Kansas Regulators Approve Merger of Westar Energy, Great Plains / KCPL
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas utility regulators have approved the merger of the two largest electric companies operating in the state. The Kansas Corporation Commission's decision today (THUR) that means Topeka-based Westar Energy and Great Plains Energy of Kansas City, Missouri, will become subsidiaries of a new company called Evergy. Great Plains is the parent of Kansas City Power & Light. Missouri regulators approved the merger earlier today (THUR). Both companies' shareholders overwhelmingly approved it in November. Westar said in a statement that the new company will have an equity value of about $15 billion and 1.6 million customers in Kansas and Missouri. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the merger is expected to generate savings and efficiencies. Westar will give customers $23 million in credits on their bills, while KCP&L will issue $7.5 million in credits. (Read more about this story.)
Lawrence Man Sentenced for Raping Girl for Several Years
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A 40-year-old Lawrence man has been sentenced to nearly 28 years in prison for repeatedly raping a girl for more than six years. Andrew Tribble was sentenced tyoday (THUR) for two counts of rape and one count of aggravated criminal sodomy. He was originally charged with a dozen felonies. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the man's victim, who is now 17, read a statement before sentencing saying Tribble stole her childhood. She said by the time she was 9, she wanted to die but she eventually decided she had to speak up. Tribble's attorney read a statement from him apologizing for his actions. Before his arrest, Tribble was a maintenance worker for the city and had coached youth sports in Lawrence.
Man Gets Life Sentence in Fatal Topeka Road Rage Confrontation
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka man involved in a fatal road rage incident has been sentenced to life in prison. Today (THUR), Shawnee County District Court Judge David Debenham sentenced 23-year-old Andre Rhoiney Jr., for first-degree felony murder in the October 2016 road-rage shooting death of 28-year-old Michael Stadler He was sentenced to life plus 13 months. Rhoiney was convicted in March after a mistrial was declared in an earlier trial. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports a co-defendant, Daniel Askew, previously testified that Rhoiney fired two shots at a van Stadler was in after people in the two vehicles had exchanged words and rude gestures. Askew said Rhoiney meant to scare the people in the other car. Askew has been charged but has not gone to trial.
2nd Man Admits to Kidnapping, Raping Kansas Sheriff's Deputy
OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A second man has pleaded guilty to kidnapping and raping a suburban Kansas City sheriff's deputy. Twenty-three-year-old Brady Allen Newman-Caddell entered the plea today (THUR) to aggravated kidnapping, two rape counts and aggravated criminal sodomy. Another man, William Luth, was sentenced previously to more than 41 years in prison for abducting the deputy in October 2016 from the parking lot of a detention center in Olathe as she arrived at work. She wasn't in her uniform. She was released in the Missouri suburb of Lee's Summit two hours later. Newman-Caddell and Luth are both from suburbs on the Missouri side.
Juvenile Arrested in Pittsburg After Video Shows Disabled Man's Beating in City Park
PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — Police in Pittsburg are investigating the alleged assault of a disabled man in one of the city's parks. Pittsburg police Maj. Brent Narges says police were notified Monday that two videos were circulating on social media that showed a man being slapped and choked in Schlanger Park last week. Narges says the victim is a dependent adult and the suspect is a 15-year-old boy. The juvenile was arrested. Investigators have recommended charges of aggravated battery. The videos prompted at least six complaints to Pittsburg police. In a statement issued Wednesday, Pittsburg City Manager Daron Hall thanked those who notified police of the video, which he said shocked and sickened him. Crawford County Attorney Michael Gayoso said he expects to file formal charges shortly.
Kansas Monitors Contractor Keeping Foster Youth in Offices
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Children and Families is monitoring a foster care contractor that has kept children in offices overnight due to a shortage of beds. The Kansas City Star reports that the department announced the added oversight of KVC Health Systems on Wednesday after hearing concerns. A department email says it's aware of the difficulty the state's contractors have in children's placement, "and we continue to work with them to minimize the time youth spend in offices." KVC spokeswoman Jenny Kutz says the contractor is working to place children in foster homes. She says no children have been kept in KVC offices since May 18. Child welfare advocates and lawmakers have scrutinized the department for the past year after discovering the lack of beds and missing foster care children.
Senator Laura Kelly Picks State Lawmaker for Ticket in Kansas Governor's Race
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democrat Laura Kelly has picked a fellow state senator as her running mate in the Kansas governor's race. Kelly has announced that Senator Lynn Rogers of Wichita is her choice for lieutenant governor. Kelly is from Topeka and has served in the Senate since 2005. Rogers won his seat in 2016. Rogers is a former Wichita school board member. Kelly announced his selection outside Topeka High School to emphasize their support for public education. Kelly also stressed their experience in government. The other major Democratic candidates are ex-Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer and former state Agriculture Secretary Joshua Svaty. The 38-year-old Svaty is running with 40-year-old ex-Army helicopter pilot Katrina Lewison. His campaign has described them as the ticket of the future. Senator Laura Kelly is 68 and Senator Lynn Rogers is 59.
Feds Charge California Man, 2 Gamers in Deadly Hoax Call
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Federal prosecutors have indicted two online gamers and the California man accused of making the hoax calls that led a police officer to fatally shoot an unarmed man in Kansas. The indictment unsealed Wednesday charges Tyler Barriss with conspiracy, false information and hoaxes, cyberstalking, interstate threats and other charges. Gamers Casey Viner, of Ohio, and Shane Gaskill, of Wichita, face conspiracy, obstruction of justice and wire fraud charges. Court documents do not list attorneys, and Barriss' attorney in a related Kansas case did not immediately return a message. First court appearances for all three men are set for June 13. Barriss is accused of calling Wichita police from Los Angeles on Dec. 28 to report a shooting and kidnapping at a Wichita home. A responding officer fatally shot 28-year-old Andrew Finch after he opened the door.
More than $8 Million Awarded to Victim of Cult in Trafficking Case
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — More than $8 million has been awarded to a woman who alleged that the spiritual leader of a cult forced her to work without pay for a decade. A federal judge in Kansas issued the order Wednesday on behalf of Kendra Ross. She alleged that from the age of 11 until 2012, when she "gathered her courage and strength to escape," she was the victim of human trafficking at the hands of Royall Jenkins and his organization, The Value Creators. The suit said the group forced Ross to work in restaurants and as a maid, cook and childcare provider in Kansas City, Kansas; Atlanta; Dayton, Ohio; Newark, New Jersey; and New York City. Ross' attorney, Betsy Hutson, says she is "thrilled." No attorney is listed for Jenkins. (Read more about this story.)
2 Kansas, 1 Missourian Accused in "Rent-A-Vet" Scheme
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Federal prosecutors are alleging that two Topeka businessmen and another from the Kansas City area participated in a scheme to defraud the federal government by setting up companies to gain federal contracts meant for specific groups, such as disabled military veterans. In a civil action filed in Kansas City, federal prosecutors allege the three men set up front companies in a fraud that cost the government about $352 million. Those accused are Matthew Torgeson, former president of Torgeson Electric Co., and Matthew McPherson, president of McPherson Construction Inc., of Topeka. Also cited Is Kansas City-area businessman Patrick Michael Dingle. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the civil action asks that properties and bank accounts owned by the men and companies they set up be forfeited.
KCK Water Park: Rides Won't Open Until Issues Resolved
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas water park where a boy was killed on a waterslide says it won't open this season until it resolves issues raised by a state audit but that it thinks the audit was "malicious." Attorneys for the company that operates the Schlitterbahn park in Kansas City, Kansas, said in a Wednesday letter to the Kansas Department of Labor that although the park won't open until the audit's points are addressed, they think the audit should be withdrawn. A recent inspection turned up 11 violations, mostly involving record-keeping and safety signs. The park is scheduled to open for the season on Friday. The department said Thursday that it was preparing a response.
KC Democrat Files to Run for Kansas Insurance Commissioner
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A retired health-care company manager who has been active in the NAACP is running for Kansas insurance commissioner as a Democrat. Nathaniel McLaughlin of Kansas City, Kansas, filed today (THUR) for a spot on the August primary ballot. He is the only Democrat running so far. McLaughlin is a former regional manager for Sodexo Healthcare Services and said he oversaw its operations in eight states. He also has served as president of the state and local NAACP chapters. He ran for Congress in 2016, finishing second in a three-person Democratic primary in the 3rd District in the Kansas City area. Incumbent Republican Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer is running for governor. Assistant Commissioner Clark Shultz is running for the GOP nomination, along with state Senator Vicki Schmidt of Topeka.
UPDATE: Extensive Water, Smoke Damage Caused by Library Roof Fire; Cause Under Investigation
Kansas State University's Hale Library remains closed as officials investigate the cause of Tuesday's fire on a portion of the roof over the original Farrell Library section, with extensive smoke and water damage throughout. More information and future updates are available here.
Investigators: Fire at Kansas State Library Ruled Accidental
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Investigators have determined a fire that damaged Kansas State University's main library was accidental. Manhattan Fire Department spokesman Ryan Almes said Wednesday the blaze began while work was being done on the Hale Library roof. Damage from the fire on Tuesday was limited to part of the roof but here was extensive water and smoke damage throughout the building. Damage estimates have not been determined. The library will remain closed until further notice. University officials said all other buildings are open but the fire caused disruptions in some internet and technology operations on the campus. Almes said the fire occurred in an area containing several large air-handling units, making it difficult for firefighters to fight the blaze. No injuries were reported.
Robbery Suspect Shot by Wichita Liquor Store Manager
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a liquor store manager shot and wounded man allegedly tried to rob the store. Police were called Tuesday to F&K Liquors in southeast Wichita after employees reported two men walked into the store, showed a gun and demanded money. KAKE-TV reports the manager followed the men out of the store and fired several shots. An 18-year-old suspect was hit in the leg. Police spokesman Charlie Davidson says he is expected to recover and will be booked into jail for aggravated robbery when he's released from the hospital. The second suspect fled but was later arrested. Davidson says investigators believe the suspects are connected to other recent robberies.
11th Annual Busker Fest Comes to Lawrence this Weekend
The Lawrence Busker Festival rolls into town Friday, bringing jugglers, rope-walkers, sword-swallowers, musicians, mimes and dancers to the streets downtown. Festival producer Richard Renner says new grant funding has allowed the Busker Fest to bring in more international acts this year. The 11th annual Busker Fest - as well as the Art Tougeau Car Parade -- will take place this weekend. The Busker Ball will be held Friday night at the Lawrence Arts Center. The Art Tougeau Car Parade takes place Saturday. (Learn more here, or log on to LawrenceBuskerfest.com.)
Kansas Renews Economic Partnership with Japan
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer says the state will renew its partnership with a group that strengthens economic ties between the state and Japan. In 2012, then-Governor Sam Brownback dropped the state's membership in the Midwest U.S.-Japan Association, citing the $2,000 annual cost of membership. Colyer met with association members in April and said this week that Kansas will rejoin the regional trade organization. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Japan has invested in 55 Kansas businesses with 10,000 employees. Colyer's office said Japan is Kansas' third-largest export market in 2017, totaling $980 million in commerce. The Kansas Livestock Association and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce were among organizations supporting the decision to rejoin the association.
Missouri Lawmakers Read Aloud Details of Governor Greitens' Affair
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Governor Eric Greitens' attorneys asked a woman the governor had an extramarital affair with questions ranging from details of sexual encounters to whether she ever pierced her belly button. House lawmakers investigating Greitens read transcripts this week of a lengthy and wide-ranging cross-examination of the woman. The woman's testimony was at the center of a felony invasion-of-privacy indictment against Greitens. He faced allegations that he took an at least partially nude photo of her and threatened to release it if she spoke about their encounter. The St. Louis prosecutor dropped the case last week, although she referred it to a special prosecutor for consideration. In cross-examinations, Greitens' lawyers asked the woman about times she lied or kept things from friends and family about Greitens, as well as intimate details of consensual sexual encounters she says she had with the governor in 2015, before his election. She also was questioned about returning to see Greitens after she says he slapped her.
European Union: U.S. Car Tariffs Would Break Trade Rules
WASHINGTON (AP) — European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen says that any U.S. plan to unilaterally raise tariffs on auto imports "obviously would be against" rules of the World Trade Organization. Katainen said Thursday the EU was still studying reports that President Trump asked Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to consider whether auto and auto parts imports threaten U.S. national security. A little-used U.S. law authorizes the president to restrict imports and impose unlimited tariffs on national security grounds. Regarding EU car imports into the United States, Kaitainen said it "is very difficult to imagine it creates any sort of threat to national security." The United States will decide by June 1 whether to impose steel and aluminum tariffs on EU imports, something which has moved trans-Atlantic relations to the brink of a trade war. Katainen said any imposition of higher car tariffs were still far off and said "we don't expect this to further complicate the solution" to the overall trade issues between Washington and Brussels.
Trump Orders Probe of Tariffs for Cars, Trucks
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is directing the Commerce Department to begin an investigation into whether tariffs are needed on the import of automobiles into the United States. The White House says Trump has asked Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to consider whether imports of cars and trucks and automotive parts threaten U.S. national security. The president says in a statement that "core industries such as automobiles and automotive parts are critical to our strength as a Nation." Trump is making the announcement as negotiations with Canada and Mexico over the North American Free Trade Agreement have stalled. Nearly half of the vehicles sold in the U.S. are imported, with many of the vehicles coming from assembly plants in Mexico and Canada.