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Weekend Headlines for July 29-30, 2017

Union: 4th Inmate Incident in 3 months at El Dorado Prison

EL DORADO, Kan. (AP) — A senior union official says there has been another inmate disturbance at the troubled El Dorado prison in Kansas, the fourth incident in three months. Robert Choromanski, Kansas Organization of State Employees executive director, says that a Special Security Team was called to the prison on Friday evening after 30 inmates refused to stand down. He says the information came from a prison employee who was monitoring emergency communications. No other information was immediately available. Todd Fertig, Kansas Department of Corrections spokesman, could not be reached for comment. He told the Kansas City Star that two inmates were wounded at El Dorado earlier Friday, one with "several puncture wounds." He says no employees were injured. He did not respond to a question from the Star about the reported evening disturbance.


Hutchinson Teen Sentenced to Life in Prison for Fatal Arson

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A judge has sentenced an 18-year-old to life in prison for intentionally setting a fire that killed his mother and sister in 2013. Samuel Vonachen was 14 when he set the fire and 17 when convicted. The Hutchinson News says Reno County District Judge Trish Rose sentenced Vonachen to mandatory life sentence on each count of first-degree murder, plus 12 years, 11 months for the attempted murder of his father and 4 years, 11 months for aggravated arson. She ordered the sentences to run concurrently, which means Vonachen could be eligible for parole in 25 years. Prosecutors say Vonachen spread gasoline around the house and set it on fire, killing his mother, 47-year-old Karla Jo Vonachen, and his 11-year-old sister Audrey. His father escaped the blaze. Firefighters heard screaming inside when they arrived to find the house engulfed in flames.


Hutchinson Student Sentenced after Fire from Chemical Experiment

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A judge has sentenced a Hutchinson college student to five years in prison for starting a fire while conducting chemical experiments in his apartment. The Hutchinson News says District Judge Trish Rose sentenced 23-year-old Chase Coble, a Hutchinson Community College chemistry student, who was convicted last month of aggravated arson. Coble contends that he was conducting experiments in his 12th-floor apartment, creating chemical heat to meld metal to plastic. He says there was nothing nefarious about it. The flash fire set off sprinklers and alarms, which alerted authorities. Reno County District Attorney Keith Schroeder says Coble had done at least 50 experiments in the apartment, with ingredients including chlorine gas. He says Coble also removed a window and threw items in the alley below in an apparent attempt to hide them.


Next Kansas Governor Would be a Surgeon, Brownback Loyalist

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Jeff Colyer has been a loyal lieutenant governor to GOP Governor Sam Brownback since 2011 and is preparing to become Kansas governor after nearly a decade of helping fellow conservative Republicans shape health care policy. Colyer is a plastic surgeon who squeezed in international medical relief missions in disaster and war zones. Colyer would be elevated to governor once Brownback resigns to become President Donald Trump's ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. The White House announced Wednesday that it would nominate Brownback. The 57-year-old Colyer already was seen as a potential Republican candidate for governor next year because Brownback was term-limited. Colyer often was the administration's spokesman on health issues and served in the state Legislature before first running on Brownback's ticket in 2010. Colyer may deviate little from Brownback's policies.


Police Link Series of Rapes in Lawrence, Manhattan

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a serial rapist who remains on the loose after attacking more than a dozen women in two Kansas college towns has been tied to another case. Police in Riley County and Lawrence announced during a joint news conference Thursday that a July 2015 attempted rape in Manhattan is the latest case linked to the unidentified suspect. The man also is suspected in 12 other rapes and one other attempted rape from 2000 to 2008. Authorities are urging other women who may have been victimized to come forward. Police say all but one of the attacks occurred during school breaks at Kansas State and the University of Kansas. Officials have said the suspect is usually armed. A $10,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to an arrest.


Kansas Man Convicted of Rape Faces Child Exploitation Charge

HOLTON, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man already convicted of raping two women and acquitted of sexually assaulting a teen won't face additional rape charges, but will stand trial in relation to explicit images of an underage girl that authorities found via his Facebook profile. Jacob Ewing will face trial for attempted rape and 10 felony counts of sexual exploitation of a child. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports District Judge Norbert Marek ruled Thursday that a jury should decide if Ewing knowingly viewed the sexually explicit images of a 17-year-old girl. In the ruling in Jackson County, Kansas, Marek dismissed additional rape charges at the request of special prosecutor Jacqie Spradling. Marek denied a request by defense attorney Kathleen Ambrosio to have Ewing retried to try to overturn his convictions in June.


Former Soldier Sentenced in Kansas Sexual Abuse Case

FORT RILEY, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors say a former Army soldier who was stationed in northeast Kansas has been sentenced to 17 years for sexual abuse. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that 30-year-old Eugene Cleaver of Bonham, Texas, pleaded guilty to one count of sexual abuse. In his plea, Cleaver says he was stationed at Fort Riley, where he lived with four female minors and their parents. U.S. Attorney Tom Beall says Cleaver received free room and board in exchange for watching the children and taking care of the house. The juveniles were eventually removed from the home and placed in foster care. Beall says investigators discovered Cleaver had molested the children. Beall says investigators found that Cleaver told the children not to tell anyone or he would get in trouble.


Report: Failure to Yield Caused Kansas Train Collision

READING, Kan. (AP) — Kansas highway officials say a collision between an Amtrak train and a semitrailer pulling cattle occurred due to the driver's failure to yield to the train. A report from the Kansas Highway Patrol says the train wasn't able to stop when the driver didn't yield at a railroad crossing near Reading on Thursday. The Emporia Gazette reports the accident sent the train's engineer, 35-year-old Jarrod McWhirter, to a local hospital with minor injuries. Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari says none of the more than 210 train passengers were hurt. The livestock trailer was split in half by the collision, killing some cattle and injuring others. Magliari says the train was able to continue eastward after a four-hour delay once a replacement crew arrived and the damaged lead locomotive was removed.


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