Headlines for Friday, April 24, 2015
Tornadoes Reported as Severe Storm System Hits Kansas
FAIRPORT, Kan. (AP) — Tornadoes have touched down in sparsely populated western Kansas as a severe storm system moves through the Midwest. The National Weather Service says the first tornado was confirmed around 5 pm Friday near the unincorporated community of Fairport, which is about 20 miles northeast of Hays. The twister was moving east at 15 mph, and meteorologists were predicting that it would remain over mainly rural areas of northern Russell County. A tornado also has been spotted near the small unincorporated town of Modoc in Wichita County. There were no immediate reports of damage. Meteorologists say conditions are favorable for the formation of tornadoes in about 40 other counties in the state. The storm system also is churning up 60 mph winds and hail.
Brownback's New Budget Proposal Hits Hospitals, Medicaid Firms
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ New budget-balancing proposals from Kansas Governor Sam Brownback would require hospitals to pay higher fees and capture savings from companies managing the state's Medicaid program. The Republican governor outlined proposed budget adjustments Thursday before a meeting of the House Appropriations Committee. One proposal would require hospitals to pay an additional $19 million in fees during the fiscal year beginning July 1. The fees help sustain the Medicaid program's health coverage for 368,000 needy and disabled Kansas residents. The state uses revenues from the fees to attract federal dollars that go back to the hospitals for caring for Medicaid participants. Other proposals reduce projected Medicaid spending by almost $33 million between now and the end of June 2016 to reflect lower payments to the three health insurers managing the program.
Investigation Continues into Driver's License Fraud Case
OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — The number of people arrested in a phony driver's license scheme in suburban Kansas City has swelled to 40 people. The Kansas City Star reports that Kansas Secretary of Revenue Nick Jordan says part of the investigation includes determining how the fraudulent licenses may have been used. Jordan said that in his five years as director, it was the first time there has been such a level of fraud uncovered. Samantha Jo Moore is the only former agency employee charged in the case. She's jailed in Johnson County on 51 felonies, including bribery and official misconduct. Bond for the 28-year-old has been set at $250,000. Her public defender, Joseph Astrab, didn't immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press. Jordan called the case "disturbing."
Kansas AG Says Fantasy Sports Proposal is Constitutional
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt says a legislative proposal to legalize fantasy sports leagues doesn't violate the state constitution's ban on private lotteries. Schmidt issued a legal opinion Friday at the request of a Kansas House member who opposes gambling. In defining fantasy sports, the proposal says they're contests determined by the skill of the participants. Schmidt said one key element of a lottery is that chance determines the outcome. The Kansas Constitution bans lotteries other than the one operated by the state. The state Racing and Gaming Commission announced last year that it views private fantasy sports leagues as illegal lotteries, but it has not pushed for enforcement. Fantasy sports players compete by creating digital teams from a pool of real athletes and tracking their performances.
Judge Shields Evidence in Fort Riley Bomb Case
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) _ A federal judge has shielded from public disclosure evidence the government turns over to attorneys for a Kansas man accused of trying to bomb an Army installation. The order signed Friday in the case of 20-year-old John T. Booker Jr. comes at the request of prosecutors and with the agreement of the defense team. The government says the evidence includes general discovery typical in criminal cases, as well as declassified and sensitive law enforcement materials. Dissemination of the information is limited for use in preparing for trial. The order does not apply to classified information, which is governed by a separate statute. Booker is accused of trying to arm a 1,000-pound bomb near Fort Riley. He is charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and related crimes.
Arrest Made in Arson Grass Fires in South-Central Kansas
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A south-central Kansas man suspected of setting a series of seven grass fires has been arrested. The Hutchinson News reports that the Partridge man was taken into custody Thursday night. He's suspected in seven grass fires on land that is part of the federal Conservation Reserve Program, which pays farmers not to cultivate. The fires happened April 7.
Obama Uses Hospital Funds to Push Medicaid Expansion
MIAMI (AP) — The Obama administration is dialing up the pressure on a handful of states that have resisted expanding coverage for their low-income residents under the federal health care overhaul. The leverage comes from a little-known federal fund that helps states and hospitals recoup some of the costs of providing care for uninsured patients. The administration says states wouldn't need as much extra help with costs for the uninsured if they expanded Medicaid. The top two targets so far are Florida and Texas, states with large numbers of uninsured residents that have received several billion dollars in recent years from Washington under the so-called low income pool. Florida's hospital funding is the first of the nine states to expire, in June. But officials in Tennessee, California, Massachusetts, Arizona, Hawaii, Kansas and New Mexico are watching closely.
Ethics Commission Questions Some PAC Names
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The state ethics commission is determining whether some political action committees connected to leading Kansas politicians are properly named. The Wichita Eagle reports the issue arose when a PAC called "It's Time to Fix Stupid," was notified that the name had to be changed. State law requires PACs affiliated with a larger corporation or organization to note that in their name. Unaffiliated PACs must indicate who's involved or the cause it is advocating. The Eagle then found that PACs linked to Secretary of State Kris Kobach, Governor Sam Brownback, former Governor Kathleen Sebelius and a group of Pittsburg Democrats might not be properly named. Carol Williams, executive director of the commission, said Brownback's PAC met the requirements because it's incorporated and includes the corporation name.
Stripe Rust Spotted in Kansas Winter Wheat Fields
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Industry leaders are warning winter wheat growers about a growing threat to their crop from stripe rust moving across Kansas. The industry group Kansas Wheat said Friday a heavy infestation of the disease has been reported in southeast Kansas near Altamont and more moderate cases have also surfaced around Labette in Labette County. K-State Research and Extension also reports stripe and leaf rust may be active in Barber, Ottawa, Allen, Bourbon and Anderson counties. The disease has the potential to cause losses of 40 percent or more to a wheat crop when it occurs prior to heading on some varieties.
Retrial Pushed Back to August in Lawrence Homicide Case
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ A retrial has been pushed back to August for a Lawrence man whose first homicide trial ended with a hung jury. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the trial for 30-year-old Dustin D. Walker initially was scheduled for next month. But it was rescheduled for August 17 after a new defense attorney was named Thursday. Walker is charged with first-degree murder in the March 2014 shooting death of 37-year-old Patrick Roberts during a robbery. Walker was found guilty in February of aggravated burglary, but the jury could not agree on the murder charge. Another man, Archie Robinson, was found guilty of both charges in March. He was sentenced in April to life in prison with no chance of parole for 20 years in the killing.
Murder Trial in Adoptive Parents' Killings Likely for 2016
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A California woman could go on trial next spring on charges of killing of her biological son's adoptive parents in southeast Kansas. The Wichita Eagle reports that 36-year-old Kisha Schaberg is charged with capital murder in the killings of Roger and Melissa Bluml. The couple was shot in November 2013 as they sat in a car outside of their rural Valley Center home. During a hearing Friday, Sedgwick County District Judge Jeffrey Goering asked attorneys to tentatively reserve April 2016 for the proceedings. The trial could last a month or more. Schaberg has pleaded not guilty and is jailed on $2 million bond. She could face the death penalty if convicted. Her biological son and two of his friends are scheduled for trial later this year in the case.
Prison Ordered in 2013 Leavenworth Shooting Death
LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A rural Leavenworth man has been sentenced to seven years and three months in prison for the shooting death of another man in 2013. The Kansas City Star reports that 49-year-old Jeffery Allen Sifford, of Leavenworth, was sentenced Friday for voluntary manslaughter in the death of 58-year-old Richard Eugene Luse. Sifford also was sentenced on charges of possessing marijuana and drug paraphernalia. A witness saw Luse and Sifford struggling over a gun inside a trailer. Sifford's attorney said that at the time of the shooting, Sifford believed Luse was going to hurt him.
Affidavit: Investors Lost $3.5 Million in Wichita Project
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An affidavit in a securities fraud case alleges that developers violated Kansas securities law in raising money to buy more than a dozen downtown Wichita buildings. The Wichita Eagle reported Friday that the document alleges developers Michael Elzufon and David Lundberg sold unregistered securities. It also alleges they failed to supply required information to investors and frequently didn't use investors' money as agreed. The Kansas Securities Commission alleges investors, many of whom lived in California, lost $3.5 million. Its affidavit lists 61 counts of fraud. Elzufon's defense attorney, Kurt Kerns, says if the developers had succeeded in what they tried to do, nobody would be complaining. Lundberg blamed the credit crunch and recession. The newspaper obtained the affidavit, filed in February, through an open records request.
Jetmore Man Charged with Murder, Child Abuse
JETMORE, Kan. (AP) — A sheriff's deputy in western Kansas man has been charged with killing his 2-month-old son. The Kansas attorney general's office announced Friday in a news release that 30-year-old Kody Lee Hanson has been charged with first-degree murder and child abuse. Bond has been set at $250,000 cash or surety. The Topeka Capital-Journal reported last week when Hanson was arrested that he worked for the Hodgeman County Sheriff's Office. The criminal complaint says Hanson abused the child April 7. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation announced previously that the boy died at a Wichita hospital. Hanson is scheduled to appear Monday in Hodgeman County District Court. A spokeswoman for the attorney general's office didn't immediately return phone calls or emails from The Associated Press asking whether Hanson had an attorney.
Kansas Man Killed in National Weather Service Parking Lot in Oklahoma
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — The FBI says it was a Kansas man who died after driving a car through a gate and into the parking lot of the National Weather Service on the campus of the University of Oklahoma. The FBI said in a news release Friday that Allen Rouse of Wichita, Kansas, was the only person in the car — which burned after coming to a stop in the parking lot on Thursday. An OU spokeswoman said OU police are investigating the incident as a suicide.
Report: Man-Made Earthquakes Shake More Than a Dozen Areas in US
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Government scientists say Kansas is in one of more than a dozen regions in the United States have experienced a rise in man-made earthquakes in recent years. A report released Thursday found that 17 areas in eight states have seen small quakes triggered by oil and gas drilling. They include parts of Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas. The U.S. Geological Survey says most of the shaking is caused by the oil and gas industry injecting wastewater deep underground, which can activate dormant faults. A few cases stemmed from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The agency plans to study how often man-made quakes are expected to occur in the next year and how much shaking they would produce. Scientists released the report at an earthquake meeting in Pasadena, California.
New Plea Hearing Set for Woman Accused in Adoption Scheme
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - A woman accused of pretending to be pregnant to scam prospective adoptive parents in Kansas and elsewhere is expected to return to court next week. A court notation Thursday shows Chrystal Marie Rippey, of Marshall, Texas, is scheduled for a change-of-plea hearing May 1 in federal court in Kansas City, Kansas. U.S. District Judge Kathryn Vratil rejected in January an earlier plea deal in which the parties agreed to a binding 48-month sentence. Rippey was indicted in February 2014 on charges of mail and wire fraud. Prosecutors allege Rippey contacted adoption agencies and individuals, pretending she was pregnant and seeking to give up her unborn child for adoption. The indictment contends prospective parents bought her meals and gifts, believing she was willing to let them adopt her baby after birth.
Kansas Mother's Competency Hearing Scheduled for May
WELLINGTON, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas woman accused of killing her 10-year-old son will undergo a mental competency hearing in May. During a brief court hearing Thursday in Sumner County, an attorney for 33-year-old Lindsey Nicole Blansett said he wanted to question a psychologist who evaluated Blansett before a judge decides whether she is fit to stand trial. She is charged with first-degree murder in the December 14 stabbing death of Caleb Blansett at the family's home in Wellington. The hearing was set for May 14. The Wichita Eagle reports that a criminal complaint in the case alleges Blansett decided Caleb's life would be full of suffering and it would be better for him to go to heaven. She called 911 to report the stabbing.
Grand Topeka Home Once Used for State Offices to Be Razed
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A last-ditch effort to save a 135-year-old Queen Anne Victorian that had been used as offices for the Kansas Department of Labor has failed. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that a Facebook community called the Topeka History Geeks had planned an open house to generate interest in the building on the west edge of downtown Topeka. But Barbara Hersh, of the Department of Labor, said Thursday that the building is "unsafe." She says there's a contract in place for it to be demolished at a cost of about $42,000. The house was built in 1880 and had been known by some as "The Department of Labor White House." Hersh says it has been unoccupied since March 2011 because of significant deficiencies. Since 2006, attempts to sell the property have failed.
Restitution Confirmed in 2012 Murder of Topeka Woman
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka man imprisoned for his estranged wife's killing has been ordered to pay more than $43,000 to his former mother-in-law. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the Kansas Supreme Court upheld the restitution in a ruling Friday in the case of Manuel Alcala. He pleaded guilty in 2013 to premeditated first-degree murder in the 2012 killing of 34-year-old Ashley Alcala. He's serving a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for 25 years. The restitution will be used to help Karen Bacon pay for funeral expenses and legal fees incurred while adopting her grandchildren. The court said the expenses were the result of Alcala's criminal conduct. The court also agreed with a Shawnee County judge that Alcala failed to prove he was unable to make payments.
Kansas Wesleyan 2015 Graduates Will Receive Accredited Degrees
SALINA, Kan. (AP) - Students graduating from Kansas Wesleyan's nursing program next month will have degrees with national accreditation. School officials were notified Wednesday that the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing agreed to allow the accreditation for seniors, even though the college voluntarily withdrew from the organization in March. The Salina Journal reportsthe decision is important for graduating students seeking jobs or acceptance to master's programs. The university is in the process of seeking accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, which can take two years. It's unclear how that will affect junior students in the school's nursing program.
Topeka Man Sentenced to 11 More Years in 2010 Slaying
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A Topeka man was sentenced to just over 11 years in prison for a shooting death in Topeka, which will be served after about 80 years he is serving for other crimes. Stephen Alan Macomber was sentenced Thursday for involuntary manslaughter in the 2010 death of 26-year-old Ryan Lofton at the victim's home. Macomber was convicted in 2012 of second-degree murder but the Kansas Court of Appeals ordered a retrial. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports after Macomber shot Lofton, he shot and wounded a Marshall County deputy in Blue Rapids, then held an elderly woman hostage during a police standoff. He was sentenced to 80 years and one month for those crimes. He also had convictions in 1985 in Sedgwick County and a 1992 Reno County case.
Royals Beat White Sox 3-2 in 13 Innings After Brawl
CHICAGO (AP) — A benches-clearing fight led to five ejections in the seventh inning last night (THUR) in Chicago before Eric Hosmer hit the go-ahead double in the 13th to lead the Kansas City Royals to a 3-2 win over the White Sox. Wade Davis then pitched a scoreless 13th inning for his fourth save, giving Franklin Morales (2-0) the victory. Kansas City won for the fourth time in five games in a game in which tempers flared. Yordano Ventura snagged a grounder from Chicago outfielder Adam Eaton and they appeared to exchange words before players from both dugouts ran onto the field and punches were thrown during a fight that lasted a couple of minutes.
Kansas, K-State Playing Spring Games in Close Proximity
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — It's hard to decide just what will generate more interest when Kansas and Kansas State play their spring games just down Interstate 70 from each other on Saturday. The Jayhawks are still getting comfortable to new coach David Beaty, who was hired away from Texas A&M to rejuvenate a program that languished under Turner Gill and Charlie Weis. The Wildcats are breaking in three new quarterbacks, each of them trying to earn coach Bill Snyder's approval and the starting job once so capably occupied by Jake Waters. The Wildcats expect every seat to be filled in Sporting Park in Kansas City, which means a crowd in excess of 20,000. No one is quite sure what to expect at Kansas, where Beaty has been trying to drum up interest.