Headlines for Tuesday, December 29, 2015
Lawrence Woman Found Dead, Grandson Arrested
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawrence police say a 16-year-old boy is in custody after his grandmother was found dead in her home. Police Sgt. Trent McKinley says officers went to 67-year-old Deborah Bretthauer's home after the boy reported that he found his grandmother dead in her home. McKinley says officers found obvious signs of traumatic injuries on the woman when they arrived. The boy was arrested after a police interview. The identity of the suspect has not been released.
Kansas Lawmakers Spar over Mental Hospital's Safety Issues
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Democratic legislator in Kansas says safety problems at a state mental hospital should prompt employee firings, but a Republican lawmaker argues it's too early to call for such actions. Democratic Rep. Jim Ward of Wichita and GOP Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook sparred during a legislative committee hearing over safety issues at Osawatomie State Hospital. Federal officials said earlier this month that the Medicare program would stop paying for patient care at the mental hospital in eastern Kansas. Among multiple issues, federal officials cited a report that a patient raped an employee in October. Ward said in the private sector, such problems would lead to firings. Pilcher-Cook said lawmakers should gather all the facts first. Kansas Department for Aging and Disabilities Services Secretary Kari Bruffett declined to discuss personnel issues.
Body of Kansas Drowning Victim Recovered in Missouri
CARL JUNCTION, Mo. (AP) — The body of a Kansas man who drowned during flooding in southwest Missouri has been recovered. Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. John Lueckenhoff says the body of 30-year-old Christopher William Forman, of Erie, Kansas, was recovered from the Spring River. Forman's body was found one-third of a mile downstream from where his truck left a county road north of Carl Junction in Jasper County. Lueckenhoff says Forman drove into high waters and troopers saw him swept away as they were rescuing another driver. Forman is one of 13 flood-related deaths reported since the weekend. Gov. Jay Nixon's office has said 12 of the victims were in vehicles that drove into flooded roadways. Lueckenhoff says searches continue for two other suspected drowning victims in Pulaski and Polk counties.
High Water in Southeast Kansas Closes Roadways
BAXTER SPRINGS, Kan. (AP) — Heavy rain has caused flooding in southeast Kansas, where several roadways have been closed because of high water. The National Weather Service issued a flood warning for the Spring River, which reached about 30 feet, or 19 feet above flood stage. The weather service says the river is expected to fall below flood stage by Wednesday afternoon, but water was expected to hit more area highways. A few bridges over the Spring River in southeast Kansas and southwest Kansas were closed because of the high water. Cherokee County officials also said that several county roads are closed because of the flooding. Earlier, heavy winds and rain late Sunday also caused a passenger plane to run off the taxiway at the Wichita airport. No injuries were reported.
Man Who Helped Suspect in Topeka Officer's Death Sentenced
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka man was sentenced to more than two years in prison for helping the man who killed a Topeka police officer in 2014. Randy Allen Ridens Jr., was sentenced to two years and three months in prison for obstructing justice and possession of stolen property. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Ridens helped Ross Preston Lane escape after Lane shot Cpl. Jason Harwood in Topeka during a traffic stop. Prosecutors say Ridens picked up Lane after the shooting and drove him away from the scene. He was arrested in Lawrence. Lane was sentenced to life in prison without parole for capital murder in Harwood's death. Lane was found dead in his cell on Dec. 24. The death is being investigated.
Budget Shortfalls Ranked the Top Kansas Story of 2015
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Associated Press reporters and editors have named the budget shortfall that forced state lawmakers to approve sales and cigarette taxes the top Kansas story of 2015. The Kansas City Royals' first World Series championship since 1985 came in second on the list of the year's top stories, followed by Kansas gradually extending rights to gay couples after a series of court rulings. Coming in fourth is the sentencing an avowed anti-Semite to death for the fatal shootings of three people in April 2014 at Jewish sites in suburban Kansas City. Rounding out the top five, the Kansas Supreme Court in December unanimously struck down a law meant to reduce its administrative influence over lower courts. That set up a showdown with lawmakers who threatened to defund the state's entire judiciary system if the law was overturned.
Brownback Defends Kansas 'Guns-on-Campus' Law
Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says a new state law that would require the state's college campuses to allow concealed weapons is in accordance with the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment's right to bear arms. In 2013, Kansas lawmakers passed and Brownback signed a bill mandating that concealed weapons be allowed in nearly all public buildings. Public colleges and universities were given until 2017 to come into compliance with that law. Officials at the University of Kansas, Kansas State University and several other colleges have publicly have spoken out against the law. University administrators, professors and concerned students say the law will stifle free speech and make campus life more dangerous.
Judge Delays Trial in Lottery Jackpot-Fixing Case Until July
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A judge has delayed the trial for a former lottery official accused of fixing jackpots in several states. Former Multi-State Lottery Association security director Eddie Tipton had been scheduled to stand trial January 6 in Des Moines. But his attorney asked for a delay. Judge Jeffrey Farrell reset the trial for July 18. Tipton has pleaded not guilty to charges of criminal conduct and money laundering. Prosecutors allege that he used his access to random number generators to fix jackpots in Kansas, Colorado, Wisconsin and Oklahoma then worked with associates to play winning numbers and split the prize money. In July, a jury convicted Tipton of fraud for fixing a $16.5 million Hot Lotto jackpot in Iowa.
Sedgwick County Investigators Seek Help in Solving Stabbing Death
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Authorities in Sedgwick County are asking for the public's help in finding the person they say stabbed a Wichita man whose body was found in a sport utility vehicle on Christmas Eve. The Wichita Eagle reports that a Park City police officer found 42-year-old Moises Arias-Aranda dead in a 1994 Ford Explorer shortly before 7 p.m. December 24. Sheriff's Captain Greg Pollock says someone in the Wichita-Sedgwick County area knows what happened to Aranda, and that that person needs to come forward to speak with investigators.
Derby Police to Equip School Officers With Body Cameras
DERBY, Kan. (AP) — The police chief in Derby says his department will outfit its four school resource officers with body cameras as part of a pilot project. Derby Police Chief Robert Lee says the department will spend about $7,400 on the cameras, and he anticipates the school resource officers will be equipped by March. The Wichita Eagle reports the pilot project is expected to last a year. Lee says the suburban Wichita police department is considering equipping all 47 of its officers with body cameras but that there are concerns over costs. According to estimates from vendors, Lee says it would cost around $170,000 to equip all officers with cameras and buy server space to store the video footage.
Topeka Gets $500K Boost in Effort to Revive Abandoned Malls
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An effort to improve large, blighted shopping centers in Topeka is getting a $500,000 boost. The Joint Economic Development Organization's board has approved a 2016 budget for the use of revenue from a countywide, half-cent sales tax. Revenue from the tax is used to finance infrastructure improvements and economic development. The budget now includes $500,000 to finance a initiative to attract new businesses to blighted shopping centers. Go Topeka is the economic development arm of the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce. It administers the use of the tax's economic development revenue. Go Topeka's plans call for the incentive program to provide a 25 percent match in funding for developers who invest in any of the locations.
Review: Wichita Police's `Confidential' Files Not Illegal
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Wichita's city attorney says the police department did not violate any laws by keeping records on certain sensitive cases in a limited-access file separate from other investigations. The Wichita Eagle reportsthe files include those dealing with police officers and city employees. City Attorney Jennifer Magana's three-month internal review came after City Manager Bob Layton said he became aware of the so-called ``confidential'' files dating to the 1980s. Most police records are accessible by more than 800 Wichita police employees. But the limited-access files are available to 92 department administrators.