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Headlines for Thursday, December 20, 2018

Coalition Report: Fix Troubled Child Welfare System in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new report by a coalition of legislators and advocates says Kansas must fix its troubled child welfare system now or more vulnerable children will suffer. The Kansas City Star reported Thursday's document details problems ranging from racial disparities in children removed from their homes to children lingering in state custody too long. The group spent the past year hosting town halls. A recent review of the Kansas Department for Children and Families also exposed high caseloads, alarming turnover and lack of timely training. At the same time, a record number of children have been in foster care. Among the coalition's recommendations is to improve funding for food stamp benefits and other programs targeting needy families. It advocates for keeping more children in their homes and addressing the racial disparity.

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Kansas Woman Charged in Death of 19-Month-Old Son

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas woman has been charged in the death of her 19-month-old son.  The Leavenworth Times reports that 31-year-old Catherine Smith made her first appearance Wednesday on a second-degree murder charge and requested a court-appointed attorney.  Leavenworth Police Chief Pat Kitchens says police went to Smith's residence on November 29 in response to a report that a small child wasn't breathing. Her son, Maverick Smith, was taken to a hospital, but he later died.  Kitchens say police conducted an extensive investigation that focused on possible neglect. Smith surrendered to authorities Tuesday.  County Attorney Todd Thompson says Smith isn't accused of intentionally killing her son. The boy's death is alleged to have resulted from "extreme indifference to the value of human life." No other details were released.

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Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed Over Fatal Olathe Shooting 

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed over the deadly shooting of a mentally distressed woman after law enforcement ignored SWAT team members' advice and entered a suburban Kansas City home to apprehend her. The Kansas City Star reports that the lawsuit filed Wednesday in federal court alleges that 26-year-old Ciara Howard was killed during a "recklessly executed siege."

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Man Arrested on Suspicion of DUI After Driving into Building

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a man has been arrested on suspicion of drunken driving after he crashed through the glass front of a Topeka office building.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that police responded Wednesday night after the man drove into the Compliance One building while attempting to turn.  Police say the driver wasn't injured and officers administered a sobriety test at the scene. The man was then arrested.

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Man Ordered to Stand Trial in Girlfriend's Beating Death

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A judge has found sufficient evidence for a man to stand trial in the beating death of his girlfriend in Topeka.  Thirty-four-year-old Luke Anthony Wabaunsee was bound over for trial Wednesday on a charge of premeditated first-degree murder. He was arrested one day after 42-year-old Michelle Stadler was found dead in October in a north Topeka apartment.  WIBW-TV reports that a detective testified at the preliminary hearing that Wabaunsee's DNA was found on the handle of a bloody glass mug recovered from Stadler's apartment.  Her neighbor, Shawn Cunningham, testified that Wabaunsee wanted her to quit using meth. Another neighbor, Marcia Paden, said she heard a man's voice say he "wasn't going to take it anymore."  Wabaunsee is jailed on $1 million bond. His trial is scheduled to begin in April.

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Spirit AeroSystems Announces 1,400 New Jobs at Wichita Plant

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Spirit AeroSystems says it plans to hire an additional 1,400 people next year at its Wichita plant.  Its announcement was made at a Wednesday news conference by Spirit Chief Executive Officer Tom Gentile.  The new hiring will come on top of the 1,000 new jobs the aircraft parts maker said last year it planned to add as part of a $1 billion expansion at its Wichita facility.  Spirit AeroSystems' website says it has more than 15,000 employees worldwide, with about 12,000 of those employees located at the company's headquarters in Wichita.  Boeing sold its Wichita and Oklahoma operations in 2005 in a move that spun off the company now known as Spirit AeroSystems. It now builds aircraft parts for multiple commercial and defense customers.

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4th Kansas Lawmaker Leaves GOP, Switches to Democratic Party

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas state senator has switched to the Democratic Party to become the fourth moderate suburban Kansas City lawmaker to leave the Republican Party in a week.  State Senator Dinah Sykes, of Lenexa, said Wednesday that she could either fight to change the GOP or fight for her constituents. She won her seat in 2016.  Representative Stephanie Clayton, of Overland Park, also switched parties Wednesday. Clayton was first elected to the House in 2010 and said she could best support public schools by becoming a Democrat.  The GOP's majorities slip to 84-41 in the House and 28-11 in the Senate, with one independent in the upper chamber.  Last week, state Senator Barbara Bollier, of Mission Hills, and departing Representative Joy Koesten, of Leawood, also switched to the Democratic Party.

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22 Suffer Minor Injuries in Ness City School Bus Crash

DIGHTON, Kan. (AP) — Twenty students and two adults were injured when a school bus carrying a Ness City High School basketball team collided with a pickup truck.  The Kansas Highway Patrol says none of the injuries were life threatening.  The accident occurred Tuesday night on Kansas Highway 96 in western Kansas when the team was returning from a basketball game in Dighton. About 40 people were on the bus.  The patrol says the collision occurred when a pickup pulling a trailer tried to turn in front of the bus, which struck the truck on the driver's side.

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Wyandotte County Latest to Sue Opioid Makers, Distributors

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Wyandotte County has become the latest municipality to sue opioid makers and distributors, alleging that they "pushed highly addictive, dangerous" drugs.  The Kansas City Star reports that the county filed the lawsuit Tuesday in federal court against 14 industry giants and their affiliates. It accused them of getting rich by hooking people on pain meds while costing citizens large amounts of money in health care and law enforcement to deal with addiction, diversion and overdoses.  More than 1,000 similar suits have been filed by cities and counties across the country. They're being gathered in a federal court in Cleveland. A judge there has urged the parties involved to reach a master settlement similar to one forged between states and tobacco companies in 1998.  Trials are scheduled to start next year.

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Wrongful Conviction in Doppelganger Case Settled for $1.1 Million

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas will pay $1.1 million to a Missouri man who wrongfully spent nearly 17 years in prison for a robbery he says was committed by his doppelganger.  Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt announced Tuesday that a settlement had been reached with 42-year-old Richard Anthony Jones of Kansas City, Missouri.  Schmidt says Jones was the first to settle a payout under a new state law that provides compensation to people who are wrongly imprisoned. Jones also was granted a certificate of innocence.  Eyewitness testimony sent Jones to prison for an attack and robbery in the parking lot of a Walmart in Roeland Park, Kansas. No physical evidence linked Jones to the crime. He was freed after supporters found evidence that another man who looked just like him lived near the Walmart.

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Oklahoma Woman Charged with Leaving Grandson in Kansas

EUREKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have charged the grandmother of a 17-year-old Oklahoma boy with special needs who was left at a Kansas rest stop last month.  Janie Gill is charged in Greenwood County, Kansas, with child endangerment and interference with law enforcement.  She is also charged with child neglect in Rogers County, Oklahoma.  A custodian found the boy November 29 at a rest stop near Beaumont, Kansas. He had no identification and couldn't speak.  KAKE reports that Gill, who is 68, told deputies after her arrest that she left the boy at the rest stop because she knew someone would find him and give him the services he needs.  Court proceedings in Oklahoma will determine when Gill will be extradited to Kansas.  Kansas authorities say the boy remains in protective custody.

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Man Charged After Laser Pointed at Kansas Patrol Plane

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man is facing federal charges after allegedly pointed a laser beam at a Kansas Highway Patrol plane.  Prosecutors say 29-year-old Armando Rodriguez-Leyva was indicted Wednesday on one count of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft. If convicted, he faces up to five years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000.  Authorities say the highway patrol plane was flying over south Wichita on Saturday when a green-colored laser flashed on the airplane several times and illuminated the cockpit.  U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said in a news release that lasers that light up a cockpit are disorienting and can temporarily blind pilots.  The patrol pilot tracked the light to a Wichita home. Officers arrested Rodriguez-Leyva as he was sitting in a car behind the house.

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Woman Sentenced in Wichita Man's Shooting Death

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A woman who killed a 67-year-old Wichita man who was discovered dead on his birthday has been sentenced to 20.5 years in prison.  Friends who went to John Gaffney's home on July 7 to take him to a birthday dinner found him dead.  The Wichita Eagle reports 54-year-old Sherry Wedel of Wichita was arrested six weeks after Gaffney was killed. She pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in November.  She was sentenced earlier this week.  Court records say Wedel shot Gaffney with a handgun sometime between July 6 and July 7.

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Kansas Woman Charged in Death of 19-Month-Old Son

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas woman has been charged in the death of her 19-month-old son.  The Leavenworth Times reports that 31-year-old Catherine Smith made her first appearance Wednesday on a second-degree murder charge and requested a court-appointed attorney.  Leavenworth Police Chief Pat Kitchens says police went to Smith's residence on November 29 in response to a report that a small child wasn't breathing. Her son, Maverick Smith, was taken to a hospital, but he later died.  Kitchens say police conducted an extensive investigation that focused on possible neglect. Smith surrendered to authorities Tuesday.  County Attorney Todd Thompson says Smith isn't accused of intentionally killing her son. The boy's death is alleged to have resulted from "extreme indifference to the value of human life." No other details were released.

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AP Investigation: Migrant Kids Held in Mass Shelters

Decades after the U.S. stopped institutionalizing kids because large and crowded orphanages were causing lasting trauma, it is happening again. Confidential data obtained by The Associated Press shows the federal government has placed most of the 14,300 migrant toddlers, children and teens in its care in detention shelters and residential facilities packed with hundreds, or thousands, of children.  As the year draws to a close, some 5,400 detained migrant children in the U.S. are sleeping in shelters with more than 1,000 other children. Some 9,800 are in facilities with 100-plus total kids.  That's a huge shift from just three months after President Donald Trump took office, when the same federal program had 2,720 migrant youth in its care and most were in shelters with a few dozen kids.

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Missouri Begins Move Toward Medical Marijuana

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Missouri has begun the move toward medical marijuana, naming an outgoing lawmaker to a leadership role and announcing the start of the process for those who want to grow, make or sell marijuana products.  The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said Wednesday it will begin accepting application fees for cultivation, infused product manufacturing and dispensaries on January 5. Forms are available on the health department website. Application fees are non-refundable.  Republican Representative Lyndall Fraker of Marshfield will serve as director of medical marijuana and Amy Moore will be deputy director and counsel.  Voters in November approved a constitutional amendment allowing medical marijuana. The measure requires the health department to begin accepting patient applications by early June.

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Alabama Asks Supreme Court to Review Abortion Ruling 

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the state's attempt to ban the most commonly used procedure in second-trimester abortions. State lawmakers voted in 2016 to ban the abortion procedure known as dilation and evacuation. A federal judge blocked the law as an unconstitutional restriction on abortion access. Attorney General Steve Marshall's office asked the high court Thursday to review an August ruling by the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in upholding that decision. Courts have blocked similar laws in Kansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas. Court records show 93 percent of abortions in Alabama occur before 15 weeks of pregnancy. For the 7 percent of abortions that occur later, 99 percent are by dilation and evacuation  A statement from Marshall's office calls the procedure "dismemberment abortion."

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Police Recover Woman's Stolen Tiny Home Near St. Louis

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Police say they've tracked down a tiny home that was stolen in St. Louis.  Jefferson County Sheriff Dave Marshak said detectives found the home Wednesday morning about 30 miles from St. Louis in the unincorporated community of House Springs. An anonymous tip led police to the 12-foot-tall house.  It's a dream come true for owner Meghan Panu. Marshak says a towing company will take the house to her free of charge.  The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports Panu spent two years and nearly $20,000 renovating the home and hoped to move in this spring. She discovered it missing Saturday. It has been on a trailer that was parked at a spot near Refab, a home remodeling supplies business.  Marshak said police continue to investigate.

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Rural Bankers Survey Climbs Back to Growth Level

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A monthly survey of rural bankers in parts of 10 Plains and Western states suggests the regional economy is growing. The overall index of the Creighton University Rural Mainstreet survey for December climbed back above growth neutral to hit 54.2, compared with 49.9 in November . Any score above 50 suggests a growing economy in the months ahead, while a score below 50 indicates a shrinking economy. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says the surveys over the past several months indicate the regional economy is expanding outside of agriculture. The survey's confidence index slumped to 44.3 from November's 47.0, and Goss says tariffs, trade tensions and weak agriculture commodity prices harmed the economic outlook of bank CEOs. Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.

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Fewer Athletes from Kansas Competing at Junior College Level

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Fewer Kansas high school athletes are going on to compete at the state's junior colleges since out-of-state roster restrictions were eliminated. The number of Kansas football players in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference has declined by 80 percent, from 318 in 2016 to 64 this season, The Wichita Eagle reports . Kansas participation in the last two years has declined by 53 percent in men's basketball and 28 percent in women's basketball. The conference is made up of 21 members schools from across the state.

"I hate to say that I saw this coming," Wichita Northwest coach Steve Martin said. "That's why I fought this so hard because I wanted to protect our kids." In theory, the rule changes — abolishing the out-of-state limits, upping the roster limit from 63 to 85, being able to offer a full-ride scholarship instead of a books-and-tuition scholarship — could have benefited Kansas athletes. The roster sizes of Jayhawk Conference teams have increased by 21 percent in the two years since the rule changes. And the football teams in the conference are deeper and more talented than ever before. It was assumed that Kansas community colleges would stop taking the lower-level players that they had to take in years past just to fill a roster. But Valley Center athletic director Caleb Smith said that not "even the best players, the all-state, MVP-type of kids can get the time of day from them." Wichita Northwest has a combined 22-3 record and has played in the Class 6A semifinals and Class 5A championship game the last two seasons. Martin said only one Kansas community college has come to Northwest and that was to recruit one player. He counts at least half a dozen seniors on his roster this year alone who have the talent to play at the next level and could benefit from playing at a community college. But with that option no longer available, some players face a stark reality if their family can't afford to support them at an MIAA or NAIA school.

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Willie Murrell, Former K-State Basketball Star, Dead at 78

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Willie Murrell, the former Kansas State basketball star who is one of two Wildcats with career averages of more than 20 points and 10 rebounds, has died. He was 78. Murrell died Dec. 6 in Colorado. The 6-foot-6 forward averaged 20.6 points and 10.7 rebounds in 54 games in two seasons with the Wildcats, joining Bob Boozer as the only Wildcats to post 20-10 career marks. Murrell played for Kansas State from 1962-64 after transferring from Eastern Oklahoma A&M. He helped the Tex Winter-coached Wildcats to a 38-16 overall record, including two Big Eight Conference titles and a Final Four appearance in 1964. His No. 44 jersey was retired and raised to the rafters at Bramlage Coliseum in 2009. Murrell went on to play three seasons in the American Basketball Association, averaging 13.1 points and 5.1 rebounds with Denver, Miami and Kentucky.

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Affidavit: Kansas Football Player Punched Woman in Stomach 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — An affidavit alleges University of Kansas football player Pooka Williams punched a woman in the stomach and grabbed her by the throat earlier this month. The Lawrence Journal-World reported the 18-year-old woman showed the officer text messages from Williams admitting to punching her in the arms during the Dec. 5 incident. The document says the officer also found the victim had bruises on her arms and side. Williams reportedly told police that he pushed the woman when he saw her in a room with other men at an apartment building. Both have said they were in an intimate relationship. His attorney entered a not guilty on his behalf to a misdemeanor charge of domestic battery during a Dec. 7 court hearing. Coach Les Miles says Williams is suspended pending investigation.

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