Headlines for Thursday, December 24, 2015
Kansas Grapples with Safety Issues at State Mental Hospital
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An influential Republican legislator wants Kansas to postpone efforts to regain federal certification for one of its two state mental hospitals as it tackles safety problems. State Senator Jim Denning, of Overland Park, is chairman of a budget subcommittee on social services. He says he's concerned that demands from the federal government earlier this year for renovations at Osawatomie State Hospital have distracted the state from protecting employees and caring for mentally ill patients. The federal government notified the hospital last month that the Medicare program would stop paying for patient care as of this week. The notice followed a critical survey and a report that a patient raped an employee. Top Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services officials say they've exhaustively studied each deficiency and are responding.
Feds Cite 'Systemic Failure' at Osawatomie State Hospital
OSAWATOMIE, Kan. (AP) — Inspectors say the management at Osawatomie State Hospital exhibited a "systemic failure" to supervise care, perform safety checks and protect suicidal patients. The Topeka Capital-Journal reportsthat the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services cited a reported October rape of a worker at the Osawatomie State Hospital by a patient. The report found the staff wasn't appropriately stationed to provide safety and oversight. Kansas has to pay for care at the hospital after the federal government cut off funding for the state's largest and oldest mental hospital on Monday. The Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services says the hospital is taking a number of steps to improve conditions and have federal funding restored.
Sheriff: 16-Year-Old Killed in Topeka-Area ATV Wreck
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a 16-year-old boy was killed when the all-terrain vehicle he was riding hit a tree near Topeka. The Shawnee County Sheriff's Office says Justin Wyatt Branham died at a hospital shortly after the accident yesterday (WED) afternoon. Sheriff Herman Jones says Branham was wearing a helmet when the three-wheel ATV he was riding went into a ditch and hit the tree. Funeral arrangements are pending.
3 Die in Head-On Crash in Southwest Kansas
DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say three people have been killed in a head-on crash in southwest Kansas. The Kansas Highway Patrol says the crash happened around 6pm Wednesday when a westbound car attempted to pass multiple tractor-trailers and collided with an eastbound car on U.S. 54 in Ford County. All three people in the eastbound car that was hit died. The patrol identified the victims as 20-year-old Maggie Michele Hall, of Elkhart, 24-year-old Carl Allen Hall, of Elkhart, and 29-year-old Hector Rene Gonzalez, of Wichita. The driver of the westbound car and one of his passengers were flown to a Wichita hospital. A 2-year-old and 4-year-old who also were passengers in the westbound car were taken to a Dodge City hospital. The patrol says the younger child wasn't hurt and was released.
University Cites Privacy for Redaction of Hazing Information
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas has cited the protection of student identity and privacy for the heavy redaction of documents regarding two fraternities placed on probation for hazing. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the fraternities were disciplined after a 2014 investigation by the school. Information in documents provided to the newspaper about Delta Tau Delta and Phi Beta Sigma was redacted, including the nature of the hazing. University spokesman Joe Monaco says the school is only allowed to release student information without the student's consent after removing identifiable information. The university also said that releasing the documents without redactions would constitute an unwarranted invasion of privacy under the Kansas Open Records Act. Fraternity representatives declined to comment on what led to the discipline.
Kansas City Man Charged in Deadly Shooting
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 22-year-old Kansas City man is charged with shooting an acquaintance and dumping the body on a street. The Kansas City Star reports that Kimani I. Sterling is charged in Jackson County Circuit Court with second-degree murder in the November 15 death of 23-year-old Ja'Que Dawkins. Sterling also was charged this week with armed criminal action and evidence tampering. No attorney is listed for him in online court records. Court records say Sterling shot Dawkins two to four times after leaving a nightclub with him and two other people in a rental car. Sterling also is accused of pulling Dawkins out of the back seat and ordering someone else to burn the car to destroy the evidence. A 29-year-old man is charged in the car fire.
Man Accused of Manslaughter in Kansas City Shooting Death
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 27-year-old man is accused of recklessly causing a shooting death earlier this month in Kansas City, Missouri. Jackson County prosecutors charged 27-year-old Bayron Cuellar with first-degree involuntary manslaughter. Court records allege that Cuellar was handling a handgun as a passenger in a vehicle on Dec. 13 on Interstate 435 when the weapon fired, shooting 19-year-old Luis Palacios-Romero in the head. The victim was pronounced dead at a hospital. Court records don't show whether Cuellar has an attorney.
Man Sentenced to 25 years for Kansas Carjacking
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) - A man who pushed a woman out of the driver's side of her car during a gunpoint carjacking has been ordered to spend 25 years in federal prison. The Kansas City Star reports that 25-year-old John Devosha was sentenced in Kansas City, Kansas after he pleaded guilty to the October 2013 attack and to using a firearm in the carjacking. Authorities say Devosha wrecked a stolen pickup truck in Kansas City, Kansas, before encountering a woman driving a 2002 Cadillac DeVille that was stalled in traffic. Devosha broke out her passenger window and entered the car, then pushed her out of the car and sped away. He was arrested three days later.
Man Seeking Asylum Back in Wichita After 2½-Year-Detention
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A man seeking asylum in the United States has reunited with his family in Wichita after spending 2½ years in an Arizona detention facility. The Wichita Eagle reports that Hector Yaujar arrived in Wichita on Wednesday. Yaujar was living in Wichita with his wife, Claudia Amaro, when he was deported in 2005 for allegedly using a fake Social Security number. Amaro followed her husband to Mexico with their son, but she eventually returned to the U.S., where she was briefly detained in Eloy, Arizona in 2013. When Yaujar tried to re-enter the country two months later, he was detained at that facility for more than two years. He was released on $8,000 bond. The couple requested asylum in the U.S. in 2013. Their case goes to court in 2019.
Supreme Court Rules Judicial Appointment Law Unconstitutional
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Supreme Court has struck down a law that attempts to curb its administrative power to appoint chief judges. The high court ruled on Wednesday that the law changing how chief judges are selected is unconstitutional. District Judge Larry Solomon of Kingman County challenged the 2014 law, which says judges in the state's 31 judicial districts must pick their chief judges. The law takes that authority away from the Supreme Court. The justices upheld a Shawnee County district judge ruling that the law improperly interfered with Supreme Court's power granted in the state constitution. Lawmakers passed another law, saying that if the administrative change is overturned, the court system's entire budget through June 2017 would be invalidated. That law is on hold for now pending a legal appeal.
Abortion, Gay-Marriage Opponent to Lead Kansas House Panel
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A vocal opponent of abortion and same-sex marriage will lead the Kansas House committee that handles legislation on social issues. Speaker Ray Merrick announced Wednesday that Republican Representative Jan Pauls of Hutchinson will be the new chairwoman of the Federal and State Affairs Committee. She'll replace Republican Representative Steve Brunk of Wichita, who is leaving the Legislature to become Kansas executive director of the conservative group Focus on the Family. Pauls is an attorney who has served in the Legislature since 1991. She has been an outspoken opponent of abortion, same-sex marriage and of extending legal anti-discrimination protections to gays and lesbians.
Former Kansas Judge Faces Federal Charges
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former magistrate judge in Kansas faces federal charges accusing him of defrauding a judge's association out of about $24,000. The Joplin Globe reports former Magistrate Judge Bill Lyerla was indicted last month on wire fraud charges. The indictment was unsealed in early December when Lyerla pleaded innocent and was released on $5,000 bond. Lyerla is accused of defrauding the Kansas District Magistrate Judges Association. Lyerla resigned after he was suspended in 2014 from the 11th Judicial District, which serves Cherokee, Labette and Crawford counties. The website of the Kansas District Magistrate Judges Association also lists Lyerla as a former treasurer for the association.
Bald Eagles Nesting at Lake East of Topeka
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A pair of bald eagles has taken up residence at a lake just east of Topeka. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that a large ball-like nest that the eagles are building is clearly visible in a large tree on the southeast end of Lake Shawnee. Eagles have been visiting the lake for a number of years. But Carol Morgan, of the Topeka Audubon Society, says this is the first time that local bird-watching enthusiasts can remember them building a nest. Morgan says it appears the eagles "have every intention of nesting and raising eaglets." Bald eagles were nearly extinct about 50 years ago. Morgan says that today, there are "well over 10,000 nests" across the nation, including about 90 active nests in Kansas.
Military Tracks Santa's Storybook Flight for 60th Year
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — For the 60th consecutive year, the North American Aerospace Defense Command will continue its tradition of telling youngsters the location of Santa Claus on his annual storybook world tour. The so-called Santa Tracker's hub is at Colorado's Peterson Air Force base, where hundreds of volunteers will be answering calls from an estimated 125,000 children around the globe looking for Santa's whereabouts. In places like Alaska, however, remote NORAD identification technicians who monitor computer screens 24 hours a day for possible air incursions also spend Christmas Eve serving as official Santa "trackers." Sgt. John Gordinier, an Alaska NORAD spokesman, says the technicians in Canada and the U.S. report "sightings" of a sleigh full of toys pulled by flying reindeer.
Kansas Utility Contracts for Ford County Wind Farm
DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — The largest electric utility in Kansas has contracted with a California company to construct a 280-megawatt wind farm in Ford County. The http://bit.ly/ 1IqJpitHutchinson News reports that Westar Energy has signed a deal with Infinity Wind Power of Santa Barbara, California to build the $400 million Western Plains Wind Farm. Construction is expected to start in late spring or early summer and officials hope to have it completed by early 2017. Westar says the Ford County project will include land lease royalties paid to local landowners and payments to local and county government of about $75 million during the first 20 years of operation. Utility officials also say the project will create more than 200 construction jobs.