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Headlines for Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Kelly Signs National Guard Counseling Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Laura Kelly has signed a bill that protects the identities of Kansas National Guard members who undergo counseling. The legislation signed by the governor on Wednesday is designed to encourage service members to seek help if needed. It will exempt counseling-related notes and records from open records requests and court proceedings. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the bill, which passed the House and Senate with nearly unanimous approval, comes after the Guard experienced three suicides in the last 18 months and nine in the past five years. Maj. Gen. Lee Tafanelli said the legislation adds to a variety of services already available to soldiers. Kelly also signed a bill that makes it easier for Kansas Guard members to receive educational assistance.


Air Force Evacuates 13 Planes to Washington to Avoid Storm

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Air Force is sending 13 aircraft from McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita to a base in Washington because of the potential for severe weather in Kansas. Air Force spokesman 2nd Lt. Daniel de La Fe said in a news release Wednesday that the planes are being evacuated to Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane, Washington. Del Fe says that base can house displaced McConnell personnel and provide maintenance for the aircraft. McConnell personnel are not being evacuated from the Wichita base. The National Weather Service is predicting storms with large hail and strong winds Wednesday evening in south central and southeast Kansas.


Kelly Won't Be Allowed to File Brief in School Finance Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has ruled that Governor Laura Kelly cannot file a brief in support of a law that would add about $90 million annually to public school funding. The governor on Monday asked the court for permission to file the brief in support of a bill she signed April 5. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the court said on Wednesday that such motions, called amicus briefs, must be filed 30 days before oral arguments in a case. The arguments on the latest effort to address school finance litigation are scheduled for May 9. Four school districts sued the state over education funding in 2010. Attorneys representing the schools argued that late request to file the brief didn't leave them enough time to respond to her argument.


Kansas Law Gives Counties New Options for Polling Sites

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new law gives Kansas counties the option of letting voters cast ballots at any polling site within their county. But election officials say spotty internet service and aging voting equipment will mean that many counties can't immediately take advantage of the new flexibility. Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly signed a bill this week that gives local election officials discretion to allow voters to cast ballots at any county polling place, rather than only at an assigned polling site. Some rural counties have remote voting sites and some still rely primarily on paper ballots. Counties with old equipment might not be able to offer different ballots tailored to local races at all locations. It is unclear how many counties will take advantage of the new law.


3-Year-Old Boy's Parents Charged with Murder in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors have filed murder charges against a Wichita couple whose 3-year-old had been dead for days when his body was found in a crib in their mobile home.  The parents of Zaiden Javonovich made their first court appearances Tuesday. His 22-year-old mother, Brandi Kai Marchant, and 28-year-old father, Patrick Janovich, both face five charges.  The Wichita Eagle reports that the charges include first-degree murder with underlying felonies of neglect and abuse, two counts of abuse of a child and aggravated endangerment of a child.  Police last week responding to a domestic disturbance between the parents found the parents walking outside their Wichita home before checking on the children inside where the found the older boy's body. A 4-month-old boy who was taken from their home Thursday in critical condition is improving.


Wyandotte County Deputy Charged with Sex Abuse of Minor

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A 52-year-old Wyandotte County Sheriff's deputy has been charged with sexual crimes involving a victim under 14.  District Attorney Mark Dupree said Wednesday that Michael Mastel is charged with three counts of sexual exploitation of a child and one count each of rape and aggravated criminal sodomy.  Dupree says the investigation began last year when the child came forward. He says Mastel knew the child but not through his work as a deputy.  Sheriff Donald Ash said Mastel is on leave without pay. Mastel has worked at the sheriff's office since 2010.  The sodomy is alleged to have occurred in 2011 or 2012. The rape and the sexual exploitation allegedly occurred between March and June of 2018.  It wasn't immediately clear if Mastel has an attorney.


Former Wichita Officer Pleads Guilty in Gambling Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former Wichita police officer has admitted that he knew about illegal private poker games in the city for years but didn't report them to authorities.  Fifty-one-year-old Michael Zajkowski pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to concealing a felony.  Prosecutors said a co-defendant asked Zajkowski to find out if an undercover officer attended one of the poker games in February 2014. Zajkwoski then reported what he found out to the co-defendant.  Zajkowski will be sentenced August 2. Attorney have agreed to recommend a year on federal probation.  KFDI reports the co-defendant, 50-year-old Brock Wedman of St. Marys, also pleaded guilty this week and is scheduled for sentencing August 1.  The two men are among several arrested in an FBI investigation of illegal gambling in Wichita.


2 Die in Crash in Rural Eastern Kansas

LANSING, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say two people have died in a crash in a rural area of eastern Kansas.  The Kansas Highway Patrol says the crash happened Tuesday after 36-year-old SaraKay Snell went off the side of Kansas Highway 5 in Leavenworth County. The patrol says she then overcorrected and began heading southbound in the northbound lane before hitting a tree. The impact killed Snell and her 19-year-old passenger, Calob Crow. Both were from Lansing.  The wreck is under investigation.


Lawrence Police: Woman Suffers Life-Threatening Stab Wounds  

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) —  A woman is hospitalized with life-threatening injuries after she was stabbed inside her Lawrence home this (WED) morning.  Police responded to a residence (in the 900 block of Essex Court) around 6:15 am to reports of a stabbing.  Responding officers made contact with the 28-year-old female victim, who had suffered multiple stab wounds, inside her residence.  The victim was transported via ambulance to an area trauma center with injuries that are reported to be possibly life threatening.  At this time, no suspect information is available.


Man Gets Life in Prison for Deadly Shooting Near Washburn University

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 22-year-old man has been sentenced to life in prison in a deadly shooting near Washburn University in Topeka.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Zachary Buck-Schrag likely won't be eligible for parole until he is at least 71 under the sentence imposed Monday. He was convicted in February of first-degree murder and several other counts in the January 2018 killing of 37-year-old Travis Larsen. The shooting briefly prompted the university to issue an alert asking students to shelter in place.  Buck-Schrag argued the shooting was self-defense. He contended that Larsen and another man threatened him and a friend by flashing an ammunition clip and making unfriendly remarks. Larsen was found suffering from a fatal gunshot wound to the head in a vehicle that had left the roadway.


University of Kansas Adds Internet Upgrade to Avoid Another Massive Outage

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas has taken steps to prevent a crippling internet outage similar to the one that occurred in 2016.  University spokeswoman Mary Walsh says the school recently installed a third fiber cable to campus. That will allow the university to have access to the internet if one of the other lines fails.  In 2016, a construction crew accidentally cut both of the university's fiber internet cables. That cut internet services to the University of Kansas in Lawrence and Overland Park, websites hosting online classes, and to state testing for thousands of K-12 students in more than a dozen states.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports the two cables cut in 2016 were next to each other. The new, third cable is located on a different part of the Lawrence campus.


New Kansas Law Boosts Voter Protections for Mail-in Ballots

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly has signed a bill that requires election officials to notify voters before their mail-in ballots are thrown out because of signature problems.  An Associated Press analysis of rejected ballots in the 2018 primary in the state's most populous county found that 153 mail-in ballots were not counted because of signatures that didn't match county voting records.  Then-Secretary of State Kris Kobach defeated then-Governor Jeff Colyer for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in that race by only 343 votes. The close Republican primary highlighted differences in how Kansas counties handled mail-in ballots.  The legislation Kelly signed Monday gives voters an additional week or longer to provide a signature.


Lawsuits over Shootings at Kansas Business Settled for $2 Million

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The families of victims of a mass shooting at a central Kansas business in 2016 have won a $2 million legal settlement from a pawn shop that sold the firearms to the shooter's girlfriend. The settlement of three lawsuits in Harvey County District Court was announced Wednesday by Brady, a national center against gun violence. Brady attorneys represented the wife and young son of one of three people shot to death at the Excel Industries factory in Hesston. Fourteen people also were wounded. The victims' families argued that the now-defunct A Pawn Shop should have known that shooter Cedric Ford's girlfriend was a straw buyer. He was a convicted felon barred from possessing the firearms. An attorney for the pawn shop did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment.


Suspects in Kansas Band Room Destruction Are 8, 10 and 11

PRETTY PRAIRIE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say three suspects in the destruction of a Kansas high school's band room are ages 8, 10 and 11. Reno County District Attorney Keith Schroeder said Wednesday any case against the children would be sealed because of their age. The Wichita Eagle reports a child under 10 cannot be charged and could instead be a child in need of care case. They are suspected of trashing the band room at Pretty Prairie High School during the weekend. Principal Kevin Hedrick said paint was thrown around, many of the instruments were destroyed and fire extinguishers were discharged in the building and a school van. Officials estimate the damage was between $50,000 and $75,000. Authorities initially said four juveniles were involved but the district attorney's office has not been given information on a fourth child.


Prosecutors Mull Alternative to Trial for Kansas Gamer

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A judge has delayed the trial of a Kansas online gamer allegedly involved in a deadly hoax while federal prosecutors consider an alternative to prosecution that would spare him from the criminal justice system. The attorney for 20-year-old Shane Gaskill of Wichita has applied for pre-trial diversion, and prosecutors have asked the court to delay Tuesday's upcoming trial so the application may be given full consideration. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren has postponed the trial to May 21. Gaskill is charged with conspiracy, obstruction of justice, wire fraud, and making false statement during an investigation. Prosecutors say he was playing a Call of Duty WWII video game when a dispute allegedly sparked the false call that resulted in police shooting a man who lived at Gaskill's former Wichita home.


Man Arrested in Hit-and-Run Crash That Sent 4 to Hospital

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have arrested a man suspected of driving away after crashing into the rear of a stalled car as people tried to push it off a Lawrence road. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that 25-year-old Andrew Walden, of Iola, faces one count of leaving the scene of the May 2017 crash that sent four people to a hospital, two of them in critical condition. Although that count and two felony aggravated battery charges were filed in January, Walden wasn't arrested until this week. Jail records show he has been released on $7,500 bond. A civil lawsuit filed against Walden says he was under the influence of alcohol when he crashed into the car. Walden acknowledged hitting the car in his written response to the suit but denied that he'd been drinking.


Man Sentenced for Stealing More Than $380,000 in Copper

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 42-year-old Kansas man has been sentenced to probation and ordered to pay about $384,000 restitution for stealing copper from his employer. District Attorney Marc Bennett said in a news release Tuesday that Matthew Belshe, of Wichita, pleaded guilty to two counts of felony theft. Belshe was sentenced to probation and ordered to pay restitution to Kruse Corporation, Belshe's former employer, and Traveler's Insurance. Investigators say Belshe bought the copper pipe on company accounts and for four years, sold it to scrap dealers and kept the money.


Judge Clears Way for Lawsuit by Muslim Engineer in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A judge has rejected a move by Spirit Boeing Employees Association seeking to dismiss the lawsuit filed by a Muslim aerospace engineer alleging discrimination stemming from a party at a Kansas lake.  U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson ruled Tuesday that there remains a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Munir Zanial's rights were violated on the basis of race, religion or national origin.  The Malaysian national of Indian ancestry rented a pavilion at the group's lake in 2017 to celebrate Malaysian Independence Day. The lawsuit alleges the association suspended his rental privileges and reported him to authorities.  It alleged an American flag had been desecrated by Islamic State group symbols. But the flag was actually a Malaysian flag and the guests included people of Malaysian Indian ancestry, some wearing hijabs.


Sexual Predator Patient Gets 16 Years for Sexual Battery

LARNED, Kan. (AP) — A 65-year-old man has been sentenced to more than 16 years in prison for trying to kiss a Kansas psychiatric hospital staff member on the lips while he was a patient in the facility's sexual predator treatment program.  The Great Bend Tribune reports that Russell McFarland was sentenced Monday for aggravated sexual battery. Testimony during his trial indicated that in Mary 2018, he followed a 19-year-old female staff member at Larned State Hospital into a staff-only area of the hospital, forced her into a corner and tried to kiss her. Another patient intervened and the staff member was able to get free.  Court-appointed counsel Charles Pike argued for a shorter sentence, saying the degree of harm was less than normally seen for this type of conviction.


Hearing to Focus on Preventing More Missouri River Flooding

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — This spring's massive flooding along the Missouri River unearthed bitter criticism of the federal agency that manages the river while devastating communities and causing more than $3 billion in damage.  The flooding and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' actions will be the focus of a U.S. Senate hearing in western Iowa on Wednesday and critics will demand the agency make flood control its top priority. But Congress would have to act to change the Corps' priorities.  U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley says the current river management policy needs to be fixed.  That sentiment is appealing in flood-damaged Midwestern states, but it may not be as popular with supporters of the Corps' other priorities such as protecting endangered species.


Budweiser's Clydesdale Horses Visit Kansas Capitol

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Clydesdale horses used for beer promotions will soon trot in front of the Kansas Capitol to celebrate the state's new law that allows grocers and convenience stores to sell brews with up to 6% alcohol by volume.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the equine event is intended to bring to mind a 1933 ceremony in which beer was presented to President Franklin D. Roosevelt to mark the repeal of Prohibition.  Anheuser-Busch's team of Budweiser Clydesdales will deliver a plaque to Kansas House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr. Thursday in celebration of the state law that went into effect April 1 . It brings to an end a Prohibition-era rule restricting certain stores to only stock beer with up to 3.2% alcohol content.  The St. Louis-based company operates 22 breweries across the country.


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