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Headlines for Thursday, January 10, 2019

Kansas Abortion Foes Brace for State Supreme Court Decision

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas abortion opponents have been bracing themselves for nearly two years for a ruling from the state's highest court that may upend politics in a state long at the center of the national debate over abortion.  The Kansas Supreme Court is relatively liberal for a state with a Republican-dominated Legislature that has strong anti-abortion majorities.  But court watchers are asking what is taking the justices so long to rule.  No one outside the court knows for sure and the justices are not saying.  But some observers think the justices still are wrestling with a deep split over the implications of declaring that the state constitution protects abortion rights.  That was the core legal issue when the high court heard arguments from attorneys in March 2017 in a major abortion lawsuit.

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New Kansas Governor Names Agriculture, Administration Heads

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Gov.-elect Laura Kelly has picked an industry group's leader to be the state's top agriculture official and a former longtime budget director to be interim secretary of administration. The incoming Democratic governor announced Thursday that she plans to nominate Mike Beam to head the Department of Agriculture. Beam has worked 38 years for the Kansas Livestock Association and is its senior vice president. Beam's appointment requires state Senate confirmation because Kelly intends for it to be permanent. Kelly's interim secretary of administration is Duane Goossen. He advised her campaign. Goossen is a former Kansas House member who previously served as secretary of administration. But he is best known for serving as budget director from 1998 through 2010 under Republican and Democratic governors. Kelly takes office Monday.

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Kansas Senate President Considering 2020 Race for U.S. Senate

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle says she's considering running for the U.S. Senate in 2020 and plans to form an exploratory committee.  Wagle told The Wichita Eagle on Wednesday that she is taking a "serious look" at the race.  Kansas Republican Senator Pat Roberts announced last Friday that he will not seek re-election.  Wagle is the latest prominent Republican to express an interest. State Treasurer Jake LaTurner announced his candidacy Tuesday, and departing Governor Jeff Colyer, Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Kansas Congressman Roger Marshall are considering the race.  Wagle is from Wichita and has served in the Legislature since 1991. She will finish her second, four-year term as Kansas Senate president in 2020 and has said she won't seek another.

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Man Who Fled Lansing Prison Recaptured in Missouri

LANSING, Kan. (AP) — A man who escaped from Lansing Correctional Facility on Monday is back in custody. Corrections department spokesman Brett Peterson said Cal Henry Green III was captured without incident Thursday in Independence, Missouri. Further information about the arrest was not immediately available. Green, a minimum security inmate, left the prison in a camo-painted state vehicle. The truck was later recovered in Kansas City, Kansas. Green is a minimum-security inmate currently imprisoned on an aggravated battery charge out of Wyandotte County. He has a long criminal record in Wyandotte County, including convictions for theft, burglary, fleeing to avoid arrest and forgery.

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Man Fatally Shot at Apartment Building Near Downtown Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a man has been shot and killed at a Topeka apartment building.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that police say the shooting happened Wednesday afternoon near the city's downtown. The victim was taken to a hospital, where he died. His name wasn't immediately released.  Police spokeswoman Gretchen Koenen says everyone believed to be involved in the shooting is in custody. She didn't release their names or other details of the crime.

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Missing Topeka Man Found Dead; Dog Found by His Side

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have found a missing 70-year-old man dead with his dog at his side after his pickup truck became stuck in the mud in rural Kansas.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Dannie Smith, of Topeka, hadn't been seen for five days when his body was found Wednesday afternoon on a low-maintenance road in Jackson County, near the Shawnee County line.  Jackson County Sheriff Tim Morse says Smith was known to drive to the reservation in Jackson County to purchase cigarettes. Morse said Smith was reported missing Sunday because he hadn't been seen since Friday. An autopsy is planned.  His chocolate Labrador retriever, named Bear, was determined to be in good health.

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Topeka Racetrack Owner Threatens to Relocate Amid Tax Fight

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The owner of the Heartland Motorsports Park says he's looking into razing the Topeka racetrack and moving to the Kansas City area because of a tax fight. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Chris Payne says several parcels of land are for sale and bids are being taken to remove some of the buildings. He says the current tax situation makes it nearly impossible to run a profitable business. The Shawnee County Appraiser's website says that Payne currently owes nearly $522,000 in back taxes. He purchased the facility in 2016. Payne says he's offered to donate the property to the city and then pay rent on it. Payne says the idea was rejected, but Topeka city manager Brent Trout says it's being reviewed. Trout says the situation is "concerning."

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New Kansas Mayor Who Spent Time in Prison Helps Ex-Offenders

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas mayor who was recently elected after serving three years in prison has spent his first day in office helping qualified ex-offenders get their criminal records expunged. The Kansas City Star reports that Jermaine Wilson presided over his first Leavenworth City Commission meeting as the new mayor on Tuesday evening. Wilson stepped into the mayor's seat roughly 12 years after starting his prison sentence for drug charges, serving as a symbol of redemption for the city. Wilson worked with Leavenworth County Attorney Todd Thompson on Wednesday to launch a program assisting those who qualify under Kansas law to be considered for having their criminal records erased. Thompson is planning a 60-day event to offer rebounding ex-offenders help from the prosecutor's office. Wilson had his record expunged in 2015.

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McConnell to Receive First KC-46 Refueling Tanker

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita could receive its first KC-46 air refueling tanker later this month. Boeing announced on Thursday that the Air Force has accepted the aircraft and signed the paperwork allowing deliveries to proceed. The tanker uses the Boeing 767 passenger airplane as its airframe. The company says McConnell will receive the first four aircraft, all of which are ready for delivery. The next four aircraft are slated for Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma. The long-awaited tankers replace KC-135 air refueling tankers used by McConnell's two air refueling wings, the 22nd and 931st Air Refueling Wings. Eventually, McConnell will have 36 KC-46s to replace its aging fleet. Kansas Senators Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran said that they were pleased the planes were finally coming to McConnell.

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1 Killed, Another Wounded in Kansas City, Kansas Shooting

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are investigating after one high school student was fatally shot and another wounded in Kansas City, Kansas. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Monday's shooting killed 18-year-old Bradley Samsel, who was a senior at Tonganoxie High School, which is about 20 miles west of Kansas City, Kansas. The other victim also was a senior at the school. Police say she remains in critical condition. The Tonganoxie school district said a crisis team was on campus Wednesday for students and school personnel.

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2 Charged in Contract Killing of Pregnant Kansas Mother

JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (AP) — Two men have been charged with the contract killing of a pregnant Kansas mother who was found dead on Christmas Day.  The Wichita Eagle reports that Dion Jamel Green and Mashaun Jay Baker were charged Monday with capital murder in the death of 31-year-old Jenna Schafer and her unborn child. The charge carries a possible death sentence.  Prosecutors allege in a criminal complaint that Green shot Schafer as part of a murder-for-hire plot with Baker. Schafer was found dead in a Junction City apartment.  Court documents say the shooting happened on either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day and was done "intentionally and with premeditation." Court records don't say if or how Green, Baker and Schafer knew one another.  An obituary says Schafer had two daughters. Police say they are safe.

(-Related-)

Mother Found Dead After Missing Christmas Gift Opening

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The mother of slain pregnant woman whose body was found on Christmas Day says she began to worry as her grandchildren opened gifts because she couldn't reach their mother in Kansas.  Prosecutors alleged this week that 31-year-old Jenna Schafer was fatally shot as part of a contract killing. Two suspects have been arrested.  Tonya Cullen is raising her 10- and 11-year-old granddaughters and says Schafer had planned to watch the girls open their gifts through Facebook Messenger.  The family made several frantic calls before learning Schafer had been found dead in a trailer in Junction City.  Mashaun Baker and Dion Green are charged with capital murder in the case. Prosecutors haven't said how the men may have known Schafer or what prompted the killing.  Cullen says Schafer was "trying to clean herself up and make things better for her girls."

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Police Officer Injured in Wichita Warrant-Serving Incident

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A police officer is in fair condition and a 29-year-old man is in serious condition after a shooting in downtown Wichita. Deputy Chief Troy Livingston says the incident began when officers arrived at the Sedgwick County Division of Corrections Thursday to serve the man with a warrant for aggravated assault. The man intentionally backed into a U.S. Marshal's car and then drove forward, eventually hitting a building. It is not immediately clear if the officer was hit by the car or pinned against it.

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Affidavit: Man Fired Gun Before a Deputy Shot, Wounded Him

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Court documents say a man facing charges after he was wounded by a Kansas sheriff's deputy had fired a handgun near a child welfare office. The affidavit released in the case against 63-year-old Richard Gore says he appeared intoxicated and was "waving around and firing" the gun before he was shot in the upper shoulder in November in Wichita. The Wichita Eagle reports that Gore is jailed on $100,000 bond on charges that include aggravated assault of a law enforcement officer. A sheriff's detective alleged in the affidavit that Gore first "fired in the direction" of three Wichita police officers and an Eastborough officer before a sheriff's sergeant "decided to neutralize the threat of the gunfire." The Kansas Department for Children and Families building was locked down during the melee.

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Former Kansas Soccer Player Charged with Molesting Student

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A former goalkeeper for the University of Kansas soccer team has been charged with molesting a student while coaching and working as a teacher's aide at a Seattle high school.  Court records show that 35-year-old Meghan Miller was charged last month with third-degree child molestation and two counts of first-degree sexual misconduct with a minor. She was placed on administrative leave from Ballard High School before her arrest.  Court records say Miller met the student in 2014 when the girl was 14 and going through a difficult period. Authorities say the relationship turned sexual when the girl turned 15. The records say they had sexual encounters in the school locker room and Miller's office.  Miller graduated in 2004 from the University of Kansas, where she held several school records.

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Maryland-Based Solar Contractor Fined in Fort Riley Death

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A Maryland-based solar contractor is facing nearly $40,000 in fines after an employee died from electrocution at Fort Riley.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said Wednesday it cited Power Factor LLC for four serious violations after the employee died in July while installing solar panels at the fort.  The agency says the employee was hoisting a metal rail that came into contact with overhead power lines.  OSHA cited the company for exposing workers to electrical hazards, including live and uninsulated power circuits. The agency says the company also didn't regularly inspect the job site or train workers to avoid hazards.  The employee's name hasn't been released.  Power Factor, LLC. has 15 days to pay the fine or contest the findings.  George Lang, owner of Power Factor, declined to comment.

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Kansas Man Sentenced for Using Customers' Credit Cards

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — The former owner of an Olathe barbecue restaurant was sentenced Wednesday to serve one year and one month in prison for using customers' credit cards to fund spending sprees.  Matthew Sander, former owner of Smokin' Joe's Bar-B-Q, pleaded guilty in November to seven counts of identity theft, four counts of theft and one count of criminal use of a credit card.  The Kansas City Star reports that court documents filed by Sander's attorney say he had a "significant drug and alcohol problem" that he has since addressed.  Prosecutors said Sander went on spending binges with credit cards that customers left behind at the restaurant. In one case, Sander used a debit card from a purse he took at an Overland Park restaurant.  Sander was ordered to pay restitution of $11,400.

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Friendly McDonald's Worker Given Car by Regular Customer

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A friendly worker at a Hutchinson McDonald's is riding high after one of her regular customers surprised her with a major gift. Wichita businessman Chris Ellis says he always looked forward to being waited on by Vicki Anderson when he visited the restaurant. On Monday, Anderson asked Ellis if he knew anyone who was selling a car. Her 1994 vehicle needed repairs that would cost more than the car was worth. The Wichita Eagle reports Ellis's son was trying to sell his 2009 Pontiac. So Ellis bought it and drove it to Hutchinson Wednesday. Anderson says she had no idea why Ellis and his son asked her to come out to the parking lot. There, they presented a shocked and tearful Anderson with the Pontiac.

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Man Jailed in Shooting Death of Friend in Western Kansas

GOODLAND, Kan. (AP) — A 21-year-old man is jailed in the shooting death of a mixed martial arts fighter in western Kansas. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says in a news release that Jesus Soto was being held in Sherman County on an unrelated charge when an involuntary manslaughter arrest warrant was served. The warrant stems from the Dec. 20 death of 21-year-old Zachary Chavez in a rural part of the county. The KBI says the men were friends. Online jail records also list an attempted criminal damage to property charge, as well as a probation violation. The prosecutor didn't immediately return a phone message about whether Soto had an attorney. Chavez's obituary said he had recently taken an interest in MMA, with his first title fight to take place in 2019.

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Suspicious Death Investigation Goes Cold in Lawrence Case

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence police say eight months after a woman died of a head injury, investigators have not determined whether she was the victim of crime.  Sabrina Frock died in May at the home of a Lawrence man she met online. The man currently is in prison after violating probation for abusing another woman he met online two years ago.  Frock's mother, Denise Slaughter, of Brookfield, Missouri, says she suspects foul play and is frustrated with the police investigation.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports police are investigating Frock's death as suspicious but say they have no new leads.  Frock's autopsy report has not been released.  Slaughter said police told her Frock died from a brain injury but the coroner's ruling on whether the death was a homicide or an accident was undetermined

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Kansas Judge Allows Victims' Lawyers to Assist Prosecution

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Wyandotte County judge has allowed private attorneys hired by families of the victims to assist in the prosecution of a man charged with killing two sheriff's deputies.  The ruling Wednesday comes despite the objections of defense lawyers and the judge's own misgivings in the capital murder case of 30-year-old Antoine Fielder. He is accused of fatally shooting Wyandotte County deputies Theresa King and Patrick Rohrer last June as they were escorting him back to jail after a hearing in a robbery case.  Kansas City Star reports Kansas law allows crime victims to pay for lawyers to assist prosecutors as "associate attorneys."  District Judge Bill Klapper said that while he finds their inclusion in the case "inherently problematic," he is bound by state law that mandates they "shall" be allowed.

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New Kansas Governor Names Campaign Treasurer to Commerce Job

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Governor-elect Laura Kelly has named a local economic development official who was her campaign treasurer as Kansas' next commerce secretary.  Kelly announced Wednesday that she will nominate David Toland of Iola to lead the Department of Commerce.  Toland is president and CEO of Thrive Allen County, a non-profit economic development agency. He also helped Kelly develop a rural development plan during her successful campaign last year.  The state Senate must confirm Toland's appointment because Kelly intends for it be permanent.  Kelly also announced Wednesday that she is naming Julie Lorenz of Lenexa interim transportation secretary.  Lorenz is a senior strategic consultant for the Kansas City engineering, planning and architectural firm Burns & McDonnell. She previously led strategic planning for the Kansas Department of Transportation.  Kelly takes office Monday.

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2 Missouri Transportation Workers Injured in Crash

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — Two Missouri Department of Transportation workers were injured after a car struck one of them and a maintenance truck in northwest Missouri.  The Missouri State Highway Patrol says the collision happened Wednesday morning on a rural road in Clay County.  The patrol says a car hit a worker who was standing behind the maintenance truck. The state transportation department says the worker was pinned under the vehicle until crew members were able to move it.  A worker inside the maintenance truck was injured when the car hit the truck.  Both workers were taken to a hospital with injuries that were not considered life-threatening.  The driver of the car suffered minor injuries.  The cause of the crash is under investigation.

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World Gymnastics Gold Medalist McCallum Headlines American Cup Field

Grace McCallum is getting a showcase at the American Cup. The youngest member of the U.S. women's gymnastics team that won a gold medal at the 2018 world championships headlines the field for the annual exhibition, which will be held March 2 at the Greensboro Coliseum in North Carolina. The 16-year-old McCallum will be joined by 2018 U.S. junior champion Leanne Wong, who will be making her senior debut at the first major elite event of 2019. 

"It's a special part of our schedule and it is a big deal as to which athletes go into competition," said Tom Forster, the high-performance coordinator for the women's national team. "Sometimes it's about showing the very best and sometimes it's about giving an opportunity to new seniors." The time the American Cup will do both. McCallum, who is from Isanti, Minnesota, finished fourth in the all-around at the 2018 U.S. championships and competed in three events during team qualifying and two events during the team final at worlds. Forster pointed to McCallum's youth and her success under pressure at the world championships as proof she was worthy of a spot. Forster said he first broached the topic of the American Cup at the world championships in Doha, Qatar, and the other members of the team — including Olympic and world champion Simone Biles, 2017 world champion Morgan Hurd and Riley McCusker — all wanted more down time to upgrade a portion of their routines. All three will make their 2019 debuts later in the year.

"They could see what was happening at worlds and they knew that they would like to change a couple of things in their routines," Forster said. "And when you're at their level, changes don't take weeks, they take months."

The competition — which features 16 gymnastics (eight men, eight women) from around the world — will also be a chance for Wong, a 15-year-old from Overland Park, Kansas, to go up against seniors for the first time.

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Lawson Leads No. 7 Kansas Past No. 25 TCU 77-68

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Checking into a game for the first time for Kansas, freshman guard Ochai Agbaji prepared for a play that he'd only ever defended during practice.  Agbaji darted through TCU's defense, took a lob from Quentin Grimes and recorded his first collegiate basket.  "I told myself the best way to get rid of his nerves was give him an easy basket, and maybe something to energize the crowd a little bit," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "Because we've been so boring playing above the rim."  Agbaji, a Kansas City native, had seven points and four rebounds, Dedric Lawson recorded his 47th-career-double-double with 31 points and 14 rebounds and Lagerald Vick added 12 points and four assists as No. 7 Kansas defeated No. 25 TCU 77-68 on Wednesday night.  Agbaji relinquished his redshirt eligibility for Kansas (12-2, 2-1 Big 12) on Tuesday following a season-ending injury to Udoka Azubuike. Agbaji made an immediate impact for the Jayhawks, scoring off an alley-oop on Kansas' first possession with him on the court.

TCU (12-2, 1-1) continued to have troubles in Allen Fieldhouse, falling to 0-7 all-time at Kansas' home arena. The Horned Frogs turned the ball over a season-high 20 times, which is also a season high by a Kansas opponent.  "Obviously, the 20 turnovers stand out for us, and that's how they got it done," TCU coach Jamie Dixon said. "They were more physical than we were, got the ball inside when they needed to and you've got to give them credit."

The Horned Frogs trailed 40-31 at halftime, but managed to stay in the game throughout. They got within two points of the Jayhawks with 10:33 remaining, but nine consecutive points from Lawson made it an 11-point deficit, which the Horned Frogs would ultimately fail to close.

BIG PICTURE
Self improved his record at Kansas to 87-11 following a loss, after the Jayhawks fell to Iowa State on the road last Saturday. The win also moved Self's record in Allen Fieldhouse to 48-3 following a loss.  The Horned Frogs' shooting let them down. They shot 46.3 percent from the field, despite coming into the game leading the Big 12 in field goal percentage (49.9). The Horned Frogs missed six of their last seven field-goal attempts.

UP NEXT
Kansas: travels to Waco, Texas, to take on Baylor on Saturday.
TCU: will stay on the road to play Oklahoma on Saturday.

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K-State Rallies from 21 Down to Beat West Virginia, 71-69

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Barry Brown had repeatedly driven down the right side of the lane for buckets, or at the very least a foul, helping Kansas State slowly emerge from a 21-point second-half hole against West Virginia.  So with the game on the line in the final minute, was there any question what he would do?  Brown hesitated at the top of the key, took a couple dribbles to his right and got an off-balance leaner over the Mountaineers' Derek Culver to go with 28.9 seconds left Wednesday night, giving Brown 29 points for the game and the Wildcats a wild 71-69 victory.

BIG PICTURE
West Virginia has struggled without Sagaba Konate, their best offensive and defensive player, who has been out with a knee injury. Brandon Knapper made the trip after serving a one-game suspension but he only played three minutes off the bench.  Kansas State rallied from 18 down in the 1970s against Missouri, and twice from 17-point deficits in the 1995 season. The Wildcats overcame the biggest deficit in school history without their own star, Dean Wade, who remains out with a foot injury.

UP NEXT
West Virginia returns home to face Oklahoma State on Saturday.
Kansas State starts a two-game trip at No. 20 Iowa State on Saturday.

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