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Headlines for Thursday, October 24, 2019

GOP Medicaid Expansion Plan Gets Committee Approval

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Republican-dominated Senate committee has endorsed a plan for expanding government-funded health care for poor and working-class Kansans in spite of concerns that it raises tobacco taxes and doesn't have a work requirement for participants. The Medicaid expansion proposal written by Kansas Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning differs significantly from an expansion plan backed by Gov. Laura Kelly and fellow Democrats. It contains provisions designed to keep some working-class Kansans in private health plans, rather than having them receive Medicaid, as plans favored by Democrats would. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the plan would offer health care coverage to an estimated 150,000 Kansans. It would raise tobacco and vaping taxes by $50 million and add a $31 million surcharge on hospitals and $63 million in fees assessed for managed-care organizations serving Medicaid clients.

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Survey: Low Pay Biggest Concern Among Kansas State Employees

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A survey of the state of Kansas' 8,000 executive branch employees shows that the biggest concern for most of them is low pay and poor benefits.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that while 65% of respondents from 14 Cabinet agencies are satisfied with their jobs, three in five cite low pay and benefits as their most significant workplace concern.  The Kansas Department of Administration released findings Wednesday of the anonymous, voluntary survey. It was conducted in June at the urging of Democratic Governor Laura Kelly.  The department said 54% of employees from the Cabinet agencies responded.  "We know the past several years have been difficult for our public employees," Kelly said. "Their well-being and satisfaction dramatically affect the efficiency and effectiveness of the services Kansans receive. Better working conditions for public employees lead to a better government for the citizens of Kansas."

Of the survey respondents, 60% said they weren't reasonably compensated, while 24% cited training, technology and equipment inadequacies as their top concern. The Department of Administration said eight in 10 employees were convinced their work advanced their employer's mission and agreed their supervisors valued input from staff.  Agency managers and supervisors dealt ineffectively with poor job performance, according to 40% of respondents. Also, 13% said they didn't feel physically or emotionally safe at work.

Lawmakers this year approved a bill signed by Kelly to provide state employees with a 2.5% pay raise. Health insurance plan premiums for state workers were lowered in 2019 by 6%. That followed increases of more than 30% from 2016 to 2018.  DeAngela Burns-Wallace, secretary of the Department of Administration, recently told legislators that low salaries of information technology employees complicated hiring efforts.  "You can see on-the-ground results when the employees of the state are adequately compensated and treated as professionals," she said.

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3.7 Magnitude Earthquake Rumbles at Kansas-Oklahoma Border

ANTHONY, Kan. (AP) — A 3.7 magnitude earthquake centered near the Kansas-Oklahoma border was felt as far as 75 miles away, but no injuries have been reported.  The Kansas City Star reports that the temblor happened just after 4 pm Tuesday and was centered in northern Oklahoma, about 15 miles south of Anthony, Kansas. The town of about 2,200 residents is 10 miles from the Oklahoma state line.  Light to moderate shaking was measured near the epicenter. People as far away as Wichita, 75 miles away, reported feeling the earthquake.  Dozens of small earthquakes have rattled the same area in recent days, but the earthquake on Tuesday was the strongest in the area in the last 30 days.

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Lawsuit: Kansas High School Let Student Stay After Sexually Assaulting Classmate

HOYT, Kan. (AP) — A lawsuit alleges that a Kansas student was allowed to stay in school after sexually assaulting a classmate, even though he was facing charges for other sex crimes.  The Kansas City Star reports that the rape victim's father filed the lawsuit Tuesday in federal court. The suit says the Royal Valley School District was aware that the classmate already had been charged in March 2016 and August 2017 with sex crimes when the girl reported that she had been raped at school in November 2017.  The suit says she was forced to transfer to get away from her attacker, who pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of sexual assault in her case. He initially was charged with rape and aggravated sexual battery.  Superintendent, Aaric Davis says he can't discuss pending litigation.

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18 Arrested in Shawnee County Domestic Violence Sweep 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Shawnee County authorities have arrested 18 people and served 23 warrants during a domestic violence crackdown. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the sweep occurred Wednesday, as part of the 17th annual National Family Violence and Apprehension Detail. Shawnee County Sheriff Brian Hill says more than 300 law enforcement agencies from 29 states participated. Of the 18 arrests in Shawnee County, 14 were for domestic violence suspects, clearing 18 warrants. Four other arrests were for other crimes, clearing five warrants.

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Pharmacist Sentenced to 12 ½ Years in Opioid Conspiracy

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita pharmacist has been sentenced to 12 ½ years in federal prison for filling thousands of prescriptions for opioids to patients of a doctor who is serving a life sentence in the scheme. The Wichita Eagle reports that 47-year-old Ebube Otuonye, of Bel Aire, was sentenced Wednesday for unlawfully dispensing opioids and health care fraud. He filled prescriptions at his now shuttered Neighborhood Pharmacy in Wichita for patients of Dr. Steven Henson. The physician was sentenced to life in prison in March for unlawful distribution of prescription drugs after one of his patients died from an overdose. Prosecutors say Otuonye ignored warning signs, which included customers paying cash instead of using insurance and patients from the same family filling identical prescriptions. Otuonye denied that there was a conspiracy in court filings.

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State Board Revokes Certification of Fired Police Recruit

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A state oversight board has revoked the certification of a fired Wichita police recruit who admitted to battering his girlfriend. The Wichita Eagle reports that the Kansas Commission on Peace Officers' Standards and Training wrote in the order of revocation that Lauro Garcia III lacks "conduct that warrants the public trust." Garcia admitted as part of a diversion agreement that he battered and screamed at his girlfriend while at bar before going home and throwing her belongings into a pond. Garcia said in Sedgwick County District Court that he was guilty of domestic battery and criminal damage to property. The order, dated Sept. 26, was released to The Eagle on Monday following a Kansas Open Records Act request. Garcia was fired in March 2018 before he completed the training academy.

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16-Year-Old Wounded in Wichita Grocery Store Parking Lot

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a 16-year-old boy has been shot and wounded in a Wichita grocery store parking lot during a suspected drug deal. The Wichita Eagle reports that the shooting happened Tuesday night after the 16-year-old, an 18-year-old and 20-year-old Rico Jermin Brown met another group of men for the suspected drug deal. Officer Charley Davidson says Brown took the teen to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries. Brown was later arrested on charges of aggravated battery and felony possession of a firearm in an Oct. 14 shooting at a park in which a 22-year-old woman suffered multiple non-life-threatening gunshot wounds. Another woman was previously arrested on charges of aggravated battery in the park shooting.

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Man, 83, Dies When Four-Wheeler Collides with Semitrailer

KANORADO, Kan. (AP) — An 83-year-old man has died after the four-wheeler he was driving collided with a semitrailer in northwest Kansas. The Kansas Highway Patrol reports that as Gaylen M. Weeden, of Kanorado, Kansas, was driving the four-wheeler and died at the scene. The semitrailer driver, fifty-eight-year-old Jose Madrid Araujo, of Bethune, Colorado, was not injured. Both vehicles were traveling north on a Cheyenne County road when the semitrailer began to pass the four-wheeler. Wheeden tried to make a left turn into a driveway and struck the semitrailer on its passenger side as it was passing in the left lane, the patrol said.

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Overland Park Man Who Drove to Michigan to Sexually Assault Minor Accepts Plea Deal

SAGINAW, MI (MLIVE.COM) — A Kansas man prosecutors say drove nearly 12 hours to abduct and rape a 13-year-old St. Charles, Michigan, girl has accepted a plea deal rather than take his chances at trial.  According to the website MLIVE.com, 34-year-old Scott M. Janner, appeared today (THUR) before Saginaw County Circuit Janet M. Boes and pleaded no contest to three counts of third- and one count of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct. The former is a 15-year felony and involves penetration, while the latter is a two-year high court misdemeanor and is limited to touching.  In exchange for his plea, the prosecution agreed to dismiss four counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and single counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, unlawful imprisonment, and kidnapping.  “After being re-victimized through a traumatizing preliminary examination, it was the victim’s wish to resolve this case with a plea rather than go to trial,” the Saginaw County Prosecutor’s Office stated. “With the plea, the defendant is facing a mandatory prison sentence as well as lifetime registration on the Michigan Sex Offender Registry.”  By pleading no contest rather than guilty, Janner did not admit to having committed any crime. Judge Boes had to rely on documents to enter convictions on the record.

Saginaw County Assistant Prosecutor Melissa J. Hoover previously said Janner — a married pizza delivery man with several kids — had met his alleged victim through Snapchat, whereon he represented himself as a 17-year-old. Upon Janner’s arrival on the night of February 17 in St. Charles, the girl exited her house and met him at his vehicle, Hoover has said. When the teen hesitated, Janner grabbed her and pulled her into the vehicle, she has said.  Janner drove her to the St. Charles Motel, 9945 S. Graham Road, and engaged in numerous sexual acts with her, Hoover has said. At some point, Janner put her in a bathroom and prevented her from leaving.  The girl’s mother and possibly another relative later arrived at the motel and managed to extract the girl and notify police, who arrested Janner shortly thereafter, Hoover said.  The girl testified in a March preliminary examination that she had chatted with Janner for several weeks and had planned to visit him in Kansas. Their plans weren’t sexual, she said.  When Janner arrived outside her home and she saw him, she was frightened as he looked older than in the photos he’d shared, she testified.  Court records indicate Janner resides in Overland Park.  From there to St. Charles is an 11-and-a-half-hour drive of about 767 miles.  Janner remains jailed without bond pending sentencing, the date of which is yet to be set.

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Squirrel Blamed for Power Outage in Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A wayward squirrel is being blamed for a power outage in Topeka.  KSNT-TV reports that about 3,000 Evergy customers were without electricity when the power went out around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. Crews had the lights back on within about a half-hour.  The electric company says a squirrel made contact with equipment, causing the outage. Among those impacted were businesses, Topeka West High School and several traffic lights.

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Workers at Large GM Plant in Michigan Approve Contract

DETROIT (AP) — Workers at one of the largest General Motors factories have voted to ratify a new contract with the company, an indication that a five-week strike could be coming to an end. United Auto Workers Local 598 at a pickup truck plant in Flint, Michigan, approved the contract Wednesday. The local's Facebook page says 60.9% voted in favor, while 39.1% were against. The local did not post the number of votes, but about 5,000 union members work at the plant. Workers across the nation are voting on the new four-year deal. Voting ends Friday.  The Flint local is the second-largest in the nation, so its approval is a strong sign of passage.  Workers went on strike September 16, crippling GM's U.S. factories and costing the company an estimated $2 billion.  GM operates the Fairfax Assembly Plant in Kansas City, Kansas, employing about 2,400 workers.

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Missouri Farmer Charged in Killing of Wisconsin Brothers

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri cattle farmer has been charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of two missing brothers from Wisconsin.  Court documents filed Wednesday in Caldwell County, Missouri, show Garland Nelson of Braymer is also charged with two counts of abandonment of a corpse, evidence tampering and other counts.  Nick and Justin Diemel of Shawano County, Wisconsin, were reported missing July 21 . They had been visiting Nelson's northwestern Missouri farm while on a trip related to their cattle business.  Human remains were found on the farm but haven't been publicly identified.  Nelson was charged in July with tampering with a vehicle rented by the brothers. Authorities say he abandoned the truck at a commuter parking lot.

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Company Employee: Wisconsin Brothers Were Lured to their Deaths in Missouri

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — An employee of two slain Wisconsin brothers says he believes a Missouri cattleman promised to give the men money to lure them to his farm so he could kill them.  Twenty-five-year-old Garland Nelson, of Braymer, was charged Wednesday with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of 35-year-old Nick Diemel and 24-year-old Justin Diemel, of Shawano County, Wisconsin.  Rob Chubb managed the feeder cattle side of the business operated by the brothers.  Chubb says he is angry, but that he knew from the day the brothers went missing that Nelson was involved. He says the brothers had done business with Nelson in January, and that Nelson owed them money.  Court documents indicate Nelson owed the Diemel family $250,000. Authorities haven't said the brothers were lured to the property.  Chubb says he "just can't believe somebody is so selfish, so cruel."

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Missouri Man Accused of Mutilating Cat at Restaurant

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri man accused of mutilating a cat in a fast-food restaurant restroom is facing animal abuse and property damage charges.  WDAF-TV reports that court documents show 19-year-old Tanner Maggard had worked at an Arby's in the Kansas City suburb of Lee's Summit but was fired in June. Police say Maggard entered the restaurant Saturday, placed an order and went into the men's restroom. They say that when Maggard came out, he said to the manager, "Oh, I see you remodeled the bathroom."  Police say the manager found the remains of a cat that had been mutilated and decapitated on a changing table for infants.  Maggard does not have an attorney listed who could comment on his behalf.

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Stops in Wichita for Event with Ivanka Trump

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Wichita today (THUR) for an appearance with Ivanka Trump.  It's Pompeo's fourth visit to Kansas this year, again creating speculation about whether he plans to run for the Senate. Pompeo is a former Wichita-area congressman and many Republicans see him as an ideal candidate to replace retiring GOP Senator Pat Roberts next year.  The American Workforce Policy Advisory Board held a round-table discussion on workforce development featuring Pompeo and Kansas Congressman Ron Estes.  The board advises the federal government on improving skills-based education. It is co-chaired by Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter and a White House adviser.

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State Agency Revokes License of Kansas Police Officer

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A state agency has revoked the license of a Kansas City, Kansas, police officer who flashed his badge and threated to use his gun when he was being kicked out of a bar last year.  The Kansas Commission on Peace Officers' Standards and Training issued the order of revocation last week for 41-year-old Robert Ward. He was accused of threatening a bartender in nearby Johnson County while trying to pursue a woman during an argument.  The Kansas City Star reports that he was sentenced to one year of probation after pleading guilty in July to three counts of assault and one count of possessing a firearm while under the influence.  His employment with the Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department subsequently ended. Police didn't immediately respond to The Star's request for comment.

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Drunken Driver Who Caused Deadly Crash in Kansas Faces New Charges

PATTONSBURG, Mo. (AP) — Court documents say a woman who was convicted of a deadly 2002 drunken driving crash in Kansas was high on meth when she was caught driving on the wrong side of a Missouri highway with two children in her vehicle.  Thirty-six-year-old Ginny Klitzing is jailed without bond on four felony and two misdemeanor charges, including driving while intoxicated as a persistent offender and child endangerment. She has pleaded not guilty.  The St. Joseph News-Press reports that charging documents say she was under the influence with a 12- and 15-year-old in her car when she was stopped last month in northwest Missouri' Daviess County. Court records say officers also found drugs in her vehicle.  Klitzing has a previous conviction for involuntary manslaughter while driving under the influence in Sedgwick County, Kansas.

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Military IDs Remains of Korean War Soldier from Kansas

SEDGWICK, Kan. (AP) — The remains of Korean War soldier from Kansas have been identified nearly seven decades after his death.  A Defense Department agency that's tasked with accounting for missing troops announced Tuesday in a news release that the remains are those of Sgt. James Ernest Smith Jr. of Sedgwick.  He was reported missing in November 1950 after enemy forces attacked his unit near Kujang-dong, North Korea. Several returning American POWs said Smith died several months later at a temporary prisoner of war camp. He was just 21.  Last year, North Korea turned over 55 boxes of purported human remains. And in August, scientists identified Smith's remains, in part through a DNA analysis.  The release says Smith's remains will be buried at Arlington Cemetery, although the date hasn't been determined.

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Fossils Stolen from KU Museum Display Case in Lawrence

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Police in Lawrence are investigating after three fossils were stolen from a display case at the University of Kansas Natural History Museum.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the fossils were reported missing Monday but were believed to have been stolen Friday or Saturday.  The university police crime log says someone pried hooks from a display case to open it and take the fossils. It's not clear what kind of fossils were taken or how much they're worth.

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Board Declines to Endorse TIF Funding for KC Hotel Project

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A Kansas City, Missouri, board has recommended against public subsidies for a luxury hotel project that developers say is intended for "the Mercedes audience.'' The Kansas City Star reports that members of the Kansas City Tax Increment Financing Commission Board voted 8-3 Thursday against a 23-year TIF agreement. The board only makes recommendations, but the negative vote means the project requires a supermajority of nine votes to win City Council approval. Developers Whitney Kerr Sr. and Eric Holtze want to build a 145-room hotel near the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. They say Kansas City needs a top-of-the-line hotel to compete with other major American cities for top conventions and events. New Democratic Mayor Quinton Lucas has been critical of incentives for new developments, especially for luxury projects.

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