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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, May 1, 2013


Report: Kansas School Finance Talks 'Unsuccessful'

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Attorneys seeking a settlement over a lawsuit challenging the state's school finance system say two days of talks have been unsuccessful. The parties filed a status report Wednesday with the Kansas Supreme Court. Attorneys representing the state and plaintiff school districts and parents met for mediation Monday and Tuesday. A three-judge panel in Shawnee County District Court ruled in January that the state's system for funding public schools was unconstitutional. The ruling suggested the state was shortchanging public schools by at least $440 million. The case is set for hearing before the justices on October 8 and a ruling is expected around the start of 2014. Republican Governor Sam Brownback and Attorney General Derek Schmidt, also a Republican, asked the court to approve mediation in hopes of settling the case.


Kansas April Revenues Close to Expectations

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas revenue officials say the state collected nearly what was expected for April, missing projections by less than $5 million. The monthly report released Tuesday showed that Kansas collected $764.8 million in taxes. The state expected to collect $769.2 million for the month. The estimate was based on new projections calculated April 19 by a group of researchers and economists. Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan said Kansas collected $25 million more in individual income taxes in April 2013 compared to April 2012. Jordan said collections indicate the state is seeing economic growth as a result of tax cuts enacted in 2012. For the fiscal year that began July 1, 2012, Kansas has collected $5.018 billion in taxes, or about $4.4 million short of the $5.022 billion projected.

Kansas Ordered to Pay $389K in Fees in Remap Lawsuit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Three federal judges have ordered Kansas to cover $389,000 worth of attorneys' fees and expenses for parties involved in a lawsuit last year over political redistricting. The three-judge panel ruled Tuesday that 15 people involved in the lawsuit were entitled to have at least some attorneys' fees and expenses covered. The Legislature failed last year to approve any plans for redrawing the state's political boundaries to ensure equal representation, and the three-judge panel imposed new lines itself. The lawsuit was filed by a Republican precinct committee member from Olathe before lawmakers adjourned their annual session, but the judges allowed 26 other individuals to intervene. A majority wanted attorneys' fees and expenses of about $671,000 covered. The Kansas attorney general's office had objected to covering most of the requests.


Kansas Pilot Injured When Ultralight Plane Crashes

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A small airplane has crashed in northeast Kansas, and its pilot was taken by helicopter to an area hospital with serious injuries. Kansas Highway Patrol spokesman Casey Simoneau says the pilot took off from a private residence in an ultralight aircraft around 12:40 pm Wednesday, lost control of the plane and crashed into a tree. The plane went down in Douglas County, southeast of Lawrence. The pilot's name wasn't immediately available. He was taken to the University of Kansas Medical Center, where Simoneau says he was in serious condition.


Salina Police Investigating Missing Woman Report

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Salina police are investigating the apparent disappearance of a 27-year-old woman who's been missing nearly a week. Kristin Tyler's car was found Tuesday in Salina. Lieutenant Scott Siemsen of the Salina Police Department says the car appeared to be in normal condition and was towed to the police department. Tyler was last seen April 25. Police say they consider her disappearance suspicious because it's unlike Tyler to leave without contacting family for long periods of time. Police also say they're following a number of leads in Tyler's disappearance.


Federal Grand Jury Indicts Kansas Doctor

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. attorney's office for Kansas says a federal grand jury has returned a four-count indictment against a Kansas physician accused of unlawfully distributing prescription drugs. Michael Schuster of Manhattan was indicted Wednesday on one count each of conspiracy to illegally distribute controlled substances, drug distribution, unlawfully distributing drugs to a person under 21 years old and using and maintaining a premise for drug distribution. Prosecutors are seeking forfeiture of money and property linked to the crimes. Schuster's attorney didn't immediately respond to phone or email messages. The 53-year-old doctor was initially charged April 23 in a criminal complaint that linked his clinic to drug overdoses by active-duty Fort Riley soldiers. The indictment does not allege overdose deaths and doesn't reference soldiers. Schuster remains jailed pending a detention hearing Tuesday.


Kansans Turned in 5 Tons of Unused Meds in National Event

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas attorney general says Kansas residents turned in a record five tons of unused medications in the National Drug Take-Back Day. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says law enforcement officials collected about 10,000 pounds of medications at 101 locations across the state during the event Saturday. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the event was sponsored nationwide by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, which collects and then destroys the medications. The DEA says medicines that languish in home cabinets can be misused, and discarding them in the trash or sewer systems can create health hazards. Since the program's inception in 2010, Kansas has collected 17 tons of unused medications.

Early Results from Kansas Wheat Tour Show Varied Yields

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Participants in the Kansas winter wheat tour are finding less freeze damage than had been expected during the first leg of the 2013 event. The tour started in Manhattan on Monday, when cars fanned out along six routes across the heart of wheat country. Aaron Harries, director of marketing at Kansas Wheat, took a route from Manhattan to Colby along Highway 36 where the wheat looked very nice. But further west in the much drier Smith County the group found thin stands. Harries says the wheat is so far behind that the freeze burned just the tips of the leaves. Extension wheat specialist Jim Shroyer says the crop could still do well if it rains.


K-State Employees Consider Leaving Civil Service

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Hundreds of classified employees of Kansas State University are discussing whether to no longer be civil service employees. The employees are scheduled to meet this week to discuss the move, which would remove them from the control of the Legislature. A vote would not come until November. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that similar committees of classified employees have formed at Wichita State and Emporia State universities. The Kansas State employees will consider becoming university support staff, giving the school authority to make decisions on pay and other job-related issues. Nearly 1,800 classified employees at Kansas State include custodial staff and some administrative and supervisory workers. Those employees receive hourly wages and don't have contracts. Classified employees at the University of Kansas made a similar move two years ago.

Fort Riley Aviation Unit Changing Leadership

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — A change of command ceremony is scheduled for Thursday at Fort Riley for the 1st Infantry Division's Combat Aviation Brigade. Colonel John M. Morgan, commander of the brigade since the summer of 2011, will hand over leadership to Colonel Matthew R. Lewis. A ceremony will be held on the Fort Riley Cavalry Parade Field. During Morgan's tenure the brigade has added new aviation equipment, including the Gray Eagle unmanned aircraft system and an updated version of the Army's Apache helicopters. Lewis has recently been at Harvard, where he served as a national security fellow and senior military fellow in Harvard's Future Diplomacy Project. Fort Riley is home to the 1st Infantry Division and located about 60 miles west of Topeka.


Judge Orders Restitution from Topeka Attacker

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 50-year-old man convicted of attacking four employees at a Topeka TV station has to pay restitution in the case. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Shawnee County District Court Judge Evelyn Wilson ordered Ray Anthony Miles on Wednesday to pay more than $4,500 to the station and an insurance company. Miles was sentenced April 24 to a eight years and four months for felony battery and other charges after he attacked four employees of WIBW-TV last May. Miles broke into the station and assaulted the employees because he said they refused to report on a problem he was having with the Department of Veterans Affairs. He stabbed, kicked, bit and punched the employees before they were able to subdue him.


US Attorney for Kansas Touts Civil Rights Protections

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom says if law enforcement officials violate someone's civil rights while investigating terrorism then the government becomes as bad as the people making the terrorist threats. Grissom, the top federal prosecutor in Kansas, made the comments Wednesday during a Wichita State University event commemorating Law Day in Kansas. Grissom's talk was about protecting public safety and human rights. Grissom told the more than 30 students who attended that the government monitors hate groups such as white supremacists without violating anyone's rights. He also said that to his knowledge the federal government has not used the expanded Patriot Act powers in Kansas. Grissom oversees about 49 assistant U.S. attorneys in Kansas. He was nominated by President Barack Obama in 2010.


Feds Charge 3 in Brazen Freight Theft Conspiracy

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Federal prosecutors have charged three people with a brazen freight trucking scheme that spanned the country. An indictment unsealed Wednesday in federal court in Wichita alleges the three men tried in 2011 to steal a trailer load of packaged beef worth $82,700 from the Tyson plant at Holcomb. Prosecutors say they posed as a freight hauler and dropped off a refrigerated trailer so it could be loaded. Oganes Nagapetian, Tigran Nagapetian and Larisa Nagapetian are charged with conspiracy to violate U.S. laws. Other charges include wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and possession and production of false documents. They are also accused of stealing trailer loads of almonds worth $76,000, shoes worth $236,700, and electric heaters worth $65,000 from various locations. Records do not indicate whether they have attorneys.

Saline County Juvenile Center Might Close Permanently

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Saline County commissioners say the county's juvenile detention center will be closed through the end of the year, and might close permanently. Saline County Sheriff Glen Kochanowski shut down the center on Monday, but said he hoped to reopen it by July. But on Tuesday, the commissioners said closing the center will save the county money, although they were still studying how much the savings would be. When he closed the center, Kochanowski said it was unsafe because of a staff shortage and overcrowding. The juveniles are being taken to a center in Junction City, at a cost of $150 a day per inmate. The Salina Journal reports that commissioners will discuss the juvenile center's future during its 2014 budget study sessions.

6 Possible Arson Fires in Rural Saline County

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Volunteer firefighters in a Saline County fire district reported extinguishing a half of dozen grass fires in the county within two hours. KAKE-TV reports that the fires were reported between 11 pm Monday and 1 am Tuesday Saline County Fire District #5. Battalion Chief David Turner says the fires apparently were arson. He says all the blazes started within two hours, they were all close together and no natural cause, such as lightning, was found. No one was hurt in any of the fires, which occurred in fields or ditches.

Haskell's School of Education Receives National Accreditation

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Haskell Indian Nations University says its School of Education has received national accreditation. The school in Lawrence says the National Council of Teacher Education recently accredited the education school after an on-campus visit last fall. 6News Lawrence reports that Haskell is the first tribal college in the United States to receive this type of accreditation. Jacqueline Boyd, chairwoman of the School of Education, says the school passed five of six standards involved in the accreditation. The sixth standard is in the area of assessment standards. The national council's accreditation team will visit the campus in the fall of 2014 to address the area of assessment standards. The School of Education will have to renew the national accreditation every seven years.


Girl's Up-Close Meeting with Camel Draws National Attention

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — A 3-year-old Olathe girl is ready to return to a Springfield, MIssouri animal park, where her close encounter with a camel brought her family national attention. Aliyah Inzer was visiting the Wild Animal Safari near Springfield recently with her parents, Tyler and Marcie Inzer, and her baby sister. People feed the animals as they drive through the park in their cars, and Aliyah was sitting on her dad's lap handing out treats. One camel, not satisfied with his treat, put his face completely into the car and briefly put his mouth on Aliyah's head. Her dad pushed the camel's head away but Aliyah started giggling. Taking their cues from Aliyah, the family played along. KCTV5 reports a video of the encounter went viral after being posted to YouTube.

Attorney Once Convicted of Murder Returns to Law Practice

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City attorney once convicted of killing his law partner has his law license back. The Missouri Supreme Court announced Tuesday that it has reinstated the law license of Richard Buchli II. He was convicted of killing his law partner, Richard Armitage, in 2002. A court set aside Buchli's conviction six years ago after finding evidence was withheld at his trial. Prosecutors dismissed the case last year, after a judge threw out all the state's evidence. The Kansas City Star reports that Buchli will be on probation for three years. He is required to report quarterly to a probation "monitor" on the status of his law practice, and about any criminal or civil actions against him. He also must undergo a mental health evaluation within 60 days.


Body Found in Sedgwick County Farm Field

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities in south-central Kansas are investigating the discovery of body found in a farm field. The Wichita Eagle reports that a farmer found the man's body Wednesday in a cotton field he leases in southeast Sedgwick County. Sedgwick County sheriff's Lieutenant David Mattingly says authorities haven't identified the body, and are unsure how long it had been in the field. He says deputies are checking missing person cases in Wichita and the surrounding suburbs as part of the investigation.

KC Police Seeking Suspect in Couple's Deaths

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police are searching for a man who shot and killed a couple as their two young children sat in a nearby vehicle. Police say Qwentelia Vanzant and Jaron Syrus, both 25, of Blue Springs were shot Monday night in the parking lot of a convenience store. When the couple stopped at the store, they encountered people with whom they had an ongoing dispute. Police say a fight began and a man arguing with the couple shot the victims before fleeing in a vehicle. The Kansas City Star reports that the victims' 3-year-old son and Vanzant's 7-year-old daughter were inside their vehicle during the shooting. They were released to a relative after the shooting.

Sedgwick County Jury Acquits Man of Murder

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Sedgwick County jury has found a 32-year-old man not guilty of all charges in a 2012 shooting death. The Wichita Eagle reports that the jury deliberated about four hours Tuesday before finding Dustin Cheever not guilty of charges that included second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and aggravated assault in the shooting death of 49-year-old Robert Gammon. Defense lawyer Steve Mank said jurors told him they only seriously considered the charge of involuntary manslaughter before settling on the not guilty verdict. Gammon's brother, Jim Gammon of West Plains, Missouri said he didn't understand why Cheever wasn't tried and convicted of first-degree murder. During the preliminary hearing, the victim's 23-year-old son, Shelby Gammon, testified that the shooting happened after a friend argued with Cheever about the theft of some gasoline.


Life Sentence for Missouri Man in Student's Death

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — A 31-year-old northwest Missouri man has been sentenced to life in prison for killing a 19-year-old student. Marcus D. Smith of Kansas City was convicted in Clay County in February of second-degree murder and three other charges in the August 2011 death of Samir Clark. Smith was sentenced to life in prison on Wednesday. The Kansas City Star reports that police said Clark was visiting a relative when a neighbor knocked on the door and asked for help. Clark and his relative took the woman and her children in. Smith fired several shots into the apartment, hitting Clark in the neck. Investigators said Smith had argued with several people before the shooting. Relatives said Clark was to leave for Tennessee State University in Nashville later that week.


Topeka Man Sentenced for Home Invasion

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 39-year-old Topeka man has been sentenced to about 10 years in prison for a November 2011 home invasion in which he burned a woman with a heated knife blade. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Monroe Lockhart III was sentenced Tuesday in Shawnee County court. He was convicted earlier of aggravated burglary, aggravated assault and aggravated battery. Assistant district attorney Chris Biggs had asked that Lockhart receive a total sentence of 11 years, 6 months. Defense attorney Linda Eckelman sought concurrent sentences of about five years. Lockhart will be credited for the 15 months he has served since he was arrested on February 2, 2012.

Kansas Men Sentenced to 10 Years for Robbing Bank

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 41-year-old Wichita man has been sentenced to 10 years for robbing a bank in Wichita. U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said Tuesday in a release that Christopher A. Vangessel was sentenced after he pleaded guilty to one count of bank robbery. Grissom says Vangessel admitted to robbing a UMB Bank branch on February 28, 2012, when he gave a teller a note demanding money. A parole officer identified Vangessel after authorities released surveillance photos taken during the robbery.

Topeka 5K to Benefit Girl, 6, with Cancer

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two Topeka schools are teaming up to help a kindergartner with brain cancer. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports  that Karis Selk, a kindergartener at Randolph Elementary School, was diagnosed at age 5 with a common type of childhood brain cancer. Karis recently began radiation therapy to her brain and spine along with weekly chemotherapy. A 5k race will be held Friday at Eisenhower Middle School, where Karis's mother, Stephanie Selk, is a nurse. Entry fees for the run are $10 per person or $25 per family. Events will include the fun run/walk, raffle prizes and T-shirt sales, and all proceeds go to the Selk family to help with medical expenses.

Washburn University Honors Health-Conscious Employees

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Washburn University's jogging president is among the employees the Topeka school is honoring with Living Well awards. The school says President Jerry Farley averages around eight miles a day, fitting in his fitness routine around his administrative duties. Farley also was praised for promoting a culture of health at the university. Four other employees also were recognized: assistant psychology professor Jenna Glover practices and teaches meditation; secretary Toni Lewis has stopped smoking and has run two marathons; system and network administrator Clayton Peters plays in wheelchair basketball and softball leagues, and assistant sports information marketing director Jeremy Wrangler has shed more than 80 pounds.


Midwest, Plains Economic Survey Index Dips

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A monthly economic survey index for nine Midwest and Plains states dropped last month but continues to suggest improving economic growth for the region. The Mid-America Business Conditions index hit 56.8 in April, compared with 58.2 in March. The confidence index rose to 59.9 last month from 58.2 in March. Creighton University economics professor Ernie Goss oversees the survey, and he says the supply managers surveyed "expect the upturn in housing to remain an important ingredient of the economic expansion." The survey uses a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. Survey organizers say any score above 50 suggests growth while a score below 50 suggests decline for that factor. The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

KC District to Celebrate High School Seniors' College Choices

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City school district is encouraging students to go to college and recognizing those who are with so-called "Decision Day" events. The festivities mimic the fanfare that occurs when a student athlete signs with a college. College representatives will talk to students Thursday at Northeast High School. There also will be music and a snack bar. On Friday at the Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts, there will be a picnic lunch, and announcements will be made about each student's postsecondary plan. A speaker with the U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute will talk to students on May 7 at East High School. At the final event on May 10 at the Central Academy of Excellence, there will be a radio DJ and presentation by district leaders.



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