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Headlines for Friday, September 24, 2021


Kansas to Follow CDC Recommendation of Pfizer Booster

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly says the state will adopt the recommendation from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concerning Pfizer booster shots as part of the effort to fight COVID-19. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky ruled Thursday that people 65 and older, nursing home residents and those ages 50 and up who have chronic health problems such as diabetes should be offered a booster once they’re six months past their last Pfizer dose. Kelly, a Democrat, said in a news release that she has authorized all COVID-19 vaccine providers to begin administering Pfizer booster shots to eligible Kansans as of Friday.


U.S. Marshals Still Searching for Dangerous Sex Offender Who Escaped Kansas Mental Hospital

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (WDAF) - U.S. Marshals are continuing to search for a dangerous sex offender who escaped June 30 from a state mental hospital in Kansas, and they are offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to his capture.  The offender, 42-year-old John Freeman Colt, was sentenced in 2001 to five years in state prison for aggravated sexual battery, attempted rape, aggravated burglary, and four counts of aggravated battery against law enforcement.  WDAF TV reports that Colt was required to register as a sexual offender for the remainder of his life.  After his criminal sentence was completed, the State of Kansas courts deemed him a sexually violent predator at high risk to commit a future sex offense and too dangerous to be released. He was indefinitely civilly committed and sent to the Larned State Hospital’s Sexual Predator Treatment Program in 2007, where he has resided until the escape.  Investigators believe Colt planned his escape several months in advance, obtaining a replica of a staff ID badge and dress clothes.  While his whereabouts are currently unknown, he may be traveling to - or camping in or around - state or national parks throughout Colorado, Missouri, New Mexico, South Dakota, Texas or Utah. (Read more)


Ex-Kansas Legislator Pleads Not Guilty to COVID Relief Fraud

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Former Kansas state Representative Michael Capps has pleaded not guilty to 19 counts that allege he tried to defraud federal, state and county government organizations out of more than $450,000 in coronavirus relief funding. The Wichita Eagle reports that Capps entered the plea this week via video conference from his lawyer’s office during his arraignment hearing. The Wichita Republican also agreed to surrender his passport while he awaits trial. Federal prosecutors have said Capps filed forms inflating the number of employees he had at two businesses and a sports foundation, and then applied for loans to pay the non-existent employees. Capps is charged with multiple counts of making a false statement, bank fraud, wire fraud and money laundering.


Emporia State University President Headed to Oklahoma to Become University System Chancellor 

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education have announced that the president of Emporia State University in Kansas will become the new chancellor of Oklahoma's higher education system. Regents Chair Jeffrey Hickman on Friday said Allison Garrett, the first woman named as chancellor, will succeed Glen Johnson, who is retiring Sept. 30 after serving as chancellor since 2007. Garrett, president at Emporia State since 2016, previously was an administrator at Abilene Christian University in Texas and at Oklahoma Christian University. She also worked as an executive at Walmart, which is based in Bentonville, Arkansas.


Lawrence Man Arrested in Connection with Death of 2-Year-Old

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Lawrence man has been arrested in connection with the shooting death of a 2-year-old boy. Police said Friday that the 21-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of involuntary manslaughter, aggravated child endangerment and possession of a stolen handgun. It wasn’t immediately clear if the man has been formally charged. Police say the child, Legend King of Lawrence, was shot accidentally on September 17. Authorities have not released further details about the shooting, or the man’s relationship to the child.


Ex-School Counselor Gets New Trial on Charges of Raping Boy

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A former central Kansas middle school counselor convicted of raping a student will get a new trial. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled Friday that a lower-court jury should consider the ex-counselor's arguments that the then-13-year-old boy forced her to have sex the first time and blackmailed her into continuing. The Supreme Court split 4-3 over whether the attorney handling Brooke Dinkel’s trial in 2014 failed to provide her with an adequate defense, with the majority saying the defense was inadequate. A Saline County jury convicted Dinkel of two counts of raping a child under 14, and she was sentenced to nearly 14 years in prison.


Youth Football Coach Accused of Pushing 11-Year-Old

COUNCIL GROVE, Kan. (AP) — An assistant coach for a youth football team in Kansas is facing misdemeanor charges for allegedly pushing a player to the ground. Adam Dirks is charged with battery for an incident that happened September 9 in Council Grove. Police say an 11-year-old boy told police that Dirks pushed him to the ground during a practice. Dirks also is charged with interference with law enforcement. Dirks does not have a listed phone number and it wasn’t immediately clear on Friday if he had an attorney. Dirks is a member of the Morris County Board of Education.


Woman Found Dead on Sedgwick County Roadway

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities in Sedgwick County are investigating after a woman was found dead in the roadway. The body of the woman was found by a resident just after 7 am Thursday. Emergency crews responded and the woman was pronounced dead at the scene. Authorities on Friday identified the victim as 26-year-old Karlie Bidwell of Fort Scott. The cause of death remains under investigation.


Massage Therapist Gets 25 Years to Life for Sex Crimes

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ A judge has sentenced a massage therapist to three prison terms of 25 years to life for several sex crimes against five people. They include a child and three female soccer players at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. Douglas County Judge Sally Pokorny sentenced 50-year-old Shawn P. O'Brien on Friday after jurors in August found him guilty on eight counts. Three of the charges accused O'Brien of indecent liberties with a child under the age of 14 for fondling a girl who was either 9 or 10 on three occasions between 2013 and 2015. The sentences will be served concurrently. O'Brien will have to serve at least 25 years before being eligible for parole. 


Authorities Identify Man Found Dead in Saline County

SALINA, Kan. (AP) _ Authorities have identified the man found dead in rural Saline County. The sheriff's office said Friday that the victim was 42-year-old Marc Anthony Tipton Sr. of Salina. His body was found Tuesday in a rural area. Authorities say a homicide investigation continues, involving several agencies. One man is charged in connection with the case, but he has not been charged in the killing.
(– Earlier Reporting–)

Suspect Arrested After Body Found in Rural Saline County

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Salina police say a 27-year-old man is in custody after a body was found in rural Saline County. Salina police say a body of a man in his 40s was found Tuesday. He has not been publicly identified. The Salina police department says it is requesting a charge of second-degree murder against Manuel Medina-Castro in the man's death. Police say that Manuel Medina-Castro was arrested September 17 on a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm and other charges. That arrest came after Medina-Castro and his family members reported that a car he had borrowed appeared to have blood in it.


Missouri Teacher, Coach Charged with Sexual Misconduct

KEARNEY, Mo. (AP) — A suburban Kansas City math teacher and assistant coach has been charged with sexual misconduct months after he was placed on paid administrative leave when the allegations were first reported. Television station KSHB reports that Bryant Hummel was working as a math teacher and assistant football and wrestling coach at Kearney High School when he was accused of exposing himself to two 17-year-old female students he was supposed to be helping with homework assignments after school. Hummel was charged Tuesday in Clay County with first-degree sexual misconduct. Investigators say the girls told officials Hummel exposed himself to the girls, asked them to expose themselves and threatened to fail them and damage their athletic careers if they told anyone.


Official: Kansas Middle School Student Died of COVID-19

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas education official says a middle school student has died of COVID-19. No details about the death have been released. The child's death would be the first reported COVID-19 death of someone aged 10 to 17 in Kansas and only the third reported for someone under 18. Education Commissioner Randy Watson says state health officials told him the child died this week. State health officials did not return requests for more information.  Meanwhile, state health officials reported 11 new COVID-19 clusters at schools. Data from the department showed there are now 72 active school outbreaks across the state, causing 537 cases and one hospitalization.


Sexual Assault Cases Spur Protests on Campuses Across U.S.

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Reports of sexual assaults have fueled protests on at least eight U.S. college campuses early in the fall semester. Victims’ advocates say more young people are vulnerable this year as they settle into campus life, while students also are more engaged and adept at social media. Sexual assault allegations have led students to demonstrate over the past month at colleges in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Alabama, Michigan, Massachusetts and Missouri and at a Kansas high school. Advocates say COVID-19 restrictions last year kept some sophomores from fully settling into college life, making them more vulnerable to assaults. But they said students are more inclined to activism and savvy about social media.


Judge Closes Missouri Restaurant over Mask Mandate Violations

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP)  - A judge in Jackson County, Missouri has ordered a restaurant in Blue Springs to shut its doors. Rae’s Café has repeatedly violated Jackson County’s mask mandate. Thursday afternoon, Judge Jennifer Phillips granted the county’s request for a temporary injunction and restraining order. The judge ruled that the restaurant must close until it complies with health regulations and obtains a valid permit from the county health department. The county first ordered the restaurant to close on September 3, after multiple complaints about mask violations. The café’s owners reopened the following day as a private club and charged customers a one dollar “membership fee” at the door. The restaurant’s owners said the kitchen is too hot for employees to wear face masks and said they were worried about losing customers if masks were required.


Court Rejects Missouri AG's Requests in 1979 Killings Case

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A Missouri appeals court has denied the state attorney general's request to recuse all Jackson County judges from presiding over an upcoming evidentiary hearing for a man who the county prosecutor says was wrongfully convicted in a triple homicide more than 40 years ago. On Thursday, the Missouri Court of Appeals also denied Attorney General Eric Schmitt's request to cancel the October hearing for Kevin Strickland, who has been in prison for the killings since 1979 and who has always maintained that he's innocent. Schmitt argued that judges in Jackson County, which includes some of Kansas City, have shown a bias in favor of Strickland. His spokesman says Schmitt will appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court. 


Kansas Democratic Congresswoman Co-Sponsors Abortion Rights Bill

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KNS) -Members of the U.S. House of Representatives will be voting on a bill that would put protections for abortion rights into federal law. The Women’s Health Protection Act would overturn recent tight restrictions on abortion that have recently been passed in states like Texas. It would also likely overturn some abortion restrictions in Kansas on state-required counseling before a procedure or a current ban on getting a telemedicine abortion. Kansas Congresswoman Sharice Davids says a woman’s right to an abortion is actively endangered in the current political landscape. “The right to make decisions about our own body is at a greater risk than ever," Davids said.  "That’s why bills like this are important... having the legislative safeguard to protect access to the full range of healthcare services."  Kansans will vote on an amendment next year that would re-write the state constitution to say there’s no right to an abortion. However, if the federal proposal became law, new state-level restrictions would be toothless. The bill has 212 sponsors in the House. It could pass the House with six more votes, but the measure faces an uphill battle in the U.S. Senate. 


Down Syndrome Issue at Center of Missouri Abortion Law Case

UNDATED, (AP) - The full 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis is deciding the fate of a Missouri law that puts sweeping restrictions on abortions, and a focal point of oral arguments on Tuesday was a provision prohibiting abortions based solely on a Down syndrome diagnosis. The law adopted in 2019 would ban abortions at the eighth week of pregnancy. The federal appeals court isn’t expected to rule for several weeks. In June, a three-judge 8th Circuit panel upheld an injunction prohibiting Missouri from enforcing the law’s provisions, but the full court decided to hear the case.


Democratic U.S. Lawmakers Attempt to Revive Nationwide Eviction Moratorium

UNDATED, (AP) - Progressive U.S. lawmakers have introduced a bill that would reimpose a nationwide eviction moratorium that lapsed last month. Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, and Rep. Cori Bush, of Missouri, say their bill would direct the secretary of Health and Human Services to implement a ban on evictions in response to COVID-19. It would remain in effect until 60 days after a public health emergency is declared. The Supreme Court’s conservative majority at the end of August allowed evictions to resume across the United States, blocking the Biden administration from enforcing a temporary ban that was put in place because of the coronavirus pandemic.


1 Dead, 3 Teens Arrested After Chase and Shooting in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a 16-year-old girl is dead and three teenagers are in custody after shots were fired while two vehicles chased each other. Police Captain Jeff Weible said officers went to an area near Wichita State University Thursday afternoon after receiving calls about shots being fired. A short time later, a vehicle carrying a group of teenagers arrived at Wesley Medical Center, with the 16-year-old victim in the car. The other vehicle, which had been stolen, was recovered after the suspects fled on foot. Weible says a preliminary investigation indicates the groups in the two cars knew each other.  No other details were released.


3 Students Injured in Shooting Outside Wichita School

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police say three students suffered gunshot wounds during a lunchtime shooting outside a Wichita high school. Officers responded Tuesday to 911 calls of a disturbance on a sidewalk outside East High School. Police say two male students, ages 15 and 16, were taken to a local hospital with injuries that were not considered life-threatening, and a another 15-year-old male student later reported a graze wound to the school nurse. Authorities were able to track the vehicle and take three other teenagers into custody. Police say the shooting appears to stem from an ongoing dispute.


Crash in Kansas City Kills Pedestrian, Shuts Down I-70 Lanes

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Police in Kansas City say an early morning hit-and-run crash Wednesday on Interstate 70 killed a pedestrian and shut down a stretch of the interstate's eastbound lanes for nearly two hours. The crash happened around 4:30 am Wednesday when a vehicle hit a man walking on the interstate. Police say the vehicle fled the scene and that the man was hit by several other vehicles, including a semitrailer. Police later announced that a person suspected to be the driver of the first vehicle that hit the man had been arrested. Police did not give that person's name or the name of the man killed. The eastbound lanes of I-70 at Brooklyn Avenue were closed until shortly after 6 am.


Wichita Man Charged for Participation in January 6 Riot at Nation's Capitol

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 37-year-old Wichita man is facing several charges after federal authorities said he assaulted Capitol police officers during the January 6, 2021 riot in Washington D.C. Michael Eckerman was arrested and charged this week with eight counts, including assaulting, resisting or impeding officers attempting to stop protesters from entering the U.S. Capitol. An affidavit submitted by an FBI agent says Eckerman at one point pushed a police officer, who fell down some stairs, while rioters were moving through the Capitol. Eckerman told KAKE-TV that he was at the protest but did not touch any police officer or hurt anyone. 


Western Missouri Sheriff: 3 People Found in Home Died of Natural Causes

GLENAIRE, Mo. (AP) — The Clay County Sheriff's office says three people who were found dead in a home in July died from natural causes. Deputies found 66-year-old Roger Wilfong; his sister, 67-year-old Mary Wilfong, and their 99-year-old mother, Virginia King, dead inside a home in Glenaire. Deputies said all three were seated in the living room. Investigators determined the two women had serious health issues and could not move around without Roger Wilfong's help. He apparently died in June after choking on food, and the women were not able to access food, water or their medications. The cause of their deaths was listed as undetermined.


LGBTQ Advocates Demand Kansas City Cut Chick-Fil-A from Proposed List of New Airport Restaurants

KANSAS CITY, MO. (KCUR) - A Kansas City Council committee is considering a proposal for vendors at the new KCI terminal, but the inclusion of Chick-fil-A in that list has drawn complaints over the company’s history of anti-LGBTQ donations.  KCUR Radio reports that a plan unveiled last week to include Chick-fil-A alongside a mix of local and national restaurants inside the new Kansas City International (KCI) airport terminal is causing concern among LGBTQ advocates, who say it betrays the terminal’s inclusive ideals.  Last week, Kansas City officials named Vantage Airport Group of Vancouver, Canada, as the recommended concessions operator for KCI’s $1.5 billion new terminal. Vantage’s preliminary plan made public at a City Council business session included Chick-fil-A.  Previously, the new terminal had been lauded by local advocates for its steps toward greater inclusivity, including gender-inclusive restrooms.  But now those advocates say those steps feel hollow. The LGBTQ Commission of Kansas City, Missouri, released a letter to the city this week calling on elected officials to remove Chick-fil-A from consideration.  Chick-fil-A’s CEO, Dan Cathy, made headlines in 2012 when he said same-sex marriage would bring “God’s judgement on our nation.” He has since continued to donate to the National Christian Charitable Foundation, which funded opposition to the Equality Act, a bill in Congress that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation and gender identity in many aspects of U.S. life.  The private company itself halted donations to the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in 2019 after repeated backlash.  (Read more.)


Evergy Hopes to Boost Electric Vehicles Market in Kansas by Expanding Charging Network

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) - Evergy wants to spend about $30 million to spur electric vehicle adoption by expanding the charging network in Kansas. But the Kansas News Service reports state regulators aren’t on board with all of the plan.  Evergy’s plan calls for spending $19 million to offer rebates to Kansas homeowners and businesses to install electric vehicle chargers. The company is also asking state regulators to approve spending $13.5 million on expanding the company’s public charging network to underserved areas outside of the Kansas City metro.  Regulators at the Kansas Corporation Commission say they can get behind the rebate program, but don’t think it’s in the best interest of customers to have them pay to expand a charging network when private companies are willing to take the risk.  If regulators vote to deny the request, it would be the second time regulators have prevented Evergy from passing the costs of building a charging network along to its customers.


Dolly Parton Reading Program Could Benefit Kansas Kids

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - More children across Kansas could soon have access to free books through a program sponsored by Dolly Parton. State agencies will use $350,000 in federal aid to expand the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. The program partners with nonprofit groups to make free books available to children up to age five. Currently only 77 of  the state’s 105 counties are in the book give-away program. The new money will expand that to every ZIP code in the state. Imagination Library partners with nonprofit groups to mail a free book once a month to children enrolled in the program. 


District: Missouri Students Posted Pro-Slavery Petition Online

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) - A school district in suburban Kansas City says it is working with students and parents who are upset after a small number of students posted a petition online calling for the return of slavery. Officials have not released many details about the incident at Park Hill South High School in Platte County, Missouri. It came to light last week when Principal Kerrie Herren issued a statement to the student body saying the petition was unacceptable. School officials say the district values diversity and inclusion and is listening to students, staff and parents to determine the best ways to respond to the hurt the incident has caused. 


Chiefs Welcome Chargers for Important Early AFC West Game

UNDATED (AP) — Two teams expected to compete for the AFC West title will be trying to stay out of the cellar when the Los Angeles Chargers and the Kansas City Chiefs meet Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chargers are coming off a close loss to the Cowboys and the Chiefs were beaten by Baltimore last week. Both are 1-1 through the first two weeks while the Raiders and Broncos are 2-0. The spotlight will be on two of the game's best young quarterbacks in the Chargers' Justin Herbert and the Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes. Kansas City has won 12 of the last 14 games in the series.


No. 25 K-State Visits Oklahoma State, Each Seeking 4-0 Start

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — No. 25 Kansas State travels to Oklahoma State this weekend as both open Big 12 play. Both teams are 3-0 despite dealing with some key injuries. Josh Howard will likely start at quarterback in place of injured K-State starter Skylar Thompson. Oklahoma State played last week without three of its top four receivers and lost another one during the game.


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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