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Headlines for Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Area news headlines from the Associated Press

Forecasters Warn of Life-Threatening Wildfires Across Southern Plains, Including Kansas

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) —  A U.S. Forest Service commander at one of two large wildfires in Oklahoma has warned firefighters to be careful as forecasters warn of dangerous, life-threatening wildfires in parts of the Southwest and Southern Plains. Deb Beard on Tuesday said the forecast should "scare the hell out" of the firefighters in the area where fires have already killed at least two people and injured nine others. The Storm Prediction Center says gusty winds and low humidity in drought-stricken areas will create dangerous fire conditions in parts of Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. National Weather Service meteorologist Doug Speheger says such conditions haven't been seen in at least a decade. In Oklahoma, temperatures are expected to soar into the 90s and winds could gust to 40 mph or higher. The largest of the Oklahoma fires has burned more than 384 square miles.

6:26 a.m.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Forecasters are warning of dangerous, life-threatening wildfire conditions in parts of the Southwest and Southern Plains today (TUE).  The warning comes as firefighters in rural Oklahoma continue battling blazes that have killed two people so far.  The Storm Prediction Center says gusty winds and low humidity in drought-stricken areas will create dangerous conditions in parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas.  National Weather Service meteorologist Doug Speheger says such conditions haven't been seen in at least a decade. (Read more about this story.)


Officials: Despite Moisture, Fire Danger High in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — State officials are reminding Kansans that recent rain and snow did not significantly reduce fire danger in the state. The National Weather Service issued red flag fire warnings through 9 p.m. Tuesday and said the fire danger will be only slightly reduced Wednesday. Winds of 25 to 35 mph with gusts up to 55 mph are forecast, with humidity as low as 5 percent. The State Emergency Operations Center has been activated because of the extreme fire weather conditions. State officials are asking residents to avoid any activity that could spark a fire. The red flag warning was issued for Barber, Clark, Comanche, Edwards, Finney, Ford, Grant, Gray, Hamilton, Haskell, Hodgeman, Kearny, Kiowa, Lane, Meade, Morton, Ness, Pawnee, Pratt, Rush, Scott, Seward, Stafford, Stanton and Steven counties.


Kansas Governor Signs School Funding Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer has signed an education funding bill despite a multi-million dollar flaw in the bill's language. Because of an accounting error, the bill calls for a $454 million spending increase, which is $80 million less than intended. The bill is aimed at addressing a state Supreme Court's ruling that funding for schools is inadequate. A lawyer for the school districts that sued the state said the bill doesn't do enough to address that problem. During Tuesday's signing at a Topeka High School, Colyer spoke in support of the bill but called on lawmakers to fix the error when they reconvene April 26.


Candidate Kobach Pledges to Cut Taxes, Veto Tax Increases

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State and candidate for governor Kris Kobach has pledged to roll back recent tax increases and to veto any future tax hikes if he becomes governor. Kobach said at a Tuesday news conference that current tax rates are slowing job growth and hurting workers. In 2017, the Kansas Legislature increased income taxes in part to help fund schools. Kobach promised to roll back those increases. Kobach also criticized the new school finance bill Governor Jeff Colyer signed Tuesday morning in response to a state Supreme Court ruling that schools are not adequately funded. Kobach said the $534 million price tag is too high. The lawyer for school districts that sued say it is not enough money and is phased in over too long a period.


Man Accused of Hiding Boy's Body in Concrete Will Face Trial

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A man charged in the killing of a 3-year-old Kansas boy and hiding the body in concrete will be tried on six criminal counts. Stephen Bodine was bound over for trial Tuesday on two counts of first-degree felony murder, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, one count of child abuse and one count of aggravated child endangerment. The ruling came after testimony in a preliminary hearing Monday detailed verbal and physical abuse the boy suffered before his body was found in September in a home he shared with his mother, Miranda Miller, and Bodine, who was Miller's boyfriend. The Wichita Eagle report s Miller, who is charged with first-degree felony murder in her son's death, will be allowed to plead guilty to second-degree murder and other charges after she testifies against Bodine.


Wichita Police: Oldest of 9 Children Reports Rape and Abuse

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Wichita police say a man was arrested on suspicion of rape and child abuse after the oldest of nine children went to a police station to report the alleged abuse. Officer Charley Davidson said Monday a 37-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of rape of a child under 13, child abuse and aggravated indecent liberties with a child. Police say the man was arrested Friday afternoon, about an hour after the 13-year-old boy reported he and two other children had been sexually assaulted. The man was the boyfriend of the children's mother. The nine children have been placed in police protective custody. They range in age from an infant to the 13-year-old.


DA: No Charges Against Kansas Board of Regents Member in Domestic Situation

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The Wyandotte County District Attorney's Office says it will not file charges against a member of the Kansas Board of Regents who was arrested in a domestic battery case.  A spokesman for District Attorney Mark Dupree says an investigation into allegations against Ann Brandau-Murguia resulted in the decision not to charge her. Brandau-Murguia is also a member of the Unified Government in Wyandotte County and the University of Missouri-Kansas City Board of Trustees.  The Kansas City Star reports she was arrested February 16 on suspicion of domestic battery. She said at the time that the dispute happened after a confrontation between her and a long-time friend resulted in an argument and physical contact.  Her attorneys, Robin Fowler and Tricia Bath, said Monday Brandau-Murguia would not comment further on the issue.


Report: Kansas Winter Wheat Struggling Amid Lack of Moisture

 WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ The latest government snapshot shows the Kansas winter wheat crop continues to struggle amid the lack of soil moisture. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday in its weekly update that 46 percent of the wheat in Kansas is rated as poor or very poor. Another 42 percent is in fair shape, while 11 percent is in good and 1 percent is in excellent condition. About 22 percent of the state's wheat has now jointed, well behind the 51 percent that is average for this time of year. Corn planting in Kansas is just 6 percent complete.  The agency also is reporting that topsoil moisture is 72 percent short to very short across Kansas.


Jurors Deliberating in Kansas Bomb Plot Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The case of three militia members accused of plotting to bomb an apartment complex housing Somalis in Kansas is now in the hands of the jury. Patrick Stein, Gavin Wright and Curtis Allen are charged with conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy against civil rights in the plot targeting Muslims in Garden City. Wright is also charged with lying to the FBI. Prosecutors in their closing arguments portrayed the militia member who alerted authorities as a hero who saved countless lives. Defense attorneys at their turn tried to cast doubt on his credibility as a paid informant.

12:45 p.m.

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) —  Defense attorneys took aim during closing arguments at the paid informant who secretly recorded hundreds of hours of interviews with three militia members accused of plotting to bomb an apartment complex housing Somalis in Kansas. Attorney Melody Brannon told jurors that the men's conversations were all bravado, saying if informant Dan Day had not shown up, nothing would have happened. Day was paid more than $32,000 during the investigation. She says the government was investigating to get a conviction, not the truth. Patrick Stein, Gavin Wright and Curtis Allen are charged with conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy against civil rights in the plot targeting Muslims in Garden City. Wright is also charged with lying to the FBI. Attorney Jim Pratt acknowledged that his client, Stein, did compare Somalis to an infestation of cockroaches and referred to himself as the Orkin man. But he says it was just words, not action. Pratt said it is not morally right to hold such hate, but it is not legally wrong, adding "we all have the right to hate."


Measles Outbreak in Northeast Kansas Grows to 16

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Health officials say a northeast Kansas measles outbreak that started in a day care center has grown to 16 cases.  The Kansas Department of Health and Environment says 13 of the cases are in Johnson County, two in Linn County and one in Miami County.  The outbreak began March 8 after a traveler brought the virus back from Asia.  It spread mostly through infants too young to be vaccinated at the day care in Johnson County.  Measles is extremely contagious, and health officials are warning that exposure was possible at several locations, including an Olathe doctor's office and a Leawood church.  Symptoms typically begin one to two weeks after exposure.  Officials say the Kansas outbreak isn't linked to two measles cases in Kansas City, Missouri.


North Kansas City Woman Guilty of Embezzlement

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A North Kansas City woman was sentenced to eight years in prison without parole for embezzling more than $290,000 from her employer.  Federal prosecutors say 40-year-old Tonya Topel was sentenced Monday and ordered to pay $291,193 in restitution for four fraud schemes she ran as senior auditor at Construction Benefits Audit Corp.  She spent the money on a lavish lifestyle, including travel, entertainment and jewelry.  Prosecutors say Topel had an unrelated criminal case pending in Johnson County, Kansas, for stealing from her previous employer and was on pretrial supervision when she was hired by CBAC. Topel pleaded guilty to forgery and theft in that case, and paid her criminal defense lawyer using CBAC's credit card.  According to court records, Topel reportedly stole $26,000 from another employer after leaving CBAC.


St. Joseph Police Investigating Man's Shooting Death

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — St. Joseph police are investigating the shooting death of a 49-year-old man.  Police say William Talbott was found Sunday night with an apparent gunshot wound to the torso. He was taken to Mosaic Life Care, where he was pronounced dead.  The St. Joseph News-Press reports police said no one else was seen in the area of the shooting when officers arrived.
Police haven't released any information on suspects or arrests.  


Man Banned from Working in Kansas After School Book Scam

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A New Jersey man who sent fake invoices for school books to hundreds of Kansas schools has been banned from doing business in the state. The Kansas Attorney General's office said Tuesday that Robert Armstrong, of Franklinville, New Jersey, posed as a textbook retailer for Scholastic School Supply, which is not affiliated with children's book publisher Scholastic Inc. Court documents indicate Armstrong sent invoices to 317 public schools in Kansas between September and December 2014. None of the schools ordered textbooks from him. Under a consent judgment approved last week in Shawnee County, Armstrong agreed not to do business in Kansas in exchange for having $634,000 in state penalties suspended. Armstrong was sentenced in 2015 to nearly five years in prison for mailing fraudulent invoices to more than 73,000 schools throughout the U.S.


Kansas Man to Face Additional Murder Charge in Shooting Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man charged with first-degree murder in a 5-year-old child's shooting death now faces an additional murder count in a separate shooting. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that 21-year-old Jessie Hughes was charged in December in the July 2015 drive-by shooting death of Lily Coats-Nichols. Authorities believe the shooting to be a case of mistaken identity, citing the fatal shooting of Antwon Love that same month. Court documents show the Kansas Bureau of Investigation determined the shell casings from both shootings were fired from the same weapon. Hughes will next appear in court in June. The district attorney's office plans to present evidence to establish probable cause and add another murder charge for Love's death. Hughes is being held in the Shawnee County Jail. Jail records don't list an attorney for him.


Report: Officers Saw Different Things Before Swatting Death

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An investigative report says a police officer who shot an unarmed Kansas man while responding to a hoax emergency thought the victim was reaching for a gun, although officers closer to the home held their fire.  The Wichita Eagle reports that District Attorney Marc Bennett released the 42-page report after announcing last week that the unnamed officer wouldn't face criminal charges in the December 28 killing of 28-year-old Andrew Finch. A California man is charged with making a fake call that appeared to come from Finch's address. The caller reported that he'd shot his father in the head and was holding hostages.  Before Finch opened the door, officers noticed a silhouette in the home. One officer said it looked like the person was possibly giving CPR to a wounded person.


Wichita City Council Considers Agreement with Spirit AeroSystems

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita officials will consider an agreement with a Kansas-based aircraft supplier for an expansion project.  The Wichita Eagle reports that Spirit AeroSystems' agreement includes a provision requiring the company to pay $10 million should it leave Wichita in the next 20 years. The Wichita City Council will consider the agreement Tuesday.  The agreement stems from the company's December announcement that it would invest $1 billion in its Wichita plant over five years and hire 1,000 new workers.  The agreement calls for Wichita and Sedgwick County to establish the Eclipse Investment Association, which will hold the mortgage on a $23 million facility to be constructed on Spirit's campus. The association would hold cash contributions in escrow and pay them out incrementally to Spirit during construction.


14-Year-Old Boy Arrested in Shooting of 13-Year-Old Brother

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have arrested a 14-year-old Kansas boy accused of shooting his 13-year-old brother in the chest while they played video games at home. Officer Charley Davidson says the younger brother was taken to a Wichita hospital with serious but non-life threatening injuries after being shot around 12:15 p.m. Monday. Davidson says there was a handgun in the room where the brothers were playing video games and that the older boy was handling the weapon when it discharged. The older brother was booked on juvenile charges of criminal possession of a firearm, aggravated battery and possession of marijuana. Davidson says the shooting is under investigation and that he couldn't say whether it was accidental or intentional.


Potential Impeachment of Missouri's Governor Would Face Legal Ambiguities

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri lawmakers may face an unprecedented question as they decide whether to impeach Governor Eric Greitens: Does it matter that the alleged actions occurred before he was in office?  There's no definitive answer because only one Missouri executive official has been ousted from office following impeachment and her offense was directly related to her job.  Greitens is accused of misbehavior during an extramarital affair in 2015, before he won election.  The Missouri Constitution says officials can be impeached "for crimes, misconduct, habitual drunkenness, willful neglect of duty, corruption in office, incompetency, or any offense involving moral turpitude or oppression in office."  Some legal experts who spoke to The Associated Press said "crimes" and "misconduct" could potentially apply to things before taking office.

Missouri lawmakers are returning to work at the Capitol amid turmoil in the governor's office.  A growing number of Missouri elected officials have called on Governor Greitens to step down over allegations of unwanted sexual aggression against a woman with whom he has said he had a consensual extramarital affair in 2015. Greitens faces a felony invasion-of-privacy charge for allegedly taking a nonconsensual photograph of the woman while she was partially nude.  Greitens' troubles threaten to distract from Republicans' agenda. Senate Democrats proposed blocking all bills from going to Greitens' desk in protest of claims against him. But Republican legislative leaders insist they won't let strife in the governor's office derail work to pass a budget and enact other policy changes.


Two Charged in $388,000 Scrap Metal Fraud Against DST Systems

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Two former employees are charged with defrauding DST Systems in Kansas City out of nearly $400,000.  The Kansas City Star reports 48-year-old Thomas Ray Jones, of Blue Springs, and 45-year-old Russell Fotovich, of Kansas City, are charged in federal court with fraud, money laundering and filing false income taxes.  Prosecutors say the two men were supposed to take scrap metal from a renovation project at a DST facility to a scrap dealer. They allegedly kept most of the proceeds and didn't report the money on their income tax returns.  
Federal prosecutors say the men turned in only about $175,000 of the $563,556 in proceeds due to DST. The men reportedly bought several cars and motorcycles with the embezzled funds.  Online records don't show that either man has an attorney.


Kansas Man Dies After Farming Accident

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a Kansas man has died in a farming accident. The Reno County Sheriff's Office says 34-year-old Daniel Bruce Smith had been working with another individual Monday to set steel posts into the ground. The Hays Post reports that Smith was killed after a bucket he was standing under fell and hit him. It's possible that the bucket hit Smith in the head before falling onto his lower extremities. The bucket was removed from Smith's body several minutes later and CPR was started just prior to first responders arriving on scene. An investigation has determined the death to be an accident.


Restoration Completed for Neon Sign Near Route 66 in Missouri  

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — One of the largest neon signs in Missouri has been restored after more than two decades.  The Joplin Globe reports that the historic Wilder's Steakhouse sign in Joplin was taken down in February for restoration and returned to the restaurant in early April.  Owners Mike and Marsha Pawlus received a federal grant last year through the Route 66 National Corridor Preservation Program for the restoration. Congress established the program in 2001 to preserve and protect Route 66's history.  Wilder's neon sign glowed so bright that it would draw travelers off Route 66 passing nearby.  Marsha Pawlus says the restoration cost about $43,000 with the grant covering about $24,000. The owners paid the remainder through community donations and fundraisers.  She says they're excited to bring some history back to Joplin.


Royals vs. Bluejays Game Postponed in Toronto

TORONTO (AP) - The Toronto Blue Jays have postponed their series opener against the Kansas City Royals because of chunks of ice crashing down from the nearby CN Tower following a weekend of freezing rain.  The teams will play a doubleheader today (TUE) -- barring any unusual spring weather.  This was the first postponement at Rogers Centre since a game against the Royals was called off following a collision between two panels of the stadium's moving roof back in 2001.



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