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Headlines for Thursday, November 29, 2018

Kelly to Change How Appeals Court Judges Are Picked

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor-elect Laura Kelly says she will not follow former Gov. Sam Brownback's method of selecting appellate court judges. Kelly will need to appoint a new Kansas Court of Appeals judge soon after she takes office in January because Judge Patrick McAnany is retiring. The Lawrence Journal-World reports Kelly will have a nonpartisan nominating committee filter the applications and send her a list of three candidates. That is similar to the procedure used before Brownback changed it to allow him to make judicial appointments directly, subject to Senate confirmation. Kelly said in a statement Wednesday that she will use the merit-based process similar to that used for Kansas Supreme Court appointments. She said she believes that makes the process more transparent for the public.


Wichita Mom Pleads Guilty in Death of Toddler Found in Concrete

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas woman has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of her 3-year-old son, whose body was found encased in concrete.  KAKE-TV reports that 37-year-old Miranda Miller on Wednesday also entered guilty pleas to aggravated kidnapping, child abuse and aggravated child endangerment. Prosecutors say Miller and her boyfriend, 41-year-old Stephen Bodine, tortured Evan Brewer for months before his death.  Miller previously testified against Bodine in exchange for the chance to plead guilty to a less serious charge.  Bodine was convicted last month of first-degree murder and faces a possible life sentence at his December 17 sentencing. Miller's deal likely would limit her sentence to about 27 years.


Lawrence Man Sentenced for Sexually Abusing Mentally Disabled Girl

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A 39-year-old Lawrence man who molested a girl with mental disabilities was sentenced to just over 10 years in prison.  Steven Capps was sentenced Wednesday after previously pleading no contest to two counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child. The girl was 14 when the abuse occurred.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports Capps must register as a sex offender and be supervised for the rest of his life after he's released from prison.  Prosecutor Mark Simpson said the victim's family supported the plea agreement, in part because it kept the girl from having to testify.  Capps was arrested in July after another adult caught him in a room with the girl and called police.  Capps did not make a statement in court.


Appeal Rejected for Man Who Abducted, Killed 10-Year-Old Kansas Girl

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A man whose abduction of a 10-year-old Kansas girl sparked a massive manhunt before she was found dead in Missouri has lost his appeal of his conviction and death sentence.  The Kansas City Star reports that the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday rejected the claims of 44-year-old Keith Nelson that his attorney had provided ineffective assistance. Nelson snatched Pamela Butler in 1999 as she was roller-skating near her Kansas City, Kansas, home.  A witness to the abduction got Nelson's license plate, but he managed to get away. Pamela's strangled body was found later in a wooded area in Grain Valley, Missouri.  Among the issues the appeal raised was his attorneys' advise that he plead guilty. The court denied the appeal on each count.


Attorney's Unusual Defense Rejected in Sexual Assault Case

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — An attorney for a man accused of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl tried arguing that the charge should be dismissed because Kansas law says life begins at fertilization.  Defense attorney Cooper Overstreet wrote that the state's definition of life would make the girl 16, not 15, when the assault occurred.  He said that meant his client, 21-year-old Jordan Ross, of Topeka, couldn't be guilty of aggravated indecent liberties with a child, because the age of consent in Kansas is 16.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports Douglas County District Court Judge James McCabria rejected Overstreet's motion.  In their argument against the motion, prosecutors cited an earlier state appeals court ruling that the Kansas abortion law defining life beginning at conception applied to public health and not to the criminal code.


Kansas Man to Change Plea over Threat to Blow Up White House

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man accused of threatening to "blow up" the White House has notified a federal court that he plans to change his plea. Thirty-two-year-old Brandon Koss of Wichita had pleaded not guilty to making a threat against the president. A court filing Thursday shows a change-of-plea hearing is now scheduled for Dec. 14. A Secret Service agent wrote in an affidavit that Koss called the White House in January and used a profanity when addressing the woman who answered the phone. He then said: "I'm going to blow up the White House." The affidavit says Koss admitted calling the White House but denied making a threat. Koss's attorney had said if the case went to trial, an expert would testify that Koss had an unspecified mental disease.


5 Topeka Officers Won't be Charged in October 11 Shooting

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay says five Topeka police officers who exchanged gunfire with a man on two separate occasions last month will not face charges.  Kagay also said Wednesday that the man, 23-year-old Trevon Lorenzo Brown, has been charged with 12 crimes.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that on October 11, members of the department's burglary task force encountered Brown, who fired several shots before fleeing. Later that day, Brown again encountered officers, who exchanged gunfire with him.  Kagay says Brown was arrested after being hit twice.  No officers were injured in either incident.  Kagay says the officers' conduct was self-defense and defense of others.  The charges against Brown include four counts of aggravated assault of a law enforcement officer.


Bangladeshi Man Facing Deportation Gets Reprieve Until 2022

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The case against a Kansas man who is fighting deportation to his native Bangladesh will go on until at least 2022.  Syed Jamal, of Lawrence, had the first hearing on his recently reopened case Tuesday in Immigration Court in Kansas City, Missouri. The Lawrence Journal-World reports Judge Glen Baker said he would review whether Jamal qualified for certain forms of deportation relief. Jamal's wife is also seeking relief from deportation.  Baker set the next hearing in the case for April 27, 2022.  Jamal and his supporters began fighting his deportation in January when immigration agents arrested him for twice overstaying his visa. He was actually on a plane back to Bangladesh when a court ordered that he be returned to the U.S. He was removed from the plane in Hawaii.


Quapaw Tribe Acquires More Land in Kansas

QUAPAW, Okla. (AP) — The Quapaw Tribe has acquired additional property in southeastern Kansas along the Oklahoma border after gaining approval from the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs. The Joplin Globe reports that the tribe has obtained 211 acres of Cherokee County grassland stretching north of its Downstream Casino Resort in Quapaw, Oklahoma. The land is now part of the federal Quapaw Tribal Trust, giving the tribe governing authority over the land. The tribe faced opposition from Kansas officials over concerns the land would be used for gambling. John Berrey is chairman of the Quapaw Tribal Business Committee. Berrey says the tribe will use the land for agriculture and has no plans to expand its gambling operation. Berrey says the property acquisition brings more land that used to be part of the tribe's reservation back under its ownership.


Kansas Man Fined $5,000 for Importing Endangered Leopards

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man will pay a $5,000 fine for unlawfully importing endangered leopard cats. U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister announced Thursday that 34-year-old Lawrence Payne, of Olathe, was fined after pleading guilty to one count of violating the Endangered Species Act. The investigation began when Payne applied to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a breeding license for Asian leopard cats. Investigators found three Asian leopard cats when they served a search warrant at Payne's home. Payne admitted importing the animals.


Board Delays Plan to Colonize Wichita's Feral Cats

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A plan to allow Wichita residents to keep colonies of feral cats in their yards has been delayed. The Wichita Animal Control Advisory Board voted Wednesday evening to delay the proposal until December or January pending some changes. The Wichita Eagle reports supporters of the plan say it will reduce the stray cat population by trapping, neutering and releasing them to colonies in backyards. Opponents say the cats are a threat to wildlife, particularly bird populations. The board made some decisions on the proposal, including limiting people to eight cats per property, including feral and pet cats. Also no limits would be established for the number of colonies in a given area, but animal-control officers would have discretion to step in if too many are established.


Man Pleads in Death of 2-Month-Old Son at Wichita Motel

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A man who authorities say had been drinking heavily for a week with his wife has pleaded guilty in the death of one of his twin sons. Authorities say 34-year-old Kyle Kempton smothered his 2-month-old son after rolling over onto him while they were in bed in August. The Sedgwick County District Attorney's office says Kempton pleaded guilty Wednesday to involuntary manslaughter and to four misdemeanor counts of child endangerment. The twins' mother, 39-year-old Christy Rollings, pleaded guilty to the same charges in October. She was sentenced to probation for manslaughter and two years in jail for the misdemeanors. Officers had removed the twins from the parents two days before boy was found dead at the Scotsman Inn, but a family member returned the children to them the next day.


Snowplow Driver Cleared Way for Ambulance During Blizzard

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An ambulance crew is praising a Kansas snowplow driver who came to the rescue during the weekend blizzard.  The Kansas Department of Transportation said in a blog post that Concordia Hospital called Sunday because the crew was struggling to transport an emergency patient to the larger Salina Regional Health Center about 50 miles away. They requested a snow plow to lead the way down U.S. Highway 81.  Brandon Bennett, of the Concordia Fire Department, said in a thank you note that the highway was a "sheet of ice."  Highway maintenance supervisor Clyde Thrush was nearby and get in front of the ambulance, plowing snow out of its way and dumping salt in its path. The escort didn't end until the ambulance pulled up in front of the hospital.


$450,000 Settlement Reached in St. Joe Police Shooting Lawsuit

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — The family of a man who was fatally shot by a St. Joseph police officer has agreed to settle a wrongful death lawsuit for $450,000.  The St. Joseph News-Press reports that a federal court hearing is scheduled for January to finalize the settlement with relatives of Jason Fanning. He was 27 in February 2017 when Officer Justin Bever killed him during a traffic stop.  In a dashboard camera recording, Fanning can be seen rapidly backing up, narrowly missing a woman before stopping. Bullet holes then appear in the windshield. The lawsuit says Fanning was unarmed and presented no threat. The prosecutor declined to file criminal charges against Bever.  The settlement with Bever includes nearly $14,000 for each of Fanning's parents, $223,000 for his children and nearly $200,000 for attorneys.


Woman Sues Former Kansas Juvenile Corrections Supervisor, State

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A woman is suing after the former superintendent of the state's juvenile corrections complex was convicted of grabbing and shoving her. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Michelle Valdivia alleges in the lawsuit filed in Shawnee County District Court that Kyle Rohr engaged in negligence and battery, causing emotional distress.  The Kansas Department of Corrections, Rohr and the State of Kansas are named as defendants in the case. Rohr is appealing his misdemeanor battery conviction. It stems from a dispute that arose last December as Rohr and the female worker were planning a Christmas party for juvenile inmates.  Valdivia says Rohr was inadequately supervised and that his actions were "outrageous." He subsequently lost his job. Agency spokesman Samir Arif says the department isn't able to comment on pending litigation.


Deer Poacher in Kansas Took Trophy but Left Meat to Waste

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are looking for a deer poacher who illegally hunted a deer, taking the head and leaving the meat to waste on Thanksgiving morning.  The Wichita Eagle reports that the deer was poached in Washington County, between the towns of Hanover and Hollenberg. Game wardens say the poacher likely showed the antlers to others and might take the taxidermist for a European mount.  Game wardens previously said two other deer were illegally killed by poachers on Thanksgiving morning.


Man Booked After Wichita Officer Shoots at Him During Chase

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police say a 33-year-old man was jailed after a police pursuit and shooting in east Wichita.  The Wichita Eagle reports the shooting occurred Tuesday when a motorcycle officer tried to stop a speeding vehicle. Cpt. Brent Allred said the driver didn't stop, prompting a chase.  Allred said the driver, Brandon Hanafin, eventually drove toward the officer and got within about 6 feet of hitting him.  Allred said the officer was in a private driveway and had nowhere to go, so he fired two shots at Hanafin, who wasn't hit.  Hanafin eventually fled the vehicle on foot and was captured in a field. He was booked on several charges, including aggravated assault of a law enforcement officer.  The officer, a 22-year veteran of the department, was placed on administrative leave.


Missouri's Senator-Elect Hawley to Reintroduce Senator McCaskill's Duck Boat Bill

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Republican Sen.-Elect Josh Hawley says he'll reintroduce a duck boat safety bill that his campaign rival Sen. Claire McCaskill proposed after a duck boat sank in July, killing 17 people.  Hawley on Wednesday said he'll bring the legislation up again after he assumes office in January.  McCaskill pushed to enshrine into federal law recommendations to improve safety of the amphibious vehicles after the duck boat capsized on Table Rock Lake in Missouri.  Her bill would require the vehicles to comply with U.S. Coast Guard regulations aimed at ensuring they stay afloat.  Hawley unseated the Democratic senator this month. He says McCaskill was right to try to codify federal safety recommendations.  As Missouri's attorney general, Hawley is suing the duck boat company.


Judge Allows Preliminary Work on Keystone XL Oil Pipeline

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A Montana judge says a Canadian company may continue preliminary work on the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline while his order blocking construction is in effect.  U.S. District Judge Brian Morris said Wednesday he will clarify his Nov. 8 injunction to allow TransCanada to conduct engineering and planning activities, confirm shipper contracts, meet with different groups and acquire equipment, permits and land rights.  On November 8, Morris blocked TransCanada's permit to build the pipeline from Alberta's oil sands through a half-dozen U.S. states to the Gulf of Mexico.  The judge ordered a new environmental review after saying the Trump administration had not fully considered the effects of the pipeline.  TransCanada had argued it wants to keep that preliminary work on schedule that that it can be prepared to start pipeline construction as early as mid-February.


Kansas City Chiefs Star Safety Eric Berry Gets Back on Practice Field

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Eric Berry was back on the Kansas City Chiefs' practice field Wednesday for the first time since early in training camp, the first step toward the star safety being ready for games.  When that could happen remains unclear.  Berry had torn his Achilles' tendon in last season's opener, but was back on the practice field over the summer. He began training camp and looked as if he'd be ready for the season, but then was sidelined by a troublesome heel problem that seemingly nobody completely understood.  Chiefs coach Andy Reid kept calling Berry "day to day," even as it stretched to week to week and month to month, and has maintained ever since August that he was slowly getting better.  "We'll just see how he's doing. There's no pressure there or any of that. Just see how he feels and take it play to play," Reid said ahead of Wednesday's afternoon practice. "I think he's just as curious as we are to see how he feels. We're going to go easy with him."  It seems unlikely that Berry will be ready by Sunday, when the Chiefs (9-2) play their first game after a bye in Oakland. But there will be four more regular-season games, and getting Berry up to speed in time for what Kansas City hopes is a deep playoff run is most important.


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