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Headlines for Thursday, September 22, 2022



Former Kansas Teacher and Coach Gets Maximum 30-Year Sentence for Child Pornography

TOPEKA, Kan. (TCJ) - Describing his crimes as "alarming," a federal judge Thursday gave the maximum prison sentence of 30 years to former Seaman High School teacher and coach Jeffrey D. Pierce for producing child pornography. The T opeka Capital-Journal reports that 43-year-old Pierce hung his head after the sentence was pronounced by U.S. District Judge Toby Crouse.  Pierce had admitted in a plea agreement that while pretending to be a teenage girl, he asked nine male youths over social media to send him sexually explicit photos and videos of themselves. The plea agreement allowed Pierce to plead guilty to one count of producing child pornography in exchange for the dismissal of 11 other federal charges. Pierce taught ninth-grade social studies and was an assistant basketball coach at Seaman. He was fired after he was arrested in September 2020. ( Read more.)


Missouri Substitute Teacher Accused of Sending Pornographic Messages to Kids

BELTON, Mo. (KC Star) - A substitute teacher for the Belton, Missouri, School District was arrested Tuesday for allegedly sending inappropriate text messages to children. The Kansas City Star reports that 42-year-old Jason L. Carey was charged with enticement or attempted enticement of a child, second-degree child molestation and two counts of furnishing or attempting to furnish pornographic material to a minor. A student at Belton Middle School reported to a school resource officer that Carey had sent inappropriate social media messages and videos. Investigators say Carey allegedly sent inappropriate messages to other children as well. Carey is being held in the Cass County Jail without bail. ( Read more.)


Kansas Schools Start Stocking Narcan to Combat Overdoses

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS/KMUW) - A rise in fentanyl deaths among young people is prompting more Kansas schools to stock a medicine used to treat overdoses. The Kansas News Service reports that most school districts in the Kansas City area are arming school nurses or administrators with Narcan, a nasal spray used to treat suspected opioid overdoses. The Blue Valley school board voted recently to stock the drug in high schools and to train employees to administer it. James Adams is a board member for the Seaman school district in Topeka, where officials have proposed stocking Narcan. He says schools have to consider the emergency treatment to save lives. “It’s a sad thing we have to do, but I looked it up today and it’s all over the internet," he said.  "I mean, type in ‘Narcan space schools’ — a billion results.” Narcan is designed to quickly treat potential overdoses but has no effect on people who don’t have opioids in their system.


Poll Shows Kansas Governor's Race Neck-and-Neck, Attorney General's Race Also Close

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - A new poll shows the race for Kansas governor is a virtual dead heat between Democratic incumbent Laura Kelly and Republican challenger Derek Schmidt. The Emerson College poll has Kelly leading Schmidt 45% to 43%, a difference within the poll’s 3% margin of error, with 4% favoring someone else and 8% of voters still undecided. Perhaps more telling is that Kelly appears to be leading three-to-two (46% to 30%) among independent voters. The heated race for Kansas attorney general is also very close. Republican Kris Kobach leads Democrat Chris Mann 41% to 39%, with 16% undecided. Asked for their top priorities in the election, now less than seven weeks away, nearly half of those polled said the economy was their biggest issue, followed by abortion access, health care and immigration.

(– Related–) 

Governors' Races Take on New Prominence, with Higher Stakes

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Governors' races often are overshadowed by the fight for control of Congress during midterm elections. But this fall, the nation’s political future hangs just as much on governors' mansions as it does on Capitol Hill. With abortion rights, immigration policies and democracy itself in the balance, both parties are entering the final weeks before the Nov. 8 election prepared to spend unprecedented amounts of money to win state executive offices. Those elected will be in power for the 2024 election, when they could influence voting laws as well as certification of the outcome.


Kansas GOP Candidate for Governor Unveils School Safety Policy

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS/KMUW) - The Kansas Republican nominee for governor, Attorney General Derek Schmidt, proposed new school safety policies this week, while campaigning in Wichita. If elected, Schmidt says he hopes to increase funding for school resource officers, or SROs, at middle and high schools. Proponents of more SROs say they make schools safer. But critics say they reinforce the school-to-prison pipeline, especially for students of color. Schmidt says the state should also double the annual funding for its school safety grant program, from $5 million to $10 million. Schmidt’s proposals come after a school resource officer at Olathe East High School was shot by a student and returned fire in the spring. The Kansas News Service reports that Wichita schools have also had multiple safety problems since students returned in August, including at least five confiscated firearms. That led district leaders to put weapon screening devices at all Wichita high schools.


GOP Hits Kansas Governor Hard on Trans Athletes, Her New Ad

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Democratic governor of Kansas declares in a new television ad that she agrees men don’t belong in women’s sports. The ad for Governor Laura Kelly launched Wednesday seeks to blunt Republican attacks over her vetoing two proposals to ban transgender athletes from girls’ and women’s school and college sports. GOP challenger and state attorney general Derek Schmidt tweeted that Kelly is lying about her record. Her campaign said Wednesday that schools, doctors, families and local officials should make such decisions. Democrats said their party's voters understand the issue isn't men in women's sports because trans women are women. Schmidt and Republicans have raised the issue in at least six television ads.


Emporia State University Cuts Faculty Jobs, Including Tenured Positions

EMPORIA, Kan. (KNS) - Emporia State University has laid off at least 33 employees, including tenured faculty. The move comes in response to declining enrollment. The Kansas News Service reports that the job cuts have stirred a revolt on campus. But Emporia State's actions could have implications for other state schools, as all universities are trying to hold the line on hiking student tuition rates. ( Learn more.)


Nearly 600,000 Borrowers in Kansas Could Qualify for Student Debt Relief

UNDATED (KNS/KCUR) - The White House has released data showing the Biden Administration’s student debt relief plan will benefit borrowers across the country, including nearly 600,000 borrowers in Kansas. A set of state-by-state data shows that hundreds of thousands of Kansas residents are eligible for student loan forgiveness. An estimated 361,000 borrowers are eligible for up to $10,000 in debt relief. An additional 226,000 Pell Grant recipients are eligible for up to $20,000. Kansas City attorney James Boyce, who assists student loan borrowers, says being eligible doesn’t automatically mean people will get relief. “I think the one thing that people need to keep in mind is that... forgiveness is not necessarily gonna' be automatic. You’re gonna have to submit an application," he said. "According to what we’ve been told, that will open sometime in October.” The Department of Education will release additional details on the application process in the coming weeks.


KU Still Has Native American Remains, Cultural Artifacts

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KNS) - A federal database shows that The University of Kansas has hundreds of Native American remains and cultural objects in the school’s possession. The Kansas News Service reports that school officials are pledging to return the artifacts to tribal nations. Congress passed a law more than 30 years ago that requires colleges and museums to return Native American artifacts to tribal nations. The Lawrence Times reports that a federal database shows KU has human remains from at least 380 people and more than 550 funeral objects still in its collections. Most are stored in a building on campus that houses KU’s Indigenous Studies program. A statement from KU officials says the university made efforts to repatriate items in the past, but that effort was never completed. The university says it's now working with members of the Native American community and outside consultants to return the remains and other objects.


BNSF Wants Rail Accident Victims to Use Arbitration

UNDATED (AP) –  BNSF Railway says in a federal lawsuit that victims of an Amtrak derailment in Missouri should be required to seek settlements through arbitration, rather than filing lawsuits. Four people died and dozens more were injured when an Amtrak train collided with a pickup truck near Mendon, Missouri, on June 27. BNSF owns the railroad tracks used by Amtrak. BNSF says in a lawsuit filed Tuesday that victims who bought tickets agreed to terms and conditions that include binding arbitration agreements. The company also is seeking to have any lawsuits filed in state court delayed until the federal court rules on the arbitration issue. 


Shawnee Man Charged with First-Degree Murder in Woman’s Fatal Shooting

SHAWNEE, Kan. (KC Star) - Prosecutors in Johnson County have charged a 28-year-old man with first-degree murder in the shooting death of a young woman whose body was found in a Shawnee apartment Sunday evening. The Kansas City Star reports that Doniel L. Sublett Jr., of Shawnee, is accused of premeditated murder in the killing of 25-year-old Kathleen J. Dampier. Sublett was being held in the Johnson County jail on a $3 million bond. Police say officers were dispatched to the 7400 block of Flint Street Sunday evening in response to a medical emergency. As one officer was arriving, the sound of gunfire was heard coming from an apartment building.  Police arrested a person in connection with the case. Prosecutors have classified the case as one of domestic violence.


Missouri County Settles Underwire Bra Jail Dispute for $405,000

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri county has agreed to pay $405,000 to settle two lawsuits filed after some underwire bras set off metal detectors at a jail. The Jackson County Legislature agreed this week to pay that amount to two long-time employees of the county's detention center. The dispute began in 2019, when metal detectors were installed. Some underwire bras set off the detectors. Changes were eventually made for female defense attorneys and visitors but not for female jail employees. Two employees sued, saying they were reprimanded and given duties outside the secure area after repeatedly failing to pass the screening machine.


Driver Runs from Scene After Passenger Dies in Three-Vehicle Collision

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KMBC) — Kansas City police say a driver fled the scene of a fatal hit-and-run accident Monday night. KMBC TV reports that a three-vehicle crash at St. John and Oakley Avenue happened just before 10 pm Monday. Accident investigators responded to the scene. An initial investigation revealed that a black Mazda 3 was traveling west on St. John Avenue at a high rate of speed when it struck a parked tan Lexus. The Lexus, occupied by a passenger, then struck a parked green Ford F-150, also occupied by a passenger. The driver of the Mazda, who police described as an unknown male, ran from the scene. The passenger in the Mazda was transported to an area hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Authorities also have not yet identified her. The passenger in the F-150 was transported to an area hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The passenger in the Lexus did not report any injuries. Police did not provide a description of the driver who left the scene of the accident. The circumstances that led up to the crash remain under investigation.


Missouri Man Accused of Killing 6-Year-Old Daughter Dies After "Self-Harm" Jail Event
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (KC Star) - A man accused of killing his 6-year-old daughter in St. Joseph, Missouri, has died from injuries arising from a “self-harm” incident at the Buchanan County jail. The Kansas City Star reports that 37-year-old Dustin L. Beechner, of St. Joseph, died from his injuries Monday.  He had been booked into jail earlier this month as he faced a charge of child abuse resulting in death stemming from his daughter’s fatal beating. Police were called to his home September 2, where Beechner allegedly led officers to the girl’s body, discovered on the roof of the residence under a white blanket. Police allege Beechner used an aluminum baseball bat to “violently” strike her, causing severe blunt force trauma to her head.


Inmate Dies at El Dorado Correctional Facility Tuesday Night

EL DORADO, Kan. (KPR)  – An inmate at the El Dorado Correctional Facility has died. The Kansas Department of Corrections says resident Cody James Torbol was found unresponsive in his cell Tuesday evening.  Staff members began life-saving measures, but Torbol was pronounced dead a short time later. An independent autopsy will be performed to identify the cause of death, but a preliminary assessment indicates it was not related to COVID-19.  Per protocol, the death will be investigated by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. The 29-year-old Torbol was serving an 18-year prison sentence following his conviction in Riley County for aggravated criminal sodomy of a child.


Kansas Inmates: Medical Care Behind Bars Threatens Their Health

LANSING, Kan. (KNS/TCJ) - Kansas prisons have struggled to offer quality medical care in recent years. The state says it’s satisfied with its new health contractor, but inmates say the medical care is so poor it threatens their health. The state's prison medical provider, Centurion of Kansas, has been fined almost 5,000 times for compliance issues. Dozens of current and former inmates in the Kansas prison system told the Kansas News Service and The Topeka Capital-Journal that their medical care threatens their health. Complaints touch nearly every area of medical care. Delivery of medications can be delayed and even if the medicine comes, inmates say, they are sometimes given treatments that trigger allergic reactions. Meanwhile, cancer screenings and checkups get missed, and if inmates are unhappy with their care, some struggle to get a second opinion.

Prison medical care has been a perennial complaint from prisoners in Kansas. The system ditched its old provider in 2020. It hoped its new medical services contractor, Centurion of Kansas, would usher in an era of better care, but, as one inmate put it, “They will let someone die in here before they try to help.”

The Department of Corrections insists it’s satisfied with the care Centurion provides, pointing out that monthly informal complaints about medical care have dropped considerably from December 2021 to August 2022, dipping from 281 to 32 and saying formal audits of the contractor also show improvement. ( Read more.)


Goodyear Tire Investing $125 Million in Topeka Facility, Adding 40 New Jobs

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company plans to invest $125 million into its Topeka facility and hire 40 additional employees. A spokesperson for Goodyear says the majority of the new jobs will be positions related to production and technical maintenance. Governor Laura Kelly announced the expansion news Wednesday, during a campaign tour promoting economic development in Kansas.  Last week, Topeka and Shawnee County’s Joint Economic Development Organization approved an incentive agreement to assist the Goodyear project.  Goodyear is one of the largest tire manufacturers in the world. The company's plant in Topeka has been in operation since 1945.


Officials Say Kansas Deputy Used Taser on Child with Autism

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A state law enforcement oversight group says a Kansas sheriff's deputy used his Taser on a 12-year-old autistic boy who was handcuffed and hogtied inside the deputy's vehicle. The oversight body reprimanded the deputy for using excessive force on the boy in February but did not revoke his law enforcement certification. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Matthew Honas was a deputy in Jackson County at the time but he was terminated from his job in March. The Kansas Commission on Peace Officers’ Standards and Training said the boy was in Honas's patrol vehicle because he had run away from foster care.


Kansas Man Sentenced for Performing Illegal Autopsies

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 42-year-old Kansas man who admitted providing illegal private autopsy services has been sentenced to nearly six years in prison. Shawn Parcells was sentenced Monday to five years and nine months for one count of wire fraud. Parcells pleaded guilty in May. As part of the plea agreement, nine other wire fraud charges were dropped. Federal prosecutors said Parcells persuaded a client to pay him $5,000 for an autopsy, which he was not qualified to perform. Prosecutors say Parcells collected more than $1.1 million from more than 350 clients for autopsies, many of which he didn't perform. Parcells in 2014 assisted a privately hired pathologist in an autopsy of Michael Brown, the unarmed Black 18-year-old from Ferguson, Missouri, who was fatally shot by a white police officer.


Doctor Admits to Fraud Involving More than 2,000 Patients

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A doctor from Washington D.C. pleaded guilty in federal court Wednesday to Medicare and Medicaid fraud involving more than 2,000 patients in Missouri whom he never met. The U.S. Attorney's office in Kansas City said 36-year-old Oluwatobi Alabi Yerokun pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to make false statements related to health care. Prosecutors said Yerokun worked with a telemedicine provider to certify products and genetic tests that were not medically necessary for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries in Missouri. Yerokun had no doctor-patient relationship with any of the patients. Prosecutors say the scheme cost Medicare and Medicaid millions of dollars.


Former Missouri Newspaper Manager Accused of Embezzling Nearly $430,000

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (KC Star) - A former business manager for the Independence Examiner newspaper is accused in Jackson County, Missouri, of embezzling more than $400,000 from the company over the course of three years.  The Kansas City Star reports that 58-year-old Deneane M. Hyde, of Blue Springs, is charged with one felony count of stealing more than $25,000. Prosecutors accuse her of withdrawing money from the newspaper’s bank account and putting those funds into her own personal bank account between 2018 and 2021.


Kansas Firefighters Extinguish Weekend Wildfire in Ellsworth, Lincoln Counties

ELLSWORTH CO., Kan. (WIBW) - Kansas firefighters were able to extinguish a wildfire in Ellsworth and Lincoln counties over the weekend. The Kansas Forest Service says crews battled a wildfire Sunday that started off of I-70 in Ellsworth County and burned into neighboring Lincoln County. WIBW TV reports that the weekend fire follows another larger fire in Clark County last week. The fire burned approximately 4,000 acres. Officials say the western part of the state remains extremely dry and as September winds increase, so does the potential for large fires to erupt.


Audit Found $466 Million in Kansas Unemployment Fraud; Audit Results Now Made Public

TOPEKA, Kan. (TCJ) - A forensic audit that found Kansas paid out $466 million in fraudulent unemployment claims has now been made public, revealing the contents of a report that some state officials wanted to keep at least partially secret. The audit was provided to and discussed by members of the Unemployment Compensation Modernization and Improvement Council earlier this month, but members were required to surrender their copies at the conclusion of the meeting. The public was barred from viewing the audit.

Council chair Rep. Sean Tarwater said the Kansas Department of Labor had demanded redactions to the audit, which by law was supposed to be public. The Labor Department  denied an open records request from the Topeka Capital-Journal for an unredacted version of the audit. Meanwhile, senior legislative staff released an unredacted version, declaring it to be no longer confidential. The council is scheduled to meet again Monday. More than $3.5 billion was paid out by the state's unemployment system. The auditors estimate as much as $466 million in "potentially fraudulent claims" were paid out. That means about 13% of all unemployment benefit payments were likely fraudulent.  ( Read more.)


Officials: More than 315,000 Attend 2022 Kansas State Fair

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (KPR) - About 33,000 more people attended this year's Kansas State Fair than last year.  Officials say 315,273 people went through the gates in Hutchinson this year. That's up from the 282,000 fairgoers last year. The 2023 Kansas State Fair is scheduled for September 8-17.


KU Med Snags Major NIH Grant 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KU Medical Center/KPR) – The University of Kansas Medical Center announced that it has received a multi-year, multi-million dollar grant from the National Institutes of Health. The money will fund the Frontiers Clinical and Translational Science Institute at KU. The five-year, nearly $27 million grant will be administered by the KU Medical Center and is part of a regional initiative with investigators at KU Med and Children's Mercy Kansas City. The money will be used to support developing research projects focused on traditionally underserved areas, including rural communities in Kansas. It will also be used to train researchers, accelerate health care research projects, and make the results of those research projects more accessible to patients and scientists. Other partners who will benefit from the grant include Kansas State University, University of Missouri-Kansas City, and Saint Luke's Health System.

Saturday's KU Football Game Is Sold Out

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - Saturday’s Kansas-Duke football game is officially sold out. It's the first sell-out for a KU football game since November 2019. The Jayhawks are 3-0 for the first time since 2009. Kick-off is set for 11 am. Meanwhile, the Kansas State Wildcats travel to Norman, Oklahoma, to take on the undefeated Sooners. Kickoff is set for 7 pm Saturday.


Royals Fire Longtime Front-Office Executive Dayton Moore

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Royals have fired longtime general manager Dayton Moore, who took the club from a perennial 100-game loser to two World Series and the 2015 championship before its return to mediocrity. Royals owner John Sherman, who had retained Moore after acquiring the club from David Glass in 2019, announced the decision in a news conference that Moore attended at Kauffman Stadium. Moore was elevated from general manager to president of baseball operations earlier this year, when longtime understudy J.J. Picollo took on the GM role. Picollo will now lead the baseball operations department.


Heasley Shuts Down Twins, Royals Win 4-1 to Finish Sweep

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Jonathan Heasley pitched six effective innings, and the Kansas City Royals beat the Minnesota Twins 4-1 to complete a three-game sweep. Edward Oliveras and Drew Waters homered for Kansas City. Salvador Perez also drove in a run for the Royals, extending his streak to seven straight games with an RBI. Caleb Hamilton drove in the only run for the Twins, who limp home to wrap up the season having lost 17 of their last 20 road games.


Chiefs Roll with Harris in Indy as Gay Begins Suspension

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — After losing Willie Gay Jr. to a four-game suspension for an off-the-field situation earlier this year, the Chiefs are leaning on Darius Harris to fulfill his spot in the middle of their defense on Sunday in Indianapolis. Harris has been an important special teams contributor, but has otherwise shuffled between the 53-man roster and the practice squad during three years in Kansas City. He will be tasked along with Nick Bolton in stopping Colts running back Jonathan Taylor, one of the best in the league at his position.


No. 6 Oklahoma to Face Nemesis Kansas State

UNDATED (AP) – Oklahoma coach Brent Venables always has spoken highly of Kansas State — his alma mater where he played linebacker and got his coaching start as an assistant under Bill Snyder. He will face the Wildcats as head coach for the first time on Saturday, and he’s focused solely on getting the win for his sixth-ranked Sooners in the Big 12 opener for both teams. Oklahoma has dominated the Big 12 for years, but the Wildcats defeated the Sooners in 2012, 2014, 2019 and 2020.


Kansas Public Radio Searches for New Statehouse Bureau Chief

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - Kansas Public Radio (KPR), at the University of Kansas, is seeking a new  Statehouse Bureau Chief.  This position works primarily at the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka. The position duties include managing all aspects of KPR’s capital news bureau, which provides broadcast and digital news reports to a number of radio stations in Kansas and Missouri. This position is primarily responsible for reporting on all aspects of state government. This includes but is not limited to covering the Kansas legislative session, the governor, attorney general, supreme court, the state’s congressional delegation and statewide elections. The KPR Statehouse Bureau Chief researches, writes, reports and produces spot news, digital stories and long-form audio features for KPR and its reporting partners.  Learn more about this position.

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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.