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Headlines for Thursday, August 11, 2022



Feds: Kansas Foster Care Contractor Defrauded of $10.7 Million

WICHITA, Kan. (TCJ) - The FBI says a former IT employee for a Kansas foster care contractor may have defrauded his employer out of $10.7 million.  The Topeka Capital Journal reports that federal law enforcement officers have seized bank accounts of the former employee.  The U.S. Attorney's Office for Kansas alleges that William "Bill" Whymark and his company, WMK Research, defrauded Saint Francis Ministries out of millions of dollars. Saint Francis Ministries is a Salina-based religious organization that provides services in Kansas and other states.  Saint Francis is a contractor for the Kansas Department of Children and Families, providing foster care, adoption and other social services. Wymark's attorney denies the allegations. ( Read more.)


Upcoming Kansas City Winter Described as "Hibernation Zone"

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (WDAF) — Enjoy the summer heat while you can. Old Man Winter is coming to Kansas and Missouri.  And WDAF TV reports that the Farmer’s Almanac is predicting a rough winter ahead.  The Farmer’s Almanac provides a forecast every year. Publishers said they decided to release winter predictions earlier than ever because of the extreme heat and drought affecting different regions.  The Farmer's Almanac warns this winter will be cold and snowy for people living in Kansas and Missouri. While that describes many winters in the Kansas City area, the Farmer’s Almanac predicts a “hibernation zone” and uses words like “glacial, snow-filled” to describe what will be heading to the metro in a few short months. The 2023 Farmers’ Almanac will be available in stores beginning August 15.


New Mexico Homicide Victim Identified as Missing Wichita Girl

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — A homicide victim found 37 years ago in New Mexico has been identified as a missing teenager from Wichita. KSNW TV reports that authorities in New Mexico have identified the victim as 16-year-old Dorothy Harrison. It took DNA testing to finally make the connection. Now that authorities know the victim's name and have spoken to her family in Kansas, investigators have been able to piece together some of what happened. Authorities believe someone killed Harrison between September 1984 and January 1985. Hunters found her remains in a shallow grave off Interstate 25 near Upham, New Mexico, in March of 1985. It took 37 years to identify her remains. She is survived by her mother and five siblings in Kansas. New Mexico authorities have classified the teen’s death as a homicide, but have not determined how she died or who may have killed her. The family is now working on getting Harrison’s remains returned to Kansas. ( Read more.)


Kansas Attorney Sentenced for Smuggling Heroin into Missouri Prison

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A Shawnee, Kansas, attorney has been sentenced in federal court for smuggling heroin to an inmate in Missouri with whom she had a romantic relationship. Prosecutors say 44-year-old Juliane L. Colby was sentenced to one year and one month in prison without parole for smuggling heroin into the Western Missouri Correctional Center in Cameron, Missouri. In February, Colby pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute heroin. She admitted that she conspired with others to smuggle heroin to an inmate in the facility. According to court documents, Colby was working as a public defender when she began a romantic relationship with the inmate. ( Read more.)


Kansas Man Arrested on Suspicion of Child Sex Crimes
EDGERTON, Kan. (KSNW) — The Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) has arrested an Edgerton, Kansas, man on suspicion of child sex crimes. The KBI says 57-year-old Tony Hamer was taken into custody Wednesday morning in Edgerton for suspected child sex crimes. KSNW TV reports that the suspect was arrested on a Texas warrant. KBI agents were assisted by the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office and Texas authorities in executing the Warrant in Edgerton. Hamer was booked into the Johnson County Jail.


Kansas City Police: Body Found in Missouri River

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - An investigation is underway after a body was found in the Missouri River near Ameristar Casino Wednesday afternoon. Kansas City television station KCTV reports that a boater reportedly spotted a man’s body on a sandbar. The Kansas City, Missouri, Fire Department sent two water rescue boats into the river to retrieve the body. Police say they are still in their early stages of their investigation.


Missouri Voters to Decide in November on Recreational Marijuana

KANSAS CITY, MO. (KCUR) - Missouri voters could legalize marijuana for recreational use in the next election. Missouri’s secretary of state has certified that advocates gathered enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot. Voters in November will ultimately decide if recreational marijuana usage is legal in Missouri. Rep. Ron Hicks, who has attempted to pass legislation legalizing the use of marijuana in the state, is not in favor of the petition. He says by passing it through a constitutional amendment, any problems that arise will be more difficult to address than if it was passed by the legislature: “You get what you get, you cannot change it unless you go through an initiative petition process again," he said. The initiative will appear as Amendment 3 on the ballot. John Payne, campaign manager for Legal Missouri 2022, says he's optimistic the measure will pass. “We think that indicates that there's a strong support among Missouri voters for this. And that's also consistent with the public polling that's out there, and our internal polling as well," he said. The ballot measure would make marijuana use and possession legal for those 21 and older, although there would be a limit on how much of the drug someone could possess.


How Will Kansas Handle Possible Legalization of Marijuana in Missouri?

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (WDAF) — With recreational marijuana headed to the ballot in Missouri this November, some are wondering how Kansas will respond. WDAF TV reports that Kansas lawmakers have been working on legislation that would legalize medical cannabis but the drug itself still remains illegal in the state. Currently, people in Missouri need a medical card to buy marijuana but if the ballot initiative passes, it would allow anyone over 21 to buy weed. That's raising questions on how neighboring Kansas may respond. Even if Kansas approves medical marijuana, Missouri-sold recreational marijuana would still be illegal in Kansas. This is not the first time Kansas has dealt with the issue. Neighboring Colorado has long been a state where recreational marijuana has been legal. But the western border of Kansas is less developed than the eastern side, where places like Kansas City are split between two states and residents frequently travel from one state to the other.


Kansas Education Officials Consider Change in Sports Divisions

WICHITA, Kan. (KMUW/KNS) - Kansas education leaders are considering a plan that would force some private schools to compete against bigger public schools. State Representative Tim Johnson used to coach football at Basehor-Linwood High School in northeast Kansas. He says private schools have advantages that help them win championships: “Now some people have said, ‘No, no, we don’t recruit.’ Yes, they do," he said. Johnson and other supporters say private schools who dominate in athletics should move up to larger sports classifications. But Marty Straub says the plan unfairly targets private schools that win a lot. He's the athletic director at Kapaun Mount Carmel Catholic High School in Wichita. “Let’s be honest: Frustration over the success of a few private schools in Kansas is why we’re here today," he said. The Kansas News Service reports that the state school board will vote on the plan next month. If approved, it moves to the Kansas Legislature.


Kansas Board of Education Chair Concerned About Requirement for Student Surveys
TOPEKA, Kan. (KMUW/KNS) - The leader of the Kansas school board says he’s concerned about a new state law that requires schools to get parents’ permission before asking students about their personal beliefs or family life. Conservative lawmakers added the requirement to a school finance bill passed by the Legislature this year. It was part of a push to give parents more control over what’s presented in classrooms. Board of Education Chairman Jim Porter says kids who are abused or neglected often seek help from teachers or school counselors. He worries the new law could interfere with surveys or questions about how students are treated at home. “It appears to me that we have to have the permission of the abuser before we can talk to that kid. And I think that that at least needs to be discussed," he said. Board members say they want more information about several new laws aimed at schools, including an open-enrollment measure that will go into effect next year.


Lawrence Food Bank Announces New Production Facility to Produce Ready-To-Eat Meals

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - The Lawrence-based food bank Just Food has announced a plan that will allow it to more efficiently make ready-to-eat meals at a new downtown location. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Just Food will be using a former restaurant space at 805 Vermont Street and hopes to be up and running by the end of August. In the new production facility, recovered foods will be turned into ready-to-eat meals. Leaders with the food pantry say the new location will allow the organization to increase meal numbers and reduce food waste. ( Read more.)


Warmer Overnight Temps Bad for Kansas Corn Crops, Livestock

MANHATTAN, Kan. (HPM) - Summer nights have gotten warmer -- on average, more than 2 degrees warmer -- over the last 50 years.  That's according to a study by a group called Climate Central. Those rising temperatures can hurt crops such as corn, especially when those warmer nights take place during the reproductive stage of growth. Last month in Kansas, overnight lows were as high as 82 degrees. And most of the Kansas corn crop suffered because of it, according to Chip Redmond, a meteorologist at Kansas State University. "They didn't successfully pollinate and they didn't even put ears of corn on so there’s literally no corn out there," he said. Redmond says farmers who planted earlier in the season were better off, along with those in southeast Kansas. Since summer nights are getting warmer across the Midwest, experts say farmers should look to hybrid and drought-tolerant crops.

Harvest Public Media reports warmer temps also pose problems for livestock. High overnight temperatures were part of the reason ranchers lost cattle in southwest Kansas earlier this year. A rapid change in temperature - along with the cows not cooling down at night- caused heat stress. Hot nights can cause health and reproductive problems for cattle, says Missouri extension veterinarian and cattle rancher, Scott Poock. With overnight temperatures going up, he encourages ranchers to continue to keep their cows cool at night after a hot day.


Kansas Senator Reacts to FBI's Raid on Former President Trump's Florida Home

UNDATED (AP/KPR) - A Republican Senator from Kansas says his phone “blew up” with questions from constituents shortly after news broke about an FBI raid at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.  The FBI search of his home is reportedly part of an investigation into whether Trump took classified records from the White House to his Florida residence.  Trump issued a statement saying agents opened a safe at his home and likened the raid to “prosecutorial misconduct.”  Kansas Senator Roger Marshall, whose dad was a police officer, said he grew up with a great deal of respect for the FBI, but that view is changing. “The FBI were the good guys. And right now, we’re all concerned who the FBI really is,” Marshall told The Associated Press. “Folks back home are real concerned about what the federal government has become.” Trump and his allies are casting the unprecedented raid on a presidential home as the weaponization of the criminal justice system and a Democratic-driven effort to keep him from winning another term in 2024. The Biden White House says it had no prior knowledge of the raid. Kansas Democratic Congresswoman Sharice Davids told the Kansas City Star much is still unknown about the raid but noted, “No one is above the law."


Kansas Governor Cuts Ribbon on North America's Largest Wheat Protein Plant

PHILLIPSBURG, Kan. (KPR) - A new facility will soon open in Phillipsburg to produce wheat protein ingredients. Kansas Governor Laura Kelly took part in the ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday and said the Amber Wave plant will become the largest wheat protein producer in North America within two years. Kelly also said the company is investing more than $250 million into the facility and will create more than 60 new jobs as it ramps up to full capacity. Amber Wave is a leader in sustainable agriculture, food ingredients, and low-carbon fuels. Kelly said Kansas is known for its high-quality wheat, and this cutting-edge facility will strengthen the state's competitive edge in the marketplace. All the wheat Amber Wave needs to operate is grown within 100 miles of the plant. In addition to building a wheat mill and wheat gluten plant, the company retrofitted the existing Prairie Horizon Agri-Energy corn-based ethanol plant to produce ethanol from wheat starch. The plant will use the latest technology in wheat milling and protein extraction while creating a significantly lower carbon footprint than traditional corn ethanol plants to produce biofuels.


Kansas Attorney General Wants Appeals Court to Block Mask Mandate

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) – Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt wants the courts to prevent the Biden Administration from requiring masks on public transit. Schmidt has petitioned a federal appeals court to affirm a lower-court ruling that blocked the Biden administration from requiring masks on buses, trains and commercial airlines.   In a brief filed Monday, Schmidt joined 21 other state attorneys general in arguing that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lacked the authority to impose the mask mandate. The attorneys general argue that the mandate is invalid because it failed to go through notice and comment procedures, is arbitrary and capricious and violated the agency’s own regulations.   In their brief, the attorneys general point out that the U.S. Supreme Court has already rejected other actions taken by the CDC, including the agency's nationwide eviction moratorium and an order that grounded cruise ships.  Schmidt, who is running for Kansas governor, has challenged numerous federal mandates since last fall when the Biden administration announced several vaccine and mask mandates as part of its approach to combating COVID-19. Schmidt helped obtain federal court injunctions blocking the OSHA vaccine mandate for private employers, the federal contractor vaccine mandate and the Head Start vaccine and mask mandate.


Man Who Performed Illegal Autopsies Can't Work in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas man convicted of performing illegal autopsies has been fined more than $700,000 and is permanently banned from doing business in the state. A Shawnee County District Court judge ordered 42-year-old Shawn Parcells to pay nearly $255,000 in restitution to 82 consumers related to his private autopsy service based in Wabaunsee County. Parcells was also ordered to pay thousands more in penalties and fines to other entities for violating Kansas laws. Parcells was convicted in November of six criminal charges related to autopsies performed in Wabaunsee County. He also pleaded guilty in May to one charge of federal wire fraud.


Blood Drive Set for Thursday at Lawrence Church

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - Blood supplies have been crtically low for some time, but Lawrence area residents will have a chance to address that shortage today (THUR). A Lawrence church is hosting a blood drive to benefit the region’s local blood supplier. The drive takes place at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints meeting house from 2 to 6 pm. The drive benefits the Community Blood Center, which is the primary provider of blood donations to more than 70 hospitals and medical centers in the greater Kansas City area, including LMH Health. Donors can pre-register online but walk-ins will also be accepted as time allows.


New KU Research Explores Why Foster Kids Run Away

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - New research finds Kansas foster children are running away because they lack control and miss their families.  The Kansas News Service reports that the study, from the University of Kansas, looked at five reasons foster kids ran away, but the results echoed the same key point – foster kids often wanted more connection with their biological family. Kaela Byers, associate research professor at KU, said "Even when they recognize that things have not been perfect. In the past, they may have experienced some very serious trauma, there may be family members, they don't want to talk to see. But those family connections are still important.” The authors recommend increasing visitation and supporting family connections. They also say managers should listen to the foster kids more before making decisions about where the children are placed.


Prosecutor: Missouri Man Fatally Shot in Lawn-Mowing Dispute

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Prosecutors say a Missouri man has been charged in the fatal shooting of a neighbor after an argument about lawn mowing. The Jackson County Prosecutor's office says 42-year-old Samuel Avery, of Kansas City, is charged with second-degree murder and armed criminal action in the death of 41-year-old Warner Trotter. Court documents say Avery told investigators he shot Trotter on Sunday after the men argued over his lawn mower being too loud. Avery said the next-door neighbors had argued for 10 years. Online court records do not name an attorney who can speak on Avery's behalf.

Olathe Woman Loses Race for School Board, Removed from Meeting, Loses Lawsuit

OLATHE, Kan. (KCUR) - An Olathe woman who lost her race for the local school board and was later removed from a board meeting, has lost her bid to prevent the board from enforcing its policy governing public comments at board meetings. KCUR Radio reports that Jennifer Gilmore ran for a seat on the school board in 2021, campaigning against mask mandates and critical race theory. She lost by 65 votes. She was removed from a January 13th board meeting at which she accused her opponent of being bought. She then sued the school board, claiming it violated her First Amendment rights of free-speech. But a federal judge ruled Friday that the board’s policy barring comments “not germane to the business activities of the Board” was a reasonable, viewpoint-neutral limitation that does not infringe on the First Amendment. ( Read more.)


French Embassy: University of Kansas Is an Excellent Place to Learn French 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) — The Department of French, Francophone & Italian Studies at the University of Kansas has been designated a “Center of Excellence” by the French Embassy in Washington, D.C.  Bruce Hayes, KU professor of French, says the Centers of Excellence were established by the French government to promote French culture in American universities and increase ties between scholars, artists and public intellectuals in France and the U.S.  “It is highly selective and includes only the strongest programs," Hayes said.  With this designation, KU joins a short list of the most prestigious colleges in the country and is only the 25th addition to the network. The College joins Ivy League schools such as Princeton, Harvard and Yale.  According to the French Embassy’s website, one benefit of the designation is financial support on a yearly basis from the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the U.S.  About 321 million people around the world speak French, and as the official language of 29 countries, it is second only to English. ( Read more.)


Report: Poverty Still Affecting Hundreds of Thousands of Kansas and Missouri Children

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - The annual Kids Count report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation has found that 70,000 fewer kids lived in poverty in 2020 in Kansas and Missouri, than in 2015. But poverty remains a problem that affects about 1 in 6 children in the two states. The report says the parents of more than 500,000 Kansas and Missouri kids lacked full-time, year-round jobs, making family finances less stable. But, the report says, that’s an improvement in recent years. 


Bald Eagles Still in Danger in Kansas

MANHATTAN, Kan. (KPR)  - Bald eagles are increasingly common in Kansas, but some are still dying because of human activity. Wildlife officials say there are around 200 eagle’s nests across the state, up from only a single nest counted in 1989. Conservation measures like the 1972 federal ban on DDT pesticide saved bald eagles from disappearing in the last century. Man-made reservoirs probably made Kansas more attractive to the birds, which hunt fish and waterfowl. But the eagles still face threats in the state. Michelle McNulty, a biologist for the US Fish and Wildlife Service in Manhattan, says lead poisoning from various sources is probably the number one threat for eagles in Kansas. Often, McNulty says, the raptors are poisoned by lead buckshot in prey and carrion. The birds also die from contact with power lines and by flying into wind turbines.


Chiefs' Mahomes to Buck NFL Trend, Play Preseason Opener

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) — Patrick Mahomes will start the Kansas City Chiefs’ preseason opener in Chicago on Saturday. That bucks a trend across the NFL of coaches sitting their starting quarterbacks for the first of their three exhibition games. Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Thursday he would stick to his usual routine of having each of the four quarterbacks in camp play for a quarter of the preseason opener. And while he acknowledged the number of snaps could change based on the way the game is going, Reid thinks it’s important for everybody to get onto the field in some capacity.


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. And follow  KPR News on Twitter.