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Headlines for Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Area news headlines from the Associated Press

UPDATE: Kansas GOP Leaders Seek Limits on Courts' Power

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican leaders in the Kansas Senate say their chamber will not debate proposals to boost funding on public schools until legislators put an amendment to the state constitution on the ballot to strip the courts of their power to rule on whether the state's spending is sufficient. Senate President Susan Wagle of Wichita and Majority Leader Jim Denning of Overland Park said Tuesday that lawmakers must end the court battles forcing lawmakers to consider higher spending. A House committee is reviewing such an amendment. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled in October that the state's current spending on schools of more than $4 billion a year is not sufficient under the state constitution. The House passed a bill Tuesday to phase in a roughly $520 million increase over five years.

1:15 p.m.

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican legislators in Kansas have advanced two rival plans that increase funding for public schools in hopes of satisfying a state Supreme Court mandate. The House approved a bill Tuesday that would phase in a roughly $520 million increase in education funding over five years. The 71-53 vote sent it to the Senate. But a special GOP-controlled Senate committee on school finance approved its own bill Tuesday. It would phase in an increase of $274 million over five years while targeting much of the new money to early childhood education. A Senate debate is next. Many Democrats question whether either plan would satisfy the Supreme Court. The court ruled in October that the state's current spending of more than $4 billion a year is not sufficient under the state constitution.


Big Business: Cut Kansas Courts Out of School Funding Issue

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A coalition of Kansas business and agricultural groups is proposing a constitutional amendment that would give the Legislature sole authority to decide education funding levels, as the Legislature struggles to satisfy a state Supreme Court order to spend more on schools. The constitutional amendment proposed by the Kansas Coalition for Fair Funding would remove the state courts' role in deciding what constitutes suitable education funding, the Lawrence Journal-World reported . "We need to take politics out of this battle, and let the people of Kansas have the conversation to decide how they want to see this issue resolved," H.J. Swender Jr., of the Garden City-based American Warrior oil and gas company, said in a news release Monday. The other members of the coalition are the Kansas Contractors Association, Kansas Farm Bureau, the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Livestock Association and the Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association. The state has endured years of litigation over school funding, with courts consistently saying Kansas is not meeting its constitutional obligation to provide a suitable education for each child, particularly students in rural and underperforming districts that often cannot implement special taxes to benefit their schools. The state Supreme Court ruled in October that the more than $4 billion a year the state spends on schools doesn't satisfy that requirement and it gave lawmakers until April 30 to file briefs explaining how they are addressing the problem. The ruling came in a lawsuit filed in 2010 by districts in Dodge City, Hutchinson, Wichita and Kansas City, Kansas. That lawsuit followed one in 1999 that forced lawmakers to promise big increases in annual spending on public schools. School funding became more problematic after the state slashed its personal income taxes in 2012 and 2013 at then-Gov. Sam Brownback's urging. Republican Governor Jeff Colyer said Tuesday that he wants to be the last governor who has to deal with school funding litigation, and amending the state constitution would be "one way of solving it." "It's time for this to end," Colyer said. During a briefing Monday, Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt said he would support allowing voters to decide if they want the constitution changed, but he said the proposed amendment could not be passed in time to influence the current school funding litigation. "I'm just encouraging you, as you do whatever you're going to do over the short term, please don't lose sight of the longer-term issue," Schmidt said. "Because if you do, I have some well-based concern that whoever gets to serve in these roles after us will be having this same discussion at some period hence." The state constitution currently says "The legislature shall make suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state." The proposed amendment would change "make" to "determine." It also would say, "The determination of the total amount of funding that constitutes suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state is exclusively a legislative power," and that, "Such power ... shall be shown due respect by the other branches of government." The House Judiciary Committee was scheduled to have hearings on the proposed amendment Tuesday and Wednesday. If the amendment were to pass by at least a two-thirds majority in both chambers, it would be placed on the Nov. 6 general election ballot, where a simple majority of votes would approve it.


Kansas Collects $39.5 Million More in Taxes than Expected in March

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas says it collected $39.5 million more in taxes than it expected in March to make it the 10th consecutive month revenues were greater than anticipated.  The Department of Revenue reported Monday that tax collections last month were almost $490 million when the state's official fiscal forecast predicted $450 million. The surplus was 8.8 percent.  Since the start of its current budget year July 1, the state's tax collections have exceeded expectations by about 7 percent.  The state has collected $4.8 billion in taxes so far during the fiscal year and the official estimate predicted $4.5 billion. The surplus is $315 million.  Revenue Secretary Sam Williams said changes in federal tax laws enacted last year are a key factor and it's hard to say how much economic growth is occurring.


Kansas Police Investigate Overdose Death as Suspicious

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man's death that police had believed to be an overdose is now being investigated as suspicious. Lawrence Police Sergeant Amy Rhoads says the 44-year-old man's death was reported on March 24. Police had been investigating the death as an overdose. Rhoads tells the Lawrence Journal-World that new information obtained last week "led investigators to believe the circumstances surrounding the death were suspicious." She says police still believe the death is an overdose, but that investigators will work to determine what happened before and after the death. Rhoads declined Monday to release the man's name or additional information about the case. She says the investigation is ongoing.


UPDATE: Water Park Co-Owner Extradited to Kansas

DALLAS (AP) —  Authorities in Texas say the co-owner of a water park who has been charged in the decapitation death of a 10-year-old boy has been extradited to Kansas. Cameron County sheriff's Chief Deputy Gus Reyna Jr. says 62-year-old Jeffrey Henry was taken from a South Texas jail to Kansas on Tuesday to face charges including second-degree murder in the 2016 death of Caleb Schwab. Henry is an owner of Texas-based Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts. Attempts to reach a Texas attorney for him were not successful. U.S. marshals on Monday arrested a co-defendant, 72-year-old John Timothy Schooley, at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport as he got off a flight from China. He also faces charges including second-degree murder and is being held without bond at the Dallas County jail. Caleb died on the 17-story Verruckt waterslide when the raft he was in went airborne and hit an overhead loop.

7 a.m.

DALLAS (AP) — One of the designers of a massive Kansas water park slide that killed a 10-year-old boy has been arrested in Texas, federal authorities said Tuesday.  Trent Touchstone, chief deputy with the U.S. Marshals Service in Dallas, said 72-year-old John Timothy Schooley was met by agents at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport as he arrived on a flight late Monday.  Schooley was being held without bond at the Dallas County jail pending his arraignment and extradition to Kansas on charges that include second-degree murder. If convicted on that charge, he could face as much as 41 years in prison. Online jail records don't indicate whether Schooley has an attorney to speak on his behalf.

A Kansas grand jury last week indicted Schooley and Jeffrey Henry, a co-owner of Texas-based Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts. The indictment accuses Henry of making a "spur of the moment" decision to build the Verruckt ride — touted as the world's tallest water slide — and that he and Schooley lacked technical or engineering expertise in amusement park rides. A former operations director for Schlitterbahn also has been charged.  Caleb Schwab was killed on the 17-story Verruckt in 2016 when the raft he was riding went airborne and hit an overhead loop.  Schooley and Henry also were charged with 17 other felonies, including aggravated battery and aggravated endangerment of a child counts tied to injuries that other riders sustained on the giant slide.

Schlitterbahn spokeswoman Winter Prosapio said in a statement last week that the indictment "is filled with information that we fully dispute." She didn't immediately respond to a message seeking fresh comment early Tuesday.  The indictment alleges the ride violated "nearly all aspects" of longstanding standards established by the American Society for Testing and Materials.  "In fact, the design and operation of the Verruckt complied with few, if any, of the industry safety standards," the indictment said.


Police Investigate Triple Homicide in Kansas City, Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are investigating a three deaths at a Kansas City, Kansas, duplex. Police Officer Patrick McCallop said officers found the bodies this (TUE) morning. The discovery was made after a woman told police she came to the house and saw someone who appeared to be dead. McCallop says all the victims were black males. The names of the victims and how they died weren't immediately released.


University of Louisville Hires KU's Bendapudi as New President

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The University of Louisville has hired the University of Kansas's provost as its new president. U of L trustees voted during a special meeting Tuesday to hire Neeli Bendapudi, completing a nationwide search for the next leader of the scandal-plagued university. The university has been searching for a full-time president since James Ramsey was forced out as campus president in 2016. Ramsey was forced to resign after coming under attack for his lucrative compensation and a series of other scandals. Greg Postel has been serving as U of L's interim president since early 2017.


Man Convicted in Torture, Killing of Wichita Man over Meth

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — One of five people charged in the torture and killing of a Wichita man over a $185 meth deal has been convicted. KAKE-TV reports 57-year-old Willie Morris was found guilty Tuesday of 10 counts, including first-degree murder, in the November 2016 death of 33-year-old Scottie Goodpaster Jr. Goodpaster's mutilated body was found November 12 in a Harvey County field, about a week after the crime began in Valley Center. Investigators say Goodpaster was tortured and a woman was forced to watch, stemming from $185 lost in a methamphetamine deal. Sentencing was scheduled for May 18. The four other defendants remained in the Sedgwick County Jail on Tuesday.


Kansas Man Sentenced for Second-Degree Murder

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A man has been sentenced to more than 15 years in prison after pleading no contest to second-degree murder in the stabbing death of a Kansas man. The Salina Journal reports that 39-year-old Leobardo Velasquez was sentenced Monday in the death of 52-year-old Raul Lopez-Vargas. The judge also ordered him to pay about $365 in trial preparation costs, $193 in court costs and an $800 Kansas Bureau of Investigation lab fee. Velasquez must also register as a violent offender for 15 years after his release. Police found Lopez-Vargas dead in the back seat of his vehicle on Sept. 10. A probable cause affidavit says the Solomon man was stabbed about 100 times. The affidavit says that DNA evidence and shoe prints connect the crime to Velasquez.


Ex-Missouri Governor Urges Court to Allow Wind-Energy Line

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri's former governor is urging the state Supreme Court to overturn a decision blocking a 780-mile power line that would carry wind energy across the Midwest. Former Gov. Jay Nixon led arguments Tuesday before the high court on behalf Clean Line Energy Partners. The Houston-based company wants to build a $2.3 billion transmission line from western Kansas across Missouri and Illinois to an Indiana power grid serving eastern states. Missouri regulators appointed by Nixon rejected the power line last year, citing a court ruling that they said first required utilities to get approval from local governments. Nixon's term as governor ended in January 2017. Two of the seven judges hearing the case Tuesday had been appointed by Nixon. They didn't recuse but also did not ask questions.


Wichita Police: Man Dies in Wrecked Car After Mother Is Shot

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police are investigating a shooting and car crash that left a man dead and a woman he lived with injured. Officer Charley Davidson says a man reported early Tuesday that a woman who had been shot came to his door asking for help. The 58-year-old woman was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries. An overturned car was found nearby and a 27-year-old man was dead at the scene. Police previously said the man was the injured woman's son but Davidson now says she was a longtime family friend who moved into the home after the man's mother died. Investigators say the man fired several shots into the home's bathroom while the woman was inside, hitting her in the hand. A motive for the shooting and names of those involved haven't been released.


Kansas Man Sentenced for Drunk Driving, Injuring Bicyclist

SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man has been sentenced to more than three years in prison for driving drunk and injuring a bicyclist. The Kansas City Star reports that 40-year-old Kevin Eugene Hall was sentenced Monday after a jury found him guilty of aggravated battery and fleeing the scene of an injury accident. Prosecutors say Hall had been drinking at a bar and purchased alcohol at a store in the hours before the September 2015 crash in Shawnee. Hall's attorneys had argued there's no evidence of Hall's intoxication level at the time of the wreck or that he was the driver of the vehicle when the bicyclist was hit. Evidence included Hall's phone in the vicinity around the time of the crash and blood on Hall's car linking the victim.


Kansas Vet Fights to Keep Adopted Child from Deportation

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas couple has filed a lawsuit in hopes of reversing federal immigration officials' rejection for their adopted Korean-born daughter to become a U.S. citizen.  The Kansas City Star reports that Army veteran Patrick Schreiber and his wife finalized their niece's adoption in 2014 when she was 17. She now studies at the University of Kansas but may soon be deported.  Schreiber says an adoption attorney informed him he had until his niece turned 18 to adopt her. But a federal statute says children brought into the country must be adopted before age 16 for access to U.S. citizenship.  Now, Schreiber is determined to keep his family together, even if it means moving back to South Korea.  The Scheibers' attorney, Rekha Sharma-Crawford, says the immigration system "really is broken."


Substitute Kansas Teacher Charged with Having Sex with Teen

CONCORDIA, Kan. (AP) — A north-central Kansas substitute teacher has been charged with having unlawful sexual relations with a teenager.  The Concordia Blade-Empire reports that 42-year-old Nicole Reed, of Clyde, was arrested last week at the Concordia Junior-Senior High School on a day that she wasn't working there. She was charged in Cloud County District Court with one count each of aggravated indecent liberties with a child and solicitation of a child. She was released on $20,000 bond. A call to her home rang unanswered Monday.  Charging documents say that on or about the Fourth of July in 2015, she had unlawful sexual relations with a boy who was at least 14 but not yet 16. She also is accused of soliciting the teen previously.


Officer Cleared in Shooting of Man Who Killed 3 People

NEWTON, Kan. (AP) — A central Kansas officer has been cleared in the deadly shooting of a man who killed three people.  The Harvey County prosecutor wrote in a report released Monday that Newton police Cpl. Levi Minkevitch "likely saved more innocent lives" by shooting 33-year-old David Montano in February 2017.  The report said Minkevitch was among those who responded to a home after a woman called 911 to report a shooting. Moaning could be heard in the background.  The report says Minkevitch and another corporal encountered Montano after learning at least one person was dead. The report say Minkevitch knew Montano from past experience as a violent drug offender and shot Montano when he refused to drop a shotgun. Authorities say Montano killed 36-year-old Nelton Lemons, 34-year-old Michael Lemons and 36-year-old Jason Stubby.


2 People Killed in Garage Fire Near Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An investigation continues into a fire that killed two people near Topeka.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the fire broke out Sunday in a garage north of Topeka. The Kansas State Fire Marshal's Office identified the victims as 56-year-old Phil Lee, who died at the scene, and 83-year-old Patricia Lee, who died later Sunday at a hospital.  Foul play is not suspected. Fire crews contained the blaze to the garage of the home.


Owners Offer Reward After Miniature Horse Fatally Shot

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — The owners of a miniature horse are offering a $500 reward after the animal was fatally shot in Saline County.  KSAL Radio reports that Misty the horse was shot in the cheek and the neck sometime between Friday night and Saturday morning on private property.  Owners Ronda and Randy Russell own "A Little Hors'n Around Petting Zoo." The horse was in a pasture close to the owners' home, but they heard no shots.


Kansas Woman's Ex Hides in Attic, Falls Through Ceiling

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas woman suspicious that someone had broken into her home later found her ex-boyfriend's legs punched through her ceiling.  The Salina Journal reports that a 23-year-old Salina woman called police to her house Thursday after finding her front door chained from the inside. Police say they searched the house but didn't find an intruder.  Two hours later, the woman and her current boyfriend heard a loud noise and found the 25-year-old former boyfriend had fallen partly through the living room ceiling. Police say the suspect, Tyler Bergkamp, was hiding in the attic.  Police say the current boyfriend pulled Bergkamp's legs through the ceiling and began fighting him.  Bergkamp faces several charges, including aggravated burglary and criminal threat.


Police Identify Man Fatally Shot in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police have identified a man who was shot to death last week at an apartment complex.  The Wichita Eagle reports that 36-year-old Darren Williams of Wichita was killed Friday night at Sugar Creek Apartments. No arrests have been made.  Police say Williams and his girlfriend went to the apartment to meet another man. A fight broke out and Williams was shot multiple times. He died at the scene.  The death is Wichita's 11th homicide for 2018.


Sheriff: Man Dies in Dirt Bike Accident in South Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a 32-year-old man has been killed while riding a dirt bike with a friend in south Wichita.  The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office says in a news release that Brian Shuss was found dead Saturday night. The release says Shuss and a friend had been taking turns riding the dirt bike. The Wichita Eagle reports that after Shuss was gone about 20 minutes, the friend went looking, found Shuss and called 911.  Shuss was unresponsive and receiving treatment from emergency responders when deputies arrived. He was pronounced dead at the scene.


Arkansas Bank Robbery Convict Admits to Kansas Heist

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Colorado man who's already serving time for an Arkansas bank robbery has pleaded guilty to robbing a Kansas bank.  The U.S. attorney's office says 42-year-old Kenneth Wayne Fisher pleaded guilty Monday to robbing the bank in Manhattan on August 26, 2015. Prosecutors say the former Colorado Springs man gave a teller a note saying, "Give me the money and no tricks."  A few months after the Kansas robbery, Fisher was arrested in California and extradited to Arkansas, where he pleaded guilty to robbing a bank in Bentonville on August 28, 2015. He was sentenced to more than eight years for the Arkansas robbery. He faces up to 20 years in prison for the Kansas robbery when he is sentenced in July in that case.


Foster Family, Not Grandfather, to Adopt 3 Kansas Children

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas' child welfare agency isn't contesting a judge's decision that found the agency improperly reversed an adoption decision for three children.  The Wichita Eagle reports that Judge Kevin Smith confirmed Monday that the children would be adopted by their foster family. Welfare officials attempted to place them with their grandfather, David Rose Sr., who believes he wasn't chosen because he's a single black man living in a fourplex while the foster family is a married white couple in the suburbs.  Smith said in court that the "most compelling reason against choosing Mr. Rose" was the possible involvement of the children's biological parents, whose parental rights had been relinquished. The foster family's attorney says the family wants Rose to continue to be a part of the children's lives as their grandfather.


Kansas State's Amaad Wainright Charged, Suspended from Basketball Team

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State junior guard Amaad Wainright is suspended from the Wildcats men's basketball team after being charged when someone allegedly fired shots from his car in January. The U.S. Marshals Service says Wainright was arrested Tuesday in Kansas City. He is charged with obstruction, and fleeing and eluding. The Kansas City Star reports the charges stem from an incident January 17 in Overland Park. Police said a passenger in Wainright's car fired a handgun into another car in a possible road rage incident. No one was injured and no one was arrested at the time. Kansas State athletic director Gene Taylor says Wainright has been suspended indefinitely. His status will be re-evaluated after the investigation is complete. Wainright, a senior, didn't respond to an email to his student account Tuesday.


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