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Headlines for Thursday, January 2, 2020

Group Resists Naming Donors After Pro-Kobach Ads in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A group that sponsored ads promoting conservative Republican Kris Kobach during his failed 2018 run for Kansas governor says it isn't legally required to disclose its donors to the public. The Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission has given Per Aspera Policy until Jan. 15 to file public reports on its activities during the last governor's race. The commission issued a notice to the group this week. But a Washington attorney representing the group told the commission in a letter that it is not required to disclose any information under Kansas law because its ads did not “expressly advocate” Kobach's election. 

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Kansas Taxes Nearly $39 Million More Than Anticipated in December

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is reporting that it collected nearly $39 million more in taxes than expected in December. The state Department of Revenue said Thursday that the state took in nearly $757 million in taxes last month. The official prediction for tax collections was $718 million, and the surplus was 5.4%. Tax collections have exceeded expectations for 11 months in a row and in 30 of the 31 months dating back to June 2017. The state has collected nearly $3.6 billion in taxes since the current budget year began July 1. That's $51 million more than anticipated for a surplus of 1.4%.

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Man Charged with Killing Ex-Girlfriend, 2 of Her Children in KCK

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A man has been charged in the deaths of his ex-girlfriend and two of her children whose bodies were found after a house fire in Kansas City, Kansas. Prosecutors say 31-year-old Ismael Caballero is charged with three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of arson. He is jailed on $1 million bond. The charges stem from the discovery of the bodies of 32-year-old Yazmine Rodriguez-Santilla, 14-year-old Amerikha Rodriguez and 10-year-old Jean Carlos Rodriguez by crews battling a house fire early Monday. Prosecutors allege in charging documents that he set fire to the house as well as to a minivan.

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"Captain America" Actress Charged with Killing Mom in Johnson County

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — An actress who had a small role in the movie "Captain America: The First Avenger" is accused of fatally stabbing her mother inside a suburban Kansas City home. The Kansas City Star reports that 38-year-old Mollie Fitzgerald was arrested Tuesday by police in Olathe, Kansas. She's charged with second-degree murder in the death of 68-year-old Patricia "Tee" Fitzgerald. Authorities say she was found dead on Dec. 20 inside her Olathe home. A relative says Patricia Fitzgerald was in the process of moving back to the Kansas City area after living in the Houston area for several decades.

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Man Arrested in Death of Relative After New Year's Eve Fight in Newton

NEWTON, Kan.  (AP) — Authorities have arrested a man in the death of a relative after a New Year's Eve fight in central Kansas. Thirty-five-year-old Andrew Martinez has been booked into the Harvey County Jail on suspicion of first-degree murder in the death of 53-year-old Robert Flores, of Newton. KWCH-TV reports that a spokesperson for the city of Newton says a fight started Tuesday night inside a house and spilled outside, where Flores was injured and died. The spokesperson says Flores and Martinez both lived at the home where the fight began. Details about the exact cause of death have not been released.

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Man, Woman Fatally Shot at Hotel Near Downtown Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are investigating the deadly shooting of a man and woman at a hotel near downtown Wichita. Police Capt. Wendell Nicholson says officers responded around 12:20 a.m. Thursday and found the victims suffering from gunshot wounds at the Hotel at WaterWalk. Both victims died at the scene. They were in their 30s, but their names weren't immediately released. Police don't have any suspects, although investigators are talking to witnesses who saw someone running away from the scene. No motive has been released.  

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Former Emporia Chiropractor Surrenders License Amid Accusations of Sexual Misconduct

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — A chiropractor who was accused of sexual misconduct with patients has surrendered his Kansas medical license. The Kansas Board of Healing Arts wrote in the order filed Tuesday that Eric Hawkins exploited his relationship with patients through "acts of sexual misconduct and/or improper sexual contact." The board ordered him to pay $1,246 in costs associated with the proceedings. Hawkins had his license suspended in July 2018 shortly before he was formally charged with sexually assaulting three women. He was ultimately acquitted of raping a then-16-year-old girl in 2015 and committing aggravated sexual battery against a then-22-year-old woman last year. He then pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor battery charge.

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Victims of Johnson County Plane Crash Identified

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — An investigation continues after a small plane crashed during takeoff from an airport near Kansas City, killing the pilot and a passenger. The Kansas Highway Patrol identified the victims as the pilot, 48-year-old Jonathan J. Vannatta of Maumelle, Arkansas, and 43-year-old passenger Darcy L. Matthews of Belton, Texas. The Federal Aviation Administration registry lists Vannatta as co-owner of the plane. The accident happened around 4 p.m. Tuesday at Johnson County Executive Airport. The plane was on fire when emergency responders arrived. FAA spokesman Tony Molinaro says the single-engine Mooney M20S crashed "under unknown circumstances" shortly after departing from the airport.

(earlier reporting)

2 Dead in Plane Crash Near Suburban Kansas City Airport

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol says two people have died in a small plane crash near a suburban Kansas City airport. The plane went down near the Johnson County Executive Airport Tuesday afternoon. Overland Park police say the plane was on fire when officers from the region arrived. Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Tony Molinaro said a single-engine Mooney M20S crashed "under unknown circumstances" shortly after leaving the airport. The aircraft was destroyed. Further information was not immediately available.

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Embracing Wind Energy Has Helped Kansas Reduce CO2 Emissions

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has been able to reduce its carbon-dioxide emissions for a 10th straight year, largely due to the rapid adoption of wind energy and a slow move away from coal powered electricity. The Kansas News Service reports that about 36% of all electricity produced in Kansas is from wind, the highest percentage of any U.S. state. Just this year, Kansas saw four new wind farms, adding enough capacity to power 190,000 homes for a year. A Natural Resources Defense Council board member says the move to renewable energy and subsequent decrease in carbon-dioxide emissions will be vital to reducing the impacts of climate change.

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Survey Suggests Economy Growing in 9 Midwest, Plains States

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A survey report suggests the economy is growing slowly in nine Midwest and Plains states as the U.S.-China trade war continues. The Mid-America Business Conditions index rebounded to 50.6 in December from 48.6 in November. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss oversees the survey, and he says the trade war and the global economic slowdown will be drags on the overall Mid-America economy for the first half of 2020. But he expects overall regional growth to remain soft but positive. Survey organizers say any index score above 50 suggests growth. A score below that suggests decline.

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Wichita Officer Helps Pull 2 Women from Crashed, Burning Car

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita police officer helped pull two women from a burning car after the driver crashed and ran away. The Wichita Eagle reports that the 25-year-old driver of the car was arrested near the accident early Tuesday morning. Wichita Police Officer Charley Davidson said the car was going north on a street in east Wichita when it crashed into a concrete retaining wall near U.S. 400. The car's engine compartment caught fire with a 37-year-old woman and a 31-year-old woman still inside. An officer pulled them to safety. A handgun was found in the car and cocaine was found nearby.

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Kansas Police Apologize for Faked Story of Expletive Written on McDonald's Coffee Cup

HERINGTON, Kan.  (AP) —  A Kansas police department is apologizing after an officer admitted to making up a story that a McDonald's employee wrote an expletive and the word "pig" on a coffee cup. Herington Police Chief Brian Hornaday says in a news release that he is "truly sorry for all unnecessary, negative attention and pain that this incident has brought to every person who was affected." The apology came after Hornaday announced Monday that the now-former officer "completely and solely fabricated" the allegation that he was handed the coffee cup with the expletive at a McDonald's drive-thru in Junction City.

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AG: Treatment Funding Key to Kansas Criminal Justice Reform

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas' top law enforcement official advocates higher spending on for the mentally ill and treating substance abuse. Attorney General Derek Schmidt says the extra funding is crucial to reforming the state's criminal justice system. Schmidt contends extra funding for such services will deal with underlying problems fueling many offenders' crimes. He said local officials frequently face a bad choice of locking up someone who'd benefit more from treatment or leaving that person in the community to cause more harm. There's interest in changing the criminal justice system because state prisons are full and the inmate population is expected to keep growing.

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Incoming Wichita Mayor's Gala to Raise Money for Wife's PAC

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita's incoming mayor is planning a formal gala to celebrate his inauguration next month that will raise money for a political action committee run by his wife. Mayor-elect Brandon Whipple's plans include sponsorships of up to $2,500 for his Jan. 11 celebration, The Wichita Eagle reports. Whipple said the money won't be used for his benefit and contributors to the Wichita's Future PAC will be disclosed in reports filed with the state ethics commission. Whipple's wife is the PAC's chairwoman and treasurer. The mayor-elect said the PAC could finance social media surveys, town hall meetings and coffee with the mayor.

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Missouri Governor Parson Consents to Missouri Taking in Refugees

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Governor Mike Parson says Missouri will consent to taking in lawfully admitted refugees. Parson announced his decision Tuesday in response to an executive order issued in September by President Donald Trump that required governors to publicly agree to accept refugees. Refugees would not be allowed to automatically come to states where governors refuse consent, even if cities and counties welcome them. Parson said in a statement that Missouri would agree to continue to resettle lawfully admitted refugees in communities that request them. He noted the state has a long history of refugee resettlement and many former refugees have become vital members of their communities.

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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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