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Headlines for Thursday, January 27, 2022



GOP Redistricting Plan Passes in Kansas; Court Fight Could Be Looming

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Top Republicans have pushed their congressional redistricting plan through the GOP-dominated Kansas Legislature without much trouble. An expected court battle loomed after Wednesday's legislative action over whether the proposed map goes too far in hurting the state’s only Democrat in Congress. The House’s 79-37 vote sends Democratic Governor Laura Kelly a bill that would split the Kansas City area into two congressional districts and move the liberal northeast Kansas city of Lawrence into a district with central and western Kansas. The Senate approved the measure last week. Democratic U.S. Representative Sharice Davids would lose some of the neighborhoods in her Kansas City-area 3rd District where her support is strongest.


GOP Redistricting Map Pairs Progressive Lawrence with Trump-Loving Rural Areas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican lawmakers in Kansas are close to passing a congressional redistricting plan that ties a community known for its so-called “woke” politics to Trump-loving small towns and farms five or hours more west by car on the expansive plains. Lawrence is a city of nearly 95,000 people in northeast Kansas that’s home to the main University of Kansas campus and it has a reputation for liberal politics. It would become part of the sprawling district for western and central Kansas. That means it would join counties where former President Donald Trump received more than 80% of the vote in 2020. Democrats don’t have the political strength to prevent the plan's passage.


Missouri Senate Divided on Congressional Redistricting

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Republicans in the Missouri Senate are fighting over how to divvy up the state's eight congressional districts. Senators on Wednesday worked behind closed doors to try to come to a compromise on new district lines but quit for the day without voting on anything. State lawmakers are redrawing the boundaries of congressional districts to account for population changes noted by the 2020 census. The plan backed by GOP leaders is projected to continue the current political divide of six Republican and two Democratic representatives. But some Republicans want to draw lines to give the GOP a shot at winning seven seats.


Kansas Moves to Offer $1 Billion or More in Breaks for Big Project

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is moving quickly to offer $1 billion or more in tax breaks and other incentives in hopes of landing what officials promise is an investment of up to $4 billion. The bill also includes an across-the-board cut in corporate income taxes. State officials have not disclosed the project or identified the company, saying those who have received details were required to sign non-disclosure agreements. The Republican-controlled Senate on Thursday approved a bill on a 32-7 vote to allow the Kansas Department of Commerce to provide the incentives. The measure had bipartisan support but some conservative Republicans called it “crony” capitalism. Officials claim the new facility will employ 4,000 people.


Police: 2 Men Killed in Junction City Double Shooting

JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (AP) — Two men have been shot to death in Junction City. Police say the shooting happened early Wednesday afternoon on the south end of the city a couple of blocks northeast of Highland Cemetery. Officers called to the scene found two men with gunshot wounds. Police later identified the men as 26-year-old Blake McCoy, of Junction City, and 42-year-old Jeremy John Brown, of Pottawatomie County. Both died at the scene. Police did not immediately release details about how the shooting happened, but said a preliminary investigation indicated the two men knew each other.


Pro-Ivermectin Kansas Doctor-Lawmaker Under Investigation

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas doctor-lawmaker who has prescribed a parasitic worm treatment for COVID-19 symptoms says the state medical board has been investigating him since the summer of 2020. Conservative Republican state Sen. Mark Steffen disclosed the Kansas Board of Healing Arts’ investigation of him Wednesday during a Senate committee hearing. He was testifying in favor of a bill to require pharmacists to fill prescriptions for the anti-worm treatment ivermectin and the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine for off-label uses in treating COVID-19. Steffen is an anesthesiologist and pain-management specialist from Hutchinson. He said the medical board has been investigating him for 18 months over public statements about COVID-19. The board declined to comment.


Kansas to Pay About $900,000 to Man Wrongfully Convicted

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A judge has said Kansas should pay about $900,000 to a man who spent more than 13 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of sex crimes against a child. Merardo J. Garza, Jr., was convicted in 2008 of sex crimes against an 8-year-old girl in Wichita. His sentence was vacated in 2020 after the girl withdrew her accusation. A Sedgwick County District judge last week approved a resolution of the case, which awards Garza $887,455 and a certificate of innocence. He will also have the arrest and conviction expunged from his records. The agreement still must be approved by the State Finance Council.


Green Energy Firms Face New Push for Restrictions in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Green energy companies and environmentalists are fighting renewed efforts in the Republican-controlled Kansas Legislature to impose stricter limits on wind turbines and solar farms. It's happening in a state where renewable resources account for nearly half the state’s capacity for generating electricity. The state Senate Utilities Committee and another panel had hearings on bills backed by Utilities Committee Chair Mike Thompson and some property owners upset with wind turbines going up near their homes. Thompson is a conservative Shawnee Republican who is skeptical of renewable energy.


Kansas Man Pleads No Contest in Shawnee Stabbing Death

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A 52-year-old Paola man has pleaded no contest in the stabbing death of his girlfriend's ex-husband. Vincenzo Anecio Lucasta pleaded on Wednesday to second-degree intentional murder in the death of 57-year-old David Paterno of Shawnee. The Kansas City Star reports that officers found Paterno in his home on Aug. 8, 2018, after a neighbor heard a loud fight inside the home. Lucasta was charged with first-degree murder but accepted the plea deal this week. He faces a sentence up to 21.5 years when he is sentenced April 14.


Missouri AG Opposes Release of Man Convicted of Murder

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt has asked the state Supreme Court not to release a man who has spent nearly 20 years in prison for a murder that he and many supporters say he did not commit. Keith Carnes has been in prison since 2006 after being convicted of killing a Kansas City man in 2003. He has always said he was innocent, and supporters have been trying for years to get him released. The Missouri Supreme Court is currently reviewing a request to release Carnes, in part because some witnesses have recanted their testimony. But on Monday, Schmitt filed a motion arguing against letting Carnes out of prison.


KCK Police Start Cold Case Unit

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas City, Kansas, police department plans to open a new unit to investigate unsolved cases. Chief Karl Oakman announced that the city has about 285 unsolved homicides spanning five decades. He says the cases could benefit from a fresh review, new DNA techniques and other forensic testing.  The unit will be staffed by three full-time detectives who will determine which cases to review based on their solvability. The unit will also review missing person cases that possibly involve foul play. The unit will be lead by Captain Angela Garrison, who has been with the department for 27 years.


Man Convicted in Death During Police Chase in Emporia

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — A 24-year-old Emporia man has been convicted of murder in the death of a man while he was fleeing police last year. The Emporia Gazette reports Lyon County District Court Judge Lee Fowler found Devawn Mitchell guilty Tuesday after a bench trial. Prosecutors said Mitchell was fleeing from officers in Emporia last March when he collided with a pickup truck, killing 64-year-old Steven Henry. Experts testified Mitchell was driving about 100 mph when his car hit Henry's truck. Mitchell is scheduled to be sentenced March 11.


Kansas City Detective Convicted in Killing Leaves Department

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A white Kansas City police detective convicted in the fatal shooting of a Black man is no longer with the police department. The Kansas City Star reports a police spokeswoman said Eric DeValkenaere's last day with the department was Monday. She said state law prevents her from saying if DeValkenaere was fired, resigned or retired. DeValkenaere was convicted in November of involuntary manslaughter and armed criminal action in the 2019 death of 26-year-old Cameron Lamb. He is scheduled to be sentenced March 4. Defense attorney Molly Hastings has said she plans to appeal DeValkenaere's conviction.


Records: KC Police Used Force More Often on Black People

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police data obtained by the Kansas City Star shows that Black people are far more likely to be subjected to use of force by police in Kansas City, Missouri. The Star reported Wednesday that more than 57% of use of force incidents from 2019 to July 2021 were against Black people, who make up just 28% of Kansas City’s population. Police Capt. Leslie Foreman says use of force is “based on the actions of another person, not on the race of that person,” and that Kansas City officers were focused on relationship building in the community. Mayor Quinton Lucas says the data deserves further examination.


Wichita Announces Deputy Chief Named as Interim Police Chief

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The city of Wichita has announced that Deputy Chief Lemuel Moore has been named the police department's interim police chief starting in March. Moore is a 30-year veteran of the department, having begun his career as a beat officer before becoming the department's DARE and school liaison officer and moving up the ranks to chief deputy. Moore will step in to fill the vacancy left by Chief Gordon Ramsay, who announced in December that he would resign effective March 1 to move back to Minnesota.


Kansas Governor Requests a Federal Disaster Declaration for December Storms

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - Governor Laura Kelly is asking President Joe Biden to declare a major disaster for the state of Kansas because of damage resulting from severe storms with extreme high winds on December 15, 2021.  In her request, Kelly said the storm system generated wind gusts ranging from 60 to 100 mph, causing widespread damage. The high winds and dry conditions also led to wildfires that burned more than 160,000 acres and resulted in the deaths of two people. Kelly’s letter said the weather event was of an extremely rare nature, citing information from the Topeka office of the National Weather Service that registered 90 mph winds at 4,000 feet, which was stronger that any winds recorded at that level since 1955.  Preliminary estimates placed the total damage for all involved counties in excess of $15 million. Kelly’s request is for federal funding to help restore damaged public utilities, roads and bridges. “Severe storm damages can be bad enough,” Kelly said, “but to add to that the losses caused by wildfires creates a heavy financial burden on our Kansas counties. I am requesting this disaster declaration to help our counties repair the damages caused by these storms and wildfires and get things back to normal for our citizens.”


Fentanyl Seizures Rise Sharply in Three-State Area - Kansas, Missouri, Southern Illinois

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The Drug Enforcement Administration division that includes Missouri, Kansas and southern Illinois seized more of the dangerous drug fentanyl last year than in the two previous years combined. The DEA's St. Louis Division says agents and task force officers seized 188 kilograms of fentanyl last year, compared to 82 kilograms in 2020 and 104 kilograms in 2019. Investigators also seized a record 1,848 kilograms of methamphetamine — an all-time high — and 73 kilograms of heroin. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid used to treat pain in pharmaceutical settings. The DEA says it is 50 times more potent than heroin.


Wichita Priest Won't Be Charged with Child Sexual Abuse

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett says he will not file charges against a Roman Catholic priest accused of sexual exploitation of a child while he was in Wichita in the 1990s. Bennett said in a news release Wednesday the statute of limitations has expired on the alleged crime. The Catholic Diocese of Wichita put Rev. Michael Schemm on administrative leave last November after receiving a report involving a child between 1993 and 1996, when Schemm was assigned to St. Elizabeth Seton in Wichita. Bennett said under Kansas law, the statute of limitations ended in 2009, when the alleged victim turned 28.


Missouri Man Convicted in Wife's Death Faces Abuse Trial Involving His Daughter

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri man convicted of killing his wife and burying her body will face a second trial on charges that he abused the couple's young daughter. During a hearing Monday, a Boone County judge rejected a defense request that the trial for Joseph Elledge be moved to another county because of extensive publicity regarding his wife's death. The judge did agree that jurors would be brought in from Warren County. Elledge was convicted in November of killing his 28-year-old wife, Mengqi Ji, a Chinese woman who he met at the University of Missouri. In the new case, he faces three felony charges involving his daughter.


Wichita State University Releases Updated 2022 Kansas Employment Forecast

WICHITA, Kan. (KPR) - The Kansas unemployment rate has fallen, as job growth in the service sector rebounds.  Those are some of the findings from Wichita State University's Center for Economic Development and Business Research, which has released its updated Kansas Employment Forecast. In 2021, overall state-level unemployment was estimated to have fallen dramatically from 6.2% to 4%.  Indicative of continuing labor market adaptation and recovery from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, these trends are expected to continue throughout 2022 and 2023, halving the number of Kansans left unemployed in 2020.  The most significant component of job growth in the service sector comes from leisure and hospitality occupations, which have rebounded dramatically in 2021 (6.4% growth from 2020) alongside increasing vaccine availability and an ever-adapting labor force and job market. ( Read the full 2022 Kansas Employment Forecast from WSU.) 


AFC Matchup: Newbie Bengals Visit Perennial Contender Chiefs

UNDATED (AP) – Talk about newcomers versus the tried and true. Here come the Cincinnati Bengals, who had lost eight straight playoff games since their last victory 31 years ago. Awaiting them at loud, sometimes intimidating Arrowhead Stadium will be the Kansas City Chiefs, in their fourth consecutive AFC championship game and seeking their third trip in a row to the Super Bowl. This is hardly the matchup most NFL observers expected. Sure, the Chiefs made sense, but the often-mocked Bengals — Bungles no more — were a surprise last to first winner of the AFC North. Now, here they are, one step from their first Super Bowl appearance since 1989.


Chiefs' Mahomes Exudes Calm During Most Stressful Moments

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — There was never a sense of panic for Patrick Mahomes as he stood on the sideline Sunday night, watching the Bills score yet another late touchdown to regain the lead with 13 seconds left in their divisional-round game against the Chiefs. Thirteen seconds left with plenty of timeouts? No cause for concern. Mahomes calmly led Kansas City to the tying field goal, then the winning touchdown in overtime. It was perhaps the best example yet of the calm that Mahomes exudes during the most stressful of circumstances.


Winning Ways: Are the Chiefs Suddenly the NFL's New Dynasty?

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Chiefs have won a record six straight AFC West titles and will be hosting their record fourth straight AFC title game when Cincinnati visits Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday. Already, the talk is beginning of a blossoming dynasty in Kansas City. But if the Chiefs are not yet there, what exactly will it take for Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes to take the franchise into such a wholly subjective place? Perhaps a third straight Super Bowl trip with a win over the Bengals this weekend, or following up last year's loss to Tampa Bay with a second title in three years would do it.


Chicago Bears Hire Chiefs' Ryan Poles as General Manager

CHICAGO (AP) — Ryan Poles, the Kansas City Chiefs executive director of player personnel, has been hired as Chicago’s general manager. The move comes almost 15 years after the former offensive tackle signed with the team as an undrafted free agent and then failed to make the final roster. Poles has spent the previous 13 seasons in the Chiefs’ front office. He was the team’s director of college scouting in 2017 when Kansas City drafted Patrick Mahomes with the No. 10 overall pick after Chicago took Mitchell Trubisky at No. 2. Poles succeeds Ryan Pace. The team has yet to hire a coach to replace Matt Nagy.


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