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Headlines for Thursday, June 14, 2018

Kansas Officials Ask Yoder to Seek End of Family Separations

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Dozens of elected officials in Rep. Kevin Yoder's congressional district in Kansas are pushing him to demand an end to the forced separation of families caught crossing the U.S. border illegally.  Democratic state Representative Jarrod Ousley of Merriam and Republican state Representative Linda Gallagher of Lenexa delivered a letter Wednesday to Yoder's office in Overland Park.  The letter urged Yoder to demand that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security stop separating families. The GOP congressman is chairman of a House Appropriations homeland security subcommittee.  Yoder said in a statement that he is "heartbroken" by the separations and is working to find a solution.  Most of the more than 60 people who signed the letter are state lawmakers or local officials in the 3rd Congressional District in the Kansas City area.

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City: High Levels of Chloride in Topeka Water Not Dangerous

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka city officials say high levels of chloride in the city's water supply pose no danger to residents. The city announced Thursday that its treatment plant recorded higher than normal levels of chloride in the Kansas River. The chloride is coming from the Smoky Hill River, which feeds into the Kansas River. The source of the chloride hasn't been determined. The chloride readings mean the salt levels in the water are high. City officials say the Environmental Protection Agency has confirmed the water is within its safe drinking water regulations. There is no maximum contaminant levels for chloride for primary drinking water. A secondary standard maximum of 250 milligrams per liter is only a guideline. The chloride level in the Kansas River on Thursday was 286 mg/L. The city recorded a reading of 316 mg/L Tuesday.

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Kansas Consumer Advocates Recommend Westar Rate Cuts

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kansas consumer advocates are recommending state utility regulators reject Westar Energy's request for a $17.2 million rate increase and instead order the company to cut rates. The Lawrence Journal-World reports employees of the Kansas Corporation Commission and the Citizens Utility Ratepayer Board recommended this week that the commission cut Westar rates for customers by at least $69 million. The board, or CURB, is a state agency representing consumers in utility rate cases. Westar provides service to about 700,000 customers in Kansas. The company has filed a rate request that translates to an increase of $2.80 a month for the average residential customer. But KCC staff and CURB are urging regulators to reject the idea that Westar needs any overall rate increase. Westar is expected to submit a rebuttal July 2.

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Woman Who Killed Kansas Toddler Sentenced to Nearly 27 Years

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas woman who beat her fiance's 2-year-old daughter to death has been sentenced to nearly 27 years in prison.  Lindsey Thomasson of Gardner was sentenced Tuesday to 26 years and eight months in prison for the death of 2-year-old Presley Porting.  The girl was found unresponsive in the family's home in February 2017.  Assistant District Attorney Jason Covington said in April that Presley died from blunt force trauma to the head, which she suffered while Thomasson was babysitting her.  Doctors testified that Presley could have been saved if she received immediate medical attention. Instead, the evidence showed Thomasson tried to cover up the crime by putting makeup on the girl to conceal bruises.

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Affidavit: Ex-Teacher Had Sex with Teen Student at School

MAIZE, Kan. (AP) — Newly released court documents say a former Kansas teacher who also worked as a law enforcement officer had sex with a 17-year-old girl at school.  The Wichita Eagle reports that the affidavit released Wednesday says 44-year-old Johnny Yelverton told a Wichita police detective that he started a romantic involvement with the girl who was in some of his classes in late March. The affidavit also says explicit photos of the girl were found on his phone after the girl's family went to police.  Yelverton is charged with sexual exploitation of a child and having unlawful sexual relations with a student. Before his resignation last month, he taught fire science and law and public safety courses to Maize High School and Maize South High School students at the Maize Career Academy.

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Officer Pleads Not Guilty to Wounding Wichita Girl

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former Wichita police officer who wounded a 9-year-old girl when he fired at her family's dog has pleaded not guilty to aggravated battery.  Dexter Betts entered the plea Wednesday. Prosecutors say Betts shot at a Wichita family's miniature English bull Terrier twice on December 30.  Officers went to the family's home when the girl's mother reported her husband was threatening to hurt himself.  The Wichita Eagle reports Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett says the girl was sitting on the floor next to the dog when it moved and Betts fired twice.  The family's attorney says the dog only went up to the officer and barked. The girl and dog were not seriously injured.  Betts was fired from the department less than a month after the shooting.

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Judge: Gamers Cannot Play Video Games Pending "Swatting" Trial

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Two gamers whose online dispute over a video game allegedly led to a swatting call that resulted in police fatally shooting a Wichita man were prohibited from any online gaming while they are free on bond.  U.S. Magistrate Judge Kenneth Gale imposed that added restriction Wednesday at the request of prosecutors. The government did not seek their detention.  Eighteen-year-old Casey Viner, of North College Hill, Ohio, and 19-year-old Shane Gaskill, of Wichita, quietly answered not guilty at their arraignment on charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice, wire fraud and other counts. Gaskill showed up in court dressed in a black tie and shirt and Viner wore a black suit with a blue shirt and gray tie.  The two gamers will be living with their parents pending trial, and the judge also forbade them from keeping firearms in the household. He made an exception to the gun restriction for Viner's father, who is a law enforcement officer.

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Kansas Officer Dies in Motorcycle Crash; Pedestrian Charged

CONCORDIA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a Kansas police officer died when his motorcycle crashed into another vehicle that had slowed to avoid a pedestrian walking on the highway.  The pedestrian was later arrested and faces charges of second-degree murder and pedestrian under the influence.  The Concordia Blade-Empire reports 48-year-old Concordia officer Marc Henry was killed Monday afternoon on Highway 81 in Ottawa County.  Kansas Highway Patrol Lt. Roy Henry says several cars slowed to avoid the man walking along the highway when Henry hit one of them from behind.  Before joining the Concordia department in 2012, Henry worked for Clay Center police and the Clay County Sheriff's Office. He also was a member of the National Guard in the Army and the Marine Corps.  Henry will be buried Friday with full military honors.

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17-Year-Old Arrested in McPherson Man's Shooting Death

MCPHERSON, Kan. (AP) — McPherson Police Chief Robert McClarty says a 17-year-old boy has been arrested in the shooting death of a man whose body was found this week in a mobile home park.  McClarty says the boy was arrested Tuesday afternoon. His name was not released. The news release says the suspect was arrested on charges of first-degree murder, burglary, theft and possession of stolen property in the shooting death of a 22-year-old Jordan Krell, of Canton.  The suspect was booked into a juvenile detention center.  Canton's body was found Monday lying in an empty lot at the mobile home park after McPherson police received a call about shots being fired.  McClarty says the investigation is continuing.

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2 Killed When Tractor-Trailers Collide Head-On in Kansas

CULLISON, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say two people are dead after two tractor-trailers crashed head-on in central Kansas. The Kansas Highway Patrol says the crash happened Wednesday afternoon as the driver of one of the tractor-trailers veered to the left to avoid slower moving traffic ahead on U.S. 54. The rig then collided with the second tractor-trailer about 3 miles west of the Pratt County town of Cullison.  The patrol says the driver who swerved was injured and his passenger, 42-year-old Arturo Mora, of Chaparral, New Mexico, was killed. Also killed was the driver of the second tractor-trailer, 36-year-old Patricio Maturino, of El Paso, Texas.

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Pope Appoints New Bishop for Salina Diocese

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Pope Francis has announced that Monsignor Gerald Vincke is the new bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Salina. The Salina Journal reports that the pope made the announcement Wednesday. Vincke will become the 12th bishop of the Salina Diocese, replacing Bishop Edward Weisenburger who left in September to take over as bishop of the Diocese of Tucson, Arizona. Vincke joins Salina after time as a pastor in Michigan, where he was ordained to priesthood in 1999. The Salina Diocese spreads across more than 26,000 square miles (67,340 square kilometers), while the Lansing, Michigan, Diocese covers just more than 6,200 square miles (16,000 square kilometers). The 53-year-old says he's looking forward to the new challenge the Salina area will present. He says his goal is to make more disciples.

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Trial Set for Ex-Wichita YMCA Employee Accused of Rape

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former employee of the Wichita YMCA who is accused of sexually assaulting two young girls at the Kansas center will go to trial this summer. Caleb Gaston waived his preliminary hearing and pleaded not guilty on Thursday. He's accused of sexually assaulting a 3-year-old girl and a 4-year-old girl in January. His trial is scheduled to start on July 23. The alleged assaults happened in the Kid Zone at the downtown YMCA branch. Gaston was a part-time YMCA employee for five years before he was arrested on January 31, after a woman reported her daughter had been molested. Gaston remains jailed on $1.1 million bond. Gaston's attorney, Steve Ariagno, has said Gaston denies all allegations of wrongdoing.

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Father, Son Arrested in ATM Theft from Wichita Bingo Casino

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police have arrested a father and son who allegedly rammed a pickup truck into a Wichita bingo hall and stole an ATM. Officer Charley Davidson said two of three suspects were arrested Wednesday. Officers responding to the Bingo Casino in south Wichita early Monday found the front door shattered and the ATM gone. Surveillance video showed three people arriving at the business in a white truck. Two of the suspects broke the front windows and then put a tow cable around an ATM. The truck backed into the business and pulled the ATM through the doors. The suspects then loaded the ATM onto the truck and fled.

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Last Defendant in Camp Minden Case to Plead Guilty

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The lawyer for the last defendant in a case involving a huge explosion at Louisiana National Guard-owned site says he expects his client to plead guilty.  Donald Hathaway says he can't say more until after William Terry Wright's change-of-plea hearing, scheduled for this (THUR) afternoon.  Wright was vice president of operations at Explo Systems, which had an Army contract to "demilitarize" M6 artillery propellant.  State police began investigating Explo after a huge explosion in 2012 at Camp Minden. Explo went bankrupt in 2013, leaving thousands of tons of potentially explosive M6.  Prosecutors had said they planned to show Wright committed acts similar to those he's accused of at another company, in Kansas. And four codefendants have pleaded guilty, saying they'd testify for the prosecution. A fifth codefendant died June 2.

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$25 Million Donation Will Create New Rehab Center at St. Luke's Health System

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City hospital network plans to use $25 million in donations to expand spine care offerings and establish a new rehab center in the area.  The Kansas City Star reports that St. Luke's Health System will invest the donation by the Marion and Henry Bloch Family Foundation over the next five years.  St. Luke's officials say the funds will help establish a "Spine Center of Excellence" at St. Luke's Marion Bloch Neuroscience Institute in Kansas City, Missouri. Officials say the spine center will include more clinical care options and allow for additional research.  The donation will also help open a rehabilitation center next year at St. Luke's South Hospital in Overland Park, Kansas. The center will use robotic technology to help people recover from spinal injuries and other conditions.

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Wichita Man Who Tried to Buy Tiger Pelts Charged

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A Wichita man who prosecutors say tried to buy two tiger pelts is facing federal charges. U.S. Attorney Steve McAllister said Thursday that 38-year-old Ret Thach is charged with violating the federal Lacey Act, which prohibits interstate selling or buying of animals protected by the Endangered Species Act. Thach allegedly agreed to pay $8,000 to a seller in Wisconsin and fund traveling expenses to get the pelts delivered to Wichita. The seller was an undercover agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Prosecutors say the agent warned Thach that selling the pelts across state lines was illegal but Thach said he still wanted to buy them. He told the agent he already owned a lion and several bear pelts.  He wanted the pelts for his home office. 

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Pipeline Company Pleased with Legal Appeal Dismissal 

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) _ A TransCanada Corp. spokesman says the Keystone XL oil pipeline developer is pleased with the South Dakota Supreme Court's decision to dismiss a legal appeal from opponents fighting the project. The high court ruled Wednesday that a lower court lacked jurisdiction to hear pipeline foes' cases and ended their appeal. The project would move crude oil from Canada across Montana and South Dakota to Nebraska, where it would connect with existing pipelines feeding refineries along the Gulf Coast. TransCanada spokesman Terry Cunha said Thursday the company is working to get needed land easements for the pipeline in Nebraska.  But Nebraska landowners have filed a lawsuit challenging the Nebraska Public Service Commission's decision to approve a route through the state. A separate federal lawsuit brought by Montana landowners and environmental groups seeks to overturn President Donald Trump's decision to grant a presidential permit for the project.

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With Doughnuts in Hand, Man Who Fled Kansas Traffic Stop Surrenders

GALENA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a rapper who fled from a southeast Kansas traffic stop and feuded with police on Facebook brought along doughnuts when he surrendered.  The Wichita Eagle reports that the feud started after two people bailed from a vehicle that a Galena officer attempted to stop Sunday for speeding. Police say one person returned in "a redeeming attack of conscience," and the other, Tyrone Amos, outed himself on Facebook. Police posted screenshots of Amos describing himself hiding in a bush and changed the department's profile picture to a bush.  After surrendering Wednesday, the department again changed its profile picture to a selfie of an officer with a man in handcuffs. The post ended with "One of ya'll need to go #FreeM3GAPHON3," a reference to Amos' rap name.

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