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Headlines for Thursday, December 27, 2018

I-70 Reopened in Western Kansas as Weather Conditions Improve

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — Officials have reopened a stretch of Interstate 70 in western Kansas. The Kansas Department of Transportation says the major east-west route from Goodland to WaKeeney is now open in both directions. The agency closed the route because of poor visibility and wrecks as a winter storm hits. Portions of the highway are still partially or completely covered in snow. The National Weather Service has issued a combination of blizzard warnings, winter storm warnings and winter weather advisories in about three dozen counties. Forecasts are calling for ice and up to 2 to 12 inches (about 5 to 30 centimeters) of snow. Wind gusts of up to 50 mph also are possible, creating whiteout conditions. Governor Jeff Colyer declared a state of disaster Wednesday in anticipation of the storm.

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Blizzard Leads to Wrecks, Power Outages in Western Kansas

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — A blizzard blanketed western Kansas with snow Thursday, causing whiteout conditions that led to numerous wrecks and highway closures, and knocked out power for thousands of homes. The storm, which began late Wednesday, put about three dozen counties under blizzard warnings or winter storm warnings and advisories. The National Weather Service forecast accumulations of up to 12 inches of snow in some areas and drift-creating gusts of up to 50 mph. By noon Thursday, the snowfall was beginning to slow. The storm also dumped rain across central and eastern parts of the state, said meteorologist Jason Neilson. The Kansas Highway Patrol responded to 15 accidents over a 12-hour span, although only two of them resulted in injuries, Lt. Stephen Larow said. One victim of a wreck in Logan County was flown to a hospital for treatment. The numbers don't include accidents responded to by police and sheriff's departments. The Kansas Department of Transportation closed Interstate 70 on Thursday from Goodland to WaKeeney, citing poor visibility. Several other highways were either closed or snow covered in the western part of the state. In anticipation of the storm, Governor Jeff Colyer on Wednesday declared a state of disaster that authorizes the use of state resources and workers to help affected areas. Kansas Division of Emergency Management Deputy Director Angee Morgan urged Kansans to change or delay travel plans in affected areas until after the storm. She said those who do travel should be cautious and stock a car emergency kit. The storm left some people in the dark. Wheatland Electric Cooperative was working to restore power to about 2,000 customers in Finney, Gray, Hamilton, Harper, Kearny and Scott counties.

Governor Declares State of Disaster Ahead of Kansas Winter Storm

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Governor Jeff Colyer has declared a state of disaster in anticipation of a winter storm that's expected to hit western Kansas.  Colyer's Wednesday declaration authorizes the use of state resources and workers to help affected areas.  The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning from Wednesday night to Thursday afternoon for parts of northwestern Kansas.  The agency is predicting 3-8 inches of snow in some areas.  Kansas Division of Emergency Management Deputy Director Angee Morgan is urging Kansans to change or delay travel in affected areas until after the storm. She says those who do travel should be cautious and stock a car emergency kit.  The division and the National Guard are preparing to help stranded motorists if needed.

Winter Storm to Dump Up to 1 Foot of Snow in Parts of Kansas

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — A winter storm is closing roads and knocking out power across parts of central and western Kansas.  The National Weather Service has issued a combination of blizzard warnings, winter storm warnings and winter weather advisories in about three dozen counties. Forecasts are calling for ice and up to 2 to 12 inches of snow. Wind gusts of up to 50 mph also are possible, creating whiteout conditions.  The Kansas Department of Transportation says Interstate 70 is completely snow covered west of Hays. And several highways are closed, including stretches of U.S. 50, in the southwest corner of the state.  About 2,500 Wheatland Electric Cooperative customers are without power in Finney, Gray, Hamilton, Harper, Kearny and Scott counties.

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Kansas Shopping Mall Shuts Down After Gunfire Erupts Outside

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — A suburban Kansas City shopping mall filled with after-Christmas bargain hunters had to shut as police investigated a report of gunfire in the parking lot.  The Kansas City Star reports that shoppers poured out of Oak Park Mall on Wednesday night upon hearing the shots, but some were forced to stay inside as police put stores on lockdown. Police in Overland Park, Kansas, found several shell casings outside but no blood.  Police say an unoccupied vehicle in the parking lot was struck by gunfire. Police are seeking a suspect and any possible victims. The gunfire comes two months after a scuffle led to shots being fired outside the mall's food court entrance. One man is charged with attempted first-degree murder.  The mall tweeted that it's resuming regular hours Thursday.

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State Takes over Nursing Home in Central Kansas

PEABODY, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials are taking over a nursing home where inspectors found missing narcotics and more than $240,000 in bills that were more than four months overdue.  The Wichita Eagle reports that anonymous complaints prompted the state to send inspectors to Westview Manor of Peabody, a 45-bed facility in Marion County. The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services wrote in court papers filed this month that one staff member reported paychecks bouncing twice.  The court filings say several toilets couldn't' be fixed because there wasn't enough money.  Inspectors also reported that 119 hydrocodone tablets prescribed to one resident were missing and that there wasn't evidence that unused narcotics prescribed to three other residents were disposed of properly.  An attorney for the home's owners didn't immediately return messages from The Eagle.

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Departing Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer Open to Future Run for Office

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Departing Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer isn't ruling out a future run for public office but says he will be looking at opportunities in both business and government service.  The Republican governor was not specific about his plans during a recent Associated Press interview, except to say he and wife Ruth will take "a little vacation" after leaving office January 14 to Disney World.  He said: "I'll never to say no to public service where I can make a real difference."  Colyer was elevated from lieutenant governor to governor in January when then-GOP Gov. Sam Brownback resigned to take an ambassador's post. Colyer narrowly lost the August primary to Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who was defeated in November by Democratic state Senator Laura Kelly.

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Foes of Expanding Medicaid to Lead Kansas Health Committees

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Health committees in the Kansas Legislature will be led by two conservative Republican lawmakers from Wichita who oppose expanding the state's Medicaid program.  GOP leaders' appointments of Representative Brenda Landwehr and Senator Gene Suellentrop will complicate Democratic Governor-elect Laura Kelly's efforts to expand state health coverage in line with the 2010 federal Affordable Care Act.  Landwehr will be chairwoman of the House Health and Human Services Committee, a post she's held before during a 20-year legislative career. Suellentrop will be chairman of the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee. Both take over January 14.  Suellentrop replaces departing Senator Vicki Schmidt of Topeka. She supported expanding Medicaid but was elected insurance commissioner.  Landwehr will replace fellow Wichita Republican and Medicaid expansion opponent Representative Dan Hawkins. He will become House majority leader.

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Authorities Release Names of Teens Killed in Crash, Victims Include Brother of Kansas State RBs

BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. (AP) — Authorities have released the names of the three teens killed in a weekend crash in suburban Kansas City.  Blue Springs police identified the teens Wednesday as 15-year-old Nicholas Fordham, 16-year-old Darrian Warmack and 16-year-old Kaylen Wright. Warmack was a star athlete and the younger brother of Kansas State University running backs, Dalvin and Michael Warmack.  The crash happened Saturday when the vehicle in which the teens were riding crested a hill, clipped another car and landed in a ravine. One person was injured in the other vehicle.  Dalvin Warmack, who was a senior for the Wildcats last season, expressed thanks on Instagram for the outpouring of support his family had received. He described his younger brother as "special" and already "years beyond" him.

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2 Slain Deputies' Families Hire Lawyers to Help Prosecutors

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The families of two Kansas sheriff's deputies who were overpowered by an inmate and killed have hired legal counsel to help prosecutors.  The Kansas City Star reports that husband-and-wife law partners, Tom and Tricia Bath, were retained to assist the Wyandotte County District Attorney's Office in the prosecution of 30-year-old Antoine Fielder. He is charged with capital murder in the deaths of Theresa King and Patrick Rohrer last June. In Kansas, the intentional, premeditated killing of a single law enforcement officer is eligible for the death penalty.  Attorneys for Fielder have indicated they will oppose the Baths' participation in the case. Though rarely done, Kansas law allows for crime victims to pay private attorneys to assist county prosecutors, who are required to recognize them as associate counsel.

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Man's Body Found in Kansas River; Death Deemed Suspicious

WAMEGO, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are investigating the death of a man whose body was found in the Kansas River as suspicious. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that dispatchers received a report around 10:15 a.m. Monday that the body was in the river west of Wamego. Pottawatomie County Sheriff Greg Riat said in a news release that multiple agencies responded. A boat was launched and the body was recovered near the north bank of the river. The man's name wasn't immediately release, and his cause of death hasn't yet been determined.

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Carnival Workers Extradited to Face Charges in Kansas Deaths

VAN BUREN, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas judge has dismissed local charges against four carnival workers suspected in the deaths of a retired couple in Kansas. Investigators say one suspect texted the others posing as a carnival mafia boss and ordered them to kill the couple. The suspects were originally charged in Arkansas with abuse of a corpse and other crimes after the couple's bodies were found in Arkansas. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that prosecutors asked that the Arkansas charges be dropped because the suspects have been extradited to Kansas. A Crawford County judge granted the motion last week. The suspects are 52-year-old Kimberly Younger and 54-year-old Michael Fowler Jr., both of Florida; and 35-year-old Rusty Frasier and 38-year-old Christine Tenney of Texas. All but Tenney are charged with capital murder in Kansas for the July deaths of 78-year-old Alfred Carpenter and 79-year-old Pauline Carpenter.

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Man Charged 12 Years Ago with Child Rape in Kansas Arrested

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A man charged more than a decade ago with child rape in Kansas has been arrested. The Kansas City Star reports that 48-year-old Javier Vera-Santos made his first court appearance Wednesday in Johnson County. He was arrested in California this month and returned to Kansas. He was charged with one count of child rape in July 2006 in Johnson County. A warrant was issued for his arrest, but county authorities say they had information that Vera-Santos, who was born in Mexico City, left the country. Charges allege Vera-Santos raped a child younger than 14 from July 2003 to January 2006. An Associated Press message seeking comment from his public defender was not immediately returned Thursday. Vera-Santos's bond is set at $100,000. He's due in court Jan. 3.

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Mobile Food Truck Aimed at Ending Urban Food Deserts

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A group in Kansas City, Kansas, is getting community members involved in the planning for a mobile food truck designed to bring healthy and affordable food to neighborhoods lacking good grocery stores.  The Dotte Mobile Grocer's Mobile Market Community Council figures getting locals involved in the details means everything to the success of its grocery-store-in-a-food-truck idea.  Kansas News Service reports that across the state, the closing of grocery stores has hollowed out communities and left residents stuck with impractical options for getting the fresh produce, meat and other staples they need to eat well.  Often residents get stuck with overpriced, less healthy offerings from bodegas and convenience stores.  The Dotte Mobile Grocer did a soft launch in November and aims for a full launch in January.

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New Year's Day Hikes Planned in 19 of 26 Kansas State Parks

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Nineteen of the 26 Kansas state parks are offering guided New Year's Day hikes as part of a nationwide initiative.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that most of the First Day Hike events will traverse a 1-mile or 2-mile, family-friendly path with park staff leading the way. Many will be along the shores of large lakes, rugged woodlands or broad native prairies. The hikes are free, but participants will need a vehicle permit.  Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism state park director Linda Lanterman said in a news release that it's "an amazing way to get things stared for a New Year." She says many participants return to do more hiking throughout the year.  The First Day Hikes initiative began 25 years ago in Massachusetts.

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GOP Leader in Kansas House Names Political Veterans to Staff

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A top Republican in the Kansas House has appointed two veterans of state government and conservative politics to key staff positions.  Incoming House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins said B.J. Harden and Moriah Day will serve as his chief of staff and communications director. Hawkins is a Wichita Republican who will take over as majority leader January 14.  Harden is a deputy transportation secretary who also worked in the state treasurer's and secretary of state's offices. He also held several positions with former Kansas House Speaker Ray Merrick, who led the chamber from 2013 through 2016.  Day is an associate for the GOP consulting firm Singularis Group and the chairman of the Kansas Rifle Association's political action committee. He also worked previously in the secretary of state's office.

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Internet Provider Aims to Expand Rural Broadband in Midwest

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — An Illinois-based internet provider is planning to spur broadband development in rural areas across five states in the central U.S.  Wisper ISP Inc. is set to receive money from the Federal Communication Commission for broadband development in Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana and Kansas. The company's largest project is in Missouri, where it's getting more than $176 million from the FCC's Connect America Fund for broadband development in 65 counties, the Columbia Missourian reported.  Wisper CEO Nathan Stooke says the business will begin to receive the funding in the next four to six months.  "What excites me the most is that this has been our strategic plan, to grow across Missouri and southern Illinois," Stooke said. "Now that we've won CAF, we have the cash to build the network we have always wanted to. It's something we've been dreaming about for 15 years."  Wisper must build out 40 percent of its assigned areas within three years of financial eligibility, the FCC said in a news release. The company then must increase its development by 20 percent each subsequent year until the project is complete. The deadline is the end of the sixth year.  Malinda Heuring, marketing director at Wisper, said the company will need help locating areas to install the technology and "in getting the word out to potential customers that we have completed the build out."

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PAC Backing Missouri Governor Mike Parson Gets $1 Million from Mega-Donor

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri mega-donor has given $1 million to a political action committee that supports Republican Governor Mike Parson running to keep his seat.  Prolific political donor Rex Sinquefield donated $850,000 to Uniting Missouri PAC this past week and another $150,000 to the PAC earlier this month.  Parson has not yet said whether he'll run for governor in 2020. But Uniting Missouri PAC Chairman John Hancock says the group hopes he will.  Parson assumed the governorship in June after former Gov. Eric Greitens resigned amid personal and political scandal. Parson had been lieutenant governor.  Direct donations to state candidates in Missouri are capped at $2,600. But donors can still give unlimited amounts to PACs.  Hancock says the group is grateful for Sinquefield's donation.

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