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Headlines for Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Kansas Keeping Troubled KanCare Contractor at Higher Cost

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas plans to continue its contract with a business that processes Medicaid applications despite complaints about its performance — and will pay the business more while taking over some if its duties, a state official told lawmakers. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment will extend its contract with Maximus beyond the end of the year and will not sue the company for failing to meet its obligations under the current contract, agency Secretary Jeff Andersen said Tuesday. Maximus will provide $10 million to the state in "concessions," he said. Maximus was hired in 2016 to run a clearinghouse where applications are sorted for KanCare, the state's Medicaid program. Critics have complained that chronic understaffing at one point caused a backlog of thousands of unprocessed applications. Although that backlog has been reduced, advocates for Medicaid recipients say problems persist, The Wichita Eagle reported . Andersen said the health department next July will take over processing the most difficult applications for KanCare. "This contract was underbid in an effort to get the contract, and in many cases, Maximus was not adequately staffed throughout this contract, which we've heard time and time again. In some cases, you get what you pay for," Andersen told the legislative KanCare Oversight Committee. He explained the state isn't in a position to bring in a new contractor in January, when Maximus's current contract expires, and doesn't have the capacity to process all Medicaid applications itself. The health department will ask for $2 million in additional funding for the current fiscal year, which will be used to help the department prepare to take over processing some Medicaid applications, he said. "There's some short-term pain to get out of this hole," Andersen said. In a statement sent Tuesday evening, Andersen stressed that his department is working to ensure Maximus's performance is up to standards. Maximus spokeswoman Lisa Miles said in a statement that the original contract's scope has expanded in the last several years, requiring additional staff. She said the company has funded "significant financial investments" in adding support staff and other resources, which has led to a reduction in the backlog and an improvement in the company's performance. Several lawmakers on the committee expressed frustration with the arrangement. "I have a real problem with that. It's almost like we're rewarding their underbidding to get the contract in the first place," said Senator Laura Kelly, a Democrat who is running for governor. Representative Dan Hawkins, a Wichita Republican who chairs the committee, said the situation "seems kind of weird" from a business standpoint and that he agreed with Kelly's comments.

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Kansas Governor Candidates Want Power to Change KanCare

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The three top candidates for Kansas governor say they want the authority to change the state's Medicaid program.  Governor Jeff Colyer's administration said during a legislative committee hearing Monday that he plans to continue with changes to KanCare included in new contracts with three companies. The contracts are set to take effect in January as Colyer is leaving office.  An administration official says the new contracts provide room for the state's next governor to change KanCare.  Colyer was defeated in this month's GOP primary election by Kris Kobach.  The Wichita Eagle reports Kobach, Democrat Laura Kelly and independent Greg Orman all say they want changes to KanCare, which provides care for more than 400,000 Kansans.  The three contracts for the Kansas program are worth about $1 billion each annually.

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Kansas Board to Review Challenge to Greg Orman's Candidacy

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A state board plans to meet Thursday to consider a challenge to independent candidate Greg Orman's right to appear on the November ballot in the Kansas governor's race.  The three-member, all-Republican State Objections Board set its meeting for 9 a.m. Thursday in Topeka. A Democratic legislative leader's chief of staff filed an objection to Orman's candidacy with the secretary of state's office Monday.  The objection questions the validity of petitions submitted by the independent candidate and Kansas City-area businessman to get on the ballot.  Orman needed signatures from 5,000 registered Kansas voters. The secretary of state's office said he had more than 7,000.  Orman's campaign spokesman has called the objection "frivolous."  The board is Secretary of State Kris Kobach's top deputy, Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Lt. Governor Tracey Mann.

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Final Votes: Kobach Defeated Colyer in Primary by 350 Votes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A final count of all votes shows Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach defeated Governor Jeff Colyer in the Republican primary for governor by 350 votes.  Final vote totals in the razor-thin race were posted Tuesday after the last of the state's 105 counties completed their vote canvassing on Monday. More than 317,000 people voted in the GOP primary.  Colyer conceded to Kobach on August 14 and has said he will not seek a recount.  Kobach received 128,838 votes to Colyer's 128,488 votes in the Aug. 7 primary. Former state Senator Jim Barnett garnered 27,993 votes and Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer received 24,807.  The final numbers are not official until the state Board of Canvassers certifies them. State law requires that be done before August 31.

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2 Charged in Graduation Night Shooting Outside Kansas Church

LEAWOOD, Kan. (AP) — Two men have been charged in a shooting that erupted after a high school graduation at a church in suburban Kansas City, Kansas. The May 17 shooting wounded two people, including a newly graduated student, outside the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood. Hundreds of people attended the ceremony for graduates of Center High School in Kansas City, Missouri. Police said the shooting erupted during a fight and that more than a dozen shell casings were found at the scene. Leawood police say 21-year-old Damon Gwinn was charged Tuesday with one count of aggravated battery. Twenty-year-old Rasheed Henderson has been charged with fleeing and eluding police. Gwinn's bond is set at $250,000 and Henderson's is set at $100,000.

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Sheriff: 68 Pounds of Meth Found After Traffic Stop

ABILENE, Kan. (AP) — A traffic stop in northeast Kansas led to the discovery of 68 pounds of methamphetamine. Dickinson County Sheriff Gareth Hoffman said a county drug unit stopped a truck pulling a U-Haul near Abilene on Monday. KSAL reports a drug dog alerted to the vehicle and a search of the U-Haul found the meth, with a street value of $1 million. Hoffman says 35-year-old Juan Carlos Garcia, of Southgate, California, was arrested and faces numerous charges including the possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute.

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Topeka Man Pleads Guilty in 18-Year-Old's Shooting Death

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An 18-year-old Topeka man accepted a plea deal in the shooting death of another man during a drug deal. Lamero Dunstan pleaded guilty Wednesday to second-degree murder and related charges in the death of 18-year-old Justice Mitchell last summer. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports attorneys will recommend that Dunstan spend more than 27 months in prison. Investigators say Shayden Byrd brought Dunstan along to a meeting that was supposed to be a marijuana deal but that Byrd intended to rob Mitchell of the drugs. Dunstan shot Mitchell twice during the transaction. Byrd is serving five years in a juvenile center after pleading guilty to first-degree murder and other charges.

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Convicted Killer Accused of Raping 8-Year-Old Wichita Girl

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a man who was convicted in a 1984 murder is suspected of raping an 8-year-old girl he was babysitting.  KAKE-TV reports 56-year-old Clifford Cox is being held on $250,000 bond after being arrested Monday.  Officer Charley Davidson said a parent reported his 8-year-old daughter was possibly assaulted by Cox on several occasions in the last few years.  He says the alleged assaults occurred while Cox was caring for his children and the girl's siblings. He says Cox and the girl's parents were acquaintances.  Cox was released from prison in 2006 after serving time for the May 1984 murder of 22-year-old Cathryn Lynne Hutchins Kessinger in Winfield.  Testimony indicated Cox killed Hutchins after receiving $1,000 from her husband, who also was convicted in the murder.

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Topeka Man Bound over for Trial in Fatal Shooting

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A judge has rejected a 21-year-old Topeka man's claim of self-defense in the fatal shooting of another man. Zachary Buck-Schrag was seeking immunity from prosecution, claiming he shot 37-year-old Travis Larsen in self-defense in January. Shawnee County District Judge Mark Braun rejected the motion Wednesday and bound Buck-Schrag over for trial on four counts, including first-degree murder. Buck-Schrag contended Larsen and another man threatened him and a friend by flashing an ammunition clip and making unfriendly remarks. Buck-Schrag said he showed the people in the other car a gun as Larsen's car pursued his. Eventually, Larsen's car hit Buck-Schrag's vehicle and Buck-Schrag fired four times, hitting Larsen in the head. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Buck-Schrag pleaded not guilty. Wednesday's ruling doesn't prevent Buck-Schrag from claiming self-defense in his trial.

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Pedestrian Struck Several Times in Fatal Kansas City Hit-and-Run

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police say a person who died in a hit-and-run on an interstate was struck several times before traffic could be stopped.  The death occurred Monday night along southbound Interstate 435 in Kansas City.  Police found the person's body lying in the right lane of the interstate.  The Kansas City Star reports witnesses told police they had to swerve to miss the body before pulling over to help.  The highway was closed for several hours before reopening about 3 am Tuesday.

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Missouri Man Suing over Cancer Misdiagnosis at Kansas Clinic

LEAWOOD, Kan. (AP) — A Missouri man is suing after he was mistakenly diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and began planning his funeral.  The Kansas City Star reports that 52-year-old Pasquale Michael Fatino, of Pleasant Hill, filed the lawsuit against three doctors at ProPartners Healthcare, his former primary care clinic in Leawood, Kansas. He says their misdiagnosis caused him and his family, including his 12- and 13 year-old children, unnecessary pain and suffering last year before a specialist told him he didn't have a terminal cancer of his lungs and liver. The specialist said he probably had an inflammatory disease called sarcoidosis, which could be treated with a common steroid.  An employee reached by phone at the clinic said they could not comment on Fatino's case because of the pending litigation.

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Coast Guard Refers Table Rock Lake's Duck Boat Case for Criminal Investigation

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The U.S. Coast Guard has referred the investigation into last month's deadly sinking of a Missouri tourist boat to federal prosecutors.  Coast Guard spokeswoman Lisa Novak on Tuesday confirmed a report first published by the Kansas City Star that the case was referred to the U.S. attorney's office in Kansas City on August 13.  Don Ledford of the U.S. attorney's office says the referral is "to consider a potential criminal investigation and federal prosecution."  The accident occurred July 19 at Table Rock Lake near Branson. An amphibious duck boat sank amid strong winds, killing 16 passengers and a crew member. Fourteen people survived.  The Missouri attorney general's office also is conducting a criminal investigation for possible violations of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act.  The duck boat attraction owner, Ripley Entertainment, says it is cooperating with the investigations.

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Ex-Kansas State Guard Amaad Wainright Pleads Guilty in Road Rage Case

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Former Kansas State basketball player Amaad Wainright has pleaded guilty to felony charges related to a road-rage shooting.  Wainright pleaded guilty Tuesday to felony obstructing apprehension and aiding a felon. A charge of fleeing from law enforcement was dropped.  The Wichita Eagle reports a passenger in Wainright's car fired a handgun into another car on Jan. 17 in Overland Park as the two vehicles were traveling along an interstate. No one was injured.  Court records indicate police tried to stop Wainright later that evening but he drove away at 100 mph.  Kansas State suspended Wainright, of Kansas City, Missouri, after he was charged.  Wainright, a junior guard, asked to be released from his Kansas State scholarship and joined Louisiana State University Shreveport in July.  Sentencing is scheduled for October 24.

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Man Sentenced for 5 Bank Robberies in 4 States

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka man has been sentenced to 6.5 years in federal prison for robbing five banks in four states. The U.S. Attorney's office said 21-year-old Dakota Shareef Walker was sentenced Tuesday after pleading guilty to bank robberies in Kansas, Missouri, Wyoming and two in Idaho. The robberies happened between November 2016 and January of 2017. The banks robbed were in Topeka, Kansas; Kansas City, Missouri; Evanston, Wyoming; and Malad City and Preston, Idaho. In each robbery, Walker handed the tellers notes warning them not to activate any alarms or make any sudden moves before escaping with money.

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Officials: Kansas City Area Church Employee Embezzled More than $400,000

BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. (AP) — The Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph says a longtime employee at a Blue Springs church embezzled $446,000 during the past several years.  The diocese said Tuesday the woman worked at St. Robert Bellarmine Catholic Church for decades but the embezzlement occurred over the last seven years. Diocese spokesman Jack Smith says the woman agreed to repay the money within 60 days after she was confronted last week. The diocese didn't name the employee.  A member of the parish's finance council discovered that the employee had been writing checks to herself and entering the names of vendors on accounting stubs.  The Kansas City Star reports the findings of the diocese's investigation were turned over to the Blue Springs police department on Monday.

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Federal Judge Delays Trial of Sedgwick County Commissioner in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has granted an unopposed defense request to delay the fraud trial of Sedgwick County Commissioner Michael O'Donnell.  U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren on Tuesday set a new trial date for November 13 in federal court in Wichita.  Prosecutors say O'Donnell of fraudulently obtained $10,500 from his campaign accounts for his personal use. A revised indictment charged him last week with 23 counts of wire fraud and two counts of money laundering.  His court appearance on the new indictment is August 28.  O'Donnell, a Wichita Republican, was elected to the state Senate in 2012 for a term that ended in January 2017. He did not run for re-election and instead was elected to the Sedgwick County Commission. His term is set to expire in 2020.

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Wichita Police: Deaths of Mother and Son Appear to be Murder-Suicide

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say the deaths of a woman and her son appear to a murder-suicide.  Officers were called to a Wichita home late Sunday by a woman who said her family was concerned because they had not been able to reach her sister.  Police found 55-year-old Debra Fisher dead from a stab wound. Her 28-year-old son, Cody Comstock, was found dead in a separate room of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound.  Police say they are not looking for any suspects in the two deaths.

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KBI Investigators: Violent Crime Rate Going Up in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says statewide violent crime continues to trend upward as last year's murder rate was more than 40 percent higher than the 10-year average.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the bureau released its annual report Friday.  The report says local and state agencies reported 176 murders to the bureau in 2017, a nearly 19 percent increase from 2016. Topeka recorded 30 homicides last year, its highest number of homicides on record.  The number of cases involving multiple victims also increased last year.  KBI Director Kirk Thompson says identifying commonalities can be difficult because circumstances surrounding the death are unknown in about 1 in 5 cases. Thompson says the rise in crime is likely related to drug activity, gang violence and social issues such as poverty.

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Topeka Zoo Welcomes Second Baby Giraffe of the Summer

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The newest giraffe at the Topeka Zoo is a girl named Elizabeth.  The zoo says an 8-year-old giraffe named Hope gave birth early Tuesday after about an hour of labor. The giraffe's father is named Sarge.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports zoo director Brendan Wiley said the new calf and her mother likely will remain inside on Tuesday. He said it was doubtful they would be outside because of mud in their exhibit from recent rain.  More than 1,300 people were watching a live stream from the zoo when the calf was born just after midnight Tuesday.  The birth comes after the zoo's other giraffe, Abi, gave birth to a male baby named Konza on July 11.

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Appeals Court Rules Against Alabama Abortion Restriction 

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) _ A federal appeals court has blocked an Alabama law that would have banned a commonly used second-trimester abortion procedure. The 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta on Wednesday affirmed a lower court's decision that the ban would cause Alabama women to lose access to abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The 2016 law banned the procedure known as dilation and evacuation abortions, in which the fetus is removed in pieces with forceps. Abortion clinic owners and the American Civil Liberties Union challenged the law in federal court. Randall Marshall, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama, said the ruling means Alabama politicians can't put an "ideological agenda'' over a woman's heath and decision-making.  Courts have blocked similar laws in Kansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas. 

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White Security Guard Accused of Ordering 'Trayvon Martini'

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A white, off-duty security guard in a bar and entertainment district in Kansas City has been suspended after he was accused of ordering a ``Trayvon Martini'' from a black bartender. The security firm Chesley Brown International said in a statement that it opened an internal investigation and removed the guard upon learning of the allegations. The issue gained attention after a bartender at the Buzzard Beach bar wrote on social media Monday that the guard described the martini ingredients as watermelon juice and one shot of vodka, explaining that "it only takes one shot to put him down!'' It's an apparent reference to Trayvon Martin, the black teen fatally shot in 2012 in Florida. The Westport Regional Business League, which subcontracts with Chesley Brown, said, "If true, it is reprehensible.'' 

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