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Headlines for Wednesday, October 14, 2020


Governor: Kansas Won't Jump into Local COVID-19 Hot Spots

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly says she doesn't plan to have the state health department use its power to manage disease outbreaks by shutting down businesses or imposing other restrictions in local coronavirus hot spots. The Democratic governor's statement Tuesday went further than a public promise she made last month to top Republicans in the GOP-controlled Legislature not to issue orders to close businesses statewide, as she did in the spring. She says that although the state will work with local officials in areas with big outbreaks to help them check the spread of the virus, it won't dictate the steps they'll take.


Kansas Sets Records for Increases in COVID-19 Cases, Deaths

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has reported its largest seven-day increases in both COVID-19-related deaths and new coronavirus cases. The state health department said Wednesday that Kansas had another 67 deaths since only Monday to bring the pandemic total to 838. But it wasn’t clear how many of those fatalities were older and just being reported now as health officials examine death certificates from previous months. The state also said it had 1,293 new confirmed or probable cases over two days to bring the total to 69,155. The state averaged a record 743 new cases a day for the seven days ending Wednesday.


Kansas Reports Over 69,000 COVID-19 Cases, More than 800 Virus-Related Deaths

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - State health officials say Kansas has recorded more than 69,000 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began. The Department of Health and Environment reported Wednesday that the state had 69,155 cases, including 838 deaths. That's an increase of 1,293 cases and 67 deaths since Monday. The next update will be released Friday afternoon.


Lawrence School District Modifies Plans for In-Person Classes

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A public school district in northeast Kansas has modified its plans to move from online classes to having students attend in person part of the week because of concerns expressed by teachers and other staff. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the school district plans to have its high school students attend in-person classes only one day a week, instead of the two days initially planned. Students in lower grades will have in-person classes two days a week, but the school board decided late Monday to delay that until November 9 for elementary schools. The district’s decisions come with Kansas reporting nearly 68,000 confirmed and probable coronavirus cases for the pandemic.


At Least 147 University of Kansas Employees Take Buyout

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ At least 147 University of Kansas employees are taking an early retirement buyout this year as the school looks to cut costs amid the coronavirus pandemic. Provost Barbara Bichelmeyer said in a message to faculty and staff members Wednesday that unit leaders across campus have asked to fill roughly 20% of the positions that will be vacated through the program. But she said discussions about which positions will be filled are ongoing, and many of the roles will remain vacant, the Lawrence Journal-World reports. The university announced the buyout program in June because of anticipated enrollment drops that ultimately weren't as large as officials feared. To qualify, employees must meet certain criteria, such as being at least 62 years old and serving 10 years or longer at the university or another Kansas state agency. The buyout amounts to a lump-sum cash payment of $100,000 or an employee's fiscal year 2021 budgeted base salary, whichever is lower. The university last offered a similar buyout program in 2018, but it wasn't an option for staff. This year, the bulk of the buyout participants are staff, with 134 submitting retirement notices through the program. Just 13 faculty have done so.

In-Person Voting Begins in Kansas with Short Wait Times

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) — Early in-person voting has begun in several Kansas counties, with election officials reporting heavier than usual turnout but relatively short wait times to cast a ballot. Election offices across the state also began on Wednesday sending out the first batches of mail-in ballots to voters who requested them in what election officials anticipate will be record numbers amid the pandemic. The state’s most populous counties won’t start advance in-person voting for several more days, but a smattering of smaller counties that have begun are providing an early glimpse of what so far has been a smooth start to the general election in Kansas.


Osage County Sheriff: Body of 70-Year-Old Man Found in Pomona Lake

POMONA, Kan. (AP) — Officials in east-central Kansas say the body of a 70-year-old man has been found in Pomona Lake. Television station KSNT reports that the body of Floyd Moehlman, of Pomona, was found Monday after officials received reports of a capsized boat at the lake. The Osage County Sheriff's Office says deputies, medics and firefighters arrived at the lake around 6:30 pm, where a boat had capsized near the Carbolyn Park boat ramp, and soon found Moehlman's body. He was declared dead at the scene.


Man Gets 35 Years for Stalking; Judge Calls Case "Extremely Disturbing"

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A man who federal prosecutors say they suspect in a Missouri decapitation killing has been sentenced to 35 years in prison for stalking Kansas massage parlor workers in an unrelated case. The Kansas City Star reports that Senior U.S. District Judge Gary Fenner told 69-year-old Robert Gross that his history of violence was "extremely disturbing" in sentencing him for the stalking and firearms charges. Although he has not been charged with homicide, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jess Michaelsen said Gross had long been suspected in the August 2016 killing of Ying Li whose body was found inside her burning Kansas City apartment. Federal law allows prosecutors to present information about uncharged crimes at sentencing.


Missouri Man Pleads Guilty to Armed Carjacking in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a Missouri man has pleaded guilty Tuesday to an armed carjacking in Kansas. The crime was solved by testing DNA on a hat and wig he left behind. The U.S. attorney's office says that 43-year-old Antonio Duane Simpson of Kansas City, Missouri, pleaded guilty to one count of carjacking and one count of unlawful possession of a firearm in furtherance of carjacking. The crime occurred in December 2018 in Topeka.  Prosecutors say Simpson shot the victim during a struggle and then drove away in the victim's Toyota Tacoma. Both sides are recommending a 15-year prison sentence. Sentencing is February 2.


Regents Tap Interim President for Wichita State University

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Board of Regents appointed a new interim president Wednesday to lead Wichita State University while it searches for a replacement for Jay Golden, who abruptly resigned last month without explanation. Wichita State Provost Rick Muma, who has been acting president since Golden resigned, will immediately take on the job as interim president. Muma also was named acting president when former president John Bardo was ill. Regents chair Bill Feuerborn praised Muma’s experience and knowledge of Wichita State in a news release announcing the appointment.


Police: Man Killed Brother at South Wichita Apartment

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have arrested a 61-year-old man accused of fatally shooting his older brother at a Wichita apartment complex earlier this week. Television station KAKE reports that Thomas Harris was booked early Tuesday morning on suspicion of second-degree intentional murder and criminal possession of a firearm in the death of 68-year-old Troy Harris. Police say the shooting happened around 1 pm Monday at the complex in the southern part of the city. Police say the two brothers were in an apartment when they began fighting, and Thomas Harris allegedly fired several shots before fleeing the apartment.


UPDATE: Kansas City Police Identify Body Found in Wooded Area

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police in Kansas City have identified a man whose badly decomposed body was found in a wooded area of Swope Park. Police say the body is that of 62-year-old Ronnie Lawrence. Officers were called to the area around 7 p.m. Monday, and a person at the scene led officers to the body, which was located just off a road. Police say the body was in an advanced state of decomposition, but that investigators were able to determine he had suffered significant trauma. Police have ruled the death a homicide. Police have not yet released a cause of death.

(–Earlier Reporting–)

Kansas City Police: Body Found in Wooded Area of Swope Park

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police in Kansas City are investigating the death of a person whose badly decomposed body was found in a wooded area of Swope Park. Police say officers were called to the area around 7 pm Monday, and a person at the scene led officers to the body, which was located just off a road. Police say the body was in an advanced state of decomposition, but that investigators were able to determine that the victim had suffered significant trauma. Police are treating the death as a homicide. Police say an autopsy will need to determine the cause of death. The victim has not yet been identified.


Prosecutors Ask Missouri Highway Patrol to Investigate Kansas City Police Shooting of Unarmed Black Man 

 KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Prosecutors are asking the Missouri State Highway Patrol to investigate the police shooting of an unarmed Black man in Kansas City.  Mike Mansur, a spokesman for the Jackson County, Missouri, prosecutor's office, said Tuesday that Kansas City police recently submitted the findings from their investigation into the shooting of Donnie Sanders. But Mansur said prosecutors still wanted an outside agency involved, even though Sanders was killed in March, before the patrol began to investigate Kansas City police shootings.  "It is clear, I am guessing, why we don't want people investigating themselves, so we need to make sure we have the best investigation that we can have," Mansur said.  Police said at the time that Sanders raised his arms "as though he had a weapon" as he ran away from a traffic stop. An officer then ordered him to get on the ground and fired when Sanders didn't follow the commands, police said.  One of Sanders's sisters, Reshonda Sanders, said her brother had been released from the hospital just one day earlier after undergoing hernia surgery. ``We knew he was in intense pain," she said, suggesting he may have been moving slowly.  He was 47. Kansas City Police spokesman Capt. David Jackson said the department is not naming the officer because no charges have been filed. He declined to comment further, saying police have an agreement with the prosecutor not to comment on active cases. 


"Driving While Black" Shows History of U.S. Black Motorists

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A new film examines the history of African Americans driving on the road from the Great Depression to the height of the Civil Rights movement.  "Driving While Black," airing this week on most PBS stations in the U.S., show how the automobile liberated African Americans to move around the country while still navigating segregation and violence. Directed by Ric Burns, the documentary was inspired by Gretchen Sorin's 2019 book, "Driving While Black: African American Travel and the Road to Civil Rights." She argued the car allowed African Americans to avoid segregated trains and buses throughout the American South.


AP Road Trip: Racial Tensions in America's "Sundown Towns"

VIENNA, Ill. (AP) — In a nation struggling over questions of race, police brutality and justice, the AP Road Trip team made its second stop in a Midwestern town to look at an open secret of segregation that spilled across much of the nation. In Vienna, Illinois, almost no one talks openly about the violence that drove out Black residents nearly 70 years ago, or about how it became one of hundreds - perhaps thousands - of "sundown towns."  These towns were places where Black people were allowed in during the day to work or shop but had to be gone by nightfall. Today, some sundown towns still exist in various forms, enforced now by tradition and fear rather than by rules.


Officials: Truck Driver Killed in Northern Kansas Crash 

MANKATO, Kan. (AP) — Officials in northern Kansas say a truck driver has died in a crash on a rural road near Mankato. Wichita television station KAKE reports that the crash happened Monday afternoon in Jewell County just outside Mankato. The Kansas Highway Patrol says 59-year-old Robert Newell, of Mankato, was negotiating a curve when his tractor-trailer overturned. Investigators say Newell had not been wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash and died at the scene.


Kansas Audio-Reader Network Hosting Donation Drive October 17

LAWRENCE, Kan.  (KPR) — The Kansas Audio-Reader Network will host a donation drive Saturday, October 17 (9 am to 1 pm) at the Lied Center of Kansas.  The public is asked to donate gently used audio equipment (modern and vintage), vinyl records, CDs, DVDs, cassette tapes and musical instruments. The Audio-Reader Network’s annual benefit sale, For Your Ears Only, has transitioned to a series of monthly Facebook Live sales for this year.  Audio-Reader will provide a contactless drop-off for items. Donors can choose to either remain in their car while Audio-Reader staff removes the items, or donors may place their items on tables provided. Per KU requirements, all Audio-Reader staff and donors will wear face masks during the event.  Donors will receive a tax receipt. The most popular items at the sales are rock 'n' roll records, turntables and vintage audio equipment.

Audio-Reader’s next Facebook Live sale will be on Thursday, October 15 at 6pm.

This sale will feature audio equipment, including receivers, speakers and turntables as well as vinyl records. Darrel Brogdon, Kansas Public Radio program director and host of the "Retro Cocktail Hour," will also make a guest appearance with a specially curated selection of Retro Cocktail Hour vinyl records.  Proceeds from the sale benefit Audio-Reader, a service organization providing free reading and information services for individuals who are blind and visually impaired. The University of Kansas has ceased direct funding to Audio-Reader, making fundraisers like these virtual benefit sales vital to Audio-Reader’s operation. Funds from the sale go directly to helping Audio-Reader listeners stay connected with their communities and live a life of personal independence.  More information is available at Audio-Reader's website:


Missouri State Fire Marshal, Citing Drought, Urges No Outdoor Burning

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri’s state fire marshal is encouraging people to avoid outside burning amid a statewide drought that has gripped the state for several weeks. Fire Marshal Tim Bean said in a news release Tuesday that under the current dry conditions, even a small outdoor fire can get out of control and spread rapidly. Bean cited the lack of significant rainfall but also low humidity, gusty winds and warm temperatures. The U.S. Drought Monitor shows that several Missouri counties are experiencing drought conditions, including five with extreme droughts: Barry, Christian, Greene, Lawrence and Stone counties. Several wildfires have burned hundreds of thousands of acres in western states.


Report: About 74% of Winter Wheat Planted in Kansas

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A government report shows Kansas growers have planted about 74% of next year's winter wheat crop. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Tuesday that wheat planting is well ahead of the 56% that is average for this time of year. About half of the wheat crop has emerged. Kansas farmers are also busy bringing in fall-harvested crops. The state's corn harvest is 63% complete. About 40% of the soybeans and 30% of the sorghum crops have been cut. The agency also reported that 22% of sunflowers and 2% of cotton crops have been harvested.


USDA Predicts Slightly Smaller Kansas Corn Harvest

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — Kansas farmers are expected to harvest slightly less corn than than last year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said this year’s crop is forecast at just under 800 million bushels, down 2% from last year. The Hays Daily News reports this year’s average yield of the 5.75 million acres planted is forecast at 137 bushels per acre, up by four bushels from 2019. As of October 5, 44% of Kansas corn was harvested. This is 34% ahead of last year, but behind the 49% average by this time during the past five years. More than half of the corn already harvested is either good or excellent.


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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