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Regional Headlines for Friday, April 12, 2013


Court Rejects KSU's Professor's Sentence Challenge

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Douglas County judge has rejected a former Kansas State University professor's lawsuit challenging his prison sentence for killing his ex-wife. Thomas Murray is serving a sentence of 25 years to life for the stabbing death of 40-year-old Carmin Ross in November 2003 in her home in rural Douglas County. He filed a civil lawsuit in January challenging the sentence, claiming that his attorney did not properly defend him during his 2005 trial. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Douglas County District Judge Robert Fairchild ruled Tuesday that Murray had an adequate defense during his trial. The lawsuit was a civil case filed under a state law that allows prisoners to challenge their sentences. His criminal conviction was upheld by the Kansas Supreme Court in 2008.

GOP Groups Condemn Commissioner Who Uttered Slur 

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — The chairman of the Saline County commission says the right thing to do is to forgive another commissioner who used a racial slur in a public meeting. Commission Chairman Randy Duncan said Friday that commissioners have not pressured Jim Gile to resign, noting he has apologized. Duncan says the next step is up to Gile. During a hearing last week, Gile used a variant of a racial slur to imply a job done sloppily or hastily. When asked what he meant, Gile replied: "Afro-Americanized." The Kansas Republican Party and the Kansas Young Republicans issued statements Thursday to the Salina Journal criticizing Gile. They said his comments were offensive and did not reflect the party's beliefs. They also condemned the commission for not objecting to them.


UPDATE: Oklahoma AMBER Alert Cancelled; Baby Found

GROVE, Okla. (AP) _ An Amber Alert for a missing 8-month-old girl has been canceled after the baby was found safe at a hospital in Grove. Delaware County Sheriff Harlan Moore told the Tulsa World that Carolinn Altaffer was taken to the hospital shortly before 11 am Friday by her mother, China Altaffer. Moore says Carolinn is safe and the mother is in custody. Authorities were also searching for the baby's father, Ronald Altaffer. The sheriff says investigators did not know where the father is. Carolinn was described as extremely malnourished and needing immediate medical attention when the Amber Alert was issued shortly after 1 am Friday. Authorities say the parents took the child after learning that state Department of Human Services workers were preparing to take the girl into emergency custody.


Brownback Vetoes Bill on Home Inspections

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has issued his first veto of a bill from this year's legislative session. Brownback on Thursday vetoed a bill that would have made a board that regulates home inspectors a permanent board. Without the extension, the board will expire July 1. The governor said in a statement that he saw little evidence that large numbers of Kansans are being harmed by home inspectors. He says the board adds unnecessary fees and regulations to law abiding citizens. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the board, which was created in 2008, is funded every year by about $15,000 in fees, not the state general fund. The bill was supported by the Kansas Association of Real Estate Inspectors and the Kansas Association of Realtors.

Fort Riley to Host Veteran Job Fair

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — Military veterans will have an opportunity this month to put their names and resumes in front of prospective employers at the annual "Hiring Heroes Career Fair" at Fort Riley. The event takes place April 16 at the conference center on the northeast Kansas Army post. Veterans will be exposed to career opportunities in the region in the public and private sector. Army officials expect more than 50 potential employers will attend the fair. Emphasis will be placed on wounded veterans, their spouses and their primary caregivers. Jeff Reade, manager of the employee readiness program for Army Community Service, says the fair is significant because of the growing difficulty for veterans to find jobs compared with civilians.


KS Supreme Court Orders New Trial in Topeka Homicide

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court has ordered a new trial for a man convicted of a Topeka murder that occurred after an argument over a game of pool. The court ruled Friday that James Arthur Qualls should get a new trial for the July 2008 shooting death of 30-year-old Joseph Beier in the Whiplash Bar. Qualls was convicted of first-degree murder after a 2010 trial. The court said Shawnee County District Court Judge Jan Leuenberger should have instructed the jury to consider a voluntary manslaughter conviction. The jury was given options only for first-degree murder and second-degree intentional murder. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Qualls testified during his trial that he thought shot Beier because he thought the man was reaching for a weapon. No weapon was ever found on Beier.


Man Says KCMO Hospital Removed Him from Partner's Room

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A gay man who was arrested after he refused to leave his partner's side at a Kansas City hospital says it was discrimination, but the hospital says he was causing a disturbance. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is looking into the allegations from Roger Gorley, who was arrested Tuesday at Research Medical Center. Gorley says he and his partner are in a civil union and have been together for five years, but when he got into an argument with his partner's brother, the hospital deferred to the brother regarding his partner's care. Hospital spokeswoman Denise Charpentier says everyone in the hospital room was asked to leave, and Gorley was removed because he was "belligerent." She says the hospital has a longstanding policy of allowing domestic partner visitation.


Fire Breaks Out at Wichita Pet Treat Plant

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Welding work is suspected of causing a fire at a Wichita pet treat plant where another fire burned for days two years ago. KWCH-TV reports that employees escaped unhurt when the fire erupted Thursday afternoon in a building at the Treatco complex in north Wichita. Captain Stuart Bevis, of the Wichita Fire Department, says a welding spark apparently ignited combustible plastic foam material. The burning foam sent thick, black smoke into the air, visible for miles away. Authorities said parts of the building remain unsafe because of damage from a fire that burned for more than five days in June 2011. That fire was especially intense because the flames ignited boxes full of dog treats that had a heavy content of animal fat.


3rd Body Found Near Burned-Out SE Kansas Home

FORT SCOTT, Kan. (AP) — Investigators are looking into the deaths of three people in and around a home that burned in southeastern Kansas. KOAM-TV reports that the Bourbon County sheriff's office confirmed Friday that the bodies of a child and an adult were found Thursday in the wreckage of the home near Fort Scott.The body of a male was discovered in a vehicle outside the home.The state fire marshal and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation are looking into the blaze, which broke out Wednesday afternoon. Names and other details about the three people found dead have not been released, and the bodies were taken to Kansas City, Kansas for autopsies.


Judge Rules Against Ex-Consultant in Ticket Scam

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has refused to shorten the sentence of a former University of Kansas athletics consultant caught up in a $2 million ticket scalping conspiracy. U.S. District Judge Monti Belot ruled Friday that Thomas Blubaugh is not entitled to a reduction in his 46-month prison term. The judge rejected Blubaugh's claims that his former attorney did a poor job representing him. Belot also was unconvinced by arguments that the sentencing judge improperly considered the value of tickets that Blubaugh hid in a storage facility. Blubaugh was among seven people convicted in a $2 million scheme involving the theft and sale of Jayhawk tickets. He was convicted in 2011 of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. through wire fraud, tax obstruction and interstate transportation of stolen property.


Kansas Teacher Saves Choking Fourth-Grader

GRANDVIEW PLAZA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas fourth-grader says she thought she was going to die before her teacher saved her from choking on a mint. WIBW-TV reports that the episode happened Thursday at the elementary school in the town of Grandview Plaza, located just east of Junction City. Grandview Elementary teacher Stephanie Chabon was about to administer a state assessment test when pupil Connie Nellis began choking on a mint. Chabon says the 9-year-old girl jumped and started gesturing that she couldn't breathe. Chabon administered the Heimlich maneuver, and the mint popped out after a couple of squeezes. Connie got a drink of water, thanked her teacher and sat down to take the test. Chabon says she's been taking first aid classes since college and gets recertified each year.


Kansas Rancher Drops Lawsuit over Beef Checkoff

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A northwest Kansas rancher has dropped a lawsuit claiming the National Cattlemen's Beef Association is illegally using "beef checkoff" funds for lobbying. St. Francis feed yard operator Michael Callicrate filed a notice of voluntary dismissal Thursday in federal court in Kansas. Callicrate sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other entities seeking a court order prohibiting any beef promotion program dollars from going to the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. His legal move comes a week after the Agriculture Department's Office of Inspector General released a report finding no evidence that the association board's activities did not comply with legislation. The inspector general's office said it examined more than a thousand invoices amounting to more than $20.5 million in reimbursement payments from the beef checkoff fund.


Development Group to Tout River Recreation Opportunities

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — State officials are hoping a newly established Kansas River Development Committee will make new tourism and recreational opportunities flow along the Kansas River. The 173-mile Kansas River, known also as the Kaw, has been designated by the U.S. Department of Interior as a National Water Trail.


KC Serial Killer's Nephew Gets 2 Life Sentences

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The nephew of a Kansas City serial killer has been sentenced to two life terms plus 100 years for a deadly robbery. Thirty-seven-year-old Diamond Blair is the nephew of Terry Blair, who is serving life in prison for killing six women in 2004. On Friday, a Jackson County judge sentenced Diamond Blair for the 2009 robbery and fatal shooting of killing of Montague Kevin Ashline outside a Kansas City apartment. The sentence includes one life term each for murder and robbery, plus 50 years each on two counts of armed criminal action. All of the sentences are to run consecutively. Diamond Blair is already serving 23 years behind bars on a federal conviction.


Nebraska Picketing Law Challenge Goes to Federal Court

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A federal appeals court has kicked back to a lower court a challenge of Nebraska's amended law that requires protesters to stand 500 feet away from a funeral service — 200 feet more than the 300 feet the law had previously required. In December, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated its 2011 opinion striking down Nebraska's original funeral protest law. That came after the appeals court had ruled two months earlier that the St. Louis suburb of Manchester, Missouri, could enforce a similar funeral protest ordinance. The 8th Circuit said Friday that it did not become aware Nebraska had enacted an amended version of the protest law pushing protesters further back until recently, and that the U.S. District Court in Lincoln should hear the challenge to it first.


Harrison Ford in KC for Premiere of Jackie Robinson Film

Actor Harrison Ford was in Kansas City yesterday (THUR) for a local premiere of the film "42," about Jackie Robinson. The Kansas City Star reports that the event raised about $200,000 for the Negro Leagues Basball Museum and the Kansas City Sports Commission.

Scabies Outbreak Prompts Closure of Kansas College

GOODLAND, Kan. (AP) — A northwest Kansas technical college is closed until next week after an outbreak of a contagious skin disease caused by tiny mites. KWCH-TV reports the first report of scabies at Northwest Kansas Technical College in Goodland came Tuesday when a student went to the administration with symptoms. Other cases showed up at the Goodland Regional Medical Center on Wednesday, prompting the school to contact the Sherman County Health Department. The campus will be closed until Tuesday so the itch mites that cause the ailment, which need human hosts to survive, will die within two to three days. The health department is conducting a campus-wide screening of all students, faculty and staff. Anyone who lives in the school's dorm is recommended for treatment, which consists of using a topical ointment.

Pratt Police Investigating Rash of Burglaries

PRATT, Kan. (AP) — Pratt police are asking for help to solve a string of burglaries the south-central Kansas town. Detective Jeff Ward says many of the recent thefts in the last three weeks have been at storage units. The Pratt Daily Tribune reports that the most recent complaint involved thefts at 12 or 13 storage units in the Pratt Business Center. Ward says property from the storage units was tossed around but not much was stolen. Police also responded to 14 burglaries at four storage units in March. Several suspects were arrested in that case. The Pratt County Sheriff's Department is also investigating several thefts at storage facilities in the county. The Pratt City Water Department also has been hit, with copper, brass and tools stolen in several burglaries.

Missouri Man Suspected in 2 Murders Commits Suicide

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — A northwest Missouri man suspected of killing two women died days after trying to commit suicide in his jail cell. Police say 27-year-old Derek Richardson of Kansas City died Thursday after a suicide attempt on Sunday in the Clay County jail. Richardson was charged in the deaths of 40-year-old Tamara R. Sparks and 24-year-old Nicoleone M. Reed. The women were each killed during sex acts and their bodies were left on gravel roads in the Kansas City area. The Kansas City Star reports that police said they believed Richardson, a married father, aspired to be a serial killer. Police would not say how Richardson injured himself in the jail.


Colorado Teen Pleads Not Guilty in Girl's Slaying

GOLDEN, Colo. (AP) — A Colorado teen has pleaded not guilty to murder and kidnapping in the slaying and dismemberment of a 10-year-old girl — despite police testimony that he has confessed. Austin Sigg entered the not guilty plea Friday in the death of Jessica Ridgeway in the Denver suburb of Westminster. Jessica disappeared while walking to school on October 5, leading parents to take extraordinary precautions to keep their children safe. Residents were encouraged to report suspicious behavior by neighbors. Sigg's not guilty plea came despite his alleged confession and the discovery of some of the girl's remains at his home. He faces life in prison with the possibility of parole after 40 years if convicted. Sigg, who is 18, cannot face the death penalty because he was 17 at the time of the slaying.

Navy to Name New Combat Ship for City of Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. Navy plans to name a combat ship after the City of Wichita. U.S. Senator Pat Roberts said in a news release Thursday that the USS Wichita will be the third to bear the name and honors the largest city in Kansas. The ship is designed to be fast and agile with the flexibility to execute missions close to shore in mine, anti-submarine and surface warfare. The USS Wichita will be built by Lockheed Martin for delivery in February 2017. It will be 378 feet long and able to travel at more than 40 knots. U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo says the last USS Wichita was a replenishment oiler decommissioned in 1993. The first USS Wichita was a heavy cruiser used during World War Two in the invasion of Okinawa.

Kansas Woman to Stand Trial in Honor Flight Theft Case

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — A Great Bend woman who ran a group that flew World War Two veterans to Washington, D.C., has been bound over for trial on two felony counts of theft by deception. LaVeta Miller pleaded not guilty Wednesday after a lengthy preliminary hearing that began in March but had to be continued because of scheduling conflicts. Miller is former head of Great Bend-based Central Prairie Honor Flights, which raised nearly $1.2 million to take 1,100 veterans to Washington from 2008 through 2011. Miller canceled two Honor Flights last June because she said there was a shortage of funds, and the Central Prairie chapter was disbanded around the time she was fired July 1st.


Kansas City Chiefs Sign Former K-State Linebacker Diles

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Chiefs signed former Kansas State linebacker Zac Diles on Friday. Diles has spent six seasons in the NFL after he was drafted in the seventh round by the Houston Texans. He has appeared in 67 games with 31 starts for the Texans, Colts, Buccaneers and Titans, making 223 tackles with a sack and an interception. Diles appeared in all 24 games in two seasons for the Wildcats. He began his college career at Fresno City College, where he started 22 games over two seasons.


K-State Begins Search for New Starting Quarterback

The search for Collin Klein's replacement has begun at Kansas State University. The Wildcats will open their spring camp with sophomore Daniel Sams and junior-college transfer Jake Waters the leading candidates to replace the Heisman Trophy finalist, who led Kansas State to the Big 12 championship last season. Sams played sparingly in mop-up duty, but showed the kind of speed an elusiveness that should make him a fit for coach Bill Snyder's read-option offense. Waters threw for more than 3,500 yards and 39 touchdowns with only three interceptions while leading Iowa Western Community College to a national championship last season. Kansas State is working toward its spring game April 27.

Heaps Tapped for QB as KU Preps for Spring Football Game

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Jake Heaps is finally getting his shot to lead the Kansas Jayhawks. The former BYU quarterback had to sit out last season under NCAA transfer rules, and watched from the sideline as the Jayhawks went 1-11 in coach Charlie Weis's first season. Now, Heaps is the number 1 QB on the depth chart entering Saturday's spring game and the job is his to lose. Heaps will be pushed by Michael Cummings, who started last season when Dayne Crist proved to be ineffective. The game kicks off at 1 pm Saturday at Memorial Stadium.


Amber Alert Issued for 8-Month-Old Oklahoma Girl

GROVE, Okla. (AP) — Authorities in Oklahoma are searching for an 8-month-old baby who went missing as Department of Human Services workers were preparing to take the girl into emergency custody. Authorities issued an Amber Alert early Friday for Carolinn Altaffer. The Delaware County Sheriff's Office says investigators believe the girl's parents took the child and say they may be headed to Kansas. According to the Amber Alert, Carolinn is "extremely malnourished" and requires immediate medical treatment. Authorities are searching for a tan 2003 Chevrolet pickup with the Oklahoma license plate of 474-HLD.

**this story has been updated. The AMBER Alert has been cancelled. 


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