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Headlines for Thursday, June 21, 2018

Kansas Group Mum on Immigrant Children in Its Care

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An eastern Kansas nonprofit that shelters troubled children isn't answering questions about the immigrant children staying at its facilities. Joseph Wittrock, president of Topeka-based The Villages, said Thursday that the group has a contract with the federal government to house 50 "unaccompanied children" aged 6 to 18. Wittrock's comments followed a media report that the agency had children separated from families at the U.S.-Mexico border as part of a zero-tolerance immigration policy in place since April. Wittrock wouldn't say whether the youth in their care were separated from families at the border or had entered the country without family members as unaccompanied minors. The Villages operates five group homes on a 400-acre rural outpost outside Topeka and two group homes in Lawrence. The seven homes can hold 80 children.


Mourners Remember 2 Kansas Deputies Slain Outside Courthouse

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Uniformed officers from across the nation gathered Thursday to remember two Kansas sheriff's deputies who were shot and killed by an inmate while transporting him between the courthouse and jail. Wyandotte County Sheriff Don Ash said Thursday during a joint service for Theresa King and Patrick Rohrer at a soccer stadium in Kansas City, Kansas, that they "literally put their lives between a cold-blooded killer and the citizens they swore an oath to protect," The Kansas City Star reports. Authorities said an inmate apparently overpowered the deputies last Friday in a gated area behind the courthouse and shot them, possibly with one of their own guns. Rohrer, who was 35 and was the father of two, died shortly after the shooting. King, who was 44 and a mother of three, died the next day. The suspect also was shot. One of King's children, Bailey, talked about her hard-working mother. "Mom, this feels like a bad dream and I want to wake up," Bailey said. "Everything you did, you did for us and I know being a single mom wasn't easy. I know working 80 hours a week wasn't ideal . . . but you did what needed to be done to make sure we were taken care of." King was supposed to be assigned to a school attended by another of her children as a resource officer in the fall. Some mourners showed up in costume, including Star Wars characters, princesses and superheroes. Ron Coleman, who dressed as a Ghostbuster, said Rohrer participated in 17 of the last 19 Kansas City Comic Con conventions. He said Rohrer volunteered at Children's Mercy Hospital dressed as Superman. Maritza Gordillo, 27, who works as a protection order advocate at the Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department, described King as "assertive but also kind" and Rohrer as a kindhearted "jokester-geek."


Audit: Kansas Wildfire Response Underfunded, Understaffed

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A legislative audit says Kansas' wildfire suppression system is underfunded and understaffed and operates with a fragmented leadership.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the audit was ordered after wildfires in 2016 and 2017 burned more than 800,000 acres in Kansas, causing $80 million in damage and killing one person.  Auditor Andy Brienzo says Kansas doesn't have adequate resources to meet the demand for services.  In Kansas, local government has first responsibility for fighting fires. They can call in the Kansas Department of Emergency Management, the Office of the State Fire Marshal and the Kansas Forest Service. Auditors said the three agencies struggle to work collaboratively.  Auditors recommended the legislature choose one agency to lead the state's wildfire response and appropriate the money to ensure enough resources are deployed to fight fires.


Woman Convicted in 2017 Killings of 3 People in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas woman accused of participating in the deaths of three people who were strangled or smothered with trash bags has been convicted of first-degree murder and other charges.  Thirty-two-year-old Kora Liles was found guilty Wednesday of 11 counts, including three counts of first-degree murder.  She was one of five people charged in the March 2017 deaths of 19-year-old Matthew Leavitt, 38-year-old Nicole Fisher and 20-year-old Luke Davis in a Topeka basement.  Police said the violence stemmed from an unproven rape allegation against Leavitt.  Prosecutors said Liles, of Topeka, orchestrated the slayings, while defense attorneys argued that other defendants killed the victims.  Liles will be sentenced September 5.  Joseph Krahn, who prosecutors say killed the three victims, is serving three consecutive life terms. The other three defendants are awaiting trial.


Kansas Regents Approve Tuition Increases for Universities

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Board of Regents has approved tuition and fee increases for all six public universities, citing a need to keep pace with rising costs and declining state support. Full-time resident undergraduate students attending the University of Kansas in Lawrence will see a combined increase of about 3 percent. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the increase will bring the total cost of tuition plus fees to nearly $5,574 per semester. The increase comes at a time when the university is also cutting its budget for the Lawrence campus by about $20 million. Other state universities will impose tuition and fee increases ranging from 1.2 percent to 2.8 percent. Total state funding for higher education in the upcoming year will be nearly $73 million less than it was a decade earlier.


Kansas Priest Defrocked After Child Sex Abuse Allegations

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas priest has been stripped of his rank years after an investigation into multiple child sexual abuse allegations against him. The Kansas City Star reports that Archbishop Joseph Naumann issued a decree in December removing the Rev. John Wisner from the clergy. The decree was announced May 25. The Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas says it suspended Wisner from active ministry in 2012 after receiving many allegations he sexually abused minors decades ago. The archdiocese says an internal investigation found the allegations credible. Wisner has denied the allegations. The archdiocese says it notified law enforcement, but Wisner was never criminally charged in relation to the allegations. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests criticized the archdiocese on Wednesday for taking so long to announce Wisner's defrocking.


911 Caller Told to Put Dog in Truck; Dog Later Found Dead

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Police in Hutchinson say a dog died inside a sweltering animal control truck due to bad advice from a 911 dispatcher and lack of communication to animal control staff. The incident happened in May but was disclosed this week. The Hutchinson News reports that a resident on May 27 called 911 about a loose dog and was told to put it in an animal control truck compartment. But the information was never relayed to anyone. The shelter was closed for the Memorial Day weekend, when temperatures neared 100 degrees. The dog was found dead days later. Police Capt. Troy Hoover says the dispatcher's direction to put the dog in the truck was not based on protocol. He says steps have been taken to prevent anything similar happening again.


Judge Delays Trial of Sedgwick County Commissioner

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has delayed the trial of a Sedgwick County commissioner accused of misspending more than $10,000 in campaign funds and trying to cover it up. The jury trial of Michael O'Donnell that had been scheduled for July 10 has been continued to Sept. 18 in federal court in Wichita. The unopposed change was requested by his defense attorney because he already had another trial scheduled on that initial week and needed more time to prepare pretrial motions. O'Donnell has pleaded not guilty to a 12-count indictment alleging fraud and money laundering. Prosecutors say the 33-year-old Wichita man took $10,500 from campaign accounts to put into his personal bank account and to give to friends, then filed false reports with the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission.


Hundreds Attend Funeral for Designer Kate Spade

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) —  Hundreds of mourners braved drizzling rain to attend the funeral for fashion designer Kate Spade in her hometown of Kansas City, Missouri. Many of those attending the Thursday church service carried her iconic purses. Her family released a statement shortly before the funeral began, saying her father had died the night before. The statement said 89-year-old Earl Brosnahan Jr. had been in failing health and was "heartbroken" after his daughter's suicide. The 55-year-old mother was found dead in her New York City home on June 5. Her husband says she'd had depression and anxiety for years, and that she'd been seeing a doctor. A high school classmate said Thursday that Spade was "incredibly kind" and had a memorable laugh.


Kansas Official Tells Counties to Comply with Court Ruling

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Secretary of State's office has issued written instructions to county elections officials telling them to immediately implement a federal court ruling that struck down the state's proof-of-citizenship voter registration law.  The state's two-page directive was emailed Wednesday to local officials.  A federal judge found the Kansas law unconstitutional late Monday.  Elections Director Bryan Caskey says he told the counties the following morning that the Secretary of State's office was going to comply with the entirety of the ruling but that it would take a "little bit" to issue written instructions and not to change anything until then.  The American Civil Liberties Union says there are some compliance problems in those instructions, but they do not appear to be anything that needs to be addressed on an emergency basis.


More Information Released on 2 Kansas City Police Shootings

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police are releasing more details about two officer-involved shootings last week that left three people dead.  Officers fatally shot a woman who was involved in a standoff Thursday after she was seen walking with a sword in a northern Kansas City neighborhood.  About an hour later, police shot and killed two men who were fighting in downtown Kansas City.  Police say Timothy Mosley of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Robert White, a homeless man, had several confrontations on Barney Allis Plaza before officers arrived. The two men were again fighting when police say Mosley pointed a gun at officers, prompting the officers to shoot and hit both men.  In the second shooting, police say they shot 28-year-old Ashley Simonetti after she ran at officers with a 27-inch steel sword after the standoff.


Missouri Senator's Husband Invested in Hedge Fund Tied to Caymans

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Four years after Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill co-sponsored legislation targeting tax havens such as the Cayman Islands, her husband began investing in a hedge fund tied to the Caribbean nation — an investment that has paid off handsomely.  The Kansas City Star reports that Joseph Shepard has invested $1 million in Matrix Capital Management and that it has earned him between $230,000 and $2.1 million in income.  Shepard declined comment. He and McCaskill file taxes separately.  McCaskill campaign spokeswoman Meira Bernstein says the senator has no involvement in her husband's investments, and doesn't consider his business interests when doing her job in the Senate.  McCaskill's financial disclosure forms identify Matrix Capital Management's location as Waltham, Massachusetts. The U.S.-based fund feeds into a "master fund" located in the Caymans, which makes the actual investments.


Kobach Sought Pardon for VP of Corporate Donor

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach unsuccessfully sought a governor's pardon for an executive of a company that donated to Kobach and was among the sponsors of a fundraiser for him.  Governor Jeff Colyer denied the pardon request this week. Spokesman Kendall Marr said it was because the 2009 crime involved a firearm.  A police affidavit said the man threatened a cab driver with a gun to his head. The AP obtained documents in the case through an open records request.  Kobach is seeking to unseat Colyer in the August 7 Republican primary.  The executive, Ryan Bader, had pleaded guilty to attempted robbery and a judge expunged his record in 2014.  Bader is vice president for firearms importer TriStar Arms. It has donated at least $7,000 to Kobach over the past five years.


Junction City Investigators Trying to ID Body Found in May

JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (AP) — Junction City police are asking the public for help in identifying a deceased woman whose body was found about a month ago.  The body was found May 28 between two buildings in Junction City.  Captain Trish Giordano says in a news release Wednesday that the body's condition made it difficult to provide specific characteristics to the public.  She says the KBI provided usable fingerprints and a DNA profile. A forensic anthropologist says the woman apparently was white, with brown hair, aged between 40 to 60, and about 5-feet-10.  She was wearing a large blue/green tank top and blue/green shorts, with size 10 flip-flops.  Investigators say the woman is not Ashley Meiss, a former Army military police officer who hasn't been seen since she left her Ogden home May 17.


Taxes for Kansas City Streetcar Extension Approved in Vote

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A proposal to expand Kansas City's streetcar south to the University of Missouri-Kansas City won approval by a wide margin in mail-in balloting.  Residents inside a new transportation development district approved special sales and property taxes fund a $227 million project. The Kansas City Election Board said Wednesday the proposal passed by a 3-to-1 margin.  The Kansas City Star reports less than 10 percent of eligible voters participated.  Voters approved a new 1-cent sales tax for the next 30 years. Property owners generally within one-third of a mile from the streetcar route will face an additional 25-year property tax assessment.  The measures are expected to generate about $25 million annually to operate the existing 2.2-mile line in downtown Kansas City and construction of a 3.7-mile extension. Officials hope to begin expanded service by 2023.


Prosecutors: Hutchinson Man Guilty of Mistreatment of Mother

LYONS, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors say a Hutchinson man has pleaded guilty to a felony count of mistreatment of an elder person. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt's office said in a news release Thursday that 61-year-old Bruce J. Colle served as his mother's power of attorney. Investigators found that between 2013 and 2015 he made personal purchases with his mother's money instead of using it to pay for her care at a nursing home. As part of the plea on Wednesday, Colle agreed to pay $45,765 in restitution. Sentencing is scheduled for September 19.


Severe Storms Could Strike Parts of Central, Southern U.S.

ATLANTA (AP) — Forecasters say much of the central and southeast U.S. will be at risk of severe storms as the weekend approaches.  The national Storm Prediction Center says two regions will be at most risk of strong to severe thunderstorms Friday. They include an area that encompasses parts of western Oklahoma, western Kansas and eastern Colorado.  Also Friday, storms could be severe in the Deep South, especially in parts of southern Arkansas; northern Louisiana; northern Mississippi, northern Alabama; and parts of Tennessee.  Forecasters say high winds and hail will be the primary threats, though some tornadoes will also be possible.  On Saturday, there's a threat of severe storms in parts of Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas that includes the cities of Oklahoma City; Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Springfield, Missouri.


Slow Growth Likely Continues in Rural Parts of 10 States

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The economy should continue growing slowly in rural parts of ten Plains and Western states, but the most recent survey of bankers in the area doesn't reflect all the recent tough trade talk. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says farmers are concerned that new tariffs could hurt exports at a time when their profits appeared lean, at best. The overall index for rural parts of the region slipped to 56.1 in June from May's 56.3, but it remained in positive territory over 50. Any score above 50 suggests a growing economy in the months ahead, while a score below 50 indicates a shrinking economy. Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.


Settlement Reached in Kansas Lottery Jackpot Rigging Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Two Kansas Lottery players have agreed to pay about $28,000 in damages and fines for allegedly cheating the game.  The Wichita Eagle reports that Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt announced the settlement Wednesday. Schmidt's office negotiated the settlement with Amy Demoney and Christopher McCoulskey.  Authorities say the pair cashed in rigged tickets and split $44,000 in winnings with a former multistate lottery security official who manipulated a computer to turn the tickets into winners.  That official, Eddie Tipton, is imprisoned in connection with the case.  Neither Demoney nor McCoulskey admitted guilt but agreed to pay damages in the amount they collected. Demoney will pay $14,400 and McCoulskey will pay $14,000.


Wichita to Get New Psychiatric Hospital for Children

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas health system is planning to open a new psychiatric hospital for children who have suicidal thoughts, feelings of violence, depression and substance abuse.  The Wichita Eagle reports that KVC Hospitals will open the new 54-bed hospital by early 2019 at the former Kansas Orthopedic Center in Wichita. The hospital will have the capacity to treat 2,800 patients between the ages of 6 and 18 annually.  Michelle Lawrence is KVC's vice president of development. She says the new program will focus on empowering children to understand their trauma and learn to manage triggers.  Children from Wichita and south-central Kansas have had to go to KVC's psychiatric hospitals in Hays or Kansas City to receive treatment. The new KVC hospital will be the only freestanding children's psychiatric hospital in Wichita.


Kansas Sailor Killed at Pearl Harbor Reburied in Colorado

DENVER (AP) —  A sailor from Kansas who was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor has been reburied in Colorado, not far from his family. Wallace Eakes was buried Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver on Thursday with full military honors. About 100 people, mostly veterans with no other connection to Eakes, attended the service. Eakes was born and raised in Caney, Kansas. He was a storekeeper third class on the USS Oklahoma and was killed when the ship was torpedoed and sank on Dec. 7, 1941. He had been buried as an unknown at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, but his remains were recently identified through DNA. His nephew and next of kin, Gary Eakes of Tacoma, Washington, decided to have his uncle's body reburied in Colorado. Wallace Eakes' parents and sister moved from Kansas to Colorado and are buried in a private cemetery in the area.

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