Headlines for Tuesday, December 8, 2015
Kansas Chief Justice Won't Hear Case Involving Court Funding
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss is removing himself from a lawsuit that involves the high court's administrative power and the judicial branch's entire budget. The other six justices are not stepping aside, despite a request from Attorney General Derek Schmidt. Nuss announced yesterday (MON) in an order from the court that he is stepping aside even though the court does not think it's required by ethics rules. The Supreme Court is hearing arguments Thursday. The lawsuit challenges a 2014 law stripping the Supreme Court of its power to appoint chief judges for district courts and giving it to the local judges. Legislators passed another law this year nullifying the judiciary's entire budget if the policy is struck down. Nuss took responsibility for public statements criticizing the 2014 law.
Judge Overturns Kansas Man's Murder Conviction
OSKALOOSA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man who had served more than 15 years of a life sentence for the 1999 shooting death of his sister-in-law is a free man, after a county judge overturned his conviction. Floyd Bledsoe was ordered released Tuesday after attorneys presented new evidence that implicated his late brother in the death of 14-year-old Camille Arfmann. A Jefferson County Sheriff's investigator testified that Bledsoe's brother, Thomas, committed suicide last month after DNA evidence implicated him in Arfmann's death. Thomas Bledsoe left behind suicide letters admitting his responsibility in the killing. Tom Bledsoe had initially confessed to the killing before blaming his brother. Floyd Bledsoe had always maintained his innocence. Prosecutor Jason Belveal has the option of pursuing the case but said it is unlikely that will happen.
Brownback Favors Audit of Child and Families Services Agency
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback says he favors an audit of the state's foster care and adoption programs. The governor made the comments Tuesday amid criticism that the Department of Children and Families discriminates against same-sex couples in adoptions and foster care. The Kansas City Star reports that Brownback disagreed with calls for Phyllis Gilmore to be removed as head of the DCF, saying Gilmore has strong experience and the background for the job. Several same-sex couples have said recently that the DCF treated them unfairly, including removing children from lesbian foster parents who wanted to adopt. Brownback says the state's placement policy focuses on the best interest of the child. He also said federal and state laws favor keeping siblings together and placing children with relatives when possible.
Kansas Economist Says State Farm Income Has Declined
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A farm economist with the Kansas Farm Management Association says gross income for farms is down by at least 20 percent in the state. The Hutchinson News reports that last year southwest Kansas farmers averaged about $56,000 in accrual net farm income, a $50,000 drop from 2013. Doug Stucky is currently visiting farms across the region working on year-end planning. The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicted in November that net farm income in the country will drop about 40 percent to $55.9 billion this year, reflecting depressed crop prices and a softening livestock market. The decrease in income has affected companies that manufacture equipment as well. Randy Veatch, vice president of sales for Straub International, says agricultural manufacturers are reporting a nearly 30 percent decline in sales since about 2013.
University of Kansas Chancellor Opposes Guns on Campus
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas's chancellor and 70 of the school's distinguished professors have formally spoken out against the concealed carry of guns on campus. The Lawrence Journal World reports that Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little addressed the issue in her chancellor's message to faculty and staff on Monday. The professors, including outgoing Provost Jeff Vitter, issued a statement voicing their opposition on Friday. The professors said universities should be able to restrict firearms on their campuses. Under state law, Kansas universities must allow concealed weapons on campus beginning July 1, 2017. The Kansas Board of Regents has drafted a policy to implement the new law on campuses. Gray-Little encouraged employees to attend an information session on weapons on campus Tuesday and to respond to a weapons survey emailed to faculty and staff last week.
2 Teens Charged with Double Homicide in Kansas City
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police are searching for two teenagers who have been charged in the fatal shootings of two men outside a Kansas City convenience store. The Jackson County (Missouri) prosecutor's office announced Monday that 18-year-old Louie S. Guana, of Kansas City, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Pablo Lopez and Jorge Calderon-Ruiz. The probable cause statement says surveillance video captured Guana shooting the victims in October on a sidewalk in front of the entrance to a BP gas station. The shooting followed an argument. A 17-year-old from Kansas City, Kansas, is accused of driving Guana away from the scene in a vehicle that was later set on fire. The younger teen is charged with hindering prosecution of a felony and tampering with physical evidence.
Junction City Man's Life Sentence Reduced to 30 Years
JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Junction City man's sentence of life in prison for trafficking cocaine has been reduced. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that 33-year-old Albert Dwayne Banks was re-sentenced yesterday (MON) to 30 years in federal prison. Last month's sentence was reduced based on the judge's consideration of aggravating factors in the sentence. Banks was convicted in June for conspiracy to distribute more than 280 grams of crack cocaine and distributing crack cocaine. Prosecutors presented evidence from an investigation by Kansas Bureau of Investigation agents and Junction City Police Department detectives into a large crack cocaine trafficking organization in Junction City and Manhattan in 2012 and 2013. Prosecutors say Banks and co-defendant Anthony Thompson acquired drugs from three different suppliers and sold them to distributors who resold them on the streets.
Body of Missing 25-Year-Old Man Found in Dodge City
DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — The body of a missing man has been found in Dodge City. The Dodge City Daily Globe reports that police were called to a remote area around 11am Sunday after a family member of 25-year-old Rudy Anthony Gonzales found his body. Deputy Chief of Police Drew Francis says Gonzales had been missing since Wednesday. An investigation is ongoing with a pending autopsy into the cause of death. No obvious external injuries were found. Gonzales had been released in December 2014 from an Oklahoma State Correctional facility, where he had been serving a sentence since June 2010. He had been found guilty of felony charges of aggravated battery or causing reckless great bodily harm to a person in a 2009 shooting of two victims in Dodge City.
Former Miss Kansas Charged with Alaska Hunting Violations
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A former Miss Kansas who is now the host of an Outdoor Channel adventure show has been charged with illegally shooting an Alaska grizzly bear and attempting to cover it up. Alaska State Troopers say 25-year-old Theresa Vail, star of "Limitless with Theresa Vail," and two hunting guides are charged with misdemeanors. Troopers say Vail, during filming in May, shot a male grizzly, and in her haste to kill it, shot a nearby sow. Troopers say master guide Michael Wade Renfro and assistant guide Joseph Andrew Miller conspired to cover up the violation up by obtaining a second bear tag and submitting the wrong information to game authorities. Renfro's attorney says the accidental shooting of the second bear was an unfortunate event. Myron Angstman says Renfro and everyone else in the case have cooperated with authorities.
Kansas Historical Foundation Receives $1 Million Donation
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Historical Foundation says it has received the largest grant in its history. Foundation officials announced yesterday (MON) that it has received a $1 million gift from the Dane G. Hansen Foundation of Logan. The Hansen Foundation awards grants and scholarships to those who work toward community improvement. The grant will help fund the renovation of the entrance gallery in the Kansas Museum of History in Topeka. The Kansas Museum is operated by the Kansas Historical Society. More than 1.5 million people have visited the museum since it opened in 1984.
Kingman County Hunter Takes Down Rare Female Deer with Antlers
KINGMAN, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas hunter has taken down an antlered doe in Kingman County. Jerika Francis thought she shot a 10-point buck on Saturday afternoon on land owned by her husband's family. She said that her husband, Russell Francis, realized the animal was a doe with antlers as he prepared to clean it. Grant Woods, a Missouri-based biologist who researches whitetail deer, said antlered does are females with unusually high levels of testosterone. Woods said that all does have testosterone, but some have enough to grow male-like antlers. Keith Sexson with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism last year estimated he'd heard of fewer than 15 antlered does in the 50 years the state has had deer seasons.
Facilities Study Underway at Haskell Indian Nations University
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Haskell Indian Nations University is conducting the school's first comprehensive facilities study in 10 years. Crews analyzed the Lawrence school's 40 buildings this fall, and the completed report is expected early next year. Stephen Prue, executive assistant to Haskell President Venida Chenault, says the report will advise officials on future planning on the campus. According to Prue, they are trying to determine which of the facilities can be updated and which ones are obsolete. Representatives of the consulting firm hired to do the study are collecting data on everything from traffic to topography to other infrastructure such as parking. Prue says the university needs a new science, technology, engineering and math facility with updated information technology capability, and building issues such as foundation and settling problems need to be addressed.
Few University of Kansas Students Use Free Gun Storage
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas is one of two universities in the state that provides storage for guns on campus, though only a handful of students use the service. The university's Office of Public Safety has provided gun storage for students, faculty and staff living on campus since 2009. University police Captain James Anguiano says the free storage is aimed at hunters who want to bring their firearms to school, but are not allowed to keep the weapons in their on-campus residence halls or apartments. He says about four to five students per semester store their guns. Emporia State University also provides gun storage for students. Under state law, Kansas public universities must allow concealed weapons on campus beginning July 2017. The Kansas Board of Regents and individual universities are working on policies to implement the change.
Supreme Court Denies Appeal from Kansas School District's Parents
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court has denied an appeal from parents from the Shawnee Mission School District. The parents asked the court to consider their case challenging a state cap on the amount of local property tax money that the district can spend on education. The court's decision yesterday (MON) not to hear the case leaves in place a decision from the U.S. Appeals Court in Denver. The appeals court ruled in June that the federal court couldn't override the state's funding plan. At issue is a 2010 lawsuit arguing that the state could not limit local school district funding because it creates a new inequality that punishes school districts. The parents also argued that the funding restrictions violated their federal constitutional rights.
2 Inmates Suggest Gas Chamber as Possible Execution Method
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Attorneys for two Missouri death row inmates are suggesting reviving the gas chamber as an alternative method of execution. The inmates, Russell Bucklew and Ernest L. Johnson, argue in court appeals that medical conditions they suffer from would cause painful reactions to the chemicals used in lethal injections. The Kansas City Star reports the law requires the men's attorneys to offer an alternative method for execution. Their lawyers have proposed the gas chamber, even though the state no longer has a working gas chamber. Bucklew's attorney has also raised a possible second alternative — the firing squad. Bucklew is on death row for the 1996 killing of a man in southeast Missouri. Johnson was sentenced to death for killing three people during a 1994 store robbery in Columbia.
Collapsing Buildings Become Health Concern in South-Central Kansas
KINGMAN, Kan. (AP) — The demolition of three deteriorating buildings in south-central Kansas has become more urgent after a portion of one of the structures collapsed. The Hutchinson News reports that Kingman County officials are meeting Wednesday to discuss requests for demolition bids for the side-by-side buildings. On Friday, a solid brick wall with a wrought-iron balcony came crumbling down. Some of the debris crashed through the glass door of Kingman Lumber and General Store, but no one was hurt. Kingman County communications coordinator Nancy Borst says commissioners believe a recent ice storm was partially to blame, along with years of disrepair. Borst says the County Commission agreed to purchase the lots on June 15 with plans to demolish the buildings. They are thought to have been built in the 1800s.