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Headlines for Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Many Kansas Lawmakers Start as Appointees to Fill Vacancies

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Nearly one-fourth of Kansas lawmakers began serving in the Legislature after they were appointed to fill vacancies, under a system used in just three states. Under the system, party officials choose a replacement and the governor appoints that person, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Party officials help pick legislative replacements in about a dozen states in total. By contrast, 25 states use special elections to fill vacant legislative seats, The Wichita Eagle reports. The typically little-noticed replacement process is drawing attention after three senators were elected to statewide office, including Democratic state Senator Laura Kelly as governor. And more vacancies are possible if other lawmakers resign to join Kelly's administration.

"It is fairly common to see people get appointed to a seat and then the advantages of incumbency mean they can go a long time before they ever actually have a challenger of any kind, in a primary or a general election," said Patrick Miller, a political scientist at the University of Kansas. His research found that 24 percent of current Kansas lawmakers first entered the Legislature through an appointment.

Some lawmakers say the system works well, while others contend that ideally all lawmakers would be elected. Senators who resign early in their four-year terms are replaced through a special election held at the next general election. That doesn't apply to Kelly's seats, along with Democrat Lynn Rogers, who was elected lieutenant governor and Republican Vicki Schmidt, who was elected insurance commissioner. All three are past the mid-point in their state senate terms. Precinct committee members, who hold the most basic office in the parties, select the legislative replacements. Democrats and Republicans voted for precinct committee members during the August primary. While some races were competitive, many were decided by just a few votes - and others went unfilled. Rep. Kristey Williams, R-Augusta, said the replacement process demonstrates the importance of precinct committee members. Williams also said she hasn't heard complaints about the current system for filling vacancies.


Bangladeshi Man Facing Deportation Gets Reprieve Until 2022

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The case against a Kansas man who is fighting deportation to his native Bangladesh will go on until at least 2022. Syed Jamal, of Lawrence, had the first hearing on his recently reopened case Tuesday in Immigration Court in Kansas City, Missouri. The Lawrence Journal-World reports Judge Glen Baker said he would review whether Jamal qualified for certain forms of deportation relief. Jamal's wife is also seeking relief from deportation. Baker set the next hearing in the case for April 27, 2022. Jamal and his supporters began fighting his deportation in January when immigration agents arrested him for twice overstaying his visa. He was actually on a plane back to Bangladesh when a court ordered that he be returned to the U.S. He was removed from the plane in Hawaii.


Woman Sues Former Juvenile Corrections Supervisor, State

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A woman is suing after the former superintendent of the state's juvenile corrections complex was convicted of grabbing and shoving her. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Michelle Valdivia alleges in the lawsuit filed in Shawnee County District Court that Kyle Rohr engaged in negligence and battery, causing emotional distress. The Kansas Department of Corrections, Rohr and the State of Kansas are named as defendants in the case. Rohr is appealing his misdemeanor battery conviction. It stems from a dispute that arose last December as Rohr and the female worker were planning a Christmas party for juvenile inmates. Valdivia says Rohr was inadequately supervised and that his actions were "outrageous." He subsequently lost his job. Agency spokesman Samir Arif says the department isn't able to comment on pending litigation.


Attorney Cites State's Abortion Law in Sexual Assault Case

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — An attorney for a man accused of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl tried arguing that the charge should be dismissed because Kansas law says life begins at fertilization. Defense attorney Cooper Overstreet wrote that the state's definition of life would make the girl 16, not 15, when the assault occurred. He said that meant his client, 21-year-old Jordan Ross, of Topeka, couldn't be guilty of aggravated indecent liberties with a child, because the age of consent in Kansas is 16. The Lawrence Journal-World reports Douglas County District Court Judge James McCabria rejected Overstreet's motion. In their argument against the motion, prosecutors cited an earlier state appeals court ruling that the Kansas abortion law defining life beginning at conception applied to public health and not to the criminal code.


Topeka Man Shot and Killed After Dragging 2 Police Officers with Vehicle

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka police say a man who was shot by a state trooper while his vehicle was dragging two officers has died.  Police Lt. Andrew Beightel says officers, one from Topeka and one from the Kansas Highway Patrol, were not seriously injured in the Tuesday incident.  The driver of the car, 35-year-old Jarmane Dywane Logan, of Topeka, died Tuesday at an area hospital.  Beightel said the officers were talking to occupants of a car that the trooper had tried to stop earlier after it stalled at a Topeka intersection.  A second vehicle arrived and occupants in the first car tried to get into the second vehicle, an SUV.  Beightel says as the officers tried to intervene, they were dragged by the SUV and the trooper shot Logan.


Kansas Woman Missing Since Blizzard Found Dead

CAWKER CITY, Kan. (AP) — A northern Kansas woman who had been missing since her car became stuck in a blizzard has been found dead.  Authorities said the body of 37-year-old Tanya Eshbaugh, of Cawker City, was found Tuesday in a field near Waconda Lake, about three miles from her car.  Mitchell County Sheriff Tony Perez told KAKE-TV that he thinks Eshbaugh got disoriented and didn't know which way she was going when she left her car.  Eshbaugh called her work on Sunday to report that she couldn't make it because of a blizzard and was turning around to go home. The search began when she didn't show up for work on Monday.


17-Year-Old Sought in Shooting that Left 1 Dead, 2 Wounded

BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. (AP) — Authorities want to question a 17-year-old in a shooting that left one teen dead and two others wounded in suburban Kansas City.  Blue Springs police have identified Aden Kaler, of Blue Springs, as a person of interest in the death of 17-year-old Jayden Lockett. The Kansas City Star reports that police say Kaler should be considered armed and dangerous.  Police found Lockett dead on November 11 when they responded to a report of shots being fired at a Blue Springs home. Officers also found a 19-year-old with minor injuries and a 15-year-old with critical injuries.  Blue Springs police Sgt. Joe Fanara said at the time that police were investigating what led to the gunfire but were working with a theory that a gun battle between two shooters had occurred.


65 University of Kansas Employees Taking Early Retirement Incentive

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say 65 faculty members at the University of Kansas are expected to take an early retirement incentive.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the school announced the program in August as a way to help deal with a mandated $20 million budget-cutting initiative for the Lawrence campus. Tenured and tenure-track faculty had until last week to decide whether to participate.  By the time of retirement, participants had to be 62 years old. The provost office said in a news release that their median salary is $100,000. The most retirements are coming from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, with 28, followed by the School of Engineering, with 10.  The position may be eliminated, held open for a year or two or filled by new tenure-track junior faculty or instructors.


Kansas Mom Pleads Guilty in Death of Boy Found in Concrete

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas woman pleaded guilty Wednesday to murder and other charges in the abuse and death of her 3-year-old son, whose body was found encased in concrete in the laundry room of their Wichita home. Miranda Miller, 37, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping, child abuse and aggravated child endangerment under a deal in which she faces a prison sentence of about 29 years. With credit for good behavior, she could get out of prison in about 25 years, District Attorney Marc Bennett told The Wichita Eagle after Miller's hearing in Sedgwick County District Court. Sentencing was set for Jan. 14. Prosecutors say Miller and her boyfriend, 41-year-old Stephen Bodine, tortured her son, Evan Brewer, for months before his death. Evidence against them included videos and photos showing Evan being abused, including footage of him chained and naked in a basement, being berated by Bodine and Miller, and forced to stand in a corner for hours. Much of the evidence came from a cache of 16,000 photos and video files collected by the couple's home surveillance system. Bodine was convicted last month of first-degree murder and faces a possible life sentence at a Dec. 17 hearing. Miller had testified against Bodine in exchange for the chance to plead guilty to a less serious charge in Evan's death. According to Miller's testimony at Bodine's trial, Bodine had been punishing Evan for not eating on May 19, 2017, when he took the screaming boy into the bathroom. She said he soon came out with her son's wet and lifeless body in his arms. Miller said Bodine mixed up several bags of concrete and buried the boy's body in it. It would be four months before authorities found the body . By the time Evan's body was chipped out of the concrete block, it was so badly decomposed that an autopsy could not determine how the boy died. He had Benadryl in his system, and Miller said she thinks Bodine sickened him in the days leading up to his death by force-feeding him large amounts of salt. The boy's father said after the hearing that he was pleased Miller took the plea deal because that means there won't be another trial that the Brewer family will have to endure. The boy was the grandson of former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer.


Patrol: Man Arrested After 100-Mile Chase in Tractor-Truck

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri State Highway Patrol says a man in a stolen tractor-truck led officers on a chase of about 100 miles before the truck caught fire.  The driver tried to flee on foot but was arrested when he became caught on a barbed-wire fence.  The patrol said in a news release Tuesday that the chase began Saturday in Kansas City and ended in Boonville, Missouri.  Authorities thought the driver was involved in a shooting.  The truck reached speeds up to 73 mph and ran over several tire deflation devices on Interstate 70. The vehicle caught fire near Boonville. The highway patrol helicopter directed officers to where the driver fled into a barbed-wire fence just north of the interstate.  Authorities found a baggie of what they suspect was methamphetamine.


Inmate's Death at Leavenworth Prison Under Investigation

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are investigating the death of an inmate at a privately-run federal prison in Leavenworth.  The Kansas City Star reports 29-year-old Dillon Lane Reed died on Thanksgiving at the Leavenworth Detention Center.  Reed's attorney said he was notified of his client's death but was not told the cause of death or any circumstances.  Reed was being on federal drug charges.  The prison is operated by CoreCivic, a Tennessee-based company formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America.  The U.S. Marshals Service confirmed Reed's death and said an autopsy was conducted. The agency contracts with the company to house federal prisoners awaiting trial and sentencing.  Leavenworth police are conducting the death investigation.


5 Topeka Officers Won't Be Charged in October 11 Shooting

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay says five Topeka police officers who exchanged gunfire with a man on two separate occasions last month will not face charges. Kagay also said Wednesday that the man, 23-year-old Trevon Lorenzo Brown, has been charged with 12 crimes. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that on Oct. 11, members of the department's burglary task force encountered Brown, who fired several shots before fleeing. Later that day, Brown again encountered officers, who exchanged gunfire with him. Kagay says Brown was arrested after being hit twice. No officers were injured in either incident. Kagay says the officers' conduct was self-defense and defense of others. The charges against Brown include four counts of aggravated assault of a law enforcement officer.


Man Sentenced for Sexually Abusing Mentally Disabled Girl

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A 39-year-old Lawrence man who molested a girl with mental disabilities was sentenced to just over 10 years in prison. Steven Capps was sentenced Wednesday after previously pleading no contest to two counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child. The girl was 14 when the abuse occurred. The Lawrence Journal-World reports Capps must register as a sex offender and be supervised for the rest of his life after he's released from prison. Prosecutor Mark Simpson said the victim's family supported the plea agreement, in part because it kept the girl from having to testify. Capps was arrested in July after another adult caught him in a room with the girl and called police. Capps did not make a statement in court.


Man Booked After Wichita Officer Shoots at Him During Chase

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police say a 33-year-old man was jailed after a police pursuit and shooting in east Wichita. The Wichita Eagle reports the shooting occurred Tuesday when a motorcycle officer tried to stop a speeding vehicle. Cpt. Brent Allred said the driver didn't stop, prompting a chase. Allred said the driver, Brandon Hanafin, eventually drove toward the officer and got within about 6 feet of hitting him. Allred said the officer was in a private driveway and had nowhere to go, so he fired two shots at Hanafin, who wasn't hit. Hanafin eventually fled the vehicle on foot and was captured in a field. He was booked on several charges, including aggravated assault of a law enforcement officer. The officer, a 22-year veteran of the department, was placed on administrative leave.


Appeal Rejected for Man Who Abducted, Killed 10-Year-Old 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) _ A man whose abduction of a 10-year-old Kansas girl sparked a massive manhunt before she was found dead in Missouri has lost his appeal of his conviction and death sentence. The Kansas City Star reports that the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday rejected the claims of 44-year-old Keith Nelson that his attorney had provided ineffective assistance. Nelson snatched Pamela Butler in 1999 as she was roller-skating near her Kansas City, Kansas, home. A witness to the abduction got Nelson's license plate, but he managed to get away. Pamela's strangled body was found later in a wooded area in Grain Valley, Missouri. Among the issues the appeal raised was his attorneys' advice that he plead guilty. The court denied the appeal on each count.


Self-Defense Cited in Shooting of Teen During Fireworks War

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A man is claiming self-defense after he was charged with wounding a 17-year-old whose friends were shooting fireworks at a Lawrence apartment building.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that 20-year-old Rashan Gill is scheduled to be tried in January on one count of criminal discharge of a firearm. His attorney is citing the state's "stand your ground" law.  An affidavit in the case says the girl waited in a car on July 5 while her friends shot Roman candles at the apartment. The friends said that at one point a man ran out of the building toward them, so they shot a Roman candle at him. The victim told police she was shot in the torso and arm as they started driving away.  The shooter was later identified as Gill.


Sedgwick County Deputy Shoots, Wounds Man Firing Handgun

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Sedgwick County authorities say a deputy shot and wounded a man who was firing a handgun near the Wichita Department for Children and Families.  Sheriff's spokesman Tim Myers said the man shot on Tuesday is hospitalized in serious condition.  Myers said the man apparently was homeless and may have been intoxicated. He says the man refused to follow orders and was shot when he pointed the handgun in the direction of a Wichita police lieutenant and two sheriff's deputies. One of the deputies shot the man.  Officers responded after receiving several 911 calls reporting a shooting near the DCF building. Myers says investigators don't know why the man was shooting or where he got the gun.
No one else was hurt.


Motorcycle Officer Shoots at Suspect in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a Wichita police motorcycle officer shot at a driver who was trying to crash into him.  Wichita Officer Charley Davidson says a suspect was arrested in a field around 5:45 pm Tuesday — about two hours after the officer fired his weapon. The Wichita Eagle reports that the suspect didn't have any serious injuries.  Issues arose when the officer attempted to stop a wrong-way driver. Davidson says the motorist didn't stop and drove behind a country bar. After emerging from behind the bar, the driver went off-road and made a U-turn in a driveway. Davidson says that's when the driver headed toward the officer, attempting to strike him.  After the officer fired his weapon twice, the driver got out of the vehicle and ran. The officer wasn't hurt.


Wichita State President Hospitalized with Chronic Lung Issue

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita State University President John Bardo is hospitalized and is not expected to return to campus until next semester.  University officials announced Tuesday that Bardo, who is 70, is being treated for a chronic lung condition.  Bardo said in social media posts that his doctors say he will need several weeks of convalescence. He says he's in good spirits and is looking forward to being back on campus in the new year.  University spokesman Lou Heldman said Bardo was admitted to the hospital just before Thanksgiving. He says Bardo has been able to communicate with administrators about university issues.  Provost Rick Muma will fill in for Bardo at commencement ceremonies Dec. 16 and other meetings Bardo would usually attend.


Inmate Sentenced to 47 Years for Escape from Kansas Jail

MARYSVILLE, Kan. (AP) — An inmate has been sentenced to 47 years in prison for setting a fire and shooting at officers while escaping from a Kansas jail with another inmate.  The Wichita Eagle reports that 31-year-old Matson Zane Hatfield was sentenced Tuesday for attempted murder and other charges for the October 2017 escape from the Marshall County jail, near the state's border with Nebraska.  The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says Hatfield fled to a nearby home and later surrendered. A pickup truck also was stolen at gunpoint from a county employee. The KBI says 47-year-old Jeffrey Guenther was arrested after rolling the truck in Gage County, Nebraska.  The KBI says shots were fired at a Kansas fire department truck and at a man in front of a home. Charges are pending against Guenther.


Washburn Officer Loses Certification over Intoxication

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A state commission has revoked the law enforcement certification of a former officer with the Washburn University Department after he responded to a call while intoxicated.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Benjamin Bemus only worked for the university for about two weeks this spring. Kansas Commission on Peace Officers' Standards and Training says in its revocation order that issues arose in May after a co-worker called Bemus to tell him he was late for a shift. The order says Bemus told the co-worker he thought his shift started two hours later.  He then headed to work. While on a call, other officers noticed an alcohol odor. The commission said "performing his duties as a law enforcement officer while under the influence of alcohol demonstrates a lack of good moral character."


Kansas Recalls 731 License Plates over Ethnic Slur Complaint

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is recalling hundreds of vehicle license plates on the streets containing the "JAP" lettering in the wake of complaints that they are offensive to Japanese Americans.  The Kansas Department of Revenue said there are 731 active registrations containing that random letter combination on standard license plates. Vehicle owners were sent a letter dated Tuesday asking them to return the plate to their county vehicle office within 30 days for replacement at no cost.  The issue arose last year when a motorist spotted a car with the Kansas plate in traffic near his home in Culver City, California, and took a photo of it. A Kansas woman of Japanese heritage contacted the state after seeing the picture and story in the newspaper put out by the Japanese American Citizens League.


Plan Seeks to Designate Route 66 as National Historic Trail

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A new proposal would designate Route 66, the Mother Road that connected Chicago to Los Angeles, as a National Historic Trail.  U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Jim Inhofe recently introduced a bill that would amend the National Trails System Act in an effort to help revitalize cities and small towns that sit along the historic Route 66 corridor.  The U.S. House of Representatives passed a similar bill in June.  Route 66, one of the first roads in the U.S. highway system, spanned more than 2,400 miles. It ran through eight states, connecting tourists with friendly diners in small towns.  Use of Route 66 dropped significantly after highways were built as part of the interstate system.  It was decommissioned as a U.S. highway in 1985.


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