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Headlines for Monday, July 30, 2018

Justice Department Nixes Agreements in Prison Recording Case

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The top federal public defender in Kansas has asked a judge to reconvene a hearing on whether prosecutors improperly used secret recordings of conversations between inmates and their attorneys at a federal prison in Kansas. Public Defender Melody Brannon says in a court filing Monday that the Department of Justice has reversed agreements reached in negotiations with the U.S. attorney's office in Kansas. An evidentiary hearing in May had been recessed to allow the parties to work toward a resolution. Brannon says the deputy attorney general effectively ended the negotiations on Friday. The investigation by the court-appointed special master stems from a prison contraband case during which criminal defense lawyers discovered that the privately run Leavenworth Detention Center was routinely recording meetings between attorneys and their clients.


Topeka Firefighter Hurt Battling Fire at Mobile Home Park

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a Topeka firefighter was hurt while battling one of two fires that were intentionally set at vacant mobile homes in south Topeka. The Topeka Fire Department wasn't releasing the name of the firefighter injured in Monday's early morning fire. The firefighter was transported to a local medical care facility with injuries not considered life-threatening. The Topeka-Capital Journal reports no arrests had been made in connection with the blazes, which were reported just before 4 a.m. at the Coachlight Village Mobile Home Courts in Topeka. Topeka Fire Marshal Mike Martin says firefighters found both mobile homes fully involved in flames. He says the preliminary investigation concluded both blazes were intentionally set. Damages were estimated at $15,000 to one home, and $18,000 to the other.


KU Stem Cell Center Loses Director, Space

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas Medical Center's adult stem cell research lab is facing major obstacles after the departure of its director and size reductions. The Kansas City Star reports that the Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center's former director Buddhadeb Dawn left this summer. Dawn took his research and federal grants to the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. He says reducing the lab's space from 8,200 square feet to about 3,680 square feet slowed down research. KU Medical Center Spokeswoman Kay Hawes says the reduction was to make room for the university's incoming chair of internal medicine. University officials say they're still committed to the lab, which is currently being run by Vice Chancellor for Research Richard Barohn. Hawes says a new director for the center may be announced next week.


Feds Cite Kansas Grain Elevator Operator in Deaths of 2 Men

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Federal regulators have cited the operator of a Wichita-area grain elevator where two workers were killed in January. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration says in a news release Monday that Gavilon Grain LLC faces proposed penalties of $507,374 and the company has been placed in the agency's severe violator enforcement program. Sedgwick County authorities say 32-year-old Marcus Tice and 28-year-old Joshua Rasbold died at company's elevator in Wichita. Their bodies were recovered buried under 20 to 25 feet of grain. OSHA says the tragedy could have been prevented if the company had provided workers with proper safety equipment and followed required safety procedures to protect workers from grain bin hazards. The company has contested the citations and will appear before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.


Murder-Free Weekend in Kansas City Is Group's Elusive Goal

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A grassroots organization's goal of a weekend in Kansas City without any murders has again been spoiled. The Kansas City Police Department had been reporting more than 60 homicides heading into this past weekend. Organizer Ronell Bailey told KCUR these types of events bring out the family to a safe environment. But the weekend had barely begun when a woman was found stabbed to death on Saturday. And Sunday evening, the Kansas City Star also reported that a man had been shot and killed after a traffic accident. This was Operation Ceasefire KC's third attempt at a murder-free weekend. Killings also ruined efforts in 2016 and 2017.


Mother of 4 Stabbed to Death in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police are investigating the stabbing death of a 27-year-old mother of four young children.  Police say Deandrea Vine was killed Saturday in the yard of the southeast Kansas City home where she lived. A cousin discovered her body about 4 am. Saturday.  Investigators have not released any information about a possible suspect.  The Kansas City Star reports Vine's family said she battled learning disabilities and epilepsy while struggling to raise her children, who ranged in age from 7 to 21 months.  Her mother, Kelly Jackson, says the father of Vine's children committed suicide about a year ago. Vine was working at Walmart while she and her children lived with Vine's mother and grandmother.  The family is asking anyone with information on the killing to call police.


Body of Kansas Woman Recovered from Missouri River

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say the body of a Leavenworth woman who was missing since early Friday has been recovered from the Missouri River.  Leavenworth Police Chief Patrick Kitchens says searchers found the body of Brittany Janae Fields Saturday in the river near Leavenworth.  He says the investigation will continue. Kitchens provided no further information.  Fields' personal belongings were found early Friday inside a car at a boat ramp parking lot and on the boat ramp dock.  Anyone with information about the case is asked to call Leavenworth police at 913-682-4411.


Body of Missing Swimmer Recovered at Wilson Lake

WILSON, Kan. (AP) — The body of a missing swimmer was recovered early Sunday at Wilson Lake.  The Russell County Sheriff's Office says it received several reports early Sunday of a missing swimmer at the lake.  Callers reported a man disappeared after trying to swim out to a boat that had come loose and was floating away.  The Salina Journal reports searchers recovered the body of a 35-year-old man about 7:20 a.m. Sunday.  The swimmer's name has not been released.


Kansas Officials Investigate Officer Involved Shooting

CHANUTE, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Bureau of Investigation is investigating an officer-involved shooting that occurred as a suspect stole an ambulance in Chanute.  Chanute officers who responded to a call Saturday afternoon of someone acting erratically at a Walmart parking lot.  The KBI says its preliminary investigation found emergency responders were communicating with the man when he jumped inside an ambulance, locked the doors and drove away. One officer fired several shots at the departing ambulance.  The man was identified as 38-year-old Trevor Jones of Chanute.  A brief chase followed before the ambulance was stopped and the suspect was detained. Jones was treated for non-life-threatening injuries and taken to a Wichita hospital for further treatment.  No law enforcement officers were injured during the confrontation.  The investigation is continuing.


Bob Dole Endorses Jeff Colyer in GOP Primary for Kansas Governor

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Former presidential candidate and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole has endorsed Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer in the state's Republican primary.  Colyer's campaign announced the endorsement from the 95-year-old Kansas political icon Monday. Colyer faces a strong challenge on his right in the Aug. 7 election from Secretary of State Kris Kobach.  Dole said in a statement that he believes Colyer is the best candidate for winning in the November general election.  Colyer is seeking a full, four-year term after becoming governor in January when former GOP Gov. Sam Brownback resigned to take an ambassador's post. Kobach's solid base among conservatives has made him the most serious of Colyer's six primary challengers.  Dole was the Republican presidential nominee in 1996 and served more than 35 years in Congress.


Major Kansas Crops Developing Faster Than Usual

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new government report shows the major fall crops in Kansas are developing faster than usual. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that nearly half of the corn in Kansas had already reached the dough stage, well ahead of the 29 percent that would be the average for this time of year. The agency rated corn condition as 8 percent very poor and 15 percent poor. About 30 percent was listed fair, with 39 percent as good and 8 percent as excellent. About 48 percent of the soybeans in Kansas are already setting pods, well ahead of the 23 percent average for this time. The agency also reported that 39 percent of the sorghum grown in the state had headed, ahead of the 23 percent average.


Kansas Dog Credited with Saving Backyard Chickens

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas dog is credited for batting a young hawk out of the air to save his owner's chickens. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Taylor and Kailey Petrehn were having dinner Sunday evening in their Lawrence home when their dog, Cooper, saw the hawk swooping in for some dinner of its own. The raptor had apparently been eyeing the 13 chickens all day and was ready when the hawk finally made its move. Cooper smacked the hawk down and cornered it without injuring it. Taylor Petrehn says he grabbed the bird right away. It was scared and dazed. He says he released it into a neighbor's yard and the hawk flew away. Cooper is a 110-pound Anatolian Shepherd-Great Pyrenees mix whose owner says "gets along with chickens really well."


100s Attend Funeral for 5 Relatives Killed in Missouri Boat Tragedy

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Hundreds of people are attending the funeral for five of the nine members of an Indianapolis family who were killed when a tourist boat sank on a Missouri lake during a storm.  Governor Eric Holcomb is among the mourners at Saturday's services at Eastern Star Church in Indianapolis to honor 70-year-old Horace Coleman; his 69-year-old wife, Belinda Coleman; 76-year-old Ervin Coleman; 45-year-old Angela Coleman; and her 2-year-old son, Maxwell Coleman.  Eleven members of the Coleman family were aboard the duck boat when it sank July 19 in Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri, killing 17 people . Tia Coleman and her 13-year-old nephew were the family's only survivors.  A funeral was held Friday for Tia Coleman's husband, 40-year-old Glenn Coleman, and three children — 9-year-old Reece, 7-year-old Evan and 1-year-old Arya.


Woman Injured in Crash into Topeka Cafe Dies

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An 80-year-old woman who was injured when a vehicle slammed into a Topeka cafe where she was sitting has died.  An obituary for Joyce Kasson says she died Saturday but doesn't give a cause of death.  Kasson was injured Thursday when a sport-utility vehicle driven by 82-year-old Peggy Turner, of Topeka, crashed into Banjo's Cafe. She was taken to a hospital but the Shawnee County Sheriff's Office said at the time her injuries were not considered life-threatening.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the sheriff's office is working with the hospital where Kasson died to determine if her death was linked to the accident.  Investigators say Turner was parking in front of the cafe when she unintentionally pressed the accelerator instead of the brake and her vehicle crashed through a window and into the restaurant.


Judge: UPS Freight Violated Law Concerning Pay for Disabled Drivers

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A federal judge in Kansas says UPS Freight has violated federal law by paying drivers with disabilities less than other drivers when they are temporarily moved to non-driving jobs. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's regional office in St. Louis announced the ruling Monday on behalf of Thomas Diebold, a UPS Freight driver in Kansas City, Kansas, who was moved to a non-driving job after a minor stroke in 2013. The EEOC says a UPS Freight policy formalized in a collective bargaining agreement allows drivers with disabilities who are reassigned to non-driving work to earn 10 percent less than drivers reassigned for non-medical reasons, such as losing their license for legal reasons. UPS says it has "robust" policies for accommodating people with disabilities, and the company plans to appeal.


Kansas Site Closer to Getting Commemorative Site Status

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. House of Representatives has boosted efforts to upgrade a historic archaeological site in Kansas City, Kansas.  The Kansas City Star reports that the House recently passed legislation that could make Quindaro Townsite a National Commemorative Site through the National Park Service. The designation would allow the area to get new assistance from the government, such as help with planning, exhibit design and archaeological surveys.  The site was once a key spot on the Underground Railroad and a flourishing abolitionist community.  Jim Ogle is the executive director of Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area, which is pushing for the designation. He says the area is struggling with poverty and more should be done to help improve Quindaro.  Advocates hope to improve the area's walking trails and build a visitor's center.


"Koch Brothers" Rebrand Underway, Still a Conservative Force

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Democrats have long portrayed the billionaire conservative Koch (coke) brothers as political supervillains. Now the Kochs have quietly launched a rebranding effort that may vanquish the moniker "Koch brothers" from American politics.  The catalyst came earlier this year when the ailing David Koch stepped away from the family business, leaving older brother Charles as the undisputed leader of their web of expanding political and policy organizations.  There are few, if any, clearly identifiable links between the Kochs and spinoff organizations such as Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners. Now company officials are pushing journalists to change references in their coverage from "Koch brothers" to "Koch network" or one of their less-recognizable entities.  An estimated 500 Koch donors are gathering in Colorado for weekend meetings to discuss Koch-backed initiatives.


Missouri Inmate Gets Additional Prison Time for 2013 Escape

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A man who fled from a Kansas prison and through Missouri has been given an additional 10-plus years in prison by a Kansas court.  The Kansas City Star reports that Allen Hurst is already serving 20 years in Missouri for the 2013 escape, as well as a term for burglary and theft in Kansas. His new sentence of 130 months in Leavenworth County will run consecutive to his other sentences.  Hurst and two other men escaped from the Lansing prison on May 10, 2013. Hurst and one of the other escapees, Scott Gilbert, stole a pickup truck and led officers on a 100 mph chase on Interstate 29 and along rural highways. During the chase, Gilbert fired at officers with a shotgun.  No one was injured. Gilbert was sentenced to 128 years for the shooting and 10 years for escape.


Stolen Sculpture of Mighty Mouse Returned to Wichita Artist

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita artist says he's elated that a sculpture of Mighty Mouse that was stolen from his home has been returned.  Christopher Gulick says the 200-pound wooden sculpture was taken from his front porch Wednesday. Another artist gave him the sculpture more than 20 years ago.  KSNW-TV reports a Wichita resident called police after discovering the mouse in his yard Sunday.  Gulick says he's glad to have Mighty Mouse back but he will have to do some work to repair parts that were damaged.  Gulick said someone made a poor choice in stealing the sculpture but he's grateful to the man who called police when he found it.

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