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Weekend Headlines for July 14-15, 2018

Guns Remain Hot Issue for Democrats in Kansas Governor's Race

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democrats running for Kansas governor are falling in line with the national gun-control movement stirring the party's liberal base. And they're doing it even if it means disavowing a loosening of gun laws in recent years that had played well in their gun-friendly state. The top three Democratic contenders ahead of the August 7th primary agree that Kansas has gone too far in allowing concealed guns on college campuses and letting people carry concealed weapons without requiring a state permit or mandating training. But one of them, state Senator Laura Kelly, voted for those policies while representing a Republican-leaning district in the Topeka area. She and many Republican lawmakers did so even after a mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012. She's been on the defensive about such votes in recent forums.


Kobach Rails against Illegal Immigrants at Pro-ICE Rally

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — GOP gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach railed against people in the U.S. illegally at a Wichita rally intended to show support for federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The Wichita Eagle says Kobach blamed those immigrants for everything from stealing American jobs to causing a tuition hike this year at state universities at the Saturday rally that drew only about 80 people. If elected governor, he says he would end in-state tuition for young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Kobach was joined at the rally by his running mate, Wink Hartman, and Republican state Senator Ty Masterson, of Andover. Bill Anderson was one of three rally protesters who held signs and shouted at Kobach and other speakers, noting that nearly all of the rally supporters attending were white. Kobach addressed the three protesters during his time at the microphone, calling them "snowflakes" who express "fake outrage."


Topeka Fire Officials say 1 Dead in House Fire

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Officials say one person has died in a house fire in Topeka. The Topeka Fire Department says in a news release that it responded a fire at a one-story wood-framed house early Friday morning. Fire officials say crews quickly extinguished the flames and found the body of 25-year-old Kennedy Karioki Ndungu inside the home. The cause of the fire is still being investigated by the Topeka Fire Department and Topeka Police Department.


Police say Missing Missouri Woman Found Dead in Shawnee

SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) — Police say a Missouri woman missing for a week has been found dead in an eastern Kansas house, and a man has been arrested on suspicion of killing her. The Kansas City Police Department says the body of 43-year-old MeShon Cooper, who had been missing from Kansas City since July 6, was found early Saturday morning in a house in Shawnee, Kansas. Shawnee police say 47-year-old Ronald Lee Kidwell, of Shawnee, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. He remains in jail on $1 million bond. Police say Cooper's body was found as part of a joint investigation by the Kansas City, Shawnee and Lenexa police departments. Prosecutors say Kidwell is suspected of having killed her sometime between July 6th and 13th.


Kansas GOP House Candidate Denies Considering Run as Democrat

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Republican candidate for Congress is denying claims from three Democratic officials that he considered running as a Democrat. Steve Watkins, an Army veteran running in the Kansas 2nd District, acknowledged that he met with Ty Dragoo, the Democratic vice chair for the 2nd District, in August 2017. But he says he always intended to run as a Republican.The Kansas City Star reports Dragoo  said he and two other Democrats met with Watkins. He says Watkins expressed socially liberal views and was trying to determine if the Democrats would support him. Watkins said the Democrats began discussing liberal policy but he didn't participate. Shawnee Democratic Party's vice chair, Luke Domme, and Sarah Coats, a Democratic candidate for the Kansas Legislature, also were at the meeting and supported Dragoo's version of events.


Conservation Group to Restore Trees along Kansas River

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A local Lawrence preservation group will bring native trees back to the banks of the Kansas River to help rid the waterway of pollution. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Friends of the Kaw was recently awarded a nearly $78,000 Douglas County Natural and Cultural Heritage grant to help restore native tree and plant species to a mile-long stretch of land along the river. Riverkeeper Dawn Buehler says those plants' deep-root systems protect against erosion and help filter pollutants out of storm water before it reaches the river. The U.S. Geological Survey says the Kansas River is a primary source of drinking water for about 800,000 people in northeastern Kansas. The river's watershed covers parts of Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado. Some of the native trees include cottonwoods and papaws.


Man Sentenced in Death of Wichita Football Player

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — One of the men accused of killing a semi-pro football player in Wichita last summer has been sentenced to life plus 13 months in prison. A jury convicted Ritchie Randle Jr. of Wichita in May of first-degree premeditated murder and criminal discharge of a firearm in the death of 19-year-old Timothy Golden. Golden was found shot to death in his apartment in July 2017. He was a tight end for the Kansas Cougars, a semi-pro team based in Wichita. Investigators say Randle and two other men, Dakahri Sanders and Larry Triplett, fired more than a dozen rounds in Golden's apartment. The Wichita Eagle reports Randle was sentenced last month and won't be eligible for parole until he spends at least 50 years in prison. Sanders and Triplett have not yet been tried in the case.


Lawrence Company Linked to Fatal Wisconsin Explosion

SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. (AP) — A Kansas company building a fiber optics network has identified the subcontractor working in the area before an explosion that killed a Wisconsin firefighter this week. Verizon Wireless has said it had contracted with Bear Communications of Lawrence, Kansas, for the fiber optics project in Sun Prairie, near Madison.  Bear Communications says no one from its company was present on site when the gas line began leaking.  That day's work had been subcontracted to VC Tech, Inc, which notified authorities of the gas leak and helped evacuate people before the explosion happened. A search of an Occupational Safety and Health Administration database found no safety violations by VC Tech in the past five years. Sun Prairie Fire Department Captain Cory Barr was killed in the blast. Eleven other people, including five other firefighters and a police officer, were hurt.


Last of Three Escaped Arkansas Inmates Caught in Kansas

ASH FLAT, Ark. (AP) — The last of three inmates who escaped from an Arkansas jail has been apprehended in Kansas. Sharp County Sheriff Mark Counts told Jonesboro television station KAIT that Randall Paul Sledge was arrested Friday by troopers with Kansas Highway Patrol. Counts did not provide details on the arrest. Sledge and two others escaped early Wednesday from the Sharp County jail. The other two were apprehended later in the day. Sledge prior to his escape was being held on various charges that included fleeing on foot. Counts says the men unscrewed the deadbolt from a jail door and lifted the bottom of a fence to escape. He says two jailers also failed to do a head count that could have revealed the escape earlier.


Former Kansas State Trooper Sentenced for Excessive Force

OSWEGO, Kan. (AP) — A former Kansas Highway Patrol trooper who admitted to kicking a handcuffed man has been sentenced to nine months in prison. James Carson, of Independence, was sentenced Thursday for violating the civil rights of a man he arrested in June 2013. U.S. Attorney Steve McAllister said in a news release that Carson was taking a handcuffed man into the booking area of the Labette County jail when he kicked the man's legs out from underneath him. The kick caused them man to fall on his back on the floor. Carson admitted that he had no legitimate law enforcement reason for forcing the man to fall. At least five other law enforcement officials were present. As part of his plea agreement, Carson agreed to relinquish his law enforcement credentials.


Woman Sentenced for Murdering Wichita Mother, Kidnapping Baby

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Texas woman who killed a Wichita mother and kidnapped her newborn daughter has been sentenced to 55 years in prison. 36-year-old Yesenia Sesmas was sentenced Friday in Sedgwick County to 50 years for the November 2016 death of 27-year-old Laura Abarca-Nogueda. She was also sentenced to five years for kidnapping and 13 months for aggravated interference of parental custody, which will run concurrently. Sesmas will not be eligible for parole for 50 years. Sesmas was convicted last month of killing Abarca, a former co-worker, and taking the 6-day-old baby to Texas. The baby, Sophia Gonzales, was found safe a few days later with Sesmas in Dallas. She is being raised by her father and other relatives. Sesmas claimed during trial that the shooting was accidental.


Kobach, Colyer Exchange Barbs during OP Debate

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — The two leading Republican candidates for governor exchanged pointed criticisms during the last party-approved debate before the August primary. The Kansas City Star reports supporters of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach repeatedly tried to shout down Gov. Jeff Colyer Thursday night when he attacked Kobach during a debate at Johnson County Community College. Colyer focused on Kobach's heavily- criticized performance during a court hearing defending the state in a federal lawsuit over voter registration regulations. He pointed out that Kobach was fined $1,000 by a federal judge for lying and was required to take classes on legal procedure. Kobach presented himself as a candidate who would fight hard for conservative social values, saying he wouldn't be just a "steady hand on the tiller."


Kansas House Race Draws National Attention

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will bring the national spotlight to her first campaign event outside of New York when she and Sen. Bernie Sanders travel to Kansas to help Democrat James Thompson in a congressional race. The rally for Thompson on July 20th at the Orpheum Theatre in Wichita is billed as the first joint event for Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez since her stunning primary victory in New York. Thompson mounted a surprisingly close special election race last year that as emboldened Democrats eying a possible 2018 rematch in November in the heavily Republican district. Thompson faces Laura Lombard in the state's August 7th Democratic primary. Republican U.S. Representative Ron Estes won a tougher-than-expected special election against Thompson for the Wichita-area seat formerly held by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.


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