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Headlines for Friday, May 18, 2018

Area news headlines from the Associated Press

2 Shot, Wounded After Graduation Ceremony Held at Kansas Megachurch

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Two people, including a young man celebrating his high school graduation, were shot and wounded when a fight erupted into gunfire in the parking lot of a suburban Kansas City megachurch.  Police Capt. Brad Robbins said the shooting happened Thursday night as hundreds of people were leaving the Church of the Resurrection in Leawood.  The church had just hosted a graduation ceremony for students of the Center High School in Kansas City, Missouri.  Robbins described the injured graduate as an innocent bystander in the shooting. Church of the Resurrection Pastor Adam Hamilton said on Facebook that the young man was shot in the shoulder.  The other victim was wounded inside a vehicle. Robbins said he didn't know that if victim was also a graduate.  Both shooting victims were treated at a hospital and released, Robbins said.  No arrests have been reported.

Robbins said the melee started with a physical fight. Officers were asking questions about the fight when they heard gunfire in another part of the parking lot, sending graduation-goers running in all directions. He said more than a dozen shell casings were found at the scene but that no information was available on the weapon or weapons used.  Police officers in neighboring Overland Park followed a vehicle after it was spotted fleeing the area at high speed, but they lost sight of it. Robbins said officers want to review video of the pursuit and talk to witnesses. Many of them drove off after the shooting, and police haven't been able to determine what started the fight, Robbins said.

Robbins said the Center School District has limited capacity in its gymnasium and has held its graduation ceremony at the Church of the Resurrection for years. With over 20,000 members, the church has the largest Methodist congregation in the U.S.  The pastor, Hamilton, said on Facebook that he is "saddened for these kids and their families on what should have been a highlight of their lives."

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New Kansas Law Allows Agencies to Refuse Adoptions by LGBT Couples

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer has signed legislation granting legal protections to faith-based adoption agencies that cite their religious beliefs for not placing children in LGBT homes.  Colyer signed the measure Friday during a ceremony at a Christian boys' home in the Wichita area. The new law takes effect July 1.  Under the law, agencies cannot be barred from providing foster care or adoption services for the state if they refuse to place children in homes violating their "sincerely held" religious beliefs. In Oklahoma, Gov. Mary Fallin signed a similar measure last week.  Supporters argued that the measures would prevent agencies from facing lawsuits or hostile action by a state if officials did not agree with their views.  But critics contend that such policies sanction taxpayer-funded discrimination against LGBT couples.

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Wichita Holds Funeral for 3rd Child Abuse Victim in 4 Weeks

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Residents gathered this week to honor a 2-year-old who is the third child in Wichita to have died from abuse in just four weeks.  The Wichita Eagle reports that Saint Joseph Church held a funeral Thursday for Anthony Bunn. The toddler was rushed to a hospital earlier this month after he stopped breathing. Police say he suffered severe head injuries.  The child's mother, Elizabeth Woolheater, and her boyfriend, Lucas Diel, are jailed and have been charged with murder in Anthony's death.  The Rev. Pat York said that if people stand by what is right, "maybe we can prevent this from happening to another innocent child."  The Wichita area has seen several child abuse homicides and a disappearance within the past year. The Kansas Department of Children and Families Secretary says its working to improve child welfare programs.

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Student Steals Professor's Computer Passwords, Changes Grade from F's to A's

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A former University of Kansas student who admitted stealing professors' computer passwords in order to change his failing grades has been convicted of four felonies.  Varun Sarja, 20, of Olathe, pleaded guilty Thursday to two counts of identity theft and two counts of unlawful computer acts. Fourteen other felony charges were dropped as part of the plea deal, The Lawrence Journal-World reported.  Sarja had no prior criminal record, meaning he will receive probation under the state's sentencing guidelines, Douglas County District Court Judge Kay Huff said. Sentencing is scheduled for July 2.  Under the plea deal, Sarja will be required to undergo a mental health evaluation and allow law enforcement to ensure that a keystroke logger program he used to steal the professors' passwords has been removed from all his electronic equipment.  

Sarja was a freshman studying engineering during the 2016-17 school year when he used the keystroke logger to hack into the university's computer system and change F grades to As. Keystroke loggers plug into computers and record every keystroke that has been typed, enabling hackers to obtain others' user names and passwords for accounts and computer systems.  Sarja was on academic probation in spring 2017 and after records showed he had an A in math, an engineering school academic adviser and the math professor began to investigate.  An investigation by university police revealed Sarja had changed almost all of his 10 grades that year, starting in December. Sarja told detectives he loved engineering and was afraid to tell his parents he had failed classes. He told the judge Thursday he has completed his sophomore year of college, but did not specify where.

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Kansas Lawmaker Switches to Running for State Treasurer

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas lawmaker has switched to running for state treasurer after planning to seek the Democratic nomination for secretary of state.  State Senator Marci Francisco of Lawrence announced her decision Thursday. Democrats had not found a candidate to challenge incumbent Republican Treasurer Jake LaTurner.  Former Uber and Google executive Brian McClendon of Lawrence is running for the Democratic nomination for secretary of state. Francisco's switch likely heads off a primary contest for him.  Francisco said in a statement that Kansas Democratic Party Chairman John Gibson asked her to switch races. She was first elected to the Senate in 2004 after serving as Lawrence's mayor.  Then-Governor Sam Brownback appointed LaTurner treasurer last year. He replaced Republican Ron Estes after Estes won a special election to fill a vacant congressional seat.  Wichita holds funeral for 3rd child abuse victim in 4 weeks

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Man Sentenced for Role in Wichita Man's Torture and Killing

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A man who participated in the torture and killing of a Wichita man over a $185 meth deal has been sentenced to 73 years in prison.  KAKE-TV report s 57-year-old Willie Morris was sentenced Friday for first-degree murder and several other charges in the November 2016 death of 33-year-old Scottie Goodpaster Jr.  Morris was one of five people charged in Goodpaster's death.  Goodpaster's mutilated body was found in a Harvey County field. A court affidavit indicated Goodpaster was tortured and a woman was forced to watch.  The document indicates the violence stemmed from money lost in a methamphetamine deal.  The four other defendants remain in the Sedgwick County Jail.

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Former ESU Day Care Teacher, Director Faces Charges

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — A former teacher at an Emporia State University campus day care center has been charged with child endangerment and the former director has been charged with failing to report suspected abuse or neglect.  The charges were filed last month against former teacher Kimberly Schneider and former director Keely Persinger. They worked at the university's Center for Early Childhood Education until May 2017. Their attorneys didn't immediately return a phone message.  The affidavit is sealed, but they were named in a lawsuit filed in August in Lyon County. It alleged that four toddlers were abused at the daycare starting in 2016. The families claim the children were restrained with straps, had their arms "aggressively yanked and pulled," and were yelled at in a "derogatory manner." The university has declined to comment on the litigation.

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Wichita Officers Saves Woman Found Covered in Flames

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita officer says he was in the "right place at the right time" when he found a woman covered in flames and used his hands to extinguish them.  The Wichita Eagle reports that Officer Alex Bieler was driving past a restaurant last week when he saw the side door open and someone emerge who appeared to be "carrying a big ball of fire." He stopped, ran to help the woman and then focused on another woman inside the restaurant.  The door locked behind the first woman when she ran out, so Bieler used a baton to smash his way inside. He found that the second woman had already extinguished the fire burning on her. Both women were rushed to a hospital in critical condition. The fire is under investigation.

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Topeka Man Booked into Jail in Homicide Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a Topeka man is jailed on suspicion of premeditated first-degree murder.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that jail records show that the 27-year-old was booked Thursday afternoon. Records show he also was being held on a misdemeanor warrant. No other details were immediately released about the killing that led to the arrest.

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Police Say Search for Missing Kansas Boy is "Challenging"

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say the search for a 5-year-old boy who's been missing for three months is "very challenging" and are encouraging the public to keep looking and providing tips.  The Wichita Eagle reports that police discussed the search Thursday, one day after Lucas Hernandez' stepmother, Emily Glass, was acquitted of child endangerment. Prosecutors alleged she drove her 1-year-old daughter to a restaurant while high on marijuana on Feb. 16. Lucas was reported missing the next day.  Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett says Glass is a "person of interest" and a witness in Lucas' disappearance.  Capt. Brent Allred says police are "disappointed" that Lucas hasn't been found and will follow up on any leads that the public provides. He says police "don't have any information to follow up on right now."

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Federal Officials Seek Accord in Recorded Calls Controversy

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Federal prosecutors in Kansas will try to reach an agreement over issues pertaining to recordings of phone conversations between defense attorneys and clients at a detention center in Leavenworth.  KCUR Radio reports U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said Wednesday his office will work with a court-appointed special investigator and the Federal Public Defender's Office to disarm a controversy over whether prosecutors in the office violated attorney-client privileges by listening to the taped conversations.  McAllister's announcement came during the second of a two-day hearing in federal court. More than a dozen current and former employees of the U.S. Attorney's Office had been called to testify after prosecutors stopped cooperating with the special master's investigation into the tape recordings.  McAllister was confirmed as U.S. Attorney last year, after the tapings were revealed.

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New Kansas Mural Celebrates Brown v. Board of Education

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Statehouse has a new mural commemorating the landmark Brown v. Topeka Board of Education ruling that struck down racial segregation in public schools.  The mural was unveiled Thursday on the 64th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision.  U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson said the mural is a reminder of the people who struggled against school segregation and "inspires us to achieve the full promise" of the decision. Robinson is Kansas' first black federal judge.  The 22-feet-wide mural has three sections depicting the controversy surrounding the 1954 decision and its legacy.  Linda Brown, the young Topeka girl at the center of the ruling, died in March. The NAACP sued after persuading her father and other black parents to try to enroll children in all-white schools.

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Missouri to Launch Special Session on Allegations Against Governor

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The case against Missouri Governor Eric Greitens is shifting from a St. Louis courtroom to a Capitol committee room.  A special legislative session devoted to allegations against the Republican governor is scheduled to begin this (FRI) evening. The key question during the 30-day session will be whether to impeach Greitens in an effort to oust him from office.  A St. Louis prosecutor dropped a felony charge earlier this week accusing Greitens of taking a nonconsensual photo of a partially nude woman in 2015.  Allegations of sexual misconduct are likely to be revived during the special session. Lawmakers also will be looking into whether Greitens misused a charity donor list for political fundraising and committed other campaign finance violations.  Attorneys for the governor want the right to question witnesses during legislative proceedings.

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Wichita Store Clerk Traps Robbery Suspect Inside Store

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a convenience store clerk who was stabbed during an attempted robbery was able to escape and trap the suspect inside.  When officers were called Wednesday night to a Circle K, they found the 24-year-old victim outside holding the door shut. He told police the suspect had thrown a drink at him and during a confrontation, the clerk suffered minor stab wounds.  Officer Charley Davidson says while the clerk was holding the door, the suspect was inside the store damaging property.  KAKE-TV reports the 26-year-old suspect was booked into jail on several possible charges.  Kansas Department of Corrections records show the suspect has a lengthy criminal record and has been in and out of prison from November of 2015 until February of this year.

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Survey Shows Improving Economy Rural Parts of 10 States

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A monthly survey of bankers shows that the economy is slowly improving in rural parts of 10 Plains and Western states.  Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says that while commodity prices have improved recently, they remain below breakeven for a large share of grain farmers.  The overall Rural Mainstreet index slipped slightly to 56.3 in May, up from 53.5 in April. It's the highest level since July 2013. Any score above 50 suggests a growing economy in the months ahead, while a score below 50 indicates a shrinking economy.  Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.  More than one-third of bank CEOs identified rising regulatory costs as the top economic challenge to their operations over the next five years.

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Another Kansas Legislator Jumps into GOP Congressional Race

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A fourth conservative state legislator has jumped into the crowded race for the Republican nomination in an eastern Kansas congressional district.  State Senator Dennis Pyle of Hiawatha announced Wednesday that he will run in the 2nd District.  Incumbent Republican Lynn Jenkins is not seeking re-election.  Pyle has served in the Senate since 2005 and tried unsuccessfully to unseat Jenkins in the Republican primary in 2010.  State Senators Steve Fitzgerald of Leavenworth and Caryn Tyson of Parker and state Representative Kevin Jones of Wellsville also are running.  Four other candidates are in the GOP race. They are former Army Ranger and defense contractor Steve Watkins of Topeka, Marine veteran Tyler Tannahill of Leavenworth, ex-Kansas House Speaker Doug Mays of Topeka and Basehor City Council member Vernon Fields.

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Kansas Man Sentenced to Probation in Deadly Wichita Crash

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 21-year-old man has been sentenced to three years of probation for a crash that killed a 72-year-old Wichita man.  The Wichita Eagle reports that Cody McFarlane was sentenced Wednesday for involuntary manslaughter and aggravated battery in the July 2017 collision that killed 72-year-old James McDaniel and injured McDaniel's 16-year-old grandson.  Court records say McFarlane was speeding at 80 mph in a 30 mph zone when his truck sped through an intersection in the northern part of the city and struck McDaniel's vehicle. McDaniel died less than an hour later at a hospital.  If he violates the terms of his probation, McFarlane could be forced to serve a prison sentence of three years and four months.

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Kansas Passes State Fair Sales Tax Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has passed a law that directs sales tax collected at the State Fair to go toward capital improvements.  The Hutchinson News reports that Governor Jeff Colyer signed the Senate bill into law Wednesday.  Fiscal 2017 figures show returning the sales tax generated on the Kansas State Fairgrounds during the fair would produce just over $400,000. About 5 percent of the 6.5 percent tax would go into the State Fair Capital Improvements Fund.  The bill came amid a move to open bidding by other towns to host the State Fair, which has been in Hutchinson for more than a century. Republican Sen. Ed Berger added an amendment to say the fair would only receive the sales tax if it remained in Hutchinson.  State Fair officials will hold a ceremonial signing July 5.

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Kansas Woman Struck by Deputy Settles Lawsuit for $40,000

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas woman who was injured when a deputy crashed into her car while rushing to an accident at a motorcycle race course is settling her lawsuit for $40,000.  The Wichita Eagle reports that the Sedgwick County commission approved the settlement Wednesday with Ashley Parker. Court records say the crash happened in April 2015 as a deputy was headed to the Jeeps Cycle Club accident, where someone had suffered a broken leg. Records say the deputy was going more than 100 mph, even though other emergency responders already had responded.  County Counselor Eric Yost says both the woman and deputy have recovered. The county said in court papers that Parker ran a stop sign and failed to yield the right of way to an emergency vehicle as required by law.

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Kansas City's Kemper Arena Will be Renamed Hy-Vee Arena

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Historic Kemper Arena in Kansas City is getting a new name.  The arena is now called Hy-Vee Arena, under a deal announced Thursday by the building's new owner.  Steve Foutch, CEO of Foutch Architecture and Development, said the Iowa-based grocery store chain has agreed to a 10-year naming rights deal for the arena, which is being renovated into a $39 million youth and adult sports facility.  Foutch did not disclose the financial terms of the deal.  The new arena is expected to attract sports and other events, and also will offer fitness gyms, golf simulators, stores and restaurants.  Foutch said the arena's redevelopment is about 70 percent complete. The grand opening is scheduled for October 5.  (Read more about this story.)

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