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Headlines for Thursday, October 3, 2019

Audit: Economic Development Funds Used for Other Purposes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — State auditors say millions of dollars intended for economic development in Kansas were spent on other projects. Auditors told a legislative committee Wednesday that during fiscal year 2018, only 18% of the money in the Economic Development Initiatives Fund was directed to programs that met requirements for receiving the funds. The audit found nearly half of all spending from the fund _ $20.1 million _ didn’t go toward economic development. The Wichita Eagle reports auditors also found no tracking of how the money was spent or whether it was used effectively. Lawmakers who heard the audit said they were appalled and suggested the regulations controlling the fund should be overhauled. The economic development fund was created in 1986 and is replenished each year with lottery and gaming revenue.

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Kansas Rep. Davids Sees Trump Comments as ‘Abuse of Power’

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Kansas Rep. Sharice Davids says President Donald Trump’s call for China to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden is “a clear abuse of power and far beneath of the office of the president.” Davids said Thursday that Trump is inviting foreign interference in U.S. elections and his comments reinforce the need for an investigation of his administration. But fellow Kansan and Republican Rep. Ron Estes said there’s nothing wrong with a president asking another nation to investigate potential corruption within its borders. Estes said Thursday that those who have “searched for any reason” to impeach Trump should set politics aside. Davids is backing a House impeachment inquiry over Trump’s request that Ukraine investigate Democratic rival Biden and his son Hunter. Estes called the launch of the impeachment inquiry irresponsible.

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Kansas Senators See Impeachment as Partisan Distraction

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The two Republican senators from Kansas see the House impeachment inquiry as arising from partisan opposition to President Donald Trump and say it is preventing Congress from taking up important legislative business.  Senator Jerry Moran said Wednesday some Democrats have favored impeaching Trump “almost since the day he was elected.”  Senator Pat Roberts dismissed the impeachment inquiry as “political theater.”  He said he’s read the  whistleblower’s complaint that disclosed a call by Trump in July to Ukraine’s president in which Trump pressed for an investigation of Democratic rival Joe Biden and his family. He said it’s a piece of evidence but he can’t draw conclusions from it.  Moran hosted U.S. Attorney General William Barr for tours of law enforcement centers in Topeka and Wichita. Barr did not answer questions from the media.

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Development Company Will Upgrade Housing at Fort Riley 

 MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) _ A national development company plans to build or renovate 128 homes at Fort Riley as part of a push to modernize housing on several U.S. military bases. Corvias, which partners with the U.S. military, said this week it will erect 96 new homes and renovate 32 homes at the fort near Manhattan. Corvias says about 44% of homes on the base are more than 40 years old. The company says the project will reduce water and energy use, and decrease the Army's maintenance costs on the older homes. The Manhattan Mercury reports other upgrades will include new roofs on some homes, landscape upgrades, weatherproofing and updating or installing more energy efficient appliances, thermostats and light fixtures. Corvias has invested $325 million in modernization and improvements of U.S. Army base housing.

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Police Say Kansas Man Cited Devil During Alleged Assault

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man has been arrested for allegedly assaulting a woman after telling her that the devil wanted her dead. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that 34-year-old Lawrence resident Donavan Ryan Hiller faces three felonies and a misdemeanor for the alleged Aug. 30 attack at his house, including aggravated sexual battery and aggravated battery. According to a police affidavit, the woman says Hiller asked her to go to his bedroom to see his cats. She says he then ripped off her pants and attacked her. She says he told her that the devil said she needed to die and hit her in the head twice with a skillet before she escaped. Hiller is in jail on a $50,000 bond. His attorney didn’t immediately return an Associated Press request for comment Thursday.

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Dodge City Diocese Names Clerics Accused of Child Abuse

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — The Catholic Diocese of Dodge City has released a list of 12 clerics or seminarians with substantiated allegations of abuse against minors.  The diocese said Wednesday five of the priests were assigned to the Dodge City diocese. Five others worked at some point in the diocese but the allegations against them were made in other dioceses. Two others were seminarians.  Bishop John Brungardt apologized in a news release to the survivors of child sexual abuse and offered to meet with them or their families.  The list was compiled by retired District Judge Robert Schmisseur, who reviewed more than 600 files in the Diocesan Chancery office related to priests, deacons and seminarians.  Brungardt said the findings have been shared with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and the Kansas Attorney General’s office.

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Kansas Conservatives Push to Undo Abortion Rights Ruling

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Anti-abortion legislators in Kansas have launched a push to overturn a state Supreme Court decision that protects abortion rights.  Their efforts guarantee an election-year fight over amending the state constitution.  A legislative committee opened two days of hearings Tuesday on a ruling in April by the state's highest court that access to abortion is a fundamental right under the Kansas Constitution.  The Republican-led committee is expected to urge the full, GOP-controlled Legislature to put a proposed constitutional change on the statewide ballot next year.  Anti-abortion groups and lawmakers don't yet have a specific proposal. But if their effort succeeds, Kansas would be among a handful of states in which voters have added provisions to their state constitutions to declare that they don't grant a right to an abortion.

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Leavenworth Woman Pleads Not Guilty in Young Son's Death

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A 31-year-old Leavenworth woman has pleaded not guilty in the death of her 19-month-old son.  Catherine Smith is charged with second-degree murder after her son's death in November 2018. She pleaded on Monday.  The Leavenworth Times reports Smith allegedly left her son in a room where the temperature exceeded 90 degrees without checking on him for an extended time.  Smith is free on bond. Court records indicate she was released Sept. 16 on a $25,000 bond.  The trial is scheduled for January 21.

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Farm Tour Concert in Kansas Postponed

LOUISBURG, Kan. (AP) — Rain is forcing country western singer Luke Bryan to postpone a Farm Tour concert in rural Kansas. The concert scheduled for Thursday night in near Louisburg will be rescheduled. Early Thursday, Bryan tweeted that the rains made it too wet for equipment to be unloaded at the MC Farms for the concert. Louisburg city officials said attempts to find alternate locations were unsuccessful because the other venues also were too wet. The Kansas City Star reports this is the second concert on the six-stop tour postponed because of rain. A concert Friday night in Richland, Michigan, was canceled because of severe weather. That concert will be rescheduled also. The tour is set to continue Friday in Douglass, Kansas, outside Wichita, and Saturday in Norman, Oklahoma.

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District Attorney Investigating Wichita Mayor over Contract

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Sedgwick County District Attorney is investigating Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell’s actions regarding a city contract for a new water plant. District Attorney Marc Bennett said Thursday in a news release that his office received several concerns from one individual after The Wichita Eagle reported Sunday that Longwell steered the contract to a partnership that included friends of his. Bennett’s spokeswoman, Georgia Webb, said the office would not release details about the concerns. The Eagle’s report said Longwell persuaded the City Council to steer the nearly $524 million contract away from a nationally known design team and toward Wichita Water Partners, which includes his political supporters and friends. Longwell denied the allegations. He said in an email to the Eagle Thursday that he will cooperate with any request for information.

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Rainy September Adds More Water to Swollen Missouri River

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — After an unusually rainy September in the region, the amount of water flowing down the lower Missouri River this year is likely to match the 2011 record. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it now expects 61 million acre feet of water to flow down the Missouri River this year. That would equal the record set during the prolonged 2011 flooding. So the Corps will continue releasing massive amounts of water from the dams along the river. The amount of water currently being released from the Gavins Point dam on the South Dakota-Nebraska border _ 80,000 cubic feet per second _ is more than twice what is typical for this time of year.

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Wichita Woman, Man Charged with Murder in 2-Year-Old’s Death

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The mother of a 2-year-old Wichita boy and a man she lived with are charged with murder in his death. Prosecutors say 24-year-old Stephanie Aviles and 31-Bernardo Gonzalez-Mejia were charged Thursday with first-degree murder. They made their first court appearances via video from the Sedgwick County jail on Thursday. The boy, Jacob Aviles, was found dead Sunday at his home. A cause of death has not been released. The Wichita Eagle reports first responders found the boy dead and covered in bruises. He was left with Gonzalez-Mejia while Aviles ran errands on Sunday. Police said the adults were in a romantic relationship but Gonzelez-Mejia’s ex-wife told the Eagle he allowed Aviles to move in to help her and they were not dating. Aviles is being held on $300,000 bond, while Gonzalez-Mejia’s bond is $450,000.

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AP Source: GM Offer Short on Earnings, Temporary Workers

DETROIT (AP) — A General Motors contract offer to striking union members has wage increases or lump-sum payments in all four years. But a person briefed on the offer says it was rejected because it took money from other places to fund profit sharing and didn’t give temporary workers a clear path to a full-time job.  Still, the offer made late Monday is likely to be the framework for whatever agreement is reached to end the strike by 49,000 workers that has halted production in the U.S. and severely cut output in Mexico and Canada.  A different person says much of what the union objected to has been removed or is being bargained. Neither person wanted to be identified because the talks are confidential.  Talks continued Wednesday with the strike now in its third week.

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Scaled-Down Kansas Foster Care Village Wins Approval

LINWOOD, Kan. (AP) — A plan to build a village of foster care homes in northeast Kansas has gotten the OK, although the project has been scaled down.  The Kansas City Star reports that the nonprofit Joy Meadows initially sought to create a development with up to 10 homes that could house large sibling sets on a 23-acre property in the Linwood area.  Instead, the Leavenworth County Commission voted Wednesday to limit the first phase of development to four total homes, including one that already is located there. The nonprofit would be allowed to add three more in a future phase, upon review from the county.  Foster care advocates and the Kansas Department for Children and Families voiced support for the residential development. But the project faced opposition from neighbors.

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Compromise Reached in Dispute over Underwire Bras in Jail

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A compromise has been reached after Kansas City area defense attorneys complained that their underwire bras were setting off jail metal detectors, forcing them to remove their lingerie for screening if they wanted to meet with their clients face-to-face. Attorneys who set off metal detectors at the Jackson County Jail now can opt for a secondary screening in which a guard uses a wand or pats them down, KCUR reported. Female attorneys were outraged after the jail rolled out a new security protocol in May, with some of them carrying signs and protesting. Jail officials initially responded by offering to allow attorneys to have non-contact visits in which they talked to their clients by phones separated by glass without having to pass through metal detectors first. But the attorneys continued to push for change, saying such visits weren’t sufficient. Spradlin commended the County Counselor's Office and the sheriff for their work in resolving the issue, and she said she was thankful they didn't have to bring a lawsuit against Jackson County. Spradlin said it was “no secret” that they would have gone that route. Jackson County Sheriff Darryl Forté declined an interview with KCUR but said in a statement that the jail and the sheriff's office “are forward focused with no time to dwell on past issues.” However, attorney Katherine Myers said the resolution doesn’t apply to jail employees. Myers represents Charlotte Hardin, a jail employee who worked for the county for 20 years. She was placed on indefinite leave after she removed her bra and sent it through the X-ray machine. Hardin has yet to return to work. The new protocol for attorneys is still technically operating on a trial basis, but Spradlin said neither party has indicated any issues with the agreement.

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Day Care Owner Charged with Abusing 6-Month-Old Baby

SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) — A former suburban Kansas City day care owner has been charged with abusing a 6-month-old baby.  The Kansas City Star reports that 53-year-old Katherine Konon, of Shawnee, was arrested last week on the felony charge. Court documents say she caused bodily harm June 20.  The child's father, Brett Braun, says Konon told his wife that the baby had been vomiting when she went to pick him up that day. He says his son also had red marks on his head. Doctors told the parents their baby suffered a brain bleed.  Konon's attorney, Thomas Bath, says Konon denies the allegations and plans to plead not guilty. Bath says Konon has been in the day-care business for at least a decade and has "scores of parents" who will attest to her abilities.

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California Arson Suspect also Faced Arson Charge in Missouri

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A man suspected of setting more than a dozen wildfires after traveling to Northern California to attend his 50th high school reunion already faced a felony arson charge in his home state of Missouri.  The Kansas City Star reports that prosecutors in Missouri allege 68-year-old Freddie Graham was angry at a company for not hiring him and used a lighter to set its hay truck on fire in August 2018 near his home outside Kansas City.  Earlier this year, Graham entered a diversion program, which provides treatment and other services for lower-level offenders. Jackson County, Missouri, prosecutor's office spokesman Mike Mansur says Graham will be terminated from the program because of the new California charges, which allege he threw flaming pieces of paper from his rental car last month.

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Kansas Governor Brushes off Attorney General's Opinion on Online Tax Collection

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Laura Kelly is discounting Republican calls to rescind a policy requiring out-of-state online businesses to collect sales taxes on sales in Kansas and remit the tax to the state.  On Monday, Attorney General Derek Schmidt issued a nonbinding opinion that Kelly's administration did not have the legal authority to impose the policy, which some experts said is the nation's most aggressive policy for collecting state and local taxes on online sales.  House and Senate GOP leaders then demanded the Kelly drop the policy, which the Kansas Department of Revenue issued in August. The tax collections were scheduled to take effect Tuesday.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Kelly said Tuesday the policy reflects existing state law and would promote tax fairness. She said it would help Kansas businesses compete with out-of-state retailers.

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Bizarre Deaths of Bulls in Oregon Recall Livestock Mutilations in the Midwest in the 1970s and 80s

SALEM, Ore. (AP / KPR) — Authorities suspect the bizarre deaths and mutilations of five bulls in Oregon were caused by humans, but they have no leads.  The deaths of the bulls recall mutilations of livestock across the West and Midwest in the 1970s and 80s that struck fear in rural areas, including Kansas.  As the Hutchinson News reported in 2016, Kansas seemed to be one of the hardest hit states.  In the fall of 1973 alone, the FBI news clippings showed 40 cases of livestock mutilation in the north-central part of the state, largely along Highway 81. All animals were seemingly killed in the same pattern on the isolated prairiescape: their ears, tongues, genitals and udders all neatly removed.  One former FBI agent who headed an investigation said there was no indication that anything other than ordinary animal predators were behind the mutilations.  Others remain unconvinced.  In some cases, it appeared that the sexual organs of animals were removed with surgical precision.  In the weeks since the dead bulls were found over several days in July, the Harney County Sheriff's Office has received calls and emails with speculation about what, or who, might be responsible.  Colby Marshall, vice president of the ranch that owned the bulls, says he suspects a cult is behind the killings. Ranch hands have been advised to travel in pairs and to go armed.  

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Man Pleads to Illegally Selling Firearms in Kansas City Area

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — An Independence man has admitted to illegally selling firearms, some of which were later found at crime scenes.  Federal prosecutors say 25-year-old Frank Hedden pleaded guilty Tuesday to dealing firearms without a license.  He admitted that he sold 21 firearms to an undercover agent between February and June in Independence. The guns sold for more than $11,000.  Court documents indicate Hedden obtained 47 handguns from federally licensed firearms dealers in the Kansas City area from October 2017 to February of this year.  The Kansas City Star reports Hedden was served with a warning in May after firearms recovered during arrests at crime scenes shortly after he bought them.  Agents searched Hedden’s home in July and found 33 firearms and 100 bills of sale for firearms, 72 of which were for guns.

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MU Gets $4 Million Grant to Promote Research from Midwestern Universities

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — The University of Missouri has received a nearly $4 million grant to help Midwestern universities in six states turn biomedical discoveries into marketable products.  The National Institutes of Health grant will support the Midwest Biomedical Accelerator Consortium, which will provide researchers with funding and mentorship necessary to develop products that prevent and treat diseases. The consortium will involve up to 16 universities and include a link with the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas.  MU School of Medicine senior associate dean for research William Fay says hurdles to commercialization include a lack of awareness that it’s an option and a failure to connect with the experts necessary to complete the process.  The grant includes $994,707 for the first year then $980,957 each succeeding year until August 2023.

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Police: Wichita Man Drowned While Trying to Save Dog

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Sedgwick County authorities say a 59-year-old Wichita man drowned while trying to save his dog.  Sheriff’s Lt. Tim Myers said the man drowned Wednesday at the Sedgwick County Park lake. His name was not released.  Myers says emergency responders were called when bystanders couldn’t find the man after seeing him go into the water. His body was found about a half-hour later.  The Wichita Eagle reports Myers said the man apparently thought his pet was in trouble so he went into the water to help the animal. He says it’s unclear if the man had a medical problem.  Myers said the dog was found near the man’s vehicle.

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