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Headlines for Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Health Officials: Potential Case of Coronavirus in Douglas County

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) — Officials with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) say a Douglas County resident is under investigation for potential exposure to the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).  Specimens were sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for testing and KDHE expects to receive results later this week.  Officials say the patient is not severely ill and is currently in isolation at LMH Health as a precaution. The patient returned to the U.S. within the last two weeks after traveling from Wuhan, China, where an outbreak of 2019-nCoV has been underway since December 2019. The patient became symptomatic in recent days and sought healthcare on Monday.  While this has not been confirmed as a case of coronavirus, health officials say they believe it's important to keep the public informed and educated on this new virus.

KDHE is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), LMH Health and the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department to identify and contact all of those who may have come into contact with the individual so that they can be monitored for fever and respiratory symptoms, should this be a confirmed case.  The 2019 novel coronavirus spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Symptoms are thought to appear within two to 14 days after exposure and consist of fever, cough, runny nose and difficulty breathing. Those considered at risk for contracting the virus are individuals with travel to Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, or individuals in close contact with a person infected with the 2019 novel coronavirus.

There are at least five confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts that number will continue to climb.  The coronavirus has sickened thousands and killed more than 100 people in China.  (Related article from CNN)

Health officials say anyone who recently traveled to Wuhan, China and developed a fever with respiratory symptoms should stay home and call a healthcare provider or the KDHE Epidemiology Hotline: (877) 427-7317


Winter Storm Coating Roads with Snow and Ice in Parts of Western Kansas, Oklahoma

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — A winter storm has coated roads and closed schools in parts of Kansas and Oklahoma. The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning Tuesday for several counties along the western border between the two states, where it predicted up to 7 inches of snowfall. The National Weather Service warned of a "hazardous commute" in a tweet. In Kansas, transportation officials say many roads in the western part of the state are partially or completely covered. In Oklahoma, transportation officials said blowing snow was causing "severe driving conditions" in three Panhandle counties.  


Midwestern States Consider Banning Bias Based on Hairstyles

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Black female legislators in two predominantly white Midwestern states are trying to convince their Republican colleagues to join a national push to outlaw discrimination based on hairstyles such as braids and dreadlocks. Supporters of bills in Kansas and Wisconsin said Tuesday that employers and teachers often wrongly see white people’s hair as the standard for what's clean and professional. Committees in both states have proposals to revise anti-discrimination laws to ban bias in housing, employment and public accommodations based on hairstyles “historically associated with race” such as braids, locs and twists. But supporters are facing questions about how such laws could be applied. 


North Carolina Man Pocketed $685,000 in Fraud on Employer

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A North Carolina man admitted Tuesday to defrauding his employer in Kansas by placing orders for more than $685,000 for electrical and wire cable, then selling them to another company and pocketing the money. The U.S. attorney's office in Kansas says 48-year-old Coe Downing of Charlotte, North Carolina, pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud.  Downing agreed as part of his plea deal to pay restitution of $25,000 to Wachter and  $660,323 to the company's insurer. Sentencing is set for April 21.


Kansas Man Sentenced in Shooting Death of 72-Year-Old Man

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas man has been sentenced for his role in the murder of a 72-year-old man at an Independence, Missouri home. Jackson County prosecutors say 34-year-old Xavier Otero, of Kansas City, Kansas, was sentenced Monday to 25 years in prison for second-degree murder and four other charges. He is one of three men charged in the October 2017 death of William Domann at the victim's home. Nathan Hendricks and Onelio Garcia were also charged in Domann's death. Court records say Domann's girlfriend said Hendrick had been threatening to "rough" up Domann because he had been asked to hide a car Hendricks had stolen and Hendricks wanted it back.


Woman Stopped with 21 Pounds of Meth Sentenced to 7 Years

RUSSELL, Kan.  (AP) — A woman who was stopped in Kansas with 21 pounds of meth has been sentenced to more than seven years in prison. The U.S. attorney's office says 30-year-old Maria Alonso-Espinoza, who is from Mexico, was sentenced Monday after pleading guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. Her brother was driving her car last February when the Kansas Highway Patrol stopped them near Russell. Troopers found the meth hidden in the driver's side rear quarter panel. Prosecutors say Alonso-Espinoza was taking the methamphetamine from Colorado to Wichita for distribution.  


Panel: Kansas Prosecutor Misled Jurors in Sex Crimes Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A panel of attorneys has recommended a former Jackson County special prosecutor in Kansas face ethics charges for allegedly misleading jurors who found a man guilty of sex crimes that were later thrown out on appeal. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the panel reviewed the Kansas Disciplinary Administrators Office's investigation of attorney Jacqie Spradling. It concluded there was sufficient evidence to believe she violated the state's code of conduct in the 2017 convictions against Jacob Ewing for rape, aggravated criminal sodomy, battery, and other charges. Spradling did not immediately return a call left Monday for comment.


EPA Reaches Deal over Clean Air Violations at Kansas Fertilizer Plants

LENEXA, Kan. (AP) — Federal environmental regulators said Monday they have reached a settlement with Frontier Ag Inc. to resolve alleged clean air violations at three ammonia fertilizer facilities in Kansas. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said in a news release the alleged violations of the Clean Air Act regulations occurred at the company's two facilities in Bird City and one in Menlo. The company has since returned all three facilities to compliance and agreed to pay a civil penalty of $71,652.


Rose Hill Residents Find Boa Constrictor in Living Room Couch

ROSE HILL, Kan. (AP) — Firefighters are looking for anyone who might be missing a boa constrictor after some Kansas residents found the 6-foot snake in their living room couch. Police officers responding to a 911 call Monday from a resident in Rose Hill, a town about 20 miles southeast of Wichita, requested assistance from Butler County firefighters. The Wichita Eagle reports that deputy Fire Chief Melvin Linot, the department's "snake charmer"  wrangled the nonvenomous snake from the couch with the help of another firefighter. The fire department says in a Facebook post that the residents have lived in the duplex for four years and never owned a snake.


Kansas Legislation Would Force State to Let Residents Choose Polling Place

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Republican lawmaker is planning legislation that would force Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab to implement a 2019 law that allows residents to vote at polling places most convenient to them. Across the aisle, a top Senate Democrat says he may sue to force Schwab to comply with the law that would replace traditional polling places with "voting centers." Sedgwick County officials have pushed Schwab to implement the law. He told lawmakers this month that it was unlikely the state would be able to implement the law in time for this year's election.


Analysis: Kansas State University Enrollment Trends Downward

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The number of Kansas residents enrolled at Kansas State University hit a 31-year low last fall, continuing a five-year downturn that may worsen despite efforts to reverse it. The Manhattan Mercury reported that its analysis of enrollment and population data shows similar drops in enrollment for non-resident and resident students since a 2014 peak of 24,766 total students at the university's Manhattan, Olathe and Salina campuses. The newspaper reported that the downturn has had a more profound effect in student numbers at Kansas State where Kansas students made up about 80% of the student body.


Kansas Clerk Gets 2.5 Years in Prison for Stealing Public Funds

MARYSVILLE, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors say the former Marshall County clerk has been sentenced to more than two years in prison for stealing public funds. Forty-four-year-old Sonya L. Stohs of Marysville pleaded guilty in November to one count of felony misuse of public funds. She was ordered on Monday to serve 32 months in prison and to pay more than $372,000 in restitution to the county. The Kansas attorney general's office says an investigation found that between May 2013 and April 2019, Strohs used county funds to pay for various personal items.


Kansas Woman Accused of Abandoning Caged, Starving Dog

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) —  A Wichita woman faces a misdemeanor count of cruelty to animals after a caged and starving dog was discovered next to a trash dumpster earlier this month. Twenty-six-year-old Raykesha Hardyway made a first appearance in court Tuesday in a case that accuses her of “unlawfully and knowingly” abandoning “a pit bull named Kodak ... without making provisions for its proper care.”  Court records do not list a defense attorney for her. The Wichita Eagle reports that the Wichita Animal Action League is caring for the dog and expects he will be ready for adoption in the spring or early summer.


Growing Interest in Growing Hemp in Kansas

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Interest in growing industrial hemp as a commercial crop is up in Kansas where regulators are reporting a 30% rise in licensing applications for the second year of the state's research program. The Salina Journal reported that the Kansas Department of Agriculture received 276 grower applications for the 2020 season, up from just over 200 in the first year of a period devoted to researching production options. There were also 23 applications from seed distributors, 35 from processors and seven by Kansas State University.


Child Porn Charges Filed Against Kansas Man in Threat Case

UNDATED (AP) — A Kansas man accused of threatening on social media to kill President Donald Trump faces additional charges after investigators found child pornography on his cellular phone and elsewhere. Federal prosecutors say 24-year-old Aaron McDowell of Salina was charged in a criminal complaint Tuesday with two counts related to the child pornography. That is in addition to the earlier charge filed last week of making a threat against the president. Prosecutors said McDowell wrote on Facebook that he was going to kill the president.


Missouri House Passes Bill Targeting Wind Energy Transmission Line

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri's Republican-led state House has voted against the use of eminent domain for a large wind-energy power line. Lawmakers voted 118-42 Monday to prevent using eminent domain to acquire easement rights for the Grain Belt Express power line. The high-voltage power line is to carry wind energy from Kansas across Missouri and Illinois before hooking into a power grid in Indiana that serves eastern states. Missouri utility regulators granted approval for the project, which could let developers pursue condemnation if landowners won't sell easements. The bill to ban eminent domain now heads to the Senate, where it died last year.


Study: Trees in Kansas Increasingly Pose a Wildfire Hazard

WICHITA, Kan. (KMUW / KNS) — A new study suggests that trees in Kansas pose a mounting wildfire risk as they continue to take over grassland around the state.  KMUW Radio and the Kansas News Service report initial research from the University of Nebraska also indicates a link between the spreading of trees in the Great Plains and an increase in the size and frequency of wildfires. Kansas experienced its largest wildfire ever in 2017, and the six largest fires ever have all been recorded in the past 25 years. Governor Laura Kelly signed a proclamation declaring the week of February 3 as Wildfire Awareness Week.


Kansas Residents Find Boa Constrictor in Living Room Couch

ROSE HILL, Kan. (AP) — Firefighters are looking for anyone who might be missing a boa constrictor after some Kansas residents found the 6-foot snake in their living room couch. Police officers responding to a 911 call Monday from a resident in Rose Hill, a town about 20 miles southeast of Wichita, requested assistance from Butler County firefighters. The Wichita Eagle reports that deputy Fire Chief Melvin Linot, the department's “snake charmer”  wrangled the nonvenomous snake from the couch with the help of another firefighter. The fire department says in a Facebook post that the residents have lived in the duplex for four years and never owned a snake.


Kansas Man Pleads Guilty to Marketing Misbranded Drugs

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a Kansas man has pleaded guilty to selling erectile dysfunction drugs he imported from Chine and marketing them as herbal remedies for men. Sixty-year-old Rick Shepard of Overland Park entered the plea Monday to conspiracy to import misbranded drugs for selling of a product called Euphoric to adult novelty stores in Kansas, Missouri and Colorado. Shepard admitted he marketed the product as an "all natural herbal supplements for male enhancement" when in fact it contained prescription drugs. Prosecutors said he purchased the drugs from a Chinese supplier, then repackaged the capsules using his own labels. Sentencing is April 20.


KPR's daily headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays and updated throughout the day.  KPR's weekend summary is usually published by 1 pm Saturdays and Sundays.

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