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Headlines for Thursday, February 20, 2020


Man Pleads Guilty in Connection to Topeka Triple Homicide

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW-TV) — The fifth of five defendants charged with killing three people in Topeka has pleaded guilty to two charges related to the case. Twenty-two-year-old Shane Andrew Mays entered his guilty plea today (THUR) to attempted second-degree murder and aggravated battery. WIBW TV reports prosecutors said the three victims were killed in March 2017 after an unproven rape allegation against 19-year-old Matthew Leavitt. Prosecutors say Mays was given a chance to survive if he helped to kill Leavitt, his best friend. He put a bag over Leavitt's head and held him down until another man killed Leavitt. Mays walked to the police station and reported the deaths.  


Lawrence Developer Sentenced for Violating Asbestos Disposal Laws

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) – Lawrence developer Thomas Fritzel has been sentenced to three months behind bars for violating the Clean Air Act when he improperly disposed of asbestos.  During his sentencing today (THUR), the 54-year-old was also ordered to pay a $55,000 fine.  Fritzel was convicted on several counts, including: failure to notify authorities before removing asbestos, failure to keep asbestos wet during demolition (to prevent air contamination) and failure to dispose of asbestos in leak-proof containers.  During his trial, the government presented evidence that Fritzel violated federal laws for handling asbestos during demolition and renovations at the Alvamar Country Club in Lawrence.

Prosecutors argued that Fritzel knew that the roof of the country club contained 75 percent chrysotile asbestos. The previous owners, who sold the club to Fritzel in 2016, had decided not to replace the roof because of the cost of abating the asbestos.  On October 19, 2016, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment told Fritzel to get a licensed asbestos contractor to remove asbestos from the site and dispose of it properly.  Later that month, KDHE inspectors visited the site and determined asbestos debris had been removed and hauled to Hamm Landfill in Perry, which is not approved for asbestos disposal.


Audit Shows IT Security Problems Across Kansas Agencies

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Legislature’s auditing division says state agencies have significant information technology security weaknesses and haven't made progress since previous reports showed the same problems. The Topeka Capital Journal reports that more than half of 19 state agencies studied failed to comply with IT security practices that protect sensitive information against data loss or theft.  Most agencies failed to scan and patch computers to keep them secure. They didn’t have adequate response plans in place and didn’t encrypt, back up or destroy electronic data. The report blamed a lack of management attention and inadequate resources for the failures.


As Climate Changes, Activists Struggle to Attract Attention in Kansas Legislature

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Environmentalists are struggling to get Kansas lawmakers to even discuss climate change as a serious issue. They're pushing the issue in a state where energy production remains an important industry and some top Republicans question the widespread scientific consensus that human activity is warming the planet. States like Virginia, Minnesota and California are setting goals for eventually getting all of their electricity from renewable resources, but Kansas proposals on energy efficiency and encouraging farmers to capture and store carbon dioxide have languished. And House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins said lawmakers have other priorities, adding, “The planet goes in cycles, and it's a natural cycle."


State of Kansas Sues Victims, Others for Damages After Fatal Crash

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The state of Kansas is suing the victims and other parties involved in a fatal crash on Interstate 435 two years ago. In February 2018, a truck hit a van on the interstate in Leawood, killing two sisters and injuring three family members. On Tuesday, the state sued the parents of the children, the truck driver and the owners of the truck and a trailer involved in the crash. The state is seeking to recover $116,832 to repair a highway barrier damaged during the crash. The Kansas City Star reports that it's not unusual for governments to file claims for damages and costs after traffic crashes.


Kansas Teen Gets Probation in Failed $8 Xanax Deal Killing

OLATHE, Kan. (The Kansas City Star) — A suburban Kansas City teenager has been sentenced to nine months of probation for her part in a failed $8 Xanax deal that ended in a deadly shooting. The Kansas City Star reports that Jordan Denny, of Olathe, Kansas, was sentenced Thursday for drug charges. She originally was charged with felony murder in the March 2019 death of 17-year-old Rowan Padgett. The affidavit says Matthew Lee Bibee Jr., who is awaiting trial on a capital murder charge, arranged to buy the anxiety medication through Denny. She told authorities her supplier fell through and that she asked Padgett to leave with Bibee. That's when the shooting happened. 


Woman Pleads Not Guilty in Deaths of Kansas Carnival Workers

GREAT BEND, Kan. (KWCH-TV) — A woman suspected in the killings of a Kansas couple who were working as carnival vendors pleaded not guilty to several charges. Kimberly Younger, of McIntosh, Florida, entered the plea Wednesday in the death of Alfred and Pauline Carpenter, who were working as vendors at the Barton County Fair in July 2018 when they were killed, driven to Arkansas and buried. She is charged with six counts, including capital murder. KWCH reports that during Wednesday's arraignment, prosecutors said they would not pursue the death penalty against Younger. Authorities say the Carpenters were killed after one suspect posed as a carnival mafia boss and ordered the killings.


Man Accused of Trying to Pass Fake $100 at Sheriff's Office

ABILENE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a convicted felon was arrested after he tried to use a fake $100 bill to add money to a jailed inmate's account. The Dickinson County Sheriff's Office said an employee immediately recognized the bill as a counterfeit Wednesday and notified investigators. Forty-three-year-old Karl Landon Jr. is jailed on suspicion of possession of counterfeited currency with the intent to defraud. Kansas Department of Corrections records show that he has previous convictions, including for assault, battery and drugs. 


Baltimore Sun, Wichita Eagle Share Major Political Reporting Award

The Baltimore Sun and The Wichita Eagle have been awarded prestigious journalism awards for respective coverage of municipal corruption involving the mayors of their respective cities. The recipients of Long Island University's George Polk Award for political reporting were announced Wednesday. Luke Broadwater and the Baltimore Sun were recognized for their coverage of former Mayor Catherine Pugh that led to her resignation from office and federal charges filed against her. The Sun shared the award with Chance Swaim, Jonathan Shorman and Dion Lefler of The Wichita Eagle, whose reporting exposed that former Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell steered a $524 million city contract toward supporters and friends. 


Plaintiffs' Attorneys Take Aim at Boy Scouts' "Dark History"

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Boy Scouts of America face an uncertain future after filing for bankruptcy to deal with a mountain of sexual-abuse lawsuits. Some former Scouts are worried about the damage to the Boy Scouts' wholesome reputation. The organization hopes to set up a victims' compensation fund for potentially thousands of men who were molested as youngsters by Scout leaders. But battles lie ahead over such things as access to internal Scout files, the deadline for filing claims and whether local Scout councils can be forced to sell campgrounds or other assets.  The implications for scouting operations in Kansas remain uncertain at this time.


Retired Catholic Priest Charged in Missouri with Sexual Abuse

UNDATED (AP) — A retired Catholic priest has been charged in Missouri with multiple counts of child sexual abuse stemming from a statewide investigation of Catholic priest abuse. Seventy-six-year-old Frederick Lutz was charged this week with forcible sodomy, sexual abuse and two counts of statutory sodomy. His bond was set at $125,000 cash only. No attorney is listed for him in online court records. He was among 12 former priests that Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt referred for criminal prosecution following a 13-month investigation of religious leaders within the Archdiocese of St. Louis and the dioceses of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Springfield-Cape Girardeau and Jefferson City.


Former Fredonia City Administrator Sentenced to 7.5 Years for Child Pornography
WICHITA, Kan. (KPR) – A former city administrator of Fredonia has been sentenced to 90 months in federal prison for child pornography.  The U.S. Attorney for Kansas, Stephen McAllister, says 40-year-old Michael P. Ohrt, of Fredonia, pleaded guilty to one count of transporting child pornography.  In his plea, he admitted using his Yahoo email account to establish a Dropbox storage account and then uploading videos of child pornography. Dropbox identified the material as child pornography and reported the user’s information to authorities. Investigators traced the IP address to Ohrt’s work and home in Fredonia.  


Big Rig Hits Street Sweeper in Wichita, Tossing Worker into Canal

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a tractor-trailer hit a street sweeper along Interstate 135 in Wichita, throwing a crew member into a canal. The Wichita Fire Department said in a Facebook post that the worker was taken to a hospital in serious condition after Wednesday night's accident. The name of the worker wasn't immediately released.


Suit: Woman Called Black Co-workers 'Boy,' 'Aunt Jemima'

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (The Kansas City Star) — An African American medical technician at a Kansas City hospital alleges in a lawsuit that a white employee called him “boy" and referred to a black co-worker as “Aunt Jemima." The Kansas City Star reports that Trevor Baston accuses St. Luke’s Physician Group and St. Luke’s Health System of race, color and sex discrimination, harassment and retaliation in a lawsuit that was moved last week from state to federal court. St. Luke's Health System said in a statement that it couldn't comment on pending litigation but stressed that it was committed to a “culture of diversity, inclusion, and respect for all."


Man Charged with First-Degree Murder in Topeka Hit-and-Run

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Shawnee County authorities have charged a 51-year-old man with first-degree murder in a hit-and-run near a Topeka trail. Chad Thomas Cuevas was charged Thursday and is being held on $1 million bond. Police say 41-year-old Emerson Downing was run over near the Soldier Trail on Monday. Witnesses reported hearing an argument and then seeing someone run over a man and flee. Downing was found in a field near the trail and died a short time later. Authorities have not said what the men were arguing about. 


Woman's Body Found in Duffel Bag Along Northwest Missouri Highway

FAUCETT, Mo. (AP) — Buchanan County authorities are investigating after the body of a woman was found in a duffel bag along a county road. Sheriff Bill Puett says a state transportation worker saw a bag in a ditch Tuesday and called authorities after approaching it. The body was found just west of Faucett near Missouri 371. The woman is believed to be between 40 and 55. An autopsy is planned to determine her cause of death.  


Wichita Man Killed While Changing Flat Tire Near Ottawa

OTTAWA, Kan. (AP)  — A 73-year-old Wichita man who was changing a flat tire died when he was hit by a semi-trailer truck on a Kansas interstate. The Kansas Highway Patrol reports the truck drove away from the crash early Tuesday on Interstate 35 in Franklin County. The driver was later stopped by law enforcement officers near Gardner, about 15 miles from the crash scene near Ottawa. Troopers said the truck driver drove over the edge line in the right lane and struck and killed Sidney Leroy Huff. A 23-year-old passenger in the car was not injured.


Case for Kansas Priest's Sainthood Could Soon Advance
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An effort to have a Kansas priest who died in a North Korean prison camp reach sainthood could take an important step forward next month. The Wichita Eagle reports that a panel of archbishops and cardinals will meet March 10 to vote on whether Emil Kapaun is worthy of the title of "Venerable," which is the second step in the process toward sainthood in the Catholic Church. Pope Francis will make the final determination. Kapaun was named a "Servant of God," the first step towards canonization, by the church in 1993. If the Venerable title is bestowed, the church would begin the process of investigating alleged miracles attributed to Kapaun.


Man Accused of Selling Fake Tide Sentenced to Probation

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man accused of selling fake Tide laundry detergent has been fined $1,000 and sentenced to a year of probation. The Kansas attorney general's office say 44-year-old Brian Glenn, of Baldwin City, was sentenced after pleading guilty last week to one misdemeanor county of counterfeiting. The state previously dismissed a felony counterfeiting charge just before the case was set to go to trial, citing the need for further testing of the laundry soap. In 2016, law enforcement agents and Procter & Gamble representatives raided Glenn's home.


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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