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Headlines for Tuesday, December 31, 2019

AG: Treatment Funding Key to Kansas Criminal Justice Reform

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas's top law enforcement official advocates higher spending on for the mentally ill and treating substance abuse. Attorney General Derek Schmidt says the extra funding is crucial to reforming the state's criminal justice system. Schmidt contends extra funding for such services will deal with underlying problems fueling many offenders' crimes. He said local officials frequently face a bad choice of locking up someone who'd benefit more from treatment or leaving that person in the community to cause more harm. There's interest in changing the criminal justice system because state prisons are full and the inmate population is expected to keep growing. 

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Missing 15-Year-Old Girl Rescued During Kansas Traffic Stop

GARDEN CITY, Kan.  (AP) — Authorities have rescued a missing 15-year-old girl during a traffic stop in western Kansas. Garden City Police Department Sgt. Lana Urteaga said in a news release that officers pulled over a vehicle around 3 am Sunday. The Wichita Eagle reports that investigators determined that the teen in the passenger seat had been taken December 23 and held against her will. A suspect has been booked into the Finney County Jail on suspicion of aggravated kidnapping and aggravated robbery.

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Update: Suspect Arrested in Deaths of Woman, 2 Kids Found After Fire

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have arrested a suspect in the deaths of a mother and two children whose bodies were found after a house fire in Kansas City, Kansas. Police said late Monday in a tweet that charges are pending a review by the Wyandotte County District Attorney's Office. The cause of death and a motive weren't immediately released. Firefighters responded to the blaze around 4:35 am Monday. KCTV reports that the victims have been identified as 32-year-old Yazmine Rodriguez, 14-year-old Amerikha Rodriguez and 10-year-old Jean Carlos Rodriguez.

(– earlier reporting –)

1 Woman, 2 Juveniles Die in Kansas City, Kansas, House Fire

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Police say the deaths of three people in a house fire in Kansas City, Kansas, are being investigated as homicides. An adult female and two juveniles died in the fire at a house around 4:30 am Monday. Fire officials initially said two adults and a child had died in the fire. No other details were immediately released about the blaze, including the names of the victims. The investigation will be led by police department's major case unit.

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Homeless Man Charged in Death of 72-Year-Old Wichita Woman

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) —  A homeless man has been charged with killing a 72-year-old Wichita woman during a sexual assault. Fifty-five-year-old John Pepper was charged Monday in Sedgwick County District Court with capital murder in the death of Rita Golden. The Wichita Eagle reports that prosecutors allege her death occurred during the commission of an aggravated criminal sodomy. Pepper has been jailed on burglary and theft charges stemming from an unrelated incident. Golden was found unresponsive in her home in July. Prosecutors allege in court documents that "the victim was particularly vulnerable due to age, infirmity, or reduced physical or mental capacity."

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Sedgwick County Deputy Fatally Shoots Woman After Chase

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Sedgwick County authorities says a woman died after a deputy shot her as she drove toward officers. Sheriff's Col. Brian White says deputies chased the woman's vehicle Monday morning after Wichita police tried to stop it for traffic violations. White says the woman ignored officers' commands to stop and eventually put the car in reverse and accelerated toward officers. He says a deputy fired several rounds at the car, killing a woman in her 50s who was driving. No officers were injured.  The 26-year-old deputy who fired the shots has been with the department for about six years.  

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Former Kansas City TV Meteorologist Seeks Kansas Senate Seat

SHAWNEE, Kan.  (AP) —  A former Kansas City area TV meteorologist has announced plans to seek a Kansas Senate seat being vacated by the retirement of one of the Legislature's most conservative members. Mike Thompson, who served as chief meteorologist for WDAF until he retired last year, announced Monday that he is seeking the District 10 seat being vacated in mid-January by Republican Mary Pilcher-Cook. She announced Friday that she is resigning. Thompson, of Shawnee, said he plans to seek the appointment to fill the remainder of Pilcher-Cook's term and then run in the primary for a chance at a full four years in November 2020.  

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Kansas Officer Resigns, Faked Story of Expletive Written on His McDonalds Coffee Cup

JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas police officer has resigned after he admitted to making up a story that a McDonald's employee wrote an expletive and the word "pig" on a coffee cup. Herington Police Chief Brian Hornaday said at a news conference Monday that the now-former officer "completely and solely fabricated" the allegations. Hornaday said the officer told him the incident was "meant to be a joke." The police chief did not name the 23-year-old officer, but said he had been with the department about two months after spending approximately five years in the Army.

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2 Dead in Plane Crash near Suburban Kansas City Airport

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol says two people have died in a small plane crash near a suburban Kansas City airport. The plane went down near the Johnson County Executive Airport Tuesday afternoon. Overland Park police say the plane was on fire when officers from the region arrived. Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Tony Molinaro said a single-engine Mooney M20S crashed "under unknown circumstances" shortly after leaving the airport. The aircraft was destroyed. Further information was not immediately available.

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Topeka Bank Robber Stole Employee's Vehicle and Fled the Scene

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are investigating a weekend bank heist in Topeka in which the suspect fled in a vehicle belonging to a bank employee. Topeka police Lt. John Trimble says the robber entered the Intrust Bank branch around 11:30 am Saturday, armed with a handgun and left with an undisclosed amount of money. The stolen vehicle in which he fled was found unoccupied about three hours later. No one was hurt in the heist. Police have not arrested a suspect.  

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Incoming Wichita Mayor's Gala to Raise Money for Wife's PAC

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita's incoming mayor is planning a formal gala to celebrate his inauguration next month that will raise money for a political action committee run by his wife. Mayor-elect Brandon Whipple's plans include corporate sponsorships of up to $2,500 for his Jan. 11 celebration, The Wichita Eagle reports. Whipple said the money won't be used for his benefit and contributors to the Wichita's Future PAC will be disclosed in reports filed with the state ethics commission. Whipple's wife is the PAC's chairwoman and treasurer. The mayor-elect said the PAC could finance social media surveys, town hall meetings and coffee with the mayor.

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Clarification: Wichita VA Hospital Moves to Remove Former Missouri Doctor

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Veterans Affairs hospital is Wichita has begun the process of removing a doctor who is under scrutiny for allegedly harming patients during robot-assisted surgeries in Missouri. The VA hospital in Wichita confirmed Monday that it has proposed that Christel Wambi-Kiesse be removed. The hospital began investigating the doctor in September, after The Kansas City Star reported the Missouri board that regulates doctors was seeking to discipline the 44-year-old urologist. The Star reported one woman died two months after Wambi-Kiesse performed surgery on her, and two other men suffered dangerous complications. The doctor remains on the hospital's payroll until the process to remove him is complete. 

(– earlier reporting –)

Wichita VA Hospital Fires Doctor Under Scrutiny in Missouri

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) —  The Veterans Affairs hospital is Wichita has fired a doctor who is under scrutiny for allegedly harming patients during robot-assisted surgeries in Missouri. The VA hospital in Wichita confirmed Monday that it fired Christel Wambi-Kiesse. The hospital declined to give a reason for the firing. The hospital began investigating the doctor in September, after The Kansas City Star reported the Missouri board that regulates doctors was seeking to discipline the 44-year-old urologist. The Star reported one woman died two months after Wambi-Kiesse performed surgery on her, and two other men suffered dangerous complications.     

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Wichita Officer Helps Pull 2 Women from Crashed, Burning Car

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita police officer helped pull two women from a burning car after the driver crashed and ran away. The Wichita Eagle reports that the 25-year-old driver of the car was arrested near the accident early Tuesday morning. Wichita Police Officer Charley Davidson said the car was going north on a street in east Wichita when it crashed into a concrete retaining wall near U.S. 400. The car's engine compartment caught fire with a 37-year-old woman and a 31-year-old woman still inside. An officer pulled them to safety. A handgun was found in the car and cocaine was found nearby.

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Person Still Hospitalized After Explosion at Wichita Aircraft Plant

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — One of the 15 people injured in a explosion at the Beechcraft aircraft manufacturing facility in Wichita remains hospitalized. KWCH-TV reports that a spokesperson for Wesley Medical Center said Monday that the injured patient's condition has improved from serious to fair and the patient could be cleared to go home in the next day or two. A spokesperson for Ascension Via Christi said everyone injured in the explosion who received treatment at its St. Francis hospital has been released. Authorities said the explosion Friday morning happened when a 3-inch liquid nitrogen line ruptured. Part of the building collapsed.

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New Drug Court About to Begin in Lawrence Area

LAWRENCE, Kan.  (AP) — A new court focused on helping people overcome substance abuse is set to begin operating this week in the Lawrence area. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Douglas County plans to accept 15 participants who have been charged with a nonviolent felony and are having difficulty staying drug free to participate in the 16-month, four-stage program. Through the program, participants will follow an individualized treatment plan to address their addiction and then receive support to find jobs. Those who successfully complete the program would get their criminal charges dropped.

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GOP Lawmakers in 2 States Seek Anti-Red Flag Laws on Guns

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republicans in two Midwestern states with GOP-controlled legislatures are proposing measures to prevent the U.S. government or other states from using court orders to take someone's guns. The proposals in Kansas and Oklahoma also would prevent local governments in those states from enacting "red flag" laws that allow authorities or relatives to try remove firearms from people deemed a danger to themselves or others. Supporters of red flag laws say they reduce suicides and gun violence. Gun-rights supporters contend they violate constitutional rights, including the right to own firearms and to due legal process.

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Plane Carrying Kansas Team Forced to Return to California

SAN JOSE, Cal. (AP) — A plane carrying the Kansas men's basketball team was forced to return to a California airport after one of its engines failed. The university said in a tweet that issues arose Sunday following a road victory over Stanford. After the engine failure occurred about 20 minutes into the flight, the pilot contacted the San Jose Airport, where the team returned and made a safe landing. The tweet expressed thanks to the pilot and the Swift Air flight crew. The tweet says the team was spending the night in San Jose before returning to Lawrence.

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UPDATE: Liberty Bowl: Trick Play, FG Lift No. 21 Navy over Kansas State 20-17

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Bijan Nichols kicked a 23-yard field goal with two seconds remaining and No. 21 Navy capitalized on a fourth-down gamble in the final minute to beat Kansas State 20-17 in the Liberty Bowl. A Navy team with the nation’s top-ranked rushing attack set up the winning score by completing a halfback option pass with less than 30 seconds left. The Midshipmen snapped the ball on fourth-and-3 from the Kansas State 46. Quarterback Malcolm Perry pitched to C.J. Williams, and he threw downfield to a wide-open Chance Warren for a 41-yard gain. Nichols then connected for the winning kick.

(– earlier reporting –)

Liberty Bowl: No. 21 Navy, Kansas State Cap Surprising Years

MEMPHIS, Tenn.  (AP) —  No. 21 Navy will try to cap its extraordinary turnaround when it plays in the Liberty Bowl against a Kansas State team that also has made major strides this year. Navy is 10-2 and attempting to match a program record for single-season victories a year after just three wins. Kansas State has bounced back from a 5-7 season to go 8-4 in its first year under coach Chris Klieman. Navy has the nation's top-ranked rushing attack with an offense featuring quarterback Malcolm Perry.

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