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Headlines for Thursday, March 1, 2018

Area news headlines from the Associated Press

Kansas Accidentally Reveals Health Information of 11,000 People

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas agency says it inadvertently sent health-related personal information of about 11,000 people to its business partners. The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services announced Thursday that it became aware on February 23 that an employee sent an unauthorized e-mail with the information. The department says it has no evidence the information was misused or disclosed publicly. It says agreements prevent the partners from disseminating the information. The e-mail included names, addresses, Social Security numbers, birth dates, gender, Medicaid identification numbers and participation in in-home services. Agency spokeswoman Angela de Rocha says all consumers whose information was released will receive a letter of explanation. The release has been reported to federal regulators. De Rocha says the agency will review its procedures to prevent a similar situation from occurring.


Kansas Collects $27 Million More in Taxes Than Expected in February

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is reporting that it collected nearly $27 million more in taxes than anticipated in February. The report Thursday from the state Department of Revenue was more good news for legislators as they face a Kansas Supreme Court mandate to increase spending on public schools. It was the ninth consecutive month that tax collections have exceeded expectations. Revenue Secretary Sam Williams said the state's ongoing monthly revenue surpluses could be an indication of economic optimism. The state reported collecting $373 million in taxes last month when its official projections predicted collections of $346 million. The monthly surplus was 7.7 percent. Since the fiscal year began in July, the state has collected $4.3 billion in taxes. That's $275 million more than expected and a surplus of 6.8 percent.


Kansas Lawmakers Consider Some Gun Issues but Not Big Shift

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Even Kansas lawmakers who are pursuing legislation on gun issues aren't sure it signals a big shift in the Republican-leaning state's political climate. Legislators are considering proposals to allow judges to temporarily confiscate guns from people who deemed a risk to themselves and others. They're also advancing a measure designed to ensure that fugitives and domestic abusers are prosecuted for illegal gun possession. But proposals to ban bump stocks and limit the sale of semi-automatic weapons aren't being seriously considered. Moderate Republican Representative Stephanie Clayton of Overland Park says she doesn't know how she would get rural lawmakers to vote for such measures. House Republicans are working a package of school-safety initiatives but it's likely to focus on seeing that schools develop good safety plans and not gun control.


Kansas Governor Establishes Task Force to Combat Drug Abuse

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer has signed an executive order creating a task force to combat opioid and methamphetamine abuse. The task force created Thursday will be headed by the leaders of 16 state agencies and also will include medical and law enforcement personnel with expertise on substance abuse. Colyer said that the opioid and meth epidemics are "very real" in Kansas. He noted that opioid overdoses in the state have climbed from 35 in 2000 to 159 in 2016. The governor is a surgeon and said: "I've had patients die. I've had patients see their lives ruined, and I've seen the recover as well." The task force will examine other states' strategies to determine what works and what doesn't before laying out a plan of action for Kansas.


Plea Hearing Set in Kansas Possible Hate Crime Killing

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — The man charged in a possible hate crime killing in a suburban Kansas City bar is scheduled for a plea hearing next week. Johnson County Court records show the hearing is scheduled Tuesday for 52-year-old Adam Purinton. Purinton is charged with first-degree murder in the February 2017 shooting death of 32-year-old Srinivas Kuchibhotla at Austins Bar & Grill in Olathe. In Johnson County, Purinton also is charged with two counts of attempted murder after two other men were injured during the shooting. Federal prosecutors allege Purinton targeted Kuchibhotla and another Indian man because of their race or ethnicity. The third man was injured when he tried to help the victims. Purinton also faces federal hate crime charges. He has pleaded not guilty in the federal case.


Topeka Drinking Water Violates EPA Contamination Standards

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Utilities officials say Topeka drinking water is out of compliance with a federal standard for contaminants. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the drinking water is still considered safe despite having exceeded an Environmental Protection Agency standard for the presence of haloacetic acids in one location. City utilities director Bob Sample says the EPA notified Topeka this month that recent testing showed the drinking water at one site exceeded standards for the preceding three-month period by containing an average of 60.6 micrograms per liter of haloacetic acids. The EPA allows a maximum of 60 micrograms per liter. The city is mailing out a letter this week to Topeka's 57,000 homes and businesses saying they don't need to take corrective action like switching to bottled water. The city expects to resolve the issue within about six months.


Wichita Regional Child Services Official Ousted

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita official for the Kansas Department for Children and Families no longer has his job. Agency Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel announced Wednesday that Bill Gale was relieved of his appointment on Tuesday. He was the Wichita regional director of family services. The Wichita Eagle reports Meier-Hummel said the agency wasn't comfortable with Gale's leadership and wanted to go in a different direction. Her statement didn't elaborate. Before taking the state job in 2014, Gale spent eight years on the Wichita City Council and another eight years as the Sedgwick County election commissioner. Gale took over the Wichita office when the previous director, Diane Bidwell, resigned after a state investigation found some staff members improperly released private information and gave preferential treatment to a private entity, FaithBuilders.


Police Call Off Park Searches for Missing Wichita Boy

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say they will stop searching for a missing 5-year-old boy unless new information comes in. Law enforcement officers, using dogs, horses, drones and divers, have searched four city parks since Lucas Hernandez was reported missing February 17. Police have not said what led them to search the parks. Officer Charley Davidson said Tuesday no further searches are planned but police detectives are going through information they have already received. Police are asking the public to continue to provide any tips. Police aren't discouraging citizen searchers from looking for evidence in the parks but ask that people not disturb anything that might be evidence. Lucas's stepmother, Emily Glass, was charged Monday with one count of endangering a child. She remains jailed on $50,000 bond.


Missouri Man Charged with Kidnapping 2 Kansas Girls

COLUMBUS, Kan. (AP) — A Missouri man has been arrested on kidnapping charges after police found him with two Kansas girls at traffic stop. The Morning Sun reports that 28-year-old Nathan Belcher was arrested Tuesday after coordinated efforts between investigators in Cherokee County, Kansas, and Jasper County, Missouri. He's being held in Jasper County on $10,000 bond. A Kansas police officer stopped Belcher of Carl Junction, Missouri, early Sunday morning. Cherokee County Sheriff David Groves says the officer found in the car two girls ages 10 and 15 who weren't related to Belcher. He was released and the officer returned the girls to their parents. Groves said Wednesday the investigation is ongoing, and that detectives are looking at Belcher's phone after obtaining a search warrant for digital evidence. Jail records don't immediately list if Belcher has an attorney.


Missouri Supreme Court to Hear Wind Transmission Line Case
ST. LOUIS (AP) — A Missouri Court of Appeals has sent a case over a stalled multi-state transmission line to the state Supreme Court. The 780-mile Grain Belt Express wind energy line has been held up since the Missouri Public Service Commission said last year that all counties along its path must agree to the project. Presiding Judge Lisa Page wrote Tuesday that the commission erred when it said it could not authorize the project. The line would run from wind farms in western Kansas through Missouri and Illinois to Indiana, where it would connect with a power grid for eastern states. All the other states on the route have approved the $2.3 billion project.


Man Killed in Police Shooting in Wamego Identified

WAMEGO, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have identified a 25-year-old man who was killed during a gun battle with law enforcement officers in Wamego. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says Ethan Straub, of Wamego, died in the shooting Monday evening during a confrontation with several law agencies. Officers were responding to a report of an armed carjacking and saw the suspect riding a bicycle while holding a gun. Officers tried to make contact with the man as he tried to steal another vehicle. Straub and officers from local, county and state agencies exchanged gunfire. He was pronounced dead at the scene. No officers were injured. The KBI continues to investigate the shooting.


Texas Man Arrested in Fatal Hit-and-Run in Kansas

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — A Texas man has been arrested in a hit-and-run accident that killed a man in Kansas in November. Great Bend police say 58-year-old Rodney Campbell Jr., of Anderson County, Texas was arrested Thursday in Texas. The Hays Post reports Campbell Jr. is accused of hitting 65-year-old James Zager with his car in November while Zager was walking across a street in Great Bend, Kansas. The driver then fled the scene. The Barton County District Court issued an arrest warrant for Campbell on Wednesday for failure to stop or remain at the scene of the accident.


Lawrence Reducing Zebra Mussels in Water Transmission Main

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence city officials say new practices have significantly reduced the number of invasive zebra mussels in a pipeline that brings water from Clinton Lake to a water treatment plant. Last spring, workers found a zebra mussel colony that extended 2,000 feet within the pipe. The city voted to buy $80,000 worth of the copper ion generation equipment to control the mussels. The equipment passes an electrical current through a copper plate, releasing positively charged copper ions that discourage the mussels from attaching to the line's walls. The Lawrence Journal-World reports (link is external) if left unchecked, the mussels can choke off the pipes and require costly repairs. Utilities Treatment Manager Steven Craig says the treatment process is going well and no mussels have been found at the plant itself.


Wichita State Student Paper's Editor Laments Proposed Cuts

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The editor of the student newspaper at Wichita State University fears that its funding is at risk of being cut in half next year because of aggressive coverage. Chance Swaim, editor-in-chief of The Sunflower, raised concerns after a student fees committee recommended slashing the student paper's budget Friday from $105,000 to $55,000, The Wichita Eagle. He said it's unlikely the paper would be able to make up such a large cut with advertising revenue and would have to trim positions. "If they want a little newsletter, then that's what it will become," he said. "But if they want an actual student newspaper, this funding model would destroy that - which I think is intentional." Student body president Paige Hungate said the proposed cut "has nothing to do with coverage, nothing to do with content." She said the committee looked at student-fee funding levels for newspapers at other state universities and sought to "move (The Sunflower) to a more equitable model." According to data presented by The Sunflower last week, the paper gets about 54 percent of its annual funding from student fees and the rest from advertising or other sources. The University of Kansas student newspaper gets about 20 percent of its funding from fees; Kansas State, about 55 percent; Pittsburg State, 51 percent; and Emporia State, 81 percent, according to the data. Swaim said he thinks the proposed cut to student newspaper funding is retaliation for critical news stories and editorials over the past few years. The Sunflower operates independent of the university, and students make all editorial decisions.


1 Killed, 1 Hurt in Train Crash on Kansas Railroad Bridge

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a train has struck and killed one person on a railroad bridge near Topeka and that a woman was injured when she jumped to get out of the way. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that 21-year-old Christian Charay, of Topeka, was pronounced dead at the scene Tuesday. The 19-year-old woman who jumped from the bridge was rushed to a hospital in an ambulance.


Man Killed in Kansas Shooting That Injured 7 Others Was 27

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Police have identified the man killed in a Kansas City, Kansas, shooting that left seven others injured. The man was identified as 27-year-old Kevin Forman, of Kansas City, Missouri. He died at a hospital after the February 17 shooting at a packed venue for a local musician. Police say they believe the shooting is gang related. Police say the injuries of seven others who were also shot in the incident weren't life threatening.


Sheriff's Detective Charged with Misusing Public Funds

LARNED, Kan. (AP) — A former western Kansas sheriff's detective is charged with three felonies after an investigation into the theft of department funds. Forty-three-year-old Jeffrey Allen King, of Larned, was charged Friday in Pawnee County with making a false information, misuse of public funds and felony theft of more than $20,000. Ellis County attorney Thomas Drees, who is acting as the special prosecutor, said in a news release that the Pawnee County sheriff, who is King's brother, asked the KBI to investigate in December. The release says King was placed an administrate leave in December and resigned from the Pawnee County Sheriff's Office last week. Authorities allege that the crimes occurred from January 2015 to October 2017. King is scheduled to make his first appearance March 15.


Kansas Man Sues Vape Shop for E-Cigarette Battery Explosion

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A man is suing a Wichita vaping shop after he says a spare battery for his e-cigarette exploded in his pants pocket. Daniel Anderson has filed a lawsuit in Sedgwick County against Big E's Vapor Shop. The lawsuit alleges Anderson was carrying the lithium ion battery, his car keys and coins in his pants pocket in February 2016. The touching metal items caused a short to the outside of the battery, which then overheated and exploded. The suit says Anderson had chemical and thermal burns to his left leg and hands from the explosion. Anderson says the shop should've known the battery's defect and failed to warn customers. Big E's owners declined to comment.


Oklahoma Man Accused of Debit Card Scam in Nebraska, Kansas

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — An Oklahoma City man jailed in Nebraska on state charges alleging that he tried to trick a credit union into giving him a $4,000 cash advance now faces a raft of federal charges accusing him of carrying out several other scams. Prosecutors allege in U.S. District Court in Omaha that Sherman Clemons presented bogus prepaid debit cards and identification at credit unions and banks in Nebraska and Kansas. The institutions suffered $25,000 in actual losses, and potential losses in Clemons' thwarted attempts added up to $47,000, the federal documents said. Clemons, 35, faces seven federal charges, including conspiracy to commit fraud and bank and credit union fraud. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of identity theft and attempted theft by deception and is scheduled to stand trial April 24.


Child Porn Found on Kansas Teacher's Electronic Devices

DERBY, Kan. (AP) — Court records say more than 250 images and videos of child pornography were found on the electronic devices seized from a fired Kansas middle school teacher and coach. New details about 37-year-old Cody Chitwood were included in the arrest affidavit that The Wichita Eagle (link is external) obtained. Chitwood was charged earlier this month with 11 counts of sexual exploitation of a child. Derby school district spokeswoman Katie Carlson said school board members voted 6-0 Monday to fire Chitwood "effective immediately." Chitwood was hired by the district in 2004. He taught special education at Derby Middle School and coached football, track and girls' basketball. Chitwood told investigators that "when you're on the internet you see a lot of things" but added that he "never knowingly nor willing traded child pornography on any website."


Police Search for 2 Rape Suspects in Manhattan

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Riley County police are asking for the public's help to find two people suspected of raping a woman at a Manhattan bar. Police said Tuesday a 24-year-old woman was raped Saturday at O'Malley's bar. Investigators say the woman was in a restroom when the two suspects came in and attacked her. The department is asking anyone who was at O'Malley's Saturday night who has pictures or videos from inside the bar to contact authorities. Information can be offered directly to the police department or through the Crime Stoppers hotline.


Man Hit, Killed After Car Gets Stuck in Ditch on Kansas Road

BURRTON, Kan. (AP) — Reno County authorities say a man died when he was hit by a pickup after his car got stuck in a ditch. Deputy Kevin Sipe says the accident Tuesday southeast of Burrton killed 58-year-old Carl Yoder. KAKE-TV reports after a neighbor used a pickup truck to pull Yoder's car out of the ditch, a passing truck hit both vehicles. One of those vehicles struck Yoder and the other man. Yoder died at the scene. The other man and the driver of the other truck were treated for non-life-threatening injuries. Deputy Sipe said the driver of the passing truck did not see the other vehicles in the road. The accident is still under investigation.


Sex Crime Charges Dropped Against Father of Former KU Player

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Charges have been dropped against a Lawrence man who was jailed for 1.5 years in a sex crimes case. Fifty-one-year-old Tracy Releford was charged after an encounter in August 2016 encounter with a 16-year-old girl that moved between Lawrence and Kansas City, Missouri. The Lawrence Journal-World reports a judge ruled in February that probable cause did not exist to charge Releford with two felonies. Prosecutors dropped a remaining misdemeanor charge but said the case could be refiled. Trial assistant Jill Spurling says the state's witness didn't show up for the preliminary hearing. The original charge of aggravated human trafficking was dismissed in March 2017. Releford will be transferred to Missouri custody on another charge. Releford is the father of former University of Kansas basketball player Travis Releford.

Vandals Topple Headstones in Old Sections of Topeka Cemetery

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are asking the public for help identifying the vandals who toppled at least a dozen headstones at a Topeka cemetery.  Police reports say the vandalism happened between 5 pm Friday and 2 pm Saturday at the Topeka Cemetery. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the damage is estimated at $2,000.  Cemetery superintendent Lisa Sandmeyer says most of the vandalism had been repaired, though some heavy equipment may be needed to hoist one of the larger markers back onto its granite base. She said a ground manager reported 24 to 30 toppled headstones, though the cemetery hadn't taken an official count. The police report said 12 tombstones had been vandalized.  Sandmeyer says the vandalism occurred in two of the oldest sections of the cemetery, where some markers date to the 1880s.


Report: Midwest Business Conditions Index Rose in February

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A report says a business conditions index for nine Midwest and Plains states rose over the past month, pointing to continued improvement in regional economic conditions.  The report released Thursday says the Mid-America Business Conditions Index hit 59.7 in February, compared with 57.3 in January. The December figure was 59.0.  Creighton University economist Ernie Goss oversees the survey, and he says manufacturing and other business sectors in the region are experiencing "very healthy growth in business activity."  The survey results are compiled into a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. Survey organizers say any score above 50 suggests growth in that factor. A score below that suggests decline.  The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.


B-29 Bomber Gets Big Lift from Kansas County's Budget

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A restored World War II bomber is closer to getting a new home after undergoing an extensive renovation.  The Wichita Eagle reports that Sedgwick County made a $200,000 donation Wednesday to help pay for the aircraft's news $6.5 million home at Wichita Eisenhower National Airport. The donation was announced at the temporary hangar for the Boeing B-29 Superfortress named Doc.  An official with the nonprofit that owns and restored the B-29 said the group has raised a little more than $5 million for Doc's new building The Wichita-built plane was finished too late to fly bombing missions during World War II, though it eventually served as a radar trainer during the Korean War. It was discovered at a bombing range in California's Mojave desert in 1987.


Report: Midwest Business Conditions Index Rose in February

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A business conditions index for nine Midwestern and Plains states rose over the past month, pointing to continued improvement in regional economic conditions, according to a report issued Thursday. The Mid-America Business Conditions Index hit 59.7 in February, compared with 57.3 in January, the report said. The December figure was 59.0. Good news abounded in several economic sectors, including manufacturing, the report said. "At this point in time, according to our surveys, Mid-America manufacturing firms are outperforming their U.S. counterparts," said Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey. "However, government data indicate that U.S. nonmanufacturing activity is exceeding that of Mid-American nonmanufacturing firms." The survey results are compiled into a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. Survey organizers say any score above 50 suggests growth in that factor. A score below that suggests decline. The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota. The February employment index jumped to 59.4, from 52.3 in January. "Sixty percent of firms in our survey expect to add workers in the next six months," Goss said. The wholesale inflation gauge continued to reflect inflationary pressures, climbing to 82.0 from January's 74.5. "Both our regional wholesale inflation index and the U.S. inflation gauge are elevated" and are expected to showing up at the consumer level, Goss said. "As a result, I expect the Federal Reserve's interest rate setting committee to raise short-term interest rates by one-quarter of one percentage point at its next meeting on March 21," he said. Looking ahead six months, the business confidence index dropped to a still strong 74.5 from 80.5 in January. "Healthy profit growth, still low interest rates, and the recently passed tax reform package pushed business confidence into a range indicating vigorous business confidence," Goss said.


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