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Headlines for Thursday, February 22, 2018

Area news headlines from the Associated Press

Wichita Woman Competent to Stand Trial for Murdering Another Woman and Taking Her Newborn Baby

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A judge has ruled that a 35-year-old woman is competent to stand trial in the death of a Wichita woman and the kidnapping of the woman's newborn child.  Thirty-five-year-old Yesenia Sesmas is scheduled for trial March 26 on charges of first-degree murder, kidnapping, aggravated interference with parental custody and other counts.  Prosecutors allege she fatally shot 27-year-old Laura Abarca of Wichita in November 2017 and abducted the woman's 6-day-old daughter.  The suspect and the baby were found two days after the abduction in Texas. The child was returned to relatives in Wichita.  The Texas woman allegedly drove from Dallas to Wichita to meet Laura Abarca, who she met years ago while working at a Wichita restaurant.

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Kansas Lawmakers Cancel Debate on NRA-Backed Gun Safety Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas legislative leaders have canceled a debate on a gun-safety education bill.  The proposal would have given preference to a National Rifle Association gun safety program used in elementary schools.  Top Kansas House Republicans say they called off today's (THUR) debate because they want to work on a comprehensive plan for preventing gun violence at schools.  But they were facing backlash from Democrats and GOP moderates. Republican Representative Stephanie Clayton said it was too soon after a Valentine's Day shooting at a Florida high school that left 17 people dead.  The bill would allow schools to offer gun-safety courses starting in kindergarten but mandate that the curriculum be based on the NRA's Eddie Eagle GunSafe program through the fifth grade.  Supporters said the bill would encourage schools to teach gun safety and the NRA has a good program.

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Pawn Shop Sued over 2016 Kansas Business Shooting

HESSTON, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas pawn shop is being sued over the sale of firearms used in a 2016 mass shooting at a lawn equipment factory.  The Wichita Eagle reports that the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence filed the lawsuit Wednesday in Harvey County. As a convicted felon, gunman Cedric Ford was barred from possessing the AK-47-type semi-automatic rifle and .40-caliber handgun used in the shooting at the Excel Industries factory in Hesston. Ford was killed after fatally shooting three people and wounding 14 others.  He got the weapons through his ex-girlfriend, who has pleaded guilty to federal charges. The lawsuit alleges that the Newton store, called A Pawn Shop, should have known she was a straw purchaser. The pawn shop owner declined comment, saying he hasn't received a copy of the lawsuit.

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First National Bank to Halt Production of NRA Credit Card

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - The nation's largest privately-owned bank says it will stop producing credit cards for the National Rifle Association in response to customer feedback.  The Nebraska-based First National Bank of Omaha announced on Twitter Thursday that it will not renew its contract to issue the group's NRA Visa Card.  The announcement came after the progressive news website ThinkProgress listed the bank as a company that supports the NRA. ThinkProgress noted that First National Bank offered two NRA cards with a $40 bonus and touted it as "enough to reimburse your one-year NRA membership!"  The NRA has faced intense criticism following the school shooting in Florida that left 17 people dead.  First National Bank has offices in Nebraska, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota and Texas. A bank spokesman declined to comment.

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Missouri's Governor Indicted on Felony Charge

ST. LOUIS (AP) - The governor of Missouri -- Eric Greitens -- has been indicted.  A grand jury in St. Louis indicted the Republican governor on a felony invasion of privacy charge related to his affair with a woman in 2015.  The indictment was announced earlier today (THUR).  Prosecutors launched an investigation in January after Greitens admitted to an affair with his St. Louis hairdresser that began in March 2015.  Greitens was elected governor in November 2016.  

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Bad Weather Closes Schools, Keeps Workers Home

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Kansas school districts and universities called off classes today (THUR) and many state employees were told to stay home after another round of winter weather.  With about three-fourths of the state under a winter weather advisory, Governor Jeff Colyer ordered the closure of state government for nonessential employees in Shawnee County.  The University of Kansas, Haskell Indian Nations University, Johnson County Community College, Emporia State and Wichita State all cancelled classes today (THUR).  Snow days also were declared in many school districts.  In Wichita, a driver was rescued from a vehicle that slid into the frigid Arkansas River.  And at the Kansas City International Airport, about two dozen morning flights were canceled and another eight delayed because of the weather.

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3 Fraternities at University Kansas Suspended in 2018

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - Three fraternities at the University of Kansas have been suspended since the beginning of the year.  Representatives from the national headquarters of Delta Upsilon, Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Sigma Phi Epsilon told The Kansas City Star that their Kansas chapters are not operating as the university investigates possible violations of fraternity policy.  A spokesman for Sigma Alpha Epsilon (Johnny Sao) said that fraternity's chapter was closed January 19 until further notice while possible health and safety violations are investigated. KU says the fraternity is on probation until January 31, 2020.  A spokeswoman for Delta Upsilon International Fraternity (Ashley Martin) says its Kansas chapter was put on "emergency suspension" January 29. The fraternity doesn't currently appear on a list of student organizations sanctioned by the school.  A Sigma Phi Epsilon representative says its chapter is being investigated for possible hazing.

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Records: Missing Boy's Dad, Stepmom Had Violent Relationship

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Police records show the father and stepmother of a missing 5-year-old Kansas boy had a sometimes violent relationship.  The Wichita Eagle reports that police provided several incident reports about the couple after announcing that the 26-year-old stepmother, Emily Glass, had been arrested on suspicion of endangering the boy and another child.  Glass reported her stepson Lucas Hernandez missing on Saturday. She hasn't been formally charged.  One police report says Glass held a wooden ax handle during an April 2016 argument in which the boy's father, Jonathan Hernandez, suffered a bloody nose and other injuries. Glass had bruises on the side of her head and accused him of slapping her.  The report says officers couldn't determine the primary aggressor. Glass was convicted of misdemeanor disorderly conduct. The same charge against Hernandez was dismissed.

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Kansas City Woman Sentenced for Forging Prison Release Form

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A Kansas City, Missouri, woman was sentenced to nearly 3.5 years in federal prison for forging a court order to get another inmate released from prison.  Prosecutors say 53-year-old Margie Shephard was sentenced Thursday to three years and five months without parole.  Shephard was an inmate at a federal prison in Bryan, Texas, when she tried to forge a document to get fellow inmate Leann Raejeana Turner, of Blue Springs, Missouri, immediately released from prison. The document included a forged signature from a federal judge.  Prosecutors say Shephard mailed the document to her sister, who faxed it to prison officials from a grocery store in November 2014. Prison officials became suspicious because of the reduced sentence and typographical errors in the order.  The forgery is Shephard's 30th felony conviction, most involving fraud.  

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Kansas Woman Charged After Children Allegedly Given Meds

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — An Olathe woman has been charged with one count of attempted capital murder after she allegedly gave her three children medication to try and kill them.  The Kansas City Star reports Johnson County authorities charged 37-year-old Therese Roever Wednesday. Her bond was set at $1 million.  Roever and her children were found needing medical attention in their home Monday. Police said Roever gave them information that made them believe she had given the children a substance meant to harm them.  Roever was taken to jail Monday night. The children remain hospitalized but their father said Wednesday in a statement that they are recovering and should be returning home soon.  Johnson County court records show Roever and her ex-husband have been involved in long-running litigation involving domestic issues, including child custody.

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Kansas Man Charged with Beating Dog, Burning Her with Propane Torch

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas man is accused of beating the family dog and burning her with a propane torch.  The Kansas City Star reports that 57-year-old Lemuel Dean Hunter Jr. was charged Wednesday with a felony count of cruelty to animals. His bond has been set at $10,000.  Leavenworth Police say they were called to a home Monday and were told by someone there that a relative, now identified as Hunter, was abusing the family dog. Police say the 3-year-old corgi and beagle mix was struck with a board, kicked, choked and burned with a torch.  Hunter has denied the allegations and tells police he was trying to move the dog from one kennel to another.  Authorities say Leavenworth Animal Control evaluated the dog and kept her in their custody Wednesday.

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Wichita Businessman Ends Governor Campaign, Endorses Kobach

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita businessman Wink Hartman is ending his campaign for governor and endorsing Kris Kobach.  The Kansas City Star reports Hartman said Wednesday he decided during the Kansas GOP convention last weekend. He said his main goal is making the party's conservative platform into policy to improve Kansas.  Hartman, head of Hartman Oil Co., says he is endorsing Kobach because the secretary of state is a fighter who will not back down from a fight for conservative principles.  Kobach is running against Governor Jeff Colyer and several others for the GOP nomination in the gubernatorial race.  When asked whether he is interested in being lieutenant governor, Hartman said he would serve in any way Kobach asks him to.  Kobach said Wednesday that he is honored to have Hartman's support.

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Kansas Senate Wants to Restore Business Tax Break, Despite School Funding Woes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A bill restoring a small business tax break has advanced in the Kansas Senate despite concerns that the money may be needed to fund public schools.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the measure received first-round approval Wednesday. It would allow individual tax filers who run their own businesses to deduct the costs incurred when placing certain tangible property and computer software into service. It was repealed as part of the 2012 tax overhaul that eliminated all taxes on income derived from those people's business operations. When lawmakers reversed that tax policy last year, the deduction wasn't restored.  School funding uncertainty kept some senators from supporting it. The Revenue Department estimates the tax break would cost $21 million in the upcoming fiscal year, and about $10 million each year after that.

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Court: Kansas Can't Cut Medicaid Funds to Planned Parenthood

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal appeals court says Kansas can't cut Medicaid funds to a Planned Parenthood affiliate over videos anti-abortion activists secretly recorded in 2015.  The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals' decision leaves in place a lower court's preliminary injunction that blocked Kansas from ending the contract. It is the fifth of six circuits to uphold the right of patients to receive health care from their preferred qualified provider.  The decision applies to Kansas' Medicaid contract with Planned Parenthood of Great Plains, which has two health centers in Kansas and three in Missouri. However, the appeals panel sent back to the lower court a related injunction involving the state's effort to terminate its contract with Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region, which serves some Kansas patients at its Joplin, Missouri, clinic.

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Kansas Soldier Dies in Non-Combat Incident in Iraq

ARLINGTON, Kan. (AP) _ An Army Reserve soldier from Kansas has died in Iraq in a non-combat situation.  The Department of Defense announced Tuesday that 26-year-old Christina Marie Schoenecker, Arlington, died Monday in Baghdad, Iraq.  The department did not release any details about her death and said it is under investigation.  Schoenecker enlisted in the Army in May 2009 and was on her first deployment, which began last June. A human resources specialist, she was assigned to the 89th Sustainment Brigade out of Wichita.  She had received the Army Achievement Medal with one oak leaf cluster, the Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal with two oak leaf clusters, the Army Service Ribbon, and the National Defense Service Medal.

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Kansas Senate Passes Tougher Lobbying Law, Higher Gift Limit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has approved a bipartisan bill for strengthening lobbying laws that also would allow state officials to take more expensive gifts from people seeking to influence them.  The measure approved unanimously Wednesday would require people trying to promote contracts or influence actions by executive branch agencies to register as lobbyists and disclose some spending.  That is broader than current Kansas laws requiring lobbyists to report some spending when they seek to influence legislators or work for or against an administrative rule.  But the bill also increases the total value of small gifts that state officials can accept in a year from an individual to $100 from $40.  The measure was sponsored by Republican Senate President Susan Wagle of Wichita and Democratic Minority Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka.

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Kansas Lawmakers Advance Law Enforcement Transparency Bills

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators who want to make law enforcement more transparent are focusing on measures dealing with officers' body camera footage and agencies' seizure of property.  The House gave first-round approval Wednesday to a bill on each topic that has bipartisan support and represents a compromise with law enforcement groups. Supporters said each is a step forward on transparency.  House members expected to take another, final vote on each by Thursday to determine whether they pass and go to the Senate.  The body camera bill would require agencies to show footage to the subject of the video or family members within 20 days of receiving a request.  The asset-forfeiture bill would require the Kansas Bureau of Investigation to compile information on the property seized by law enforcement agencies.

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Effort to Repeal Tuition Help for Undocumented Students Ends

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers are no longer discussing a proposal to end in-state tuition for undocumented students.  After two days of testimony, a House committee on Monday did not act on a bill to end in-state tuition for undocumented graduates. The bill's sponsor, Republican Representative Kevin Jones of Wellsville, said he would not try to advance the bill.  Kansas law currently allows students who have lived in the state since they were young and who graduated from a state high school to pay in-state tuition, which is much lower than out-state tuition.  The Kansas City Star reports the Kansas Association of School Boards opposed repeal of the current tuition law.  Supporters of the repeal argue undocumented students are breaking immigration laws and shouldn't be allowed to pay less than American citizens.

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Kansas Lawmakers Split on Response to Teen Governor Hopefuls

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — More than a half-dozen candidates in the crowded Kansas governor's race are teenagers, and legislators are divided over whether it's a problem worth trying to prevent in the future.  The Kansas House advanced a bill Tuesday on a 73-43 vote to require candidates for governor to be 18 to run, starting next year. House members will take a final vote by Wednesday to determine whether the bill passes and goes to the Senate.  Kansas and Vermont are the only states without a minimum age.  Six Kansas teenagers have formed campaign committees for governor. Several out-of-state teenagers have joined the fray because Kansas lacks a residency requirement.  The bill's supporters argue candidates should be at least old enough to vote. Critics said the state shouldn't discourage young people's interested in politics.

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Charges Upgraded in St. Joseph Double Homicide

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) _ Charges have been upgraded against two of the suspects in a double homicide in St. Joseph.  The St. Joseph News-Press reports that Omar Martinez-Velez and Luis Omar Robles-Vargas now each face two felony counts of first-degree murder and two counts of armed criminal action. They initially were charged with second-degree murder in the July 2016 shooting deaths of 22-year-old Kevin Villegas-Melendez and 25-year-old Raymond Gonzalez-Ortiz.  No attorney is listed for Martinez-Velez in online court records. The attorney for Robles-Vargas didn't immediately return a phone message from The Associated Press seeking comment.  Three other people have entered guilty pleas in the killings. One person admitted to second-degree murder and two others to conspiracy to commit second-degree murder.

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Kansas Doctor Sued in Woman's Fentanyl Overdose Death

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas doctor is facing a lawsuit that alleges he contributed to a woman's 2014 fentanyl overdose death.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2012 approved Subsys, an opioid-based fentanyl spray for cancer pain. The drug is produced by Insys Therapeutics, a pharmaceutical company that was paying Overland Park doctor Steven Simon speaking fees to promote Subsys.  The Kansas City Star reports that the recent lawsuit by Bobby Ray Jordan says Simon treated his wife for back pain from 2013 until her death in January 2014.  Jordan alleges Simon never told him or his wife that Subsys was a fentanyl product only approved for cancer patients, that he was being paid to promote it, or that it could be fatal. Jordan also says his wife never had cancer, to his knowledge.  Simon's attorney declined to comment to the newspaper.

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Wichita Bank Sues After ATM Gave out $100s instead of $5s

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita bank is trying to get money back from a woman it accuses of making more than 50 withdrawals from an ATM that was spitting out $100 bills in place of $5s.  The Wichita Eagle reports that the Central National Bank sued last month in Sedgwick County District. It's demanding that Christina Ochoa return about $11,600 plus interest.  The bank contends the withdrawals stretched over a five-day period from January 13 to January 17. Most were made in the middle of the night.  Ochoa's mother, Christy Ochoa, is also named because she drove her daughter to the ATM. The Ochoas have denied any wrongdoing. Christy Ochoa said her daughter wanted $5 bills to craft a "money cake" as a gift for an acquaintance who'd just had a baby.

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Judge Orders Government Review of Keystone Pipeline Documents

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A judge has told federal officials to go back and review documents related to the disputed Keystone XL oil pipeline after environmentalists accused the government of withholding details on the project's approval.  U.S. District Judge Brian Morris in Montana said Wednesday that the government must provide any relevant documents by March 21 or explain why they should be withheld.  The ruling came in a lawsuit from environmentalists seeking to stop the 1,179-mile pipeline from Canada's oil sands region to U.S. refineries.  The project has become a flashpoint in the debate over climate change. It was blocked by former President Barack Obama in 2015 before President Donald Trump revived it last year.  Government attorneys fought against releasing the sought-after documents. They said it could take years to review the material.

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Wichita State's New Business School Gets $1 Million Gift

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Fidelity Bank and its owners have donated $1 million toward of a new business school at Wichita State University.  The university announced the donation Wednesday from the bank, its foundation and bank's owners, the Bastian family. The donation brings total private donations for the building to $11.5 million.  Fidelity Bank's chairman and CEO Clark Bastian says Wichita State played an important role in his education.  The Wichita Eagle reports the new 136,000-square-foot business school will be built on Wichita State's Innovation Campus.  The university says about half of the building's estimated $50 million cost is expected to be raised privately with the remaining amount coming from university funds.

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