Headlines for Monday, August, 17, 2015
Kansas School Districts' Requests for Aid Outstrips Funds
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Thirty-eight Kansas school districts are seeking a total of $14.8 million in additional aid from the state to address local budget issues. The requests submitted to the state Department of Education by Monday's deadline outstrip the available funds by nearly 21 percent. Those applying for extra dollars represent more than 13 percent of the state's 286 districts. The state has $12.3 million in extra funds available. Governor Sam Brownback and legislative leaders plan to meet Monday to consider the requests. A majority of districts are asking the state to make up for unexpected drops in property tax revenues. Others have enrollment increases. The Wichita district is seeking $980,000 to hire teachers, counselors and classroom assistants to deal with an unexpected influx of refugee children from Burma, Congo and Somalia.
Jury Selection Begins in Kansas Jewish Site Shootings
OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — An avowed white supremacist who admitted that he killed three people outside of two Kansas Jewish sites seemed upbeat as jury selection began in his capital murder trial. Frazier Glenn Miller Jr. was wheeled into a Johnson County courtroom Monday wearing a jacket and tie and with his hair neatly combed. The 74-year-old Aurora, Missouri, man has chronic emphysema and has been using a wheelchair and oxygen during courtroom proceedings since his April 2014 arrest. Miller has admitted that he gunned down a woman, man and teenager outside of two Jewish centers in Overland Park, Kansas. He said he was targeting Jews, although none of the three were Jewish. Miller is representing himself in the trial, which is expected to last several weeks. He could get the death penalty.
Kansas Regulators Urged to Approve Westar Rate-Hike Deal
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Attorneys are telling Kansas regulators an agreement that would allow the state's largest electric company to increase its rates about 4 percent is reasonable for customers. The rate-setting Kansas Corporation Commission had a 90-minute hearing Monday on the proposed deal. It was struck by Topeka-based Westar Energy, the commission's staff, a state consumer advocacy agency and the utility's largest customers. The company's annual rates would rise $78 million — about half of what Westar wanted. Most households would see their monthly bills increase from $5 to $7 a month. Westar sought higher rates to pay for power plant upgrades. Attorneys representing the parties urged the three-member commission not to change any of the agreement's terms. State law gives the KCC until October 28 to issue an order.
Kansas Agency Bans Employees from Audio and Video Recording
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Revenue has banned employees from making audio, video or photographic recordings while at work. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that violations could lead to firings. Agency spokeswoman Jeannine Koranda says the policy is formalizing what has already been the practice at the agency. The restrictions, which took effect earlier this month, have raised concerns with the state employee's union. Kansas Organization of State Employees director Rebecca Proctor says workers often make recordings to aid in proving harassment claims. The recording ban provides no exception for gathering evidence of wrongdoing, such as sexual harassment or financial misconduct. Washburn University law professor Joseph Mastrosimone says the policy may conflict with Kansas' whistleblower protection law.
Kansas City Mayor Will Evaluate Annual Summer Youth Event
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City, Missouri Mayor Sly James says an annual end-of-summer youth event will be evaluated after it ended early when numerous fights erupted. James said that it was unfortunate that a "few troublemakers" caused problems at the Rock the Block event. The Union Station gathering was expected to run until 11 p.m. Saturday but was shut down about an hour early. Rock the Block is one of the city's programs intended to give young people something fun and constructive to do during the summer instead of congregating in the entertainment districts. The programs drew about 8,500 young people this year. James said in a statement that the events will be evaluated and he says the community also will be asked what it wants.
Topeka Council to Discuss Banning E-Cigarettes in Public
0TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Topeka officials plan to consider banning electronic cigarettes in enclosed public places. The e-cigarettes, which allow nicotine users to inhale vapor, have become increasingly popular substitutes for tobacco cigarettes. But Topeka City Councilwoman Elaine Schwartz says questions remain about the safety of e-cigarettes and she wants to expand Topeka's smoking ban to include e-cigarettes. The proposal would include an exception for retail smoke shops that sell the e-cigarettes. The council will consider the proposal on Tuesday. Several other cities, including Overland Park, Olathe, McPherson and Kansas City, Kansas, already ban the use of e-cigarettes in some public places.
Kansas Woman Who Was Helped by Officer Jailed on Drug Charge
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - A Kansas City, Kansas woman with six children who was helped by a police officer after she was caught shoplifting diapers is now in jail on a federal drug charge. The Wyandotte County Sheriff's department says Sarah Robinson was taken to jail Friday. She was indicted by a federal grand jury in St. Louis in July on charges of possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute. The alleged crime occurred in Lincoln County, Missouri in March 2014. When Robinson was stopped July 6 for stealing the diapers, Roeland Park Police Officer Mark Engravalle bought shoes, diapers and baby wipes for some of Robinson's children. After his gesture received national attention, the public donated about $6,000 and numerous items to the family
Kansas City Area Doctor Charged with Abusing Teen Patient
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A former Kansas City area doctor faces charges accusing him of sexually abusing a teenage patient. The Jackson County (Missouri) prosecutor's office said Monday that 43-year-old Joseph T. Mackey of Blue Springs is charged with eight counts of second-degree statutory sodomy. Mackey, who surrendered his medical license earlier, was also a leader of a Jackson County Boy Scouts troop and had volunteered for the Kansas City area's Heart of America Council of Boy Scouts as the medical director and as a member of the executive board. The prosecutor's office says the victim told authorities he met Mackey through scouting when he was 11, and that he also became a patient of Mackey's. The charges stem from alleged incidents in 2000 and 2001. Mackey's lawyer, Michael Taylor, declined comment Monday.
Blue Bell to Resume Distributing Ice Cream to Select Markets
BRENHAM, Texas (AP) — Blue Bell Creameries will resume distributing ice cream to select markets in Texas and Alabama this month after halting sales and production following listeria contamination. The Brenham, Texas-based company said Monday that it plans to re-enter parts of 15 states in five phases. The first phase, which starts August 31, will include the Brenham, Houston and Austin areas in Texas and the Birmingham and Montgomery areas in Alabama. Blue Bell in April voluntarily recalled all products after its treats were linked to 10 listeria illnesses in four states, including three deaths in Kansas. The Blue Bell production facility in Sylacauga, Alabama, began producing ice cream in July. Production facilities in Brenham, Alabama, and Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, still are undergoing upgrades. Listeria is a bacteria that can cause serious illness.
Grandview Businessman Sentenced to 6 Years for Extortion
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The owner of a suburban Kansas City lawn care company has been sentenced to six years in federal prison for a $3 million extortion and money-laundering scheme. The office for the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri said Monday that 40-year-old Shelton E. Lewis of Grandview was sentenced to six years without parole. He pleaded guilty earlier to extortion and money laundering. Lewis is the owner of Green Results Landscape & Lawncare LLC. The indictment said Lewis deposited checks totaling more than $3 million from the same company into bank accounts in 2012 and 2013. Lewis admitted through his plea that he threatened to injure that company's owner as part of an extortion scheme that stemmed from a cocaine deal. He also must forfeit about $4 million.
Lawrence Man Dies in Mowing Accident
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A 74-year-old rural Lawrence man has died while mowing trails near Lake Perry. WIBW reports the accident occurred Monday morning. Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Herrig says Andrew Baux was driving a tractor pulling a mowing device when he became pinned under the mower. Herrig says two horseback riders discovered Baux and called for help. He says Baux was a volunteer mower at Lake Perry.
Man Wanted in Oklahoma Jailed in Kansas After Standoff
GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — A man who is wanted for attempted murder in Oklahoma is jailed in Kansas after a standoff with police. The Barton County Sheriff's office says Chris Solida was jailed after a standoff with law enforcement Friday. The standoff began when officers found Solida inside his car with his 2-year-old and 6-month-old children at a Great Bend hotel parking lot. He surrendered without incident after about four hours. Solida was wanted on a first-degree warrant out of Woodward, Oklahoma, after his wife was shot. She has since been released from the hospital. Bond in that case was set at $1 million. Solida is also charged in Barton County with aggravated endangerment of a child, aggravated criminal threat and criminal use of a firearm. He is jailed on $50,000 bond.
Kansas Man Pleads Guilty in 3-Year-Old's Death
OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A suburban Kansas City man has pleaded guilty to the death of a 3-year-old girl. Forty-year-old Kham Khamchanh, of Shawnee, pleaded guilty Monday to intentional second-degree murder. He admitted that he killed 3-year-old Yamarawit "Yami" Sahle, of Merriam in January 2014. The girl's mother was Khamchanh's girlfriend at the time. He said he threw the girl to the ground five to 10 times after becoming angry with her. He also admitted that hit the girl on several other occasions. The Kansas City Star reports an autopsy found the girl died of a skull fracture and bleeding to her brain as well as abdominal injuries. Sentencing was set for October 15.
Hutchinson Prison Ends Service Dog Training Program
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — The Hutchinson Correctional Facility has ended a program that allowed inmates to train service dogs. Prison spokesman Dirk Moss says staffing shortages prompted the decision to stop the program as of August 1. The prison had one full-time officer overseeing the program and Moss said that person had to be put back into a security job. The Wichita Eagle reports that as of early August, about 40 vacancies existed at the prison, which has 365 uniformed security officers when it is fully staffed. Dogs that would have been sent to Hutchinson will now go to either Ellsworth Correctional Facility or an out-of-state prison. Advocates say the decision will extend what is already a long wait for those who need service dogs.
K-State Researchers Study Plant Oil as Possible Diesel Replacement
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Researchers from Kansas State University with work with scientists in Michigan and Nebraska to begin testing a potential diesel fuel replacement. The work is focused on modifying a plant called Camelina sativa to lower its viscosity. Plant oils typically have a high enough viscosity that they build up in engines, limiting their use as petroleum product replacement. Assistant biochemistry professor Tim Durrett, of Kansas State, is working on the project with experts from Michigan State University and the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Durrett says that before testing can begin, enough of the modified seeds must be harvested. He says the researchers are "excited about giving farmers more options."
Wichita State Enrollment Expected to Fall
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Wichita State University president John Bardo says the school has to improve its enrollment efforts. The Wichita Eagle reports officials said last week that the university would have about 430 fewer students this fall than last year. The university has had about 15,000 students for several years. Bardo said on Friday that the university must concentrate on enrolling and retaining students, particularly graduate students and he has repeatedly said he wants the university to have about 22,000 students and says the university has to change its culture from maintaining stability to enrollment and growth.
Federal Analyst Sentenced to 5 Years for Child Porn
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A 34-year-old federal analyst in suburban Kansas City has been sentenced to more than five years in prison for possessing child pornography on a government computer. The office of the U.S. Attorney for Kansas says Matthew Barnes of Overland Park pleaded guilty earlier to one count of possessing child pornography. He was sentenced Monday to 63 months in federal prison. Prosecutors say investigators in 2012 found more than a dozen images of child pornography on a federal Drug Enforcement Administration computer assigned to Barnes. Barnes was an analyst for the DEA's High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program in Overland Park. The office says Barnes was also a member of the Missouri National Guard.
Royals Beat LA Angels, 4-3, in 10 Innings
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kendrys Morales had an RBI single with two outs in the 10th inning to lift the Kansas City Royals to a 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday night. Morales' RBI single against the Angels' Trevor Gott lifted the Royals to a 7-2 record in extra-inning games. Kelvin Herrera pitched a perfect 10th to pick up the victory after a seven-inning, two-run effort from starter Yordano Ventura. The Angels' Kole Calhoun homered in the eighth off Wade Davis to put the Angels up 3-2 but the Royals' Alex Rios' scored Eric Hosmer to tie the score in the 9th. The Royals (71-46), travel today (MON) and start a week-long road trip in Cincinnati tomorrow night.