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Headlines for Thursday, December 9, 2021



Kansas Highway Patrol: 2 Adults Killed, 2 Children Injured in Crash Near Atchison

ATCHISON, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol says two people were killed and two children injured in a head-on crash near Atchison. Television station KAKE reports that the crash happened around 9:20 pm Wednesday on U.S. Highway 73, just west of Atchison, when a southbound car crossed the center line and hit a northbound car head on. The crash killed the driver of the northbound car, identified as 26-year-old Felicia Paxton of Atchison, as well as a passenger, 33-year-old Jovonnie Franklin, also of Atchison. Two boys in that car, ages 6 and 7, were injured and taken to a hospital. The driver of the other car, a 37-year-old Tonganoxie man, was also hospitalized.


President Biden Pays Tribute to "American Giant" Bob Dole at U.S. Capitol

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Kansas Senator Bob Dole is lying in state at the U.S. Capitol. President Joe Biden and others gathered Thursday to pay tribute the man Biden called an "American giant." The service is one of several over two days in Washington for the former Republican presidential candidate. Dole is known as one who served the country in war and in politics with pragmatism, self-deprecating wit and a bygone era's sense of common civility. Dole died Sunday at the age of 98 after announcing in February he had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.  He was born in Russell, Kansas.


Dole Honored with Events in DC, His Hometown, Kansas Capital

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Bob Dole will be honored Friday in a private memorial service with President Joe Biden in attendance and a public service at the World War II Memorial in Washington. Those events will come before the casket of the former presidential candidate and decorated soldier travels to Kansas for events in his hometown and the state capital. Dole’s casket will lie in state Thursday at the U.S. Capitol. The Dole Institute of Politics says Biden will join former presidents, congressional leaders, friends and the Dole family for the private service Friday morning at Washington National Cathedral. A public memorial service is set for Saturday morning in Dole’s hometown of Russell, Kansas, and followed by a private afternoon ceremony at the Kansas Statehouse.


Magnitude 4.3 Earthquake Rattles Central Kansas

GYPSUM, Kan. (AP) — Officials say a moderate earthquake shook parts of central Kansas Wednesday as residents were starting their day. The U.S. Geological Survey says a magnitude 4.3 earthquake was recorded around 7:45 am Wednesday, with the epicenter just southwest of Gypsum in Saline County. The survey says the quake hit at a depth of 1.86 miles.  Residents in Salina and as far away as Arkansas City in southeastern Kansas reported feeling the quake. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.


Kansas Reports More than 4,400 New COVID-19 Cases, 25 More Deaths, Since Monday

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - Kansas health officials have recorded 4,443 new COVID-19 cases and 25 new, virus-related deaths since Monday.  In all, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment has recorded 482,232 cases of COVID-19 and 6,768 deaths from the virus since the start of the pandemic.  Another update is expected Friday afternoon.


Kansas Universities Pause COVID-19 Vaccination Mandate for Employees

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Officials with the three largest universities in Kansas say they will pause efforts to require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The University of Kansas, Kansas State University and Wichita State cited a federal judge's ruling on Tuesday that blocked implementation of a directive from President Joe Biden requiring federal contractors to be immunized. The universities announced in October that they would comply with the president's mandate because the schools receive millions of dollars in federal research grants. University officials said Tuesday they would halt their vaccination efforts while awaiting further guidance.

Missouri AG Demands an End to Local COVID Mandates

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt is warning school districts and local public health departments that he will take legal action if they do not stop enforcing COVID-19 related health orders such as mask mandates and quarantine rules. In letters sent Tuesday, Schmitt cited a Cole County judge’s ruling last month that said health orders issued by local authorities under state health regulations were “null and void.” Schmitt also said his office has advised local public health authorities and school districts to stop enforcing or publicizing any COVID-19 health orders immediately because state law doesn’t give them the authority to issue such orders.  


Blue Cross of Kansas Changes Policy on Transgender Surgery

UNDATED (AP) — Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas says it is changing a policy that denied sex reassignment surgery to customers who did not legally change their names. The change announced Thursday comes after advocacy from the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund. They said Charley Osman, a transgender man, sought pre-authorization for two surgeries in June but was denied because he had not changed his name from the one he was given at birth. The advocacy groups argued the name change policy was discriminatory and had nothing to do with medical necessity.


Suspected Serial Killer Pleads Not Guilty in St. Louis Deaths

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A 26-year-old man charged in six deaths in Missouri and Kansas pleaded not guilty to two of the homicides. Perez Reed appeared via video Wednesday to face charges that he killed 49-year-old Pamela Abercrombie on September 16 and 24-year-old Carey Ross on September 19 in St. Louis. He is also charged with killing two people in St. Louis County and two others in Kansas City, Kansas. Reed’s public defender, Brian Horneyer, entered the not guilty pleas for Reed. He said Reed, of of Bellefontaine Neighbors, has an extensive mental health history. Reed was arrested in November while he was traveling from Kansas City to St. Louis.


Town Drops Charges Against Man Who Displayed Profane Flag

BLUE RAPIDS, Kan. (AP) — A civil rights group says a Kansas town has dropped all charges against a man prosecuted for flying a flag outside his home with a profanity against President Joe Biden. The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas said Wednesday it got involved after the city of Blue Rapids charged David Sain in August with promoting obscenity. The ACLU says in a news release that Sain has a constitutionally protected right to free speech. Blue Rapids officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Sain says he is grateful that he can express himself without fear of prosecution.


Private Prison in Leavenworth About to Become Empty

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (Midwest Newsroom) - A private prison in Leavenworth is about to empty out as its contract with the government to hold federal prisoners who await trial ends this month. But questions still swirl about what will happen to the private prison in the future.  CoreCivic has operated the facility in Leavenworth under a government contract to lock up federal defendants awaiting trial or sentencing. But that contract expires this month after President Biden issued an executive order telling the Justice Department to stop doing business with private prisons. The Leavenworth facility has a reputation for poor and unsafe conditions. Prisoners there will now move to the government-run prison in Leavenworth. Federal immigration officials declined to say whether the emptied prison will be used to house immigration detainees, a rumor that cropped up earlier this year. But two lawyers familiar with the situation say it appears unlikely the Leavenworth prison will end up holding immigration detainees. ( Read more.)


Kansas Considers Alternatives to Future Highway Funding

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - The increasing number of hybrid and electric vehicles on the road is prompting Kansas transportation officials to look for new ways to fund the state’s highways. With gas tax revenues dropping, the Kansas Department of Transportation is exploring the feasibility of taxing drivers based on how much they drive.  KDOT Secretary Julie Lorenz says the agency is starting with a public survey. That information will then be used to shape a study of potential options before officials take action. “There is nothing about this that’s set. I don’t want anybody to be worried about it. It’s a study and a conversation," she said. Lorenz says one of the biggest questions is how to design a system that’s fair to rural drivers who often have to travel long distances for essential services. The current Kansas gas tax of 24 cents-a-gallon gas generates about a quarter of the money needed to maintain and expand the state’s sprawling road system. Sales taxes generate most of the rest. But by 2045, gas-tax revenues will barely cover 10% of road costs. Lorenz says it will likely be a couple of years before any changes are made.


Man Shot to Death in Kansas City; Police Seek Suspect

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A man has been shot to death on a Kansas City street, and police there are now searching for a suspect in the killing. Police say in a news release that the shooting happened around 7:15 p.m. Wednesday in an alley on the city's east side. Officers who responded to the shooting found a man, later identified as 54-year-old Edmon Alexander, on the ground near the alley with gunshot wounds. Police say medics declared Alexander dead at the scene. Homicide detectives canvassed the area for witnesses and collected evidence from the scene.


Authorities: Deputy Fatally Shot Man in Blue Springs Standoff

BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri State Highway Patrol says a man suspected of firing gunshots into a suburban Kansas City home before a standoff with police was fatally shot by a Jackson County sheriff's deputy. The Kansas City Star reports that the shooting happened Monday night after deputies were called to a rural Blue Springs home, where the occupants reported that a man outside was firing shots into the house. Patrol Sgt. Bill Lowe says law enforcement responded, and the man later rammed his vehicle into a SWAT team armored truck and brandished a rifle. Lowe says a Jackson County deputy then fired a single shot that killed the man, later identified as 48-year-old Douglas Halphin of Blue Springs.


Kansas Highway Patrol: Woman Who Ran to Help Crash Victim Fatally Hit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Highway Patrol says an Alaska woman who got out of her vehicle to try to help at the scene of a rollover crash in northeastern Kansas died after she was hit by a semitrailer. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the crash happened Sunday afternoon on Interstate 70 in western Shawnee County. Investigators say 21-year-old Autumn Johnson, of Wasilla, Alaska, was westbound on the interstate when she pulled over on the right shoulder near the crash scene, ran through traffic toward a car crashed in the grassy median and was hit by the semi. The 37-year-old man driving the semi said he was unable to stop or switch lanes because of traffic.


Former Missouri Police Chief Gets Probation for Hitting Father Who Tried to Drown Infant Daughter

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A former Missouri police chief has been sentenced to five years of probation for striking a man who tried to drown his infant daughter in a pond. A federal judge on Tuesday sentenced 52-year-old Greg Hallgrimson, who was police chief in Greenwood. Hallgrimson pleaded guilty in August to violating the civil rights of Jonathon Zicarelli, who walked into the Greenwood Police Department in December 2018 and said he had just drowned his daughter in a pond. Hallgrimson and another officer rushed to the pond and pulled the unconscious child from the water. She was treated for severe hypothermia. Prosecutors alleged Hallgrimson returned to the station and threw Zicarelli to the ground and hit him. Zicarelli pleaded guilty in August to felony child abuse.


Salvation Army Hopes to Generate Donations from KU, Mizzou Rivalry

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - As the University of Kansas and the University of Missouri prepare to meet Saturday on the court for the first regular-season matchup between the two schools in nearly a decade, The Salvation Army locations in Lawrence and Columbia, Missouri, are set to face off too.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the generosity of the two fan bases will be put to the test Friday through Sunday as part of The Salvation Army’s annual Red Kettle holiday campaign. Fans will be able to donate at any Red Kettle in Lawrence or online in the corps’ Virtual Red Kettle.  “We know Kansas fans want nothing more than to beat Missouri at every opportunity,” said Captain Curtis Lunnam, corps officer of the Douglas County Salvation Army. “We’re rooting for a victory at Allen Field House and a victory at the kettles this weekend, because every dollar donated keeps hope marching on for families in need in our community.”  The KU athletic department will join the competition with the return of Rock Chalk Ring Day with student athletes manning kettles across Lawrence the entire day on Friday.  The Salvation Army will accept donations at 10 Red Kettle sites and at The Salvation Army location (946 New Hampshire St.) in downtown Lawrence.


Toys for Tots in Need of 20,000 More Toys this Holiday Season

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (KPR) - Toy drive organizers in Overland Park are in need of 20,000 more toys this holiday season.  The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation and Overland Park Convention Center are requesting community assistance to address the local toy shortage.  Organizers say they are trying to provide toys to more than 56,000 area children who are in need this holiday season.  To donate, guests are encouraged to bring a new, unwrapped toy for donation and drop it off at the Overland Park Convention Center through December 16.  “Based off our numbers, it looks like we’ll be falling short by about 20,000 toys this year — that’s 20,000 kids who won’t get a Christmas if we’re not able to produce,” said SSgt. Warren Ory, Marine and local Toys for Tots campaign coordinator. “We are looking to the community for help. If you could find it in your hearts to donate, we are really in need for ages 0-2 and 11 plus.”  Last year, the local Toys for Tots served more than 34,000 children in the greater Kansas City area.  The Overland Park Convention Center will once again serve as the largest donation site for the area Toys for Tots drive.
Toys for Tots assists children up to age 16. Items to consider for pre-teens and teens include, but are not limited to, sporting equipment, bags, balls, books, backpacks, cosmetics, purses, watch/wallet gift sets, bath gift sets, board games, radio control cars and trucks, hand-held electronics, skateboards/helmets, curling irons, hair straighteners, and hair dryers.

The Overland Park Convention Center will be open for public donations Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5 pm. Due to COVID-19, guests are asked to drop items off at the security entrance located on the east side of the convention center off Woodson Rd. (Directional signage is provided.)

Learn more at opconventioncenter.com/toys-for-tots or by calling 913.339.3000.  


Washburn Volleyball Advances to NCAA Division 2 Tournament Final Four 

TAMPA, Fla. (Washburn Athletics) — The Washburn volleyball team has advanced to the NCAA Division II Volleyball Final Four after defeating West Texas A&M, 3 sets to 1. The Ichabods will face off against the number 2 seed, Western Washington, in the tournament semifinal match at 4 pm Friday. 


KU Volleyball Run Ends at Sweet Sixteen in NCAA Division 1 Tournament 

UNDATED (KCUR/Greg Echlin) – The University of Kansas volleyball team's run in the NCAA Division I volleyball tournament came to an end this Thursday afternoon, as the Pittsburgh Panthers on their home floor beat KU, 3-0.  KU coach Ray Bechard says it’s disappointing to see the season end, but that the team has a lot to build on in the future. After going winless against ranked teams during the regular season, KU beat two ranked teams last weekend to reach the Sweet 16.


Chiefs Eagerly Await the Day Kelce, Hill Get Back on Track

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs have been giving defenses the most unenviable of options for years: Do they attempt to take away speedy, big-play wide receiver Tyreek Hill or crafty, equally dangerous tight end Travis Kelce? Yet the Packers and Broncos are among several teams that have figured out the riddle this season, taking away the top two targets of quarterback Patrick Mahomes and succeeding in slowing down the entire Kansas City offense. The Chiefs have still won five straight games to lead the AFC West. But they'll need Hill and Kelce to get on track if they are to make a postseason run.


These area headlines are curated by KPR news staffers, including J. Schafer, Laura Lorson, Kaye McIntyre and Tom Parkinson. Our headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays. This news summary is made possible by KPR listener-members.  Become one today