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Headlines for Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Area news headlines from the Associated Press

Kansas Lawmaker Says No Progress Made on School Finance

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley has chastised his colleagues for failing to make progress on a school finance plan. He urged them Tuesday to come to grips with reality. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that during the debate lawmakers said they were interested in negotiating with school attorneys. They also expressed frustration with the Kansas Supreme Court. They rejected Hensley's efforts to inject hundreds of millions of dollars into public schools. Hensley says lawmakers have made no progress and are now a week and a half before adjournment of the regular session. The Legislature is scheduled to begin a three-week absence at the end of next week. It has until April 30 to submit a proposal to the high court that properly distributes enough money to address concerns with underperforming students.

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Kansas School Safety Bill Passes House, No Mention of Guns

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Legislation designed to harden Kansas schools against gunmen passed in the House Wednesday, though some lawmakers say the bill remains weak. The bill would set aside $5 million for schools to upgrade infrastructure to slow or thwart a school shooter, and require schools to work with state agencies to develop guidelines to prepare and respond to mass shootings. The bill passed 119-5 and heads next to the Senate for consideration. Supporters say fostering relationships between schools and state agencies will ultimately save lives, but some critics say the bill is a way for gun-rights supporters to take the focus off of guns.

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UPDATE: Water Park Co-Owner Won't Oppose Extradition

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The co-owner of a Kansas City, Kansas, water park will not oppose his extradition to Kansas, where a 10-year-old boy died on a water slide in 2016. For now, Schlitterbahn co-owner Jeffrey Wayne Henry will remain in Cameron County Jail in Brownsville, Texas, without bond. However, Magistrate Judge Luis Sorrola said he'd entertain a request to grant Henry bond if Kansas officials don't pick him up by Tuesday. Henry is charged with murder, aggravated battery and child endangerment in an indictment in Kansas. He and water slide designer John Schooley are charged in an indictment in the decapitation death of 10-year-old Caleb Schwab at Schlitterbahn's Kansas City, Kansas, water park.
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11:55 a.m.

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas plans to conduct a full audit of a water park's inspection records before it reopens this spring, a state official said Wednesday, after criminal charges were filed over the decapitation of a 10-year-old boy on the world's tallest waterslide there in 2016. The state Department of Labor said it will review reports from daily inspections of rides by park staff at the Schlitterbahn park in Kansas City, Kansas, before it is scheduled to reopen May 25 for its annual season. A state law enacted last year after Caleb Schwab's death requires amusement parks to keep daily reports on their rides and to give them annual inspections. A grand jury has issued indictments with multiple criminal charges against the park; the construction company that built the giant waterslide; former park operations director Tyler Austin Miles; the ride's co-designer, John Timothy Schooley, and a co-owner of Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts, Jeffrey Wayne Henry. Henry, Schooley and the construction company face one felony count of second-degree murder and Miles and the park, one count of involuntary manslaughter, over Caleb's death. The raft the boy was riding on the 17-story Verruckt ride went airborne and hit an overhead loop. State law allows parks to have their own staff do daily inspections and to have private inspectors do the annual inspections, rather than state inspectors. The inspectors doing the annual reviews must be either licensed engineers with two years' experience with amusement rides, have five years' experience in inspecting rides or have been certified by one of three industry groups. Hersh said the audit will show whether the park has been conducting the required inspections and maintaining proper records on them as it prepares to reopen for the sesason. "They will have a notebook full of inspections," she said. Schlitterbahn spokeswoman Winter Prosapio said in a statement Tuesday that the latest indictment against Henry, Schooley and the construction company "is filled with information that we fully dispute." The company also posted a statement on its website that all park attractions are "thoroughly inspected daily" by supervisors and managers. Also, it said, before the park opens for the season, each ride has a thorough internal review and an inspection from "an independent third party." The statement said the park's insurance provider also conducts annual inspections.

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3 People Face Charges in Waterslide Death of 10-Year-Old Kansas Boy

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Three people have been indicted in the death of a 10-year-old Kansas boy on what was promoted as the world's largest waterslide.  The Kansas attorney general's office says Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts co-owner Jeffrey Henry and ride designer John Schooley are charged with reckless second-degree murder in the indictment unsealed Tuesday. The charges stem from the 2016 death of Caleb Schwab, who was decapitated when his raft went airborne at the water park in Kansas City, Kansas.  The grand jury last week also indicted the park and its former operations manager, Tyler Austin Miles, on 20 felony charges, including involuntary manslaughter.  Miles's attorney says he was released on $50,000 bond. Henry was ordered held without bond and prosecutors say Schooley is not in custody.

The company that operated a waterslide in Kansas City, Kansas, says it "fully" disputes the criminal charges.  Schlitterbahn described Caleb's death as a "terrible and tragic accident" in a statement. It says Henry, Schooley and Miles are "innocent" and that the company runs a "safe operation."  The Kansas attorney general's office says Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts co-owner Jeffrey Henry and ride designer John Schooley are charged with reckless second-degree murder in the indictment unsealed Tuesday.  

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Kansas Regulators Seek to Take Over 15 Nursing Homes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas regulators are seeking to take over management of 15 nursing homes after the operator of the facilities advised the state it will not be able to make an upcoming payroll. The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services has asked 13 district courts to put the facilities in their jurisdiction into receivership while arrangements are made for them to continue providing care for about 845 residents in them. KDADS Secretary Tim Keck says the most pressing concern at this point us stability so residents can continue to get care and staff continues to get paid. The facilities are managed by Skyline Health Services, based in Wood Ridge, New Jersey. The company acquired the Kansas nursing homes in 2016. Mission Health Care has agreed to oversee operation of facilities.

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Lawmakers Pass "Anti-Swatting" Bill Sparked by Deadly Hoax in Wichita

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers have approved tougher penalties for making false calls to police three months after police fatally shot a Wichita man during a deadly hoax emergency call. The Wichita Eagle reports the bill makes fake calls that result in death a felony comparable to second-degree murder. Any false call for emergency help would be at least a misdemeanor, becoming a felony if the caller uses a fake identity or electronically masks their identity.  The bill is named the Andrew Finch Act, after the man killed by Wichita police as they responded to a hoax emergency call in December that they thought was a hostage situation. The legislation was championed by his mother, Lisa Finch.  The bill is headed to Governor Jeff Colyer after the Legislature passed it on Tuesday.

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Funeral Services Planned Next Week for Linda Brown

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Funeral services are planned for next week for Linda Brown, who as a Kansas girl was at the center of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down racial segregation in schools. Brown died Sunday at the age of 75. Peaceful Rest Funeral Chapel says the first visitation for Brown will be from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. April 4 at St. John African Methodist Episcopal Church in Topeka. The celebration of life service will be held at 7 p.m. after the visitation at the same location. Her father, Oliver Brown, tried to enroll the family in an all-white school in Topeka. He later became lead plaintiff in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision by the Supreme Court that ended school segregation.

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Former School Secretary Indicted on Federal Weapons Charge

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors say a former Pratt elementary school secretary has been indicted on federal firearms charges.  The U.S. attorney's office in Kansas says Claudia Rodriguez-Oviedo was indicted Tuesday on two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm by an immigrant who is illegally in the United States.  The 33-year-old Mexican national is serving a one-year sentence after her January conviction in Pratt County District court on charges related to a bomb threat to the high school in Pratt high.  Rodriguez-Oviedo was a secretary at Southwest Elementary School, and had a work permit at the time.  After her local arrest, she allegedly admitted she owned a handgun and a search of her residence found a Remington handgun and box of ammunition. A federal criminal complaint was initially filed against her in December.

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New Bill Seeks to Move Kansas State Fair Out of Hutchinson

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers have introduced a new bill that would allow the State Fair to leave the city of Hutchinson after more than 100 years.  The Hutchinson News reports that Republican Representative Don Schroeder says the bill proposed Monday was inspired by the people "involved" with the fair who are unhappy with the city. He declines to identify anyone by name.  Schroeder says one of the contributing factors to the dissatisfaction is the city's stormwater fees, which jumped to approximately $50,000 per year.  If passed, the bill would require the fair's board to request proposals from other cities in Kansas to host the event. The board would also be required to submit a report detailing the results of the proposals to several legislative committees.

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Kansas City Refugee Resettlement Declines Amid U.S. Policy

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The plummeting number of refugees resettling in Kansas City mirrors a national trend, particularly among predominantly Muslim countries.  U.S. Department of State data compiled by The Associated Press show that fewer than 480 refugees resettled in Kansas City last year, compared to more than 740 in 2016. Just over 50 refugees resettled in the city this fiscal year, which is halfway over.  The Kansas City Star reports that the city's biggest drop has been among refugees from Somalia. Kansas City welcomed nearly 160 Somali refugees last year. But this fiscal year, there's been five.  The numbers reflect federal policy changes starting early last year. President Donald Trump has lowered the cap on refugee admissions, suspended a program that reunites families split during resettlement and banned arrivals from several countries, mostly Muslim, including Somalia.

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Kansas Regulators Approve Credits from Tax Law Changes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Customers of Atmos Energy and Black Hills Energy will get bill credits beginning next month under settlements approved by Kansas energy regulators.  The Kansas Corporation Commission said in a news release Tuesday the credits are due to federal tax law changes that reduced the utilities' tax rates from 35 percent to 21 percent.  Atmos gas customers will receive an annual reduction of $18.56 in their bill. They will also get a one year-credit of $6.86 to repay customers for the extra tax paid the first three months of this year.  Black Hills residential customers will receive an average credit of $11.57 annually. Customers will receive a one-time credit of 24 cents per meter in April and the surcharge rates will drop 8 cents per month.

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Kansas, Michigan State and UCLA Headline Strong 2019 Field in Maui Invitational

LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP) — Final Four-bound Kansas, Michigan State and UCLA headline what will be another strong field at the 2019 Maui Invitational.  The Maui field is annually one of the best among college basketball's holiday tournaments and the 2019 bracket, announced on Tuesday, will include teams that have combined for 16 national championships and 44 Final Four berths.  The field will also include BYU, Dayton, Georgia, Virginia Tech and host Chaminade.

The Division II Silverswords, who pulled off another upset by beating California in the 2017 tournament, will not play in the championship round in 2018 after announcing last year that they will only play in the opening round every other year.  Notre Dame won the 2017 Maui Invitational by rallying in the closing seconds to beat Wichita State in the title game.  Kansas won the Maui Invitational in 1996 and 2015. The Jayhawks won a record 14th straight Big 12 title this season and reached the Final Four for the first time since 2012 after beating Duke in overtime of the Elite Eight.

Michigan State (1991) and UCLA (2006) are both former Maui champions.  Georgia, which recently hired Tom Crean as its coach, will be making its first Maui Invitational appearance.

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3 Freshmen Headline AP All-America Team for First Time

Oklahoma's Trae Young took college basketball by storm, leading the nation in scoring and assists. Deandre Ayton played his one season at Arizona with power and athleticism few could match. Versatile big man Marvin Bagley III made his lone year a Duke a memorable one.  The talented trio made history Tuesday by being named to the AP All-America team, the first time three freshmen were named to the first team in its 70-year history.

They were joined by Villanova's Jalen Brunson and Kansas guard Devonte' Graham on the team selected by the same 65-member national media panel that selects the weekly AP Top 25.  The All-America first team has had a pair of freshmen three times: John Wall and Demarcus Cousins in 2010; Michael Beasley and Kevin Love in 2008; Kevin Durant and Greg Oden in 2007.  Young, Ayton and Bagley set a new standard with stellar one-and-done seasons.

Young was a top recruit coming out of Norman, Oklahoma, and chose to play for his hometown Sooners. Oklahoma fans were sure glad he did.  A 6-foot-2 point guard, Young popped up on the national radar by scoring 43 points against Oregon early in the season and broke the NCAA record with 22 assists against Northwestern State less than a month later.  Even when teams started to figure out ways to slow Young, he kept scoring and dishing, leading the nation at 27.4 points and 8.7 assists.  "He's had an interesting year, probably as interesting as anyone can have," Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. "He battled well all year long."

KU's Graham took a backseat to All-American Frank Mason III in Kansas a year ago. This season, he's been the Jayhawks' unquestioned leader. Heady and with knack for making big plays late in games, Graham led Kansas with 17.2 points. 7.3 assists and grabbed 4.0 rebounds per game while taking the Jayhawks to the Final Four.  "He's the best intangible guy we've ever had here and has as good of leadership qualities as anybody I've ever coached," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "So he's been the complete package as a player, and basically he's a guy that I don't think coaches get an opportunity to coach but every few years. And certainly we've been blessed to have him."

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Kansas Post Office Receives Suspicious Envelope

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas post office temporarily shut down Tuesday after receiving a suspicious envelope that authorities later deemed a hoax. The Salina Journal reports that streets near the Salina Post Office were blocked off most of the day before the Riley County bomb disposal squad determined the envelope didn't contain an explosive. Police Captain Paul Forrester says an investigation is ongoing into who left the envelope, which contained some wires and was addressed to the police department. The police department announced on its Facebook page that investigators have identified a person of interest and are working toward formal charges. Delivery Supervisor Corey Pierce says mail carriers were out on their routes before a customer discovered the envelope. The incident comes after of a series bombs hidden in packages killed two people and injured four others this month in Austin, Texas.

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Texas Man Pleads Guilty in Fatal Kansas Crash

JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Texas man has pleaded guilty to murder and involuntary manslaughter for the 2016 crash deaths of a mother and her two children on Interstate 70 in Kansas. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said in a written release Wednesday that 45-year-old Steven Johnson, of Houston, pleaded guilty Monday in Geary County District Court to one count of second-degree murder and two counts of involuntary manslaughter while driving under the influence. Investigators say Johnson was driving a large box truck that crossed the interstate median on Nov. 15, 2016, hitting a car head-on. The crash killed 26-year-old Jessica Michelle Thompson, 6-year-old Jaydon Allan Thompson and 5-year-old Leah Michelle Thompson. Johnson is set to be sentenced on June 1.

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Ex-Wichita Officer Charged in Dog Shooting, Child Injury

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former Wichita police officer has been charged with felony aggravated battery for shooting a dog and injuring a 9-year-old girl. The Wichita Eagle reports that Dexter Betts was called to a home for a domestic issue in December when he shot the family dog. The family's attorney, Charley O'Hara, says the dog was wounded from bullet fragments and the girl from ricocheted fragments. Betts was fired following the shooting. The felony charge against Betts says he "unlawfully and recklessly" caused bodily harm to another person when he fired "a handgun at a dog while a child was in the room." Betts's attorney, Jess Hoeme, says he believes his client didn't act recklessly "and we look forward to presenting our defense in court." His next court appearance is April 11.

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Royals' Perez Out 4-6 Weeks Following Freak Knee Injury

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Royals catcher Salvador Perez will miss up to six weeks after spraining the medial collateral ligament in his left knee when he missed a step while carrying a suitcase up stairs in his home. The injury occurred Tuesday night, when the club returned to Kansas City from spring training. The five-time All-Star heard a "pop" and immediately called Royals trainer Nick Kenney, who advised Perez to ice the knee and come in for an MRI exam on Wednesday. The exam revealed a Grade 2 sprain with a minor tear of the ligament. No surgery is required, and recovery can be as little as four weeks. The injury leaves the Royals without one of their top hitters when they open the season against the White Sox on Thursday. Drew Butera and Cam Gallagher are expected to share catching duties in Perez's place.

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