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Regional Headlines for Tuesday, October 30, 2012



Two Killed in Pickup-Train Collision Near Hiawatha

HIAWATHA, Kan. (AP) — Two people have died in a collision with a freight train at a railroad crossing in northeast Kansas.  Brown County Sheriff John Merchant says a pickup truck collided with a Union Pacific train around 10am yesterday (MON) north of Hiawatha.  Merchant says the two people in the pickup — 59-year-old Thurman Turner and 18-year-old Veronica Hogle — were pronounced dead at the scene. Both were from Hiawatha.  The Kansas Highway Patrol says it's not clear who was driving the pickup.  KNZA-AM reports that Turner was well known in the Hiawatha area for rallying fellow motorcycle riders to take part in fundraising rides for charity.  The cause of the crash is under investigation.


KS Teen Sentenced for Killing Classmate

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas teenager who admitted shooting and killing a 14-year-old Manhattan High School classmate has been sentenced to nearly 22 years in prison.  KMAN-AM reports that the mother of Tyler Dowling told 16-year-old Cole Drake in court Monday she hopes her son's voice will haunt him every day and night.  Drake was initially charged as an adult with first-degree murder. He avoided a trial last month by pleading no contest to second-degree murder, robbery and numerous counts of vehicle burglary.  Dowling was found dead in a field in April 2011.  Authorities said Drake told investigators the two were out breaking into cars the night of the shooting. He said he accidentally shot Dowling once, then shot him again because he didn't want Dowling to tell anyone what he did.


Kansas Man Killed along Highway in Hit-and-Run

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Investigators in northeastern Kansas say a motorist who struck and killed a 21-year-old college student might not have realized that someone had been hit.  KMAN-AM reports that the victim has been identified as Manhattan resident Konley Harding, a student at Manhattan Area Technical College.  The Pottawatomie County sheriff's office says witnesses saw a small SUV crossover or large sedan run over the victim around midnight Saturday on U.S. Highway 24, about two miles east of Manhattan.  The vehicle continued with stopping. Authorities say Harding was wearing dark clothing and, according to witnesses, had been lying in the roadway. The sheriff says the driver was probably aware of hitting something, but not necessarily that it was a person.  Investigators are reviewing tapes of traffic in the area at the time. 


Adoptions Increase in KS after Push by Governor

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback's emphasis on increasing adoptions in Kansas is showing some early promising results.  The Kansas Department of Children and Families says 777 adoptions were finalized in the state in the 2012 fiscal year. Another 761 state adoptions were recorded in 2011. Those are increases from 721 in 2010, although not as high as the 816 in 2009.  Brownback, whose family includes an adopted boy and girl, has made public adoptions a priority.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that adoptions through the state cost almost nothing, while private adoptions can cost up to $30,000.  Children adopted after age 16 from foster care can receive free tuition at any state university, community college or vocational school. The state also does not prohibit adoptions by single adults or gay couples.


Kansas Man Not Guilty in Shooting Due to Insanity

URBANA, Ill. (AP) — A judge in central Illinois says a Kansas man is not guilty of murdering his cousin by reason of insanity.  The Champaign News-Gazette reports that Judge Heidi Ladd ruled Monday that 69-year-old Gerard James fatally shot Harlan James of Champaign but was too mentally ill at the time to appreciate "the criminality of his conduct." She scheduled a December 20 hearing to re-evaluate his mental condition.  The shooting occurred in a corn field near Mahomet in October 2011 when Harlan James stopped by the field to say hello to his cousins. Gerard James is a resident of Lawrence, Kansas, who visited Champaign County for the spring planting and fall harvest.  According to a psychiatrist's report, Gerard James had a paranoid delusion that his cousin was a serial killer. 


Brownback, GOP to Hold Motorcycle Tour

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback and other top Kansas Republicans are planning a two-day motorcycle tour of the state ahead of next week's elections.  Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer and Kansas Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins are among those set to join the ride that starts Thursday in Topeka and ends Friday in Salina. Everyone taking part will travel by motorcycle if the weather allows.  The so-called "Road Map for Growth Tour" will promote Republican GOP candidates for the U.S. House and state Legislature. Among the targets are several Kansas Senate seats where Brownback has backed conservative Republicans.  From Topeka, the group plans to stop Thursday in the eastern Kansas communities of Leawood, Fort Scott, Frontenac, Pittsburg and Columbus. On Friday, the riders are scheduled to stop in Independence, Winfield, Wichita, Hays and Salina.


Kansas Ballot Measure on Boating Causing Confusion

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Supporters of a Kansas constitutional amendment that would change the way property taxes are charged on boats say the wording on the ballot is confusing.  The change would give legislators the authority to reduce property taxes on boats.  Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Secretary Robin Jennison tells The Wichita Eagle that two words on the page-long question are confusing early voters. The question is asking voters to add the words "and watercraft" to the constitution regarding the levying of property taxes.  Jennison says voters aren't sure what is actually changing because the language on the ballot is so lengthy. He says voters might reject the change because of the confusion.


Kansas Revenue Forecasters to Meet Election Day

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials and university economists plan to meet Election Day to draft new revenue projections for Governor Sam Brownback and legislators to use in making budget decisions.  The November 6 meeting will allow the forecasters to revise earlier projections for the fiscal year that began July 1. They'll also issue the first official estimates for the fiscal year that begins in July 2013.  The team includes legislative researchers, members of Brownback's budget stuff, Department of Revenue officials and economists from the state's three largest public universities.  The current forecast was issued in April and predicts the state will collect $6.4 billion in revenues in the current fiscal year. But the projections don't take into the account massive income tax cuts enacted in May. 


Pittsburg State Offers Academic Course on Monsters, Zombies

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — Pittsburg State University is offering an academic take on zombies, vampires and other things that go bump in the night.  The school says assistant English professor Jamie McDaniel is planning a Halloween lecture titled "Let's Talk Monsters." The public is invited to attend for free at 4:30pm Wednesday in Grubbs Hall.  McDaniel plans to trace the origins of today's monster culture, from Bram Stoker's "Dracula" and voodoo zombie rites through the "Twilight" series and "The Walking Dead."  The school hopes that the "Let's Talk" lecture will be the first in a series.  Monsters, scary stories and frightening films are McDaniel's specialties. He says that in elementary and middle school, he read plenty of books by R.L. Stine, the youth author whose books include "Goosebumps."


Hearing Reset for Suspects in Tabor Student's Death

MCPHERSON, Kan. (AP) — A preliminary hearing for two men charged in the beating death of a Tabor College student has been rescheduled to December.  The hearing for Alton Franklin and DeQuinte Flournoy, both 19-year-old men from Dallas, was scheduled for Monday. But it was postponed until December 10. The Hutchinson News reports attorneys did not explain the reason for the delay.  The suspects, both former McPherson College football players, are charged with being accessories to second-degree murder in the September 22 death of 26-year-old Brandon Brown.  Brown, a redshirt defensive lineman for Tabor College, died after being injured in a fight early September 16 at a party in McPherson.  Both men remained jailed on $500,000 bonds.


Kansas Chamber Major Player in Legislative Races

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Chamber of Commerce has remained a visible player in this year's legislative races as it seeks to help conservative Republicans gain greater control of the state House and Senate. A new finance report by the chamber's political action committee shows that it has committed to spending at least $312,000 on legislative races since the August primary. The PAC reports raising more than $590,000 from July 27 through Oct. 25. Some of that money went into successful efforts to oust moderate Republican senators in the August primaries. The chamber loaned $170,000 to its PAC in late August, and a construction company operated by PAC chairman Ivan Crossland loaned it almost $123,000 earlier this month. The chairman of the chamber's board, Wichita oilman Dave Murfin, contributed $80,000 to the PAC.


KS Teachers' Group Had $418K Ahead of Election

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A finance report shows that the largest teachers' union in Kansas had more than $418,000 to spend on campaign activities in the final 10 days before the Nov. 6 elections. The Kansas National Education Association filed a report on the activities of its political action committee this week, reporting it spent nearly $280,000 from July 27 through Oct. 25. But the PAC also had more than $698,000 in cash during the same period, leaving it with a big balance ahead of Tuesday's election. The KNEA's PAC contributed this fall to dozens of legislative candidates, most of them Democrats. It also gave $65,000 to other organizations helping Democrats and spent nearly $47,000 on mailings for Democratic state Senate candidates. The PAC also spent more than $60,000 on polling.


Dems Outspend GOP Foes in Key State Senate Races

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — New campaign finance reports show Democrats in hotly contested Kansas Senate races outspending their Republican opponents over the past three months. Reports filed this week with the secretary of state's office show the widest gap between Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley and GOP challenger Casey Moore. Both are from Topeka and running in the 19th Senate District. Hensley reported spending nearly $113,000 on his re-election campaign from July 27 through Oct. 25, compared with the roughly $12,000 spent by Moore. Another closely watched race is in the 5th District in the Kansas City area. Democratic incumbent Kelly Kultala of Kansas City reported spending more than $56,000 over the past three months. Republican Steve Fitzgerald of Leavenworth spent about $51,000.


Dem Spends Slightly More in KCK State Senate Race

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Democratic candidate for a Kansas Senate seat from the Kansas City area has slightly outspent the party-switching Republican incumbent over the past three months. A finance report filed this week by Democratic challenger Pat Pettey of Kansas City shows that she spent more than $39,000 on her campaign from July 27 through Oct. 25. She had about $43,000 to spend after raising $31,000 during the period. Pettey is running in the 6th District against Republican Sen. Chris Steineger of Kansas City. Steineger raised almost $30,000 during the period, giving him about $61,000 in his campaign fund. He spent about $35,000. Steineger won his Senate seat as a Democrat in 1996 but switched parties after losing the Democratic primary for secretary of state in 2010.



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