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Headlines for Monday, October 21, 2019

Kansas Foster Care Problems Left Kids Vulnerable to Sex Traffickers

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — More than a dozen children who ran away from state custody in Kansas have wound up incarcerated for crimes related to human trafficking, drawing the ire of victims' advocates and some lawmakers who say the runaways were victims themselves. After former Governor Sam Brownback took office in 2011 and reduced aid to needy families, the foster care population ballooned from 5,200 to nearly 7,500. KCUR and The Topeka Capital-Journal report that child placement agencies struggled to recruit homes for the additional children. Social workers say that led to an increase in runaways, whom researchers say are vulnerable to sex traffickers. The prosecuted runaways include Hope Zeferjohn, whose boyfriend began prostituting her after she ran away from foster care. She's serving a six-year prison sentence for aggravated sex trafficking.


Kansas GOP Leader's Medicaid Plan Would Boost Tobacco Taxes

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — The legislative leader spearheading an effort to pass a GOP plan for expanding Medicaid in Kansas has drafted a proposal that would raise tobacco taxes and that does not include a work requirement for program participants. The proposal outlined Monday by Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning differs significantly from an expansion plan backed by Gov. Laura Kelly and fellow Democrats. It includes provisions designed to keep some working-class Kansans in private health plans rather than providing them with state Medicaid coverage. The tax on a pack of cigarettes would rise by $1, to $2.29. The Senate's GOP leaders blocked Medicaid expansion earlier this year but pledged to draft a Republican alternative. Denning provided details in an interview and a legislative committee was set to review them Tuesday and Wednesday.


Study: Kansas Schools Relying Too Heavily on Test Scores

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A study has determined that Kansas schools are relying too heavily on test scores rather than teacher comments when deciding if changes are needed in an individual student's education. KCUR-FM reports that University of Kansas researchers argue student assessments in the state should be data-driven rather than data-dependent in determining if a deviation from the established curriculum is required. The study released earlier this year calls for a balanced system that includes teacher recommendations, test scores and other metrics. Don Stull is one of the study's authors and a professor emeritus at KU. He says good teachers are right to say standardized tests are merely a part of the picture, and that assessments of a child's performance should include "all that we know."


Computer Programmer Admits Role in Kansas Cyberattack Threat

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Prosecutors say a computer software engineer has admitted threatening cyberattacks against websites that criticized a Wichita attorney's work.  VIRAL Artificial Intelligence co-founder David Dorsett pleaded guilty Monday to two counts of making extortionate threats via the internet. The 37-year-old Wichita man admitted in his plea he contacted lawyer Brad Pistotnik in 2014 offering ``reputation management services.'' The U.S. attorney's office said in a news release  that Pistotnik wanted negative postings removed, including a Kansas Supreme Court disciplinary opinion. Dorsett sent an email barrage to and demanding they remove the information and threatening to target advertisers. Prosecutors say Dorsett billed Pistotnik for sending the threats and Pistotnik paid him the same day. Pistotnik was sentenced to pay a $375,000 fine and $55,200 in restitution. Dorsett's sentencing is January 6.  


Lawrence Police Investigate Deadly Stabbing 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a man has been fatally stabbed during a fight in Lawrence. Police said in a news release that officers responded around 5 p.m. Sunday and found 40-year-old John Minoglio lying in the grass in an area about 1 mile south of the city's popular bar and entertainment district. Emergency crews attempted to save him, but he died at the scene. Police say a man who fought with Minoglio was detained at the scene and questioned. He has since been released pending the completion of the investigation.


Kansas Farmers Make Progress Planting Next Year's Wheat Crop

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A government snapshot shows Kansas growers making progress planting next year's winter wheat and harvesting fall crops. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that winter wheat planting was 77% complete, near the five-year average for this time of year in Kansas. Nearly half had already emerged. Kansas farmers had also cut about 62% of their corn, along with 32% of the soybeans and 27% of their sorghum crops. 


California Trucker Sentenced for Stealing Load of Meat

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) _ Authorities say a California trucker working for a Kansas freight brokerage has been sentenced to federal prison for stealing a load of meat valued at more than $160,000. The U.S. attorney's office said in a news release that 37-year-old Gegham Avetisyan of Valley Village, California, was sentenced Monday to 15 months in prison. He pleaded guilty in May to one count of wire fraud. Prosecutors say Avetisyan contracted with a business in Olathe, Kansas, to deliver the meat to three places in California. He faxed documents to the company using the name Robert Ivanov. Avetisyan picked up the meat at a packing plant in Omaha but didn't deliver it.  


Wichita Lawyer Gets Parole for Stealing from Elderly Client

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. 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. 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.


Douglas County Won't Press 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.  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.


Kansas Officials Warn of Deer Collisions as Peak Season Looms

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) - Kansas officials say November is peak season for deer-vehicle collisions, and they're warning drivers not to swerve abruptly to avoid hitting the animal because that could cause more serious crashes. Ron Kaufman is a spokesman for the state Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. He says deer move more often in the fall because they mate and seek new food sources. The state transportation department says deer-related crashes comprised 16.5% of the total vehicle crashes in 2018. Kansas Highway Patrol Lieutenant Adam Winters says it's best for a driver to hit a deer if they encounter one, rather than try to avoid it, which can lead to losing control of vehicle or colliding into oncoming traffic. 


Kansas Couple Killed in New Mexico Plane Crash

ANGEL FIRE, N.M. (AP) — Authorities say a Kansas couple has been killed in a plane crash in New Mexico. Fire officials in the town of Angel Fire said in a Facebook post that the plane went down Sunday morning in a field between a restaurant and hardware store. Fire officials identified the victims as 65-year-old Richard Schenk and Anne Schenk, of Great Bend. The post described Richard Schenk as an experienced commercial-rated pilot. He was chief executive officer of Community Bank of the Midwest in Great Bend. The cause of the crash hasn't been determined. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating. Angel Fire is about 20 miles east of Taos.


Wichita Driver Arrested in July Crash that Killed Passenger

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita driver has been arrested in a crash that killed a passenger. The Wichita Eagle reports that Sedgwick County Jail booking reports show that 21-year-old Eric Lane Turner Jr. was taken into custody Saturday. He had a warrant for charges of reckless involuntary manslaughter, failure to stop at the scene of an injury accident and driving while suspended in the crash that killed 21-year-old Leon Turner. He also is being held on a warrant alleging that he violated probation in a 2018 case  Wichita Police Department spokesman Officer Kevin Wheeler says Eric Turner was driving a car that struck two parked and unoccupied vehicles around 8:25 a.m. on July 5. Leon Turner was pronounced brain dead two days later. Wheeler says he doesn't know the relationship between the two men.


3 Killed After 2 Pickup Trucks Collide near Hutchinson

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say three people were killed when two pickup trucks collided near Hutchinson. The Reno County Sheriff's Office said in a Facebook post that deputies responded just before noon Sunday. Fire crews had to extricate the victims from the heavily damaged vehicles. They were pronounced dead at the scene. The names of the victims weren't immediately released. The post says the accident is under investigation.


Study: Climate Change Could Threaten Insects in Missouri

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A recent study indicates that climate change could threaten hundreds of insect species in Missouri that may not recover after they die during extreme weather conditions. A 2019 study by the University of Missouri at St. Louis examined 250 insect species whose populations plummeted after mid-spring frosts and summer droughts, decreasing as much as 95% for some species. The study, published in the science journal Frontiers focused on insects that eat the leaves of white oak and black oak trees in Missouri. The findings concluded that cold periods in the spring could hurt caterpillars by disrupting their metabolism and killing off the young oak leaves they consume.


KCMO Police Investigate Shooting Deaths of Two People in Kansas City Home

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Authorities are investigating the shooting deaths of a man and woman at a Kansas City home. KMBC-TV reports that officers found them Sunday night after they were dispatched to a shooting. They were both declared dead at the scene. Detectives are processing the scene for evidence and speaking with people in the area to try to figure out what led up to the shooting. It's not clear yet what the relationship was between the man and woman or if they lived at the home where they were found. Detectives say aren't looking for additional suspects.


Bowyer Finishes Eighth at Kansas Speedway's Hollywood Casino 400

KANSAS CITY, Kan.  (KPR) -- Clint Bowyer of Emporia finished eighth at Kansas Speedway yesterday (SUN), but it wasn't good enough to keep him in the NASCAR playoffs  Entering the weekend, Bowyer was on the cusp of elimination anyway. He needed a win to advance in the NASCAR playoffs, something he has not been able  to accomplish on the closest track to his home.  Bowyer was one of four drivers eliminated from the next round of playoffs.  He's 11th in the point standings and still hopes to finish the year in the top-10. The 40-year old Bowyer got good news a few days earlier when his race team, Stewart-Haas Racing, confirmed that Bowyer will be back next season. The winner of yesterday's Hollywood Casino 400 was Denny Hamlin.


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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