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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, December 19, 2012


UPDATE: Kansas Closes Some Roads Because of Storm

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Portions of two major highways in northwestern Kansas have been closed. A powerful storm moving out of the Rockies is creating near blizzard conditions in portions of the state. Transportation officials closed sections of Interstate 70 and U.S. 36. The Colby and Oakley school districts canceled Wednesday classes ahead of the storm. In Goodland, the National Weather Service predicted just 1 to 3 inches of snow from Interstate 70 south with slightly higher amounts near the Nebraska border. But forecasters warned that winds gusting to 50 mph through the evening would make travel difficult to impossible.


Kansas Scores Poorly in Emergency Readiness Survey

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A national survey looking at public health and emergency preparedness is pointing out some deficiencies in state of Kansas disaster planning. The nonpartisan Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released their annual "Ready or Not?" report on Wednesday. Kansas and Montana scored lowest on a 10-point scale measuring preparation for diseases, disasters, bioterrorism and extreme weather. Nevada tied with Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii and New Jersey for next-lowest in their ability to respond. Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Vermont and Wisconsin scored highest. The report says that in the years since September 11, 2001, preparedness has improved. But it points to gaps in readiness for health and extreme weather emergencies, bioterrorist threats and serious disease outbreaks. Trust executive Jeffrey Levi calls the report a snapshot of the nation's public health emergency preparedness. 


Brownback Urges Moment of Silence for Connecticut Dead

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback is urging Kansans to observe a moment of silence Friday for the victims of the school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. Brownback and governors across the country are calling for people to pause and reflect at 9:30 am in local time zones. That's the hour of the shooting last Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The gunman killed 20 first-graders and six adults before committing suicide. He also killed his mother at their home. Brownback described the crime as "senseless" in a news release Wednesday. He says that the state's "hearts and prayers are with everyone in Newtown."


15 Suspects Arrested in Northeast Kansas Drug Sweep

ATCHISON, Kan. (AP) — Atchison police say they arrested 15 suspects on several drug charges, and they're looking for five more suspects. Police Chief Mike Wilson says the arrests Wednesday morning were the result of an investigation that began in September. He says the investigation mostly centered on the sale of prescription narcotics and methamphetamine. The St. Joseph News-Press reports that the suspects face a variety of charges including possession with intent to distribute, conspiracy to distribute a narcotic and no drug tax stamp. Wilson says investigators believe the remaining suspects are still in northeast Kansas and northwest Missouri.

KC Boy Scout Troop Finds Marijuana Operation

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City Boy Scout troop might have earned an extra merit badge during an unusual campout this fall. Jackson County (Missouri) authorities say the troop found a marijuana growing operation while camping on county parkland and alerted authorities. The Kansas City Star reported Wednesday that law enforcement didn't release details of the discovery until recently and won't name the troop because the investigation is continuing. Still, Jackson County Sheriff Mike Sharp recently awarded the troop a commendation and thanked it for contributing to the destruction of marijuana plants worth about $40,000. Some troop members found the plants growing while walking on a trail at Longview Lake in September. Five people at the site ran. Two were arrested but later released and police are looking for the other three.

KSU Marks 150th Birthday with New Wheat Variety

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A new wheat variety will be named 1863 to help Kansas State University celebrate its 150th birthday. The hard red winter wheat variety will be introduced next year as the university begins its sesquicentennial celebration. The celebration's coordinator, Megan Umscheid, calls the new wheat variety a "neat connection" to the school's heritage. Kansas State was the nation's first operational land-grant university under the Morrill Act. Kansas Wheat Alliance president Daryl Strouts approached Kansas State about the project. Planters who purchase the wheat variety will get waterproof stickers with the university's 150th anniversary logo to post on their field signs.


2 Topeka Attorneys Disbarred

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka attorney who stole more than $460,000 from several clients' trust funds and another accused of inadequately representing clients will no longer be able to practice law. Dockets provided by the Kansas Supreme Court on Wednesday show that Robert Telthorst and Steven Rosel have been disbarred. The Topeka Capital-Journal reported that the men voluntarily surrendering their law licenses previously. Telthorst pleaded guilty last month to wire fraud and money laundering. He admitted to taking clients' money for his personal use. Meanwhile, three professional conduct complaints had been filed against Rosel. He's accused of making inappropriate advances toward a client's wife and then charging for the time he spent talking to her. Another client says that while he was being interviewed by police, Rosel was "disinterested, and possibly asleep."

Kansas Homicide Victim Was Afghan Hound Expert

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The death of a 69-year-old Kansas City, Kan., man is reverberating through the international dog show community. Police found the body of Peter Belmont Jr. Sunday at his home but have not said how he was killed. The Kansas City Star reports that Belmont was known on the dog show circuit for his breeding of Afghan hounds under the kennel name Elmo. Patricia Egan, president of the Afghan Hound Club of New South Wales in Australia, told The Star Tuesday that Belmont was "a legend" in the Afghan hound world. She says his loss will be mourned worldwide. A dog show judge, Patrick Byrne, says Belmont was planning to judge several upcoming shows in Germany. Belmont taught art at all educational levels before retiring from Wyandotte County schools.

New Kansas House Speaker Names 3 Staff Members

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Incoming Kansas House Speaker Ray Merrick has filled three staff positions. The Stilwell Republican announced the appointment Tuesday of Rachel Whitten as his communications director. Whitten served most recently as public information officer for the Department for Children and Families. She'll join Wade Hapgood and Sharon Chandler in the speaker's office. Hapgood will be legislative director. He previously worked for House Republicans as both political and communications director but most recently has been a business analyst for the secretary of state's office. Chandler will be Merrick's executive administrative assistant. She worked for Merrick in a similar capacity when he served in the Senate for the past two years. Merrick is returning to the House after his stint in the Senate. He becomes speaker when the 2013 session opens January 14.

Missouri Man Pleads Guilty in Stolen Cooking Oil Case

SARCOXIE, Mo. (AP) — A southwest Missouri man pleaded guilty to evading federal reporting rules to conceal the fact that some of the cooking oil he sold was stolen. Under a plea agreement Tuesday, 46-six-year-old Jesse Arnold of Sarcoxie was required to forfeit $207,817. The Joplin Globe reports that Arnold operated 4 States Grease Company, which collected used cooking oil and resold it to be used as biodegradable diesel fuel and made into recyclable products. Arnold admitted that he had reason to suspect he was buying cooking oil that had been stolen from businesses in Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. In order to avoid federal reporting requirements, Arnold made numerous withdrawals from his business checking count for less than $10,000. Banks must file a currency transaction report for any financial transaction over $10,000.

Woman Pleads Guilty in June Standoff in Hutchinson

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A 24-year-old woman faces six years in prison after pleading guilty to charges from a June standoff with Hutchinson police. Kayla Salyer Rodriguez will be sentenced February 1 after pleading guilty Monday to aggravated kidnapping and two counts of aggravated assault. As part of her plea, Rodriguez admitted she threatened two women with a handgun on June 1 and kidnapped one of the women. The Hutchinson News reports that police were in a standoff for more than six hours at a Hutchinson apartment after receiving a report that Rodriguez had forced another woman into the apartment with a gun. No one was injured. Prosecutors say 27-year-old Jennifer Heckel was killed by three men who went to the wrong home while searching for Rodriguez to rob her of drugs and money.


Missouri Company Agrees to Pay $580K Civil Penalty

LENEXA, Kan. (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency says a southwest Missouri business that disposes of explosives waste has agreed to pay $580,135 to settle alleged violations. The EBV Explosives Environmental Company informed the agency last year that emission rates of the hazardous pollutant hydrogen chloride were above permitted levels at its Joplin-area facility. The company does business as General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems - Munitions Services. The EPA said Wednesday that alleged violations at the facility included exceeding emission limits for several types of toxins and operating a type of incinerator called a thermal treatment unit without a valid permit. The company installed new equipment that has brought the facility into compliance. It also agreed to monthly compliance monitoring. The company didn't immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press.


4-Year-Old KC Boy Killed in Apparent Gang Dispute

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police say a 4-year-old boy who died after a shooting was the innocent victim of a gang dispute. Police say Aydan Perea was taken off life support Tuesday. He was shot Saturday night as he sat with his father and two other men in a car at a Kansas City home. A 1984 tan-over-white Chevrolet Monte Carlo stopped behind the vehicle and fired at the car, hitting Aydan. Police later found the car abandoned. The Kansas City Star reports it was the second time Aydan had been involved in a shooting. He was asleep at a house last year when someone fired four shotgun blasts in the middle of the night. No one was hurt in that shooting.


Authorities Identify Bodies Found in Northwest Missouri Home

TRIMBLE, Mo. (AP) — Authorities have confirmed that three people found dead in a rural northwest Missouri home were killed in a double murder-suicide. Clay County Sheriff Bob Boydston said Wednesday that authorities believe 70-year-old Jan Hepworth committed suicide after killing his 69-year-old wife, Cheryl Hepworth, and her 14-year-old cousin, Damin Russell. The Trimble couple was the teen's legal guardian. The three bodies were found Monday in the family's home, east of Smithville Lake and about 25 miles north of Kansas City. Family and friends had lost contact with the family several days earlier. Boydston says Jan Hepworth had been suffering from depression. Authorities found multiple prescriptions drugs used to treat depression and sleeping disorders. And Boydston says thousands of expended rounds of ammunition from multiple weapons were discovered in the basement.

Airbus Donates Parts, Kits to Kansas Research Center

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita State University says aircraft manufacturer Airbus has donated airplane structural parts and kits worth more than $800,000 to the school's National Institute for Aviation Research. The materials will be used in the institute's research laboratories and training classes. Researchers will use them to study structural durability and damage tolerance. Instructors will also use the materials in classes on composite fabrication, repair and testing.


Judge Delays TransCanada Lawsuit Hearing

HOUSTON (AP) — A Texas landowner battling TransCanada Corporation says a judge has declined for now to hear arguments on whether to temporarily stop work on the property. Michael Bishop says a Nacogdoches County judge put off a hearing scheduled for Wednesday until he can determine whether the matter should be in state court. Bishop wants work on his property to cease until the judge rules on whether the product TransCanada plans to carry through it is crude oil. TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline is meant to transport tar sands — or diluted bitumen — from Canada to Texas. Bishop says tar sand isn't crude oil. The section of the pipeline that would cross the international border has not been approved. A shorter portion from Oklahoma to Texas is under construction. Once completed the tar sands pipeline will stretch across several Midwestern states, including Kansas, to connect the Canadian province of Alberta with the U.S. Gulf Coast. 

Garden City Hopes Theater Project Revives Downtown

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Garden City commissioners say they are hopeful that a private developer's plans for a theater will help revitalize the city's downtown. Holcomb resident Mark A. Pamplin says he wants to turn the nearly 84-year-old State Theater into a state-of-the-art, 400-seat theater-in-the-round with year-round performances. He told the commission Tuesday the $3 million renovation project would be funded entirely by private investments. Commissioners said that made Pamplin's proposal preferable to one from The Garden City Recreation Commission, which would use the center for community theater and other local productions. Under that plan, the city would still own the theater, and need about $590,000 for renovations. The Garden City Telegram reports that commissioners said Pamplin's plans would put the property back on the city's tax rolls, and attract people to downtown.


Two KS Men on List of Carnegie Heroes

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Two men who pulled a motorist from a burning pickup truck in Wichita are among 18 people being honored for their heroic acts. The Carnegie Hero Fund Commission announced Wednesday that 43-year-old Thomas Joseph Delgado of Valley Center and 36-year-old Joseph C. Page of Wichita will receive medals for valor. The two pulled the motorist from the truck after an accident on August 31, 2011. The 18 people on the list all risked their lives to rescue someone in distress. Four died during their attempts.


Forbes: Texas Is Most Valuable Program in College Football

NEW YORK (AP) — The University of Texas has the most valuable college football program in the nation, according to Forbes Magazine. Forbes released its college football valuations Wednesday. The magazine says the Longhorns are worth $133 million, up from $129 million last year. Michigan ($120 million) was number 2, followed by Notre Dame ($103 million). The rest of the top 10 consisted of SEC schools. Alabama ($95 million) was sixth. Forbes also ranked the most powerful coaches. Alabama's Nick Saban was listed as number 1. Forbes valued Kansas State University as the best team for the money, while the University of Kansas was rated as the worst team for the money. To see the full list of team valuations, visit the Forbes magazine website


Judge Orders Disclosures in Military School Suit

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge says St. John's Military School in Salina must turn over most of the information sought by plaintiffs in a lawsuit alleging a culture of abuse at the school. U.S. Magistrate Judge Kenneth Gale also said Tuesday the school's position in refusing to identify students branded with hot metal during the past five years "borders on the absurd," and ordered it to disclose that information. The lawsuit, brought by 11 former cadets and their families, alleges that a program allowing higher-ranking cadets to discipline students encourages physical and mental abuse. St. John's has vehemently denied the existence of a culture of abuse and has vowed to fight the lawsuit. Neither side immediately responded to emails Tuesday seeking comment.

KS School Efficiency Panel Eyes Longer Budgets

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The chairman of Governor Sam Brownback's task force on school efficiency says Kansas legislators should consider establishing two-year budgets for school districts. State Board of Education member Ken Willard told a legislative committee Tuesday the idea is one of several recommendations being considered by the task force, which met throughout the fall. A final report is due to Brownback before the Legislature convenes in January. Brownback created the School Efficiency Task Force to study how schools could put more of their state funding directly into classrooms. Willard says multiple-year budgets would let districts use their money wisely and plan spending on programs and other expenses. But Senate Education Chairwoman Jean Schodorf says legislators have tried multi-year budgets previously, only to abandon such blueprints.


Police Investigating Abuse of Turkey at KU Frat

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A University of Kansas fraternity has been suspended indefinitely by its national organization amid reports that members abused and killed a turkey at a party. The suspension Tuesday came as Lawrence police investigate a report of possible animal cruelty during a party at Beta Theta Phi that drew about 150 people last week. A spokesman for the national organization told The Lawrence Journal-World its leaders were "a little shocked" by accounts of the turkey's treatment. The turkey had been rented for the party. Witnesses said some fraternity members broke the bird's cage, chased and choked it and broke its wing and a leg. Police say they were told a fraternity member killed the bird to end its suffering. The university says its Interfraternity Council is also investigating the complaint.


Services Set for Slain Topeka Police Officers

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two Topeka police officers who were shot and killed outside a supermarket will lie in state Friday at the Expocentre, where their funerals will be held Saturday.
Officials announced the arrangements Tuesday for 50-year-old Corporal David Gogian and 29-year-old Officer Jeff Atherly. Both were shot Sunday night while investigating possible drug activity in a parking lot. The shooter, 22-year-old David Edward Tiscareno, was later killed following an armed standoff at a Topeka home. The officers' bodies will lie in state at the Expocentre from 1 to 8 pm Friday. Guards will be posted overnight. Gogian's funeral takes place at the Expocentre at 10 am Saturday, followed by a procession to Penwell-Gabel Cemetery. The funeral for Atherly begins at 2 pm, also followed by a procession to the cemetery.

Emergency Planning Begins for Next Year's Drought

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Most emergency preparations this time of the year focus on winter weather. But state and local officials are already discussing ways to protect the state's dwindling water supplies if the drought persists through next year. Kansas Water Office director Tracy Streeter says most public water supply systems in Kansas have conservation and drought emergency plans in place. But he says the state is encouraging water districts to review those plans based on last year's drought and update them if needed. Streeter says the drought is predicted to continue next year. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that all 105 Kansas counties remain in a state drought emergency. And some communities are continuing to limit certain water uses, such as for outdoor watering.


Former Pop Star is New Church Pastor in KS

SYRACUSE, Kan. (AP) — Former pop star Frankie Valens has a new gig as a preacher in western Kansas. Valens and his wife, Phyllis, moved to Syracuse about a month ago, where he is pastor of the First Christian Church. The 70-year-old Valens tells The Garden City Telegram he's never preached from a pulpit. But he says he's been testifying about his faith for years, so he is prepared for his new challenge. Valens' father pastored the same church in 1978 and 1979. Valens was known in the 1960s and '70s for his cover renditions of such hits as "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" and "The Lion Sleeps Tonight." After his career ended, he and his wife toured the country performing gospel songs and skits at various functions before settling in Clearwater a few years ago.


KS Teen Arrested Over Threatening Tweet

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita-area boy is in trouble for a statement posted on his Twitter account about school killings, even though police doubt the threat was credible. The 15-year-old lives in west Wichita and goes to school in the nearby town of Maize. The Wichita Eagle reports officials in Maize contacted Wichita police Monday after the boy allegedly tweeted a threat to kill 20 students, his mother and himself. He was interviewed at his home and arrested on a juvenile misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct. Police Lt. Doug Nolte says the boy told officers he wasn't serious about the threat and did not have the means to carry it out. Nolte says police don't believe the threat was credible but take all threats of violence seriously.


Winter Storm Moving Toward KS

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The season's first major snowstorm is barreling toward Kansas with the threat of blizzard conditions. A handful of school districts in western Kansas cancelled classes as forecasters posted blizzard warnings. In Goodland, the National Weather Service predicted just one to three inches of snow from Interstate 70 south with slightly higher amounts near the Nebraska border. But forecasters warned that winds gusting to 50 mph from midday through the evening would make travel difficult to impossible. The storm will move west to east. In central and eastern Kansas, rain turning to snow is expected in the afternoon and evening. One to six inches of snow are expected, depending on the region. The most snow will be in north central and northeast Kansas. Winds could reach 45 miles per hour, creating white out conditions. The storm is expected to leave the area by morning or noon on Thursday.

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


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