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Regional Headlines for Thursday, March 07, 2013


Major Snowstorms Cost Kansas $6.2 Million

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Transportation says the last month's back-to-back snowstorms cost the agency an estimated $6.2 million. The department said Wednesday that about 1,200 employees logged some 80,000 hours, with almost all working 12-hour or longer shifts for several consecutive days. The traveler information phone line got nearly 74,000 calls while the KDOT website had some 9 million page views. Transportation Secretary Mike King says crews plowed through white-outs, helped motorists get cars out of the snow, changed tires and checked on the welfare of stranded travelers. He says crews also got a patient to medical treatment hundreds of miles away in a life-saving relay of plows amid blizzard conditions. All told, KDOT pretreated and plowed some 879,000 miles of highway.


Kansas House Panel Approves Major Anti-Abortion Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House committee has approved a sweeping anti-abortion bill that prevents groups providing abortion services from being involved in the state's public schools. The measure approved Thursday by the Federal and State Affairs Committee also is aimed at ensuring the state doesn't subsidize abortions even indirectly through tax exemptions or credits. The committee's voice vote sends the measure to the entire House for debate. The bill would prevent abortion providers from distributing information for schools' sex education courses. It also says no school employee or educational service provider could provide abortion services. Grandview Plaza Republican Allan Rothlisberg wanted to go further and ban abortion providers or their employees from even volunteering at public schools, but his fellow committee members didn't endorse the idea.


Critics Say Abortion Bill Pinches Free Speech

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Abortion-rights advocates say conservative legislation that cleared a Kansas House committee would stigmatize anyone associated with abortion providers. Thursday's bill would bar public schools from having any relationship with abortion providers or their informational materials and would block even indirect government subsidies for abortions. Julie Burkhart leads the Wichita-based abortion-rights group Trust Women, and says the measure would violate the free-speech rights of anyone with ties to abortion providers. But Grandview Plaza Republican Representative Allan Rothlisberg says the state should discourage anyone in the state's education system from associating with anyone involved with what he says is the killing of children.


Planned Parenthood Responds to Kansas House Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The head of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri is criticizing Kansas legislation that would bar abortion providers from having any relationship with public schools. President and CEO Peter Brownlie said Thursday his chapter offers materials and instructors for sex education classes to Kansas public schools if they ask. Kansans for Life Executive Director Mary Kay Culp says parents shouldn't have to worry about their children getting sex education instruction from a group that she considers to promote abortion. The bill aimed at keeping abortion providers out of schools was approved Thursday by the House Federal and State Affairs Committee. The measure bars abortion providers from furnishing materials for school sex education classes. It also says that school employees and contractors providing educational services cannot be involved in abortions.


Legislators Debate Kansas Innovative Schools Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas lawmakers are debating legislation to create 10 innovative school districts that would be exempt from many state rules and regulations in exchange for improving student achievement. The House gave first-round approval to its bill Thursday after debate over exempting the 10 districts from many laws governing teacher contract negotiations and due process. The districts would be chosen from a pool of applicants. Proponents say the bill will give the districts the freedom to make decisions on student programs and organization that will encourage innovative approaches to learning. Opponents contend Kansas already has a strong public school system. They argue the proposed exemptions from rules and regulations would remove some protections for teachers and make it harder to attract qualified educators.

Kansas Sheriff Facing Ouster for Felony Charge

OTTAWA, Kan. (AP) — An eastern Kansas sheriff is free on $3,000 bond and remains in office after being charged with interfering with law enforcement and official misconduct. Franklin County Sheriff Jeff Curry made his first court appearance Wednesday and was tentatively scheduled for an ouster hearing next week, though that could be delayed until after Curry's April 1 preliminary hearing. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Curry is accused of using confidential information gained through his office for his or another person's gain, or to cause harm to another. The interference charge is a felony. Deputy Jerrod Fredericks, the department's public information officer, also is charged with interfering with law enforcement and is scheduled for an April 1 preliminary hearing. Curry's attorney did not immediately return a call seeking comment.


Kansas Park Deaths Called Double Suicide

SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) — Investigators say two women found shot to death in a northeast Kansas park took their own lives. The bodies of the women, who appeared to be in their 50s, were discovered Wednesday by a visitor to Mill Creek Streamway Park in Shawnee. Both had been shot in the head, and a gun was found nearby along the Gary Haller Trail. Johnson County Sheriff's Master Deputy Rick Howell said Thursday afternoon investigators have concluded the case was a double suicide. The sheriff's office was waiting on positive identification of the women. Their relationship was still unknown. Authorities had said Wednesday evening that they were not looking for a third-party shooter. A vehicle connected to the women had been parked at the trailhead, about 150 feet from where the bodies were found.


2 Indicted with Arson Resulting in Death

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Federal prosecutors have charged two people with arson resulting in death after a fire last month at the Lee Crest Apartments in Manhattan. Court documents filed late Wednesday charge Patrick Martin Scahill and Virginia Amanda Griese in the February 6 fire that killed 34-year-old Vasanta Pallem, a postdoctoral researcher in chemical engineering. Court records do not list defense attorneys for the defendants. The federal grand jury that returned the indictment also found that the defendants acted in reckless disregard for human life during the commission of the crime of arson. The grand jury also found that they also created a "grave risk of death" to others besides the victim.


Kansas Criticized for Gambling Addiction Program Funding

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The head of the National Council on Problem Gambling is urging Kansas to increase its support for programs that help residents with gambling addictions, saying the state has an ethical and financial responsibility to do more. Keith Whyte said Thursday that not all of the money from a state fund established in 2007 is making it to addiction programs. He said only 10 percent of the funds earmarked for addiction programs were being spent on those who need help. Whyte's comments came as Governor Sam Brownback's administration is answering questions about budget proposals that initially appeared to reduce funds from the programs administered by the Department for Aging and Disability Services. Those funds have since been replaced from other sources.


Judge Orders Kansas Abortion Activist to Respond

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has ordered a Kansas anti-abortion activist to answer questions about her relationship and communications with Scott Roeder, the man who killed Wichita abortion provider George Tiller. U.S. Magistrate Judge Kenneth Gale on Thursday also ordered Angel Dillard to answer the Justice Department's inquiries about her contacts with one of Roeder's fellow inmates. The inmate alleges the Valley Center woman solicited his participation in unlawful activities against abortion providers. Gale rejected Dillard's argument that those conversations were protected by clergy-communicant privilege, noting that Dillard is not a minister. The Justice Department sued Dillard in 2011 under a law aimed at protecting access to reproductive services. The department accuses her of sending a threatening letter to Dr. Mila Means, who was training to offer abortions after Tiller's 2009 murder.


Continuance Granted in Great Bend Honor Flights Case

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — A Great Bend woman charged with stealing from a group that flew World War II veterans to Washington D.C. had her preliminary hearing continued until April 10. LaVeta Miller is charged with two counts of theft by deception for allegedly stealing more than $100,000 from the Central Prairie Honor Flights program. After a day of testimony Wednesday, the preliminary hearing was continued until April because of the attorneys' scheduling conflicts. The Wichita Eagle reports the program raised nearly $1.2 million to take 1,100 WWII vets to Washington. But Miller canceled two Honor Flights in June because she said there was a shortage of funds. Central Prairie Honor Flights was disbanded around the time Miller was fired last July 1. Miller was released from jail on a $20,000 bond.

Senator Moran Backs Senator Rand Paul's Filibuster of CIA Nominee

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Republican critic of the Obama administration's drone policy mounted a lengthy filibuster Wednesday to block Senate confirmation of John Brennan to take over as director of the CIA. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky took the floor shortly before noon. With intermittent support from Kansas Republican Senator Jerry Moran and Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, Paul spoke almost continuously for over twelve hours. After five hours of Paul speaking, Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid tried but failed to move to a vote on Brennan Wednesday afternoon. Democrats then adjourned as multiple GOP Senators continued the filibuster late into early Thursday morning.

Northeast Kansas Man Charged with Killing 4-Year-Old Boy

HIAWATHA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities in northeast Kansas say a 27-year-old Hiawatha man is charged in the death of a 4-year-old boy. Brown County Prosecutor Kevin Hill says Lee Davis IV, also known as Jimmy Davis, was charged with first-degree murder and felony abuse of the child, who died Tuesday. Davis is being held on $2 million bond and is expected to have a lawyer formally appointed for him Thursday or Friday. The St. Joseph News-Press reports that the child was taken by air ambulance from Hiawatha Community Hospital on Sunday to Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, where he died Tuesday. A preliminary hearing for Davis has been set for March 13.


Kansas Man Sentenced for Colorado Boy's Death

GOLDEN, Colo. (AP) — A Kansas man visiting friends in suburban Denver has been sentenced to prison after his friends' 5-year-old son was killed by another child playing with the man's handgun. Adam Dean Laham, of Wichita, was sentenced Thursday in Colorado to 16 years in prison. He pleaded guilty in November to negligent child abuse causing the death of 5-year-old Rolyn Javier. Prosecutors say Laham was staying at the home of friends with three young children while visiting Colorado in 2011. They say he had left his Kel-Tech semi-automatic handgun out while he was in another room, and Rolyn's sibling picked it up and accidentally shot the boy. Prosecutors say that while Laham was awaiting sentencing in Colorado, he was arrested three more times on drug and gun charges in Kansas and Arkansas.


Kansas Man Charged in Accidental Shooting of Wife

LENEXA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man who accidentally shot his wife while they were eating at a restaurant is facing criminal charges. Sixty-six-year-old William H. Mize Jr. of Lenexa is charged with aggravated battery and carrying a concealed weapon while under the influence. Police say Mize and his wife were sitting across from each other at a Longbranch restaurant on January 2, when he reached into his pants pocket and accidentally discharged a small pistol, shooting his wife in the leg. She was treated and released at a hospital. The Kansas City Star reports that Mize had a valid permit to carry a concealed weapon. But Kansas law does not allow people who are under the influence of alcohol to carry concealed weapons.


Man Loses Pants in Wichita Motel Holdup

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Wichita are investigating an armed holdup that cost one man his pants. KFDI-FM reports that the robbery happened Wednesday morning at a Days Inn in eastern Wichita. Police say five people, including a 1-year-old boy, were in a motel room when a man and woman knocked on the door. Once inside, the two visitors pulled out handguns and kicked in a locked door. Lieutenant Doug Nolte says the man and woman asked about a cellphone and ordered a 30-year-old man to take off his pants. Nolte says the pair left with the pants, and no one was hurt.


Evaluation Sought in Kansas Sperm Donor Child Support Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A lawyer representing a 3-year-old girl who is at the center of a sperm donor child support case is seeking input from a psychologist. The Topeka Capital-Journal reported Wednesday that Jill Dykes wants a Shawnee County judge to order a psychologist to evaluate the child and offer a recommendation. Dykes made the request in a motion filed Monday. A Topeka man says he signed a contract waiving his parental rights and responsibilities when he answered an online ad from a lesbian couple seeking a sperm donor. But because no doctor was involved in the artificial insemination, the state sought to hold him financially responsible when the women split and the birth mother sought public assistance. The birth mother's former partner is seeking the right to co-parent the girl.


KU Fraternity Chapter Accused of Abusing Turkey Punished by National Headquarters

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Beta Theta Pi fraternity's national spokesman says its University of Kansas chapter can no longer allow live animals at its events after a turkey was abused and later killed at a December function. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the Kansas chapter also must host a service project benefiting an animal-related organization and will host an animal-rights speaker. The national Beta Theta Pi organization has hired a private investigator to look into the Kansas case, but the inquiry has not yet concluded. The organization says the turkey incident happened during a formal dinner known as the "Turkey Pull," which has been going on at the fraternity for more than 100 years. The fraternity is currently under suspension by the national group, and new guidelines require the expulsion of any member convicted of animal abuse.

Sentencing Set for Man Who Bound Kids in Lawrence Parking Lot

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Sentencing will take place later this month for a suburban Chicago man who was arrested after two of his children were found bound and blindfolded in a Walmart parking lot in eastern Kansas. Adolfo Gomez and his wife, Deborah Gomez, of Northlake, Illinois, have been in custody in Douglas County since they were arrested last June 13 in Lawrence. Police found two of their children, ages 5 and 7, bound by their hands and feet in the store parking lot. Adolfo Gomez pleaded no contest to two counts of felony child abuse and three misdemeanor counts of child endangerment. The Douglas County prosecutor's office said Wednesday that he's scheduled for sentencing March 22. Deborah Gomez was sentenced earlier to one year of probation after pleading no contest to three counts of child endangerment.


Judge Says Missouri Teen to Remain in Foster Care

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Clay County (Missouri) judge has ordered that a bipolar teenager found handcuffed in a Kansas City basement must stay in foster care for now. Police found the 17-year-old handcuffed to a pole in the family's basement last month. Police said he'd been kept there for some time and given little food. Clay County authorities charged his father and stepmother, 42-year-old David Martin Sr., and 41-year-old Pamela Martin, with felonious restraint and child abuse. The couple said they handcuffed him because they didn't have money to buy prescription medicine for his condition. The Kansas City Star reports that the judge ordered a home study to determine if the teen could live with his mother, who said she was unaware of conditions at his father's home. The next hearing is May 3.

2 Men Charged with Illegal Sale of Eagle Feathers

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two men are facing federal charges for allegedly selling eagle and hawk feathers. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom says in a news release that 38-year-old Ruben Dean Littlehead of Lawrence and 32-year-old Brian K. Stoner of Ponca City, Oklahoma, were charged Wednesday for selling feathers from migratory birds that are protected by federal law. Littlehead is facing four charges and Stoner is facing two charges. Each count carries a potential sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The two men allegedly sold feathers from golden and bald eagles and hawks between 2008 and 2009 in Douglas County. They were arrested after an investigation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

7 Named as 2013 Kansas Master Teachers

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — Seven educators have been named to the 2013 class of Kansas Master Teachers by Emporia State University. This is the 60th year for the recognition program, which honors teachers who have demonstrated excellence in the classroom and their profession. The master teachers were announced Wednesday and will be honored April 3 at a ceremony in Emporia. This year's honorees are Juliann Bliese, Olathe; Michelle Lynn Bogner, Dodge City; Kathleen Bowen, Lawrence; Kacie Evans, Alta Vista; Kelley Norman, Topeka; Michele Ann Palmgren, Salina; and Tara Walrod, Overland Park. Two master teachers will also go to Emporia State for part of a semester to make presentations to education students.

MO Milk Processing Plant to Close

MONETT, Mo. (AP) — A milk processing plant in Monett will close later this year, costing 86 people their jobs. Officials with the Dairy Farmers of America notified employees on Tuesday that the plant would close in September because it is losing money. Larry Purdom, a member of the DFA Board of Directors, says the high cost of corn has made it difficult for dairy farmers to produce enough milk to run the plant at full volume. The Monett Times reports that DFA will offer employees transfers to other company facilities within a 70-mile radius and will hold a job fair for the employees. The Kansas City-based cooperative processes milk and cheese and sells it to wholesale buyers and through its store.

KC Hospital Plans for Grocery Opening Move Ahead

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Truman Medical Center is a step closer to opening a full-service grocery store that will give its neighbors healthier food choices. The hospital said in a release Thursday that it had completed a transfer of land with the Hospital Hill Economic Development Corporation for the $11.5 million project. The hospital is located in one of Kansas City's so-called "food deserts," which are low-income areas where residents don't have easy access to more nutritious food options. Hospital officials last year announced plans for the store in a bid to bring healthy food options to the urban core. The hospital says the store is expected to include extensive produce, meats and dairy items as well as locally grown options and a farmers' market.

KC Chiefs Win Age-Discrimination Lawsuit

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) — A Jackson County (Missouri) jury decided that the Kansas City Chiefs did not discriminate against an older maintenance manager when he was fired in 2010. The jury reached the verdict Wednesday in a lawsuit filed by 61-year-old Steve Cox, who claimed he was fired so the team could hire a younger replacement. The Chiefs contended during the trial that Cox was fired for giving an employee a raise in defiance of his supervisor's wishes. Two additional age-discrimination lawsuits against the Chiefs are awaiting trials. The former employees also claim they were wrongly fired.


K-State Hires Assistant A-D for Football

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State has hired Bowling Green's Clint Dowdle to be an assistant athletic director for administration with responsibility for the daily operation of the football program. Dowdle will also work with several other Kansas State sports, oversee special projects and equipment operations, and the coordinate department communication with the KSA Board of Directors. Athletic director John Currie announced the hiring Thursday. Dowdle has spent the past five seasons working with the Bowling Green football program, the past two as assistant athletic director. He's also worked in the athletic department at Tennessee.


Kansas House Panel Passes Concealed Carry Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Public schools and state colleges in Kansas could designate workers to carry concealed guns even if such weapons are banned inside their buildings for others under a bill a legislative committee has approved. The measure approved Wednesday by the House Federal and State Affairs Committee also would require the state, cities, counties and townships to allow concealed guns in their buildings unless they have electronic equipment and officers to check for weapons at public entrances. State law now generally bans concealed weapons in courthouses, state offices and other public buildings where officials post notices. The committee's voice vote sends the bill to the full House for debate. Supporters of the measure believe it will make schools and colleges safer. Critics of the measure are skeptical.


Kansas Panel Hears Testimony on Teacher Bargaining Rights Bill

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House committee has heard conflicting opinions about the merits of a bill that would narrow the topics for negotiation in teacher contract talks. Proponents told the committee Wednesday that school districts need more flexibility in contract negotiations. They said the changes would give school boards and administrators more options in assigning teachers and organizing schools. But educators say the changes would be demoralizing to public school staff members and damaging to classroom learning. Opponents include the Kansas National Education Association, which calls the measure part of a broader attack on teachers and their profession. The bill would reduce the number of issues that teachers could negotiate with local school boards. For example, teachers could still negotiate such things as pay and sick leave, but not performance evaluations.


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