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Headlines for Wednesday, May 18, 2022

 

BREAKING: Kansas Supreme Court Upholds GOP Drawn Congressional Map

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas' highest court has upheld a Republican redistricting law that makes it harder for the only Democrat in the state's congressional delegation to win reelection. The state Supreme Court refused to declare for the first time that the Kansas Constitution forbids overly partisan gerrymandering. Democrats argued that the map was drawn to help Republicans unseat Democratic Congresswoman Sharice Davids in the 3rd District in the Kansas City area, while Republicans called it a fair map. It split the Kansas City area between two districts and put Lawrence in the 1st District with central and western Kansas. (Read the initial ruling.)

Read more about this story.

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UPDATE: Lawrence Police Identify Victims Involved in Fatal Shooting at Hy-Vee Parking Lot

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) – Police have identified the two victims of a fatal shooting that took place in a Lawrence grocery store parking lot Tuesday night. The two men involved in the shooting were identified as 22-year-old Zachary Michael Sutton and 53-year-old Monty Ray Amick, both of Lawrence. Investigators believe the initial interaction between the occupants of two vehicles occurred near 23rd and Harper. The vehicles then travelled west on 23rd Street where a confrontation occurred near 23rd and Iowa Street. After the confrontation, the vehicles continued west on Clinton Parkway where the incident culminated in the shooting at the Hy-Vee parking lot (3504 Clinton Parkway). Police say Sutton was reportedly a passenger in a 2006 White Ford F-150 Pickup truck and Amick was the driver and sole occupant of a 2007 Blue Nissan XTerra (SUV). Police are asking anyone who observed the altercation at 23rd and Iowa Street or the shooting at the Hy-Vee parking lot to call the Lawrence Police Department at (785) 830-7430.

(Earlier reporting...)

2 Men Killed in Shooting Outside Lawrence Hy-Vee Store

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - Police say two men were killed in a shooting outside a Lawrence grocery store Tuesday night. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that first responders were called to the Hy-Vee store on Clinton Parkway at 9:41 pm Tuesday. According to Lt. David Ernst, two people had been shot in the store parking lot. One of the men was dead at the scene and the other died later at an area hospital. Ernst says the investigation remains in its preliminary stages. The identities of the deceased were not released Tuesday night, and police had provided no explanation on a possible motive behind the shootings. Anyone with information on the incident is asked to contact the Lawrence Police Department at (785) 832-7509 or Crime Stoppers of Lawrence and Douglas County at (785) 843-TIPS. (Read more.)

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UPDATE: Former University of Kansas Soccer Player Identified as Lawrence Homicide Victim

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KAKE) - Lawrence police say a man has been arrested in connection to the death of a former University of Kansas soccer player. KAKE TV reports that 25-year-old Regan Noelle Gibbs (Marek-Gibbs) was found mortally wounded Monday evening at an apartment in the 2500 block of West 6th Street. She died at the scene. The suspect, 26-year-old Chad Joseph Marek, was arrested on suspicion of murder. Lawrence police said the victim and suspect lived together and that "domestic violence is being investigated as a contributing factor." The investigation is ongoing. Police have not released a cause of death. WIBW TV reports Regan was a goalkeeper for the University of Kansas women’s soccer team during the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 seasons. She was from Naches, Washington. (Read more.)

(Earlier reporting...)

Police: Former KU Women's Soccer Goalie Killed; Husband Charged

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Police say a former University of Kansas soccer goalie has been killed and her husband has been charged with first-degree murder in her death. Police say officers found 25-year-old Regan Noelle Gibbs fatally wounded Monday night at her apartment in Lawrence. Police say her husband, 26-year-old Chad Joseph Marek, was arrested at the scene. Investigators believe Gibbs death was likely the result of domestic violence, but police have not said how she was killed. Gibbs was a goalkeeper for the Jayhawks’ soccer program from 2015 to 2018. The Kansas City Star reports that Marek appeared in Douglas County District Court on Tuesday. His bond is set at $1 million.

Lawrence Police Charge Man with First Degree Murder

LAWRENCE,  Kan. (KPR/LJW) - Police have charged a 26-year-old Lawrence man with first-degree murder. Police were called to a north-central Lawrence residence at 7:26 pm Monday, where officers encountered Chad Joseph Marek and a mortally wounded woman. The victim, 25-year-old Regan Noelle Gibbs (Marek-Gibbs), was declared dead at the scene. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Marek was booked into the Douglas County Jail. Pro Tem Judge Blake Glover set a $1 million bond. The suspect and victim shared an apartment. The investigation is ongoing. (Read more in the Lawrence Journal-World.)

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Authorities Locate Van Suspected in Crash that Killed 10-Year-Old Eudora Girl

EUDORA, Kan. (KMBC) — The Douglas County Sheriff's Office has located a vehicle they believe was involved in a hit-and-run crash that killed a 10-year-old Eudora girl over the weekend. The crash happened Saturday evening near Lawrence on East 1900 Road at the K-10 off-ramp. Douglas County Sheriff Jay Armbrister said someone driving what was believed to be a 2018-2019 white Ford van pulled forward at a stop sign and hit a motorcycle, which did not have a stop sign. That motorcycle was driven by a 54-year-old man and his 10-year-old granddaughter. The girl who was killed has been identified as 10-year-old Brooklyn Brouhard, of Eudora. (Read more.)

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Tip from Kansas City Police Leads to Body Found Inside Southeast Kansas Home

COFFEYVILLE, Kan. (FOX23/KPR) — Multiple law enforcement agencies are investigating after a man’s body was found inside a home in Coffeyville. FOX23 News in Tulsa reports that officers checked out the home Monday morning after receiving a tip from police in Kansas City, who had received a tip that a dead body could be found inside the home. Coffeyville police officers found a man, identified as 61-year-old David A. Jackson, walking outside the home. Jackson was questioned before officers entered the home. Inside, officers found the body of 47-year-old Melvin Simpson, Junior. Simpson had been shot to death. Jackson was arrested on unrelated charges. Officers with the Coffeyville Police Department, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation are all investigating. Anyone with information is asked to call (620) 252-6160 or the KBI at 1-800-KS-CRIME.

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Right to Film Cops Weighed by U.S. Court Overseeing 6 States

DENVER (AP) — The U.S. government is asking the appeals court overseeing four western and two midwestern states to recognize that the First Amendment guarantee of free speech gives people the right to film police as they do their work in public. If the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals agrees, officers could be sued for interfering with people trying to record them. Six of the 12 U.S. appeals courts have recognized that right, but the 10th Circuit hasn't. The court heard arguments Wednesday in the case of a YouTube journalist and blogger who says he was blocked by a suburban Denver officer from recording a 2019 traffic stop. The United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit covers Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming. 

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Weather Service Confirms Weak Tornadoes in Kansas, Nebraska

GOODLAND, Kan. (AP/KPR) — The National Weather Service has confirmed a series of weak tornadoes across rural parts of northwestern Kansas and a county in southwestern Nebraska along the Kansas line. The tornadoes hit Tuesday afternoon as a line of storms moved across the Plains. National Weather Service meteorologist Ed Holicky, in Goodland, says spotters and video confirmed separate tornadoes in Decatur, Norton and Gove counties in Kansas and an one in Red Willow County in Nebraska. Holicky says there were no reports of injuries or damage from the tornadoes. The system brought gusty winds, heavy rain and some hail, leading to downed tree limbs some roof damage across the region.

Elsewhere, powerful storms in northeast Kansas knocked out power to about 5,500 people in Shawnee County Tuesday night. The National Weather Service in Topeka says a line of thunderstorms swept through the area, bringing hail, high winds and heavy rain to the greater Topeka area. The capital city was drenched by 1.28 inches of rain between 9:53 and 10:53 pm. Hail one inch in diameter was reported both at Silver Lake and four miles southwest of Meriden, while 60 mph winds were reported south/southeast of Silver Lake. Power had been restored to most customers by Wednesday morning. No tornadoes were known to have touched down in northeast Kansas, though an emergency manager reported seeing a funnel cloud five miles west of Junction City.

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Missouri Man Accused of Holding, Torturing Woman for 2 Days

LATHROP, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say a man who was recently released from prison has been charged with kidnapping and other felonies after he tortured a woman he met on a dating site for two days at his father's home in northwestern Missouri. Television station WDAF reports that Clinton County sheriff's deputies arrested 39-year-old James Larson Jr. following a standoff Saturday at a home in Lathrop. Deputies say they found Larson hiding inside a false wall. Authorities say the standoff began when a Kansas City woman escaped from the home and called 911 from a neighboring house. Officials say the woman had been severely beaten and was hospitalized in critical condition. Sheriff Larry Fish says Larson was released from prison just two weeks earlier.

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Kansas Students Will Soon Be Able to Attend Any School in the State

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS/KCUR) - Students in Kansas will soon be able to attend any public school in the state, no matter where they live. Governor Laura Kelly signed the open enrollment bill Monday. Starting in the 2024-2025 school year, students will be able to attend any public school within the state, as long as the district has capacity. Supporters of the change say it will give families stuck in struggling school districts a chance at sending their kids to better schools. The Blue Valley and Olathe School District released a joint statement on their concerns after the bill was first introduced. They said the bill would force local taxpayers to pay for non-resident students and would further limit resources for local students. The bill also included more than $6 billion for the state’s public schools.

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Report: Rural Kansas Airports at Risk of Closing

HAYS, Kan. (KNS) - A nationwide pilot shortage has put some rural Kansas airports in danger of losing their only commercial airline carrier. The Kansas News Service reports that the uncertainty is already affecting local economies.  For Kansans living in Liberal, Dodge City and Hays, there’s only one airline that flies to and from the local airport: SkyWest. So when that airline filed paperwork this spring to terminate services, it sent shock waves through these communities. Liberal area economic development director Eli Svaty says small towns like his still need air service — and not just for the convenience of travelers, but to draw the new businesses and workers that grow the local economy. “Not to say that you lose the airport, you lose the town. But it is critical that… we find something that can assure people that it's okay to live out here in rural Kansas because we still have great air service," he said. For now, the federal government is forcing SkyWest to continue some service to these towns while the airports try to find a replacement airline.

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Amid Drug and Immigration Concerns, Kansas Senator and Five Sheriffs Visit Southern Border

TOPEKA, Kan. (Topeka Capital-Journal) - As Kansas law enforcement and politicians grapple with how to address a worsening drug crisis and immigration concerns, Kansas Republican Senator Roger Marshall and five Kansas sheriffs are headed to the southern border. Marshall and the sheriffs will be in Texas on Thursday for a day of briefings, tours and meetings with border patrol officials. "I look forward to traveling down to the southern border with these heroic sheriffs so we can continue to bring awareness and solutions to the crisis that has turned Kansas into a border state," Marshall said in a statement. "The crisis at our southern border is our biggest, most immediate national security threat." Joining Marshall are Shawnee County Sheriff Brian Hill, Jackson County Sheriff Tim Morse, Saline County Sheriff Roger Soldan, Franklin County Sheriff Jeff Richards, and Johnson County Sheriff Calvin Hayden.

The senator's office said the trip comes "amid the pending expiration of Title 42 and the growing fentanyl crisis." Title 42 is a public health order started under former President Donald Trump designed to expel asylum-seeking migrants from the United States' borders to avoid spreading COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Protection has been working to end the pandemic policy, though the process has been bogged down in federal court.  In fiscal year 2021, more than 1 million people were expelled under Title 42. So far in fiscal year 2022, more than 535,000 people have been expelled. Marshall accused President Joe Biden of "a dereliction of duty" by maintaining "his open borders policies."

With fentanyl pouring across the border, this has turned into a public health crisis as well," Marshall said. "Fentanyl is the deadliest drug our country has ever seen and is effecting Kansans at record rates. With just one teaspoon of fentanyl having the ability to kill thousands of people and a deadly amount being able to fit on the tip of a pencil, we must do everything in our power to stop this terrible scourge."

Kansas Republican Senator Jerry Moran expressed a similar sentiment when speaking with law enforcement officers and the FBI director in Topeka earlier this spring. "We need to get resources on our borders," Moran said of addressing drug smuggling. "What comes across is a key component, and it needs a lot more attention than it's receiving."

Fentanyl's body count has grown in recent years and is now responsible for the most overdose deaths of any opioid, at least in the Wichita area, according to Sedgwick County forensic laboratory reports. Statewide data from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment also show a rise in overdose deaths. The 54% increase year-over-year was attributed to fentanyl, though the drug had the same number of deaths as methamphetamine. Meanwhile, CDC data showed Kansas had the sharpest increase in drug overdose deaths of any state in the nation. (Read more.)

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Do Kansas Colleges Offer Too Many Degrees? Some Experts Say Yes

WICHITA, Kan. (KMUW) - Together, the state's six major public universities offer more than 1,500 degree programs. And some experts say that’s too much. The number of people enrolling at public colleges in Kansas keeps heading downward — a trend that could bring on more than the usual budgetary nips and tucks. The most drastic changes, and cuts, pose a particular threat to regional schools in Hays, Emporia, and Pittsburg that could steal away a source of jobs and prestige that help define the communities that surround the campuses. Any changes to higher education in Kansas look bound to face resistance — from faculty, students, administrators and businesses invested heavily in one campus or the next. Yet the Kansas Board of Regents voted unanimously in February to hire the Maryland-based RPK Group, a business and education consulting firm, to review degree programs at all six major universities. It will analyze areas of duplication, workforce needs and the varying rates of demand among academic programs.

Kansas taxpayers subsidize six traditional, four-year universities and more than two dozen smaller community colleges and technical schools. Nearly 250,000 students are enrolled in at least one class. Collectively, they pay nearly $800 million a year in tuition. The state kicks in another $580 million in funding. Together, the big six universities — the University of Kansas, Kansas State, Wichita State, Emporia State, Fort Hays State and Pittsburg State — offer more than 1,500 degree programs. “It is not sustainable, and things that aren’t sustainable will ultimately stop,” said Rick Staisloff, founder of RPK Group. “If we don’t want it to stop, it means we have to get ahead of the curve and start making change now.” (Read more.)

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New U.S. Hospitals Face Fiscal Crisis over COVID Relief Money

THOMASVILLE, Ala. (AP) — A handful of U.S. hospitals are facing a financial crisis that officials say was caused by the federal government's rules for pandemic relief money. A trio of hospitals in Alabama, Kansas and New Mexico say they're not getting as much assistance as other hospitals because they're so new they can't prove financial losses from before the pandemic. In rural southwest Alabama, Thomasville Regional Medical Center says it's in danger of closing after just two years. Like Thomasville Regional, Rock Regional Hospital in Derby, Kansas saw revenues dry up soon after opening, said Barry Beus, the hospital CEO. It’s still experiencing staff shortages because of the pandemic and having to pay a premium to travel nurses to work shifts on the wards, he said, all while working with consultants and members of Congress just trying to stay afloat. Three Crosses Regional Hospital opened in 2020 in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and piled up a staggering $16.8 million in losses in just three quarters while receiving only $28,000 in aid, said Landon Fulmer, a Washington lobbyist working with all three hospitals to obtain additional funding. Federal health officials say all three hospitals have gotten some money from the CARES Act, and no health providers are getting all their losses reimbursed. 

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U.S. House Dems Propose $28 Million to Address Formula Shortage

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Democrats have unveiled a $28 million emergency spending bill to address the shortage of infant formula in the United States. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the chair of the House Appropriations Committee, says the bill would help the Food and Drug Administration take important steps to restore the formula supply in a safe and secure manner. Supporters say the money would increase FDA staffing focused on the formula shortage to boost inspections, prevent fraudulent products from getting onto store shelves and acquire better data on the marketplace. The House is expected to take up the emergency spending measure later this week.

*** Click here to see the Kansas Department of Health and Environment list of infant formulas that can be purchased with Kansas WIC benefits.
*** Click here to see a KDHE list of WIC-eligible infant formula substitutions

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Biden Administration Sends $5 Billion to Cities for Safety as Road Deaths Soar

WASHINGTON (AP) — Upcoming data shows traffic deaths soaring in the U.S. The Biden administration is steering $5 billion in federal aid to cities and localities to address the growing crisis. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Monday announced the availability of money over five years under his department’s new Safe Streets & Roads for All program. The goal is to spur cities to adopt detailed plans to reduce traffic deaths by slowing down cars, carving out bike paths and wider sidewalks and nudging commuters to public transit. Fatalities among pedestrians and cyclists are rising faster than those within vehicles. Roadway safety advocacy group BikeWalkKC in Kansas City, Missouri, wants communities to foster walkable neighborhoods.

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Missouri Lawsuit: Students Taunted Black Student, Threatened Lynching

UNDATED (AP) – A lawsuit alleges that administrators at a Missouri school district that is the subject of a federal civil rights investigation failed to protect a Black teen from repeated racial taunts that culminated with him being threatened with a lynching. The suit filed this month in state court described what happened as “outrageous” and sought unspecified damages against the 3,500-student Kearney school district, which is just north of Kansas City. The district said in a statement that it doesn't respond to pending litigation but is committed “fully to ensuring that every student can learn in an environment free of discrimination in any form.

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Man Convicted 19 Years After Woman’s Rape Near Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP/LJW) — Nineteen years after a woman was raped near Topeka, a man has been convicted of the crime. The conviction came after authorities determined his DNA linked him to the crime. Pernell Adam Mack Jr., was convicted last week of rape, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery and aggravated criminal sodomy, District Attorney Mike Kagay said in a news release. A sentencing date hasn’t been set. Kagay said Mack and another person raped the woman at her home south of Topeka after robbing her and pistol-whipping her. The investigation did not produce leads to possible suspects at the time, he said. On February 14, 2020, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation said DNA left at the scene connected Mack to the crime, Kagay said. Mack was arrested and charged in April 2020. No one else has been arrested in the case.

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Kansas Highway Patrol Identifies Woman Who Died After Car Struck a Deer

FINNEY COUNTY, Kan. (Hays Post) — Authorities have identified the victim of a fatal car/deer accident in Finney County as 41-year-old Amanda Robyn Wurtz, of Plains. The Kansas Highway Patrol reports that Wurtz was northbound Sunday on Pierceville Road at Plymell Road in a 2013 Ford Edge and hit a deer. The vehicle traveled off the road to the right, rolled and come to rest on its top. She was pronounced dead at St. Catherines Hospital. She was not wearing a seat belt, according to the KHP. (Read more.)

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Rare White Bison Calf Born at Kansas Park

HAYS, Kan. (KAKE) - The bison herd at north-central Kansas park has a new addition: a white calf. The Hays Convention & Visitors Bureau said on Facebook that "Ghostbuster," the white bison at Frontier Park, gave birth Sunday evening. The Facebook post says the local parks department arranged a swap with a bison breeder to "freshen up the herd" that was beginning to have issues calving each spring. The park also added a bull to the pen. (Read more.)

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These area headlines are curated by KPR news staffers, including J. Schafer, Laura Lorson, Kaye McIntyre, and Tom Parkinson. Our headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays, 11 am weekends. This news summary is made possible by KPR listener-members. Become one today.

 

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