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Headlines for Thursday, May 10, 2018

Area news headlines from the Associated Press

Kansas Governor Signs Bill on Body Cameras, Child Deaths

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new Kansas law will make law enforcement body camera footage more accessible and require the state to release basic information about child abuse deaths. Governor Jeff Colyer signed a bill Thursday that contains both provisions and issued an executive order requiring more transparency from state agencies in providing information about open jobs. Colyer described the new law as a good step toward making Kansas more open. It takes effect July 1. Law enforcement agencies will be required to make body camera footage accessible to the families of suspects fatally shot by officers within 20 days of a request. It's a response to inconsistent access across the state. The new law's other provision would require the state to disclose whether it had reports that a dead child was being abused.

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ACLU Demands Kansas Correct Inaccurate Voter Information

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union has made public a letter that seeks to force Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to fix inaccuracies on public notices posted on state and county websites regarding voter registration. Its letter Thursday says that under court decisions people who register to vote at motor vehicle offices or who use a federal form do not need to provide proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or passport. But the state's website and the websites of some counties continue to erroneously tell voters such documents are required. The ACLU is asking Kobach to issue written instructions to county officials and correct the state webpages by May 18 so the issue can be resolved with court intervention. Kobach's spokesman did not immediately respond to an email.

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Mother, Boyfriend Charged with Murder of Toddler

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The mother of a 2-year-old Wichita boy who died from suspected abuse and the woman's boyfriend have been charged with murder in the first degree. It is the latest case in the Wichita area in which young children died after law enforcement and state welfare officials received reports they were being abused.  Elizabeth Woolheater and Lucas Diel made their first court appearances Wednesday via video feed from jail. They are charged in the death of Anthony Bunn. They have not yet been assigned public defenders.  The head of Kansas Department of Children and Families announced more changes Tuesday at the embattled agency. Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel said in a news release that the agency will be "implementing corrective action plans" in child welfare programs and will be making personnel changes.

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Former Kansas House Speaker Announces Campaign for Congress

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A former Kansas House speaker has jumped into the crowded race for the Republican nomination in an eastern Kansas congressional seat.  Ex-state Representative Doug Mays of Topeka announced his candidacy Wednesday in the 2nd District. Incumbent Republican Lynn Jenkins is not running for re-election.  Mays is the seventh GOP candidate. The others include state Sens. Steve Fitzgerald of Leavenworth and Caryn Tyson of Parker and state Representative Kevin Jones of Wellsville. The presumed Democratic nominee is former Kansas House Minority Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence.  Mays served 14 years in the Kansas House starting in 1993 and as speaker from 2003 through 2006. He also is a former state securities commissioner.  He founded a lobbying firm after leaving the Legislature but ended his association with it Tuesday.

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Ward Suspends Bid for Kansas Governor to Run for Legislature

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House Minority Leader Jim Ward has suspended his campaign for governor and is running for re-election to the Legislature.  The Wichita Democrat announced his decision Wednesday after filing to run again for his House seat. Ward followed up with an email to supporters saying it's critical to have strong Democratic voices in the Legislature.  Ward's decision leaves three major candidates in the race for the Democratic nomination in the state's August 7 primary. They are state Senator Laura Kelly of Topeka, former state Agriculture Secretary Joshua Svaty and former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer.  Ward trailed both Svaty and Kelly in fundraising last year. Also, Kelly picked up the endorsement of former Governor Kathleen Sebelius and Svaty received the backing of former Governor John Carlin.  Read more about this story.

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Father of Missing Wichita Boy Charged in Different Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The father of a missing 5-year-old Wichita boy is charged with misdemeanor battery in a case not related to his son's disappearance.  District Attorney Marc Bennett said Wednesday that 34-year-old Jonathan Hernandez made his first appearance Wednesday and bond was set at $2,500.  Details of the alleged crime were not released.  Hernandez's son, Lucas, has not been seen since February 17. His stepmother, Emily Glass, reported him missing. She is charged with endangering her 2-year-old daughter. She hasn't been charged in Lucas' disappearance.

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Kansas School District Sued over Handling of Sexual Harassment Case

LANSING, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas school district is accused in a lawsuit of assigning a high-school student to the homeroom of a teacher who'd been disciplined for making sexually inappropriate comments about her. The Kansas City Star reports that the suit was filed Tuesday in federal court against the Lansing School District. The suit said the teacher made a series of sexually charged statements beginning in September, including joking that the student was likely to get pregnant that school year. The suit says the teacher was placed on paid suspension two days before holiday break. The suit says the district hasn't properly vetted other claims of sexual harassment and continues to entrust the teacher with the supervision of minor female students. The district didn't immediately return a phone message from The Associated Press.

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2nd Man Linked to Kansas City Killing Through DNA on Cup

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A second man has been linked to a fatal shooting in Kansas City's Westport bar and entertainment district through DNA collected from a cup recovered from the scene.  Prosecutors announced Wednesday that 34-year-old Arthur Simpson is charged with second-degree murder, first-degree robbery and five other counts in the October 2016 death of 25-year-old Derrick Jones. Prosecutors have requested a $500,000 bond. It's not clear whether he has an attorney.  Court records say Jones was shot during a robbery and carjacking. DNA testing was conducted on a white Styrofoam cup and straw because two suspects were seen with such a cup on surveillance video.  Police say that besides the DNA, one of Simpson's fingerprints also was found on the cup. Also charged in the killing is Tyre Jackson.

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Firefighter Acquitted of Spitting on Black Child at Hooters

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — A white Kansas City, Missouri, firefighter has been acquitted of spitting on a black 3-year-old at a suburban Hooters restaurant, uttering a racial slur and threatening the child's grandfather. The Kansas City Star reports that 42-year-old Terrence "Jeremy" Skeen was found not guilty Wednesday of battery, assault and disorderly conduct in Overland Park, Kansas, Municipal Court. Judge Cynthia Cornwell said that the witness statements were incomplete and contradictory. Surveillance video was shown but didn't capture the key portions of what prosecutors alleged happened in February when the toddler wandered away from a birthday celebration. Skeen denied in court using a racial slur and spitting on the child, but acknowledged a hostile exchange with the boy's grandfather. He has kept his job while the case works through the courts.

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Man Back in Custody After Escaping While Handcuffed

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have arrested a man who escaped from Kansas City, Kansas, police while wearing handcuffs. Police said in a news release that 21-year-old Deron McAfee was taken into custody Wednesday night without incident. Police said he was being taken into custody for felony charges late Monday when he escaped. McAfee was arrested in 2016 on suspicion of assault. In 2017, he was booked into jail on suspicion of burglary, theft and resisting arrest.

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1 of 4 Suspects Pleads No Contest in Salina Homicide

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — One of four men accused of in the death of a Salina man pleaded no contest to felony murder and kidnapping in a deal that means he could be sentenced to at least 25 years in prison. Thirty-one-year-old Charles Rodgers agreed to the plea deal in Tuesday in the June 2017 death of 29-year-old Brandon Lee Shelby. Prosecutors say Shelby was stabbed and beaten to death and his body was left about a mile northeast of Salina. The Salina Journal reports prosecutors say Rodgers agreed to kill Shelby for 40-year-old James Pavey. He expected to be paid with drugs or money. Pavey and two other men, all facing first-degree murder and other charges, are awaiting trial.

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2 Germans Killed While Cycling in Kansas Identified

GALENA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol has identified two German citizens killed this week when they were hit by a vehicle while riding bicycles in southeast Kansas. The patrol said Thursday a minivan driven by a 23-year-old Shawnee, Kansas, woman struck the cyclists from behind while they were traveling west on Route 66 near Galena. The two men who died were 74-year-old Harry Jung, of Steinfurth, Germany, and 71-year-old Heinz Gerd Buchel, of Bad Nauheim. The men died at the scene. Trooper Rick Wingate said the investigation into the cause of the crash is continuing. Investigators also don't know yet why the two men were in the U.S. The Joplin Globe reports the patrol has said the men were following cycling laws when they were hit.

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Wichita Man Sentenced to Probation for Starving His Dog

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man who claimed he found a starving dog has been sentenced to a year's probation after admitting the dog was his. The Sedgwick County District Attorney's Office says 28-year-old Vincent Currie Jr. was sentenced Tuesday for misdemeanor cruelty to animals and interference with law enforcement. He could spend a year in prison if he violates probation. Currie called police in October 2017 to report finding a dog near his home that was so thin its bones were visible. The dog was treated for severe dehydration and an intestinal blockage that required surgery. Eventually, police received a tip that the pit bull belonged to Currie, who had told friends he couldn't afford the dog. A Wichita family is now caring for the dog.

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Authorities ID Man Whose Body Was Found Near Hastings

HASTINGS, Neb. (AP) — Authorities have identified human remains found just outside of Hastings as that of a Kansas man.  Television station KSNB reports that the body found around noon Monday was that of 58-year-old Ricky Ghan, of Wichita. Ghan's remains were found by a groundskeeper who was mowing at the Motorsport Park Hastings.  Authorities say Ghan was last seen in Hastings on October 14.  Officials say an autopsy did not indicate foul play.

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Commissioner Pleads Not Guilty to Fraud, Money Laundering

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Sedgwick County Commissioner Michael O'Donnell has pleaded not guilty to federal fraud and money laundering related to his handling of campaign funds.  U.S. Magistrate Gwynne Birzer on Wednesday allowed O'Donnell to remain free on an unsecured bond of $5,000.  A 12-count indictment alleges the 33-year-old man took $10,500 from his campaign accounts to put into his personal bank account and for friends, and then covered it up by making false reports.  The Wichita Eagle reports O'Donnell returned to his seat Wednesday on the Sedgwick County Commission, with his mother and father sitting in the front row of the audience.  His parents said they came to support their son in his first public meeting since Friday's indictment, but declined further comment.  O'Donnell and his attorney declined comment after the arraignment.

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7-Month-Old Wellington Girl's Death Ruled a Homicide

WELLINGTON, Kan. (AP) — Wellington police say they're investigating the death of a 7-month-old girl as a homicide. Police Chief Tracy Heath said Jesslinn Kinslee Hulett died last month of blunt force trauma. KAKE-TV reports the baby's father took her to a hospital on April 1after she quit breathing. She died April 5 at a Wichita hospital. The baby was in the care of her mother who lives in Oxford. No one has been arrested.

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Kansas Priest Allegedly Stole More than $40,000 from Church

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A Catholic priest in Johnson County is charged with stealing more than $40,000 from a parish where he was pastor.  Rev. Joseph Cramer is charged with felony theft and two counts of felony computer crime. Prosecutors say he stole the money from Divine Mercy Parish in Gardner between November 2015 and May 2016.  The Kansas City Star reports the 68-year-old Cramer was released on $5,000 bond Tuesday.  Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas officials said they contacted prosecutors last September. Cramer was placed on administrative leave and has resigned as pastor.  Court documents don't say how the alleged crimes occurred or how the money was spent. But as a condition of his bond, Cramer was ordered to stay away from casinos.  Court records don't name a lawyer for Cramer.

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Fallen Power Pole Started Fire at Lawrence Tractor Business

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Fire investigators say a fallen power pole started a fire that caused about $4 million damage to a Lawrence tractor business.  Lawrence-Douglas County fire official James King says when the pole fell Saturday transformers pierce the roof of Heritage Tractor. The ensuing electrical arcing started a fire in the business' tool room.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports the pole belongs to Westar Energy. It wasn't immediately clear what caused the pole to break.  More than two dozen firefighters and 10 trucks battled the fire for more than three hours Saturday.  One firefighter was treated and released for heat exhaustion. No one else was injured.  For now, Heritage's Lawrence employees are working out of other Heritage locations.

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Report: US Winter Wheat Forecast Down Amid Drought, Surplus

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — U.S. farmers are expected to harvest their smallest winter wheat crop in more than a decade amid an ongoing drought that has devastated fields across the nation's breadbasket and a global surplus of the grain that has depressed prices, according to government report released Thursday. The National Agricultural Statistics Service forecast the size of the nation's 2018 wheat crop at 1.19 billion bushels. If realized, that would be down 6 percent from the previous year. The last time the nation's farmers harvested such a small wheat crop was in 2002, when U.S. production fell to 1.137 billion bushels, said Marsha Boswell, spokeswoman for the industry group Kansas Wheat. "It is not a surprise that production is down, the market is not really telling people to plant wheat. There is a surplus of wheat in the world," Boswell said.

Not only are projected U.S. wheat yields down to an average 48 bushels per acre, but the agency is also forecasting that just 24.8 million acres of wheat will be harvested — a record low harvested acreage for the United States, according to the report.

Kansas remained the nation's top winter wheat producer even in a dry year like this one, with the government estimating that state's growers will bring in 270.1 million bushels. That's compared to the 333.6 million bushels harvested last year in Kansas. The government's estimate for Kansas is a bit more optimistic than the 243.3 million bushels that participants in the Wheat Quality Council's winter wheat tour had predicted earlier this month, although both had estimated average statewide yields of 37 bushels per acre. The difference is because tour participants anticipate Kansas farmers will abandon more acres before harvest. Lane County grower Vance Ehmke said his farm in west central Kansas — where he grows about 2,500 acres of certified wheat seed — has gotten less than 2 inches of rain since October, far less than the 7 inches that would be normal for that period. His neighbor this week plowed up a half section of wheat that was so poor it would not be worth cutting. "It is just incredibly dry out there," Ehmke said. "Farmers have a well-deserved reputation for whining, but this time we are not kidding."

Winter wheat is planted in the fall and typically harvested beginning in June in Kansas. Drought conditions have plagued this year's crop, and it remains to be seen whether the state will get enough moisture in the coming weeks to fill out the heads of wheat. Much of the wheat across Kansas is just ankle-high, and crop development is two to three weeks late. The report noted drought conditions were prevalent across most of Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Behind Kansas, the second largest winter wheat crop this year is expected to come out of Washington with a forecast production there of 118.8 million bushels of wheat. Colorado production trails third with 83.6 million bushels.

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Ex-Chiefs Player: NJ Police Fabricated Evidence for Gun Charge

ELIZABETH, N.J. (AP) — A former NFL linebacker's career was cut short after authorities in New Jersey fabricated evidence linking him to a gun used in a shooting, the player alleged in a lawsuit filed this week. The Elizabeth police department and Union County prosecutor's office "willfully ignored and were deliberately indifferent to overwhelming evidence" that Khaseem Greene hadn't provided the weapon used in a shooting outside a nightclub in Elizabeth in December 2016. The Kansas City Chiefs released Greene in May of last year, the day charges against him were reported. Two months later, a gun charge against Greene was dropped after an audio recording surfaced of the accused shooter telling detectives he lied about Greene's involvement in the shooting. The lawsuit filed Tuesday accuses the police and prosecutor's office of "simultaneously manufacturing and fabricating false evidence in order to charge Plaintiff with a crime he did not commit." A spokesman for the county prosecutor's office declined comment Thursday. A message left at the Elizabeth police department wasn't immediately returned. The 29-year-old Greene is an Elizabeth native who was a Big East defensive player of the year while at Rutgers. He appeared in a total of 25 games for the Chicago Bears in the 2013 and 2014 seasons, starting six games at linebacker. The lawsuit charges numerous counts including civil rights violations, false arrest and imprisonment, malicious prosecution, negligence and defamation. It seeks unspecified punitive and compensatory damages, including for past and future economic loss. It also seeks the appointment of an independent monitor to oversee the Elizabeth police department. According to the lawsuit, the man charged with the shooting, a career criminal with more than 20 prior arrests and six felony convictions, admitted he lied about getting the gun from Greene during an interview with police after his arrest in late December 2016. Nevertheless, authorities went ahead and charged Greene, citing surveillance video that allegedly showed Greene handing the gun to the man, Jason Sanders. No such video existed, the lawsuit alleges. Greene last August said the legal trouble has been "probably the toughest time of my life" and has been "very hard emotionally and mentally." "People started looking at me differently and accusing me of being this thug, this monster, and all of it was false," he said by phone. The suit names the Elizabeth Police Department and the Union County Prosecutor's Office as well as individuals in both offices.

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Oklahoma City Forward Nick Collison Retiring After 15 Seasons

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison is retiring after 15 years in the NBA. The 37-year-old Collison announced his decision Thursday through the team. The Thunder said Collison is among five NBA players to have spent the past 15 or more seasons all with one franchise. "My goal was always to make a career out of basketball and I was blessed to be in the NBA for 15 seasons," Collison said in a statement. The 6-foot-10 Collison did not give a reason for his retirement. He played in just 15 games this past season. His best season came in 2007-08, when he averaged 9.8 points and 9.4 rebounds in the last year before the Seattle SuperSonics relocated to Oklahoma City. Collison was selected No. 12 overall out of the University of Kansas by the Seattle Supersonics in 2003. Thunder executive vice president and general manager Sam Presti said Collison was a player who set the course for the team at home in Oklahoma City. "Nick has helped define the standards we work by on a day-to-day basis, on and off the court," Presti said. "He has become synonymous with the Thunder shield." Thunder chairman Clayton I. Bennett said that after purchasing the SuperSonics, the first thing he saw in the gym was Collison practicing his jump shot. That moment stuck with Bennett, who thanked Collison for being the same person today as he was then. "The Thunder will forever be a better organization because he was here," Bennett said. Collison started 177 of his 910 career regular-season games, averaging 5.9 points and 5.2 rebounds. He and Russell Westbrook are the only two players to spend the first 10 years of the relocated franchise in Oklahoma City.

 

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