New Kansas Law Allows Agencies to Refuse LGBT Adoptions
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer has signed legislation granting legal protections to faith-based adoption agencies that cite their religious beliefs for not placing children in LGBT homes. Colyer signed the measure Friday during a ceremony at a Christian boys' home in the Wichita area. The new law takes effect July 1st. Under the law, agencies cannot be barred from providing foster care or adoption services for the state if they refuse to place children in homes violating their "sincerely held" religious beliefs. In Oklahoma, Governor Mary Fallin signed a similar measure last week. Supporters argued that the measures would prevent agencies from facing lawsuits or hostile action by a state if officials did not agree with their views. But critics contend that such policies sanction taxpayer-funded discrimination against LGBT couples.
2 Shot after Graduation at Leawood Megachurch
LEAWOOD, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say two people have been shot and wounded outside a suburban Kansas City megachurch after a high school graduation there. Leawood Police Captain Brad Robbins says the shooting happened Thursday night after a fight erupted as people were leaving the Church of the Resurrection in Leawood. With over 20,000 members, the church has the largest Methodist congregation in the U.S. Robbins says both victims were treated and released from hospitals. One was a student who had just graduated from Center High School in Kansas City, Missouri. The other victim was wounded inside a vehicle. Robbins says more than a dozen shell casings were found at the scene. Church of the Resurrection Pastor Adam Hamilton said on Facebook that he is "saddened for these kids and their families."
Elderly Woman Killed in 2-Vehicle Crash Near Wichita
DERBY, Kan. (AP) — Police say a 90-year-old woman has died in a collision between two vehicles near the Wichita suburb of Derby. The Wichita Eagle reports that the woman was a backseat passenger in a sedan that collided with a small sport utility vehicle Friday evening. Sedgwick County Sheriff's Lt. Timothy Myers says the sedan, driven by an 88 year old, turned in front of the SUV. Authorities had not released the name of the woman killed by midday Saturday. The driver of the car and an 85-year-old passenger suffered minor injuries. The 30-year-old driver of the SUV also suffered minor injuries.
Two Men Charged with Murder in Topeka Woman's Shooting
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two Topeka men are being held without bond in connection with a woman's shooting death. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that police arrested 27-year-old Erik Rayford on Thursday and 29-year-old Justin Lee McCoy on Friday in the death last Sunday of 37-year-old Patricia Sanders. Officers found Sanders dead after being called to a home early May 13th. Both Rayford and McCoy are charged with first-degree murder and are being held in the Shawnee County Jail.
Faculty Alleges Garden City College President Created Hostile Workplace
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Garden City Community College trustees are searching for an independent investigator to look into faculty allegations that the college's president has created a hostile workplace. A report from the faculty senate accuses college President Herbert Swender of sexual harassment, intimidation and other misconduct. It alleges his actions are jeopardizing the college's accreditation. Swender did not respond to phone and email messages from the Associated Press. Board of Trustees attorney Randall Grisell said in a phone interview Friday that he has asked to find an investigator. He said he anticipates the person hired will be an attorney with a background in employment law and in Title IX, a federal law that prohibits sex discrimination.
Turnover at Kansas Child Welfare Agency Aimed at Turnaround
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The leader of Kansas' child welfare department says the many staff changes since November are designed to improve an agency that faced scrutiny for months over foster care problems. KCUR-FM reports that some 20 administrators in the state Department for Children and Families have been fired, shifted to new jobs or promoted. The changes included the dismissals of two staff members in the Wichita regional office this spring. Department Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel said staffing changes come both from a desire to reshape the overwhelmed agency and concerns about some staff members' actions. Meier-Hummel became secretary in December, after former Secretary Phyllis Gilmore retired. Gilmore had faced calls for her resignation. The department faced questions about several high-profile deaths of abused children in recent years after DCF was alerted to problems.
Man Sentenced to Life in Topeka Drive-by Shooting
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 28-year-old man has been sentenced to life in prison for a drive-by shooting in Topeka that killed man who had been linked to an earlier fatal shooting. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Cortez Tyrell Timley must serve at least 25 years in prison before being eligible for parole. He was convicted in March of first-degree murder in the June 2014 death of 26-year-old Jermel Ramond Robbins Sr. Investigators say Robbins' was suspected of being the third man involved in a May 2014 shooting that left Tiffany Davenport-Ray dead. His name surfaced during the trials of two other men, Thomas Earl Brown Jr. and Awnterio Lowery, in July 2016. Brown and Lowery were convicted in Davenport-Ray's death. Robbins was killed about three weeks after Davenport-Ray was killed.
Kansas Town Dedicates Tornado Sculpture to Mark Tri-Tornado Anniversary
CODELL, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas town where a tornado struck three straight years is dedicating a steel cyclone sculpture to remember the triple tragedies. The Salina Journal reports that the dedication ceremony is planned for Sunday in the tiny town of Codell, which is about 25 miles northeast of Hays. The tornados struck on May 20th of the years 1916, 1917 and 1918. The first two merely damaged properties outside town. But the third killed 10 people and injured dozens in and around the community of fewer than 100 residents. Seventy-seven-year-old Codell native Sharolyn Lamb-Gramm says May 20th will always be known as "Cyclone Day." Two siblings who lived through the three tornadoes plan to attend the ceremony. The sculpture was constructed by Fort Hays State University associate professor Tobias Flores and adjunct professor Danielle Robinson.
Former KU Student Convicted of 4 Felonies for Grade-Hacking
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A former University of Kansas student has been convicted of four felonies after he hacked into the university's computer system to change his grades. 20-year-old Varun Sarja of Olathe pleaded guilty Thursday to two counts of identity theft and two counts of unlawful computer acts. Fourteen other charges were dropped. The Lawrence Journal-World reports Sarja used a keystroke logger to steal professors' passwords to get into the computer system. Douglas County District Court Judge Kay Huff says Sarja will likely receive probation because he has no prior criminal history. Sarja will be required to allow law enforcement to verify that his electronics no longer contain the keystroke logger program. Sarja was a freshman studying engineering during the 2016-17 school year when he successfully changed failing grades to As.
Man Sentenced in Wichita Torture and Murder
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A man who participated in the torture and killing of a Wichita man over a $185 meth deal has been sentenced to 73 years in prison. KAKE-TV reports 57-year-old Willie Morris was sentenced Friday for first-degree murder and several other charges in the November 2016 death of 33-year-old Scottie Goodpaster Jr. Morris was one of five people charged in Goodpaster's death. Goodpaster's mutilated body was found in a Harvey County field. A court affidavit indicated Goodpaster was tortured and a woman was forced to watch. The document indicates the violence stemmed from money lost in a methamphetamine deal. The four other defendants remain in the Sedgwick County Jail.
Lawence Lawmaker Switches to State Treasurer Race
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas lawmaker has switched to running for state treasurer after planning to seek the Democratic nomination for secretary of state. State Senator Marci Francisco of Lawrence announced her decision Thursday. Democrats had not found a candidate to challenge incumbent Republican Treasurer Jake LaTurner. Former Uber and Google executive Brian McClendon of Lawrence is running for the Democratic nomination for secretary of state. Francisco's switch likely heads off a primary contest for him. Francisco said in a statement that Kansas Democratic Party Chairman John Gibson asked her to switch races. She was first elected to the Senate in 2004 after serving as Lawrence's mayor. Then-Governor Sam Brownback appointed LaTurner treasurer last year. He replaced Republican Ron Estes after Estes won a special election to fill a vacant congressional seat.
Wichita Holds Funeral for 3rd Child Abuse Victim in 4 Weeks
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Residents gathered this week to honor a 2-year-old who is the third child in Wichita to have died from abuse in just four weeks. The Wichita Eagle reports that Saint Joseph Church held a funeral Thursday for Anthony Bunn. The toddler was rushed to a hospital earlier this month after he stopped breathing. Police say he suffered severe head injuries. The child's mother, Elizabeth Woolheater, and her boyfriend, Lucas Diel, are jailed and have been charged with murder in Anthony's death. The Reverend Pat York said that if people stand by what is right, "maybe we can prevent this from happening to another innocent child." The Wichita area has seen several child abuse homicides and a disappearance within the past year. The Kansas Department of Children and Families Secretary says its working to improve child welfare programs.
Kansas Passes State Fair Sales Tax Law
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has passed a law that directs sales tax collected at the State Fair to go toward capital improvements. The Hutchinson News reports that Governor Jeff Colyer signed the Senate bill into law Wednesday. Fiscal 2017 figures show returning the sales tax generated on the Kansas State Fairgrounds during the fair would produce just over $400,000. About 5 percent of the 6.5 percent tax would go into the State Fair Capital Improvements Fund. The bill came amid a move to open bidding by other towns to host the State Fair, which has been in Hutchinson for more than a century. Republican Senator Ed Berger added an amendment to say the fair would only receive the sales tax if it remained in Hutchinson. State Fair officials will hold a ceremonial signing July 5th.
Kansas Man Get Probation in Deadly Wichita Crash
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 21-year-old man has been sentenced to three years of probation for a crash that killed a 72-year-old Wichita man. The Wichita Eagle reports that Cody McFarlane was sentenced Wednesday for involuntary manslaughter and aggravated battery in the July 2017 collision that killed 72-year-old James McDaniel and injured McDaniel's 16-year-old grandson. Court records say McFarlane was speeding at 80 mph in a 30 mph zone when his truck sped through an intersection in the northern part of the city and struck McDaniel's vehicle. McDaniel died less than an hour later at a hospital. If he violates the terms of his probation, McFarlane could be forced to serve a prison sentence of three years and four months.