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Headlines for Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Area news headlines from the Associated Press

Kansas Governor Gets Endorsement from Former Opponent

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer has won the endorsement of one of his former opponents in the race for the Republican nomination for the state's highest office. Mark Hutton endorsed Colyer Tuesday at a luncheon in Wichita. He said that it is apparent to him that the race for the Republican nomination will come down to two men: Colyer and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Hutton lauded the governor's leadership and his service to the state, saying he believed Colyer has the ability to win the next election.

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U.S. Senate Panel Narrowly Recommends Mike Pompeo to Become Secretary of State

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Donald Trump's choice for secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, has cleared the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with a favorable recommendation, narrowly avoiding a rare rebuke as his confirmation heads to the full Senate.  Democrats put up stiff resistance and voted against Pompeo, who is now the CIA director. Only a last-minute switch from Kentucky Republican Rand Paul - whom Trump called before the vote - enabled Pompeo to win committee approval.  It would have been the first time since the committee starting keeping records in 1925 that a secretary of state nominee faced an unfavorable report.  Pompeo's nomination now goes to the full Senate, where votes are tallying in his favor. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he looks forward to voting to confirm Pompeo this week.

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Desperate to Fill Child Protection Jobs, KDCF to Hire Non-Licensed Social Workers

TOPEKA (KNS) - The Kansas child welfare agency is opening up child protection jobs to people who aren’t licensed social workers.  The Department for Children and Families has workers all over Kansas to investigate reports of child abuse or neglect. But about a third of those jobs are vacant.  So now, the agency will start taking applications from college grads, regardless of whether they’ve got a license in social work.  Officials at the department say they are trying to address several problems including recruitment and retention.  DCF says it will pair unlicensed workers with licensed supervisors and provide training before putting them out in the field alone.

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After Brief Relief, Forecasts Indicate Drought Will Go On in Southwestern U.S.

Recent showers temporarily relieved drought conditions in parts of the southwestern United States, but dry weather is expected to persist through the summer.  Forecasters say a months-long drought is considered "extreme" from southern California to central Kansas. Conditions are even worse in the Four Corners region and the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles.  The drought has contributed to numerous wildfires. Forecasters say it will last at least through July, with some improvement east of a line from Albuquerque to Denver.  Also, Oklahoma hasn't had a tornado this year and storms aren't expected. The state hasn't had an April without at least one tornado.

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Report: Nearly Half of Kansas Wheat in Poor Shape

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A government report shows nearly half of the Kansas winter wheat crop in poor shape despite the recent rains.  The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that 49 percent of the wheat in Kansas is in poor to very poor condition. The agency says 39 percent of the crop is in fair condition with 11 percent rated as good and 1 percent as excellent.  About 35 percent of the winter wheat has now jointed.  Corn planting in Kansas is now 15 percent complete.  The report covers crop conditions for the week that ended Sunday.

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Battle Continues over Medicaid Work Requirement

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer continues to seek federal approval for a Medicaid work requirement.  That's despite opposition from lawmakers.  Colyer wants to require some low-income Medicaid recipients to work in exchange for their health coverage. He argues it would help them become more self-sufficient.  Many lawmakers say that could deny care to thousands. So, they’re hoping to block the proposal in a budget bill.  

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Defendants in Boy's Death at Water Park Want Separate Trials

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Five defendants charged in the death of a 10-year-boy at a Kansas waterpark are seeking separate trials. The Kansas City Star reports motions filed Tuesday in Wyandotte County say Jeff Henry, John Schooley and Henry & Sons Construction want to be tried separately from Tyler Miles and Schlitterbahn Waterpark of Kansas City, Kansas, where Caleb Schwab was decapitated on the 17-story Verruckt waterslide in August 2016. Henry co-owns Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts, Schooley helped design the ride and Henry & Sons Construction was the general contractor. They are charged with second-degree murder in the boy's death. Miles, operations director at the Kansas park, and the park are charged with manslaughter. All have pleaded not guilty. The filings argue those involved in designing the ride should be tried separately from those who operated it.

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Pilot Injured When Small Plane Goes Down in Central Kansas

ROXBURY, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol says a pilot was injured when his small plane crashed in central Kansas. The pilot was taken to a Salina hospital but the patrol says his injuries were not considered life threatening. Trooper Ben Gardner says the plane crashed Tuesday afternoon northeast of Roxbury in McPherson County. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the pilot said he was trying to take off from a blacktop road when the plane's left wing hit a street sign and came back down. Gardner said in some circumstances taking off from a street is legal and there was no indication the pilot broke the law.

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Kansas Newspaper Signs Deal to Purchase 4 Other Local Papers

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas newspaper owner is buying four other regional papers. The Manhattan Mercury says Seaton Publishing Company of Manhattan has signed a contract to buy the Junction City Daily Union. The purchase will be effective May 1. The 103-year-old company is also acquiring First Infantry Division Post, the Wamego Smoke Signal and Wamego Times as part of the deal. Ned Seaton is the president of Seaton Publishing and publisher of The Mercury. He says the merger will allow subscribers of all the publications to have better access to news and information from across the region. It'll also allow businesses to reach potential local customers throughout the three-county market. The Seaton family has owned and operated the Kanas newspaper since 1915.

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Drought, Wildfires Force Ranchers to Scramble for Feed

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Ongoing drought and wildfires have cattle ranchers in at least five Southwestern U.S. states scrambling for hay or pastureland, while others are selling off some of their herds. Extreme drought conditions have contributed to wildfires in Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico, delaying the growth of or destroying grass and wheat used to feed cattle in spring. Rancher Darrel Shepherd of Custer, Oklahoma, says finding hay in northwest Oklahoma is nearly impossible and two wildfires that burned about 545 square miles (1412 sq. kilometers) have destroyed pastures. Federal agriculture officials in New Mexico say ranchers may not have feed to maintain their herd sizes and that some are already trimming their herds, while farmers along the Rio Grande are bracing for less water to irrigate their crops.

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Kansas Makes Case for Visit from 'Star Wars' Actor

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is rolling out the welcome mat after "Star Wars" actor Mark Hamill tweeted about wanting to visit. Governor Jeff Colyer suggested Monday in a tweet that Hamill come on May 4, which fans call Star Wars Day for the wordplay on "May the Force be with you." Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper Ben Gardner responded with "I only let Jedi Warriors drive my patrol car." The state touted its roads in a tweet that included a video clip of Batman's archenemy, the Joker, whom Hamill has voiced. The love fest began after Hamill was asked in Twitter where he'd never been but wanted to go. He responded with the one-word answer of "Kansas." One fan photo edited the Cowardly Lion, Tin Man, Scarecrow and Dorothy into the Millennium Falcon's cockpit.

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Transgender Kansas Teacher Honored with Award

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A transgender teacher in Kansas has been named "National Educator of the Year" by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network. The Wichita Eagle reports that Wichita North High School music teacher Stephanie Byers came out as a transgender woman in 2014. Byers says she didn't transition to be a pioneer or an advocate, but that she's become both. The 55-year-old has in recent years met with school leaders, participated on panels about LGBTQ issues, talked with parents about gender identity, chaperoned a local "Day of Advocacy" and spoken at the state Capitol. Byers says she's received "absolutely amazing" support from Wichita district officials and from North High Principal Sherman Padgett. Padgett says he nominated Byers for the award because she's "just an all-around great teacher and a great person."

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Reward Offered in Attempted Shooting of Wichita Officer

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A $5,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest of the person who shot at an off-duty Wichita police officer. The officer was wearing his uniform while working security at the East Warren Theatre movie theater parking lot Wednesday night when the shooting occurred. He was not injured. Crime Stoppers announced the reward Tuesday. Police say someone driving a dark Chevy Suburban or Tahoe with its lights turned off parked behind the officer's parked vehicle and fired four to six shots before driving off. The suspect or suspects then drove off.

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Camp Minden Explosives: Change of Plea Hearing Tuesday

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) — A change-of-plea hearing is scheduled for a former official of a company that abandoned tons of potentially explosive artillery propellant in Louisiana. Lionel Koons was inventory control manager for Explo Systems when it went bankrupt in 2013, leaving 7,800 tons (7,100 metric tons) of M6 propellant on land leased from the Louisiana National Guard. He has pleaded not guilty to 31 counts, but online court records show a change-of-plea hearing is scheduled Tuesday before Judge Elizabeth Foote in Shreveport. One company co-owner pleaded guilty in December to reduced charges. Trial is scheduled in June for the other owner and four co-defendants. Prosecutors say they will show one co-defendant also ordered employees of a Kansas company to store explosives in unsafe conditions from 2000 into 2002.

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Woman Sentenced to 3 Years, 5 Months in Deadly Crash

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas woman has been sentenced to three years and five months in prison for a drunken driving crash that killed a motorcyclist. The Hutchinson News reports that 66-year-old Jane Ellen Hart was sentenced Friday. She pleaded no contest in February to involuntary manslaughter while under the influence of drugs or alcohol in the January 2017 crash that killed 62-year-old Charles Caselton, of Burrton. The sentence also carries a post-release supervision term of three years, and requires Hart to register as a violent offender. Hart wasn't hurt when she turned left into the motorcycle's path, but Caselton died at the scene. Hart apologized to Caselton's family at the hearing, saying she was sorry to have caused them pain.

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University of Kansas Made No Written Report of Its Athletics Review

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas Chancellor Douglas Girod says the school didn't produce any written reports after an independent examination of the athletics department during a federal investigation of corruption in college basketball. Girod said Monday he was given verbal briefings after the university's review last fall, but he didn't think an external, written report was necessary. The review came before Kansas was named earlier this month as one of the schools where a former Adidas representative allegedly arranged payments to parents of athletes to ensure they committed to the schools. When The Lawrence Journal-World filed an open records request seeking all written reports related to the review, KU officials said no such records exist. Girod said in an interview the school has found no evidence related to the alleged scheme.

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Olathe Woman Will Stand Trial for Allegedly Trying to Poison Her Three Children

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas mother has been found competent to stand trial on charges that she gave her three children medication to try and kill them before taking it herself. The Kansas City Star reports that attorneys for 37-year-old Therese Roever requested a mental evaluation for the Olathe woman. A judge reviewed the results before finding that Roever is able to help her attorneys defend her in the attempted capital murder case.

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Man Killed in Hit-and-Run Wichita Crash

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Authorities say a man has been killed in a hit-and-run crash in Wichita.  Police say the man was pronounced dead at the scene last (MON) night after officers responded to the scene.  After the driver who hit him took off, three other vehicles stopped to keep other drivers from running over the man.  The Wichita Eagle reports that the victim's name wasn't immediately released. Police don't know why he was in the road.

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Woman Struck, Killed While Crossing Wichita Street

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Authorities say a 70-year-old driver has struck and killed a woman as she crossed a Wichita street.  KSNW -TV reports that the crash happened Monday morning in the southeast part of the city. Officer Charley Davidson says the 35-year-old woman was hit when she stepped out into a crosswalk. The woman's name wasn't immediately released.  Authorities are trying to determine whether the driver had a medical issue.
 
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Wichita Police: Patrol Truck Vandalized

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Wichita police says someone vandalized an unoccupied patrol truck by firing multiple gunshots that damaged the passenger side door.  The department said in a news release Monday that the police patrol truck was parked at an officer's residence during the weekend. The officer found the damage early Monday morning.  A preliminary investigation found reports of gunshots at about 12:45 am.  No one has been hurt and no suspects have been identified.

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Kansas Hog Farmer Fined $152,000 for Unauthorized Facilities

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas regulators have fined a northwest Kansas swine operation $152,000 for allegedly ignoring orders to halt construction of unauthorized facilities capable of housing tens of thousands of hogs.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports documents it obtained show Nelson Farms owner Terry Nelson and his associates did not get permission from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment before starting to build unauthorized facilities in Phillips and Norton counties.  The Kansas chapter of the Sierra Club and neighbors filed complaints about KDHE's oversight of construction near the Nebraska border.  An attorney representing the Nelsons says the fines are being challenged, but otherwise declined comment.  Nelson submitted planning documents in October for a facility in Norton County for 9,300 head and a complex in Phillips County capable of handling 24,000 head.

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Newspaper Analyzes Wichita Police Use of Force Data

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas newspaper has found that black residents are more likely to be at the receiving end of force by Wichita police than any other race.  The Wichita Eagle has analyzed newly released data that studies the Wichita Police Department's use of force.  The data revealed that a Taser is used about once a week and 12 percent of those residents are black. The data figures show that of the nearly 11,300 instances where a resident was shoved by a Wichita officer, 33 percent were black and 11 percent were Hispanic.  In the instances where pepper spray was used, 57 percent were black and 12 percent were Hispanic.  City Council member Brandon Johnson says racial inequality in the law goes beyond street patrol and extends through the justice system.

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Rap Video Filmed in Kansas Brings Prison Sentences

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A rap video filmed in Kansas showing six people smoking marijuana while they possessed guns has brought a federal prison sentence for yet another participant.  The U.S. Attorney's Office says 23-year-old Shundell C. Barkus of Wichita was sentenced Monday to four years. He had earlier pleaded guilty to one count of possession of a firearm by a user of controlled substances.  A search warrant of the Wichita home where the video was made found 2.5 pounds of marijuana and several firearms.  Co-defendants Dondre Broom was sentenced earlier to four years in prison and De'Adrian Johnson was sentenced to six months. Mario Smith is set for sentencing June 27. Two other participants are awaiting trial.  Prosecutors say the case is part of a community outreach program called Project Safe Neighborhoods.

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Affidavit: Suspects Bragged About Abducting Oklahoma Teens

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Suspects in the 1999 shooting deaths of an Oklahoma couple and the abduction of their 16-year-old daughter and her friend "bragged" about photographing the girls while they were bound, according to a court affidavit that outlines accusations against the only suspect who's still alive. The affidavit cites an interview with an unnamed witness who said Ronnie Dean Busick "started running his mouth" about his involvement in the slayings and kidnappings, and that the girls "were kept alive for several days" while tied up, raped and tortured in a mobile home in northeastern Oklahoma.

Busick, 66, was charged Monday with four counts of first-degree murder, two counts of kidnapping and one count of first-degree arson in the killing of Danny and Kathy Freeman of Craig County, and the disappearance of teenagers Lauria Bible and Ashley Freeman. Busick, who is currently jailed without bond in Kansas's Harvey County, was interviewed by investigators at least three times last year but denies having any direct knowledge about the case and claims he does not know where the girls are. Busick was scheduled to be released Sunday after serving a 60-day sentence for violating probation in a 2013 felony marijuana possession case, said Jason Lane, the county's chief deputy attorney. Instead, law enforcement from Oklahoma arrived Sunday to interview Busick and served a warrant, said Melissa Flavin, a spokeswoman for the Harvey County Sheriff's Office.

William Brown, Busick's attorney in the probation violation case, did not immediately return a phone message from seeking comment. Lane said Busick doesn't have an attorney in the Oklahoma case. Authorities said the Freemans were shot to death on December 30, 1999, in their mobile home in Welch, Oklahoma, about 70 miles northeast of Tulsa. The home was then set on fire to cover up the slayings. Two other suspects, identified by authorities as Warren Philip Welch II and David A. Pennington, died while the case was under investigation, authorities said. Witnesses interviewed by investigators said Busick told them the girls were duct-taped to chairs and that a "bunch" of photographs were taken of them. Other witnesses recalled seeing photos of the girls "lying on a bed, facing each other, with their hands tied and their mouths gagged," the affidavit said. Authorities believe the teenagers were eventually killed and might be buried in a pit near Picher, Oklahoma, a former mining boomtown that has largely been deserted because of pollution. The affidavit said Busick and the other suspects were linked to the case last year after authorities recovered a crate containing reports and files about the original investigator from the office of a former sheriff. Some documents were recovered from a private investigator who had also worked on the case, but investigative materials produced by a different private investigator were destroyed, the affidavit said.

Busick had multiple Kansas drug convictions, and he was imprisoned off-and-on in the state starting in the 1980s, Kansas Department of Corrections records show.

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Royals Ready for Long Homestand

The Kansas City Royals take on the Milwaukee Brewers at 7:15 tonight (TUE) at Kauffman Stadium.  It's the first of a two-game series in Kansas City.  Starting Thursday, the homestand continues as the Royals begin a five game series against the Chicago White Sox.  The series includes a double-header on Saturday.

 

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