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Headlines for Friday, November 19, 2021

 

US Judge Blocks Kansas Law Prohibiting Some Mailed Advance Ballot Applications

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has ordered Kansas to suspend a new law prohibiting out-of-state groups from mailing advance ballot applications. The ruling sides with two national nonprofit groups who contend it disenfranchises voters. U.S. District Judge Kathryn Vratil granted on Friday the preliminary injunction against the law sought by VoteAmerica and the Voter Participation Center. The law that is the focus of the litigation was one of two voting laws that were passed this year over the veto of Democratic Governor Laura Kelly. It also makes it a crime to include the voter’s name, address and other information on advance ballot applications, even if the voter provided the information and requested an advance mail ballot application.

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Dr. Lee Norman Resigns as Top Administrator of Kansas Health Agency

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The top public health official in Kansas has resigned. Governor Laura Kelly announced Friday that Dr. Lee Norman stepped down as the top administrator at the state Department and Health and Environment and as state health officer. His departure came only days before the Legislature was set to convene a special session Monday to consider proposals for pushing back against federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Norman had been the health department's top administrator since Kelly took office in January 2019. Neither she nor Norman gave reasons for his resignation in statements released by her office but Kelly praised Norman as the most consequential leader in the department’s history.

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Kansas to Phase Out Some Free Testing for COVID-19 Next Year

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas will start next year to require employers, individuals and health insurance companies to pay some costs associated with COVID-19 testing. The state Department of Health and Environment announced Friday that it will start phasing out free screening tests for people who aren’t showing COVID-19 symptoms or haven’t potentially been exposed. The agency said it expects the policy to begin in March 2022. The department said it can’t sustain having public health agencies cover the cost of all testing indefinitely. The agency said it initially allocated $141 million in federal funds on testing and lab processing capacity but infections from the delta variant depleted the funds faster than expected.

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Wyandotte County Extends Mask Mandate for Public Spaces

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Most Wyandotte County residents will be required to wear masks indoors at public spaces until at least until January 6. The Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kansas voted Thursday night to extend the county's  COVID-19 mask requirements for everyone over age 5, regardless of their vaccination status. The order covers the entire county except Bonner Springs, Edwardsville and school districts. Health data shows only 45.6% of the county's residents are fully vaccinated. The order comes as many surrounding counties have dropped their mask mandates. Jackson, Clay and Platte counties in Missouri and Johnson County in Kansas all have recently withdrawn their mask requirements.

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UPDATE: White Missouri Officer Convicted in Black Man’s 2019 Death

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A judge has convicted a white Kansas City police officer of involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action in the fatal shooting of a Black man in a case in which prosecutors said police planted evidence. Jackson County Judge Dale Youngs issued the verdict Friday against Officer Eric J. DeValkenaere in the death of 26-year-old Cameron Lamb, who was parking a pickup truck in his backyard when he was shot December 3, 2019. DeValkenaere said he fired after Lamb pointed a gun at another detective. The judge called it a tragic case with troubling facts, saying police were the initial aggressors and had a duty to retreat. DeValkenaere will remain free on bond until he's sentenced at a later date. 

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Suspected Serial Killer Charged in Two Kansas Deaths

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A suspected serial killer has been charged with killing two people in Kansas. Wyandotte County authorities announced Thursday that 26-year-old Perez Reed was charged with killing two people at an apartment complex in Kansas City, Kansas. He has already been charged with four killings in the St. Louis area and the FBI has labeled him a suspected serial killer. Reed was charged Thursday with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Damon Washington Irvin and Rau'daja De'Naya Farrow. Their bodies were found during the same week in early November in separate apartments at the Wyandotte Towers Apartments in downtown Kansas City, Kansas.

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Woman Who Drove into Protesters in Lawrence Sentenced to Probation

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Lawrence woman who drove into protesters in 2020 will serve six months of probation after reaching a plea deal. Lynda Kitsmiller, also known as Lynda Muncy, pleaded no contest to misdemeanor battery. Prosecutors dropped a reckless driving charge as part of the plea deal. Police said Kitsmiller accelerated her vehicle into a group of people protesting police brutality in downtown Lawrence in May 2020. One person suffered minor injuries. A month later, a Baldwin City woman, Mary Ellen Rose, was accused of driving into a crowd of people in downtown Lawrence. She later pleaded no contest to reckless driving and was fined $100.

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Police: 1 Killed, Another Wounded in Kansas City Shooting

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Police say officers responding to reports of a shooting in northeast Kansas City, Kansas, found one person critically wounded and later found another person dead from gunshot wounds. The shooting happened Wednesday night.  Officers called to the scene found a wounded man outside of a home. He was rushed to a hospital in critical condition. Officers later found a second victim already dead inside a vehicle about a mile away from the shooting scene. Police have not released the identity of the person killed, and no arrests have been announced.

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Authorities Identify 2 Killed in Fiery Crash with Combine Near Winfield

WINFIELD, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say two people who died in a fiery crash with a combine were Wichita residents. The Cowley County Sheriff's office said Thursday that dental records were used to identify 28-year-old Lucas Connor Walker and 33-year-old Sarah Laurella Deere. They died November 7 after the car Walker was driving collided with and then went under a combine and burst into flames. The collision occurred on a road just north of Winfield. The driver of the combine was not injured.

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Kansas Man Given Eight Life Sentences for Assaulting Girls

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 34-year-old man with a history of sexually abusing children was given eight life sentences after being convicted of sexually assaulting two young girls. The Sedgwick County District Attorney's office said Clinton Decaire was sentenced Friday for multiple counts of rape and aggravated indecent liberties with a child. Five of the life sentences will run consecutively, meaning Decaire would have to serve 272 years before being eligible for parole. Prosecutors said Decaire began assaulting the girls in 2019, when they were ages 6 and 8. He was convicted in 2005 of three counts of rape involving a 13-year-old girl and has been a registered sex offender since 2006.

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Former Wichita Teacher Pleads Guilty to Child Porn Charge

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former Wichita high school teacher has pleaded guilty to sexual exploitation of a child. Forty-nine-year-old Shawn Wingfield entered his plea on Wednesday. Wingfield resigned in July from teaching gifted English and debate at Wichita Northwest High School. The Wichita Eagle reports the investigation began after a woman Wingfield dated turned over what she considered worrisome text messages to police. A court affidavit said Winfield admitted to being sexually attracted to 11- to 14-year-old children. He is scheduled to be sentenced January 11.

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Kansas School District Approved $295,000 in Case of Girl Stalked by Teacher

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A suburban Kansas City, Kansas, school district secretly agreed earlier this year to pay $295,000 to the family of an Olathe elementary student who was stalked by a now-jailed former teacher. The Kansas City Star reports that Olathe Public Schools finalized the settlement back in May to avoid a lawsuit, but kept the settlement a secret until the newspaper filed an open records request that revealed it. Although heavily redacted, the Star says the settlement was made in the case of former Olathe teacher James Loganbill, who was sentenced earlier this month to one year in county jail for reckless stalking of a then-10-year-old girl and ordered to register as a sex offender for the next 15 years.

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Ted Lasso's Sudeikis Helps Raise Funds in Kansas City for Prosthetic Limbs

UNDATED (AP) – With an Emmy win and a hit Apple TV+ series under his belt, Jason Sudeikis is having one big year. The show, of course, is Ted Lasso, where Sudeikis plays a good-natured American football coach who takes charge of a professional British soccer team despite having little knowledge of the game. Amid the success, Sudeikis recently returned to his hometown of Kansas City to host Thundergong!, a benefit concert to raise money for Steps of Faith Foundation. The organization, which is headed by one of his friends, helps amputees who lack proper health coverage pay for prosthetic limbs.

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Wichita School Operates 70s-Style in Wake of System Crash

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Administrators, staff and students at Friends University in Wichita have been experimenting in 70s-style communications in the wake of a computer systems crash that happened last week. The Wichita Eagle reports that the crash took out the school's Wi-Fi, email and operations software, leaving students and teachers unable to submit and access assignments online or communicate electronically. A university spokeswoman downplayed the crash but conceded that connection problems lingered Thursday. Vice President of Enrollment Management Deb Stockman said the university was forced to take down the school's network after unusual activity was noticed on the network Nov. 11. Political science professor Russel Fox says that with no access to email, "people were leaving notes on doors.”

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Wichita Man Arrested After Roommate's Suicide Released from Jail

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man who was arrested after his suicidal roommate shot himself has been released from jail. Police arrested a 28-year-old Charles Burnham on Tuesday and held him on $500,000 bond on a possible first-degree murder charge. Investigators alleged that after a 27-year-old man shot himself, Burnham retrieved the gun and shot him two more times. District Attorney Marc Bennett said Burnham was released after his office determined more investigation was needed.

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Kansas Man Pleads Guilty to Throwing Caged Dog in River

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man has pleaded guilty to a felony for throwing his ex-girlfriend's caged miniature poodle in a river. Leavenworth County prosecutors say 24-year-old Davion Simpson pleaded guilty Wednesday to animal cruelty in the case and faces possible jail time when he's sentenced Dec. 17. Witnesses told police that on July 31, Simpson dragged a kennel with the dog inside it out of the back of his car at Riverfront Park in Leavenworth and threw the kennel into the Missouri River. Bystanders rescued the dog. Police say Simpson had recently ended his relationship with the girlfriend and had texted a friend of hers that the dog was "gone."

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Topeka Police Find Woman Dead After She Was Hit by Vehicle

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Topeka say a woman has died after being hit by a vehicle. Police say the accident happened late Wednesday afternoon a few blocks south of Childrens Park. Officers called to the scene found 42-year-old Gretchen Cabrera, of Topeka, unresponsive in the roadway. She was pronounced dead at the scene. Police are not calling the crash a hit-and-run. The investigation into the deadly accident continues.

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Lansing Inmate Who Escaped Sentenced to Nearly 11 More Years

LANSING, Kan. (AP) — A 32-year-old man who escaped from the Lansing Correctional Facility for about nine hours has been sentenced to nearly 11 additional years in prison. Leavenworth County Attorney Todd Thompson said Dustin Frank Robinson escaped from the prison in July 2019 by climbing over a 20-foot fence that had two sections of barbed wire. KCTV reports he cut himself on the wire and called 911 after feeling "woozy" from the cut. Investigators later found him at Providence Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas. Thompson said authorities need to send the message that people who escape will face serious consequences.

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5-Year-Old Liberal Boy Dies After Vehicle Hits Him at School

LIBERAL, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol says a 5-year-old boy died when he was hit by a vehicle in front of an elementary school in Liberal. The patrol says Nathaniel Garro Rivera was in a crosswalk in front of Prairie View Elementary School Wednesday when the driver of a pickup truck made a turn and struck him. Nathaniel was a kindergartner at the school. Liberal Public Schools officials say the district was "overcome with grief at this devastating accident" and would be providing counselors for those affected.

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Man Charged with Threatening Topeka Police Officers with Knife, Saw

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 59-year-old man is charged with threatening Topeka police officers with a knife and hand saw at a hotel. Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay said Wednesday that Norman Kelly, of Topeka, was arrested after a confrontation at the Hotel Topeka at City Center. Police say Kelly was banned from the property last week after he was fired. Police were called to the hotel, formerly known as the Capital Plaza, on Saturday after reports that Kelly was armed with a large kitchen knife and a hand saw. Police say he swung the weapons at officers in the parking lot. Police were able to subdue Kelly with Tasers and impact munitions such as bean bags.

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Deere Workers in Kansas, Iowa, Illinois Approve 3rd Contract Offer, Will End Strike

DETROIT (AP) — Deere workers approved a new contract this week that will deliver 10% raises immediately and end a monthlong strike for more than 10,000 employees. The United Auto Workers union members voted 61% in favor of the deal with the tractor maker. It was the third vote on a contract offer. Workers recently rejected an offer that was similar to the one which was finally approved Wednesday. This latest proposal made only modest changes to the details of Deere's internal incentive pay plan. The new contract covers 12 plants in Iowa, Illinois and Kansas where the Moline, Illinois-based company's iconic John Deere equipment is made. The workers had been on strike since October 14.

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Survey: Continued Growth in Rural Economy in November but Worries Remain

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A new monthly survey of bankers in rural parts of 10 Plains and Western states suggests rising economic growth in the region, but confidence in the economy's future continued to drop. The overall Rural Mainstreet economic index rose in November to 67.7 from October's 66.1. Any score above 50 suggests growth. The survey's confidence index, which reflects bank CEO expectations for the economy six months out, sank for the fifth straight month to 48.4 in November. That's the lowest level since August of last year and down from October's 51.8. Bankers from Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.

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Judge Blocks Tax Cut Rule in American Rescue Plan

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A federal judge has blocked the U.S. Treasury from enforcing a provision of the American Rescue Plan  that prohibited states from using the pandemic relief funds to offset new tax cuts.  U.S. District Judge L. Scott Coogler ruled Monday that Congress's exceeded its power under the Constitution in putting the so-called tax mandate on states. Thirteen states had filed a lawsuit in federal court in Alabama challenging the provision of the pandemic relief package.  The American Rescue Plan steered $200 billion in relief funds to states but specified that states could not use it as a means to cut taxes and then use the federal relief dollars to offset the revenue reduction.

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Chiefs to Discuss Future of Arrowhead Stadium in Coming Year

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs plan to begin discussing the future of Arrowhead Stadium within the next year after the neighboring Royals announced plans earlier this year to explore moving to a new downtown ballpark. Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt said during his annual midseason availability Thursday that Royals owner John Sherman called him to discuss the baseball team's plans. Kauffman Stadium sits just across the parking lot from Arrowhead Stadium in the Truman Sports Complex, which is surrounded by sprawling parking lots just outside of Kansas City. The Chiefs and Royals have leases with Jackson County in Missouri that expire in 2031, at which point the clubs are free to move.

"Obviously we've been connected to the Royals for almost 50 years now here at the sports complex," Hunt said, "so their decision on their long-term future will have an impact on us. We're going to watch as they go through the process and at some point in the next year or so start thinking about what's next for the Chiefs from a stadium standpoint."

The Chiefs and Royals both renovated their stadiums about a decade ago, when Jackson County voters narrowly approved a three-eighths cent tax hike lasting 25 years. Both teams agreed to extend their leases at that time, meaning they will expire in 2031, and stadium construction projects typically take at least five years to plan and finance.  The renovations to Arrowhead Stadium included the widening of concourses, new restrooms and new press box and luxury seating that Hunt said made the facility "one of the finest stadiums in the league" when they were completed.

But in the past two years, the AFC West-rival Raiders and Chargers have opened luxurious new stadiums. And while Chiefs fans love the raucous atmosphere of Arrowhead Stadium — which opened 50 years ago next August — and the huge parking lots make for some of the finest tailgating in the NFL, the reality is the facility already appears outdated.

"The way fans want to consume the game and the kind of spaces that you need, those things change over time," Hunt said, "and we're paying attention. We've had beautiful new stadiums open now in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and there will be things when we get to the end of our lease here in nine or so years that we will want to incorporate into the stadium."

There has been momentum in recent years for the Royals to relocate downtown, where Kansas City has been in the midst of a dramatic urban renewal. Not only would it position their stadium close to restaurants and bars, of which there are none at the Truman Sports Complex, it also would allow more fans to attend games using public transportation.

Those considerations don't really extend to the Chiefs, where part of the allure of Arrowhead Stadium is the tailgating. And if the Royals were to move, Hunt said the Chiefs could build out the complex to provide additional fan amenities.

"One of the great things about the sports complex is how big it is and that's created the opportunity for our fans to have the tremendous tailgate experience that they have before the game each week," he said, "so we're fortunate to have that kind of built-in experience already. Obviously if the Royals weren't playing at the sports complex it would open up more space and maybe allow us to do some more programing that we haven't done in the past."

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Cowboys Visit Chiefs Sunday for Showdown of NFL Heavyweights

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Cowboys bring their league-leading offense to Arrowhead Stadium to face the Chiefs on Sunday. The Chiefs certainly have plenty of firepower of their own with Patrick Mahomes directing an offense that features Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. But it has been Dak Prescott and Zeke Elliott that have the Cowboys leading the NFL in yards and points through the first 10 weeks of the regular season. The Cowboys are coming off a blowout of the Falcons while the Chiefs are coming off a romp over the Raiders so both teams should have some momentum heading into this week's game.  Mahomes, who was born and raised in Tyler, Texas, grew up cheering for the Cowboys. It was also the favorite team of his dad, former big league pitcher Pat Mahomes. But the fandom hasn't really lasted since the Chiefs QB joined the NFL.  "I won't be a fan this week, for sure," he said.

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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. This news summary is made possible by KPR listener-members. Become one today!  

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