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Headlines for Thursday, July 8, 2021

Kansas Health Officials Cite Summer Camps as COVID Clusters

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas health officials say they are investigating an outbreak of COVID-19 cases at a church camp in Butler County. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment said 13 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the last two weeks at an AGK Ministries camp held from June 21 to June 25 at the Wheat State Retreat Center near Maize. The health department says 23 cases from the camp have been reported this summer. State and Butler County health employees are investigating, and anyone who attended the camp is being urged to get tested for the virus.


More than 1,000 New COVID-19 Cases Reported in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (KWCH) - The number of COVID-19 cases in Kansas keeps creeping higher. According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, there were more than 1,000 new covid cases reported between Friday of last week and Wednesday. Health officials say there were 51 new hospitalizations and seven new deaths across the state. KWCH TV reports that more than 1.2 million Kansans have had at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, making up nearly 45% of the state’s population. More than 32% of Kansans are fully vaccinated.


Attorney General Asking SCOKAN to Reconsider Abortion Ruling

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says he will appeal an April state court decision that found a ban on an abortion procedure “unconstitutional and unenforceable.”  The law banned the procedure known as dilation and evacuation, which abortion opponents call “dismemberment abortion.” Earlier this year, Shawnee County District Judge Teresa Watson ruled that the ban ran afoul of a 2019 Kansas Supreme Court ruling finding a “fundamental right to abortion” in the state Constitution. This week, Schmidt said he’ll ask the state Supreme Court to reconsider that 2019 ruling. The Kansas Legislature has proposed an amendment to the Kansas Constitution stating that nothing in the state Constitution creates a right to abortion. The measure will appear on the ballot in August 2022.

(AP version)

Kansas Attorney General Appeals Abortion Ruling
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Attorney General Derek Schmidt will ask the Kansas Supreme Court to reconsider a 2019 ruling declaring access to abortion a "fundamental right'' under the state constitution. Schmidt filed a notice this week that he plans to appeal a lower-court decision that held a state law banning an abortion procedure was unconstitutional. Shawnee County District Judge Teresa Watson's decision was the first on abortion from a lower court since the 2019 decision from the state supreme court. Earlier this year, the GOP-controlled Legislature put on the August 2022 primary ballot a proposed amendment to the state constitution to overturn that Supreme Court decision.


Kansas Transportation Improvement Plan Moves Forward

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - State officials have announced plans for 15 transportation improvement projects in central and western Kansas. It's part of $750 million worth of highway improvements being unveiled this week. The projects are part of the Eisenhower Legacy Transportation Plan approved last year. They include a new junction in north Wichita and safer passing lanes along U.S. 50 in four counties. Transportation secretary Julie Lorenz says it’s crucial that lawmakers stop diverting highway funds to pay for other parts of the budget. "Thanks to Governor Kelly and the Legislature for funding transportation. And I’d say let’s keep that drive-through lane of the Bank of KDOT closed," she said. Lawmakers have a long history of diverting money from the highway fund to help shore up the state budget.  


Key Lawmaker in Kansas Redistricting Won't Run for Congress

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — The chairman of the Kansas House Redistricting Committee is running for reelection to his legislative seat after considering a run for Congress. State Rep. and Overland Park Republican Chris Croft filed the necessary paperwork this week with the Kansas secretary of state’s office. He had considered a run for the GOP nomination in the Kansas City-area 3rd Congressional District. That seat is held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids. Croft said Thursday that he decided to seek reelection to the Legislature based on where he believes he can make the most difference. He will play a key role when lawmakers redraw the state's political boundaries next year.


Democrats Pick Attorney to Fill Vacancy in Kansas House Seat

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Local Democrats have selected a 44-year-old Overland Park attorney to fill a vacancy in the Kansas House. Dan Osman will replace former state representative and Overland Park Democrat Jennifer Day. She resigned in June because she was moving outside the district. Democrats selected Osman on Wednesday night. Osman owns a consulting firm that assists developers comply with government affirmative action rules, advises minority- and female-owned businesses and educates fellow attorneys about affirmative action. He also served previously on the Hickman Mills school board on the Missouri side of the Kansas City metropolitan area. He’s taking the seat for a district that’s been hotly contested in the last two elections.


Kansas Man Skips Sentencing for Debt Selling Scam

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A federal judge issued an arrest warrant for a Kansas man involved in a phony debt selling scam involving millions of dollars. Joel Tucker, of Prairie Village, was to be sentenced Thursday after pleading guilty last year to transporting stolen money, bankruptcy fraud and tax evasion. His lawyers said Tucker was in Colorado dealing with a family matter. Most of Joel Tucker's charges stem from selling phony consumer information to debt collectors, who then tried to get consumers to pay debts they didn't owe. In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission obtained a $4 million judgment against Tucker for the scam.


Topeka Woman Charged with Murder in Teenager's Death

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 21-year-old Topeka woman is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of a teenager. Shawnee County authorities charged Daisha Butler on Thursday in the death of 17-year-old Nevaeh Martinez. She was shot July 3 outside a Topeka home, and died the next day after being taken off life support. Butler is being held on $1 million bond. The victim's mother, Tiana Cannon, told KSNT that her daughter didn't know Butler and was an innocent bystander in the shooting.


Former Daycare Provider in Hays Charged in Infant's Death

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — A former daycare provider in Hays is charged in the death of an infant. Ellis County Attorney Robert Anderson Jr. said the 8-week-old baby died in August 2013 at the Michelle Sarver Day Care Home. Sarver is charged with involuntary manslaughter. A summons has been issued and she is not in custody. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment issued an emergency order of suspension of the daycare when the infant died. The agency said the child was left unattended for about 30 minutes while taking a nap. Sarver began CPR after the infant was found unresponsive but the child died later at a Wichita hospital.


Unborn Baby Survives Mom's Death in Wichita Crash

WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) - A pregnant woman was killed in a collision in Wichita this week, but her husband says their unborn baby survived the crash. Police say a robbery suspect was fleeing from officers in a vehicle when he allegedly crashed into the woman's car. KAKE TV reports that the pregnant woman, 22-year-old Samantha Russell, was in her car at a stop light (at Central and Ridge) Tuesday evening. Police say that's when 37-year-old Javan Ervin allegedly went through the red light, crashing into the woman's vehicle and two others. She was transported to Wesley Medical Center where she was pronounced dead. Her husband, Brandon, confirmed to KAKE TV Wednesday that their newborn baby boy was delivered and is healthy. Police say the baby was listed in critical condition and a GoFundMe account has been set up to help the family. The fleeing suspect, Javan Ervin, has been booked on charges of first-degree murder in commission of a felony, aggravated battery and criminal possession of a firearm. Records show Ervin has prior convictions and has been in and out of prison since 2004.  He was last released when his sentence expired on June 15.

(AP version)

Wichita Police: Fleeing Man Causes Crash that Killed Pregnant Woman

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Police in Wichita say a man fleeing officers caused a crash that killed a pregnant 22-year-old woman. The incident happened Tuesday, as police were investigating two robberies involving the same suspects. Police say one suspect was arrested, but the other fled in a pickup truck. A brief chase ensued, and a short time later, police say the truck sped through a red light and hit several vehicles. Among them was a car driven by 22-year-old Samantha Russell, who was 33 weeks pregnant. Police say Russell was rushed to a hospital, where she died. Doctors delivered the baby in an emergency procedure, and the baby is currently in critical condition. Police say the driver of the truck, 37-year-old Javan Jermaine Ervin, was arrested.


UPDATE: Police Say Arrest Made in Connection with Bodies Found at Georgia Golf Course

KENNESAW, Ga. (AP) — Police in Georgia say an arrest has been made in connection with the slaying of three men found shot to death on a golf course in an Atlanta suburb. Cobb County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Saba Long told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Bryan Rhoden was taken into custody Thursday evening. No further information was immediately available. Police say golf pro Eugene Siller was gunned down Saturday when he went to find out why a pickup truck had driven onto the 10th green at Pinetree Country Club in Kennesaw. Two other men -- one of whom was from Kansas -- were found dead in the bed of the pickup truck. Both had been fatally shot.

(–Earlier Reporting–)

Kansas Man Identified as One of the Victims Found Fatally Shot at Georgia Golf Course

KENNESAW, Ga. (AP) - Investigators have identified three men, including a Kansas man, found shot to death on the golf course of a country club in the Atlanta suburbs, but it's still unclear what prompted the violence. KAKE TV reports that golf pro Eugene Siller was gunned down when he went to find out why a white pickup truck had driven onto the 10th green at Pinetree Country Club in Kennesaw Saturday afternoon. Two other men - both fatally shot - were then found in the bed of the pickup truck. Cobb County police on Wednesday identified those men as 46-year-old Henry Valdez of California and 76-year-old Paul Pierson of Kansas. The gunman is believed to have gotten away on foot, authorities said. He remained on the loose Wednesday. Investigators believe the 46-year-old Siller was slain because he came upon a “crime in progress.” Authorities say it doesn’t appear that he was targeted, and the other men appear to have “no relation to the location at all.” Pierson was the truck’s registered owner. Police haven't commented on any possible motive for the killings of the two men whose bodies were found in the pickup. The country club is near the campus of Kennesaw State University, about 25 miles northwest of downtown Atlanta.

(AP version)

Kansas Man Among 3 Found Shot to Death at Georgia Golf Course

KENNESAW, Ga. (AP) — Investigators have identified three men found shot to death on the golf course of a country club in the Atlanta suburbs. But it’s still unclear what prompted Saturday's violence. Police say golf pro Eugene Siller was gunned down when he went to find out why a white pickup truck had driven onto the 10th green at Pinetree Country Club in Kennesaw. Two other men were found dead in the bed of the pickup truck. Both had been fatally shot. Police on Wednesday identified those men as 46-year-old Henry Valdez of California and 76-year-old Paul Pierson of Kansas. The gunman is believed to have gotten away on foot.


Kansas Lawmakers Plan Redistricting Town Hall Meetings this Summer and Fall

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas lawmakers plan to hold 14 town hall meetings across the state to gather opinions on how the Legislature should redraw political boundaries. Six legislative leaders have agreed to have the same number of town hall meetings that lawmakers held ahead of the last redistricting in 2012. The state must redraw congressional, legislative and State Board of Education districts every 10 years to reflect shifts in the population. The town hall meetings will be held later this summer and fall. The Republican-controlled Legislature plans to tackle the work of drawing new districts next year so that the new lines are in place for the June 2022 candidate filing deadline.


Drought Conditions Likely to Linger in Missouri River Basin

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — This year is shaping up to be one of the driest on record because drought conditions are lingering throughout most of the Missouri River basin. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Thursday that this year could be the 10th driest year on record along the river and only about 60% of the normal amount of water is expected to flow into the river. Nearly three-quarters of the Missouri River basin is currently experiencing either drought or abnormally dry conditions — particularly upstream of Sioux City, Iowa — and the amount of snow in the mountains that feed into the river was also below average this year.


WSU Tech Starts New Flight School

WICHITA, Kan. (KMUW) - Starting next month, WSU Tech will offer a new flight program. The school will be housed at the National Center for Aviation Training. It will be the second state-sponsored flight school in Kansas, along with Kansas State's Salina campus. Textron Aviation is providing a Cessna Skyhawk 172 as a part of its Top Hawk Program, which collaborates with flight schools across the country. WSU Tech President Sheree Utash says it has worked with Textron to open the flight school for the past three years. Graduates of the two-year program will receive an associate degree from WSU Tech and will be certified as Federal Aviation Administration pilots. They’re also guaranteed an interview with Textron Aviation.


ACLU Seeks Training in KS School District over "Lesbian" Remark

AMERICUS, Kan. (AP) - A civil rights group is threatening to sue a Kansas school district if it doesn't train employees about LGBTQ rights in response to an eighth-grade student being suspended from riding a school bus after saying, "I'm a lesbian." The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas sent a letter this week to to the 350-student North Lyon County school district. The ACLU is representing student Izzy Dieker. She was suspended from her bus for two days in January but the ACLU's legal director says the girl didn't ride again for two weeks because she felt humiliated. The district superintendent didn't immediately comment.  


Kansas Man Sentenced to 21 Years for Distributing Meth, Cocaine Across U.S.

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. – A Hutchinson man has been sentenced to 21 years in prison for conspiring to distribute methamphetamine and cocaine across the U.S. Federal prosecutors say 32-year-old Lloyd Parker was sentenced last week to 262 months in federal prison. Parker pled guilty in March. The crimes took place between 2014 and 2018 and involved the distribution of drugs in East St. Louis, Illinois; Los Angeles, Ontario, California; Houston, Texas; Memphis, Tennessee; Jackson, Mississippi and other locations. Overall, the criminal organization was responsible for the distribution of approximately 240 pounds of methamphetamine and 48 kilograms of cocaine in the Southern District of Illinois and elsewhere. Parker personally distributed or assisted in the acquisition of over 60 pounds of methamphetamine and over 5 kilograms of cocaine. As part of his sentence, Parker was ordered to serve a five-year term of supervised release and pay a $700 fine. Some of Parker’s alleged co-conspirators were charged in the same case, and several are still awaiting trial. This case was investigated by the DEA, the IRS, the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Illinois State Police, and other law enforcement agencies. (Read more.)


Longtime Wichita TV News Anchor Roger Cornish Dies at 66

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Longtime Kansas TV anchor Roger Cornish has died. KWCH-TV in Wichita reports that its former news anchor died at the age of 66 after battling liver disease. He was a news anchor at KWCH from the 1980s until his retirement in 2018. Cornish began his career in broadcasting as a 17-year-old camera operator in Hutchinson in 1972. Funeral services are pending.


Program Helps Kansas Kids Explore Educational Activities Across the State

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas students and their parents can get free admission to dozens of museums, zoos and other attractions through the new Sunflower Summer program. It’s run through a smart phone app and funded with federal aid. Denise Kahler, with the Kansas Department of Education, says the goal is to keep students learning over the summer. "Because we wanted a really fun way for our students to be able to engage in summer learning while spending quality time with their family and friends, right? And touring some of the greatest attractions that we have here in Kansas. And all this is for free, so it’s really pretty exciting," she said. The program runs through August 15. Find more information at


These area headlines, compiled by KPR news staffers, are generally posted by 10 a.m. weekdays and by 1 p.m. on weekends. This news summary, free of pop-ups and ads, is made possible by KPR listener-members. Become one today!

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