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Headlines for Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Kansas Child Welfare Agency Declines to Release Records Related to 3-Year-Old Girl Who Died in KCK

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP/KPR) - The state's child welfare agency has so far refused to release records about 3-year-old Olivia Ann Jansen.  The Kansas City, Kansas, toddler's battered body was found earlier this month, covered in bruises.  An autopsy indicates she died from bleeding in her brain.  The Kansas Department for Children and Families is refusing to release records about the child despite a 2018 law aimed at making such documents more transparent.  That law says the agency's documents are public records in the event child abuse or neglect results in a child fatality or near fatality.  The Associated Press requested records related to the girl but the agency declined to release them, saying it's still investigating the girl's death.  Olivia's remains were found in a shallow grave on July 10. The girl's father and his girlfriend are charged with murder.  The girl's grandparents say they reported suspected abuse to the state.   Investigators say the toddler's body was covered in bruises and that she died of a brain bleed.  Her remains were discovered after her father, Howard Jansen III, reported her missing. The 29-year-old father and his girlfriend have since been charged with felony murder and other crimes.

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Searchers Find Body of Teenager Swept Away by Water in Kansas City Creek

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Searchers have found the body of a teenager who was swept away in the current of a Kansas City creek. The Kansas City Star reports that search crews found the body of 19-year-old Trevion Mcafee Monday afternoon near a spot where he went under the water of Indian Creek. Investigators say Mcafee had been with friends in the creek Sunday evening when he was caught by the creek's swift current, went under the water and didn't resurface. One of the friends with him told police they tried to help Mcafee, but couldn't reach him. Mcafee's family has said he couldn't swim.

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Topeka Man Charged in Fatal June Motorcycle Crash

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 51-year-old Topeka man has been charged with unintentional but reckless second-degree murder and other counts for a June crash that killed a motorcyclist. The Capital-Journal reports that Tommy Lynn Sherrill Sr. was charged Tuesday in the June 30 crash that led to the death of 26-year-old motorcyclist Dylan Jay Hernandez. Hernandez died July 11 of complications from massive head trauma suffered when his motorcycle collided with a building at Topeka's municipal airport. Prosecutors say an investigation showed a truck was involved in causing the crash and that Sherrill had been driving the truck. Sherrill was arrested July 22 and is being held in lieu of $1 million bond.

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Kansas Prison Employee Dies After COVID-19 Complications

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - A third Kansas prison employee has died of complications related to COVID-19.  Richard Rose was 74 and had worked for the Kansas Department of Corrections for more than 17 years. He died Saturday. He worked as a maintenance supervisor at the Topeka Correctional Facility, the state’s only women’s prison. Two other Kansas prison employees died of COVID-19 in May. Both were corrections officers at the prison in Lansing -- where more than 900 people once tested positive. That prison was the site of one of the largest outbreaks in the U.S.  Four Lansing prisoners have died from the virus -- the department has not released their names due to privacy regulations. As of last week, there were fewer than 10 active COVID cases in Kansas prisons.

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Lawrence Schools Will Start Classes Online, After Labor Day

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Lawrence school district has decided to start its school year after Labor Day with at least six weeks of online learning because of the threat of the coronavirus pandemic. The Lawrence Journal-World reports school board members voted Monday to begin with fully remote learning and consider later in the year whether to adopt a hybrid model that would allow for students to spend some school days in classrooms and others at home with remote learning. Three of Kansas’s largest school districts voted last week not to resume their classes until after the holiday.

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KSHSAA Won't Delay Fall Sports & Activities in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - The governing body of Kansas high school sports has decided against delaying fall sports and activities.  The Kansas State High School Activities Association Association’s staff recommended delaying football, soccer and volleyball and other sports until after Labor Day.  But the association’s board voted 5-4 Tuesday to instead start all practices and games on August 17th.  Six states have decided not to hold any football this fall. 

(–Associated Press version–)

Kansas Allows Fall High School Sports Amid Pandemic

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas State High School Activities Association is allowing all fall high school sport competitions in Kansas to move forward as scheduled despite the coronavirus pandemic.The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the association's executive board narrowly defeated on Tuesday a motion that would have delayed the start of fall competitions. Kansas health officials reported Wednesday that 14 more people have died of the coronavirus since Monday, bringing the state’s death toll to 349. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment also said the number of reported cases also rose to 26,870 in the state. That's an increase of 698 new cases since Monday. 

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Reopening of Kansas City, Kansas, Public School Buildings Delayed

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A local health official has ordered public schools in the Kansas City, Kansas, area not to reopen their buildings until after Labor Day because of the coronavirus pandemic. Wyandotte County Chief Medical Officer and Dr. Allen Greiner says he issued the order to give the county’s four school districts more time to prepare for the reopening of in-person classes with health and safety precautions. His order came as Kansas reported another bad week-long spike in COVID-19-related deaths and its total number of reported coronavirus cases rose past 26,000. The state health department said Kansas had another nine deaths since Friday to bring the total to 335.

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COVID-19 Case Numbers in Kansas Now Exceed 26,800

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - Since the pandemic began, more than 26,800 Kansans have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.  Kansas health officials released the latest numbers today (WED), revealing 26,870 people have now tested positive.  The vast majority of those cases represent patients who have recovered from COVID-19, but 349 people in Kansas have died.  A new round of data will be released Friday.    

(Kansas health officials release new data on COVID-19 case numbers on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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Latest Round of Testing Reveals Zero COVID-19 Cases for KU Athletes, Coaches

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - There is some good news on the coronavirus front.  The University of Kansas reports that there have been zero positive cases in its latest round of COVID-19 testing of student athletes.  Tuesday night, Kansas Athletics released results from its most recent round of testing, which yielded zero positives in 156 tests of student athletes and coaches.

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Missouri Tourist Town of Branson to Require Face Coverings

O'FALLON, Mo. (AP) — The popular Missouri tourist town of Branson will require face coverings in most public places in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, despite the objections of many, including comedian Yakov Smirnoff. Smirnoff, who operates a successful theater in Branson, told the Board of Aldermen Tuesday that the mask ordinance would make his adopted home more like his native land, Russia, the Springfield News-Leader reported. Nevertheless, the board voted 4-1 to approve the ordinance, which requires face coverings for people ages 13 and older, with some exceptions. Missouri reopened its economy in mid-June and has seen a big surge in confirmed coronavirus cases this month.

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More Kansans Voting Early or by Mail Amid Virus Outbreak

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - As of Tuesday afternoon, Kansas election officials had mailed out more than 300,000 mail-in ballots. That’s more than six times as many in 2016. The ballots must be postmarked by August 4, primary election day. And Shawnee County assistant election officer Mark Stock says that makes it more likely election night results will change days later as counties receive those ballots in the mail.  Kansas is one of 30 states that don't require citizens to have a reason to vote absentee. 

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ACLU Wins Provisional Ballot Lawsuit Against Kansas Secretary of State

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas voting advocates say a new court ruling will help voters fix problems with their ballots so they are ultimately counted.  The ACLU recently won a lawsuit against the Kansas Secretary of State’s office. The court ruling will make public - information about voters and why their ballots were marked as provisional.  That happens because of things like not showing a photo ID at the polls or because of a missing signature on a mail-in ballot.  Secretary of State Scott Schwab says he believes the ruling still turns over too much personal information from voters, despite the court requiring some of that information to be redacted.

AP version -

Ruling: Kansas Must Release Names of Provisional Voters

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) — A judge has ruled that Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab must release the names of people who cast provisional ballots in the 2018 general election, including whether their votes were counted. The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas on Tuesday called the court’s decision a “resounding rebuke” to Schwab’s office and a victory for all Kansas voters. Shawnee County District Judge Teresa Watson issued her ruling last Friday in a lawsuit filed last month on behalf of Loud Light, a nonprofit that seeks to increase voter turnout, and a voting rights advocate. Schwab called the entitlement to confidential information “sad.”

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Police ID Man Killed in Tractor, Train Collision in Central Kansas

HALSTEAD, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have identified a man killed in the collision of a tractor and train in central Kansas. Officials say 21-year-old Taylor Koehn, of Halstead, died in the Monday afternoon collision that also caused the train to derail near Halstead in Harvey County. Investigators say Koehn was driving the tractor and was pulling disc equipment when he crossed railroad tracks, causing the collision. Koehn was pronounced dead at the scene. No other injuries were reported.

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Residents in 20 States Receive Mysterious Seeds from China

UNDATED (HPM) - People in more than 20 states including Kansas, Oklahoma and Iowa have now received unsolicited packages of seeds from China in the mail.  Agriculture officials are warning people not to open the packages or plant the seeds.  Harvest Public Media reports that some packages could be labeled as jewelry, but agriculture officials warn the unknown seeds inside could be invasive, introduce diseases to plants or be harmful to livestock. Oklahoma department of agriculture spokesperson Morgan Vance says it’s the first time something like this has happened in Oklahoma, but they’re taking precautions.  "Our ultimate goal is to protect Oklahoma agriculture producers and we certainly care about ensuring the safety of our state soil health and take invasive species and invasive pest reports very seriously," he said.  Vance says anyone who receives a package like this should report it to the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service for investigation.  

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Fight Ends over Water Rights at Central Kansas Wildlife Refuge

ST. JOHN, Kan. (AP/KPR) - Irrigators in central Kansas have been battling over water with a wildlife refuge in central Kansas.  But that battle may be coming to an end.  An agreement over water rights at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge has been signed. The Hutchinson News reports the agreement between the federal government and local farmers over water rights at the refuge was signed Saturday.  The plan is to end water rights in sensitive areas of the wildlife refuge and allow water rights in less sensitive areas. Quivira is a water-filled refuge and a hotspot for wildlife migration.  The  agreement means local farmers can continue irrigating their crops. The next step in the water-rights agreement is to conduct environmental testing.  Not everyone is happy with this latest arrangement.  Critics point out that Quivira has one of the oldest -- or most senior -- water rights in the area and should get all the water it needs, even if that means cutting off water to those holding junior water rights.

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Police Investigate Medicine Lodge Woman's Death as Homicide

MEDICINE LODGE, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas state police are investigating the death of a woman in a small, south-central Kansas town as a homicide.  The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says police were called Monday afternoon to a Medicine Lodge residence after a family member found 61-year-old Joyce Foulkrod dead inside the home.  A preliminary investigation indicates Foulkrod's death was a homicide. Authorities have not said how she may have died. An autopsy is scheduled.  The KBI, Medicine Lodge police and the Barber County Sheriff's Office are investigating the death.

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Murder Suspect Arrested in Kansas City Through New Federal Law Enforcement Program

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — FBI agents in Kansas City assisted local police in the arrest of a homicide suspect. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Missouri praised the apprehension of 44-year-old Joel Roseberry as “good work” in a tweet Monday.  He is jailed on $200,000 bond on charges of second-degree murder, armed criminal action and evidence tampering in the March 1 fatal shooting of 28-year-old Frederick Outley outside of a convenience store. No attorney is listed for him in online court records.  The federal agents are in Kansas City as part of new controversial federal crime fighting effort.   

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KCPS Worker Fired in Student Attendance Scandal Sues

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A fired Kansas City Public Schools secretary who was among several employees accused of falsifying attendance data in a bid to help the district regain accreditation is suing. The Kansas City Star reports that LaQuyn Collier says in a lawsuit filed recently in Jackson County Circuit Court that district administrators retaliated against her and in December fired her after she told investigators that the practice of faking student attendance records was district-wide and initiated by district leaders at the time. Her suit claims retaliation, wrongful termination and race and sex discrimination.

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Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese Named in Two New Lawsuits Concerning Clergy Abuse

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - The Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph is named in two new lawsuits claiming the diocese covered up abuse by two priests who were known to be sexual predators. The diocese says it was in the process of removing one of the priests from the ministry when he died and the other is barred from acting as a priest.  One lawsuit was filed July 20 and the other on Tuesday.  One lawsuit alleges the Reverend Darvin Salazar sexually abused the victim in the church rectory at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Kansas City. The diocese says law enforcement has declined to charge Salazar. The other lawsuit names John Tulipana, who died in 2012.

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Group Alleges Greyhounds Being Trained with Live Rabbits

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — Two U.S. representatives have introduced legislation that would ban greyhound racing in the U.S. The bill introduced Wednesday comes after a group that has fought against dog racing said it has videos showing racing greyhounds being trained with live rabbits in at least three Midwestern states. The group, GREY2K USA, sent videos of the live lure training to officials in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, where it says an animal rights investigator shot the footage this year. The videos also were sent to Iowa, Arkansas, Florida and West Virginia, states where GREY2K says the dogs were bred, where they raced or where their owners were licensed.

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Missouri Woman Sues City, Ex-Cop Who Groped Her

ELWOOD, Kan. (AP) — A Missouri woman is suing a city in northeast Kansas and one of its former police officers who pleaded guilty to sexual battery for groping her during an arrest two years ago. The Kansas City Star reports that woman is suing the city of Elwood and former police officer Aaron Newberry for an undisclosed amount. The lawsuit accuses them of negligent infliction of emotional distress. The woman details in the lawsuit that Newberry arrested her at a party in Elwood in July 2018 for having a small amount of marijuana. She says once they were in his patrol car, he groped her breasts under her shirt while she was handcuffed. Newberry was fired the day he was charged.

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Police Oversight Meeting in Overland Park Grows Heated After Friday Protest

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP/KPR) - A meeting about police oversight in Overland Park grew heated after some exchanges over arrests made at a protest for racial justice.  About 14 protesters attended Monday's meeting.  Protesters claimed that during last Friday's protest, Overland Park police didn't act with professionalism and some were not wearing name badges.  In a statement, the police department said officers were allowed to remove their name badges because they were concerned that their personal information would be posted online -- a practice called doxxing.

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Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes Becomes Part Owner of Kansas City Royals

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes is joining the ownership group of the Kansas City Royals. The Royals announced the addition of Mahomes, the star quarterback who led the Kansas City Chiefs to a Super Bowl title last season, on Tuesday. Mahomes was once a baseball prospect and was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in 2014. He says he loves the people of Kansas City and is excited to deepen his roots in the community. Mahomes’s decision to focus on football certainly worked out for him, but his baseball ties run deep. His father Pat pitched in more than 300 big league games, mostly as a reliever.

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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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