Headlines for Friday, December 4, 2015
State Senator Criticizes Media Coverage of Gay Rights, Foster Care
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A south-central Kansas lawmaker has sent an email to constituents criticizing media coverage of the rights of gay couples in the state's foster care system. Republican Senator Forrest Knox from Altoona said in the email sent Wednesday that the media prioritizes gay rights over the needs of foster children. Knox chairs a special committee on foster care that last month reviewed research by Catholic priest and sociologist Donald Paul Sullins on the fitness of same-sex couples to foster. Sullins's research has been disputed by scientific organizations, including the American Psychological Association. Knox told the Wichita Eagle that he believes the research shows that traditional nuclear families best meet the needs of foster children. The Kansas Department of Children and Families has repeatedly said it does not discriminate against same-sex couples.
Officials: 6 Republicans in Kansas Presidential Caucus
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Officials say that six Republican presidential candidates have filed to participate in the Kansas Republican Party's caucus in March, while three Democratic candidates have informally pledged to participate in the state's caucus. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Ohio Governor John Kasich was the first Republican to file to participate in the March 5 caucus. He is joined by U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, surgeon Ben Carson, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, businessman Donald Trump and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. Officials expect more to join the caucus before the January 20 deadline. Kerry Gooch, the state Democratic Party's executive director, says he expects former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley to stay in the race through the state Democratic caucus. The deadline to be included is January 4.
Kansas Clergy Members Say Refugee Order Violates Religious Liberty
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A coalition of Kansas clergy has offered a petition to Governor Sam Brownback's administration asking the governor to rescind an executive order attempting to halt the relocation of Syrian refugees in the state. The Wichita Eagle reported Wednesday that the group representing more than 50 Kansas churches says the order impedes their religious liberty to help refugees. Brownback issued the order on November 16th directing that no state agency or organization receiving grant money through the state government to participate or assist "in any way in the relocation of Syrian refugees to Kansas" in the wake of the November attacks in Paris. Eileen Hawley, a spokeswoman for Brownback, said the state has always welcomed refugees, but the federal government cannot guarantee security checks regarding the resettlement of refugees.
Kansas Voters Temporarily Drop Push to Block Citizenship Law
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Lawyers for two northeast Kansas voters have temporarily withdrawn a request for a court order blocking the state from enforcing registration restrictions. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson canceled a hearing scheduled Friday in the federal lawsuit after the request was withdrawn Thursday. Alder Cromwell of Lawrence and Cody Keener of Eudora are challenging a 2013 law requiring new voters to document their U.S. citizenship when registering and Secretary of State Kris Kobach's directive to county election officials to cancel registrations remaining incomplete after 90 days. Kobach's office found documents for Cromwell and Kenner and completed their registrations after the lawsuit was filed. Attorney Will Lawrence said their lawyers will submit a new request on behalf of all voters with incomplete registrations. Kobach said the lawsuit is "shot through with holes."
Second Man Convicted in 1997 Killing of Kansas Woman
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A second man has been convicted in the 17-year-old killing of a Kansas City, Kansas, woman. The Wyandotte County prosecutor's office said in a news release that 35-year-old Jason L. Rucker, of Kansas City, Kansas, was found guilty Thursday of first-degree murder in the October 1997 death of Vicky Ernst. Rucker was 16 at the time of the killing but stood trial as an adult. He sentencing is set for January 22. Co-defendant Torry M. Johnson pleaded guilty in September to first-degree murder. The 35-year-old already is serving a life sentence in a Missouri prison for the 2005 killing of a Kansas City man. The news release said a fresh review of the case led prosecutors to charge the two men in the killing in April.
Mother of Child Killed in Weekend Crash Dies
DERBY, Kan. (AP) — A mother has died from injuries sustained in a south-central Kansas crash that killed her toddler daughter over the weekend. A house supervisor at Wesley Medical Center says 28-year-old Caitlin Wilson died Thursday. The Wichita Eagle reportsthat she was critically injured Sunday when a vehicle veered into oncoming traffic near Derby. The crash report says Wilson swerved to get out of the way and collided with a pickup truck. The collision killed Wilson's 23-month-old daughter, Tessa Ann Wilson, and injured the truck's driver. The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office is still seeking information about a possible third vehicle involved in the crash. A GoFundMe page set up to help with medical expenses for the Wilsons had raised more than $11,000 as of Thursday night.
Kansas Fatal Shooting Victim Identified as 21-Year-Old Man
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Police have identified the man who died a week after he was shot in Kansas City, Kansas. The Kansas City Star reports that Amilcar Alexander Ruiz-Solis was wounded November 23. Police responding to a reported shooting at a house found Ruiz-Solis inside. The Kansas City, Kansas, man was taken to a hospital and died November 30. Police say the investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information is urged to come forward.
Kansas Supreme Court Upholds Murder Conviction, Not Sentence
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 41-year-old central Kansas man convicted of killing his wife will be resentenced after the Kansas Supreme Court rejected his bid to have his first-degree murder conviction overturned but said his Hard 50 sentence was unconstitutional. Davin Sprague was sentenced in 2012 to at least 50 years in prison for the September 2011 death of 28-year-old Kandi Sprague. The state Supreme Court on Friday rejected Sprague's argument that his conviction should be reversed because of trial errors, noting only two instances of prosecutorial error happened during closing arguments — and both were harmless. The court vacated his sentence because the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled such sentences are unconstitutional unless a jury finds the existence of aggravated factors. Sprague initially was sentenced by a judge, rather than a jury.
Man Charged in Death of Wichita State Student
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man has been charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of a Wichita State University student. Isaiah Copridge also was charged Friday with aggravated robbery in the death of Rayan Ibrahim Baba, a Saudi national who was found August 8 shot in a parking lot of one of the university's dormitories. Copridge's bond was set at $200,000 at his first appearance Friday. Copridge and Eboni Fingal were arrested the day after Baba was shot. Fingal was charged in October with first-degree murder and aggravated robbery. Her preliminary hearing is scheduled for January 7. Copridge was rearrested Thursday. His preliminary hearing is set for December 17. He is being represented by a public defender. An after-hours call to the public defender's office Friday was not answered.
Manhattan Pastors Press for Sexual Orientation Protection
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Nine Manhattan pastors are pushing for sexual orientation and gender identity protections. The Manhattan Mercury reports that the pastors want the protections added to an anti-discrimination ordinance. Richard Gehring, co-pastor at Manhattan Mennonite Church, read a letter Tuesday during the Manhattan City Commission meeting to push for employment, housing and public accommodation protections. Gehring says the pastors felt the need to speak because religion is often cited as a justification for discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The pastors' statement came after the Flint Hills Human Rights Project advocated for sexual orientation and gender identity protections during a commission meeting last month. In 2011, the commission passed and then repealed an ordinance that placed sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes in areas of employment.
Development of Kansas-Owned Casino Delayed for Second Time
PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Lottery has granted an extension to a planned state-owned casino for a second time due to a lawsuit filed by Cherokee County and another casino company that wanted the contract to build and run it. The Joplin Globe reports that the lottery granted a 90-day extension to the Kansas Crossing Casino and Hotel Wednesday. The casino was originally supposed to open in July 2016. Cherokee County and casino company Castle Rock filed a lawsuit claiming that the decision by state regulators to award the casino contract to Kansas Crossing in Crawford County was arbitrary. Kansas Crossing got the contract even though its $70 million proposal was dwarfed by Castle Rock's plans for a $145 million development. Developer Bruce Christenson, the lead investor in the project, said the delay is a frivolous legal action.
Jogger Dies After Being Struck by Vehicle in Cherokee County
RIVERTON, Kan. (AP) — A man has been arrested in a crash that killed a southeast Kansas jogger. The Joplin Globe reports that 26-year-old Marcus Bunce was struck Tuesday night near his Riverton home. He was pronounced dead at the Joplin, Missouri, hospital where he and fiancée worked as nurses. The Cherokee County sheriff's office says a Riverton man was arrested Tuesday night and taken to the Cherokee County Jail on suspicion of involuntary manslaughter and leaving the scene of an injury crash. The man is being held on $20,000 bond.
Suspect in Salina Girl's Death Faces Trial on Intimidation Charges
SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A man accused of in the shooting death of a Salina teenager will stand trial on a charge of aggravated intimidation of a witness in the murder case. Andrew Woodring will be tried in May on the intimidation charge. His trial for first-degree murder and other charges is scheduled for April. Woodring and four others are accused of shooting 17-year-old Allie Saum to death in May. Saum was a passenger in a truck that police say some of the defendants mistakenly believed belonged to someone from an earlier confrontation. The Salina Journal reports prosecutors believe Woodring tried to convince an ex-girlfriend to "do something about" a female he thought was going to testify in the murder case. The ex-girlfriend testified Wednesday that she never contacted the woman.
Ex-Dallas Cowboys RB Randle Makes Casino Arrest Court Appearance
WELLINGTON, Kan. (AP) — Former Dallas Cowboys running back Joseph Randle says his future is "to be continued" after making his first court appearance in a Kansas casino altercation case. KAKE-TV reports that the 23-year-old Randle was given a 30-day continuance during Thursday's appearance so he could hire an attorney. He is charged with misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct, criminal trespass and interference with a law enforcement officer in the November 24 disturbance at the Kansas Star Casino in Mulvane. Randle told the judge he plans to plead not guilty. When he was arrested, he already had been suspended for four games under the NFL's personal conduct policy. He says he's "got to get through this rough phase" and that he will "see how it goes" after the suspension ends Sunday.
Audit Finds Closed Kansas City Charter Overpaid $4.3M
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A state audit has found that a Kansas City charter school was overpaid about $4.3 million in the two years before it closed because administrators inflated student attendance. State Auditor Nicole Galloway said Friday that Hope Academy reported a 97 percent attendance rate when the actual rate was about 32 percent. The audit also found that students received credit for classes in which they weren't participating and for unapproved activities outside of the classroom. The school operated from 2009 to 2014. When the problems were identified, the state began withholding payments, reducing the amount the school was overpaid to $3.74 million. Galloway provided a copy of the audit to the Missouri State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The agency didn't immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press.
Kansas City Public Schools to Sponsor New Charter School
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri State Board of Education has approved a new charter school amid efforts to revitalize a neighborhood in Kansas City's urban core. The Kansas City Star reports that the Kansas City Neighborhood Academy will be the first charter sponsored by Kansas City Public Schools. The Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce is aiming to build a target area of about 200 blocks into a safe and prosperous mixed-income neighborhood anchored by a successful school. The new charter school expects to serve about 180 students in kindergarten through second grade in its first year of operation. The charter application says a grade would be added each year up to sixth grade.
Forest Service to Hire 600 Workers in Rocky Mountain Region
LOVELAND, Colo. (AP) — The U.S. Forest Service is planning to hire more than 600 temporary employees to work in the Rocky Mountain Region. The Loveland, Colorado Reporter-Herald reportsthat the jobs will include fire protection, trail management, forestry, engineering, wildlife, recreation, fisheries, archaeology and administrative support work. The application period will be January 7 through January 14 for wildland fire positions and other early season, non-fire temporary positions; early February for most non-fire temporary positions in recreation, fisheries, forestry and engineering; and early March for other positions. Regional forester Daniel J. Jiron says "temporary employees perform crucial work and serve a diverse group of users during the peak summer months." The positions are at 17 national forests and seven national grasslands in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming.
Contributions Continue in Honor of Fallen Firefighters
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Organizers of several charitable drives say that people have continued to give in honor of two Kansas City firefighters who died while battling an October fire. The Kansas City Star reports people continue to show their support for the families of Larry Leggio and John Mesh. Thu Hong Nguyen has pleaded not guilty to two counts of second-degree murder and one count of first-degree arson in the fire. Bianca Caponetto, Mesh's niece, designed a T-shirt bearing the firefighters' names. Caponetto said she thought she would sell 50 shirts, but sold over 3,000 shirts and raised over $50,000 for the families. The Bright Futures Fund of the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, a nonprofit organization that supports diocese elementary and high schools, created scholarships in the names of both firefighters.