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Regional Headlines for Thursday, June 7, 2012



UPDATE: 6 Members of Kansas Bramlage Family Killed in Central Florida Plane Crash 

LAKE WALES, Fla. (AP) — Authorities say a Kansas businessman, his wife and their four children were killed when their small plane crashed into a swampy area of central Florida. The Polk County (FL) Sheriff's office says the plane went down about 12:30 pm Thursday in Tiger Creek Preserve. A news release says 45-year-old Ronald Bramlage was piloting the plane headed from the Bahamas to Junction City. It had stopped for customs in Fort Pierce, Florida, and had taken off a half-hour before the crash. The sheriff's office says the single-turboprop, fixed wing plane started to break apart and crashed. When deputies reached the area by helicopter, it was clear no one had survived. 

Ron Bramlage was the owner of Roadside Ventures LLC in Junction City. He is the grandson of the late Junction City businessman and philanthropist Fred Bramlage. Fred Bramlage was the chairman of the capital campaign committee that raised money for the construction of a multi-purpose arena on the K-State campus that replaced the university's former basketball venue, Ahearn Field House. The facility, completed in 1988, is named Fred Bramlage Coliseum in his honor. 


Junction City, Area Neighbors Call Bramlage Deaths Huge Loss

JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (AP) — Friends of Ron and Becky Bramlage are calling the deaths of the Junction City couple and their four children in a Florida plane crash a huge loss to the Kansas community. WIBW-TV reports neighbors and friends gathered outside the home late Thursday afternoon as confirmation was arriving of the deaths from the crash several hours earlier. Becky Bramlage was president of the USD 475 School Board in Geary County. Superintendent Ron Walker says the Bramlages were heavily involved in the community, making this "a really great loss for Junction City." Neighbor Deborah Johnston calls the Bramlages an amazing family whose loss will "leave a big hole in the city." And Brett Dean, an architect and longtime family friend, says they were well-respected throughout the city and the state of Kansas.


UPDATE: Kansas Representative Says He Doesn't Remember Much from Meetings with Governor 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Republican member of the Kansas House says a Democratic prosecutor's investigators seemed frustrated they couldn't get more information from him during questioning about private meetings lawmakers had with GOP Governor Sam Brownback. Representative Anthony Brown of Eudora was questioned for an hour Thursday by two members of Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor's staff. Taylor subpoenaed Brown and six other GOP legislators as part of an investigation into seven dinner meetings Brownback had for legislators in January at Cedar Crest, his official residence. Brown says he can't remember much about the events he attended, but said the gatherings were social events. Assistant Attorney General Mike Smith attended the interview. He's representing legislators. Taylor's staff also questioned Senator Bob Marshall, a Fort Scott Republican, for more than an hour.


More Than 3K Fort Riley Soldiers Being Deployed to Afghanistan

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (AP) _ The Department of Defense has announced four units, including one from Fort Riley, that will deploy to Afghanistan. The scheduled rotation includes more than 11,000 soldiers from the four units who will start deploying between spring and winter. More than 3,000 soldiers from the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division based at Fort Riley will deploy in the spring. More than 5,500 soldiers  from the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, will deploy in the fall. About 2,500 soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division Combat Aviation Brigade based at Fort Stewart, Georgia, are scheduled to deploy in the winter.


Kansas Won't Receive Matching Arts Funding Until 2014

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Although the state's new budget restores $700,000 in funding for the arts, it will be at least a year before federal and regional matching funds will return to Kansas. Mary Kennedy, executive director of the Mid-America Arts Alliance, says Kansas won't get any matching funds in fiscal 2013. She says the state also won't get any federal funds from the National Endowment for the Arts in the next fiscal year. She says it will take a year to go through the process needed to return the funds to the state. Last Friday, Governor Sam Brownback signed the budget that included $700,000 for the new Creative Arts Industries Commission. The Wichita Eagle reports the new commission will eventually determine guidelines for arts groups to apply for money and matching funds.

Member of Kansas School Board Won't Seek Another Term

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Democrat on the Kansas State Board of Education says she's not seeking re-election this year. Board member Sue Storm, of Overland Park, said Wednesday she no longer finds serving on the 10-member board fun and wants more time with her grandchildren. Also, she said she believes her 16 years in public office is enough. Storm was elected to the board in 2008, after serving 12 years in the Kansas House. Board members serve four-year terms, and five seats are up for grabs in the November election. Board Chairman David Dennis, a Wichita Republican, also has announced that he is not seeking re-election. Two other incumbents, Carolyn Campbell, a Topeka Democrat, and Walt Chappell, a Wichita Republican, have filed for re-election. The candidate filing deadline is Monday.

Kansas Wheat Harvest Nears Nebraska Border

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas winter wheat harvest is nearing the Nebraska border. Industry groups including the Kansas Wheat Commission reported Wednesday that combines are rolling north of U.S. Highway 36. As in other parts of the state, production in north-central Kansas is mixed. The Central Plains Co-op in Smith Center expects to take in only about half its average of 1 million bushels. Farmers in that area are reporting yields of 20 to 50 bushels an acre. Production looks much better in southern Dickinson County, where cutting is at the midway point. The North Central Kansas Co-op in Hope has had farmers reporting yields of nearly 40 bushels per acre. The elevator is anticipating a larger overall harvest than in recent years because farmers planted more wheat than usual last fall.


Hays Completes Siren Upgrade Project 

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — After four years of work, the city of Hays has new, state-of-the-art outdoor warning sirens. Nine sirens that varied in age and power levels have been replaced by six sirens. The new sirens have backup batteries and a system to alert the fire department in case of vandalism, power failure or other problems. Fire Chief Gary Brown says the sirens were needed because Hays is growing and areas of the city were not properly served by the older sirens. The Hays Daily News reports each siren cost approximately $11,500, with another $4,700 for installation. Brown stressed the sirens are intended only for people who are outside, not for residents inside their homes or vehicles. He says residents should have weather radios to hear all alerts.


Kansas Governor Jokes at Boys' State: Apparently, He's Not a Belieber

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — High school students attending Kansas Boys' State in Manhattan have received some serious advice from Governor Sam Brownback: Develop strong friendships. Find worthy mentors. And the governor also jokingly pushed a piece of legislation for consideration during the week of mock government activities: Do something about pop superstar Justin Bieber. KMAN-AM reports the governor drew cheers and applause with the suggestion Wednesday night. Brownback mentioned he has a 14-year-old daughter, then added, "I would love you guys to outlaw Justin Bieber or something like that." Boys' State brings together young men entering their senior year of high school for a weeklong exercise in creating a mock society and government and learning how to run it efficiently. This week's session is the 75th anniversary of the event in Kansas.


Commune Leader Ordered to Stand Trial in Kansas Murder Case 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The self-proclaimed leader of a Kansas commune that lived off life insurance payouts of its dead members has been ordered to stand trial on a charge of premeditated first-degree murder. Sedgwick County District Judge Clark Owens entered the order Thursday at the end of a preliminary hearing for 52-year-old Daniel U. Perez. Perez is accused in the 2003 death of Patricia Hughes, whose death at a compound near Wichita was initially listed as accidental. Defense lawyers contended there was not enough evidence to put Perez on trial. Owens disagreed and scheduled a jury trial for July 30. Perez did not speak at Thursday's proceeding. The judge entered not guilty pleas on his behalf to charges including murder, rape, sodomy, sexual exploitation of a child and lying on life insurance applications.


Man Pleads No Contest to Assaulting Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — A man accused of shooting a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper last year has pleaded no contest to reduced charges. The Hays Daily News reports Trooper Doug Schulte was in the Ellis County courtroom Wednesday as Ruben Herrera Escobedo entered the pleas to aggravated battery and aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer. He was initially charged with attempted premeditated first-degree murder. Schulte was wounded in January 2011 after stopping Escobedo on a traffic violation in Hays. Investigators said Escobedo got out of his pickup truck and shot the trooper in the chest with a .357-caliber revolver. The bullet hit the edge of Schulte's protective vest, went through his chest and exited through his back. Escobedo is expected to be sentenced to more than six years in prison.

Army Vice Chief of Staff to Address CGSC

FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A top Army official will speak Friday to the latest graduating class of the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth. Army Vice Chief of Staff General Lloyd Austin will address more than 1,000 officers, including 69 international officers and 16 students from other government agencies. The class began in August 2011 and is the intermediate level of officer education in the Army. Austin commanded U.S. forces in Iraq before his appointment as vice chief of staff in January. He also commanded U.S. troops in Afghanistan in 2003.


Secretary of the Interior Could Broker Eisenhower Memorial Deal

WASHINGTON (AP) — A member of President Barack Obama's cabinet is taking a direct interest in helping to resolve a dispute over the design of a national memorial to Dwight D. Eisenhower, likely delaying the project beyond the summer. Interior Department spokesman Adam Fetcher said Thursday that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has expressed interest in viewing models of architect Frank Gehry's design with the key parties involved. No meeting has been set, but Salazar could hold discussions about how the memorial project in the nation's capital could move forward. Eisenhower's family has objected to the design. Memorial commission members Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye and Kansas Senator Pat Roberts say they will work with the Interior Department but hope to avoid excessive delays.


Hutchinson Preparing for Inaugural Sculpture Walk

Hutchinson's first sculpture walk is starting to take shape. The first of six sculptures planned for the walk was installed Wednesday. The sculpture by Georgia artist Gregory Johnson is called "Rival Readers." It's a 300-pound bronze sculpture of a boy reading a book with a little girl looking over his shoulder. The Hutchinson News reports five more sculptures will be installed before the official launch of the sculpture walk on June 21. The sculptures will be on display for the next year. Visitors to the sculpture walk will vote for the "People's Choice" award. The city will try to buy that sculpture and permanently display it downtown. Salina and Wichita also have sculpture walks.


Memorial Service Being Held for Overland Park Soldier Killed in Afghanistan

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. (AP) — Joint Base Lewis-McChord is holding a memorial service Thursday for two soldiers who were killed May 18 in Afghanistan when enemy forces attacked their unit. The 28-year-old Sgt. Michael J. Knapp of Overland Park and 23-year-old Sgt. Jabraun S. Knox, of Auburn, Indiana, were assigned to 1st Battalion (Air Assault), 377th Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Fires Brigade. The unit deployed in October from the base near Tacoma, Washington.

Plane Crash-Lands in NE Kansas; One Person Injured

GARDNER, Kan. (AP) — Authorities in northeastern Kansas say one person suffered minor injuries in the crash-landing of a small plane near Gardner Municipal Airport. The Johnson County Sheriff's office received a call around 1 pm Wednesday that an airplane had gone down. Deputies found the single-engine Beechcraft in a field about 200 yards south of the airport's runway. Two people were on board the airplane, but neither was hurt badly enough to be taken to a hospital. The Federal Aviation Administration is looking into the cause of the crash.

Senator Jerry Moran Moving from Hays to Manhattan

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — U.S. Senator Jerry Moran and his wife are on the move. The Hays Daily News reports that an aide has confirmed the Republican senator and his wife, Robba, are planning to move from Hays to Manhattan. There's no timetable yet. The longtime Hays residents put their home on the market in April after making a decision to downsize. Moran said at the time that they were not moving to Washington, D.C., and weren't sure where they'd end up. But Moran said it would probably be a town closer to an airport, to reduce the drive time on his trips home to Kansas each weekend. Robba Moran also spends considerable time in the Manhattan area as a member of the Kansas Board of Regents, overseeing state universities and colleges.

Sentencing Set in Murder of Great Bend Teen

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — A new sentencing date has been set for a Great Bend man convicted of killing a 14-year-old cheerleader whose charred body was found at the asphalt plant where he worked. Adam Longoria will be sentenced the morning of June 26th. He was convicted in April of capital murder for the August 2010 death of Alicia DeBolt. Barton County District Judge Hannelore Kitts had earlier delayed the scheduled June 8th sentencing, but no new date had been set until Wednesday. Prosecutors aren't seeking the death penalty, but a capital murder conviction carries a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Alicia disappeared the weekend before she was due to start her freshman year at high school. Her remains were found three days later.

KC Man Found Guilty in Woman's Drug Deal Death

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City man has been found guilty in the fatal shooting of a 50-year-old woman during a drug transaction in December 2010. The Kansas City Star reports a Jackson County (MO) jury on Wednesday convicted 21-year-old Carlton Manuel Jr. of second-degree felony murder and armed criminal action. Denise R. Peterson was shot in the head as the car in which she was riding drove away from a drug deal. Manuel was tracked down through Peterson's cellphone records. Prosecutors say Manuel told investigators someone else in the car with him had fired the shots that killed the woman. He was charged with murder because the killing occurred during the commission of a felony drug crime. Sentencing is scheduled for August 10.

Garden City Hit-and-Run Victim Dies from Injuries

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Garden City man who was injured by a hit-and-run driver while riding his motorcycle in late May has died. Officials at Via Christi hospital in Wichita say 37-year-old John Beckstrom died Wednesday. He had been in intensive care since his motorcycle was hit on a Garden City street. The Garden City Telegram reports  police are still looking for the driver of a car that was seen near the accident. The vehicle is described as a light blue, almost turquoise, Honda four-door with tinted windows. The vehicle sits low to the ground, may have after-market wheels and a square rear section. A benefit poker run planned for Beckstrom and his family August 11 will be held as a memorial event. Beckstrom is survived by a wife and two children.

3 Soldiers Injured in Training Accident at Fort Leonard Wood

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (AP) — Three national guard soldiers from a Kansas City-based unit are hospitalized after being injured in a training accident at Fort Leonard Wood. Major Tammy Spicer, a spokeswoman for the Missouri National Guard, says the accident happened Wednesday afternoon. The three soldiers were shocked while working with a tactical antenna system. Spicer says the soldiers were hospitalized with injuries that are serious but not considered life-threatening. Their names have not been released. The soldiers were with the Guard's 135th Signal Company.

Wichita Man Shot While Eating Breakfast

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man has been hospitalized after being shot through a sliding glass door while eating breakfast in his home. Police Sergeant Brian Sigman says that someone opened fire with a high-powered rifle about 5:30 am Wednesday behind the south Wichita home. Sigman says the 26-year-old man was shot once in the back and taken to a hospital, where he's expected to recover. The glass door leads to a patio, with a tall privacy fence just a few feet from the house. The victim told police he doesn't have any enemies and didn't see anyone outside. Investigators say the gunman may have fired a second shot into a neighbor's driveway while fleeing from the scene.

QB Prospect Leaving KU for Community College 

DENVER (AP) — Quarterback Brock Berglund says he will step under center next season for the Fighting Artichokes of Scottsdale Community College. Berglund was searching for another major college to attend after being granted his release from the University of Kansas in January, but ran into issues over credit hours. He will soon start attending classes at the community college in Arizona and begin learning the Artichokes' spread offense. The highly touted QB talked to at least one coach from every major conference in the nation after leaving KU. He didn't practice with the Jayhawks last season as he dealt with an assault charge, which has since been dismissed. Berglund led Valor Christian High School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado to back-to-back state titles and received interest from numerous schools before picking KU.


Shawnee County DA Defends Investigation of Meetings 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas prosecutor investigating private meetings between state legislators and Republican Governor Sam Brownback says his review is not politically motivated. Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor, a Democrat, responded Thursday to criticism from Republican legislators who have been questioned by his staff. One of the legislators, Senator Bob Marshall, a Republican from Fort Scott, was interviewed for more than an hour. Marshall said he felt investigators were looking for something to embarrass the governor. But he says Taylor's staff focused on interactions among legislators at seven dinners Brownback held in January at Cedar Crest, his official residence. Taylor says his office has a duty to investigate a complaint about the gatherings that was made by an attorney for The Topeka Capital-Journal newspaper. Representative Anthony Brown, a Eudora Republican, is scheduled for an interview Thursday.

**this story has been updated. Please see above.


KS Lawmakers Critical of DA's Open Meetings Probe

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two Kansas House Republicans say they believe a Democratic district attorney's investigation into possible open meetings violations is politically motivated. The two were subpoenaed over private dinner meetings lawmakers had with GOP Governor Sam Brownback. Representatives Steve Brunk of Bel Aire and Virgil Peck of Tyro were among seven GOP legislators to receive subpoenas last month from Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor. Taylor is investigating potential open meetings violations during seven dinners in January at Cedar Crest, the governor's official residence. Brownback invited more than 90 lawmakers. Brunk and Peck came in for interviews last week. Senator Bob Marshall of Fort Scott and Representative Anthony Brown of Eudora were to appear for questioning Thursday. Peck called the investigation "a witch hunt" Wednesday. Brunk said Taylor's staff seemed to be looking for what he called a "gotcha" moment.

**this story has been updated. Please see above.


Reports: Six Members of Junction City Family Killed in Central Florida Plane Crash 

LAKE WALES, Fla. (AP) — Authorities say two adults and four children were killed when a small plane crashed in a swampy area of central Florida. Polk County (FL)  Sheriff Grady Judd says the plane went down just after noon Thursday in Tiger Creek Preserve. The Ledger of Lakeland (FL) reports that the group was heading home to Kansas from the Bahamas. The cause of the crash wasn't immediately known, but parts of the plane were found two miles from the crash site, which was only reachable by all-terrain vehicles. Authorities weren't immediately naming the deceased, but Clint Francis, who works with Roadside Ventures in Junction City, told the Ledger the plane is owned by that company, and the dead include the company owner Ron Bramlage and family members.

Ron Bramlage is the grandson of the late Fred Bramlage, the Junction City businessman and philanthropist who was the chairman of the capital campaign committee that raised money for the construction of Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan. Bramlage Coliseum is a multi-purpose arena that was built on the K-State campus to replace the university's former basketball venue, Ahearn Field House.

**this story has been updated. Please see above.

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