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Headlines for Thursday, September 20, 2018

 

Recommendations Made on Bond, Fees in State Municipal Courts

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A committee formed at the direction of the Kansas Supreme Court has made 18 recommendations to improve the bond system in municipal courts.  Brenda Stoss, municipal court judge from Salina and New Cambria, led the committee. She said municipal courts should be able to consider factors that affect individuals' ability to pay when setting bond, rather than using a one-size-fits-all bond schedule.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports other recommendations include increasing credit for community service to satisfy court sanctions, alternatives to driver's license suspensions for traffic citation cases, allowing judges to modify mandatory minimum fines if a defendant isn't able to pay, and training and education on the rights of defendants and changes that are implemented.  The implementation of the recommendations could involve minor tweaks to municipal systems or state legislation.

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Board of Regents OKs Funding Increase for State Universities

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The Kansas Board of Regents has approved an $85 million funding increase for state universities during the next two years. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the request approved Thursday would restore funding cut by the Kansas Legislature in 2009. Lawmakers will have to approve the funding increase. The request includes $50 million for fiscal year 2020, which begins in July, and an additional $35 million for the fiscal year 2021.  The board's official budget document will be submitted to the governor and Legislature by October 1. The state's current funding of state universities is about $588 million out of a total state general fund budget of $7 billion. 

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Woman Claims Self-Defense in Boyfriend's Stabbing Death

WELLINGTON, Kan. (AP) — A 29-year-old Kansas woman who was arrested after her boyfriend was stabbed to death has been released from jail after she claimed the killing was self-defense.  Sumner County Attorney Kerwin Spencer says Ashley Pearson was arrested on suspicion of murder after her boyfriend, 25-year-old Kyle Hill, died Saturday morning at a home the two shared.  Spencer says Pearson gave a statement two days later saying she acted in self-defense. He said Wednesday the investigation is continuing but her story fits the definition of self-defense under Kansas law.  No further information was released.  Kansas corrections records show Hill had convictions in 2013 of criminal threat, aggravated battery and aggravated assault.

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KBI Investigating Baldwin City Police Department

BALDWIN, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Bureau of Investigation is investigating alleged criminal activity in the Baldwin City police department. KBI spokeswoman Melissa Underwood said Thursday the investigation involves allegations against police department personnel. She would not say how many employees were involved or provide information on the nature of the allegations. The Lawrence Journal-World reports Police Chief Greg Neis resigned Tuesday, months before his previously planned retirement date. Underwood said more information would be released if the investigation results in arrests or charges.

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Man Charged with Fatal Shooting of Father Who Was in Bed

HOLTON, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a Kansas man has been charged with fatally shooting his father while he was in bed and then barricading himself in the home for hours.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that 49-year-old Derrick Bohnenkemper, of Holton, is charged with first-degree murder and six other felonies in the death of 73-year-old Gaylen Bohnenkemper. Police responded Tuesday after a 911 caller said her son had shot his father in the head.  Jackson County Sheriff Tim Morse says deputies were able to extricate the woman from a bedroom window while the man tried to break down the door.  After speaking to the man on the phone for hours, tear gas was used. Morse says he fired a shotgun at deputies, striking a vehicle they were using for cover, before he eventually surrendered.

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Lawsuit: Topeka Police Officer Beat Man, Broke his Jaw

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A black man alleges in a lawsuit that his face was bloodied and his jaw broken in a police beating in Topeka.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that 35-year-old Timothy Harris sued Wednesday in federal court. The suit says Harris' constitutional rights were violated in January after an officer approached him as he was sitting in his car. Harris says he was cooperative but that the officer detained him without explanation. The suit alleges that the officer took Harris to the ground, punched him and used pepper spray.  Harris was convicted of parallel parking too far away from the curb and interference with a law enforcement officer. A battery against a law enforcement officer charge was dismissed.  A city spokeswoman says the city doesn't comment on potential litigation.

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Former Topeka Music Teacher Arrested in Child Sex Case

TOPEKA Kan. (AP) — A former Topeka music teacher has been arrested in a child sex case.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the 65-year-old was booked into the Shawnee County Jail on suspicion of sexual exploitation of a child. No charges have been filed.  A spokesman for the Topeka district says the teacher worked in the district from 1986 to 2014. He worked in several elementary schools.

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Sheriff: Wounded Kansas Deputy Saved Lives Before Dying

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas sheriff says a wounded deputy managed to kill his attacker and save two witnesses before collapsing and dying.  The Wichita Eagle reports that Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter said Tuesday that he has no doubt that Deputy Robert Kunze "prevented loss of other life" when he shot 29-year-old Robert Greeson. Easter said Kunze was responding to a report about a man in a stolen black truck who was lurking around two all-terrain vehicles and another pickup about 20 miles (32 kilometers) west of downtown Wichita.  Two witnesses, an adult and teen, had followed Greeson and were present when shots rang out as the 41-year-old deputy was arresting the convicted felon. A bullet struck Kunze above his protective vest. Easter says he's "proud" that Kunze got up and fought.

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Mom to Police: Drinking Preceded Death of Twin at Motel

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A woman says she and her boyfriend had been "been drunk for about a week" before one of their 2-month-old twins died in a Wichita motel room where mold and curdled-milk filled bottles were found.  The Wichita Eagle reports that an affidavit was released Tuesday in the case against 39-year-old Christy Rollings and 34-year-old Kyle Kempton. They are charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of Patrick Kempton, who was found dead on Aug. 30 in a motel bed. His twin wasn't hurt.  Court records say investigators also found several empty liquor bottles in their room and papers for Alcoholics Anonymous. Police found the couple drunk on Aug. 28 and took the twins to Rollings' mother. But Rollings picked the babies up the next morning and returned to the hotel.

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Kansas City Woman Pleads Guilty in $182,000 Tax Fraud Scheme

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City woman pleaded guilty to helping people file false income tax returns in a scheme that netted more than $182,000 in refunds.  Federal prosecutors say 40-year-old Tanisha Williams pleaded guilty Wednesday to filing a false claim with the IRS and wire fraud.  Prosecutors say Williams recruited people to file federal income tax returns that claimed refunds they weren't entitled to receive. At other times, Williams used stolen identities to file the returns.  Prosecutors say the tax refunds were deposited onto pre-paid debit cards, with some of the money withdrawn as cash.  As part of a plea agreement, Williams will be required to pay back $182,410 as restitution. She faces a sentence of up to 25 years in federal prison without parole.  
A sentencing hearing has not been scheduled.

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Former ICE Agent Back in Jail for Alleged Parole Violation

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former agent with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement who sent a Wichita television news anchor sensitive law enforcement material is back in jail after allegedly violating his parole.  A prosecutor said Wednesday Andrew J. Pleviak is a danger to his former colleagues and the community. The magistrate granted the government's request for detention.  Pleviak was sentenced in May to time served and a year of supervised release for exceeding authorized access to a government computer.  He was later ordered not to contact current or former employees of the Department of Homeland Security.  The government says Pleviak went to the home of his former supervisor on Sept. 9 and banged on the door, but left before a sheriff's deputy arrived.  His defense attorney says he has mental health issues.

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2nd Teenager Dies After Car Crashes into Creek Near Atchison

ATCHISON, Kan. (AP) — The second of two teenagers trapped inside a car that landed upside down in an Atchison creek on Sunday has died.  Sixteen-year-old Regan Moger, of Houston, Texas, died Tuesday at the University of Kansas Hospital, where she was flown after the wreck.  Moger was a passenger in the car driven by 16-year-old Zachary Armontrout, of Rushville, Missouri, who died Monday. Three other students in the car escaped serious injury when the vehicle went into Independence Creek.  All the teenagers were students at Maur Hill-Mount Academy Catholic High School in Atchison.  MSC Radio News reports the school confirmed Moger's died Tuesday while surrounded by loved ones.  Atchison County Undersheriff Toby Smith said the vehicle crashed through a guardrail before landing in the creek.

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Driver Charged in Crash that Broke Deputy's Leg

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A driver has been charged with running into a Kansas sheriff's deputy while intoxicated and breaking the deputy's leg.  Sedgwick County sheriff's Lt. Tim Myers said in a release that the driver was charged Tuesday with two counts of aggravated battery while driving under the influence in the April 28 crash in east Wichita. His name won't be released until he makes a first appearance. The Wichita Eagle reports that an arrest warrant is pending.  Myers says the driver struck the deputy's patrol car before striking the deputy as he was outside the vehicle conducting a traffic stop. A civilian with the Citizens Police Academy was a passenger in the patrol car and sustained a concussion from the impact. The suspect had minor injuries.

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Joyland Owners Put the Abandoned Amusement Park up for Sale

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The owners of the abandoned Joyland Amusement Park in Wichita are putting the land up for sale.  Joyland opened in 1949 and was once one of the largest amusement parks in the southwest. Since it closed in 2006, a series of fires and other vandalism has hit some of the artifacts and rides left at the site. Last month, one of the last rides left — The Whacky Shack — was destroyed by a fire.  The Wichita Eagle reports McCurdy Auction will auction the 57-acre property on November 7. The site will be split into two separate parcels of commercial land, which can be brought separately or as one purchase.  The auction website strongly advises people not to enter the abandoned amusement park, due to the potentially dangerous conditions.

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Labor Day Flood Caused $17.2 Million in Damage in Manhattan

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Manhattan City Manager Ron Fehr says a flood over the Labor Day holiday weekend caused $17.2 million in structural damages in the city. Fehr told the Manhattan City Commission Tuesday that four commercial and eight residential properties suffered substantial damage — meaning more than 50 percent damage from the storm or 25 percent or more damage in successive storms. Nearly 9 inches of rain fell, causing Wildcat Creek to overflow its banks and forcing more than 300 people to evacuate their homes. The Manhattan Mercury reports the U.S. Small Business Administration opened a disaster loan outreach center on Tuesday. It will remain open until Sept. 27. Businesses, nonprofits, homeowners and renters can apply for money to help repair or replace their property.

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Data: Wichita's Economy Shrank in 2017

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita was the only major metropolitan area in Kansas that didn't experience economic growth last year, according to new federal data. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis released figures this week showing that the Wichita area's gross domestic product declined 1.4 percent in 2017, the Wichita Eagle reported. The state's economy also declined overall, despite positive growth in cities such as Kansas City, Lawrence, Manhattan and Topeka. Kansas was among only three states to have experienced negative economic growth in 2017. Kansas and Wichita can't find enough workers, which limits companies' ability to grow and boost the economy. Job vacancies increased by more than 9 percent throughout Kansas last year. "We think workforce and talent are really the No. 1 threat to our ability to grow, not only in Wichita but also the state of Kansas," said Gary Plummer, president and CEO of the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce. Wichita officials said they're working to address the worker shortage. The merger of Wichita State University and Wichita Area Technical College will produce better-qualified workers, officials said. Wichita's shrinking GDP is largely attributable to a decline in the city's finance, insurance, real estate and rental sector, according to Jeremy Hill, director of Wichita State University's Center for Economic Development and Business Research. Economic analyst James Chung pointed to Wichita's population loss. The city has lost more than 18,000 residents over the past decade.

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Trying to Hold State Trump Won, Missouri Democratic Senator Feels Pull to the Left

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill is facing a double challenge as she campaigns for re-election in heavily Republican Missouri for a seat that could determine which party controls the Senate.  The progressive energy that's led to insurgent Democratic victories around the country is spurring voters McCaskill should be able to count on to demand that she move to the left. At the same time she must attract some who voted for President Donald Trump to win in a state he carried by almost 20 percentage points.  Trump has campaigned for her opponent, state Attorney General Josh Hawley, and he's scheduled to return to Missouri on Friday.  Republicans view the contest as one of their best chances of flipping a seat in the Senate, where the GOP has a slim 51-49 majority.  

(-Related-)

Josh Hawley Slams Claire McCaskill over Kavanaugh decision

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Republican U.S. Senate candidate Josh Hawley says Missouri's Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill is "another Washington liberal" for her decision to vote against President Donald Trump's U.S. Supreme Court nominee.  Yesterday (WED), McCaskill announced she will vote against Judge Brett Kavanaugh over his positions on "dark money" issues.  She also says that allegations raised by Christine Blasey Ford that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her more than 35 years ago, when they were in high school, are troubling and should be examined. But she said she didn't base her decision on that.  Hawley has maintained support for Kavanaugh. The Columbia Daily Tribune reports that Hawley on Wednesday said he will continue to do so "until there is some proof" of the allegations. He urged a vote next week.

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Emporia's Zoo Moves Closer to Hitting $4.3 Million Fundraising Goal

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — The zoo in Emporia is getting closer to raising enough money for a major update that will include adding and renovating several exhibits.  The Emporia Gazette reports that $3.6 million already has been raised for the $4.3 million project. Once the campaign hits $4 million, the Capitol Federal Foundation has agreed to donate the final $300,000.  The Capital Federal donation will be used to renovate and rebuild the Waterfowl Pond and Gardens Exhibit.

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Wichita Man Guilty in Rape, Attempted Murder of Young Girl

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 24-year-old Wichita man has been convicted of raping and trying to kill a young girl. A Sedgwick County jury deliberated for about an hour Thursday before finding Corbin Breitenbach guilty of attempted capital murder, rape, criminal sodomy and burglary. Witnesses said Breitenbach broke into a west Wichita apartment in June of 2017 where the then-7-year-old girl was staying with her brother and a family friend. Prosecutors say he choked the girl until she was unconscious and then raped her. Breitenbach, who acted as his own attorney during the trial, was convicted on two counts of aggravated sexual battery in 2013. The Wichita Eagle reports he was paroled in Sedgwick County in April 2017, six weeks before attacking the girl. His sentencing is scheduled for November 13.

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