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Headlines for Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Lawyers Say Federal Death Row Inmate from Kansas Has Alzheimer’s

WASHINGTON (AP) — Lawyers for a federal prisoner scheduled to be put to death next month are asking a judge to halt the execution because the prisoner has Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia. Wesley Ira Purkey’s lawsuit was filed late Tuesday in Washington. His execution is scheduled for December 13. Purkey is among five men whose executions were set by Attorney General William Barr in July. A judge has temporarily halted the executions. The Justice Department is appealing. The suit alleges that Purkey isn’t competent enough to be executed. His lawyers say the 67-year-old’s condition is so far progressed that he doesn’t understand why he would face the death penalty.  Purkey, of Lansing, was sentenced to death for the 1998 killing of Jennifer Long after picking her up in Kansas City, Missouri. Purkey raped Long, stabbed her repeatedly and used a chainsaw to cut her body into pieces then burned her remains in a fireplace. He dumped her ashes 200 miles away in a septic pond southwest of Wichita.

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Ruling: Sleeping Judge Not Automatic Reason for Retrial

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court says a Sedgwick County man’s convictions shouldn’t be automatically reversed because the judge fell asleep during the first day of trial. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the states highest court rejected on Wednesday a legal interpretation by the lower Kansas Court of Appeals that had granted Daquantrius Johnson a new trial on firearms charges. Justice Caleb Stegall wrote in the court’s opinion that there was no precedent in Kansas to justify a finding of structural error simply because a judge catnapped during a trial. District Judge Benjamin Burgess acknowledged to the jury that he fell asleep, but noted that no objections from attorneys were raised while he was temporarily out of commission. The Supreme Court concluded the trial judge’s slumber amounted to regrettable misconduct.

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Misdemeanor DUI Charge Filed Against Kansas State Senator

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas legislator has been charged with driving under the influence after his vehicle was found last May in a Topeka ditch. Yesterday, (TUE) the special prosecutor handling the case announced the misdemeanor DUI charge against state Senator Vic Miller of Topeka. If convicted, Miller faces up six months imprisonment, a fine of up to $1,000 and up to 100 hours of public service. Police found the 68-year-old Democratic senator uninjured after receiving a report of a vehicle crashed in a ditch. Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay says he had assigned Franklin County Attorney Brandon Jones as special prosecutor due to potential conflicts of interest.  Kagay says prosecutors in his office who would handle the case had appeared before Miller during his time as judge for Topeka Municipal Court before he became a state senator. Miller held several local offices and served in the Kansas House before Democrats picked him last year to fill the seat Governor Laura Kelly held before her election.

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2 Women End Litigation Against Kansas State University

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Two women who had accused Kansas State University of refusing to investigate their sexual assaults at off-campus fraternity houses are ending their federal lawsuits. A court document filed Tuesday shows the women have agreed to permanently dismiss their consolidated cases, with each side bearing its own costs. The university says in a news release that it provided them no monetary payment or compensation. It says the result affirms the university’s position that it responded appropriately when the women reported they were assaulted. Their lawsuits had alleged that Kansas State made them vulnerable to sexual harassment by allowing the students who they say attacked them to continue attending the university. They contended that this caused them to withdraw from participating in educational opportunities at the university.

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Missouri Leaders Want to Keep Minors, Abusers Away from Guns

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Governor Mike Parson and local leaders say they want to make sure minors, domestic abusers and violent offenders don’t have guns.  Parson and mayors and police chiefs from St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield and Columbia pitched the idea Monday as a way to reduce violent crime in the state’s biggest cities.  St. Louis, Kansas City and Springfield all have seen spikes in gun crimes and homicides in recent years.  Parson says the gun restrictions are doable, despite strong support for gun rights in the Republican-led Legislature.  The governor and mayors also want more money for witness protection programs and community mental health treatment.  

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Numerous Roads Covered with Snow After Winter Blast

GOODLAND, Kan. (AP) _Numerous roads in northwest and north-central Kansas are partially or completely snow covered after a storm dumped more than 5 inches of snow across the region.  A stretch of Interstate 70 near the state's western border with Colorado was open again this (WED) morning after closing Tuesday at the height of the storm. Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper Tod Hileman urged drivers in a tweet to ``Stay put,'' adding that it ``doesn't look like fun!'' Many travelers took the advice, filling hotels in the area.

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Traffic Accident Spurs Evacuation After Liquid Oxygen Leak

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Fire department crews have evacuated an area near an industrial plant after a tractor-trailer crashed into a liquid oxygen unit in the Fairfax district of Kansas City, Kansas. The Kansas City Star reports that the crash occurred just after 4 p.m. Wednesday. Fire crews immediately started evacuation efforts after liquid oxygen began to leak out of containers. Police say the truck driver had a medical episode which led to the crash. The driver is hospitalized and in stable condition. The fire department said shortly before 5:15 p.m. the oxygen leak was shut off.

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Four Injured in Crash After Kansas Car Chase  

HAYSVILLE, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas officials say four people suffered minor injuries after leading law enforcement in a chase that ended with a car crash. Sedgwick County deputies pursued the vehicle Wednesday until it crashed less than two miles away near Haysville, about 11 miles south of Wichita. A dispatch supervisor told the newspaper that he didn't know what started the chase or how the vehicle wrecked.

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3 Arrested in Shooting Death in Wichita Motel Parking Lot

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have arrested three people in the weekend shooting death of man in a motel parking lot in Wichita in a case that police say is likely drug-related.  The Wichita Eagle reports that jail records show that police arrested 49-year-old Bryant Damon Bailey, 52-year-old Robyn Leah Murphy and 60-year-old Annette Williams on suspicion of first-degree murder in the death of 55-year-old Timothy Austin. They haven't been formally charged.  Austin was found wounded early Sunday at the Countryside Inn. Wichita police Captain Brent Allred says Austin had lived at the motel off and on, as well as other places around town. Allred says he got into a fight in the parking lot and was shot once in his upper body while standing outside of a vehicle. He died at a hospital.

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Lenexa Church Sues City for Blocking Homeless Shelter

LENEXA, Kan. (AP) — A Lenexa church is suing the city for denying its request to use its building as a temporary homeless shelter. KCUR reports that the Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church alleges the denial infringes on its exercise of religion. Its lawsuit contends charity and service are integral to its mission, and cites biblical passages that decree providing for the needy. Lenexa City Manager Beccy Yocham denied the request, saying it did not conform with the zoning code. The church occupies a former elementary school building adjoining commercial properties, but its building is zoned residential single family. The church seeks to provide overnight shelter for up to 40 homeless individuals per night from December through March. It recently partnered with Project 1020, a nonprofit that provides temporary housing to homeless people.

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Autopsy: Wichita Man’s Death Ruled Homicide

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An autopsy shows the death of a 46-year-old Wichita man in September has been ruled a homicide by the county’s coroner and medical examiner. The Wichita Eagle reports the recently filed autopsy report of Raul Rodriguez shows the cause of death to be “blunt force injuries of the head” and noted other significant health conditions such as cardiovascular disease. Rodriguez was found dead in a living room chair on Sept. 26. That was a day after he was pushed by someone during a drunken argument and fell to the ground, hitting his head. The Sedgwick County district attorney says no charges were filed because of the “inability to establish all the elements of a crime.” A pre-existing medical condition could also not be ruled out as contributing to the death.

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Teacher Charged with Sexually Assaulting Student

WEBB CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas man has been charged with sexually assaulting a student at a Missouri school where he taught and coached. Twenty-eight-year-old Nicholas Popejoy, of Arma, Kansas, pleaded not guilty Monday to statutory sodomy or attempted statutory sodomy of someone under the age of 14. His attorney, Teresa Grantham, didn’t immediately return a phone message from The Associated Press. His bond is set at $100,000 cash. The Joplin Globe reports that Popejoy worked for the Webb City, Missouri, school district from August 2014 to Nov. 18. He was the freshman boys’ basketball coach and the assistant high school track coach. He also taught science and math at the junior high. The affidavit says Popejoy used his position as a coach to gain private access to the minor.

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St. Luke's Hospital Caring for Record 12 Sets of Twins

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Saint Luke’s hospital is caring for 12 sets of twins this week in its neonatal intensive care unit. KMBC-TV reports all of the twins were born between five and 14 weeks early. The hospital says staffing has been a challenge. Twelve sets of twins is a record at the hospital. Nurse Danielle Gathers says they always see multiples in the unit, but not 12 sets at one time. The babies will spend Thanksgiving at the hospital. New mother Amanda Tollifer says her twins, Kara and Isaac, were born eight weeks early. She says she had no idea having twins right now was “such the ‘in’ thing.”

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