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Headlines for Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Kansas Senate President Considering 2020 Race for US Senate

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle says she's considering running for the U.S. Senate in 2020 and plans to form an exploratory committee. Wagle told The Wichita Eagle on Wednesday that she is taking a "serious look" at the race. Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts announced Friday that he will not seek re-election. Wagle is the latest prominent Republican to express an interest. State Treasurer Jake LaTurner announced his candidacy Tuesday, and departing Gov. Jeff Colyer, Attorney General Derek Schmidt and U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall are considering the race. Wagle is from Wichita and has served in the Legislature since 1991. She will finish her second, four-year term as Kansas Senate president in 2020 and has said she won't seek another.

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Kansas City Police Discipline 17 Officers from Troubled Unit

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - In Kansas City, Missouri... police have disciplined 17 officers who worked for a unit that often failed to properly investigate crimes against children.  Police Chief Rick Smith  says seven of the 17 officers are no longer with the department. The discipline came after a nearly three-year investigation into the former Crimes Against Children unit. The Kansas City Star reports the investigation began in 2015 when police officials learned detectives weren't correctly investigating rapes, child molestations and other crimes against children. Smith said the cases occurred between 2011 and 2016. Smith blamed the failures largely on the division's organizational structure and personal failures of police officials. He said the discipline ranged from letters of reprimand to termination. The division now has a new staff with 10 detectives and two sergeants.

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Kansas State Treasurer Running for U.S. Senate Seat in 2020

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas State Treasurer Jake LaTurner is running for the U.S. Senate in 2020. LaTurner declared his candidacy Tuesday for the Republican nomination, less than a week after four-term GOP Senator Pat Roberts announced that he will not run for re-election. The 30-year-old LaTurner said Kansas needs both a conservative and generational change in the Senate. He issued a "Contract with Kansas" that includes support for congressional term limits and work requirements for welfare recipients. He is the first candidate to announce, but several other prominent Republicans have said they are considering the race. They include departing Gov. Jeff Colyer, Attorney General Derek Schmidt, Rep. Roger Marshall and American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp. LaTurner has been state treasurer since April 2017 after serving four years in the state Senate.

This story has been corrected from the original version to show that LaTurner is 30, not 31.

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Incoming Kansas Governor Names Prisons Chief, Health Agency Head

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Governor-elect Laura Kelly plans to put a former corrections secretary back in charge of the Kansas prison system and have a military doctor run the state health department. The incoming Democratic governor also plans to temporarily retain the state's top emergency management official under her Republican predecessors. Kelly announced Tuesday that Roger Werholtz will be interim secretary of corrections. Werholtz was secretary from 2002 to 2010. She also said Maj. Gen. Lee Tafanelli will remain as adjutant general to ensure a smooth transition in his department. The adjutant oversees the Emergency Management Division and commands the Kansas National Guard. Kelly said Lt. Col. and Dr. Lee Norman will serve as interim secretary of health and environment. He is the Army's medical liaison to the adjutant general. Kelly takes office Monday.

-related- 

New Kansas Governor Names Campaign Treasurer to Commerce Job

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Gov.-elect Laura Kelly has named a local economic development official who was her campaign treasurer as Kansas' next commerce secretary. Kelly announced Wednesday that she will nominate David Toland of Iola to lead the Department of Commerce. Toland is president and CEO of Thrive Allen County, a non-profit economic development agency. He also helped Kelly develop a rural development plan during her successful campaign last year. The state Senate must confirm Toland's appointment because Kelly intends for it be permanent. Kelly also announced Wednesday that she is naming Julie Lorenz of Lenexa interim transportation secretary. Lorenz is a senior strategic consultant for the Kansas City engineering, planning and architectural firm Burns & McDonnell. She previously led strategic planning for the Kansas Department of Transportation. Kelly takes office Monday.

Kansas Public Radio will broadcast Laura Kelly's inauguration at 11am Monday on KPR-2.

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Affidavit: Man Fired Gun Before Deputy Shot and Wounded Him

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Court documents say a man facing charges after he was wounded by a Kansas sheriff's deputy had fired a handgun near a child welfare office. The affidavit released in the case against 63-year-old Richard Gore says he appeared intoxicated and was "waving around and firing'' the gun before he was shot in the upper shoulder in November in Wichita. The Wichita Eagle reports that Gore is jailed on $100,000 bond on charges that include aggravated assault of a law enforcement officer. A sheriff's detective alleged in the affidavit that Gore first "fired in the direction'' of three Wichita police officers and an Eastborough officer before a sheriff's sergeant "decided to neutralize the threat of the gunfire.'' The Kansas Department for Children and Families building was locked down during the melee.

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2 Charged in Contract Killing of Pregnant Kansas Mother

JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (AP) - Two men have been charged with the contract killing of a pregnant Kansas mother who was found dead on Christmas Day. The Wichita Eagle reports that Dion Jamel Green and Mashaun Jay Baker were charged Monday with capital murder in the death of 31-year-old Jenna Schafer and her unborn child. The charge carries a possible death sentence. Prosecutors allege in a criminal complaint that Green shot Schafer as part of a murder-for-hire plot with Baker. Schafer was found dead in a Junction City apartment. Court documents say the shooting happened on either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day and was done "intentionally and with premeditation." Court records don't say if or how Green, Baker and Schafer knew one another. An obituary says Schafer had two daughters. Police say they are safe.

-related- 

Mother Found Dead After Missing Christmas Gift Opening

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The mother of slain pregnant woman whose body was found on Christmas Day says she began to worry as her grandchildren opened gifts because she couldn't reach their mother in Kansas. Prosecutors alleged this week that 31-year-old Jenna Schafer was fatally shot as part of a contract killing. Two suspects have been arrested. Tonya Cullen is raising her 10- and 11-year-old granddaughters and says Schafer had planned to watch the girls open their gifts through Facebook Messenger. The family made several frantic calls before learning Schafer had been found dead in a trailer in Junction City. Mashaun Baker and Dion Green are charged with capital murder in the case. Prosecutors haven't said how the men may have known Schafer or what prompted the killing. Cullen says Schafer was "trying to clean herself up and make things better for her girls."

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Maryland-Based Solar Contractor Fined in Fort Riley Electrocution Death

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A Maryland-based solar contractor is facing nearly $40,000 in fines after an employee died from electrocution at Fort Riley. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said Wednesday it cited Power Factor LLC for four serious violations after the employee died in July while installing solar panels at the fort. The agency says the employee was hoisting a metal rail that came into contact with overhead power lines. OSHA cited the company for exposing workers to electrical hazards, including live and uninsulated power circuits. The agency says the company also didn't regularly inspect the job site or train workers to avoid hazards. The employee's name hasn't been released. Power Factor, LLC. has 15 days to pay the fine or contest the findings. George Lang, owner of Power Factor, declined to comment.

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Suspicious Death Investigation Goes Cold in Lawrence Case

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence police say eight months after a woman died of a head injury, investigators have not determined whether she was the victim of crime. Sabrina Frock died in May at the home of a Lawrence man she met online. The man currently is in prison after violating probation for abusing another woman he met online two years ago. Frock's mother, Denise Slaughter, of Brookfield, Missouri, says she suspects foul play and is frustrated with the police investigation. The Lawrence Journal-World reports police are investigating Frock's death as suspicious but say they have no new leads. Frock's autopsy report has not been released. Slaughter said police told her Frock died from a brain injury but the coroner's ruling on whether the death was a homicide or an accident was undetermined.

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Convicted Felon Pleads Guilty in Topeka Beating Death

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A convicted felon has pleaded guilty in a Topeka beating death.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that 32-year-old Howard Dale Burchfiel pleaded guilty Monday to reduced felony charges of involuntary manslaughter and aggravated burglary. He had faced charges that included first-degree murder. Prosecutors say he beat 66-year-old Allen Wichman in June 2017 during a home invasion. Wichman died the following month from complication from his injuries. Burchfiel has past convictions for crimes that include the 2009 shooting of a Topeka bartender, who survived. Burchfiel had been released on supervised probation just three months before attacking Wichman.  Burchfiel's sentencing is scheduled for March 8.

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Kansas Judge Allows Victims' Lawyers to Assist Prosecution

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Wyandotte County judge has allowed private attorneys hired by families of the victims to assist in the prosecution of a man charged with killing two sheriff's deputies. The ruling Wednesday comes despite the objections of defense lawyers and the judge's own misgivings in the capital murder case of 30-year-old Antoine Fielder. He is accused of fatally shooting Wyandotte County deputies Theresa King and Patrick Rohrer last June as they were escorting him back to jail after a hearing in a robbery case. Kansas City Star reports Kansas law allows crime victims to pay for lawyers to assist prosecutors as "associate attorneys." District Judge Bill Klapper said that while he finds their inclusion in the case "inherently problematic," he is bound by state law that mandates they "shall" be allowed.

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Kansas Man Sentenced for Using Customers' Credit Cards

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — The former owner of an Olathe barbecue restaurant was sentenced Wednesday to serve one year and one month in prison for using customers' credit cards to fund spending sprees. Matthew Sander, former owner of Smokin' Joe's Bar-B-Q, pleaded guilty in November to seven counts of identity theft, four counts of theft and one count of criminal use of a credit card. The Kansas City Star reports that court documents filed by Sander's attorney say he had a "significant drug and alcohol problem" that he has since addressed. Prosecutors said Sander went on spending binges with credit cards that customers left behind at the restaurant. In one case, Sander used a debit card from a purse he took at an Overland Park restaurant. Sander was ordered to pay restitution of $11,400.

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2 More Teens Arrested After a Robbery Accomplice is Killed

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Authorities have arrested two more teenage suspects in a Wichita gas station robbery in which a customer fatally shot an armed 16-year-old accomplice.  The Wichita Eagle reports that police said Monday that the suspects - a 16-year-old boy and 17-year-old boy - were taken into custody during a weekend traffic stop. A third suspect, who's 17, was arrested Dec. 30, two deaths after the customer exchanged gunfire with the teens. One of the 16-year-old robbery suspects was shot in the head and later died. Police say the gas station robbery is related to an earlier robbery at a Family Dollar Store. Police haven't released the name of the boy who died, or of the other suspects. The teen's death was found to be justified.

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The Parents of an 11-Year-Old Wichita Girl Who Drowned at a Church Party Have Reached a Settlement

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ The parents of an 11-year-old Wichita girl who drowned at a church party have reached a settlement. The Wichita Eagle reports that Andy Cramb and Joanna Cramb alleged in the suit that Pathway Church and the homeowners failed to keep their daughter, Shelby, safe. Andy Cramb says his wife and son were the ones who realized that the girl was missing when they went to pick her up from the party in 2017. Divers found her body in the lake behind the house. The couple's attorney, Brad LaForge, says the church had taken stops to "make sure that nothing like this ever happens again.'' He declined to elaborate on those steps and said the settlement amount is confidential. Lawyers for the church and the homeowners didn't comment.

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Woman Sentenced for Swerving into, Killing 2 Men in Kansas

COLUMBUS, Kan. (AP) - A 26-year-old woman has been sentenced to seven years and four months in prison for swerving into two men as they walked across a southeast Kansas street. The Joplin Globe reports that Shelby Colon received the sentence after pleading guilty previously to two counts of involuntary manslaughter in the July 2017 crash that killed 66-year-old Charles Burkybile Jr. and 86-year-old Glen Roosa. Police say Colon stopped at the scene in Galena, Kansas, and showed no signs of impairment. The sentence also includes time for a separate drug-dealing case. District Attorney Jake Conard says the families can "finally receive some closure can move on with their lives."

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U.S. Government: Shutdown Shouldn't Stop Keystone Hearing

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Justice Department attorneys and the Canadian company behind the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline say the U.S. government shutdown shouldn't delay a court hearing on a judge's decision to halt construction.  Justice Department attorney Bridget McNeil said in a court filing Monday that government lawyers are prohibited from working except in emergencies during the shutdown. But, she adds, federal attorneys' participation in the hearing next Monday in U.S. District Court in Great Falls isn't necessary. TransCanada attorneys previously told U.S. District Judge Brian Morris the company is prepared to hold the hearing without the government being represented. In November, Morris ordered an injunction prohibiting pipeline construction activities. TransCanada plans to argue the order should be stayed while an appeal is pending with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

(-Related-)

TransCanada to Change Name to TC Energy

NEW YORK (AP) — TransCanada Corp., the company behind the contentious Keystone XL oil pipeline, is changing its name to TC Energy. If approved by shareholders and regulators, TransCanada becomes TC Energy in the second quarter. The stock ticker "TRP" will not change. The Keystone XL project is being delayed by a federal court that found the Trump Administration didn't fully consider the environmental effects when it approved the permit for the 1,184-mile (1,900 kilometer) pipeline, intended to ship up to 830,000 barrels a day of crude oil from Alberta, Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast. The project has been marred by protests. Environmentalists and Native American groups had sued to stop the pipeline, citing property rights and possible spills.  A hearing on the proposed pipeline is scheduled for Monday in Great Falls, Montana.

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Woman Accidently Shoots Herself While Driving in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Authorities say a 39-year-old woman accidentally shot herself while driving in Wichita. Police say the gun went off Monday as the woman was attempting to holster it. A dispatch supervisor says she was taken to the hospital in critical condition. Police say she is stable. No one else was hurt.

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Top Kansas House Democrat, Senate GOP Leader Name Key Aides

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The top Democrat in the Kansas House and a Republican leader in the state Senate have named new chiefs of staff. House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer of Wichita announced Tuesday that Heather Scanlon will become is top aide. Scanlon has been the House Democrats' communications director for more than two years and also has been communications director for the Kansas Democratic Party. She replaces Cory Sheedy, who took a job on Democratic Governor-elect Laura Kelly's staff. Senate Vice President Jeff Longbine has named Michael Murray as his chief of staff. Before joining the Emporia Republican's office, Murray worked for Attorney General Derek Schmidt and in U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts' office in Topeka. Murray replaces Laine Raitinger, who took a position with telecommunications company AT&T Kansas.

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Kansas RB Pooka Williams Granted Diversion in Battery Case

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Star Kansas running back Pooka Williams has been granted diversion in a domestic battery case, meaning he has a chance to keep the allegation off his record. Williams, who appeared in court Wednesday, is accused of punching an 18-year-old woman in the stomach and grabbing her by the throat last month. An affidavit says the woman had text messages from Williams admitting to punching her and a police officer found bruises on her. Williams reportedly told police he pushed the woman when he saw her in a room with other men. Both have said they were in an intimate relationship. Diversion allows someone to avoid the usual legal procedures and complete specific requirements, which can include rehabilitation programs or fines. Williams' attorney, Hatem Chahine, said if Williams successfully completes terms of diversion, the domestic battery charge would be dropped and not appear on his legal record, the Lawrence Journal-World reported. Williams was the Big 12 offensive freshman of the year and a first-team all-Big 12 selection as running back and kick returner last season. He was suspended by the football program Dec. 7.

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