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Headlines for Thursday, March 22, 2018

Area news headlines from the Associated Press

Kansas Lawmakers Advance First Part of School Funding Fix

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers have advanced the first piece of a plan for complying with a Kansas Supreme Court ruling on public school funding. A special Senate committee on school finance approved a bill Thursday that would revise the state's formula for distributing more than $4 billion a year to local school districts. The measure goes next to the Senate and a debate there is expected next week. The bill's changes are designed to make the formula fairer to poor school districts. It eliminates several provisions that the Supreme Court said favored wealthier districts. The court ruled in October that parts of the funding formula were unfair and that the state isn't spending enough money overall on its schools. The Senate committee's bill does not significantly boost the state's overall spending.


Kansas Weighs Protections for Faith-Based Adoption Agencies

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers are considering legislation that would prevent the state from forcing faith-based adoption agencies to place children into homes that violate their religious beliefs.  Critics say the bill is designed to discriminate against would-be LGBT parents.  Two identical bills dubbed the Adoption Protection Act are under consideration in House and Senate committees, and each panel finished two days of hearings Wednesday.  Republican Representative Susan Humphries of Wichita said the legislation would help get Kansas ahead of potential lawsuits that have been filed against faith-based agencies in other states.  But Equality Kansas lobbyist Tom Witt opposes the measure and said it would allow private entities to receive taxpayer dollars and discriminate against LBGT Kansans.  Supporters said that the measures would help guarantee religious freedom for faith-based agencies.


Kansas Senate Approves Bill on Police Body Camera Footage

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators have taken a step toward greater transparency in law enforcement with the Senate passing a bill that would require departments to share body camera footage more quickly. The vote Thursday was unanimous. The House passed a version last month but must review a small Senate change. The bill would give law enforcement agencies up to 20 days to release requested footage and fast-track a process that can take months. But the quick access would be limited to the subjects of the footage, their attorney, and their legal guardian or next of kin. Even with the Senate's unanimous vote, the bill faced criticism. Democratic Senator Oletha Faust-Goudeau of Wichita said the legislation doesn't go far enough still leaves police with too much discretion over determining policy on body camera use.


Kansas Senate Votes to Allow Self-Service Beer Taps

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansans are closer to being allowed to be their own bartenders after the state Senate passed a bill that would legalize self-service beer taps for bars and clubs. The vote Thursday was 37-3 and sent the bill to the House. Kansas is among a handful of states where self-service beer taps are not legal. Critics worry that legalizing them would make it harder to prevent underage drinking or keep customers from becoming drunk. Kansas Licensed Beverage Association representative Philip Bradley wasn't opposed to the idea but said for monitoring customers, a real-life bartender is hard to beat. Missouri bar owner Zach Campbell has such taps in his establishment and said customers must check in with a bartender periodically. He says having self-service taps is "almost like a beer buffet."


Shooting in Wabaunsee County Ruled Justified Self-Defense

ALMA, Kan. (AP) — No charges will be filed in the fatal shooting death of a man last month in Wabaunsee County. County Attorney Tim Liesmann announced Thursday that the shooting of 36-year-old Chad Thomas-Buckbee in Alma was a justified self-defense shooting. Liesmann said the shooting occurred after Thomas-Buckbee began acting aggressively toward a family member, who tried to lock him out of the house. He says Thomas-Buckbee got inside the house and was shot after he injured a family member. He died later at a Wamego hospital. Liesmann did not identify the shooter or the person who was injured.


Mother, Daughter Charged in Man's Killing at Kansas Lake

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a woman has been charged with helping to orchestrate the killing of her mother's boyfriend at a northeast Kansas lake and her mother with helping cover up for her.  Eighteen-year-old Ashlyn Hemmerling is jailed on $1 million bond on a first-degree murder charge in the death of 22-year-old Taylor Sawyer, whose body was found March 14 at Perry Lake. Hemmerling's mother, 37-year-old Sarah Hemmerling, is jailed on $100,000 bond on an obstruction charge.  Ashlyn Hemmerling's boyfriend, 22-year-old Jonathan Blevins, also is charged with first-degree murder.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Herrig says authorities believe Blevins pulled the trigger, Ashlyn Hemmerling helped orchestrate the homicide and Sarah Hemmerling helped her daughter disseminate a false story.  The suspects' attorneys didn't immediately return phone messages from The Associated Press.


Husband of Woman Found Dead in Western Kansas is Arrested

PLAINVILLE, Kan. (AP) — The husband of a woman who was found dead in rural western Kansas has been arrested.  The Kansas Bureau of Investigation said Wednesday that 35-year-old Ailfonso Eduardo Garcia was arrested early Monday in Plainville.  His wife, 24-year-old Alexis Garcia, was found dead early Monday in Plainvlle, in Rooks County.  The KBI says Ailfonso was booked on a first-degree murder charge. The Kansas Attorney General's office will determine formal charges.  Garcia is currently being held at the Salina Regional Health Center on $1 million bond.  The KBI says it would not release any further information on the case.


Missing Kansas Girl's Body Found; Mom's Boyfriend Arrested

HOISINGTON, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a man has been arrested in the death of his girlfriend's daughter after the toddler's body was found in a rural area of central Kansas.  Barton County Sheriff Brian Bellendir says 23-month-old Iviona Lewis was found dead around 6 am Wednesday. Twenty-five-year-old Chaz Stephens, of Hoisington, is jailed on $1 million bond. No charges have been filed. Bellendir said he didn't know if Stephens has an attorney.  Hoisingon Chief Kenton Doze says 50 to 100 people searched for Iviona after a caller reported around 4 pm Tuesday that she hadn't been seen since Sunday night. Doze says the girl's mother had been visiting her brother in Great Bend, and the delay in reporting Iviona's disappearance stemmed from confusion over who was supposed to be caring for her.


Defense Attorneys Say Bomb Plot Wasn't Serious

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) —  An attorney for one of three Kansas militia members accused of plotting to blow up an apartment complex where Somali immigrants lived says that other members of the militia didn't tell authorities about it because "none of them ever took the talk seriously." Attorney Jim Pratt, who represents alleged plot leader Patrick Stein, said none of the plot would have happened without an informant paid by the FBI. Richard Federico, another defense attorney, says the informant was on a mission to infiltrate militia groups and the FBI used him to target the men. Stein, Gavin Wright and Curtis Allen have pleaded not guilty to several charges, including conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction. Defense attorneys presented their opening arguments Thursday afternoon. The prosecution made its statement earlier in the day.
earlier today:

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) —  A federal prosecutor says three militia members accused of plotting to bomb an apartment complex housing Somali immigrants were trying to murder as many Muslims as possible. In her opening statement Thursday at their trial, Risa Berkower told jurors that they described the Somalis as "cockroaches" and wanted to set off bombs that would kill them in the meatpacking town of Garden City, Kansas, about 220 miles west of Wichita. Patrick Stein, Gavin Wright and Curtis Allen have pleaded not guilty to several charges, including conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction. Their attorneys will make opening statements later Thursday.
earlier today: 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A jury has been selected for the trial of three militia members accused of plotting to bomb a mosque and apartment complex housing Somali immigrants in Kansas.  Opening statements are expected to begin today (THUR) in the trial of Patrick Stein, Gavin Wright and Curtis Allen. All three have pleaded not guilty to several charges, including conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction.  Prosecutors say a militia member tipped off federal authorities after becoming alarmed by escalating talk of violence.  Defense attorneys say the case is "uniquely political" because much of the anticipated evidence is in reaction to the 2016 presidential election. They argue the case will require jurors to weigh evidence regarding whether the alleged conduct constitutes criminal activity or constitutionally protected speech and assembly.


Man Charged with Raping Men at Kansas State University Fraternity, UMSL

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A man charged with sexually assaulting a male University of Missouri-St. Louis student at gunpoint earlier this month inside an on-campus apartment is charged with a similar crime at a Kansas State University fraternity house.  The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that 23-year-old Devonta Bagley, of Belton, Missouri, is jailed on $500,000 bond on charges of sodomy, armed criminal action and burglary in the Missouri case. No attorney is listed for him in online Missouri court records.  He faces similar charges in Riley County, Kansas, where court records say he sexually assaulted a 20-year-old inside the Sigma Chi fraternity house in September while the man was "unconscious or physically powerless."  Officials say Bagley had been a graduate student at UMSL, but was expelled last fall after a student conduct hearing.


Kansas Game Wardens Arrest 3 in Antelope Poaching Case

ELKHART, Kan. (AP) — Game wardens say they have solved an antelope poaching case discovered last October in southwest Kansas.  Wardens were called in October about two antelope found dead in Morton County. Evidence indicated the animals were shot with a rifle and left to rot in the field.  The suspects also drove across a freshly drilled winter wheat field to kill the animals.  The Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism said Wednesday that three people were arrested and have confessed to the poaching.  No charges have been filed.  The department said tips from the public helped solve the case.


Wichita Shooting Victim Died Day of Son's Birthday Party

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man who was killed in a bar shooting was supposed to celebrate his son's birthday the day he died.  The Wichita Eagle reports that 27-year-old Dwayne Brunson was shot early Sunday after an altercation at the Deuces Bar. He died at a hospital.  Brunson planned to celebrate 3-year-old Kyvan's birthday with the family that day. His partner Mallory Stein told their children about his death after the party.  Brunson's aunt, Kemerlin Richards, says her nephew had big dreams, his biggest being a good father.  Family friend Stacy Polkinghorne says Brunson "won't be able to mold the boys and teach them everything he knew," but that he'll live on through his sons.  Police don't know what prompted the shooting or whether Brunson was the intended target. No arrests have been made.


Kobach Running with Ex-Rival Hartman in Kansas Governor Bid

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kris Kobach has picked Wichita businessman and former Republican rival Wink Hartman as his running mate in his campaign for Kansas governor.  The secretary of state announced Hartman's selection Wednesday as he kicked off a four-city bus tour in Topeka. Kobach said as lieutenant governor, Hartman would function like a corporate chief operating officer and audit state agencies.  Hartman owns a family of oil industry companies. Kobach is a Topeka native and Hartman's pick balances Kobach's ticket geographically.  It's also likely to help Kobach in financing his campaign.  Hartman and three companies tied to him loaned his campaign for the GOP nomination nearly $1.7 million before Hartman dropped out of the race last month. The two said there's been no decision on how much Hartman will contribute to the ticket.


Judge: Feds Mostly Complied with Records Request from Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has handed down a mixed ruling in the lawsuit brought by the Kansas attorney general seeking records related to former President Barack Obama's proposal to move detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the Army prison at Fort Leavenworth.  U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree concluded Wednesday that the Defense Department fulfilled its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act except for five documents, which the court will privately review to determine if information was improperly withheld.  The judge noted the Defense Department did not immediately comply with the state's freedom of information request when the lawsuit was filed. It has since produced more than 2,000 pages of documents about Obama's plan to close the military detention facility center in Guantanamo Bay.  Kansas had argued the search was insufficient.


Olathe Man Re-Sentenced for Shooting at First Responders

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — An Olathe man was sentenced for the second time for setting a fire and then shooting at first responders who responded. The Kansas City Star reports 63-year-old William Outhet Jr. was sentenced Thursday to nearly 14 years in prison for attempted first-degree murder. Prosecutors say he set his house on fire in February 2013 and fired at firefighters and police officers when they arrived. No responders were injured and firefighters rescued Outhet after they found him unconscious in the home with a shotgun across his chest. Outhet was sentenced in 2014 to 15 years and four months in prison. The Kansas Court of Appeals vacated his arson conviction and ordered resentencing for the attempted murder charge.


Mental and Behavioral Health Center for Kansas City, Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas Health System plans to open a mental and behavioral health center in downtown Kansas City, Kansas.  The health system said in a news release Wednesday that it acquired the former Environmental Protection Agency building, which has been empty for five years. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.  Health System Vice President Chris Rudernt says renovation of the building will take about a year. The total project cost is an estimated $61 million.  The new facility will include a 4- to 6-day inpatient adult mental and behavioral health unit with 47 beds. It will consolidate inpatient services currently provided at the system's main campus and at the Prairie Ridge campus in Kansas City, Kansas.  The new building also will house some administrative offices.


Overland Park Woman Accused of Stealing Money from Nebraska Jewish Group

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A former treasurer has been accused of stealing from the Jewish Federation of Lincoln.  A Nebraska federal court document say 44-year-old Jennifer Rosenblatt, of Overland Park, was indicted Tuesday on five counts of wire fraud. The document says Rosenblatt used nearly $39,000 from federation accounts at a Lincoln bank to make payments on her personal credit card from July 2014 through October 7, 2016.  Rosenblatt didn't immediately return a call Thursday from The Associated Press. The court records don't list the name of an attorney who could comment for her.


Kansas Barbecue Owner Arrested, Accused of Using Customer's Credit Card

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A barbecue restaurant owner in eastern Kansas is accused of racking up more than $7,300 in charges on a customer's credit card left at the business.  The Kansas City Star reports that Matthew Sander was charged last week with counts of identity theft, misdemeanor theft, felony theft and criminal use of a financial card.  Sander is the owner of Smokin' Joe's Bar-B-Q in Olathe.  A customer told police that he ate at the restaurant January 28, and couldn't find his card the next day. He found several unauthorized purchases made January 28 on his statement. Sander was arrested March 10 after investigators identified him through surveillance video.  Court records show the case is the third time since December that Sander has been charged with similar crimes. His next court appearance is April 11.


Lawrence High School Band Trip to Orlando Includes Sickness

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence school officials say about a third of the 150 Lawrence High School band members who recently went to Orlando, Florida, became sick after apparently contracting a norovirus.  Lawrence High School assistant principal Mark Preut said the students spent six days in Orlando for Festival Disney, a performing arts competition at Disney World. They began falling ill after they arrived at an Orlando hotel on March 14.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports a norovirus is a highly contagious virus that people can get from another person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. Symptoms include stomach pain, nausea and diarrhea. One student was treated at an emergency room for dehydration.  The high school is on spring break this week.


1 of 5 Suspects in St. Joseph Double Homicide Sentenced

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — One of five men charged in a double homicide in St. Joseph has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for his role in the deaths. Alexi Martinez-Andino was sentenced Thursday for second-degree conspiracy to commit murder in the July 2016 deaths of 22-year-old Kevin Villegas-Melendez and 25-year-old Raymond Gonzalez-Ortiz. The St. Joseph News-Press reports prosecutors say the victims were killed in an execution. Investigators found 50 shell casings near the victims' van, and no evidence that the victims had weapons or fired back at the suspects. Police say residents near the shooting had to run for cover. Two other suspects have pleaded guilty to the same charge and are awaiting sentencing. The cases of two other men each charged with two counts of first-degree murder awaiting court hearings.


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