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Headlines for Thursday, April 19, 2018

Area news headlines from the Associated Press

Wildfires Cooling Off in Western Kansas

(KPR) The wildfires in western Kansas have cooled off, somewhat.  The fires ravaged parts of Stanton, Morton and Wallace counties Tuesday and Wednesday -- leading to the temporary closure of U.S. Highway 40 and the precautionary evacuation of about 90 homes.  Damage assessments are underway but officials say a number of structures were damaged or destroyed.  Governor Jeff Colyer has already issued a disaster declaration for the affected area.

According to KWCH TV in Wichita, multiple fires flared up in western and south central Kansas Wednesday, keeping crews busy for most of the afternoon.  The windy and dry conditions added to the trouble. Strong winds pushed fires in several directions. Crews had fights on their hands to minimize damage and keep people safe. Thanks to immediate responses from crews ready to respond on a moment's notice, none of the fires Wednesday got too far out of control.  Large smoke plumes showed up on radar from a Wednesday afternoon wildfire south of Lakin in Kearny County. In Butler County, crews battled two separate fires -- one a little north of El Dorado Lake, the other farther south and east near Leon.  In Butler County, crews called for backup as soon as they got the call to fight the fire near Leon.

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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Officials say a fire that crossed the Kansas and Colorado state line burned about 75 square miles of grassland. Kansas Adjutant General's Department spokeswoman Katie Horner says about one-third of the burned land is in Morton and Stanton counties in the western part of the state. The release says the wind-whipped fire that raged Tuesday and Wednesday also destroyed five Kansas homes and several outbuildings. Crews are monitoring hot spots, although the fire is largely extinguished. Horner says another 26 fires burned Wednesday in Kansas and that five of them are responsible for consuming another 37 square miles. The only injuries reported so far in Kansas are in Wallace County, where Sheriff Larry Townsend says three firefighters were treated Tuesday for smoke inhalation and heat exposure before being released.

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Guilty Verdict in Garden City Bomb Plot Trial

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A federal jury has found three men guilty of plotting to bomb a mosque and apartment complex housing Somali refugees in Kansas.  Patrick Stein, Gavin Wright and Curtis Allen were convicted on Wednesday of one count of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and one count of conspiracy against civil rights. Wright was also convicted of a charge of lying to the FBI.  The three men were indicted in October 2016 for an attack planned for the day after the presidential election in the meatpacking town of Garden City, about 220 miles west of Wichita.  Prosecutors have said that a fellow militia member tipped off federal authorities after becoming alarmed by the escalating talk of violence and later agreed to wear a wire as a paid informant.  (Read more here.)

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Judge: Kansas Secretary of State in Contempt in Voting Case

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - A federal judge says Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach violated her order that some voters were eligible to cast a ballot while a lawsuit challenging a state law requiring proof of U.S. citizenship worked its way through the courts.  U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson found Kobach in contempt of court Wednesday. She didn't impose a fine but ordered Kobach to pay for damages, including attorney fees.  The American Civil Liberties Union sought the contempt ruling after Kobach refused to update the state's election guide or ensure that county officials sent postcards to residents who registered at driver licensing offices without providing citizenship documents.  Robinson said in March that she had made it clear voters covered by a May 2016 injunction she imposed were not to be treated differently.  (Read more here.)

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Kansas GOP Chairman Drops Out of Secretary of State's Race

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Republican Party's chairman has dropped out of the secretary of state's race. Kelly Arnold announced Thursday that he has ended his campaign for the GOP nomination so that he can "fully focus" on electing fellow Republicans to office this year. Arnold has been the party's state chairman since 2013 and has also served as Sedgwick County's elected clerk since 2009. Incumbent Secretary of State Kris Kobach is seeking the GOP nomination for governor. The other Republicans running to replace Kobach are Kansas House Speaker Pro Tem Scott Schwab of Olathe, House Elections Committee Chairman Keith Esau of Olathe and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Craig McCullah of Topeka. Democratic candidates include state Sen. Marci Francisco and former Google and Uber executive Brian McClendon. Both are from Lawrence.

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U.S. Sorghum Growers Fear China Tariffs Could Cost Them Dearly

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - American sorghum farmers fear they will lose their largest export market if China follows through with a tariff on their crop.  China imposed preliminary anti-dumping tariffs of 178.6 percent on U.S. sorghum this week as part of its ongoing trade dispute with the U.S.  President Donald Trump has threatened to raise tariffs on up to $150 billion of Chinese goods to counteract what he says are that country's unfair trade policies.  Sorghum farmers like Don Bloss in southeast Nebraska are caught in the crossfire. Bloss says the tariff news isn't enough for him to change what he plants this year, but farmers will have to adjust if the tariff is enacted.  Last year, Chinese buyers purchased more than 90 percent of the 245 million bushels of sorghum America exported.  (Read more.)
 
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Kansas City Area Sheriff Resigns, Calls Affair a "Personal Failing"

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The sheriff in Kansas City's Jackson County is resigning after recently released court documents described him having a sexual and financial relationship with a female employee who's suing the county.  Sheriff Mike Sharp described what happened in written statement Wednesday as a "personal failing." The Kansas City Star reports that Sharp acknowledged in court documents that he gave an administrative assistant $8,000 as a down payment for a house after she alleged in a lawsuit that other co-workers sexually harassed her. Court records also say Sharp took the woman on taxpayer-funded trips and approved so many raises for her that she became the highest-paid civilian sheriff's office employee.  A sheriff's office spokesman says Sharp has submitted his resignation and that it will be effective Thursday.

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Former Kansas Sheriff's Detective Guilty of Theft

LARNED, Kan. (AP) - A former Pawnee County Sheriff's detective has admitted to stealing from the department, where his own brother is sheriff.  The Hays Post reports 43-year-old Jeffrey Allen King of Larned pleaded guilty this week to three felonies for thefts that occurred between 2015 and 2017.  A total of $20,318 was stolen from the sheriff's department.  King is the brother of Pawnee County Sheriff Scott King.  Jeffrey King resigned from the department in February.  His sentencing is scheduled for May 25.

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Police: More Than 6 People at Home When Man Shot
 
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Wichita police say more than six people were in a home when a 40-year-old man was shot and killed.  Police say Emmitt Lee Olson died in the shooting Tuesday afternoon in the city's Planeview neighborhood.  Lt. Todd Ojile says a witness who called to report the shooting was gone when officers arrived.  The Wichita Eagle reports neighbors told police people came and went from the house at all times of the day and night. Ojile says officers previously have been to the house, were drugs are frequently used.  Ojile says investigators didn't know what prompted the shooting.

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Wichita Police Look for Suspects in Fatal Shooting

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Wichita police say they are investigating the shooting death of a 39-year-old man.  A neighbor who crawled through a window in a Wichita home Tuesday found Trenton Custer dead inside the house.  Police say Custer had been shot several times sometime during the weekend.  Witnesses told police there was some type of disturbance late Friday or early Saturday and gunshots were heard.  Police are looking for two or three people who lived at the home with Custer.

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4 Bodies Found in Remains of Missouri Home Destroyed by Fire

LAKE OZARK, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say four people have been found dead inside a house destroyed by fire in Missouri.  Lake Ozark Fire Protection District assistant chief Matt Birdsley said in a news release that firefighters rushed to the home just before 1 am Thursday. Birdsley says the first crews on the scene tried to search the property but that the fire was too fierce, forcing them to switch to a defensive operation from outside the home.  Birdsley says the names of the dead aren't yet available. The house is considered a total loss and the cause of the fire is under investigation.  Lake Ozark is about 120 miles southeast of Kansas City.

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Judge Set to Rule on Request to Dismiss Missouri Governor's Indictment

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A St. Louis judge is set to rule on a request from Missouri Governor Eric Greitens to dismiss a felony criminal indictment due to mistakes by the prosecutor and an investigator.  Circuit Judge Rex Burlison has said he will announce his ruling in a court session today (THUR).  Greitens was indicted in February on a charge of invasion of privacy. He's accused of taking a nonconsensual photo of a partially nude woman with whom he had an affair in 2015, before he was elected. Greitens has admitted to the affair but denied criminal wrongdoing.  Attorneys for Greitens contend that a private investigator hired by the prosecutor has repeatedly lied to the court. They also allege that Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner knew he lied, and that her office has withheld evidence from the defense.

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Kansas Heroin Dealer Linked to Mexican Cartel Sentenced

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 65-year-old man who was a major heroin dealer in the Kansas City area has been sentenced to 15 years in federal prison. The Kansas City Star reports Dennis McLallen, of Overland Park, Kansas, also was ordered to pay an $850,000 judgment, which was the estimated amount of money he made from drug sales. He admitted that he distributed more than 10 kilograms of heroin. Investigators say McLallen and his wife were among 18 people charged after an investigation by federal agents and Kansas City and St. Louis police. The 18 suspects included sources in Mexico who supplied drugs to McLallen. He pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to distribute heroin, conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to carry firearms during the commission of drug crime.

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Day Care Under Investigation over Unsafe Sleeping Claims

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials say they are investigating reports that babies were placed at risk while they slept at a day care. The Kansas Department for Children and Families said Thursday in a written statement that a report was made last month about a Leavenworth facility. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment says it's investigating and that the day care continues operating. The agencies commented after KSHB-TV talked to parents who were shown pictures of their babies lying face down with the sleeves of their sleepers tied behind them with ponytail holders. The babies appeared to be unable to move their arms. Deirdre Engle says she pulled her daughter from the facility, which she identified as Miss Anne's, after she was notified. The day care didn't immediately return a phone message.

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Topeka Man Acquitted in Shooting Death of Best Friend

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka man has been acquitted of first-degree murder in the shooting death of his best friend. A Shawnee County jury on Thursday found 19-year-old Ernest Williams not guilty in Justice Mitchell's death. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Mitchell died June 26 after being shot during an attempted robbery. Investigators say Mitchell and Williams met 17-year-old Shayden Byrd and Lamero Dunstan at a Topeka fast-food restaurant for a drug deal. Testimony indicated Dunstan pulled a gun and shot Mitchell twice. Williams also drew a gun but didn't fire it. Prosecutors contended Williams was guilty of murder because the death happened during a dangerous felony. Byrd was sentenced to five years in a juvenile facility after pleading guilty to first-degree murder. Dunstan faces trial in August on first-degree murder and attempted aggravated robbery charges.

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Monthly Rural Bankers Survey Drops Slightly in April 

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A monthly survey of bankers shows that concerns over a trade war have hurt confidence in the economy in rural parts of 10 Plains and Western states. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says weak farm income continues to weigh on the rural economy, but that the survey in recent months shows the economy is trending upward. The overall Rural Mainstreet index slipped slightly to 53.5 in April from 54.7 in March. Any score above 50 suggests a growing economy in the months ahead, while a score below 50 indicates a shrinking economy. Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.

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Kansas Teacher Moves After Receiving Threats for Being Gay

SENECA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas teacher says he abandoned his job and home state following months of harassment for being gay. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that former Nemaha Central High School teacher Michael Hill was the target of cyberbullying and received threats by mail after revealing his sexual orientation in October. In the letters, Hill was told that his lifestyle wouldn't be tolerated by the Seneca community. His car was also vandalized. Hill says the school district allowed him to take a leave of absence, but after seven weeks asked him to return to class or resign. Hill announced his resignation in a Facebook post with images of the letters he received. Nemaha Central Unified School District 115 Superintendent Darrel Kohlman declined to comment to the newspaper on the matter. Hill now lives in Palm Springs, California.

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Kansas School Resource Officer Charged with Fondling Teens

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Wyandotte County prosecutors say a Kansas City, Kansas school resource officer is charged with fondling at least three teenagers. District Attorney Mark Dupree said Thursday that 57-year-old Michael Eugene English Sr. was charged Thursday with three counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child. Dupree says a parent contacted police in March and three victims have come forward. The three alleged victims were between 14 and 16. English has been employed with the school district since 2015. He has been on administrative leave since March 22. Dupree said investigators are still trying to determine if the alleged crimes occurred on school property.

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Babies of Senators Now Welcome in U.S. Senate Chamber

WASHINGTON (AP) — Who doesn't like babies? No one in the U.S. Senate, apparently — at least not enough to block a historic rules change that passed Wednesday allowing the newborns of members into the chamber. Its passage without objection came despite plenty of concern, some privately aired, among senators of both parties about the threat the tiny humans pose to the Senate's cherished decorum. "I'm not going to object to anything like that, not in this day and age," said Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kan., father of three and grandfather of six. He then noted that a person can stand in the door of the cloakroom, a lounge just off the chamber, and vote. "I've done it," he said. Allowing babies on the Senate floor, he said, "I don't think is necessary." Senator Orrin Hatch, the father of six, grandfather of 14 and great-grandfather of 23, said he had "no problem" with such a rules change. "But what if there are 10 babies on the floor of the Senate?" he asked. The inspiration for the new rule is a small bundle named Maile Pearl, born April 9 to Illinois Democrat Tammy Duckworth —the only sitting senator in U.S. history to give birth. Duckworth tweeted Thursday that she may vote on the nomination of Rep. James Bridenstine to run NASA. "May have to vote today. Maile's outfit is prepped," she tweeted, with a photo of baby clothes. "Made sure she has a jacket so she doesn't violate the Senate floor dress code requiring blazers. Not sure what the policy is on duckling onesies but I think we're ready." A Duckworth aide confirmed the tweet is authentic and said the senator would only vote if her vote is needed to break a tie. It was fast progress less than a day after the Senate changed its rules to allow the babies of members on the floor during votes. In a statement, Duckworth thanked her colleagues for "helping bring the Senate into the 21st Century by recognizing that sometimes new parents also have responsibilities at work."

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Ex-Michigan State Player Accused of Rape Arrested in Kansas

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A former Michigan State football player facing a May trial for an alleged sexual assault has been arrested in Kansas. Auston Robertson was arrested Tuesday by Garden City, Kansas, police who are investigating marijuana crimes and other offenses. The disclosure was made Thursday by a prosecutor in Lansing, Michigan. In response, a judge revoked Robertson's bond in the assault case. He's charged with raping a woman at an apartment near Michigan State a year ago. Robertson, a defensive end, was kicked off the Michigan State team but played last fall at Garden City Community College in Kansas. He had 73 tackles. His Michigan lawyer, Brent Leder, declined to comment on the new arrest. Robertson remains in custody in Finney County, Kansas.

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Royals Swept by Bluejays in Toronto

TORONTO (AP) - The Toronto Blue Jays routed Kansas City 15-5 yesterday (WED) to complete a three-game sweep of the Royals in Toronto.   Kansas City has lost eight straight.  Teoscar Hernandez had four hits, including a two-run home run, Curtis Granderson hit his ninth career grand slam and the Toronto Blue Jays hammered the Royals.  Hernandez singled and scored in the first, homered in the third, flied out in the fourth, singled in the sixth and hit a two-run triple in the seventh. It was the first four-hit game of his career.

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