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Headlines for Friday, May 20, 2022


Kansas Will Have to Return $48 Million to Former Pizza Hut Mogul

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas will need to return millions of dollars in income taxes to a former pizza baron after the state supreme court said he was improperly taxed. Former Pittsburg resident Gene Bicknell, once the world's largest Pizza Hut franchise owner, appealed his Kansas income tax bill, arguing he lived out-of-state at the time he sold his business interests. The years-long dispute stemmed from Bicknell selling off his company in 2006.  Although he lived in Florida, Kansas considered him a resident and said he should have paid state income taxes on that money.  After years of appeals, Bicknell won a district court ruling that determined he had established himself as a Florida resident before the sale. The Kansas Supreme Court upheld the ruling, which will result in the state returning $48 million to Bicknell.


Kansas Supreme Court Disbars Former Prosecutor

UNDATED (AP) – The Kansas Supreme Court on Friday disbarred former prosecutor Jacqie Spradling over her conduct in a Topeka murder case. The court found Spradling engaged in unethical misconduct during the 2012 trial of Dana Chandler, who was convicted of killing her ex-husband and his fiance. Chandler's convictions were later overturned because of Spradling's misconduct. In June 2021, a state board unanimously recommended that Spradling be disbarred over her conduct in the Chandler case and the 2017 conviction of Jacob Ewing, of Holton, on rape and sodomy against two women. The Supreme Court's said Spradling did not violate ethical standards in the Ewing case.


Bank Analysts: Nationwide Gas Prices Could Hit $6 a Gallon by August

UNDATED (CBS) - Analysts at a top U.S. bank are warning that nationwide gas prices could skyrocket from their current $4.59 average per gallon to more than $6 per gallon by the end of summer. According to CBS News, Natasha Kaneva, head of global oil and commodities research at JPMorgan, wrote in a research document that the U.S. was in for a “cruel summer,” as gas prices were expected to continue smashing records. Kaneva wrote that U.S. retail prices could surge to a $6.20 per gallon by August. The news comes as some places have already started to experience gas prices of more than $6 per gallon, including Los Angeles County and Orange County.  Regular unleaded gasoline in Kansas is now averaging $4.04 per gallon.

Kaneva's forecast is just one view of where the market is going, and it is dependent on the typical summer trend of Americans getting behind the wheel for vacations and road trips. Motorists aggrieved by skyrocketing fuel prices could cut back on driving, putting the brakes on fuel demand. Other analysts, such as GasBuddy's petroleum analyst Patrick De Haan, said they don't see gas prices hitting $6 nationally.


Wind Energy Plants in Kansas, Iowa Closing, Could Reopen

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Siemens Gamesa wind-energy plants in Hutchinson, Kansas, and Fort Madison, Iowa, will close down while the company waits for new orders. Officials with the company announced Friday that most employees at the two plants will be laid off. The blade manufacturing plant in Iowa will close in June, followed by the Kansas plant in July. Siemens said 171 people work at the Iowa plant, with 92 in Kansas. The company said it is possible the plants could reopen if market conditions improve. The Iowa plant manufactures wind turbine blades. The Kansas plant manufactures nacelles, which house the turbine's generating components.


Lawrence Police Identify Victims Involved in Fatal "Road Rage" Shooting at Hy-Vee Parking Lot

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR/LJW) – Police have identified the two victims of a fatal "road rage" shooting that took place in a Lawrence grocery store parking lot Tuesday night. The two men involved in the shooting were identified as 22-year-old Zachary Michael Sutton and 53-year-old Monty Ray Amick, both of Lawrence. Investigators believe the initial interaction between the occupants of two vehicles occurred near 23rd and Harper. The vehicles then traveled west on 23rd Street where a confrontation occurred near 23rd and Iowa Street. After the confrontation, the vehicles continued west on Clinton Parkway where the incident culminated in the shooting at the Hy-Vee parking lot (3504 Clinton Parkway). Police say Sutton was reportedly a passenger in a 2006 White Ford F-150 Pickup truck and Amick was the driver and sole occupant of a 2007 Blue Nissan XTerra (SUV). Investigators believe a "road rage" encounter led to the fatal shooting.  Police are asking anyone who observed the altercation at 23rd and Iowa Street or the shooting at the Hy-Vee parking lot to call the Lawrence Police Department at (785) 830-7430. (Read more in the Lawrence Journal-World.)

(AP version...)

Lawrence Police: "Road Rage" Incident Led to Fatal Parking Lot Shootout

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Police in Lawrence say a prolonged road rage incident involving two vehicles led to a shootout in a grocery store parking lot that killed two men. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the incident happened Tuesday night when the driver of a sport utility vehicle and the occupants of a pickup truck interacted and argued over the truck's loud tailpipe. Police say the interaction went on for several miles before both vehicles whipped into the parking lot, nose-to-nose, and the SUV driver and a passenger in the truck exchanged gunfire. Police say the truck passenger, 22-year-old Zachary Sutton, and the SUV driver, 53-year-old Monty Ray Amick, both died from their injuries.


Lawrence Police: Former KU Soccer Goalie Killed; Husband Charged

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Police say a former University of Kansas soccer goalie has been killed and her husband has been charged with first-degree murder in her death. Police say officers found 25-year-old Regan Noelle Gibbs fatally wounded Monday night at her apartment in Lawrence. Police say her husband, 26-year-old Chad Joseph Marek, was arrested at the scene. Investigators believe Gibbs death was likely the result of domestic violence, but police have not said how she was killed. Gibbs was a goalkeeper for the Jayhawks’ soccer program from 2015 to 2018. The Kansas City Star reports that Marek appeared in Douglas County District Court on Tuesday. His bond is set at $1 million.


More Pandemic Relief Money Headed to Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Another round of pandemic stimulus money is on the way to Kansas. This round is intended to support small businesses. The U.S. Department of the Treasury has announced it will send nearly $70 million to Kansas to help small businesses and entrepreneurs. Kansas plans to put the money into loan and equity projects, such as the GROW KS Angel Capital Support Program. That will make money available to businesses in marginalized communities. The state estimates that 40% of the benefiting businesses will be owned by women, and 20% owned by people of color. In all, $10 billion will be distributed to states, U.S. territories and tribal governments. Kansas is among the first.


Global Shortage of Medical Dye Prompting KC Hospitals to Ration Supplies

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KNS) - A global shortage of medical dyes used for procedures like CAT scans has prompted Kansas City area hospitals to start rationing the supplies. Contrast fluids contain iodine that helps doctors look for abnormalities on X-rays and CAT scans. But there’s a shortage – yet another example in a long string of supply problems since the pandemic hit in 2020. The KU Health System says COVID lockdowns affecting Chinese manufacturing plants triggered this latest shortage. KU Health System is using its contrast dyes on critical patients. It delays scans for non-urgent patients or uses alternatives, like MRIs, whenever possible.


No Tuition Hikes, but Kansas College Students May Face Higher Fees

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Students attending public universities in Kansas will not have to pay higher tuition next school year. The Kansas News Service reports that most colleges are proposing hikes in student fees instead.  A provision in the Kansas budget bars schools from increasing tuition. Lawmakers approved $37.5 million in additional funding to keep student costs down. But some university leaders say the new funding won’t make up for rising inflation, so they’ll be increasing some student fees. Ethan Erickson is the chief financial officer at Kansas State University. He says the school needs to raise pay for faculty, whose salaries average about 15% below market rates. “We’ve got to invest in our people. It’s as important or more important than just your standard utility bill," he said. Most universities want to raise student fees for certain programs or across the board. Proposed increases range from less than $1 per credit hour to $100 or more. The Board of Regents will vote on the plans next month.


Six Juveniles Charged in Man's Shooting Death in Kansas

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Six young Kansas teenagers have been charged with shooting and killing a 19-year-old man at a park in suburban Kansas City. The Johnson County District Attorney's office says it wants to try four of them, who are 14 years old, as adults. The other two suspects are 13 and cannot be tried as adults under Kansas law. Marco Cardino, of Smithville, Missouri, was found shot to death inside his car on Saturday at a park in Olathe. The Kansas City Star reports that Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe said the shooting was the result of a marijuana purchase that “went horribly wrong.”

(–Additional Reporting–)

Six Teens Accused of Murder Following Botched Drug Deal in Olathe

OLATHE, Kan. (KMBC) - Six teenagers are each facing a first-degree murder charge after a botched drug deal in Kansas. KMBC TV reports that four 14-year-olds and a pair of 13-year-olds were arrested Tuesday in connection with the shooting death of 19-year-old Marco Cardino on May 14.  The Johnson County District Attorney’s Office did not identify the teens due to their ages.  Prosecutors have filed a motion to try the group of 14-year-olds as adults. Authorities believe the shooting stemmed from a drug deal gone sideways. Olathe police officers were called to Black Bob Park around 4 am after gunshots were heard in the area. Cardino was pronounced dead at the scene with multiple gunshot wounds, according to Olathe police. Originally, four teens were in custody connected to the slaying, but police say two more teens were later taken into custody.


Kansas City OKs Settlement in Arrests During 2020 Protests

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Kansas City leaders have approved a change to city laws regarding arrests during protests. An ordinance approved Thursday by the city council settled a federal lawsuit filed after racial injustice protests in the city in 2020. Three women sued after they were arrested during protests near or on the Country Club Plaza area. They alleged the city's ordinances involving resisting or interfering with an officer were unconstitutionally vague. The new ordinance says witnessing or recording police officers doesn't violate city law unless the offender is substantially impeding the officer's duties. The settlement did not require the city to pay any monetary damages. 


Two Gunshot Victims Found Near University of Missouri-Kansas City Campus

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KC STAR) - Two people were taken to the hospital with injuries believed to be non-life-threatening after a car was fired upon while driving through Kansas City’s South Plaza neighborhood (near 51st and Oak streets) Wednesday evening. The Kansas City Star reports that the University of Missouri-Kansas City shared a series of alerts detailing the shooting, including one that warned of an active shooter on or near the campus.  Further updates from UMKC said there was no threat to the campus and that the shooting appeared to have unfolded off campus.  UMKC police officers were first to respond to the shooting scene around 6 pm Wednesday after the victims pulled into the parking lot of a nearby Whole Foods. Two gunshot victims were found inside the car and taken by ambulance to the hospital. The victims were shot by a pedestrian as they were traveling south on Oak Street. The suspected shooter remains at large.


Days Before Oklahoma Bans Abortion, Details Still Uncertain

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma is only days from enacting the toughest U.S. state ban on abortion and providers are preparing to stop terminating pregnancies. Meanwhile, questions remained Friday about how the law’s limited exceptions would be enforced. The law allows abortions to save a pregnant patient’s life “in a medical emergency” and in cases of rape, sexual assault or incest that have been reported to law enforcement. It doesn’t spell out who decides what is considered a medical emergency, and the rape and incest exception won’t help victims who don’t report the crimes. Abortion providers said they are likely to be cautious and are planning to refer some patients to states like Colorado or Kansas.


Vice President Kamala Harris Meets with Abortion Providers from Kansas, Missouri and other States as Court Ruling Looms

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Kamala Harris spoke with abortion providers from states with some of the nation’s strictest restrictions on the procedure Thursday. She said they are “on the front lines of this war on women’s rights.” The virtual meeting included providers from Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and Montana. It comes weeks after the release of a draft Supreme Court opinion suggesting that justices are on the brink of overturning the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. A final ruling is expected in the next six weeks, but those states and others are already laying the groundwork to ban abortion outright.


Kansas Troopers Report Big Increase in Motorists Driving More than 100 MPH

WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) - Tickets for drivers speeding in excess of 100 miles-per-hour (mph) have nearly doubled in the last two years, according to the Kansas Highway Patrol.  KAKE TV reports that the patrol issued more than 3,300 tickets last year, up from around 1,700 in 2019. The uptick in motorists driving faster than 100 mph may not be limited to Kansas.  KAKE TV also reports that an Oklahoma driver was recently handed a $449 ticket for driving 90 mph over the speed limit.  The Oklahoma Highway Patrol said a trooper stopped a Dodge Challenger Hellcat going 165 mph on the H.E. Bailey Turnpike, a toll road in the southwest region of the state, where the speed limit is 75. Motorists who see any unsafe driving on Kansas highways are asked to dial *47 to report it to the highway patrol.


Invasive Jumping Worms Spreading Across Kansas, Missouri, other Midwestern States

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (WDAF) — A species of wiggling worms can jump a foot in the air, and they’ve spread to more than a dozen states in the Midwest, including Kansas and Missouri.  WDAF TV reports that the jumping worm, also known as Alabama jumpers, snake worms and other names, are invasive earthworms, originally native to east Asia. They thrash wildly when disturbed, have snakelike movements and sometimes shed their tail in defense, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation. These worms have experts increasingly worried as they spread across the country. The U.S. Forest Service says Asian jumping worms eat a lot. “They are never satiated,” the agency writes. And in the end, after feeding their unending appetites, the Missouri Department of Conservation says established populations of jumping worms can make the soil look like coffee grounds. That soil won’t be able to retain moisture, and Smithsonian Magazine reports the topsoil will be depleted of nutrients, making it difficult for plants to grow. To make matters worse, jumping worms grow twice as fast and reproduce more quickly than other earthworms, a Cornell University study says. The worm’s tiny eggs can even survive a Midwest winter. (Read more.)


Kansas City Man Behind Bars After Deputies Wrestle Him Away from 2-Year-Old

BALDWIN CITY, Kan. (WIBW) - A Kansas City man is behind bars in Douglas County after deputies wrestled a 2-year-old away from him as he was headed into a garage with a firearm following a domestic dispute.  WIBW TV reports that deputies responded to a domestic disturbance call in Baldwin City early Wednesday morning. Deputies say a woman alleged that a man, later identified as 21-year-old Maurice McKay Edwards, of Kansas City, Kansas, beat her and held a gun to her head during an argument. She had indicated two children were present and that the man had gone inside the home’s detached garage with one child. When they arrived, deputies say they found the man leaving the garage holding a 2-year-old child. They said they repeatedly ordered him to let the child go. One deputy was able to pin the man against the garage wall and free the child. Later, during a search of the home, deputies say they found a gun in a box in the garage.  Edwards was arrested on charges of aggravated assault, domestic battery and two counts of child endangerment. Edwards made his first court appearance Wednesday afternoon and has been scheduled for a preliminary hearing on May 24.


Tip from Kansas City Police Leads to Body Found Inside Southeast Kansas Home

COFFEYVILLE, Kan. (FOX23/KPR) — Multiple law enforcement agencies are investigating after a man’s body was found inside a home in Coffeyville. FOX23 News in Tulsa reports that officers checked out the home Monday morning after receiving a tip from police in Kansas City, who had received a tip that a dead body could be found inside the home. Coffeyville police officers found a man, identified as 61-year-old David A. Jackson, walking outside the home. Jackson was questioned before officers entered the home. Inside, officers found the body of 47-year-old Melvin Simpson, Junior. Simpson had been shot to death. Jackson was arrested on unrelated charges. Officers with the Coffeyville Police Department, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation are all investigating. Anyone with information is asked to call (620) 252-6160 or the KBI at 1-800-KS-CRIME.


Report: Rural Kansas Airports at Risk of Closing

HAYS, Kan. (KNS) - A nationwide pilot shortage has put some rural Kansas airports in danger of losing their only commercial airline carrier. The Kansas News Service reports that the uncertainty is already affecting local economies.  For Kansans living in Liberal, Dodge City and Hays, there’s only one airline that flies to and from the local airport: SkyWest. So when that airline filed paperwork this spring to terminate services, it sent shock waves through these communities. Liberal area economic development director Eli Svaty says small towns like his still need air service — and not just for the convenience of travelers, but to draw the new businesses and workers that grow the local economy. “Not to say that you lose the airport, you lose the town. But it is critical that… we find something that can assure people that it's okay to live out here in rural Kansas because we still have great air service," he said. For now, the federal government is forcing SkyWest to continue some service to these towns while the airports try to find a replacement airline.


New U.S. Hospitals Face Fiscal Crisis over COVID Relief Money

THOMASVILLE, Ala. (AP) — A handful of U.S. hospitals are facing a financial crisis that officials say was caused by the federal government's rules for pandemic relief money. A trio of hospitals in Alabama, Kansas and New Mexico say they're not getting as much assistance as other hospitals because they're so new they can't prove financial losses from before the pandemic. In rural southwest Alabama, Thomasville Regional Medical Center says it's in danger of closing after just two years. Like Thomasville Regional, Rock Regional Hospital in Derby, Kansas, saw revenues dry up soon after opening, said Barry Beus, the hospital CEO. It’s still experiencing staff shortages because of the pandemic and having to pay a premium to travel nurses to work shifts on the wards, he said, all while working with consultants and members of Congress just trying to stay afloat. Three Crosses Regional Hospital opened in 2020 in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and piled up a staggering $16.8 million in losses in just three quarters while receiving only $28,000 in aid, said Landon Fulmer, a Washington lobbyist working with all three hospitals to obtain additional funding. Federal health officials say all three hospitals have gotten some money from the CARES Act, and no health providers are getting all their losses reimbursed. 


Kansas Tries to Help Low-Income Families Acquire Baby Formula

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas is trying to help low-income families who are struggling to find baby formula because of widespread shortages. The Women, Infants and Children program, of WIC, helps ensure young kids have healthy food. Low-income families can use it to buy baby formula.  But there’s a national shortage of formula because of the pandemic and because of a product recall that shut down a major factory in Michigan. So for now, Governor Laura Kelly’s administration has eased the rules that normally dictate which formulas people can buy. It’s allowing substitutions, generally without a doctor’s note.


U.S. Senate Approves Overhaul of Baby Formula Rules in Aid Program

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has approved a bill aimed at easing the baby formula shortage for families participating in a government assistance program known as WIC. That program accounts for about half of all formula purchases in the U.S. The House had passed the bill the day before, so it now goes to President Joe Biden to be signed into law. The vouchers can generally only be used to purchase one brand of infant formula, which encourages the manufacturer to offer big discounts to secure a state’s business. The bill makes it possible for families to redeem the WIC vouchers for whatever formula brand is available.

*** Click here to see the KDHE list of infant formulas that can be purchased with Kansas WIC benefits.
*** Click here to see a KDHE list of WIC-eligible infant formula substitutions


Kansas Senator Questions FDA Regarding National Baby Formula Shortage

TOPEKA, Kan. (KOAM) – Kansas Republican Senator Roger Marshall is raising questions with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about the national shortage of baby formula. After baby formula that contained bacterial contaminants was sent out across the U.S, some manufacturing companies shut down production. When producers say they were ready to begin manufacturing again, lawmakers said the FDA would not give the laboratories the approval to move forward. KOAM TV reports that in response, Marshal submitted a letter to the FDA Commissioner. The letter from Marshal states, "... we write to request a response from FDA on its activities that contributed to the exacerbated infant formula shortages..." In addition to the letter, Marshal says the state intends to submit a bill that would require the FDA to examine formula manufacturing plants in Europe.  Marshall also wrote that, "It is unclear why federal health agencies have not been able to complete this investigation in a more expeditious manner or plan ahead to mitigate this additional supply chain." The FDA is yet to comment on Marshall’s letter. (Read more.)


Missouri Man Accused of Holding, Torturing Woman for 2 Days

LATHROP, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say a man who was recently released from prison has been charged with kidnapping and other felonies after he tortured a woman he met on a dating site for two days at his father's home in northwestern Missouri. Television station WDAF reports that Clinton County sheriff's deputies arrested 39-year-old James Larson Jr. following a standoff Saturday at a home in Lathrop. Deputies say they found Larson hiding inside a false wall. Authorities say the standoff began when a Kansas City woman escaped from the home and called 911 from a neighboring house. Officials say the woman had been severely beaten and was hospitalized in critical condition. Sheriff Larry Fish says Larson was released from prison just two weeks earlier.


20 Years After Spate of Missouri Hospital Deaths, Ex-Worker Accused

UNDATED (AP) - Twenty years after a spate of deaths at a rural Missouri hospital, a former worker has been charged with murder. According to a police investigator, in the five months that Jennifer Anne Hall was a respiratory therapist at Hedrick Medical Center, the Chillicothe hospital experienced 18 “code blue” incidents. The hospital historically averaged one such sudden cardiac event each year. Nine of the patients died, and nine recovered. Livingston County's prosecutor says Fern Franco died of lethal doses of a muscle relaxant and the pain reliever morphine. Hall’s attorney says she didn't have access to those or any other drugs. He said Hall became a scapegoat because of an arson conviction that she was cleared of in 2005.


Biden Administration Sends $5 Billion to Cities for Safety as Road Deaths Soar

WASHINGTON (AP) — Upcoming data shows traffic deaths soaring in the U.S. The Biden administration is steering $5 billion in federal aid to cities and localities to address the growing crisis. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Monday announced the availability of money over five years under his department’s new Safe Streets & Roads for All program. The goal is to spur cities to adopt detailed plans to reduce traffic deaths by slowing down cars, carving out bike paths and wider sidewalks and nudging commuters to public transit. Fatalities among pedestrians and cyclists are rising faster than those within vehicles. Roadway safety advocacy group BikeWalkKC in Kansas City, Missouri, wants communities to foster walkable neighborhoods.


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, 11 am weekends. This news summary is made possible by KPR listener-members. Become one today

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