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Headlines for Friday, November 22, 2019

 

UPDATED!  Fatal Wrecks Among Several Accidents on Icy Kansas Roads

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Icy and snow-covered roads are causing accidents across much of Kansas, including two fatal wrecks.  Slick roads were common across central and western Kansas on Friday, causing dozens of accidents and several injuries. Troopers say many roads and highways in western Kansas are "completely snow-packed."  Ben Gardner of the Kansas Highway Patrol says two people died in central Kansas. A woman was killed on U.S. 183 in Rush County when she lost control of her car, which spun and struck a jeep.  In Reno County, a Buhler teacher died in a crash.  Gardner says bridges and overpasses are particularly treacherous. He urged motorists to avoid travel if possible. For those who must get out, he urged them to wear seatbelts, slow down on bridges and overpasses, and leave extra room between cars.

(earlier reporting...)

Wintry Weather Causing Accidents in Parts of Southern and Western Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Icy conditions are causing trouble for motorists in parts of Kansas.  KSN-TV reports that several accidents and incidents of vehicles sliding off roadways are being reported in McPherson and Reno counties. Among the accidents is a crash near the town of McPherson apparently caused by ice on a bridge. Another accident in the same area involved several vehicles and a semi that rolled over.  There were no immediate details about injuries.  The Kansas Highway Patrol urged motorists to wear seatbelts, slow down on bridges and overpasses, and leave extra room between cars.  The Kansas Department of Transportation's traveler information map shows that many roads and highways in the western part of the state are partly or completely covered.

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Registered Sex Offender Charged in Wichita Abduction and Rape of 15-Year-Old

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 58-year-old registered sex offender is facing five charges after he allegedly kidnapped a 15-year-old girl who was walking home from a Wichita grocery store and raped her.  The charges against Anthony Craig Seymour, of Wichita include aggravated kidnapping and rape.  The Wichita Eagle reports Seymour is accused of using a knife to force the girl into his car and raping her on Tuesday. He made his first court appearance Thursday.  A witness to the abduction called 911. The girl jumped out of Seymour's car when she saw a police car in the neighborhood after the emergency call.  Seymour is in the Sedgwick County Jail on $250,000 bond. His next court date is December 5.  He previously served just over 15 years for raping a 14-year-old girl in 2003.

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4 Girls Accused of Attacking Wichita Store Employee, Leaving Her Unconscious

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Four girls are accused of attacking a Kansas store worker who confronted them about shoplifting, an attack that left the woman unconscious.  Wichita police say the attack happened November 9 at a T.J. Maxx store.  A 12-year-old girl and three 15-year-olds were arrested on suspicion of aggravated robbery and aggravated battery. The 12-year-old and two of the 15-year-olds also are accused of theft.  Police say a loss prevention employee tried to stop the girls as they were leaving the store. Three of the girls allegedly punched and kicked the 40-year-old employee. Police say the fourth girl got out of a car, joined in the attack and took the woman's phone.  The woman briefly lost consciousness and suffered minor injuries.  Prosecutors will decide whether to file charges.

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Sheriff: Remains Are Those of 2 Missing Wisconsin Brothers

KINGSTON, Mo. (AP) — Northwest Missouri authorities say human remains found in Missouri and Nebraska are those of two missing brothers from Wisconsin.  Caldwell County Sheriff Jerry Galloway announced in a news release today (FRI) that remains found Monday in a livestock trailer in Lincoln County, Nebraska, are those of 24-year-old Justin Diemel, and remains recovered from a farm in Caldwell County, Missouri, are those of 35-year-old Nicholas Diemel. The brothers, from Shawano County, Wisconsin, were reported missing July 21.  Galloway said dental remains were used to confirm the identifications.  Garland Nelson, of Braymer, Missouri, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and other charges in the brothers’ deaths.  Court records say the brothers’ father, Jack Diemel, said his two sons were at Nelson’s farm to collect a $250,000 debt when they went missing.

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Lawrence Woman Charged with Child Sex Crimes Gets Probation

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Lawrence woman charged with sex crimes involving two young teenagers pleaded to lesser charges and was given two years of probation.  Thirty-year-old Alisia Clark was originally charged with two felonies after she allegedly exposed herself, engaged in sexual conversation and groped a child who was 13 and another who was 14.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports Cheek entered a plea deal that included dropping the two counts of aggravated battery. She was sentenced Wednesday.  Court documents show both children told police the inappropriate actions happened when Cheek was drunk.  Cheek's attorney, Michael Clarke, told Judge Sally Pokorny Wednesday Cheek was now sober and he had no doubt she would successfully complete her probation.  Cheek has an underlying one-year sentence if her probation is revoked.

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2 Earthquakes in Oklahoma Rattle Parts of Kansas, Texas  

FAIRMONT, Okla. (AP) — The U.S. Geological Survey reports two earthquakes, including one of magnitude 3.6, were recorded in northern Oklahoma and felt across southern Kansas and as far away as north Texas.  The first quake occurred at 11:44 p.m. Thursday, followed by a magnitude 2.5 quake about 30 minutes later. Both were near Fairmont, about 63 miles north of Oklahoma City.  Garfield County Emergency Management Director Mike Honigsberg said there are no immediate reports of injury or damage.  The larger quake was reported felt in Newton, Kansas, 168 miles to the north, and in Mineral Wells, Texas, 247 miles to the south.  Thousands of Oklahoma earthquakes in recent years have been linked to underground injection of wastewater from oil and gas production.

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Topeka Man Sentenced for Killing 2 Family Members

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 41-year-old man who killed his estranged wife and her cousin has been sentenced to nearly 46 years in prison.  District Attorney Mike Kagay announced Wednesday that Bradley Sportsman, of Hollenberg, was sentenced for the 2018 deaths of 28-year-old Lisa Sportsman and 17-year-old Jesse Polinskey. Police say the victims were stabbed and beaten to death.  Sportsman pleaded guilty in October to two counts of second-degree murder.  One of his co-defendants, Matthew Hutto, was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences with no chance of parole for 50 years, but he is seeking to withdraw his pleas. A third man, Richard Showalter, is scheduled for trial December 9 on two counts of first-degree murder and several other charges.

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4 Plead Guilty in $5.4 Million Meth Distribution Conspiracy Affecting Atchison, St. Joe

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Four people — including a mother and two of her children — have pleaded guilty in a $5.4 million conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine in northwest Missouri and northeast Kansas.  Federal prosecutors say 67-year-old Linda Kay Ballard; her 27-year-old son, Eric Edward Ballard, both of Atchison, and her 35-year-old daughter, Charlsie Kim Harris, of Garden City, Missouri, pleaded guilty Wednesday.  A fourth person, 48-year-old Anthony Dewayne Fifer, of Mexico, Missouri, also pleaded guilty to distributing meth from January 2015 to November 2017. The four defendants also pleaded guilty to participating in a money-laundering conspiracy.  They are among nine defendants who have entered guilty pleas in in the case. The methamphetamine was distributed from Kansas City to the St. Joseph and the Atchison areas.

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Advocacy Group Urges Changes to Catholic Abuse Review Boards

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — An advocacy group for people who were sexually abused by priests is urging the bishop of the Kansas City-St. Joseph Catholic diocese to make significant changes to review boards used across the nation to review allegations of abuse.  The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests sent a letter to Bishop James Johnston Jr., Friday criticizing the way the review boards currently operate and suggesting several changes. Johnston was appointed last week as chairman-elect of the church’s Committee on Protection of Children and Young People, although he won’t become chairman for a year.  SNAP was reacting to an Associated Press report on Thursday that found the review boards mandated nearly 20 years ago repeatedly have failed to support abuse victims and to oust abusive priests.

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Report Shows Improvement in Finances for Kansas Athletics

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The athletics department at the University of Kansas is reporting a profit after two straight years of financial losses.  The Lawrence Journal-World obtained the auditor's report for Kansas Athletics Inc., a nonprofit corporation wholly owned by the university. It shows operating income of $4.3 million for fiscal year 2019. KU Athletics had an operating loss of $82,000 in fiscal year 2017 and an operating loss of $1.6 million in fiscal year 2018.  Operating revenue — everything from ticket sales to contributions — rose 11 percent, to $114.7 million. Operating expenditures also grew, but not as much as revenues.  The newspaper says much of the new spending went to the football program. Athletic Director Jeff Long, who began his job in August 2018, started a fundraising drive to boost football spending.

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Workers Repair Gas Leak at Women's Prison in Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Workers have repaired a gas leak at the only women’s prison in Kansas. More than half the population of the Topeka Correctional Facility was moved into temporary housing Tuesday night after the leak was discovered.  The Kansas Department of Corrections says the women are now back in their cells.  The agency doesn’t know what caused the gas leak. But in the course of fixing the leak, the prison’s 30-year-old heat system failed pressure tests, revealing the need for more repairs.  The system is now fixed and the prison’s heat is back on.

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President Trump: Mike Pompeo Would Easily Win Senate Seat in Kansas

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump appeared to open the door on Friday for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to run for an open Senate seat in his home state of Kansas.  "He came to me and said 'Look, I'd rather stay where I am,' but he loves Kansas, he loves the people of Kansas," Trump told "Fox & Friends." "If he thought there was a chance of losing that seat, I think he would do that and he would win in a landslide because they love him in Kansas."  Many Republicans see Pompeo as their best candidate for preventing the race from becoming competitive in Kansas, where a Democrat hasn't won a Senate seat since 1932. And talk about his possible run has only intensified as impeachment hearings into Trump's engagement with Ukraine have scrutinized the State Department.  Pompeo has said he'll remain secretary of state as long as Trump will have him. Asked if he will push Pompeo to run, Trump was noncommittal: "Mike has done an incredible job ... Mike graduated No. 1 at Harvard Law, No. 1 at West Point. He's an incredible guy, doing a great job in a very complicated world. Doing a great job as secretary of state. Mike would win easily in Kansas. Great state, and it's a Trump state. He'd win easily."

Pompeo has given no signal that he intends to leave his current job anytime soon, and aides say he has diplomatic travel planned through at least the end of January. En route to Brussels on Tuesday, Pompeo suggested to reporters accompanying him that he would be returning to the city several more times as secretary of state.  "He is 100% focused on being President Trump's secretary of state," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.  On Wednesday, Pompeo brushed off more questions about the impeachment inquiry and dismissed speculation about how long he'll stay in the Trump administration. Pompeo met with NATO's secretary general, while lawmakers heard testimony from Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, that he kept Pompeo informed of efforts to pressure Ukraine into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.

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Worker Killed in Industrial Accident in Southwest Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a 35-year-old man died after an accident at a construction equipment plant in southwest Wichita.  Police spokesman Keven Wheeler says the man was injured early Wednesday when he was working on machinery at Case New Holland Construction.  KAKE-TV reports the man was identified as Andrew Taylor.  Wheeler says several co-workers tried to help Taylor, but he died later at a hospital.  Additional information has not been released.

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Records: Wife of Missouri Man Found in Freezer Feared Doctors

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Records show that police and state workers responded repeatedly to concerns about the care of a terminally ill Missouri man before his body was found in a freezer in his wife’s bedroom, where it may have stored for nearly a year.  Sixty-seven-year-old Barbara Watters, of Joplin, has been charged with abandonment of a corpse. An autopsy found no signs of foul play in the death of her husband, Paul Barton, whose body was found last week after a witness told police that he had died on December 30, 2018, and that his body had been in her freezer ever since.  Police records obtained by The Associated Press show Watters feared that a doctor wanted to harvest Barton’s brain for research and that she was prohibiting him from receiving medical care.

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City Manager of Kansas City Leaving Post in December

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The city manager of Kansas City, Missouri, will leave his job earlier than originally expected, vacating the position effective December 2.  The Kansas City Star reports that Troy Schulte had originally planned to stay through February. He announced his departure from the city in September.  Schulte told the Kansas City Council of his earlier departure plans on Friday.  The earlier than anticipated vacancy will likely require the council to name an interim city manager while the search continues for a permanent replacement.  Schulte has said he expects to take a newly-created position as Jackson County administrator. The new post has not yet been approved by the Jackson County Legislature, but a proposed contract on file indicates he would make about $220,000 annually, comparable to his current salary.

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Wichita Cop Who Exposed Undercover Officer Loses Certification

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former Wichita police officer who exposed an undercover officer who was investigating illegal gambling has lost his law enforcement certification.  The Wichita Eagle reports a state oversight board revoked the certification of Michael Zajkowski. He worked for the Wichita department from 1991 to 2017. The newspaper this week obtained a copy of the board's order, dated Sept. 27, through an open records request.  Zajkowski was one of three former law enforcement officesr charged after an FBI investigation into illegal gambling. He pleaded guilty in April to failing to report a felony.  Prosecutors say he used police resources to determine that an undercover Wichita officer had infiltrated an illegal poker game. Prosecutors said he gave that information to gambling organizers. He was sentenced to "time served."

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New Lawsuits Filed in Wichita's Fatal Police Swatting Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Two new lawsuits have been filed in a hoax emergency call that led police in Kansas to fatally shoot a man at his home.  Police killed Andrew Finch two years ago in Wichita after receiving a "swatting" call meant to send SWAT teams to a nonexistent emergency. Tyler Barriss, of Los Angeles, is serving a 20-year prison sentence for making the call.  A wrongful death lawsuit seeks more than $75,000 in damages on behalf of Finch's two children.  A federal lawsuit filed by Finch's mother and her boyfriend says four police officers violated their constitutional rights by detaining and arresting them after the shooting.  The Wichita Eagle reports that both lawsuits were filed Monday.  The city's law director, Jennifer Magana, hasn't said if the city will represent the officers.

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4 Deputies Sickened, Missouri Courthouse Evacuated

OZARK, Mo. (AP) — A southwest Missouri sheriff’s office is investigating after four deputies were sickened by a suspicious substance at a courthouse.  Christian County Sheriff Brad Cole says a deputy fainted after searching the purse of a woman going through courthouse security on Thursday. Three other deputies became ill a short time later.  Cole says all the deputies were taken to a hospital and are in stable condition.  The courthouse in Ozark was evacuated while a hazardous materials team from Springfield helps with the investigation.  Cole says the woman is being held in quarantine. KYTV reports the woman claimed the substance was methamphetamine but Cole says he doesn’t believe her.  Ozark is about 19 miles south of Springfield.

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Survey of Bankers Shows Rural Economy in Midwest Growing in November

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A new survey of bankers suggests the economy continues growing in rural parts of 10 Plains and Western states, but the ongoing trade disputes continue to hurt the outlook for more growth.  The Rural Mainstreet survey's overall index improved to 54.2 in November from October's 51.4. Any score above 50 suggests a growing economy, while a score below 50 indicates a shrinking economy.  Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey, says bankers still have a weak outlook for the region because of the ongoing trade war with China.  The confidence index for the region remained in negative territory at 44.4 in November even though it was higher than October's 36.5.  Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.

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14-Year-Old Tiger Dies at Wichita Zoo

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A tiger that had been in declining health has died at a Wichita zoo.  Jennica King, of the Sedgwick County Zoo, said the 14-year-old Amur tiger named Talali had not been on exhibit for several months. The Wichita Eagle reports that zookeepers had discovered a mass on her body and had been monitoring it, but her health quickly worsened.  King said that on Sunday, Talali began having trouble moving around in her stall and seemed confused. They decided to euthanize her that morning. She had been part of the zoo's Slawson Family Tiger Trek exhibit since it opened in 2009.

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Chinese Man Who Worked at Monsanto Faces Espionage Charge in Missouri

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Authorities say a 42-year-old Chinese national who worked at Monsanto in St. Louis stole important proprietary property and tried to take it to China.  Federal prosecutors announced Thursday that Haitao Xiang, formerly of Chesterfield, was indicted by a federal grand jury on eight charges, including conspiracy to commit economic espionage and three counts of theft of trade secrets.  According to the indictment, Xiang worked at Monsanto and its subsidiary, The Climate Corporation, from 2008 to 2017. He is accused of taking an algorithm called the Nutrient Optimizer that aimed to improve agricultural productivity.  Federal prosecutors said in a news release the day after Xiang quit at Monsanto, he bought a one-way ticket to China. He was arrested before he boarded his flight and investigators confiscated copies of the Nutrient Optimizer.

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