Headlines for Thursday, July 16, 2015
Mars Inc. Expands Candy-Making Plant in Topeka
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Mars Incorporated is planning a new, $100 million candy-making facility in Kansas that will be built near where its first new plant in 35 years began churning out sweets last year. The company disclosed the deal yesterday (WED), in advance of a Topeka economic development meeting. The development comes a little more than a year after the New Jersey-based company opened a $270 million plant south of Topeka, where M&M's and Snickers are made. After work on the 90,000-square-foot facility wraps up in late 2016, the company will add 70 full-time workers to the 200 already working in the city. Mars said in an email statement that the new facility, which is receiving economic development incentives, was designed to "add capacity." The company hasn't determined which candies it will make there.
ACLU: Court Needs to Directly Strike Down Kansas Ban
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union is arguing that a federal court needs to directly strike down the same-sex marriage ban in Kansas in the wake of the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the issue. Its latest filing Tuesday in the ongoing lawsuit opposes the state's efforts to have the case simply dismissed as moot now that such marriages are recognized. It contends courts across the country have since implemented the Supreme Court's decision by entering final judgments, not by dismissing cases. A spokeswoman for the governor did not immediately respond Wednesday to emailed requests seeking comment. The ACLU argued that neither the state's governor nor its attorney general has issued any clear directives or statements that the state of Kansas acknowledges the binding effect of the Supreme Court's ruling.
1st District Challenger Outraises Incumbent Huelskamp
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A central Kansas obstetrician who is seeking to unseat Republican U.S. Representative Tim Huelskamp outraised the incumbent last quarter and is closing the fundraising gap between the two. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Roger Marshall of Great Bend raised nearly $185,000 in the period between April and the end of June, with most of that coming from individual contributors. Huelskamp raised nearly $77,000 during the same period, with nearly half coming from political action committees. Fort Hays University political science professor Chapman Rackaway says he's impressed with Marshall's showing for the quarter, but added that Huelskamp's fundraising hasn't ramped up yet. Alan LaPolice, a second Republican challenger seeking Huelskamp's seat, filed a finance report Tuesday that indicated he didn't raise any money during the quarter.
Shawnee County District Attorney Seeks Higher Staff Salaries
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Shawnee County district attorney told commissioners during a budget meeting that his office needs more space and better salaries. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports District Attorney Chad Taylor told commissioners Wednesday his office is losing staff to competing prosecutors' office in Kansas. He said an entry-level position in the Shawnee County DA's office is $50,003, which is about $11,000 less than in Johnson County. Taylor also said he's requesting off-site space for some of his departments. Commissioner Kevin Cook says the county is conducting a study to help determine competitive wages for its employees. The district attorney's budget for 2015 was about $3.8 million. Taylor has requested about $4.3 million for 2016. The commissioners will continue to hear from county departments and officeholders while building the county's 2016 budget.
Trial Postponed in Franklin County Murders
OTTAWA, Kan. (AP) — The capital murder trial has been postponed for a 30-year-old Kansas man accused of killing four people. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Franklin County District Judge Eric Godderz on Thursday granted a defense request postponing Kyle Trevor Flack's murder trial from September 2015 to February, 22, 2016. Flack is charged with capital murder in the 2013 slayings of 21-year-old Kaylie Smith Bailey, and her daughter, 18-month-old Lana-Leigh Bailey. He's also charged with premeditated first-degree murder in the deaths of 20-year-old Andrew Stout and 31-year-old Steven White. Defense attorneys on Thursday gave several reasons for seeking the postponement, including the resignation of Ron Evans as head of the death penalty defense unit, a state-funded group that represents indigent defendants in capital cases. Timothy Frieden is now Flack's lead defense attorney.
Kansas Lottery, Casino Revenue Hits Record High
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Lottery is reporting a record high $155 million in lottery and casino gambling revenues during the fiscal year that just ended. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the state received $80 million from its share of profits from the three state-owned and operated casinos in Kansas City, Mulvane and Dodge City. That was about $1.3 million more than expected. The state receives 22 percent of the revenue from the three casinos. Lottery officials released unaudited figures showing sales of traditional lottery tickets grew 2.2 percent, to $264 million, during the fiscal year. Total revenues at the three casinos reached $365 million. The state general fund receives 29.5 percent of the proceeds from traditional lottery sales. At least 45 percent of the proceeds have to be paid out in prizes.
Woman Killed by Train Identified as 52-Year-Old from Emporia
EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — Emporia police identified a woman who was killed by a train earlier this week as 52-year-old Tuesday Mounkes of Emporia. The Emporia Gazette reports Mounkes was struck by a train around 1:13pm Tuesday. Officers found her body east of the intersection near the tracks. Police say the train was traveling east and Mounkes was walking south when she was hit. Police spokesman Captain David DeVries says no foul play is suspected.
Lawrence Police ID Body Found Near Tracks
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence police have identified a body found this week near railroad tracks. 6News reports the victim has been identified as 58-year-old Rick Bowman of Lawrence. A cause of death has not been released. Police spokesman Sergeant Trent McKinley says foul play isn't suspected. Railroad personnel found Bowman's body Monday afternoon.
Warrant Issued for Kansas Activist Charged in Fatal Crash
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Wyandotte County authorities have issued an arrest warrant a 39-year-old community activist charged in a traffic crash that killed a teenager. The Kansas City Star reports that the warrant was issued after Tamika Pledger failed to show up for a hearing in Wyandotte County District Court. The judge also increased Pledger's bond to $100,000. Pledger is charged with involuntary manslaughter and three counts of aggravated battery after her car struck a group of teenagers January 30 in Kansas City, Kansas. Tierra Smith, a 17-year-old from Raytown, Missouri, died from her injuries about a week after the crash. A preliminary hearing scheduled for Thursday was canceled, and Pledger's lawyer also filed a motion to withdraw from the case. Pledger has said the crash was an accident.
Court Overturns Conviction in Homeless Activist's Death
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal appeals court has thrown out a woman's convictions for her role in the 2006 death of Topeka homeless activist David Owen. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday ruled Kimberly Sharp's confession should not have been admitted at her trial on first-degree murder and kidnapping charges. The decision is subject to the state's right to retry her. The Kansas attorney general's office said it was consulting with the Shawnee County district attorney's office to determine potential next steps. A three-judge appeals panel said the homeless woman's statements were involuntary because police promised her no jail and help finding shelter for her and her children to live. She was among four people convicted in connection with Owen's death. Owen's body was found near the Kansas River a month after he disappeared.
Interim Manager Named for Kansas State Fair
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — An interim manager has been named for the Kansas State Fair about two months before the 2015 fair gets underway. The Hutchinson News reports that the Kansas State Fair board voted Wednesday to name Assistant Fair Manager Lori Hart as interim manager. The fair, scheduled for September, drew about 350,000 people to the 10-day event last year. Fair manager Denny Stoecklein announced last month he's taking a job as director of marketing and communications at Hutchinson Community College. He begins work there Monday. Fair Board President Harmon Bliss says a five-member committee of the board will continue will search for Stoecklein's permanent replacement.
Parents Accused of Abusing Adoptive Daughter Plead Guilty
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita couple has pleaded guilty to beating and abusing a girl they were foster parents to and later adopted. The Wichita Eagle reports the couple pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges including child abuse, aggravated battery and criminal restraint. They had denied the allegations. The 15-year-old girl and three other children were taken into protective custody in March 2014. A child-in-need-of-care petition alleges that the girl's adoptive parents at times chained her in a basement and gave her a bucket to use as a toilet. Authorities say the girl, who was 14 at the time, weighed just 66 pounds when she was removed from the home. The girl and the other children remain in foster care pending the outcome of their child-in-need-of-care case. The Eagle has not named the parents in order to protect the identity of the children.
Kansas Man Sentenced to 34 Years in Prison for 1991 Rape
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A judge in Jackson County, Misssouri has sentenced a suburban Kansas City man to 34 years in prison for a 1991 rape. The Kansas City Star reports that 43-year-old Maurice Webber was convicted in May of rape and other sexual assault charges based on DNA evidence collected almost 24 years ago. Jackson County Circuit Judge W. Brent Powell sentenced Webber on Wednesday. A DNA sample taken after a 2013 traffic stop linked Webber to a 1991 sexual assault of a 17-year-old girl in Swope Park. In 2004, analysts developed DNA profiles of three men from genetic material recovered from the victim's body and clothing in 1991. No matches had been found until a DNA sample obtained from Webber after the 2013 arrest in Overland Park registered as a match.
Child Locked in Hot Car in Wichita Taken to Hospital
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A child has been taken to the hospital after authorities say she was locked in a hot car in Wichita. Authorities say fire crews responded to a call of a child in a locked vehicle in the parking lot of a grocery store around 7:30 pm Wednesday. Wichita Fire Battalion Chief Andy Cole said the child's mother arrived at the vehicle around the same time crews did. Cole said the mother unlocked the car and got the child out. Police did not say how long the child was in the car. The Wichita Eagle reports that according to the National Weather Service, the temperature in Wichita at the time of the incident was 91 degrees with a heat index of 95.
Suspect Shot, Killed After Pursuit in Kansas City
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A suspect has been shot and killed after a law enforcement pursuit in Kansas City. FBI spokeswoman Bridget Patton says the chase started after authorities went to a home with a search warrant Wednesday. She said the warrant was part of an investigation involving the FBI, local police and the U.S. Marshal's office. She said two people matching the suspects' descriptions fled in a vehicle and refused to stop. One suspect got out of the vehicle and ran, but was arrested shortly afterward. Patton says the car chase ended on Interstate 35 after the suspect's vehicle became disabled, and the driver got out of the vehicle armed with a weapon. She says shots were fired, killing the suspect. Patton said it wasn't immediately clear if the suspect fired shots.
Kansas City's Minimum Wage Could Increase to $13 an Hour
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City's minimum wage would rise to $13 an hour over eight years under a measure the city council is considering. The council is expected to vote on the measure this (THUR) afternoon. The proposal calls for businesses with more than 15 employees and $500,000 in annual income to begin paying at least $8.50 an hour on August 24th. The current state minimum is $7.65.
Some Economic Growth Likely in Rural Parts of 10 States
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A new survey suggests modest economic growth ahead in rural parts of 10 Plains and Western states, but the predicted decline in farm income this year remains a concern. The overall Rural Mainstreet economic index inched into positive territory in July at 53.4. In June the index registered a neutral score of 50. The index has risen for four months. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says the trend is encouraging, but the bankers surveyed still aren't very optimistic. The confidence index remained in negative territory at 46.6 after improving from June's 45.9. The survey indexes range from 0 to 100. Any score below 50 suggests decline in that factor in the months ahead. Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.
Confirmed Mountain Lion Sightings Rise in Missouri, Kansas
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Reports of confirmed mountain lion sightings have increased over the past decade in Kansas and Missouri, but experts say there are no signs that the animals are reproducing in either state. The Kansas City Star reports most of the mountain lions — also known as pumas, panthers, catamounts and cougars — that make their way into the states are males that wandered away from the Black Hills, Badlands and northwestern Nebraska. Mountain lion populations were devastated by hunting and a shortage of prey in the early 1900s, but researchers say they are recolonizing in the Midwest. Almost all of the mountain lions found in Kansas and Missouri are males. There have been more than 50 confirmed sightings in Missouri since 1994, while Kansas has reported 10 during that period.