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Headlines for Friday, May 27, 2022



Juvenile Charged in Water Contamination Case

McPHERSON, Kan. (AP) — A 12-year-old boy has been charged in connection with the contamination of a water cooler used by a small college baseball team in Kansas. The boy has been charged with endangerment and criminal damage to property for allegedly pouring paint into Kansas Wesleyan's water cooler during a doubleheader against Bethany College in Lindsborg on April 24. McPherson County Attorney Jennifer Wyatt said a summons would be issued for the juvenile to appear in court.


ACLU Sues over Long Wait Times at Larned State Hospital

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - The ACLU of Kansas is suing the state over long wait times at Larned State Hospital. The organizations says the wait times for some services are so long it infringes on people’s rights. Some Kansans are sent to Larned for competency evaluations before trial. The wait times, which can stretch to 13 months, can sometimes exceed sentences for the crimes with which they are charged. The ACLU of Kansas says waiting that long for help can make someone’s condition worse. The lawsuit names the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability services, the state department that runs forensic unit at Larned. The department did not immediately respond to requests for comment. ( Read more in the Kansas Reflector.)


Kansas Man Pleads Guilty to Fraud for Falsely Representing Himself as Pathologist

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KCUR) - A Kansas man who presented himself as a pathologist, even though he had no medical degree, has pleaded guilty to fraud charges. Prosecutors say 42-year-old Shawn Lynn Parcells duped hundreds of people into paying him for autopsy services. On Thursday, Parcells admitted that he falsely represented his credentials to a Maryland family that had contracted with him for autopsy services. He sent them a fraudulent pathology report and cause of death. Parcells faces up to 20 years in prison. Sentencing has been set for August 25. Parcells posed as an expert in the investigation into the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Although he held himself out as a forensic pathology expert in cable news appearances, it turned out he did not have a medical degree.


Kansas School Districts Review Safety Procedures in Wake of Texas School Shooting

WICHITA, Kan. (KMUW/KNS) - Some Kansas school districts are reviewing their safety procedures following a deadly shooting at a Texas school that killed 19 students and two teachers. Terri Moses is director of safety for the state’s largest school district in Wichita. She says mass shootings anywhere prompt somber discussions about violence prevention and safety protocols here at home. “Even today, it’s the last day of school. It should be an upbeat, ‘Hey, we’ve successfully completed another school year,’ and it’s difficult to have these conversations with kids and even staff," she said. Following the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, Wichita schools implemented several new safety measures. Most buildings have buzz-in entrances, and playgrounds are fenced and locked. Students and teachers also practice lockdown drills. Moses says limiting entrances can be tricky because of fires and other potential emergencies.


Wichita Woman Admits Defrauding Employer of $3.1 Million

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ Federal prosecutors say a 77-year-old Wichita woman has admitted to embezzling about $3.1 million from her employer. The U.S. Attorney's office in Kansas says Nancy Martin pleaded guilty to bank fraud and filing a false tax document. Martin was bookkeeper, business manager, and chief operating officer of Mid-Kansas Wound Specialists and Emergency Services. An audit found she fraudulently obtained about $3.1 million from her employers' banks and used the money for personal expenses, travel and investments. She also admitted filing false tax returns from 2013 to 2016. She is scheduled to be sentenced August 17. 


UPDATE: Officials ID Man Killed in Standoff with Wichita SWAT Team

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have identified a man killed this week following an exchanging gunfire with a Wichita SWAT team during a more than 10-hour standoff. Police say 39-year-old Gregorio Merced Banuelos, of Wichita, died following the shootout. Police have said officers were called to a home in west Wichita early Wednesday after reports of a shooting. They found a woman and a child in the front yard, and officers saw a man run into the home holding a gun as other people inside the house left the residence. After nearly 10 hours, SWAT members went into the home, and police say Banuelos and SWAT members exchanged gunfire in the home's basement. Police say Banuelos was then shot by two SWAT members as he aggressively advanced on other officers.

(Earlier reporting...)

One Person Dies After Standoff with Wichita SWAT Team

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a man died after exchanging gunfire with a SWAT team during a nearly nine-hour standoff. Wichita Officer Chad Ditch said officers were called to a home in west Wichita early Wednesday after reports of a shooting. They found a woman and a child in the front yard. Ditch says the officers saw a man run into the home with a gun in his hand. A short time later, some people inside the house left the residence. After about nine hours, SWAT members went into the home. Ditch said the suspects exchanged gunfire with the officers and was shot to death. Ditch said the 39-year-old suspect was wanted on an aggravated kidnapping warrant.


Kansas Democrats Work to Defeat Proposed Abortion Amendment to State Constitution

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas Democrats and activists pushing for abortion rights have cranked up their efforts to defeat a proposed amendment to the state constitution. In August, voters will consider an amendment that says the Kansas constitution does not include a right to abortion access. The Kansas News Service reports that the fight is taking on a new urgency after news broke of a coming abortion ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court. Former Democratic lawmaker Jennifer Day and other activists have expanded their efforts to urge voters to reject the state ballot measure in the wake of a leaked U.S. Supreme Court document that appears to indicate the question of legalized abortion will be returned to the states to decide. Day says changing the state constitution will open the door for Kansas Republicans to outright ban abortion. “I’d like those rights to stay in place. So constitutional amendment: let’s vote no so we can keep bodily autonomy here in Kansas," she said. The vote on the amendment is during the primary election on August 2. Any registered voter in Kansas may cast a ballot on the issue, regardless of party affiliation.


Kansas Democratic Party Grapples with Leadership Complaints

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KNS) - The Kansas Democratic Party continues to be led by a director who was the focus of an internal investigation over complaints he mistreated employees. The Kansas City Star reports that four party workers filed a complaint about what they saw as bullying behavior by Executive Director Ben Meers. The Star reported that Kansas Democratic Party employees quit their jobs to flee a toxic work environment. They told the newspaper that Meers berated employees to the point of tears. After an internal investigation confirmed some of the former employees’ complaints, the party made changes to workplace policies. But party officials did not share what those changes were and Meers continues to run the party’s day-to-day operations.


Owners of Wichita Greyhound Park Plan to Re-Open Despite Lawsuit

WICHITA, Kan. (KMUW) - The company that owns Wichita Greyhound Park says it still intends to reopen with new betting machines despite a lawsuit. The company that runs the Kansas Star Casino filed a $25 million lawsuit against the state over an alleged breach of contract. Boyd Gaming says the state is violating its contract by allowing Wichita Greyhound Park to reopen with historical horse racing machines. Those machines let customers place bets on replays of past horse races. Boyd’s contract states that the Star Casino will be the only facility with casino gaming in both Sumner and Sedgwick counties until 2026. But Ruffin Companies, which owns the defunct dog track, says the horse racing machines are sufficiently different from traditional slot machines. It’s not yet clear when the park might reopen.


GOP Group Files Complaint Against Official in Democratic Governor's Administration

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - A national Republican group has filed a complaint against a top official in Democratic Governor Laura Kelly’s administration. The Republican Governors’ Association is running a television ad that criticizes Kelly for reversing a policy that imposed work or job-training requirements on adults seeking food stamps. Lawyers for Kelly’s campaign say the ad is false. Trying to get it off the air, they sent a letter to stations from Department for Children and Families Secretary Laura Howard backing up their claim. RGA spokesperson Joanna Rodriguez says by writing the letter, Howard violated a law that bars state employees from getting involved in campaigns. “Laura Kelly is playing politics, using state staff and taxpayer funded resources and her campaign apparently has nothing to say for it," Rodriguez said. A spokesperson for Kelly’s campaign declined comment on the specifics of the complaint but said Republicans don’t want anyone “correcting the record with the facts.”


Man Sentenced for Killing Former Washburn University Football Player 

UNDATED (Kansas News Service/KCUR) – Francisco Mendez of Topeka has been sentenced to life in prison for killing a former Washburn University football player. Mendez was convicted in March of one count of first-degree murder, four counts of attempted first-degree murder and seven counts of aggravated armed robbery as the result of a shooting in April of 2019.  Dwane Simmons was killed that night while attending a party to celebrate with his friend and football teammate Corey Ballentine, who had been selected in the NFL Draft by the New York Giants earlier in the day.  Ballentine was wounded in the shooting and says the bullet is still lodged near his lower back. He's now a member of the Atlanta Falcons football team.


Kansas City Police Seek Driver in Pedestrian Fatality Following Car Chase

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police are searching for a driver they say fatally hit a pedestrian on a Kansas City road following a police chase of a stolen pickup truck. Police say the chase began Wednesday afternoon when officers spotted the pickup and tried to pull it over. The truck fled, ramming a patrol car in the process. Police say the officers called off the chase as the truck entered the northbound lanes of Interstate 435 traveling southbound. Less that a minute later, police found the body a man in the road and the truck a short distance away. A woman who was a passenger in the truck was arrested. The driver of the truck fled on foot and has not been found.


Man Who Kidnapped, Raped Hitchhikers in 1975 Arrested in Northwest Kansas

NORTON (KSNT) – A man wanted by U.S. Marshals was arrested by police in Norton this week.  KSNT TV reports that an officer conducted a traffic stop in Norton and discovered that the driver, Dale Farris Sessions, had outstanding federal warrants for probation violation in addition to Wisconsin warrants for two counts of failure to register as a sex offender. Sessions was taken into custody without incident. Sessions was convicted of kidnapping and raping two hitchhikers in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in 1975 and was sent to a mental hospital from which he escaped the following year. ( Read more.)


Recent LMH Health Blood Drives See Near Record Turnout Amid Blood Shortage

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) Amid a blood shortage currently affecting its supplier, LMH Health told the Lawrence Journal-World this week that its recent blood drives have seen near record-breaking turnout. Autumn Bishop, a spokesperson for LMH Health, said the hospital’s two recent blood drives in May resulted in a combined 170 units of blood. The hospital’s blood supplier, the Community Blood Center of Greater Kansas City, had announced a blood emergency just days prior to the two drives, stating that its on-hand blood supplies were two to three days below the ideal inventory of blood donations. Bishop stressed that the blood emergency hasn’t ended yet and said LMH Health encouraged all who are able to donate to do so at one of the hospital’s upcoming blood drives. Those drives are slated for July 7-8, and interested donors can sign up online at savealifenow.org.


Who Will Let the Dogs Out? Lawrence Humane Society Lowers Fees for Adoptions

LAWRENCE, Kan. (The Lawrence Times) – The Lawrence Humane Society has too many dogs, and is seeking help from the public. The Lawrence Times reports that the humane society is above its capacity for dogs and has lowered its dog adoption fees...which normally begin at $150...to $20, to encourage people to adopt. Elina Alterman, director of development and communications for the Lawrence Humane Society, said via e-mail that the shelter has 75 dog kennels, and all of those were full as of Wednesday. Meanwhile, they're also taking in a unusually high number of stray dogs and a large number of owner surrenders. Alterman said that shelters all around the region are grappling with the same situation. For more information on fostering or adopting a dog, visit lawrencehumane.org.


Kansas Wildlife Officials: Beware of Snakes, Especially in State Parks

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KAKE) - Watch your step! Parks officials in Kansas are warning residents about snakes becoming more active in the wake of recent weather. KAKE TV reports about a warning on the Facebook page for the Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department: "With heavy rains and warmer weather, snakes (including copperheads) become more active in many of our parks, their natural habitat, as they venture out and explore." Officials said the increased activity can lead to more encounters with people and pets. "If you see a copperhead or other snake, leave it alone – do not attempt to capture, harm or approach it," the department said. "All park wildlife is protected by state law."

Check out the snakes of Kansas.


WHO: COVID-19 Cases Mostly Drop, Except for the Americas

LONDON (AP) — The World Health Organization says the number of new coronavirus cases and deaths are still falling globally after peaking in January. In its latest weekly assessment, the U.N. health agency said there were more than 3.7 million new infections and 9,000 deaths in the last week, drops of 3% and 11% respectively. New COVID-19 cases rose in only two regions of the world: the Americas and the Western Pacific. COVID-19 deaths increased by 30% in the Middle East, but were stable or decreased everywhere else. China, meanwhile, is vowing to stick to a "zero-COVID" policy despite the fact that the WHO describes the policy as "unsustainable," given the infectious nature of omicron and its subvariants.


Kansas Agencies Work to Gather Clothes for Foster Children

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas foster children do not always have the extra clothes they need when placed in state custody. Foster agencies are now working to drive up clothing donations. When a child is removed from a home, he or she may only have the clothes they're wearing. The children are often moved from one home to another and items can get lost or worn out. Meanwhile, stipends for Kansas foster parents are not enough to buy every child new clothing. Lori Ross is the CEO of Foster Adopt Connect, a group that supports foster families. The group even used a 5K race to raise awareness of this issue. Some foster homes might not be expecting a kid, which can make stocking up on supplies hard. “Those people are as surprised about the placement as the kids are, right. They weren’t planning on taking those kids," she said. She says diapers, new underwear and socks are always in need. Foster Adopt Connect and state foster contractors accept donations year-round.


Kansas Lawmakers Fail to Legalize Medical Marijuana; Will Study the Issue this Summer

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - When this year’s session of the Kansas Legislature began, supporters of legalizing medical marijuana were optimistic. But lawmakers once again failed to reach agreement on the issue. In late April, members of the Kansas House and Senate committees working on medical marijuana bills met to negotiate and seemed headed for progress. The House team, headed by Republican John Barker, was eager for an agreement. But Senate negotiators had a problem. They didn’t have the backing of Senate President Ty Masterson. So, the talks stopped and never resumed. Shortly after lawmakers adjourned for the final time this week, the head of the Senate negotiating team, Republican Rob Olson, released a statement. In it, he said he planned to work over the summer on a compromise bill that could pass next session.


Remains of Man Killed at Pearl Harbor Returned to Missouri

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The remains of a man who died in the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 have been returned to Missouri for burial. The remains of Seaman 1st Class Wilbur Francis Newton arrived in Kansas City on Tuesday. His remains were identified as part of a project started in 2015 by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. Investigators contacted Newton's oldest living maternal relative in 2012 to obtain DNA used to identify him. Robin Deeds, the child of Newton's cousin, said Newton will be laid to rest this weekend in Mound City. He will buried in a plot that Newton's parents bought for him before their deaths in the 1940s.


Quirky Small Town Attractions in Kansas Aim to Cash in on Tourism

HAYS, Kan. (KNS/HPPR) - For small towns with dwindling populations and shrinking tax bases, luring travelers to stop and spend a few dollars is a matter of community survival. Some turn to quirky roadside tourist attractions. The community pride these offbeat sites generate can be just as valuable as the money they bring in. Kansas doesn’t have the mountains or beaches that draw crowds to some other states. But getting even a little bit of tourist money can boost rural economies. So, some Kansas small towns manufacture their own, larger-than-life wonders to put themselves on the tourism map. Cawker City's giant ball of twine is one such example. The Kansas News Service explores this and some of the other roadside attractions in the Sunflower State.


Researchers Hope Kansans Will Sign Up to Catch and Release Bumblebees

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Scientists are looking for Kansans across the state to help count bumblebees. That will require people to take training on how to catch bumblebees, take photos of the insects and let them go. Volunteers in Missouri and Nebraska have already recorded thousands of sightings. Katie Lamke is a biologist with the Xerces Society, a conservation group that focuses on insects. Insect populations are dropping in the Midwest, but bees are critical for many plants to reproduce. “They are by far the most effective pollinator," she said. "They’re constantly gathering pollen and nectar because that’s their only source of food.” Next month, the Xerces Society will offer training in Kansas City, Wichita and Strong City.


Lawrence's Raven Book Store Gets National Recognition

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KCUR/LJW) - Publishers Weekly has named the Raven Book Store in downtown Lawrence "Bookstore of the Year." KCUR Radio reports that authors, booksellers, and publishing professionals recognized the Raven for its work to sustain the independent bookstore industry, especially during the pandemic. Co-owner Danny Caine called the award a big honor. "This is the biggest book industry trade publication saying we’re the country’s bookstore of the year. That’s enough for us," he said. In 1987, the Raven was founded as a mystery bookstore. But it’s become more general interest since Caine bought it in 2017. In January, Caine also shook up ownership when he sold 49% of his shares in the business to seven of his employees. ( Read more in the Lawrence Journal-World.)

Editor's note: The Raven Book Store is a financial supporter of Kansas Public Radio.


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