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Headlines for Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Area news headlines from the Associated Press

Adoption, Guns on Kansas Lawmakers' Plate with Fiscal Issues

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators could consider a gun-rights proposal and new legal protections for faith-based adoption agencies after reconvening this week. Republican Governor Jeff Colyer and the state's Catholic bishops are backing a Senate-passed proposal to allow state foster care contractors to do business with adoption agencies that refuse on religious grounds to place children in LGBT homes. Meanwhile, some lawmakers want to decrease the age at which gun owners can carry concealed to 18 from 21. Fiscal issues also are on legislators' plate when they return Thursday from their annual spring break. They expect to fix a flaw in a new education funding law that otherwise would cost public schools $80 million. They also could debate income tax cuts because of a revenue surplus caused by changes in federal tax laws.

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Kansas Agency Could Fall Short on Nursing Home Inspections

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Officials say the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services is on track to fall short of federal requirements for inspection of 350 nursing home facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid funding. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the agency's compliance record for annual inspections has grown worse since 2015, when state employees completed surveys at nearly 80 percent of the state's nursing facilities. Only 35 percent were inspected in 2017 and the state is on pace to conduct less than 40 percent for 2018. Department Secretary Tim Keck says the agency needs more inspectors to comply. Republican Senator Vicki Schmidt chairs the Legislature's oversight committee on Medicaid. She says the department not being in compliance is a public safety issue.

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Court Gives Kansas AG More Time to File School Aid Defense

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court is giving Attorney General Derek Schmidt an extra week to file his legal defense for a new public school funding law because of a flaw in it. The court on Wednesday revised its schedule for attorneys to file written arguments on education funding. Schmidt has until May 7 instead of April 30 to report on how legislators increased education funding. The court ruled in October that the state's current funding of more than $4 billion a year is inadequate. Lawmakers approved legislation aimed at phasing in a $534 million increase over five years. Officials later found a flaw that lowered funding by $80 million, and Schmidt then sought extra time to file his legal defense. Lawmakers reconvene Thursday and expect to pass a school funding fix.

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Judge Dismisses Schlitterbahn Charge Against 1 Defendant

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A judge has dismissed an involuntary manslaughter charge against one of five defendants in the decapitation death of a 10-year-old Kansas boy on a water slide. Wyandotte County District Court Judge Robert Burns on Wednesday dropped charges against Schlitterbahn Waterpark of Kansas City, Kansas, in the 2016 death of Caleb Schwab on the Verruckt water slide. The Kansas City Star reports Schlitterbahn Waterpark does not exist as a legal entity. The park includes two entities: SVV 1, which owns the land, and KC Waterpark Management, which operates the park. Assistant Kansas attorney general Adam Zentner said he would seek a new grand jury indictment against the proper corporate defendant. Also Wednesday, two defendants waived their right to a speedy trial, which means the trial will not occur on September 10 as previously scheduled.

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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 Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, 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 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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Utility Worker Fatally Shot at Job Site in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police are investigating the shooting death of a utility worker at a job site.  Police say 23-year-old Johnathon Porter, of Appleton City, was shot Monday morning. He was working at the construction site for InfraSource, a contractor for Spire Energy.  The motive for the shooting is under investigation.  The Kansas City Star reports witnesses said the shooter walked up to a group of workers and briefly spoke to them before pulling out a gun, firing several shots and then fleeing.  Officers are searching for the suspect. The only description was a man with a dark complexion wearing a blue sweatshirt and grey sweatpants.

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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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PETA Offers Reward in Beating Death of Dog in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An animal rights organization is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the beating death of a Wichita man's dog during a break-in. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals offered the reward Wednesday after the 10-year-old American bulldog, "Buffalo Boy," was killed. KAKE-TV reports the dog's owner, Robert Miller, found his dog dead Sunday amid debris left by people who broke into his home. PETA says the dog was beaten with a bat. Police say the break-in happened between Saturday evening and Sunday morning. No arrests have been made.

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KU Health System Buys Great Bend Regional Hospital

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas Health System is continuing its expansion outside of the Kansas City area by buying a hospital in Great Bend. The health system announced Wednesday it will buy the Great Bend Regional Hospital and its affiliated clinics. The details of the agreement were not released. It's expected to be final this summer. In recent years, KU Health has acquired or partnered with HaysMed in Hays, Pawnee Valley Community Hospital, a HaysMed partner in Larned and St. Francis Hospital in Topeka. The Kansas City Star reports the 33-bed Great Bend hospital discharged about 1,400 patients and made about $91 million in revenue in 2016. It's the last inpatient hospital in Great Bend, a city of about 16,000 about 252 miles (405.54 kilometers) west of Kansas City.

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Pilot Injured in Small Plane Accident 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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Mother Accused of Trying to Kill Her 3 Kids Found Competent to Stand Trial

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A suburban Kansas City 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 Friday that Roever is able to understand the proceedings and help her attorneys defend her in the attempted capital murder case.  Court documents say two of the children would have died if they hadn't been found and rushed to a hospital. The records also show Roever and her ex-husband have been involved in long-running litigation involving domestic issues, including child custody.  Roever is jailed on $1 million bond.

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American Jazz Museum Director Says She Will Step Down by Mid-May

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The director of a financially troubled jazz museum in Kansas City's historic 18th and Vine district says she's stepping down. The Kansas City Star reports that Cheptoo Kositany-Buckner said Wednesday that she would leave the American Jazz Museum before its annual May 15 meeting but would "remain a champion" of the attraction. A major shakeup also is expected on the museum's board of directors. The leadership changes are among the recommendations made in a consultant's report issued last month. The report was highly critical of the museum for lacking a clear vision and identity, despite opening its doors 20 years ago. The museum's financial difficulties became apparent last year when checks written to performers at a museum-staged festival bounced. The city has stepped in to shore up the museum's finances.

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Ex-Wichita Police Officer Files Sex Discrimination Lawsuit

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former Wichita police officer is suing the city and two police officials for sex discrimination. Tiffany Dahlquist, who was a patrol officer for six years, alleges in a federal lawsuit filed Monday that the department discriminated against her after a teenager reported that Dahlquist hit her car and didn't stop in September 2016. The Wichita Eagle reports Dahlquist denied hitting the car and prosecutors declined to file charges, citing a lack of evidence. In her lawsuit, Dahlquist contends police conducted an unusually aggressive internal investigation before the criminal investigation was concluded. She was fired in February 2017 but three days later that decision was overturned and she was reinstated. Dahlquist later resigned because she said she didn't trust the department to protect her. Spokesman Charley Davidson said the police department doesn't comment on pending litigation.

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Officer Gets Probation for Groping Woman in Patrol Car

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — A former Kansas police officer has been sentenced to 24 months of probation for groping a woman while taking her to jail. The Pittsburg Morning Sun reports that 22-year-old Jesse Edward Lorenzo Davis, of Carthage, Missouri, also was ordered Wednesday to register as a sex offender after pleading no contest to aggravated battery. As part of the plea, aggravated sexual battery and official misconduct charges were dropped. Davis was fired from the Pittsburg Police Department after an investigation into the victim's August 2017 domestic disturbance arrest. The woman alleges in a lawsuit that she complied with the officer's groping demands out of fear. The suit says a friend heard what happened to the woman through her phone, which was in the patrol car. The friends were connected through Facebook Messenger. 

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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' 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.

Lauria Bible's mother, Lorene Bible, said she believes "somebody knows where these girls are."  "We're not finished. I will not stop until we bring the girls home," Lorene Bible said. "I need a place where I can go and say that's where my daughter is."
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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Woman Dies on Alaska Airlines Flight 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say a woman has died on an Alaska Airlines flight that took off from Seattle and landed at Kansas City International Airport. Kansas City police released a statement saying firefighters responded to a medical emergency aboard Flight 478 on Tuesday and found the woman dead. She was identified on Wednesday as 59-year-old Anna Lively of Humansville, Missouri. Police say it appears that Lively suffered cardiac arrest but the exact cause of death won't be known until after an autopsy. The airline's website says the flight was direct from Seattle to Kansas City.

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Kansas District Reviews Student Complaints About Walkouts

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Kansas' third-largest school district is reviewing complaints that administrators infringed on students' freedom of speech during a national classroom walkout to protest gun violence, including by taking away student photographers' cameras.  The Kansas City Star reports that issues arose Friday at Shawnee Mission North High School and Hocker Grove Middle School. Students said they were censored, and Shawnee Mission North junior Grace Altenhofen told board members at a meeting Monday that an administrator told students photographers they weren't allowed to cover the event because the administrator "didn't approve of the subject matter." Shawnee Mission School District Interim Superintendent Kenny Southwick said he would "take personal responsibility for some of the things that happened." The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas says it has received numerous complaints and is investigating.

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Kansas City Suburb: Half-Car Joke an 'Ryesore' and Must Go

EDGERTON, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas City suburb is pressuring the owner of a cut-in-half car adorned with a sign reading, "Divorced. She got ½," to junk the junker. The Kansas City Star reports that the half-car was created as a joke by the late-Edgerton Mayor Ray Braun who used to own the defunct gas station where the front part of the 1987 Chevrolet Citation is parked. Braun fitted the half-car with rear caster wheels and used to drive it in parades. Danny O'Neal now owns the property where the vehicle sits. But City Council President Clay Longanecker says the car has become "an eyesore" and the Edgerton codes department has told O'Neal has to dispose of it. O'Neal plans to argue it's a "landmark" and memorial to Braun. Neither man was ever divorced.

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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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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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Edgerton City Officials: Half-Car Joke an "Eyesore" and Must Go

EDGERTON, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas City suburb is pressuring the owner of a cut-in-half car adorned with a sign reading, "Divorced. She got ½," to junk the junker.  The Kansas City Star reports that the half-car was created as a joke by the late-Edgerton Mayor Ray Braun who used to own the defunct gas station where the front part of the 1987 Chevrolet Citation is parked. Braun fitted the half-car with rear caster wheels and used to drive it in parades. Danny O'Neal now owns the property where the vehicle sits.  But City Council President Clay Longanecker says the car has become "an eyesore" and the Edgerton codes department has told O'Neal has to dispose of it. O'Neal plans to argue it's a "landmark" and memorial to Braun.
Neither man was ever divorced.

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U.S. Pecan Growers Hope to Break Out of the Pie Shell

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — The humble pecan is being rebranded as more than just pie.  Pecan growers and suppliers are hoping to sell U.S. consumers on the virtues of North America's only native nut as a hedge against a potential trade war with China, the pecan's largest export market.  The pecan industry is also trying to crack the fast-growing snack-food industry.  The Fort Worth, Texas-based American Pecan Council has been formed in the wake of a new federal marketing order that allows the industry to band together and assess fees for research and promotion.  Critics call such orders government-backed cartels. But council members hope to elevate the pecan to the ranks of the almond and pistachio.

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