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Headlines for Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Mercy Hospital in Fort Scott is Closing by End of Year

FORT SCOTT, Kan. (AP) — Officials say Mercy Hospital in Fort Scott will close by the end of the year.  Mercy officials said on Monday that declining patient numbers and reduced reimbursements from government programs, which is the largest source of the hospital's revenue, led to the decision. The statement said hospital officials tried for months to find a way to keep hospital services in the community of about 7,800 people in southeast Kansas.  The Iola Register reports Mercy officials said they are working on an agreement with the Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas, based in Pittsburg, to maintain primary care services in Fort Scott.  The hospital, which opened in 1886, is a 46-bed acute care center. It is expected to close December 31.

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Man Who Raped Women at Gunpoint Gets 170 Years in Prison

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 33-year-old Kansas man has been sentenced to 170 years in prison for kidnapping and sexually assaulting women who walked alone at night.  Sedgwick County District Attorney announced Tuesday that De'Andrew Dixon, of Augusta, was after being convicted last month.  Bennett said in a news release that in September and October of last year, Dixon kidnapped and sexually assaulted two women, and he sexually assaulted a third woman in 2016.  Dixon sought out women walking alone at night, hold them at gunpoint and then drive to secluded areas in Wichita, where the woman were assaulted.  Dixon was convicted of rape, battery, two counts each of aggravated kidnapping and criminal possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and three counts of aggravated sodomy.

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On-Campus Rapes Doubled Last Year at Kansas

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — An annual safety report at the University of Kansas says twice as many rapes were reported on the Lawrence campus in 2017 than the previous year.  The Clery report says nine of the 12 rapes reported were in campus housing.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports 14 rapes were reported if off-campus locations that are affiliated with the university are included. That is about the same as previous years, with 13 in 2016 and 16 in 2015.  This year's report was the first since the Kansas Legislature required the university to allow concealed carry of handguns on campus. The Clery report show the university reported no weapon law arrests or violations referred for disciplinary action.  University spokeswoman Erinn Barcomb-Peterson says those numbers reflect violations of state law and not necessarily the university's weapons policy.

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2 Children Killed in Franklin County Crash

OTTAWA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol reports two children were killed and four others were injured in a two-vehicle crash.  The crash was reported Monday night five miles east of Ottawa.  The accident killed 11-year-old Briana Sobba and 3-year-old Becham Klemen, both of Wellsville.  The patrol says a Ford they were in failed to yield the right of way and was struck by another vehicle.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports two other children who were in the Ford were injured and flown to Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri.  The driver of the second vehicle was injured and taken to an Overland Park hospital.

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Democratic Rising Star, Citing Mental Health Concerns, Drops out of KC Mayor's Race

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Jason Kander, a rising star in Democratic politics who narrowly lost a 2016 Senate bid, is dropping out of the race for mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, citing post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from his stint in the military.  Kander, who is 37, announced his decision Tuesday. The former Army intelligence officer said in a statement that he continues to feel the impact of PTSD, 11 years after leaving the military.  Kander says he contacted the Veterans Administration for help about four months ago but his condition worsened. He says he recently called a VA crisis line to say he has had suicidal thoughts.  Kander was seen as a likely favorite in the 2019 mayoral race. He was defeated by incumbent Republican Roy Blunt in Missouri's 2016 Senate race.

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Democrats Won't Back Man Seeking to Become First Deaf Legislator

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Democrats have pulled their support from a deaf legislative candidate who is accused by three women of being emotionally abusive.  The Kansas City Star reports that the state party and the Kansas House Democrats said in a joint statement that the allegations against Chris Haulmark are "deeply troubling."  The party says it won't invest any resources in Haulmark's effort to unseat Republican John Toplikar. The National Association of the Deaf says Haulmark would be the first deaf legislator — at the state or national level — if he wins the House seat is in a GOP-leaning Olathe district.  Haulmark told The Star the Democrat's decision was "reached prematurely and without merit." Days earlier, Haulmark said in a Facebook post that he is "far from perfect."

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Kansas Republican Rescinds Positive Comment on McCaskill

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Republican U.S. Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas is asking Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri to remove his name and praise for her from a new campaign ad. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Roberts wants McCaskill to remove from the ad his quote from August 2017 describing her as a senator he seeks out to get things done on a bipartisan basis. McCaskill is in a tight re-election race with Republican Secretary of State Josh Hawley, whose campaign paints her as a Democratic obstructionist. McCaskill says she is known for working across party lines. Late Tuesday, Hawley's campaign sent out a news release quoting Roberts's demand that McCaskill remove "my name and quote from her ad." In the statement from Hawley, Roberts does not dispute the quote. Roberts said McCaskill turned more partisan after President Donald Trump was elected. Roberts's spokeswoman Stacey Daniels on Wednesday cited as examples McCaskill's announced plan to vote against Trump's Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and her vote against the Republican-backed tax reform package in November. The McCaskill campaign did not immediately respond to a question from The Associated Press about whether it would alter the ad. In the ad, McCaskill notes she has supported Trump on some issues and nominations, and that the president has signed bills she co-sponsored. Republicans point out that she also has opposed Trump on big votes like the tax cuts, repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and the Supreme Court nominations of Neil Gorsuch and Kavanaugh. McCaskill's ad describes her as "always willing to work with anyone" and quotes Roberts saying that "if you want to pick somebody to work in a bipartisan manner ... to get things done — you pick Claire McCaskill."

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Kansas Colleges, Universities See Overall Enrollment Decline

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Board of Regents reports that public colleges and universities reported an overall decline in enrollment in the current fall semester.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the regents this year used a new system called full-time equivalency, rather than doing the traditional head count.  Full-time equivalency converts credit hours using a formula that the average full-time undergraduate student takes 15 hours a semester, and the average graduate student takes 12 hours.  Under that formula, Kansas State, Emporia State, Fort Hays and Wichita State reported enrollment increases ranging from 0.5 percent to 2 percent. Pittsburg State recorded 3.9 percent decline and the University of Kansas was down 0.6 percent.  The state's 19 community colleges had a combined 2.6 percent enrollment drop, while technical colleges reported a 5.2 percent increase.

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Missouri Mom Charged with Driving Kids into River in Court

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The 26-year-old Missouri woman charged with intentionally driving her children into the Kansas River waived her right to a preliminary hearing and did not enter a plea at a brief court hearing. Scharron Dingledine, of Columbia, Missouri, on Tuesday waived her right to a preliminary hearing. Her attorney, Carol Cline, said she and her client need more time to prepare before Dingledine's arraignment, which is scheduled for December 3. No trial date is scheduled. Dingledine is charged with first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder. Police allege she drove her car into the Kansas River near Lawrence on August 3 in an attempt to kill her children and herself. Her 5-year-old daughter died and a 1-year-old son was critically injured. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the boy remains hospitalized in fair condition.

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About $500,000 in Drugs Seized, 6 Arrested in Great Bend

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — The Barton County Sheriff's Office says six people were arrested and an estimated $500,000 in drugs were seized after a raid in Great Bend.  Sheriff Brian Bellendir said in a news release that his department and several other agencies executed search warrants at six locations and three vehicles on Monday.  The sheriff says the months-long investigation began as a cocaine distribution case but eventually expanded into a distribution case involving several drugs.  The Great Bend Tribune reports authorities seized heroin, LSD, cocaine and methamphetamine, with an estimated value of $500,000.  The seizure included imitation hydrocodone tablets that contain fentanyl, which the sheriff said is far more likely to cause an overdose leading to death.  Bellendir says investigators believe most of the seized drugs were smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico.

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UPDATE: Authorities: Body Found in Kansas Field was Colorado Man

HANSTON, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a man whose body was found in a southwest Kansas field lived in Colorado.  The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says the case is being investigated as a homicide.  The victim was 21-year-old Bayron Diaz-Bautista from the Fort Collins, Colorado area. A farmer reported finding the body in a field Monday night southwest of Hanston in Hodgeman County.  Autopsy results have not been released.

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Nonprofit's Employee Barred from Access to Youths

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas welfare officials have barred a group home operator's employee who is accused of sexual misconduct from working in locations where children are present.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Kansas Department for Children and Families spokeswoman Taylor Forrest says the agency was disappointed that The Villages declined a recommendation to fire the worker. Welfare officials announced the new employment conditions for him last month.  The worker was the human resources manager, but it's unclear if that is still his role with the Topeka-based organization.  In 1989, the Boy Scouts of America and Seaman High School cut ties with the employee after an accusation that he made sexual advances toward an exchange student.  The Villages' executive director, Sylvia Crawford, says the organization is in full compliance with all applicable personnel regulations.

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Kansas Gas Seeks 10 Percent Rate Increase

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — State regulators will hear from gas customers this week about a proposed 10 percent rate hike. The Wichita Eagle reports that state officials say Kansas Gas Service's rate proposal would add an estimated $5.60 a month to the average gas bill. The Kansas Corporation Commission will hear from the public Thursday in Topeka before deciding whether to grant the request. KGS, a division of Oklahoma natural gas utility ONE Gas, says that four main factors are driving its request. They included increased employee wages and more efficient appliances that are reducing consumption. Kansas House Minority Leader Jim Ward says he's suspicious of the need for an increase because it's been less than two years since rates last went up. Ordinarily, rate cases are requested by companies every four to five years.

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KanCare Enrollment Begins While Amerigroup Contract Pending

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Enrollment has begun for Kansas' privatized Medicaid program, leaving 125,000 residents covered by Amerigroup in a state of uncertainty while the provider sues the state over its contract.  The Kansas City Star reports that Kansas residents who receive Medicaid services through Amerigroup can begin choosing a new plan for 2019 this month.  Amerigroup sued the state this year after the health care provider wasn't awarded a new contract for Kansas' Medicaid program, KanCare. The company alleges that the bidding process is flawed.  It's uncertain whether residents currently covered by Amerigroup will have an option to stay with the Virginia-based company.  The Kansas Department of Health and Environment's enrollment website says Amerigroup's tenure as a KanCare company will end December 31. Department spokeswoman Theresa Freed declined to comment on what would happen if Amerigroup wins its court challenge.

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Kansas Man Admits Importing Endangered Leopard Cats

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — An Olathe man has admitted importing endangered leopard cats. U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said 34-year-old Lawrence Payne pleaded guilty Wednesday to violating the Endangered Species Act. The leopard cat is a small wild cat native to Asia that has been designated as an endangered species. Prosecutors say the investigation began when Payne applied for a breeding license for Asian leopard cats through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Investigators who searched his home said they found three Asian leopard cats. A sentencing date hasn't been set. Payne faces up to a year in jail and a fine up to $50,000.

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