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Headlines for Thursday, January 20, 2022



State of Kansas Works to Increase COVID-19 Testing Amid High Demand

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas health officials say they are working to improve the availability of COVID-19 testing. The department says as positive COVID-19 cases rise, the demand for testing is also increasing, causing delays in receiving tests and getting test results. In response, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment says it is increasing staffing at existing testing sites and working to add 13 new testing sites. The department says it is looking for new laboratories to reduce waits for test results and is searching for large indoor testing locations to prevent closures because of bad weather. KDHE also confirmed Thursday that a seventh child in Kansas has now died from COVID-19. 


Kansas Fire Officials Say Several Rural Fires Were Arson

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — Fire officials say several rural brush fires set in two Kansas counties were arson. The fires were set Tuesday in Chase and Lyon counties. No one was injured and no buildings were damaged. The Emporia Gazette reports the Kansas Fire Marshal’s office believes the fires are connected and is helping with the investigation. Chase County Sheriff Richard Dorneker said four fires were reported in his county Tuesday morning. He said it's not clear how those fires were set. Lyon County crews handled at least seven brush fires Tuesday afternoon and evening, most of them west of Emporia.


Marshal's Task Force Member Shoots Man in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Authorities say a member of a U.S. Marshal's Task force shot and injured a man in Kansas City. Missouri State Highway Patrol spokesman Sgt. Bill Lowe said the suspect was shot Wednesday in eastern Kansas City. The man's injuries were not believed to be life-threatening. Lowe says the task force was looking for the suspect on a federal probation violation and a Jackson County warrant. He says the officer fired his weapon after the man reached for a handgun as he was fleeing from officers. One officer was injured by glass while struggling with the suspect during the arrest. That officer was taken to a hospital for observation. 

University Diversity Head Resigns for Plagiarism on MLK Day

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP/KPR) — A University of Kansas vice provost of diversity resigned after admitting that he plagiarized a message he sent out on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. D.A. Graham's resignation was accepted Wednesday and is effective immediately. The resignation came after the Lawrence Journal-World reported Monday that Graham's message sent across campus was largely the same as one written several years ago by an official with the U.S. Veterans Benefits Administration. Graham says it was an oversight that came as he hurried to get a message together for the holiday. Graham was interim vice provost of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging at the university.  KU Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Barbara A. Bichelmeyer sent an email to the university community that said, "Plagiarism is never acceptable behavior – for students, faculty, staff, or administrators."  In the message, she also said, "Despite his mistake, I appreciate all D.A. and our DEIB leadership team have accomplished to build diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging at KU."


Missouri Governor Calls for Higher Teacher Pay, Child Care Access

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri's Republican Governor Mike Parson is calling for higher teacher pay and money to increase access for child care. Parson outlined some of the ways he wants to spend nearly $2.8 billion in federal COVID-19 aid during his State of the State address on Wednesday. Parson is asking the GOP-led Legislature for $722 million to prop up child-care centers. He wants another $22 million for matching grants to increase teacher pay to a minimum of $38,000 a year. Parson also lauded the state's coronavirus vaccination rate. About 73% of adults have received at least one dose, and 55% of Missouri's total population is fully vaccinated.


Homeless Man Sentenced for Killing Woman Who Helped Him

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A homeless man has been sentenced to life plus 195 months in prison for killing a 72-year-old Wichita woman who had sometimes provided him with food and a place to stay. Television station KAKE reports that 57-year-old John Darwin Pepper was sentenced last week after being convicted in November of first-degree murder and criminal sodomy for the July 2019 death of Rita Golden. Prosecutors say Pepper killed Golden during the course of sexually assaulting her. Police have said Golden let Pepper stay in her backyard and sometimes let him take naps and eat insider her home. An autopsy determined Golden died from a heart condition but she also had injuries associated with being smothered and sexually assaulted.


GOP Redistricting Plan in Kansas Splits Democratic Congresswoman's District

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican legislators in Kansas are pursuing a redistricting proposal that would remove Democratic voters from the Kansas-City area swing district currently held by the state’s only Democratic member of Congress. Democrats fear that new political boundaries will make it harder for Democratic Congresswoman Sharice Davids to win reelection in Kansas’ 3rd District. GOP lawmakers on Tuesday made public their first congressional redistricting proposals during meetings of committees in the state House and Senate. One plan outlined by key Republicans would split up the state's portion of the Kansas City metropolitan area and draw part of the Democratic stronghold of Wyandotte County out of Davids' district.


Bankers Survey: Rural Economy Stays Strong in 10 States

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A new monthly survey of bankers in parts of 10 Plains and Western states shows the region's rural economy remains strong. However, bankers say they have growing concerns about the rising costs associated with running farms. The overall Rural Mainstreet economic index released Thursday fell in January to 61.1 from December’s 66.7. Any score above 50 suggests growth. Bankers say high inflation is affecting the prices of farm supplies, from fuel to fertilizer. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey, says higher grain prices, low short-term interest rates and growing agricultural exports are helping the regional economy. The survey covers Kansas, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.


KCK Police: Woman Killed, 4-Year-Old Severely Beaten

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Police in Kansas City, Kansas, have arrested a man on suspicion of killing a woman and severely beating her 4-year-old daughter over the weekend. The Kansas City Star reports that 28-year-old Jose Escalante-Corchado was charged with first-degree murder and four other felonies after the body of 24-year-old Mackenzie Hopkins was found submerged in a bathtub in her home on Saturday. Hopkins' 4-year-old daughter was found on a bed suffering from severe head trauma and remains hospitalized. Police say bloody shoe prints throughout the house were traced to a pair of cowboy boots belonging to Escalante-Corchado and that surveillance video shows him in the area at the time of the attack.


Kansas City Man Sentenced for Role in U.S. Capitol Riot

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City man who attended the U.S. Capitol riot last year was sentenced to home detention and probation after he apologized for his actions. Carey Jon Walden was sentenced Wednesday to 30 days of home detention, three years' probation and 60  hours of community service. The Kansas City Star reports Walden told the judge he regretted being at the Capitol on January 6, 2021. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count. The judge noted that Walden did not injure any officers, carry weapons, damage property or help plan the riot. But she said Walden's participation undermined the country's electoral process and values.


Bond Set in 1 Count for Missouri Boarding School Doctor

UNDATED (AP) - A judge set bond for a doctor accused of child sex crimes involving students at a Missouri boarding home but it is unclear if he will be released from jail. Greene County Circuit Judge Ronald Carrier on Tuesday set a $250,000 bond for David Smock and ordered him to wear a GPS monitoring device if he is released. However, Smock also faces charges in Cedar County. The Kansas City Star reports a Cedar County judge has not issued a decision on whether Smock should be given bond in that county. Smock faces a total of 11 child sexual abuse counts involving residents of Agape Board School.


Former Priest Named in Dozens of Child Abuse Lawsuits Dies

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A former Roman Catholic priest who was named in dozens of child sex abuse lawsuits has died. Kansas City police say 80-year-old Thomas Reardon was found dead Sunday at a south Kansas City senior living facility. Reardon was among 12 current and former priests named in a sexual abuse case filed by 47 plaintiffs that the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese settled for $10 million in 2008. He also was part of a $10 million settlement by the diocese in 2014 that covered 32 sexual abuse lawsuits involving 14 current and former priests. Kansas City police say there was no sign of foul play or suspicious circumstances in Reardon's death.  


Kansas City Chiefs' Willie Gay Arrested on Charge of Misdemeanor Property Damage

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (ESPN) - Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Willie Gay was arrested Wednesday night by Overland Park police and charged with misdemeanor criminal property damage of less than $1,000. ESPN reports that a spokesperson for the Johnson County Sheriff's Office said Gay was scheduled to appear before a judge Thursday. The Chiefs said they were aware of Gay's arrest.  Gay, the Chiefs' second-round draft pick in 2020, started 11 games this season plus the Chiefs' wild-card round playoff win last weekend against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Kansas City hosts the Buffalo Bills in the AFC divisional playoff on Sunday.

(AP version)

Kansas City Chiefs Linebacker Willie Gay Arrested on Misdemeanor

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Willie Gay has been charged with criminal damage to property after authorities say he broke some items during an argument. Gay was arrested Wednesday night in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park, Kansas. The Kansas City Star reports that an Overland Park police report says Gay broke a vacuum and other items with a total value of $225. The report says no alcohol, drugs or weapons were involved and no one was injured. The Chiefs said they were aware of the incident but had no further comment. Kansas City hosts Buffalo in the AFC playoffs on Sunday.


St. Louis Notary Ordered Hundreds of Fake COVID-19 Vaccination Cards

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A 23-year-old notary from St. Louis admitted that she ordered 989 fake COVID-19 vaccination cards from China. Morgan Webb pleaded guilty Tuesday to a federal misdemeanor for intentionally buying the fake cards, which were labeled on a shipping manifest as thank-you cards. They were intercepted by customs agents in September at a DHL shipping hub in Kentucky and later delivered to Webb's home in St. Louis. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports her plea deal agreement does not detail Webb's motives or indicate if she sold any of the cards. Attorneys have agreed to recommend at Webb’s sentencing April 20 that she get probation.


Potential Settlement in Lawsuit Against Kansas City Police

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police on Tuesday agreed to pay $110,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a teenage girl who was sprayed with pepper spray during a racial injustice demonstration in 2020. The proposed settlement must still be approved by a circuit court judge. The lawsuit alleged the teen and her father, Tarence Maddox, were hit with pepper spray during a demonstration at Kansas City's Country Club Plaza in May 2020. One officer, Nicholas McQuillen, was seen on video pulling the girl toward him and spraying the pepper spray in her eyes from about 4 inches away. McQuillen was later charged with fourth-degree assault, a misdemeanor.


Nebraska Community Sees More than 50-Degree Temperature Swing in 1 Day

HASTINGS, Neb. (AP) — An arctic cold front has sent temperatures plummeting in Plains and Midwest states — including in the south-central Nebraska city of Hastings, which saw a more than 50-degree temperature drop from Tuesday to Wednesday. The National Weather Service says Hastings saw a Jan. 18 record high temperature of 66 degrees Tuesday. By Wednesday morning, the temperature in Hastings had plunged to 13 degrees with a wind chill of minus 11. The weather service expected the low by midnight Wednesday in Hasting to drop below zero to minus 3. The service has issued a wind chill advisory for most of Iowa and northern Missouri, as well as a hazardous weather outlook advisory from Wednesday through Thursday for most of Nebraska and parts of Kansas.


Chiefs Coordinator Bieniemy Once Again Garnering NFL Head Coach Interest

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Doug Pederson lasted five seasons in Philadelphia and Matt Nagy just four in Chicago before they ultimately were fired. That hasn’t diminished the interest teams have in Andy Reid’s offensive coordinators. Passed over several times for head coaching jobs over the past few seasons, Eric Bieniemy is once again a hot commodity as the Chiefs prepare for their divisional round matchup with the Bills on Sunday night.


Chiefs Keep Leaning on McKinnon, Other Unsung Players

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Jerick McKinnon probably shouldn’t have been surprised to spend all season buried on the Kansas City Chiefs depth chart. The journeyman running back had been passed over plenty of times before. But he also wasn't surprised when he finally made the most of his chance in a wild-card win over the Steelers. He carried 12 times for 61 yards, caught six passes for 81 yards and a score and gained more yards from scrimmage than anybody else in the playoffs last weekend. It was the latest starring turn for an unsung player on a team that has plenty of high-profile talent.


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 and 11 am on weekends. This news summary is made possible by KPR listener-members.  Become one today!