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Headlines for Friday, October 18, 2019

Lawrence Hospital Eliminates Health Insurance for 3 Dozen Employees

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) -- Lawrence's community hospital -- LMH Health -- will soon eliminate health insurance for part of its workforce.  At the end of the year, the hospital will discontinue health insurance for three dozen part-time employees. CEO Russ Johnson told Kansas Public Radio that the cost-cutting move will help keep the hospital more competitive.  "Like any enterprise," he said, "we have to look at being competitive in the market and realize that every cost we have, ultimately, is laid off onto patients who pay the bill."  The 36 hospital workers losing their health insurance will also lose the ability to accrue paid vacation time.  The changes take effect in January.  Two years ago, LMH Health announced a $100 million expansion plan.  (Learn more about this story.)


Judge Opposed by Abortion Foes Finalist for Top Kansas Court

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas trial-court judge opposed by an influential anti-abortion group is among three finalists to fill a vacancy on the state's highest court. A state nominating commission on Friday named Shawnee County District Judge Evelyn Wilson as a potential appointee for Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly to consider. Kelly's appointee will go on the court without any review by the Republican-controlled Legislature. Kansans for Life announced its opposition this week to her candidacy, citing her husband's political contributions to Kelly and other abortion-rights supporters. She has declined to comment, but he said she steers clear of politics. Commission members said they were unaware of the group's opposition. The commission also selected Deputy Kansas Attorney General Dennis Depew and Assistant Kansas Solicitor General Steven Obermeier as finalists for Kelly to consider.


Former Prosecutor Grissom Drops out of US Senate Race in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A former federal prosecutor running for the U.S. Senate in Kansas as a Democrat has dropped out of the race and endorsed a rival only a day after she launched her campaign. Barry Grissom announced Thursday that he is supporting state Senator Barbara Bollier and urged Democrats to unite behind her. Bollier made headlines in December by defecting from the Republican Party and is running as a centrist. Grissom is a Kansas City-area attorney and an executive in a company that invests in the legal marijuana industry. He was U.S. attorney for Kansas from 2010 until 2016 under Democratic President Barack Obama. He said in a statement that a drawn-out primary contest would be harmful to efforts to capture the seat held by retiring four-term Republican Senator Pat Roberts.


Kobach Fires Kansas Senate Campaign Aide over Hateful Posts

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican Kris Kobach's campaign for the Senate in Kansas says it has fired an aide after learning he regularly posted hateful comments about Jews and racial minorities on a white nationalist website. The latest campaign finance report filed by Kobach's campaign shows it paid Joe Suber of Olathe $500 for field coordinating services in September. The Kansas City Star reports that Suber also filed paperwork with the state in August making the campaign a limited liability company. The newspaper said Suber has a history of making anti-Semitic and racist comments on The UNZ Review, a website with white nationalist and anti-Semitic content. Kobach called Suber's views "abhorrent" and repudiated them. His campaign said Suber ran errands and did other small tasks. Suber suggested some of his posts "might be humor."


No Douglas County Criminal Charges in Some Marijuana Cases

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson says his office will no longer file criminal cases for simple marijuana possession. Branson said Thursday that Douglas County citizens should not be criminally charged when citizens in Lawrence and surrounding communities face little or no penalty in such cases. And he said he hopes the decision will allow county courts and law enforcement to focus on more serious issues. The Lawrence Journal-World reports Lawrence city officials this year reduced fines to $1 for first and second convictions for marijuana possession, for people 18 and with 32 grams or less of marijuana. The city did not change municipal court fines for drug paraphernalia possession, and additional court and diversion costs could still apply. Possession is still illegal in most Kansas communities, and under state and federal law.


Former ICE Agent Pleads Guilty in Foiled Kansas Escape Plot

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has pleaded guilty to helping an inmate try to escape from a Kansas jail by impersonating an immigration officer. Forty-two-year-old Andrew Pleviak pleaded guilty Wednesday in Kingman County District Court to making false information and attempted aiding of escape. He's also charged in federal court with false impersonation of a federal officer. Prosecutors say he falsely identified himself as an ICE agent in a foiled attempt last month to free an inmate from the Kingman County jail, about 45 miles (72 kilometers) west of Wichita. He allegedly provided a sheriff's deputy a memorandum on ICE letterhead falsely claiming the inmate was an important confidential informant and saying ICE would drop the detainer on him. Sentencing is set for Nov. 20.


Wichita Mayor Won't Face Charges over Gifts He Received

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett says he will not file charges against Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell over gifts the mayor received from companies involved in building the city's new water treatment plant. Bennett said he has asked Longwell to report gifts he received in the past from Professional Engineering Consultants and Wildcat Constructors. The Wichita Eagle has reported Longwell received hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts such as meals, travel and golf outings from the companies while the bid for the water plant was under consideration. Bennett said Thursday he didn't pursue changes because state law doesn't clearly define what constitutes "financial interactions" between local office holders and the public. Longwell has said the presidents of the two companies are friends and their golf outings and dinners were not related to city business.


Kansas City T-Bones Get New Owner, Will Stay in Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas City T-Bones have a prospective new owner and a plan to stay in Kansas City, Kansas. The Unified Government of Wyandotte County/ Kansas City, Kansas, on Thursday approved an agreement to use $1 million in tax revenues to help the team stay in the area. The county evicted the independent baseball team on Monday from its publicly owned stadium because it owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in debts. The new agreement must be approved by the American Association of Professional Baseball. The Kansas City Star reports the new majority owner will be Mark Brandmeyer, whose family sold Enturia, a Leawood company that made medical devices, for $490 million in 2014. New team president Mark Perry said the ownership group plans to invest heavily in the stadium and offer entertainment options besides baseball.


Kansas Says Backlog of Untested Rape Kits Nearly Eliminated

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas law enforcement agencies have nearly eliminated a backlog of 2,200 sexual assault kits that had gone untested, including some that dated back decades, authorities announced Thursday. Agencies have had 2,000 of the kits tested by forensic labs and the remaining 200 should be tested by the end of the month, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation said. Officials said the additional testing allowed 373 biological profiles from the evidence to be entered into a computerized DNA database and resulted in 243 hits, which could provide leads to law enforcement agencies. Two cases linked to the rape kit testing have been successfully prosecuted and a third resulted in an acquittal, they said. The bureau also announced it was launching a television and digital ad campaign to create greater public awareness about sexual assault. "This project has addressed work that was long overdue in Kansas," Joyce Grover, executive director of the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, said in a statement ahead of a news conference. "I am hopeful we have made and will continue to make big changes in Kansas." Last year, the bureau recommended that all rape kits collected in the state go to forensic labs for testing, rather than having law enforcement agencies decide on a case-by-case basis whether to submit them. I


Kansas City Police Investigating Triple Homicide 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Police in Kansas City, Missouri are investigating a triple homicide. Police spokesman Officer Doaa El-Ashkar says officers were on patrol just before 9 p.m. Thursday when they heard the sound of gunfire. El-Ashkar says that police then saw two people in the middle of the street and attempted to stop them. One of the people was armed with a firearm and surrendered, while the other person was captured after running away. Officers then found the bodies of two adults outside of a home and a third adult inside. Their names weren't immediately released.  El-Ashkar says police aren't looking for any other suspects.  No information about a motive had been released. 


2 Employees Injured in Cargill Plant Explosion in Kansas

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — Two employees are being treated for burns after an explosion at a Cargill plant in southwest Kansas. Cargill spokesman Daniel Sullivan says the explosion occurred early Thursday in a stand-alone building away from the agribusiness giant's main plant in Dodge City. The two employees were the only people in the building. Their conditions were not immediately available. Sullivan said the cause of the explosion is under investigation. The plant stopped production for the day Thursday while the explosion is investigated. Sullivan said Cargill expected the plant to resume operations soon and said it will meet its commitments to customers. Sullivan said the Dodge City protein facility employs 2,700 people.


Manhattan to Allow Women to Go Topless, with Restrictions

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Women are now legally allowed to go topless in Manhattan, with some restrictions. The Manhattan City Commission on Tuesday unanimously decided to amend the city code to allow females to go topless. However, property owners and businesses may still require all patrons to wear shirts. The Manhattan Mercury reports City Attorney Katie Jackson recommended the change to avoid potential lawsuits. She said the code could be changed again later. Jackson cited a federal ruling in February 2017 that blocked Fort Collins, Colorado, from enforcing a law against women going topless. Fort Collins is in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, as is Kansas. She said the government could still prosecute a topless woman who is acting in a lewd manner, which is against state law.


2 NASCAR Teams in Traffic Incidents on Way to Kansas 

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Two NASCAR teams on their way to Kansas Speedway were involved in separate traffic incidents that damaged race cars. JTG Daugherty Racing owner Tad Geschickter said Thursday the team transporter for Ryan Preece's No. 47 Cup Series entry caught fire while traveling to Kansas. He said both drivers are fine and the team is "assessing the damage of our trailer and race cars." The location of the incident was not immediately specified. The JTG announcement came roughly 12 hours after Kaulig Racing's truck was in an accident in North Carolina. The Kaulig truck went off the right side of the road, through a guardrail and down an embankment, then overturned and came to a stop in a wooded area. Both truck drivers were transported to a hospital for evaluation, and the team said Thursday both drivers had been released. Ross Chastain is scheduled to drive the Xfinity race at Kansas on Saturday for Kaulig.


Wichita Lawyer Who Stole from Elderly Client Sentenced

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita lawyer who stole more than $900,000 from an elderly client with dementia was sentenced to probation. Larry Toomey was given two years of probation, with an underlying sentence of 26 months, on Friday. He pleaded guilty in April to felony theft. The Wichita Eagle reports Toomey's attorney, Steven Mank, told the court Toomey was entitled to the money because of a gift memo drafted by the 104-year-old client. Prosecutors say Toomey spent nearly $962,000 from the woman's bank accounts, including for a gambling addiction. Under his sentence, Toomey was ordered to be evaluated for a gambling addiction and follow the recommended treatment. Prosecutors alleged Toomey stole from the women for seven years, while she was living in a Wichita nursing home.


Kayakers Find Partially Fossilized Bear Skull in Kansas

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — Two sisters have found a partially fossilized bear skull while kayaking the Arkansas River in south-central Kansas. The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks said in a news release Ashley and Erin Watt made the discovery in August after flooding apparently dislodged the skull. They posted their find on Facebook, which caught the attention of a game warden. Two Sternberg Museum of Natural History paleontologists then took a look. One of the paleontologists, Mike Everhart, says the skull was washed out of the same river sediments where Ice Age-era bison remains are found. It's believed to be either a modern grizzly or an older species. There are several historical accounts of grizzlies in Kansas. But they are believed to have died out in the state by the mid-1800s.


Slain Girl's Dad Says Killer's Helper Shouldn't Get Parole

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A man who helped kidnap a 9-year-old girl in Wichita and assisted her killer is up for parole for the fifth time.  The Wichita Eagle reports that Bo Shoemaker told members of the Prisoner Review Board on Wednesday that 56-year-old Donald Wacker should remain behind bars for failing to help his daughter, Nancy Shoemaker.  Wacker has a parole hearing next month. He's already spent 27 years in prison for helping Doil Lane kidnap Nancy near her south Wichita home in 1990. After the abduction, the men drove Nancy to a Sumner County field where Lane raped her and strangled her with a belt as Wacker watched. Her body was found more than six months later.  The Shoemaker family now lives in Florida but traveled to Derby for the latest Kansas Department of Corrections public comments session.


Ex-Teacher, Council Member Pleads in Student Sex Encounter

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A former high school teacher and Shawnee City Council member pleaded no contest to having a sexual encounter with a student. Justin Adrian, who taught social studies teacher at Olathe East High School, pleaded Thursday to aggravated battery and misdemeanor sexual battery. He will be sentenced Jan. 8. KMBC-TV reports Adrian, who is 33, began talking to the Olathe East student through an online dating apps. The sexual encounter occurred in a classroom at Olathe East High School. The student was 18, but it is illegal in Kansas for a teacher to have sexual contact with a student at the same school. Adrian resigned from the Shawnee City Council but resigned when the allegations surfaced.


Bankers Survey Shows Improved Rural Economy in October

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The latest survey of bankers in rural parts of 10 Plains and Western states showed an improved rural economy this month, but the ongoing trade disputes continue weighing on the economy. The Rural Mainstreet survey's overall index climbed to 51.4 for October from 50.1 in September. 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 federal crop support payments and higher grain prices helped boost October's index, but noted that nearly three-quarters of bankers "reported continuing negative impacts from the trade war." The confidence index, which reflects bankers' economic expectations six months out, slumped to a dismal 36.5 from September's already low 42.9. Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.


KU Favored in Big 12 After Record 14 Titles in Row Ends

IRVING, Texas (AP) — The University of Kansas has been tabbed as the favorite to win the Big 12 men's basketball title, the season after the end of the Jayhawks' NCAA record run of winning the conference 14 years in a row. League coaches picked KU to finish ahead of Baylor and Texas Tech, which last year made it to the NCAA championship game before losing to Virginia in overtime. Texas was picked fourth in the poll released Thursday, followed by West Virginia, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Oklahoma, Kansas State and TCU. KU coach Bill Self returns three starters, including senior center Udoka Azubuike, who was picked as the Big 12 preseason player of the year. Texas Tech and Kansas State were the Big 12 co-champions last year. Iowa State won the league's postseason tournament after beating Kansas in the championship game.


Kansas City Chiefs Win in Denver Despite QB Patrick Mahomes Injury

DENVER, Colorado (AP) —- The Kansas City Chiefs won last night in Denver defeating the Broncos 30-to-6 despite starting quarterback Patrick Mahomes suffering a knee injury in the second quarter. He left the game and Chiefs officials say it's unknown how long Mahomes will be out due to the injury.Thursday Night Football. The Chiefs' back-up quarterback, veteran player Matt Moore replaced Mahomes. He threw a 57-yard touchdown pass to Tyreek Hill and completed 10 of 19 passes for 117 yards. The Chiefs' record for the season now stands at five wins and 2 losses.


KPR's daily headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays and updated throughout the day.  KPR's weekend summary is usually published by 1 pm Saturdays and Sundays.

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