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Headlines for Thursday, January 6, 2022


Kansas Governor Moves to Help Facilities Hit by COVID Surge

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Laura Kelly is easing or suspending Kansas licensing rules for medical personnel and nursing home workers in hopes of making it easier for them to attack staffing shortages during a surge of new COVID-19 cases. Kelly issued two executive orders Thursday. One allows hospital staff to perform a broader range of duties. The other makes licensing of nursing home workers more flexible so homes can hire people whose licenses have lapsed and fill less-skilled jobs with workers who’ve relatively little or no previous training. The governor also declared an emergency for the next 15 days. Her actions come as ambulances struggle to find Kansas City-area hospitals with space.


Man Pleads Guilty in Stabbing Death of Leavenworth Man

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A 38-year-old man scheduled to go in trial next week in the stabbing death of a Leavenworth man pleaded guilty to felony murder. Jeffery Samulczyk pleaded Wednesday in the October 2020 death of Joshua Gilson. Gilson's wife is serving a life term after pleading guilty in August to first-degree murder in her husband's death. As part of a plea agreement, charges against Samulczyk of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and interference with law enforcement were dismissed. Gilson’s body was found wrapped in plastic in the cellar of his home. Investigators found text messages between Samulczyk and Alexandra Gilson discussing the murder and how they would cover it up.


Woman Charged with Helping Man Escape from Larned State Hospital 

LARNED, Kan. (AP) - A Ulysses woman is charged with helping a man escape from the Larned State Hospital this week. The Pawnee County Attorney's Office says 38-year-old Emilia Melinda Brown is charged with aiding escape. Investigators allege Brown drove 43-year-old Isaac Watts away from the Larned campus after he escaped Monday night. Watts and Brown were arrested Tuesday morning at a Garden City hotel. Watts is jailed in Finney County pending any possible charges for the escape. Authorities have not said how he got out of the state hospital. He was the second patient to escape from Larned since June, and state officials are looking for a firm to review security procedures there.


Security Check at Larned State Hospital Accelerated After Escapes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — State officials say they are working to find an independent firm to review procedures after two convicts escaped from Larned State Hospital since June. The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services said Tuesday it is working with the Correctional Leaders Association to find a firm to conduct a comprehensive security review at the facility. The effort began after John Colt escaped from the prison in June. He was not arrested until September in Utah. The governor's office says the effort will accelerate after another inmate, Isaac Watts, escaped from Larned Monday night. He was arrested Tuesday in Garden City.


Police: Child Accidentally Shoots Wamego Woman at Home

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a Wamego woman was critically injured when a child accidentally shot her. The Wamego police department said first responders who went to a Wamego home early Wednesday found a 31-year-old woman suffering from a gunshot wound to the chest. She is hospitalized in Topeka in critical condition. Officials say evidence indicates the woman was shot by a handgun fired by a small child. Chief Michael Baker said a mother, father and child lived in the home where the shooting occurred. No names or further details have been released.


Man Pleads Guilty to Charges in Death of Topeka Woman 
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A man has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and other charges in the 2019 killing of a woman whose body was found in a natural gas-filled Topeka home. Jeremy Lardner pleaded guilty Wednesday to the murder charge, as well as aggravated robbery and kidnapping in the death of 36-year-old Brandi Prchal. Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay says as part of a plea agreement, Lardner's defense team agreed to a sentence of nearly 49 years on all the counts when Lardner is sentenced on January 27. Lardner remains in custody on $1 million bond. On November 1, 2019, police and paramedics found Prchal's bludgeoned body and Lardner unconscious in a Topeka home filled with natural gas.  


Parents Sue Kansas City Fire Department After Fatal Crash

KANSAS CITY, Mo . (AP) — The parents of a man who died in a crash involving a Kansas City firetruck are suing the city, the fire department and the truck driver. Michael Elwood was one of three people who died when the firetruck hit a car and then struck a pedestrian before crashing into a building in the Westport entertainment district last December. His parents allege in the lawsuit that the firetruck driver was negligent and too inexperienced to be driving the truck, which was responding to an emergency call at the time. A spokesman for the fire department said he would not comment on a pending lawsuit.


University of Kansas Suspends 2 Fraternities Until 2027

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP/LJW) — The University of Kansas has suspended two fraternities for five years following an investigation that accused the clubs of fostering a culture of hazing. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the university on Tuesday informed Phi Gamma Delta and Phi Delta Theta in a letter that they will be removed from KU's campus until the spring of 2027. The letter says investigations by national fraternity leadership and reviewed by a university panel found the fraternities engaged in a pattern of hazing, including action that hurt students. One instance attributed to Phi Gamma Delta says a pledge suffered a concussion after being thrown against a locker. Phi Delta Theta was also accused of causing harm to pledges through forced workouts and other actions.


Hospitals Overflow with COVID Patients as Staff Members Fall Ill

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Patients are dying in emergency rooms of small Kansas hospitals as larger hospitals that are struggling with soaring staff absences and COVID-19 cases turn down transfers. Hospitals across the state painted a dire picture Wednesday of worsening conditions as the highly contagious omicron variant collides with a delta variant surge. They urged public officials to require masks and impose emergency declarations that could free up more resources, saying they are struggling to keep up with the demand for testing and that surgeries are being delayed and clinics cancelled.


Hospital Officials in Missouri Discuss Sharp Increase of COVID-19 Cases

UNDATED (AP) - Hospital and health officials across Missouri say their hospitals are being overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. Dr. Mark Steele, executive chief clinical officer at University Health, said Wednesday the system’s two hospitals in the Kansas City region are treating 98 patients with COVID-19, an all-time high for the system. In Springfield, the director of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department said 473 new cases of COVID-19 were reported Tuesday, the highest number in the county since the end of 2020. Officials say they are treating the high numbers while also facing staffing shortages and a strong increase in demands for testing.


Kansas School Board OKs $425,000 for Outgoing Superintendent

GARDNER, Kan. (AP) — An outgoing suburban Kansas City, Kansas, school superintendent has secured a $425,000 severance package just days before newly-elected conservative school board members who campaigned on ousting her take office. The Kansas City Star reports that the Gardner Edgerton School District board last month approved the severance package covering the remaining 18 months of Superintendent Pam Stranathan's contract. Stranathan's resignation takes effect Sunday. On Monday, new members take office, giving the board a 4-3 conservative majority. That conservative majority was elected on its opposition to Stranathan’s policy of remote learning and mask requirements in the face of a global pandemic.


Man Given 4 Consecutive Life Sentences for Child Sex Abuse

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 40-year-old Wichita man has been sentenced to four consecutive life sentences for sexually assaulting a young girl. Jeremiah Orange was sentenced Wednesday for abusing a girl during the summer of 2016 while she and her mother were staying with him. He was convicted in November of two counts of rape and two counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child. The four life sentences each have parole eligibility after 25 years. District Judge Jeffrey Syrios said each of the four sentences represents a separate act against the child.


Conditions Remain Dry Throughout Missouri River Basin

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Conditions remain dry throughout the Missouri River basin, so officials are predicting that the amount of water flowing down the river this year will be below average again. The dry forecast reduces the chance of widespread flooding along the river this spring although some local flooding is still possible if chunks of ice block the flow of water or if heavy rains fall on an area. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Thursday that last year was the tenth driest year on record in the Missouri River basin. This year, runoff is expected to increase somewhat but it is expected to be only 84% of of the long-term average.


Missouri Recorded More than 1,000 Traffic Deaths in 2021

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri transportation officials say the state recorded more than 1,000 traffic deaths in 2021. It is the first time since 2006 that Missouri had more than 1,000 traffic fatalities. The department says in a news release that 1,004 people died in traffic crashes last year. That's a 2% increase over last year and the second consecutive year traffic fatalities increased after more than a decade of decline. The department says about two-thirds of the people killed were not wearing seat belts. Preliminary data also says use of cell phones while driving and speeding were also significant factors in many of the crashes.


Longtime NFL, College Coach Greg Robinson Dies at 70

UNDATED (AP) – Greg Robinson, who spent nearly four decades coaching in the NFL and college, has died at 70. His wife, Laura, says he died Wednesday from a form of Alzheimer's Disease. Robinson won two Super Bowl rings as defensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos in the late 1990s and also served in the same role for the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs. He succeeded Paul Pasqualoni as head coach at Syracuse University in December 2004. Robinson also was defensive coordinator at Michigan, Texas, and San Jose State. He retired in 2015.


Chiefs Pivot Again After Game vs Broncos Flexed to Saturday

UNDATED (AP)  – Andy Reid is a creature of habit, which makes the late decision by the NFL to flex the Chiefs' game against Denver to Saturday _ well, not exactly welcomed in Kansas City. But on the bright side, this isn't the first time the Chiefs have had to adapt on the fly this season. They already had their home game against the Broncos flexed from an afternoon kickoff to primetime in early December. And a couple of weeks ago, an outbreak of COVID-19 forced them to change gears before their game against the Chargers.


Chiefs Expect Injured Orlando Brown Back for Broncos Game on Saturday

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs should have left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. on the field when they visit the Broncos on Saturday. Brown hurt his calf muscle during pregame warmups and missed last week's last-second loss in Cincinnati. But he did just about everything in practice Tuesday and coach Andy Reid said he expects Brown on the field in Denver. The Chiefs need to beat the Broncos and hope Tennessee loses to Houston on Sunday to earn the AFC's No. 1 seed.

The news wasn't as good for right tackle Lucas Niang, who tore his patellar tendon early on against the Bengals. He'll miss the rest of the season, pushing backup tackle Andrew Wylie back into the starting lineup the rest of the way. The Chiefs also hope to get Mike Remmers back from injured reserve, where he's been rehabbing a back injury. But Reid said Tuesday that Remmers is still feeling some pain and that he wasn't sure when he might be available.


These area headlines are curated by KPR news staffers, including J. Schafer, Laura Lorson, Kaye McIntyre, and Tom Parkinson. Our headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays, 11 am weekends. This news summary is made possible by KPR listener-members. Become one today! 

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