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Headlines for Wednesday, September 21, 2022

 

GOP Hits Kansas Governor Hard on Trans Athletes, Her New Ad

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas’ Democratic governor declares in a new television ad that she agrees men don’t belong in women’s sports. The ad for Gov. Laura Kelly launched Wednesday seeks to blunt Republican attacks over her vetoing two proposals to ban transgender athletes from girls’ and women’s school and college sports. GOP challenger and state attorney general Derek Schmidt tweeted that Kelly is lying about her record. Her campaign said Wednesday that schools, doctors, families and local officials should make such decisions. Democrats said their party's voters understand the issue isn't men in women's sports because trans women are women. Schmidt and Republicans have raised the issue in at least six television ads.

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Shawnee Man Charged with First-Degree Murder in Woman’s Fatal Shooting

SHAWNEE, Kan. (KC Star) - Prosecutors in Johnson County have charged a 28-year-old man with first-degree murder in the shooting death of a young woman whose body was found in a Shawnee apartment Sunday evening. The Kansas City Star reports that Doniel L. Sublett Jr., of Shawnee, is accused of premeditated murder in the killing of 25-year-old Kathleen J. Dampier. Sublett was being held in the Johnson County jail on a $3 million bond. Police say officers were dispatched to the 7400 block of Flint Street Sunday evening in response to a medical emergency. As one officer was arriving, the sound of gunfire was heard coming from an apartment building.  Police arrested a person in connection with the case. Prosecutors have classified the case as one of domestic violence.

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Driver Runs from Scene After Passenger Dies in Three-Vehicle Collision

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KMBC) — Kansas City police say a driver fled the scene of a fatal hit-and-run accident Monday night. KMBC TV reports that a three-vehicle crash at St. John and Oakley Avenue happened just before 10 pm Monday. Accident investigators responded to the scene. An initial investigation revealed that a black Mazda 3 was traveling west on St. John Avenue at a high rate of speed when it struck a parked tan Lexus. The Lexus, occupied by a passenger, then struck a parked green Ford F-150, also occupied by a passenger. The driver of the Mazda, who police described as an unknown male, ran from the scene. The passenger in the Mazda was transported to an area hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Authorities also have not yet identified her. The passenger in the F-150 was transported to an area hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The passenger in the Lexus did not report any injuries. Police did not provide a description of the driver who left the scene of the accident. The circumstances that led up to the crash remain under investigation.

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Missouri Man Accused of Killing 6-Year-Old Daughter Dies After "Self-Harm" Jail Event
 
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (KC Star) - A man accused of killing his 6-year-old daughter in St. Joseph, Missouri, has died from injuries arising from a “self-harm” incident at the Buchanan County jail. The Kansas City Star reports that 37-year-old Dustin L. Beechner, of St. Joseph, died from his injuries Monday.  He had been booked into jail earlier this month as he faced a charge of child abuse resulting in death stemming from his daughter’s fatal beating. Police were called to his home September 2, where Beechner allegedly led officers to the girl’s body, discovered on the roof of the residence under a white blanket. Police allege Beechner used an aluminum baseball bat to “violently” strike her, causing severe blunt force trauma to her head.

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Judge Tosses Most Charges Against Kansas Researcher

UNDATED (AP/KNS/KCUR) - A federal judge has thrown out three of four charges against a researcher who was convicted of concealing work he did for China while employed by the University of Kansas. In a ruling released Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson said federal prosecutors did not provide sufficient evidence to convict Feng "Franklin" Tao of three counts of wire fraud. However, she upheld Tao's conviction for making a false statement and denied his request for a new trial on that count. Tao was accused of not disclosing that he was named to a Chinese talent program and was setting up a laboratory and recruiting staff for Fuzhou University in China while working at the University of Kansas. (Read more.)

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Kansas Inmates: Medical Care Behind Bars Threatens Their Health

LANSING, Kan. (KNS/TCJ) - Kansas prisons have struggled to offer quality medical care in recent years. The state says it’s satisfied with its new health contractor, but inmates say the medical care is so poor it threatens their health. The state's prison medical provider, Centurion of Kansas, has been fined almost 5,000 times for compliance issues. Dozens of current and former inmates in the Kansas prison system told the Kansas News Service and The Topeka Capital-Journal that their medical care threatens their health. Complaints touch nearly every area of medical care. Delivery of medications can be delayed and even if the medicine comes, inmates say, they are sometimes given treatments that trigger allergic reactions. Meanwhile, cancer screenings and checkups get missed, and if inmates are unhappy with their care, some struggle to get a second opinion.

Prison medical care has been a perennial complaint from prisoners in Kansas. The system ditched its old provider in 2020. It hoped its new medical services contractor, Centurion of Kansas, would usher in an era of better care, but, as one inmate put it, “They will let someone die in here before they try to help.”

The Department of Corrections insists it’s satisfied with the care Centurion provides, pointing out that monthly informal complaints about medical care have dropped considerably from December 2021 to August 2022, dipping from 281 to 32 and saying formal audits of the contractor also show improvement. (Read more.)

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Inmate Dies at El Dorado Correctional Facility Tuesday Night

EL DORADO, Kan. (KPR)  – An inmate at the El Dorado Correctional Facility has died. The Kansas Department of Corrections says resident Cody James Torbol was found unresponsive in his cell Tuesday evening.  Staff members began life-saving measures, but Torbol was pronounced dead a short time later. An independent autopsy will be performed to identify the cause of death, but a preliminary assessment indicates it was not related to COVID-19.  Per protocol, the death will be investigated by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. The 29-year-old Torbol was serving an 18-year prison sentence following his conviction in Riley County for aggravated criminal sodomy of a child.

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Goodyear Tire Investing $125 Million in Topeka Facility, Adding 40 New Jobs

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company plans to invest $125 million into its Topeka facility and hire 40 additional employees. A spokesperson for Goodyear says the majority of the new jobs will be positions related to production and technical maintenance. Governor Laura Kelly announced the expansion news today (WED), during a campaign tour promoting economic development in Kansas.  Last week, Topeka and Shawnee County’s Joint Economic Development Organization approved an incentive agreement to assist the Goodyear project.  Goodyear is one of the largest tire manufacturers in the world. The company's plant in Topeka has been in operation since 1945.

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Lawrence Police Work to Identify Skeletal Remains Found in Wooded Area

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - Lawrence Police are investigating human remains that were found in a wooded area. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the skeletal remains were found south of Bob Billings Parkway, just east of Kansas Highway 10. The man who found the remains called police from a convenience store Monday afternoon.  Police say the evidence allows them to feel confident they are human remains, but no foul play is suspected at this time. Police are now working with forensic experts to try to identify the victim.

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Kansas Man Sentenced for Performing Illegal Autopsies

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 42-year-old Kansas man who admitted providing illegal private autopsy services has been sentenced to nearly six years in prison. Shawn Parcells was sentenced Monday to five years and nine months for one count of wire fraud. Parcells pleaded guilty in May. As part of the plea agreement, nine other wire fraud charges were dropped. Federal prosecutors said Parcells persuaded a client to pay him $5,000 for an autopsy, which he was not qualified to perform. Prosecutors say Parcells collected more than $1.1 million from more than 350 clients for autopsies, many of which he didn't perform. Parcells in 2014 assisted a privately hired pathologist in an autopsy of Michael Brown, the unarmed Black 18-year-old from Ferguson, Missouri, who was fatally shot by a white police officer.

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DOJ Probes Racism Allegations in Kansas City Police Force

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The U.S. Department of Justice has opened an investigation into allegations of discrimination against Black officers by the Kansas City Police Department that reportedly begins during hiring and extends to promotions and discipline. The federal agency announced the inquiry in a letter sent Monday to the Board of Police Commissioners and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt. The agency has not elaborated on how it was alerted to the concerns. The announcement comes after The Kansas City Star published a series of stories examining allegations of racism and harassment. The department’s interim police chief, Joseph Mabin, has vowed to cooperate fully with the federal investigation. The police union has not responded to a request for comment.

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Officials Say Kansas Deputy Used Taser on Child with Autism

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A state law enforcement oversight group says a Kansas sheriff's deputy used his Taser on a 12-year-old autistic boy who was handcuffed and hogtied inside the deputy's vehicle. The oversight body reprimanded the deputy for using excessive force on the boy in February but did not revoke his law enforcement certification. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Matthew Honas was a deputy in Jackson County at the time but he was terminated from his job in March. The Kansas Commission on Peace Officers’ Standards and Training said the boy was in Honas's patrol vehicle because he had run away from foster care.

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Former Missouri Newspaper Manager Accused of Embezzling Nearly $430,000

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (KC Star) - A former business manager for the Independence Examiner newspaper is accused in Jackson County, Missouri, of embezzling more than $400,000 from the company over the course of three years.  The Kansas City Star reports that 58-year-old Deneane M. Hyde, of Blue Springs, is charged with one felony count of stealing more than $25,000. Prosecutors accuse her of withdrawing money from the newspaper’s bank account and putting those funds into her own personal bank account between 2018 and 2021.

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UPDATE: Kansas Firefighters Extinguish Weekend Wildfire in Ellsworth, Lincoln Counties

ELLSWORTH CO., Kan. (WIBW) - Kansas firefighters were able to extinguish a wildfire in Ellsworth and Lincoln counties over the weekend. The Kansas Forest Service says crews battled a wildfire Sunday that started off of I-70 in Ellsworth County and burned into neighboring Lincoln County. WIBW TV reports that the weekend fire follows another larger fire in Clark County last week. Officials say the western part of the state remains extremely dry and as September winds increase, so does the potential for large fires to erupt.

(Earlier reporting...)

Wildfires Burn 4,000 Acres Sunday Across 2 Kansas Counties
 
ELLSWORTH COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – A wildfire burned in two Kansas counties Sunday. The Kansas Forest Service reported that firefighters were on the scene of a blaze that started off Interstate 70 in Ellsworth County early Sunday afternoon.  That fire also burned into Lincoln County. KSNW TV reports that up to 100 firefighters from Ellsworth, Russell, Ottawa, Saline, Mitchell and Lincoln counties were called in to battle the flames. No Injuries were reported, and no livestock were lost. Only one abandoned structure was destroyed. The fire burned approximately 4,000 acres.

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Kansas Foster Care Kids Still Sleeping in Offices

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas foster kids don’t get moved around as often as in past years, but a new report finds that some still sleep in contractor offices. According to the Kansas News Service, a new progress report documents whether the state is complying with a 2020 settlement stemming from a class-action lawsuit. The Kansas foster care system is improving. It’s hitting goals to reduce how often kids are moved around. But it was supposed to put an end to kids sleeping in offices. And that hasn’t happened yet. Kansas foster care contractors had more than 50 children sleep in offices and other inappropriate places in 2021. (Read more.)

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Audit Found $466 Million in Kansas Unemployment Fraud; Audit Results Now Made Public

TOPEKA, Kan. (TCJ) - A forensic audit that found Kansas paid out $466 million in fraudulent unemployment claims has now been made public, revealing the contents of a report that some state officials wanted to keep at least partially secret. The audit was provided to and discussed by members of the Unemployment Compensation Modernization and Improvement Council earlier this month, but members were required to surrender their copies at the conclusion of the meeting. The public was barred from viewing the audit.

Council chair Rep. Sean Tarwater said the Kansas Department of Labor had demanded redactions to the audit, which by law was supposed to be public. The Labor Department denied an open records request from the Topeka Capital-Journal for an unredacted version of the audit. Meanwhile, senior legislative staff released an unredacted version, declaring it to be no longer confidential. The council is scheduled to meet again Monday. More than $3.5 billion was paid out by the state's unemployment system. The auditors estimate as much as $466 million in "potentially fraudulent claims" were paid out. That means about 13% of all unemployment benefit payments were likely fraudulent. (Read more.)

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Officials: More than 315,000 Attend 2022 Kansas State Fair

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (KPR) - About 33,000 more people attended this year's Kansas State Fair than last year.  Officials say 315,273 people went through the gates in Hutchinson this year. That's up from the 282,000 fairgoers last year. The 2023 Kansas State Fair is scheduled for September 8-17.

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2 Kansas Men Jailed After 8-Hour Manhunt in Alabama

JASPER, Ala. (AL.com) - Two Kansas men are behind bars after an extensive manhunt in Jasper, Alabama, over the weekend. AL.com reports that 22-year-old Dereck Zamzow and 20-year-old Noah Jaymes Oates were taken into custody after an eight-hour search.  Jasper police responded to a suspicious person call Sunday where they located two men, one who was visibly armed. The officer was able to disarm the suspect, but both suspects fled into the woods.  Additional officers arrived on the scene and set up a perimeter. The first suspect was captured Sunday night and the second suspect was captured early Monday morning. The men are accused of auto theft. The gun taken from the suspects has also been identified as stolen from Kansas.

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Doctor Admits to Fraud Involving More than 2,000 Patients

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A doctor from Washington D.C. pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to Medicare and Medicaid fraud involving more than 2,000 patients in Missouri whom he never met. The U.S. Attorney's office in Kansas City said 36-year-old Oluwatobi Alabi Yerokun pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to make false statements related to health care. Prosecutors said Yerokun worked with a telemedicine provider to certify products and genetic tests that were not medically necessary for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries in Missouri. Yerokun had no doctor-patient relationship with any of the patients. Prosecutors say the scheme cost Medicare and Medicaid millions of dollars.

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Royals Fire Longtime Front-Office Executive Dayton Moore

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Royals have fired longtime general manager Dayton Moore, who took the club from a perennial 100-game loser to two World Series and the 2015 championship before its return to mediocrity. Royals owner John Sherman, who had retained Moore after acquiring the club from David Glass in 2019, announced the decision in a news conference that Moore attended at Kauffman Stadium. Moore was elevated from general manager to president of baseball operations earlier this year, when longtime understudy J.J. Picollo took on the GM role. Picollo will now lead the baseball operations department.

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Kansas Public Radio Searches for New Statehouse Bureau Chief

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - Kansas Public Radio (KPR), at the University of Kansas, is seeking a new Statehouse Bureau Chief.  This position works primarily at the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka. The position duties include managing all aspects of KPR’s capital news bureau, which provides broadcast and digital news reports to a number of radio stations in Kansas and Missouri. This position is primarily responsible for reporting on all aspects of state government. This includes but is not limited to covering the Kansas legislative session, the governor, attorney general, supreme court, the state’s congressional delegation and statewide elections. The KPR Statehouse Bureau Chief researches, writes, reports and produces spot news, digital stories and long-form audio features for KPR and its reporting partners. Learn more about this position.

The University of Kansas prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, religion, sex, national origin, age, ancestry, disability status as a veteran, sexual orientation, marital status, parental status, gender identity, gender expression, and genetic information in the university's programs and activities. Retaliation is also prohibited by university policy.

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These area headlines are curated by KPR news staffers, including J. Schafer, Laura Lorson, Kaye McIntyre, and Tom Parkinson. Our headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays, 11 am weekends. This news summary is made possible by KPR listener-members. Become one today. And follow KPR News on Twitter.

 

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