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Headlines for Friday, November 15, 2019

19-Year-Old Arrested in Double Homicide in Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have arrested a 19-year-old in a double homicide in Topeka.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Larry Huggins III, of Topeka, was booked Thursday night into the Shawnee County Jail on suspicion of first-degree murder, aggravated burglary and aggravated robbery. Bond is expected to be set at a Friday morning court appearance.  His arrest stems from a Tuesday afternoon shooting. The victims were identified as 15-year-old Owen Hughes and 21-year-old Reginald McKinney Jr.

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Teen Pleas to Lesser Charges in Olathe Shooting Death

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A 17-year-old boy originally charged with murder in a high school student’s death in Olathe has pleaded guilty to lesser charges.  Rolland Kobelo pleaded guilty Thursday to aggravated robbery and distribution of Xanax. The plea deal calls for him to be sentenced to 10 years in prison.  The Kansas City Star reports Kobelo was initially charged with felony murder in the death of 17-year-old Rowan Padgett in March.  Authorities say Padgett was shot during an unsuccessful drug deal for $8 of Xanax.  Prosecutors accuse the would-be buyer, 18-year-old Matthew Lee Bibee Jr. of shooting Padgett. Bibee faces several charges, including capital murder. Jordan Denny, who was 16 at the time, is also charged with felony murder.  Kobelo admitted that he helped set up the drug deal.

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Kansas Man Sentenced for Attempted Rape of 4-Year-Old

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A 77-year-old northeast Kansas man has been sentenced to more than five years in prison for the attempted rape of a 4-year-old girl.  Fox4kc reports Galen Hurt, of Linwood, was sentenced Wednesday to 5.5 years in prison. He pleaded guilty in September in Leavenworth County to attempted rape and aggravated child endangerment.  Hurt was originally charged in 2018 with rape of a child after the girl told her mother that he had touched her inappropriately while she was at Hurt's house.  Leavenworth County Attorney Todd Thompson said he offered a plea deal to Hurt in part to prevent the girl, who is now 6, from having to testify in court.

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Police: 2 Deaths in Topeka Were Murder-Suicide

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Police say the deaths of two people in a southeast Topeka apartment were a murder-suicide.  Police spokeswoman Gretchen Koenen said Thursday that 32-year-old Valerie Taylor was found dead Tuesday afternoon by officers responding to a medical call. Taylor died from a single gunshot wound.  Koenen said in a news release that police believe Taylor was killed by her boyfriend, 37-year-old James Allen Jr., who was later found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.  Police are not searching for anyone else in the case.

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Kansas Teacher Gets Probation in Sexual Contact with Student

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former physical education teacher in Haysville has been sentenced to two years of probation for having sexual contact with a male student.  District Attorney Marc Bennett said 36-year-old Shari Herrs, of Andover, was sentenced Wednesday for an amended charge of attempted unlawful sexual relations.  If Herrs violates her probation, she could receive a 13-month prison sentence.  Prosecutors say Herrs committed the acts with an 18-year-old student at Campus High School between April and May of 2018.  Herrs has already registered as a sex offender and surrendered her teaching license.

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Catholic Dioceses Pin Medicaid Expansion on Abortion Changes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Catholic dioceses in Kansas will not support expanding Medicaid unless the state passes a constitutional amendment and new laws restricting abortions.  Chuck Weber, executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference, told a House and Senate committee Wednesday the state’s four Catholic dioceses want an amendment to the Kansas Constitution to clarify that it does not include a right to abortion. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled last year the constitution does protect the right to abortion. The diocese also is seeking a law allowing medical professionals or health facilities to decline to perform certain procedures for religious reasons.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the committee held two days of hearings on expanding Medicaid health insurance to 130,000 low-income adults and children in Kansas.  Representative Brenda Landwehr, a Wichita Republican who leads the committee, said it will not recommend a Medicaid expansion bill to next year’s Legislature.

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Party-Switching Kansas House Member to Seek Open State Senate Seat

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas City-area lawmaker who made headlines by switching to the Democratic Party last year is seeking the state Senate seat of another lawmaker who did the same thing.  Four-term state Representative Stephanie Clayton, of Overland Park, has announced that she would run next year for the seat held by Democratic state Senator Barbara Bollier of Mission Hills.  Bollier is Democrats’ leading candidate for the U.S. Senate next year and is not seeking re-election to the Legislature.  Both Clayton and Bollier were elected as state lawmakers as moderate Republicans but switched parties in December. Clayton cited her dissatisfaction with President Donald Trump as a factor.  Clayton’s decision sets up a Democratic primary in Bollier’s district. Former Kansas Democratic Party Executive Director Ethan Corson of Fairway announced his candidacy in October.

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Perdue Defends, Celebrates USDA Agency Moves to Missouri

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says he has “absolutely zero regrets” over the decision to move two research agencies' headquarters from Washington, D.C., to Kansas City. Perdue joined government leaders from Kansas and Missouri Friday to tour the new headquarters for the Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Critics say the move will harm agriculture research and make the findings less accessible to federal policymakers. Perdue contends moving the agencies to the heart of agriculture country will allow researchers to work more closely with farmers, land grant universities and private agriculture-related companies. But Laura Dodson, an agricultural economist and union representative at the Economic Research Service, said the agencies’ researchers focus on national questions, and living near agricultural land is irrelevant to the work they do.

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2 Kansas Sheriff’s Employees Charged in Jail Incident

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Two Kansas sheriff’s department employees have been charged over an incident with a jailed inmate, but no details have been released.  The Wyandotte County prosecutor’s office announced Thursday that 47-year-old Sgt. David Toland and 34-year-old Deputy Marcus Johnson are charged with one misdemeanor count of mistreatment of a confined person. Toland also is charged with felony aggravated battery and Johnson with misdemeanor assault. The Wyandotte County Sheriff’s Office has placed both employees on administrative leave.  The prosecutor’s office didn’t immediately respond to an email asking whether the men have attorneys.  Toland also is a member of the Bonner Springs-Edwardsville school board. He told KCTV last month that about five jail staffers were involved in the September incident. He said he was working as a supervisor at the time and that the entire encounter was recorded on video. He said “what happened was right” but provided no other details.  Sheriff Don Ash also provided no specifics in a written statement but said it “does not reflect our organizational values.” The statement noted that an administrative investigation is ongoing.

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Drug Charges Dropped Against Lawrence CBD Store Owner

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The owners of a Lawrence CBD store no longer face felony drug charges for selling hemp flower, which looks and smells like marijuana but is chemically different. The Kansas City Star reports that Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson’s office offered no explanation for Thursday’s decision to drop the charges against Annie Martin and Sean Lefler and one of their employees. The dismissal happened one day before the state had been scheduled to present evidence against the couple in court. Martin says she’s “relieved” and believes the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, which twice raided the store, misunderstood the distinction between marijuana and hemp. Hemp doesn’t contain enough mind-altering THC to cause a high and is now legal to grow in Kansas. The couple plans to close its Lawrence store later this month and open a business in Kansas City, Missouri.

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Prosecutors to Retry Kansas Priest Accused of Molestation

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors have announced plans to retry a Kansas priest who was suspended from the ministry after he was accused of inappropriately touching a young girl on two occasions.  Wyandotte County District Attorney’s Office spokesman Jonathan Carter told The Kansas City Star on Wednesday that the Rev. Scott Kallal’s new trial will likely be held in May. The 37-year-old faces two felony counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child. He was accused of inappropriately touching a 10-year-old girl in 2015 at a Kansas City, Kansas, church gymnasium and again at a graduation party in Bonner Springs.  His original trial ended in mistrial in September after the jury couldn’t agree on a verdict.

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City of Lawrence Joins Coalition Erecting Lynching Memorial

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The city of Lawrence has joined a community collation to memorialize the lynching of three black men near downtown in 1882.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the Lawrence chapter of the NAACP is working with the Equal Justice Initiative to erect a historical marker with information about the lynching. The city commission recently voted unanimously to become a member of the Community Remembrance Coalition.  Mayor Lisa Larsen says she thinks joining the coalition signifies that the city supports the NAACP’s efforts and the need to recognize the lynching as part of the city’s history.

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Suspect in Lawrence Bar Shooting Dies

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A 30-year-old man who was a suspect in a shooting outside at Lawrence bar has died.  Lawrence police say Wednesday that Terry Dean Scearce III, of Lawrence, died from a gunshot wound after a shooting early Sunday in the parking lot of Playerz Sports Bar.  The Lawrence Journal-World reported investigators believed Scearce shot a man and a woman at the bar before he was found in a car suffering from a gunshot wound.  Police spokesman Patrick Compton said the man and woman have been released from the hospital.  He said the case remains under investigation and it is too early to release details of what occurred during the shooting.

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Man Released in "Doppleganger" Case Facing Return to Prison

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 43-year-old Kansas City man previously freed from prison in a case of mistaken identity is facing a possible return to confinement after pleading guilty to illegal possession of a firearm.  The Kansas City Star reports Richard Anthony Jones pleaded guilty Thursday. He wasn’t allowed to have weapons because of prior felony convictions for burglary and robbery.  Jones was released from prison in 2017 after his conviction for snatching a woman’s purse at a Kansas Walmart in 1999 was overturned, in what became known as the “ doppelganger case.” Supporters said another man, who looked like Jones, was the likely robber. Kansas paid Jones $1 million in 2018 for his wrongful imprisonment.  Prosecutors say officers found handguns on Jones during two confrontations in February and March.  Jones faces up to 10 years in federal prison.

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Texas Woman Sentenced to Probation in Kansas Death

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A 22-year-old Texas woman who said she accidentally shot and killed her boyfriend has been sentenced to three years of probation.  Gregoria Baez, of Stamford, Texas, was sentenced Tuesday for involuntary manslaughter. She was convicted in September in the death of 21-year-old Feliz Florez in Manhattan, who died in September 2018.  The Manhattan Mercury reports Baez testified during her trial that she and Florez pointed guns at each other while they were joking around. She said she accidentally disengaged the grip safety and shot Florez.  Before sentencing, Baez apologized and said she still loved Florez.  But Jennifer Florez, Felix’s mother, said the family would get some comfort if Baez was sentenced to prison.  Baez will serve her probation in Texas, where she moved after the shooting.

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Amount of Water Released into Missouri River to be Reduced

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Eight months after flooding began along the lower Missouri River, the amount of water being released from dams upriver will start to be reduced later this month.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the amount of water being released from the Gavins Point dam on the Nebraska-South Dakota border will start to gradually be reduced on November 23 as part of its plan to cut releases for winter.  The amount of water being released into the river has been at 80,000 cubic feet per second — more than twice what is typical — for months. By mid-December, that will be reduced to 22,000 cubic feet per second.  The river has remained high ever since the spring flooding because the amount of rain and melting snow flowing into the river was near record levels this year.

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Lawsuit Threatened After Release of Report on Garden City Community College Student Death

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Attorneys for the family of a 19-year-old football player who died of heatstroke after conditioning practice at a Kansas community college says they plan to sue the school, unless it wants to discuss a settlement.  Kansas attorney Chris Dove spoke Thursday after the college released a scathing independent report on Garden City Community College’s conduct the day Braeden Bradforth died. Dove calls it a damning investigation.  He says it would be in the best interests of the teen’s mother’s mental and psychological state to not drag it out much longer.  Bradforth, a 315-pound defensive lineman, was found unconscious outside his dormitory after practice on August 1, 2018. The New Jersey native died that night at a hospital.  The mother’s attorney in New Jersey, Jill Greene, says the report is their ammunition.

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Report: Lack of Leadership at GCCC Led to Football Player’s Death
By Roxana Hegeman / Associated Press

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A scathing report following an independent investigation into the heatstroke death of a 19-year-old football player who collapsed after the first day of conditioning practice at a Kansas community college found “a striking lack of leadership.”  Braeden Bradforth, a 315-pound defensive lineman for Garden City Community College, was found unconscious in an alley outside his dormitory after practice on August 1, 2018. The New Jersey teenager died that night at a hospital.  A serious lack of oversight set off a series of events that led to Bradforth’s death, according to the 44-page report by investigators, including sports medicine specialists Walters, Inc.  An attorney for Bradforth’s mother said Thursday that the family plans to sue the college, unless the school wants to discuss a settlement. Kansas attorney Chris Dove said it would be in the best interests of Bradforth’s mother’s mental and psychological state to not drag it out much longer.  “After a report like that, I just don’t know what they think their defense really is,” Dove said of the school.

School staff failed to assess athletes prior to the conditioning test and paid little attention to assessing Bradforth’s personal level of fitness, the report said. In particular, coaching staff didn’t consider if he had properly acclimatized to working out in summer temperatures at a higher altitude.  "A cause of death was a poorly designed and administered conditioning test for an unconditioned, non-acclimatized student-athlete at an altitude with 9% less oxygen than he was accustomed to at his home” in Neptune, New Jersey, the report said.  Investigators said there was a striking lack of leadership by the college’s then President Herbert Swender, athletic director John Green, then-head football coach Jeff Sims and head athletic trainer T.J. Horton in the weeks and months leading up to Bradforth’s death.

Vice President of Student Services Colin Lamb described a “toxic culture” at the college, and several witnesses said the atmosphere on campus was “one of dysfunction with little regard for best practices or appropriate procedures.”  Jill Greene, the mother’s attorney in New Jersey, called the report “our ammunition” if they sue.  The college declined to comment Thursday on the report, instead referring The Associated Press to Tuesday’s news release that outlined several changes taken by the college to improve practices in athletics since Bradforth’s death. Those include hiring a conditioning coach and third athletic trainer, as well as developing protocol for recognizing and treating heat-related illness.

The college said it is “hopeful that the report will serve to answer any questions that still remain for Braeden’s family and continues to extend condolences following the tragedy.”  Bradforth’s mother, JoAnne Atkins-Ingram, said she is thankful by the way the report was done, but said she was disgusted by some of the things in the report.  “It showed the level of insensitivity and to me I feel like they dropped the ball from the moment they picked up my son from the airport,” Atkins-Ingram said. “They stopped treating him like he was a human the moment he wandered off that football field.”

Investigators wrote that the college was not sufficiently prepared to ensure safety at practice or to deal with exertional heat illness. No college athletic training or coaching staff member and no emergency medical service or hospital emergency department personnel identified or treated Bradforth’s escalating symptoms of the heat stroke that caused his death, it found.  “Conditioning related fatalities are preventable,” the report concluded. “Institutions should establish standards for workout design, hold coaches accountable, plan for and ensure compliance with sound policies and empower athletic health care providers with authority over medical decisions.”

Bradforth’s core temperature was “never assessed and no effective method of cooling him was ever implemented,” the report said. “A contributing cause of death was the failure to timely identify and treat Braeden Bradforth’s exertional heat illness.”  A timeline included in the report detailed the 73 minutes that passed from the moment Bradforth left the stadium to his arrival at the hospital.  When treatment is administered within 30 minutes of the detection of heat illness, exertional heat stroke death can be averted, the report said. That treatment includes the rapid cooling by immersing the victim in cold water.  "An effective plan likely would have rescued him from what turned out to be his untimely death," the report said. "The response time and significant delays between multiple opportunities for effective treatment were a cause of death."  His mother said she still doesn’t understand how nobody knew to call 911 immediately.  “I found out how Braeden died, I found out where he died,” she said. “He didn’t have to die — that is the thing. This was completely preventable.”

Investigators said no one was able to say that Bradforth drank water before, during or after practice. But no one said any player had been denied water during the practice.  Teammates found Bradforth collapsed in an alley, according to emails obtained by The Associated Press through an open records request.  Assistant football coach Caleb Young told officials in one email that Bradforth was "making a stressful moan" when he arrived on the scene, but rather than immediately dial 911 he called Sims "for instruction to see how we wanted to handle the situation." Sims then directed him to call Horton.

The investigative report said players urged Young “to call the ambulance, call the police.” Athletes brought water to the alley and poured it on Bradforth’s head as the young man stuck out his tongue as if he was thirsty. He opened his eyes, but it was just a blank stare.  The college hired the investigators to conduct an independent review of the case under pressure from Bradforth’s family and the New Jersey congressional delegation.

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