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Headlines for Wednesday, September 2, 2020

UPDATE: Kansas Reports Nearly 44,000 COVID-19 Cases, 458 Deaths, Since Pandemic Began

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - Kansas health officials say the state has now recorded nearly 44,000 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began. The Department of Health and Environment reports today (WED) that there are now 43,940 cases, including 458 deaths.  Coronavirus cases have been reported in all 105 Kansas counties. The Top 5 hardest-hit counties are Johnson (8,495 cases), Sedgwick (7,399), Wyandotte (6,180), Ford (2,373) and Shawnee (2,251). Douglas County reports 1,383 cases. The next update on Kansas coronavirus cases will be released Friday.    


Wichita School Board Will Allow Fall Sports After All

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The state's largest school district in Wichita has overturned its decision to call off all fall sports because of the coronavirus pandemic.  The Board of Education for the 50,000-student district voted Tuesday to allow the sports to continue with some restrictions. The biggest is that during the season of the sport/activity, and for two weeks following, students will agree to participate in remote learning, which all sixth- through 12th-grade students were already required to take part in to begin the school year anyway.


Colleges, Public Schools Battle COVID-19 as Classes Resume

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas athletes must play without fans, Kansas State University is battling four new coronavirus outbreaks and a Topeka-area school district has halted in-person classes just days into the fall semester. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has reported at least 19 coronavirus clusters tied to colleges and five connected to k-12 schools since the start of the academic year. The University of Kansas said Monday that athletes will play without fans at least through September. That announcement came as compulsory testing of students arriving on campus uncovered nearly 500 positive cases. There's a 10% positivity rate among sorority and fraternity members tested so far.


Kansas Tax Collections Come in $40.2 Million Above Estimates

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - Kansas tax revenues have come in higher than expected for the month of August.  In the second month of the new fiscal year, tax collections came in $40.2 million more than estimated, or 8% higher than expected.  The Kansas Department of Revenue reports total tax collections for the month of August at $543.5 million.


Robert Courtney to Remain Behind Bards; Judge Rejects Former Kansas City Pharmacist's Request for Early Release

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A judge has rejected the early release request of a former Kansas City pharmacist serving prison time for a scheme to dilute thousands of prescriptions for seriously ill patients to boost his profits. On Monday, a judge denied 67-year-old Robert Courtney's plea for compassion release for fear he could contract COVID-19 in prison. Courtney said his health problems, including high blood pressure and previous strokes and heart attacks, make him vulnerable to contracting the disease. Judge Ortrie Smith said in his order that Courtney is an a prison with few virus cases and that Courtney’s crimes were “vastly different” from other defendants who have been granted compassion release.


Lead-Contaminated Town in Southeast Kansas Prioritized for Cleanup

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Federal officials have added a lead-contaminated southeast Kansas community to a list of hazardous waste sites eligible for cleanup through the federal Superfund program. Besides the newly added site in the town of Caney, the Environmental Protection Agency also has proposed adding another site in the southeast Kansas town of Weir to the Superfund list. Both communities were the scene of smelting operations a century ago. The concern is that the smelting operations caused lead particles to become airborne and settle onto area properties. Lead exposure can pose serious health risks, particularly for young children, pregnant women and nursing mothers.


Police: Woman Killed in Kansas City, Kansas, Shooting

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Police in Kansas City, Kansas, say a woman has died and several others were injured in an exchange of gunfire. Police say the shooting happened Tuesday afternoon when a car pulled up to a home and several people got out to confront a person on the home's porch. Police say the group and the person on the porch exchanged gunfire. Police called to the scene found a woman in her 20s lying on the sidewalk with critical wounds. She was taken to a hospital, where she died. Police say at least two other people from the shooting scene showed up a hospital with injuries. Police have not released the names of the woman killed or those injured.


Ex-KU Massage Therapist Faces More Charges, Including Child Sex Crimes

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KNS) - A massage therapist who worked with University of Kansas student-athletes for years now faces a total of three counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child and six counts of sexual battery.  A judge said during Tuesday's preliminary hearing that prosecutors provided sufficient probable cause for the two additional counts of child sex crimes against Shawn O’Brien, of Lawrence.  Two witnesses, the child and a Lawrence police officer, testified during the hearing. No trial date has been set, and O’Brien did not speak in court.  The sexual battery charges were not discussed during the hearing. KU Athletics contracted with O’Brien to work with women’s sports teams starting in 2015. Four of the sexual battery counts are associated with reports from the KU Public Safety office. And KU has said six student-athletes reported unwanted touching.  KU officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(-AP version-)

Judge: Massage Therapist for Kansas Athletes Bound for Trial

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A man who provided massages for female athletes at the University of Kansas will have to face trial on charges of sexually abusing a young girl. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Douglas County District Court Judge Sally Pokorny determined on Tuesday that enough evidence existed to take the case against Shawn O'Brien of Lawrence to trial on three felony charges of aggravated indecent liberties with a child. He also faces six misdemeanor charges of sexual battery that were filed after the university conducted an investigation during which athletes reported unwarranted touching during massages. His attorney entered not guilty pleas.  


Wichita Man Who Stabbed Roommate with Cops Outside Sentenced

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A 45-year-old Wichita man who stabbed his roommate to death while police were outside his house has been sentenced to life in prison. Prosecutors said Jason Leigh McCaleb stabbed 28-year-old Devin Andrea Cook up to 50 times in November 2019. The stabbing occurred right after police suggested McCaleb evict Cook if he wanted her out of the home. Officer were leaving the scene when they heard Cook calling for help but were not able to get back into the home. McCaleb pleaded guilty to first-degree premeditated murder on July 24. He will be eligible for parole in 25 years.


Fifth Suspect Arrested in Killing of 78-Year-Old Man in Greenwood County

EUREKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says a 15-year-old boy is the fifth suspect to be arrested in the killing of a 78-year-old man at his home in the southeast Kansas town of Eureka. Officials say the teen was arrested Monday afternoon on suspicion of felony murder, aggravated burglary, felony theft and conspiracy to commit felony theft. Four others were earlier charged with the same counts in the killing of Danny Shue. Those charged are 34-year-old Leon Lindsay and 25-year-old Joseph Warden, both of El Dorado; 30-year-old Noah Farr, of Dighton; and a 17-year-old. Greenwood County deputies found Shue's body on August 19 during a welfare check at his home. The KBI has not released details about Shue's death.  


Suspect in Winfield Homicide Arrested After Returning to Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - The Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) says a suspect in a Winfield homicide investigation has returned to Kansas to face charges.  The KBI says 21-year-old Deuntae M. Markham, of Wichita, has been arrested in connection with the December 2019 death of 32-year-old Gabriel Luna, of Winfield.   The KBI says Markham returned to Kansas to face charges on Sunday.  Gabriel Luna was shot on December 18, 2019, while he was in his apartment on the Southwestern College campus in Winfield.  Authorities say he died from his injuries two days later at a Wichita hospital.  Markham is charged with suspected second-degree murder for the unintentional, but reckless, killing of Luna.  According to the KBI, Markham was arrested by the San Francisco Police Department on August 3.  When extradition proceedings were finished, Markham was returned to Kansas and booked in the Cowley County Jail.


Overland Park Massage Parlor Owner Pleads Guilty to Prostitution Charge

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A woman who owned three massage parlors in the Kansas City suburbs pleaded guilty to a federal prostitution charge. The U.S. Attorney's office said Monday employees at massage parlors owned by 62-year-old Chunqui Wu, of Overland Park, performed sexual services for tips. Wu was arrested after confidential informants confirmed sex acts were being performed at the massage parlors. Wu ran the Alpha Massage and A Plus Massage in Olathe and the King Spa in Leawood. She faces 10 years in federal prison when she is sentenced November 16.


Kansas Oil Production Collapses Due to Pandemic

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) - Oil production in Kansas has collapsed this year because of coronavirus-related declines in global demand. The latest numbers from the Kansas Geological Survey show that oil production dropped by more than 50% in May compared to last year.  And total production is on pace to be the lowest in a year since before World War II.  Wichita-based oil and gas producer Will Darrah says he’s trying to remain optimistic, but the long-term future of the industry in Kansas looks grim.  The price of oil currently sits at about $45 a barrel. A year ago it was $55 a barrel. If production remains this low, the state will lose as much as $20 million in oil-related tax revenue.


Survey: Economy in Midwest, Plains States Looking Up

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - A new survey of business leaders released Tuesday shows economic improvement in nine Midwest and Plains states, including Kansas.  That includes improvements in employment and economic outlook amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak and the devastation from a rare wind storm earlier in the month.  The monthly survey comes from economist Ernie Goss at Creighton University in Nebraska.  Any score above 50 suggests economic growth and the overall index for the region improved to 60 during the month of August.  The survey covers Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Iowa, Arkansas, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.  Goss says the survey's employment index moved above growth neutral 50 for the first time since January, coming in at 54.8 for August, compared with 48.5 in July.  The overall index for the region improved to 60 in August from July's 57.4. Any score above 50 suggests growth.


Missouri Pays Pandemic Consultant More than $500,000

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri has paid a consulting firm $522,000 in federal funds designed for coronavirus pandemic-related expenses. In early May, Republican Governor Mike Parson said an independent foundation was paying the firm, but Missouri took over payments on May 31. State payroll records show Missouri has paid the McChrystal Group $522,000 for its help in coordinating a response to the coronavirus. The governor's office says the company will continue to be paid nearly $250,000 a month for its work under a no-bid contract it signed with the state. The consulting firm was founded by retired four-star Army General Stanley McChrystal.


$330 Million Development Planned for Site of Shuttered KCK Water Park

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Two former soccer club executives are hoping to help fund a planned $330 million redevelopment of the shuttered Schlitterbahn water park in Kansas City, Kansas, with sales tax funds. Robb Heineman, Sporting KC's former CEO, and Greg Cotton, its former chief operating officer and chief counsel, have proposed building a multisport complex on the site, which was sold in June last year. Unified Government of Wyandotte County-Kansas City officials say the redevelopment would "remove (the) blight and political stigma" that has tainted the park since 2016 when a 10-year-old boy was decapitated while on a ride billed as the world's tallest waterslide.


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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