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Headlines for Friday, May 25, 2018

Area news headlines from the Associated Press

Stepmother of Missing Kansas Child Booked into Jail

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The stepmother of a 5-year-old Wichita boy whom she reported missing in February was jailed Thursday evening, hours after a small, as-yet unidentified body was found under a bridge in a nearby county.  Emily Glass, the stepmother of Lucas Hernandez, was at a site in rural Harvey County hours before the body was found, Sedgwick County District Attorney Mark Bennett said. She was later booked into jail on suspicion of interfering with a law enforcement officer and obstruction.  Authorities have not identified the body, which was found under a bridge on a gravel road near the town of Sedgwick.  "When we arrived, there was a body underneath a bridge up there that appears to be a small human, but it's unrecognizable," Harvey County Sheriff Chad Gay said. No children have been reported missing in Harvey County, he said.  Glass reported Lucas missing from their home on February 17. Glass told police she last saw Lucas playing in his bedroom before she took a shower and fell asleep. He was gone when she woke up from her nap. She has not been charged in the boy's disappearance, but Bennett has said she is a person of interest in the case.

The boy's father, Jonathan Hernandez, was not at home when Lucas disappeared. Glass cared for her daughter and Lucas while he worked out of state for weeks at a time. Lucas' biological mother didn't live in the Wichita area when he disappeared.  Glass was found not guilty in May in an unrelated case accusing her of child endangerment involving her own 1-year-old daughter. Prosecutors alleged she smoked marijuana before driving the child to a restaurant.  Lucas was reported missing the day after that trip.  A court document related to that case said Lucas was frequently seen with bruises and cuts before he disappeared. The Sedgwick County juvenile court document indicated the state of Kansas was told at least twice that Lucas was being abused and was living in a dysfunctional and violent situation.

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Kansas Regulators Approve Merger of Westar Energy, Great Plains

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas utility regulators have approved the merger of the two largest electric companies operating in the state.  The Kansas Corporation Commission's decision Thursday that means Topeka-based Westar Energy and Great Plains Energy of Kansas City, Missouri, will become subsidiaries of a new company called Evergy.  Great Plains is the parent of Kansas City Power & Light.  Missouri regulators approved the merger earlier Thursday. Both companies' shareholders overwhelmingly approved it in November.  Westar said in a statement that the new company will have an equity value of about $15 billion and 1.6 million customers in Kansas and Missouri.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the merger is expected to generate savings and efficiencies. Westar will give customers $23 million in credits on their bills, while KCP&L will issue $7.5 million in credits.

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Medicaid Contractor Could be Fined $250,000 Per Day If It Misses June Deadline

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The company processing Kansas Medicaid applications is days away from potentially facing millions in fines for inadequate performance that has frustrated state officials, health providers and patients for years.  The Wichita Eagle reports that Kansas told Maximus in January the contractor must improve by June 1 or pay retroactive penalties potentially exceeding $250,000 a day.  Maximus' contract calls for 98 percent accuracy on financial payments, but the contractor was achieving 40 percent.  Company officials expect to meet its June 1 performance target. But lawmakers and advocates are skeptical after years of missing or wrongly processed applications that cost providers money and patients time.  Kansas Medicaid Director Jon Hamdorf said Thursday that Maximus has "really made a good faith effort" to improve performance but will be fined if it falls short.

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Man Sentenced to Life in Prison After Fatal Topeka Road Rage Confrontation

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka man involved in a fatal road rage incident has been sentenced to life in prison.  Shawnee County District Court Judge David Debenham on Thursday sentenced 23-year-old Andre Rhoiney Jr., for first-degree felony murder in the October 2016 road-rage shooting death of 28-year-old Michael Stadler He was sentenced to life plus 13 months.  Rhoiney was convicted in March after a mistrial was declared in an earlier trial.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports a co-defendant, Daniel Askew, previously testified that Rhoiney fired two shots at a van Stadler was in after people in the two vehicles had exchanged words and rude gestures. Askew said Rhoiney meant to scare the people in the other car.  Askew has been charged but has not gone to trial.

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Lawrence Man Sentenced to Decades in Prison for Raping Girl for Several Years

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A 40-year-old Lawrence man has been sentenced to 27.5 years in prison for repeatedly raping a girl for more than six years.  Andrew Tribble was sentenced Thursday for two counts of rape and one count of aggravated criminal sodomy. He was originally charged with a dozen felonies.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports the man's victim, who is now 17, read a statement before sentencing saying Tribble stole her childhood from her. She said by the time she was 9, she wanted to die but she eventually decided she had to speak up.  Tribble's attorney read a statement from him apologizing for his actions.  Before his arrest, Tribble was a maintenance worker for the city and had coached youth sports in Lawrence.

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2nd Man Admits to Kidnapping, Raping Kansas Sheriff's Deputy

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A second man has pleaded guilty to kidnapping and raping a suburban Kansas City sheriff's deputy.  Twenty-three-year-old Brady Allen Newman-Caddell entered the plea Thursday to aggravated kidnapping, two rape counts and aggravated criminal sodomy.  Another man, William Luth, was sentenced previously to more than 41 years in prison for abducting the deputy in October 2016 from the parking lot of a detention center in Olathe as she arrived at work. She wasn't in her uniform. She was released in the Missouri suburb of Lee's Summit two hours later. Newman-Caddell and Luth are both from suburbs on the Missouri side.

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Ex-FBI Agent in Kansas Files Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A former FBI agent in Kansas City contends in a lawsuit that she was sexually harassed by another agent and then punished when she reported it.  The Kansas City Star reports the former agent, Julie Meriano, says she contacted Kansas City police abou the male agent's behavior, which included creating a fake profile on a dating website with her picture and spreading damaging rumors about her.  The lawsuit says the harassment eventually caused Merinao to take an extended medical leave. She alleges FBI management reprimanded her and told her not to talk about the situation, even to police.  She says a few months after she filed a filed a discrimination complaint with the agency, she was fired.  A spokeswoman for the FBI in Kansas City said Friday the agency won't comment on pending litigation.

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Police: 12-Year-Old Boy Hits Kidnapper with Skateboard

HARRISONVILLE, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say a 12-year-old western Missouri boy fought off an attempted abduction by hitting the suspect with his skateboard.  KMBC-TV reports a Harrisonville woman told officers her son was walking home Thursday afternoon when a van drove up. When the driver, who was wearing a mask, told the boy to get in to the van, the boy hit him with his skateboard and ran off.  That van is described as a black mini-van with blacked-out windows, and a blue sticker in the back window that says "Revenge."  (Way to go, kid!) 

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Kelly Picks Lawmaker for Ticket in Kansas Governor's Race

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democrat Laura Kelly has picked a fellow state senator as her running mate in the Kansas governor's race.  Kelly announced Thursday that Sen. Lynn Rogers of Wichita is her choice for lieutenant governor. Kelly is from Topeka and has served in the Senate since 2005. Rogers won his seat in 2016.  Rogers is a former Wichita school board member. Kelly announced his selection outside Topeka High School to emphasize their support for public education.  Kelly also stressed their experience in government.  The other major Democratic candidates are ex-Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer and former state Agriculture Secretary Joshua Svaty.  The 38-year-old Svaty is running with 40-year-old ex-Army helicopter pilot Katrina Lewison. His campaign has described them as the ticket of the future. Kelly is 68 and Rogers is 59.

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Ex-Wichita Teacher Who Dealt Cocaine at Home Gets Probation

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former Wichita third-grade teacher who dealt cocaine out of her home has been sentenced to probation.  The Wichita Eagle reports 49-year-old Heather Jones was granted probation Thursday but will serve a 60-day jail sanction as a condition of her probation.  Jones pleaded guilty in March to distributing cocaine and using a phone for drug sales or purchases. Other drug distribution charges were dismissed.  Sedgwick County District Court Judge Bruce Brown granted the request for probation after hearing testimony from several women who said she was a gifted educator and generous friend.   Jones had taught in the Wichita school district for nearly 10 years when she was arrested in July 2017.  Prosecutors said she sold more than 100 grams of cocaine to an undercover Sedgwick County Sheriff's detective.

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Police: Multi-County Chase Started over $67 in Gas

MEDICINE LODGE, Kan. (AP) — Law enforcement authorities say a police chase that went through three counties started over $67 in stolen gas.  Barber County undersheriff Dusty Brewer says officers were called to a Casey's General Store in Medicine Lodge Wednesday because of the stolen gas.  The Hutchinson News reports the chase began after officers spotted the suspect's truck a short time later. With speeds reaching 100 mph, the truck went into Pratt and Kingman counties.  Eventually the truck hit and embankment and the driver, 35-year-old Robert Lee Ehrlich, fled into a field.  Kingman County Sheriff Randy Hill says officers searched fields for hours before the search ended.  Eventually, Ehrlich was seen on a dirt road and arrested without further incident.  Brewer said Ehrlich faces multiple charges and has four warrants from different counties.

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Gas Prices Higher in Kansas and Missouri for Long Holiday Weekend

Kansans traveling over the long holiday weekend can expect to pay the highest gas prices since 2014.  According to Triple-A (AAA), average gas prices jumped 12 cents in the past two weeks. Compared to an average of the past three Memorial Day weekends, gas prices are almost 50 cents higher.  The average price per gallon as of today (Friday) was $2.74 in Kansas and just two cents cheaper in Missouri.  Both states are in the Top 10 for May’s highest increase in average gas prices.  Triple-A (AAA) expects about 37 million travelers to hit the road for the holiday weekend.

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Wichita Police Arrest 15 in Sex Trafficking Sting

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say 15 people were arrested during a sex trafficking sting this week.  It was the ninth sting of its kind along the South Broadway corridor in Wichita since August 2017.  Officer Charley Davidson says Wednesday night's operation targeted people who were in the area to pay for sex.  Since August 2017, 16 women and 69 men have been arrested on charges during similar police actions.

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Kansas Panel's Leader Suggests Prescription Tracking Mandate

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The chairman of a Kansas governor's task force on drug addiction has suggested that the state consider requiring medical professionals to participate in a prescription tracking system.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Greg Lakin raised the issue Thursday during a meeting of the task force appointed by Governor Jeff Colyer to deal with a rise in recent years of opioid addictions and other substance abuse issues. Lakin is the Kansas Department of Health and Environment's chief medical officer.  Lakin said voluntarily participation in the state's prescription tracking system improved the state's ability to monitor prescriptions for opioids and other addictive drugs. But he said about a quarter of the potential participants don't use it.  Kansas Medical Society Executive Director Jon Rosell said health professionals already are overwhelmed with regulatory requirements.

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KC Democrat Files to Run for Kansas Insurance Commissioner

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A retired health-care company manager who has been active in the NAACP is running for Kansas insurance commissioner as a Democrat.  Nathaniel McLaughlin of Kansas City, Kansas, filed Thursday for a spot on the August primary ballot. He is the only Democrat running so far.  McLaughlin is a former regional manager for Sodexo Healthcare Services and said he oversaw its operations in eight states. He also has served as president of the state and local NAACP chapters.  He ran for Congress in 2016, finishing second in a three-person Democratic primary in the 3rd District in the Kansas City area.  Incumbent Republican Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer is running for governor. Assistant Commissioner Clark Shultz is running for the GOP nomination, along with state Sen. Vicki Schmidt of Topeka.

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Kansas Water Park to Open 6 Rides, Close Others

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas water park where a boy died on a waterslide in 2016 says it will open for its season Friday operating six attractions while keeping another 11 rides closed following a state audit.  The Schlitterbahn park in Kansas City, Kansas, said in a posting Thursday night on its Facebook page that it is opening rides Friday that were not specifically mentioned in the Kansas Department of Labor audit released earlier this week.  The park said it is confident its rides are safe and it has addressed the bulk of the issues raised in the audit, which mostly involved record keeping and safety signs.  But it said it is keeping the 11 rides mentioned in the audit closed until state and local officials and others can finish "their process."

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K-State Signs Bruce Weber Through 2022-23 Season

Bruce Weber might be at Kansas State forever the way things are going.  The basketball coach signed a two-year contract extension Friday that provides a bump in salary and could keep him with the Wildcats through the 2022-23 season, a nice reward after leading the school to a 25-win season and an appearance in the Elite Eight this past March.  It's also a nice reward considering Weber was thought to be on the hot seat a couple of years ago, before landing a new two-year contract last fall that provided some measure of comfort.  "I've said many time that the support that our players and coaches receive is some of the best in the country," Weber said in a statement. "We're proud of what we've been able to accomplish these last six years, including last season's special run, and this vote of confidence gives the staff and I everything we need to continue to build this program in the right way."

The extension turns Weber's contract into a five-year deal with a salary of $2.5 million this season, and an additional $100,000 for each remaining season. That means Weber will earn $2.9 million if he makes it to the final year of the contract.  The new deal also includes an increase in Weber's buyout. The school would owe him $2.5 million if he's fired before April 30, 2019, with an additional $100,000 the following year. The buyout would drop to $2 million in 2021, $1 million the next year and $500,000 before the final year.  He also will continue to receive the same benefits that were available in his old deal, which includes performance bonuses that could pay out up to 32 percent of his year salary.  He earned 20 percent of his salary in bonuses for reaching the Elite Eight last season.

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K-State's Barry Brown Returns for Senior Season, Out of NBA Draft

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State guard Barry Brown Jr. withdrew from the NBA draft on Friday, deciding instead to return to the Wildcats for his senior season.  The 6-foot-3 Brown has started 83 of 105 games during his career, and already ranks third on the school's career list with 189 steals. He averaged 15.9 points last season. With 1,283 points, Brown is just outside the top 10 on Kansas State's career scoring list.  Kansas State coach Bruce Weber says Brown made the right decision by exploring his dream of playing in the NBA, and he "now realizes where he needs to improve in the next year to reach that goal."  Brown is expected to anchor a team that returns all five starters and all its major bench pieces after winning 25 games and reaching the Elite Eight last season.

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Missouri Teen Barred from Graduation After School Sale Prank

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) — An 18-year-old who put his suburban Kansas City high school for sale on Craigslist has been banned from graduation after the senior prank went awry.  The Kansas City Star reports Kylan Scheele listed Truman High School in Independence, Missouri, for the bargain price of $12,275 last week. Problems arose when someone reported the posting as a possible threat because of Scheele's choice of wording. He wrote that the reason for the sale was "the loss of students coming up."  Scheele says he was describing the loss of the graduates and has apologized. But he's been booted from Saturday's commencement.  District spokeswoman Jana Corrie says significant hours were spent tracking down the post's source. She says police even issued an emergency subpoena to Craigslist before determining there wasn't a credible threat.

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Kansas Supreme Court Announces Chief Judge in 25th District

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has appointed District Judge Robert Frederick as chief judge for the 25th Judicial District.  Chief Justice Lawton Nuss announced in a news release Friday Frederick's appointment to complete a term that begins July 1 and ends December 31, 2019.  Frederick will succeed Chief Judge Wendel Wurst, who will continue to serve as a district judge.  The 25th Judicial District is made up of Finney, Kearny, Hamilton, Greeley, Wichita and Scott counties.  Frederick has served as a district judge in the 25th Judicial District since 2001.  Before becoming a judge, he served as county attorney in Kearny County, Deerfield city attorney, and as an attorney for the Lakin public school district. He also had a law practice in Lakin from 1976 to 2001.

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