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Headlines for Thursday, December 1, 2022



Kansas Sees Taxes Fall 5.3% Short of Expectations in November

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas collected 5.3% less in taxes than it expected in November. The report Thursday from the state Department of Revenue marked the first time in more than two years that collections have fallen short of the state’s monthly target. The shortfall was $36 million, but the department's report came only three weeks after state officials and university economists revised the state’s revenue projections to make them more optimistic. The new fiscal forecast predicted Kansas would collect $678 million in general tax revenues in November, and it took in $642 million. That was the first time tax collections failed to hit a monthly projection since July 2020.


Kansas Justice Chides KU Law School for 'Closed' Climate

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Supreme Court justice has resigned in protest from a part-time teaching job at the University of Kansas law school following what he says was an unsuccessful university attempt to pressure students into canceling an event featuring a leader of a group that opposes LGBTQ rights. Justice Caleb Stegall’s protest last week came amid ongoing national debates over free speech on college campuses and what’s taught in colleges and in K-12 classrooms. Stegall decried what he called the law school's closed culture. The law school's dean disagreed with that assessment but said it values Stegall's views. Disputes in other states have prompted lawmakers to pass laws dealing with free speech.


Prosecutor: Fatal Shooting by Lawrence Police Was Justified

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Douglas County District Attorney Suzanne Valdez said the fatal shooting of a Lawrence man by police officers was legally justified. Valdez announced Thursday that a Kansas Bureau of Investigation found that 43-year-old Michael Scott Blanck was shot after he pointed a gun at officers on October 2. He was shot several times by three officers. Valdez said officers had been called to the home of Blanck's father several times in the days before the shooting by family members worried about his mental health. He had previous criminal complaints and was under bond restrictions to stay away from his family.


GOP Elections Chief in Kansas Decries 'Horrible Environment'

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas’s Republican elections chief is decrying what he calls a “horrible environment” for local officials overseeing voting and counting ballots this year. Secretary of State Scott Schwab made his comments Thursday as he, Democratic Governor Laura Kelly and Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt certified the results from the November 8 election. Schwab aggressively defends the integrity of Kansas elections despite the wide circulation of baseless claims of problems among fellow Republicans. That task took the three officials about five minutes in their meeting as the State Board of Canvassers. Schwab said if there seemed to be turmoil around this year's elections, it was because of people's rhetoric.


Kansas Providers Cautious About Providing Telemedicine Abortions

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas providers might not be ready for months to do telemedicine abortions. That's the case even though a state-court judge has blocked the state from enforcing its ban on teleconferencing with patients seeking pregnancy-ending medications. Planned Parenthood Great Plains operates three Kansas clinics and said Wednesday that it is evaluating its options following the order last week from Shawnee County District Judge Teresa Watson. A spokesperson for Wichita clinic operator Trust Women said it hopes to resume telemedicine abortions but will move slowly. It provided them for a few months in 2018, filing a lawsuit challenging the ban just before it took effect at the start of 2019.


Oklahoma Citizen-Led Initiative Would Codify Abortion Access

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP/KPR) — An Oklahoma man is trying to gather more than 173,000 signatures and millions of dollars in funds to put abortion access up for public vote in a state with one of the nation's most restrictive abortion laws. It's part of a growing trend of citizen-led initiatives across the nation. This year, voters in six states - including Kansas - rejected measures to restrict abortion access. Carolyn Ehrlich is a senior political strategist at the American Civil Liberties Union. She says such initiatives can serve as a "roadmap in states where the legislature is a roadblock."


Weeks After Two Bodies Were Found in East Lawrence, Authorities Release No New Details

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - Two weeks after two bodies were found at Lawrence's Oak Hill Cemetery, police have released no new details on an incident that they indicated may have been a case of murder-suicide. According to the Lawrence Journal-World, autopsy reports for both individuals, which could shed more light on the incident, have been suppressed, pending completion of the investigation. On the morning of November 16, two bodies were found at Oak Hill Cemetery. Investigators indicated then that the deaths may have been a case of murder-suicide. Later that day, police identified the deceased as 22-year-old Ana Marie Jessee, of Lawrence, and 36-year-old Robert Sowders, of Overland Park. Police said the two had died of gunshot wounds, but no further information was released.

According to a GoFundMe page to raise funds for funeral expenses, Jessee, whose funeral was Saturday, was “a talented violinist.” The page, created by a family member, says: “On November 16, 2022, our beautiful, spirited daughter, Ana Maria Jessee, age 22, and her unborn child were taken from us.”

According to an obituary for Sowders, whose funeral was Monday, he was a U.S. Army veteran who had been deployed to multiple combat zones. “While in combat, Robert was wounded and was awarded the Purple Heart. Ultimately, the physical and mental injuries he sustained in combat were carried with him through his life,” the obituary said. He is survived by a wife and two children.


KBI Director Kirk Thompson Announces Retirement
TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) – The director of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) has announced his retirement. Kirk Thompson will step down from the KBI in January.  Thompson has served as KBI Director for more than 11 years. His career in law enforcement spanned more than 46 years. Thompson first entered law enforcement in 1976, at the age of 19, as a deputy sheriff with the Barton County Sheriff’s Office in Great Bend. He moved to Topeka in 1979, after joining the KBI as a special agent. Thompson is a graduate of Washburn University, the FBI National Academy and the Kansas Certified Public Manager program. Attorney General Derek Schmidt appointed Thompson as the agency's 12th director in 2011. “Serving as Director of the KBI has been the highpoint of my career," Thompson said. "I am grateful to Attorney General Schmidt for allowing me the opportunity to work with the exceptional men and women of the KBI, and alongside our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners."


Topeka Chief: Man Killed by Officer After Struggle over Gun

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka police say an officer shot and killed a man during a struggle over a gun. Police Chief Bryan Wheeles says the man was shot early Thursday as the officer was investigating a car, which was stolen, blocking an alley in central Topeka. Wheeles says the man in the car did not comply with several orders from the officer, resisted arrest and produced a handgun. The chief says the officer shot the suspect in self-defense. The man died at the scene. The officer was not hurt. No names have been released. It was the fourth time since June that Topeka officers have shot a suspect.


Kansas Man Sentenced, Must Pay $7.2 Million in Check Kiting Scheme

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — A Plainville, Kansas, man has been sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay $7.2 million in restitution after being convicted by a federal jury of multiple fraud charges in a scheme that caused a loss of over $10 million to multiple banks. KSNW TV reports that Tyler Gillum was convicted of 31 counts of bank fraud, one count of making a false statement in connection with a Small Business Administration guaranteed loan, and one count of making a false statement in a loan or credit card application in April 2022.

Court documents and evidence presented at trial show Gillum owned and operated Plainville Livestock Commission, Inc. for 13 years, from 2006 to 2019. Between January 2015 and August 2017, Gillum moved money between multiple banks in a scheme known as check kiting. Check kiting happens when checks are continually written back and forth between banks to “inflate” an account, making it appear that there's more money available in an account than there actually is. The scheme cost the banking system $10 million and led to the failure of the Plainville Livestock Commission. Tyler’s wife, Camden, was a co-defendant in the case. In July 2020, the indictments against her were dismissed with prejudice. ( Read more.)


Lawrence Police Release Name of 53-Year-Old Who Died at City-Run Campsite for Homeless

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - Lawrence police have released the name of a woman who was found dead last week at the city-run camp for people experiencing homelessness. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that 53-year-old Susan Ford was found dead in her tent at the campsite, behind Johnny's Tavern, near the Kansas River in North Lawrence. Police have released few details about Ford’s death but don't believe foul play was involved. Crime scene investigators found no obvious injuries to Ford when they examined her body. Investigators are awaiting autopsy results to determine a cause of death.


Kansas Food Bank in Need of Volunteers, Donations as Demand for Assistance Grows

WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) - Volunteers at the Kansas Food Bank in Wichita spent Wednesday sorting food and packing boxes. It's work that CEO Brian Walker says is being done at a vital time. “With inflation and higher prices, we've seen an increase in demand, we're actually seeing the same type of numbers that we saw during COVID," he said. According to KAKE TV in Wichita, food donations are down and the Kansas Food Bank's expenses are up. Walker says there are two ways to help the non-profit at this time. One way is to donate either food or money. The other way is to volunteer. To volunteer or donate, you can visit the Kansas Food Bank website. If you're in need of help getting food, click here.


Kansas City Area Elementary School Placed on Lockdown Late Wednesday Morning

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - A North Kansas City School District elementary school was placed on lockdown late Wednesday morning after someone reported to police that they saw a suspicious man who was possibly armed with a weapon. KCTV reports that Kansas City police were notified from someone at Staley High School that a man in a vehicle was outside of Bell Prairie Elementary School and that he may have been armed with a gun or rifle. Bell Prairie Elementary is located on Northeast 108th Street near Northeast Shoal Creek Parkway. Staley High School is just west of it. Police searched the area but could not find anyone matching the description of the man.


Longtime NFL Quarterback, Kansas Football Star John Hadl Dies at 82

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP/KPR) — Longtime NFL quarterback John Hadl, who starred for his hometown Kansas Jayhawks before embarking on a professional career that included six Pro Bowl appearances and an All-Pro nod, died Wednesday. He was 82. The university, where Hadl returned after his playing days as a coach and fundraiser, announced his death in a statement, citing his family. No cause was given. Hadl spent most of his professional career with the San Diego Chargers, leading them to three AFL title games before the league merged with the NFL. He also played for the Packers, Rams and Oilers. ( Read more.)

(– AP Version –)

Longtime NFL Quarterback, KU Star John Hadl Dies at 82

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Longtime NFL quarterback John Hadl, who starred for his hometown Kansas Jayhawks before embarking on a professional career that included six Pro Bowl appearances and an All-Pro nod, died Wednesday. He was 82. The university, where Hadl returned after his playing days as a coach and fundraiser, announced his death in a statement, citing his family. No cause was given. Hadl spent most of his professional career with the San Diego Chargers, leading them to three AFL title games before the league merged with the NFL. He also played for the Packers, Rams and Oilers. ( Read more.)


EPA Seeks to Mandate More Use of Ethanol and Other Biofuels

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed increasing ethanol and other biofuels that must be blended into the nation’s fuel supplies over the next three years. Thursday's announcement was welcomed by renewable fuel and farm groups but condemned by environmentalists and oil industry groups. The proposal also includes incentives for the use of biogas from farms and landfills, and biomass such as wood, to generate electricity to charge electric vehicles. It’s the first time the EPA has set biofuel targets on its own instead deferring to Congress. The agency opened a public comment period and will hold a hearing in January.


Midwest Drought's Wide-Ranging Impact

UNDATED (KNS/HPM) - As climate change fuels more frequent, more intense droughts, it’s hard to count all the ways this historically dry, hot, windy year is wreaking havoc. In the Great Plains, widespread drought has dried up lakes and rivers, decimated crop harvests and left cattle with no grass to eat. And as farmers pump more water from underground aquifer to make up for a lack of rain, some areas are considering new limits on irrigation. Nate Jenkins, with the natural resources district in southwest Nebraska, says a year like this highlights the need to conserve. “When it gets this hot and dry and windy, you know, I think some people kind of shake their head and say ‘Geez, it’s getting kind of ridiculous, isn't it? When's it gonna stop?," he said. ( Read more.) 


Kansas Ag Industry Struggles to Find Workers

UNDATED (KNS) - Kansas agriculture businesses are struggling to find enough skilled workers to do things like drive trucks and operate equipment. That could hamper the growth of one of the state’s largest industries. A recent survey from the Kansas Department of Agriculture shows that most companies have had to offer better pay to fill jobs the past two years. Companies are also turning to workers outside the traditional workforce — hiring high school students, retirees and formerly incarcerated people. Another option is bringing in seasonal workers from other countries. But KDA marketing director Russell Plaschka says it’s not always easy. “It's a government program. It takes a lot of paperwork, it takes a lot of cost to get those workers over here, and any way we can alleviate that pressure is a benefit to our economy," he said. The Kansas agriculture industry contributes more than $75 billion to the state economy and supports 14% of the state’s jobs.


Kansas Scores Low on Health Care Affordability

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) - Health care is less affordable in Kansas than nearly anywhere else in the country, according to a new report by the nonprofit research group Altarum. The Kansas News Service reports that's partially driven by overpriced medical care. Kansas ranked 49 out of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., indicating that state policies are doing little to make health care affordable. One figure — private payers in Kansas pay nearly triple Medicare rates for the same medical services. Dr. Justin Moore with the Kansas Business Group on Health helps employers design health insurance plans. He says high prices make people less likely to get the care they need. “It's simple math," he said. "If it's going to cost you more out of pocket to go see your family doctor, you're just less likely to do it.” To curb prices, the report recommends changes like health care price transparency tools and creating a state health spending oversight group.


President Biden Taps Native Kansan as New U.S. Attorney for Kansas

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KCUR) - President Joe Biden’s pick to be the next U.S. Attorney in Kansas is a former Missouri prosecutor who helped free a man last year wrongly convicted of murder.  Kate Brubacher, a native of North Newton, Kansas, served in the Jackson County Prosecutor’s office from 2016 until August of this year. She was part of a team of Jackson County prosecutors who fought for the exoneration of Kevin Strickland, who spent 43 years in prison for a triple murder he didn’t commit. He was exonerated in late 2021.  Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker hailed Brubacher’s selection. “I will tell you she’s one of the best lawyers I have met," she said. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Brubacher will oversee about 50 prosecutors and 50 support staff at offices in Kansas City, Kansas, Topeka and Wichita.


KPR Still Seeking Kansas Statehouse Bureau Chief to Join Station's Award-Winning News Team

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) - Kansas Public Radio, located at the University of Kansas, is looking for a new Kansas Statehouse Bureau Chief to cover all aspects of state government in Topeka for KPR and its statewide reporting partners. This exciting position requires skill, professional experience and curiosity. To apply, log on to:   https://employment.ku.edu/staff/23463BR. A review of applications began in October and will continue until a robust pool of qualified applicants is identified.

KU is an EO/AAE. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), age, national origin, disability, genetic information or protected Veteran status.


Kansas Lawmakers Will Try Again at Reauthorizing Mural of Black Soldiers in U.S. Civil War

TOPEKA, Kan. (TCJ) - After more than two decades of efforts to honor Black soldiers in the Civil War with a mural at the Kansas Statehouse, legislators will try again next year. The plan? To again propose legislation similar to what didn't pass last year and, the creation of a subcommittee. "Maybe we'll finally get somewhere," said Patrick Zollner, chair of the Capitol Preservation Committee, at a meeting last month. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry Regiment was the first unit of Black soldiers in the Civil War and has long been the subject of a proposed Statehouse mural. "This regiment is often referenced as the 'first to serve' and it holds a distinctive place in Kansas and the nation's Civil War experience," said Melissa Renick, a legislative researcher. "Kansas was the first northern state to recruit, train and send Black soldiers to combat during the war between the states."

State law has called for a mural since 2000, but delays brought on by Capitol renovations and a lack of funding have now run into a technical hurdle that can only be fixed through new legislation. Kansas Historical Society archivists this summer discovered a batch of documents from 2008 on the mural, including a draft call for artists and request for qualifications. ( Read more.)


Top Kansas Transportation Official to Step Down December 23

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The top transportation official in Kansas is stepping down just before Christmas. Governor Laura Kelly's office announced Tuesday that Transportation Secretary Julie Lorenz plans to return to private business and that her last day leading the state Department of Transportation is December 23. It's the first major change at a state agency since the Democratic governor narrowly won reelection earlier this month. Lorenz spearheaded Kelly’s successful push in 2020 for a new, 10-year program of highway and bridge projects. Before Lorenz became the state's transportation chief in 2019, she was an executive at the Kansas City engineering and architectural firm Burns & McDonnell.


Junction City Native Advances on “The Voice”

LOS ANGELES (KSNT) – Justin Aaron of Junction City successfully moved into the semi-finals of the television singing contest “The Voice” Tuesday night. The 34-year-old Aaron, who works as a para-professional at Junction City High School, received enough votes to advance to the next round. He will perform again Monday, December 5 for the live semi-finals. Aaron was born and raised in Junction City. He told KSNT TV that his love for music got its start after watching his mother sing at the Second Missionary Baptist Church.


New Baby in Tow, KC Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes Turns Attention to Bengals

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes showed up bright-eyed and energetic for practice on Wednesday, two days after his wife Brittany gave birth to the couple's second child. Patrick "Bronze" Mahomes III arrived on Monday, giving 1-year-old Sterling a big brother. Mahomes said the new baby won't affect his preparation for one of the most important games on the Chiefs' remaining schedule. They head to Cincinnati on Sunday for a rematch of the AFC title game, when the Chiefs built a 21-3 lead and still led 21-10 at halftime before watching the Bengals rally for a 27-24 victory.


Chiefs-Broncos Game “Flexed” from Sunday Night Football to Sunday Afternoon

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KSHB) — The Kansas City Chiefs game against the Denver Broncos on Sunday, December 11, has been moved from evening to afternoon. The NFL made the announcement Tuesday. KSHB TV reports that Kansas City was scheduled to play the Broncos at 7:20 pm on Sunday Night Football on NBC. Instead, the NFL announced that the Miami Dolphins will play the Los Angeles Chargers in the Sunday night game. Kansas City's game against Denver will now air in the afternoon on CBS with the first kick set for 3:05 pm.


KU Women's Volleyball Team Defeats Miami in NCAA Tournament Opener

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) – Kansas Volleyball won its first-round match in the NCAA Tournament as the Jayhawks defeated the University of Miami Hurricanes 3-0 on Thursday at the Devaney Center in Lincoln, Nebraska. The Jayhawks improved their record to 19-10 on the year. KU plays its next match Friday at 7 p.m. in Lincoln, against the winner of Thursday’s first-round matchup between Nebraska and Delaware State. With the win, the Jayhawks improve to 8-3 all-time in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.


KU Football Coach Lance Leipold Signs Lucrative Contract

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) - Kansas Jayhawks football coach Lance Leipold has been promised more than $5 million a year through 2029. Starting next year, Lance Leipold will command between $5 and $6 million a year. Leipold said in a statement that he’s proud of the progress the football team made in the last year and a half. KU started with a 5-0 record and finished the regular season at 6-and-6. It’s eligible for a bowl game for the first time since 2008. Depending on what bowl game KU plays in, Leipold will get paid at least a $100,000 bonus under the terms of his new deal.  

(AP version)

Kansas Head Football Coach Leipold Signs Lucrative Contract Extension

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lance Leipold has signed his lucrative contract extension at the University of Kansas, which includes a massive pay raise for the Jayhawks’ football coach along with his assistants and staff, and could keep him tied to the school through the 2029 season. Under terms of the contract, obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press, Leipold will make $5 million in the first year of the deal with annual $100,000 increases. That averages out to $5.3 million and tops out at $5.6 million in the final year. Leipold gets a $750,000 signing bonus while his buyout rises to $12.5 million. Leipold led the Jayhawks to a 6-6 record in his second year and their first bowl game since 2008.


Coach Chris Klieman Winning Games, Winning over Fans at No. 13 K-State

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Chris Klieman received a rather tepid reception when Kansas State hired him away from North Dakota State. Wildcat fans pined for someone from the Bill Snyder coaching tree, and the longtime small college coach hardly fit the bill. Four years later, Klieman has the No. 13 Wildcats playing third-ranked TCU for a Big 12 title. Everything about his program, from the hard-nosed and mistake-free football to the lack of ego or selfishness, also seems to fit seamlessly in his new home. And wouldn't you know it? Klieman has won over even the most ardent of naysayers.


Butler Hands K-State Men's Basketball Team 1st Loss

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Manny Bates had 22 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks and Butler handed Kansas State its first loss, 76-64, in the Big East-Big 12 Battle. Butler used a 10-0 run midway through the first half to build a 25-12 lead and the Bulldogs led 37-25 at the break. Chuck Harris sank an open 3-pointer in the corner during Butler's 13-0 run and Bates added a fast-break dunk as Butler took a 20-point lead at 65-45. Desi Sills, who was scoreless in the first half, brought Kansas State back within 68-60 with 4:08 remaining after he scored 13 points, including nine straight, during a 15-3 run. But Bates ended the run to put Butler ahead by double digits for good.


AP Source: KC Chiefs Adding Ex-Broncos RB Melvin Gordon

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs are signing two-time Pro Bowl running back Melvin Gordon to their practice squad, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press, adding some much-needed depth with a player that was recently released from the AFC West rival Denver Broncos. The person spoke on condition of anonymity Monday because the signing was not yet official. Gordon was cut by the Broncos last week amid fumble issues that plagued the 2015 first-round pick during his time in Denver. He had five in 10 games this season.


Big 12 Title Game RBs Look Different, Have Similar Results

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — TCU’s Kendre Miller and Kansas State’s 5-foot-6 dynamo Deuce Vaughn have much different body types. But the third-year running backs that will be featured in the Big 12 championship game Saturday look pretty similar in what they do on the field. Like Vaughn, the 6-foot, 220-pound Miller can be shifty, elusive and quick. Vaughn can also be hard to tackle and doesn’t shy from contact even though he is nearly 50 pounds lighter. Vaughn has 1,295 yards rushing. Miller has rushed for 1,260 yards and 16 touchdowns, running for a score in every game this season for third-ranked TCU.


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.