three suicide notes were addressed. Glass, 27, reported Hernandez's son, Lucas, missing on February 17. She told police she last saw Lucas playing in his bedroom before she took a shower and fell asleep. On May 24, Glass led David Marshburn, a private investigator hired by Lucas's father, to the boy's decaying remains. The boy's body had been hidden under a culvert bridge about 20 miles north of Wichita and was covered with debris. Police arrested Glass on suspicion of lying to authorities, but she was freed. Prosecutors never charged her in Lucas's death, but said she was a person of interest. It's unclear if an autopsy and toxicology examination will ever determine how Lucas died, because of the body's decayed condition. Davidson said the investigation into Lucas's death also is ongoing. In an interview for the podcast "Crime Stories with Nancy Grace" that aired Monday, Hernandez said he no longer believes or supports Glass and that he is "a bit confused by" her release from jail. Hernandez also told Grace that Glass told the private investigator she had panicked after she found Lucas dead in his bed one evening or morning. The podcast included part of a recording captured by Marshburn in which Glass said in a shaky voice: "I did Lucas so wrong. I did him wrong." The Wichita Eagle reports that Hernandez and Lucas' mother, Jamie Taylor-Orr, said in a statement released Friday that Glass "chose to end her own life." "This is not the ending we would have chosen for Emily. She was the only person on this earth who could tell us what the last moments of our child's life were like," the statement said. "We wanted answers and we still want justice. Our hope is that the truth will still come out, that there will be answers to the many questions we have." Hernandez was not at home when Lucas disappeared. Glass cared for her daughter and Lucas while Hernandez worked out of state for weeks at a time. Taylor-Orr didn't live in the Wichita area when Lucas disappeared. Glass was earlier acquitted of child endangerment in an unrelated case involving her then-1-year-old daughter. Prosecutors allege Glass smoked marijuana then drove the girl to a restaurant. This occurred one day before Lucas was reported missing. Court documents filed in the endangerment case say Lucas was frequently seen with bruises and cuts, and once with black eyes. The document indicates the state of Kansas was told at least twice that Lucas was being abused and details the boy's dysfunctional and violent family life.

Read more about this story from our affiliate, KMUW Radio in Wichita.

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US Consumer Bureau's Leader Questions Usefulness of Public Database

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The acting director of a federal watchdog agency is questioning the usefulness of keeping an online database of complaints against lenders and finance companies. Acting Director Mick Mulvaney of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said Friday that he is considering whether the database should remain online. He was asked about the issue during a forum on elder abuse in Topeka. Mulvaney said the database has some weaknesses, such as not containing information about how complaints were resolved. He also said he is not sure having the information online helps consumers resolve complaints. He said the bureau would continue collecting information about complaints even if the database is not online because federal law requires it. But Kansas City attorney Bryce Bell said public access makes companies more receptive to settling complaints.

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ACLU Sues Kansas County Prosecutor over Diversion Policies

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union is suing a southeast Kansas prosecutor over what the group says is his improper failure to offer diversion agreements to enough offenders. The ACLU filed its lawsuit directly with the state Supreme Court asking it to order Montgomery County Attorney Larry Markle to revise his office's policies on handling cases involving first-time offenders or others charged with low-level crimes. The ACLU lawyers filed the petition on behalf of a nonprofit group that provides services to the former inmates and an Independence resident who was not offered a diversion agreement after being arrested in 2017 for misdemeanor theft. The lawsuit alleges that Markle is not following the state's law on diversion agreements. Markle did not immediately respond to an email message Friday seeking comment.

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Environmental Groups Can Intervene in Westar Rate Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two environmental groups will be allowed to intervene in a rate case involving Westar, which wants to impose higher fees on customers who install solar panels on their homes.  The Kansas Corporation Commission on Thursday said the Sierra Club and a group called Vote Solar may intervene in the case but must consolidate their testimony and evidence. They also cannot submit repetitive testimony or briefs.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Vote Solar, a nonprofit that promotes solar energy, says it has 82,000 members nationwide, including about 80 in Westar's service area.  Westar will soon merge with the parent company of Kansas City Power & Light. It is seeking a $17.6 million rate hike, partly from extra charges for customers with solar panels and other alternative devices for electricity.

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Boyfriend Charged in 2016 Death of Andover Woman

ANDOVER, Kan. (AP) — Andover police say the boyfriend of a woman who died nearly two years ago is now charged in her killing. Police announced Friday in a news release that 52-year-old Roger Smith is charged with second-degree murder in the August 2016 death of 40-year-old Sandra Berry. KAKE-TV reports Berry was found dead in her Andover apartment with a deep wound to her throat. Smith was Berry's boyfriend when she died. He was questioned but released at the time. Smith is currently being held at the El Dorado Correctional Facility for a parole violation. He will be served a warrant and is scheduled to appear in Butler County court June 29. He was scheduled to be released July 1.

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After Controversy, Kansas City Transit Authority Releases Documents

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority has released documents pertaining to a legal settlement the agency had previously argued were not public information. The ATA contended it was not subject to open records laws in Missouri or Kansas. But it reversed that policy Wednesday, after some Johnson County, Kansas, officials threatened to end the county's contract with the authority for bus services. The Kansas City Star sought records after the ATA's former human resources officer, Jimmy Fight, sued in 2016 claiming he was fired for pressuring the transportation authority to investigate theft by employees. The documents show Fight was paid a $90,000 settlement and his attorney received $45,000. Fight's lawsuit didn't detail the scope of the theft problem within the agency. Three people left the agency after the theft was investigated. No one was charged.

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Greitens Prosecutor Won't Refile Invasion of Privacy Charge

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) —  A special prosecutor says her investigation of former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens found no corroborating evidence that would support refiling a felony invasion of privacy charge. Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters Baker announced Friday that she would not file charges in the case that landed with her last month after St. Louis prosecutors dismissed the charge. Baker said in a news release that she and a team of assistant prosecutors exhausted potential leads and even enlisted the Missouri State Highway Patrol to investigate. Still, Baker says there wasn't sufficient evidence to consider a criminal charge. Greitens was initially indicted by a St. Louis grand jury in February. He was accused of taking an unauthorized and compromising photo of a woman during an extramarital affair in 2015, before he was elected. Greitens resigned last week.
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A special prosecutor will not refile a felony invasion-of-privacy charge against former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens. Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters Baker announced her decision Friday, one week after the Republican governor's resignation. A St. Louis grand jury in February indicted Greitens, accusing him of taking an unauthorized and compromising photo of a woman with whom he had an extramarital affair in 2015, before he was elected. St. Louis prosecutors dropped the charge May 14 after a court ruled that St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner had to answer questions under oath from Greitens' attorneys. The announcement came as jury selection was nearing completion. Greitens resigned last week as the Legislature was meeting in special session to consider the possibility of impeachment.

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Fleeing California Man Among 3 Killed in Kansas Chase

WINDOM, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have identified the three people killed in a Kansas police chase as a fleeing California driver, his passenger and the driver of the vehicle they struck.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the pursuit began Wednesday when police in the town of Little River began pursuing the car that 29-year-old Miguel Casas, of El Monte, California, was driving on U.S. 56. The Kansas Highway Patrol says Casas crossed the center line for unknown reasons and struck another car near Windom.  Casas was rushed to a hospital, where he later died. His passenger, 28-year-old Sara Morales, of Rosemead, California, and the driver of the other vehicle, 73-year-old Gerald Mindrup, of Windom, were pronounced dead at the scene.  Trooper Ben Gardner says Casas was driving erratically prior to the crash.

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Authorities Identify Kansas Man Killed in Arizona Crash of 2 Trains

TRUXTON, Ariz. (AP) — Authorities have released the name of a man killed and another man injured in the crash of two trains in northwestern Arizona.  Mohave County Sheriff's officials say a Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway train collided Tuesday afternoon with a Herzog Railroad Services train pushing maintenance equipment in a remote canyon near Truxton 103 miles west of Flagstaff.  Sheriff's officials say 63-year-old Walter Erickson of Lenexa, Kansas, was pronounced dead at the scene.  They say another Herzog employee — 26-year-old Matthew Thompson of Salem, Missouri — was airlifted to a Nevada hospital with serious injuries and is listed in stable condition.  Authorities say all occupants of the BNSF train were accounted for and no other injuries were reported.  BNSF spokeswoman Lena Kent says the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the cause of the crash, which left the BNSF freight train with significant front-end damage and derailed several cars on the Herzog train.

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Kansas City Crash Sends $25,000 in Coins onto Highway

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police say a crash involving an armored truck sent thousands of dollars in coins spilling across a highway.  The accident Thursday when the armored truck stopped at an intersection in northern Kansas City was hit from behind by a truck.  KCTV reports the force of the collision dumped about $25,000 in coins onto Missouri Highway 152. The highway was closed for about four hours as employees from the armored car company used shovels, brooms, leaf blowers, and then vacuums to clean it all up.  The driver of the truck was critically injured. The armored truck driver was not injured.

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Kobach Pushes Tax Cuts After Rollback of Kansas Experiment

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican candidate Kris Kobach has made promises to cut taxes a cornerstone of his campaign for Kansas governor.  He's chiding other candidates for not joining him in signing a pledge not to raise taxes. His GOP rivals include Governor Jeff Colyer.  Kobach says he'll push to lower income and sales tax rates and hold down on local property taxes. He's making those promises a year after Kansas legislators rolled back income tax cuts championed by former GOP Governor Sam Brownback because of budget woes.  Colyer's campaign says the governor will work with lawmakers to ease taxes.  His aides also question Kobach's tax-cutting promises by noting a 2000 vote Kobach made as an Overland Park City Council member for raising a tax paid by developers. Kobach called the criticism deceptive.

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Kansas Man Sentenced in High-Speed Crash

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A man has been sentenced to prison for leading police on a high-speed chase in a Lawrence residential neighborhood that resulted in injuries to two people.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that a judge sentenced 45-year-old Justin Crawford on Wednesday to nearly 3.5 years in prison, with credit for 10 months already served. The Topeka man will also serve two years' probation and pay more than $5,800 in restitution to a crime victim compensation fund.  Crawford pleaded no contest to felony aggravated battery for seriously injuring two women in the car he hit September 7, 2012. Prosecutors say he had been driving at high speeds after being given pain medication from several hospitals earlier that day.  Crawford's attorney says he accepts responsibility for the crash and injuries.

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Family: Kansas City, Kansas, Homicide Victim Was Pregnant

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Relatives say a woman who was fatally shot in Kansas City, Kansas, was 12 weeks pregnant.  The Kansas City Star reports that the body of 23-year-old Jocelyn Ybarra was found Saturday night after a neighbor reported hearing a scream and gunshots. The vehicle Ybarra was in rolled downhill through the neighborhood and came to rest in a driveway, where it was found still running with three doors left open.  Her family said she treated her nieces as her own children, using what little money she had to buy them paint materials, dance shoes and clothing — even as she struggled with homelessness and addiction.  Her mother, Clara Morales, says her daughter was a "better mom" than she was. Her older sister, Yesenia Ibarra, described her as "patient" with her children.

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Sheriff: 5-Year-Old Wounded in Accidental Kansas Shooting

ISABEL, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a sibling has accidentally shot a 5-year-old girl in her left arm in southern Kansas.  Pratt County Sheriff James White says the shooting happened Wednesday morning in the southeast part of the county. The Wichita Eagle reports that the girl was flown to a Wichita hospital.  No other details were immediately released. The sheriff's office is investigating.

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New Clinic Brings First Medical Detox Program to Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new center in Wichita will be the first in the city to offer medically monitored detox for people suffering from drug and alcohol addiction.  The Fieldview at Holland treatment center will offer medically monitored detox, with staff available at all times to provide medications to ease withdrawal symptoms.  Currently, Wichita organizations offer only social detox, which focuses on therapy and counseling and doesn't use medication.  The Wichita Eagle reports Fieldview will offer 64 beds of detox and residential treatment, making it Wichita's largest residential treatment facility.  Executive director Diane Peltier says the privately-owned center hopes to start accepting patients next week. It already has a waiting list.  Besides, medication, residents will be offered behavioral therapies, outpatient therapies and help with mental health disorders.

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Wichita Teen Sentenced in Death of Transgender Woman

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Sedgwick County authorities say a teenager has been sentenced to juvenile corrections in the stabbing death of a transgender woman. The teenager was sentenced Friday for second-degree murder in the 2016 death of 32-year-old Tyreece Walker. The juvenile, whose name was not released, was sentenced to juvenile corrections until the age of 22½ with aftercare until he's 23. The Sedgwick County District Attorney's office says that was the maximum sentence allowed under Kansas law for juvenile offenders. The teenager, who was 16 when Walker was killed, claimed he acted in self-defense when he stabbed Walker at an apartment complex. If the teen commits a new violation while serving his juvenile sentence or during aftercare, he could be sent to an adult prison for nearly 14 years.

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K-State Hires Ex-OU Coach Hughes to Lead Baseball Program

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State has hired former Oklahoma baseball coach Pete Hughes to lead its program. Hughes takes over for Brad Hill, who was let go as the school's winningest coach, but whose success had waned the past few years. Hughes agreed to a five-year contract that will pay him $375,000 in the first year with a $10,000 raise each remaining year. He will be introduced at a news conference Tuesday. Hughes has a 652-492-3 record over 21 seasons at Trinity University, Boston College, Virginia Tech and Oklahoma. He was 128-107-1 over four seasons with the Sooners, including a 35-24 record and No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament's regional round in 2017. He left amid a contract dispute and spent last season as a volunteer assistant at Georgia.

 

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