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Headlines for Wednesday, December 7, 2022



Father, Daughter Found Dead in Rural Baldwin City Home

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) -The Douglas County Sheriff's Office has identified two people - a father and daughter - who were found shot to death Monday in a rural Baldwin City home. According to the Lawrence Journal-World, deputies were notified of the shooting Monday morning and discovered the bodies of 55-year-old David M. Koch, and his 13-year-old daughter, Hayden Koch, a student at Bishop Seabury Academy in Lawrence. Preliminary information indicates the teenager, Hayden, died as a result of a gunshot wound, Her father, David Koch, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He worked for the city of Lawrence as a welder and maintenance worker. Other details of the incident, including a motive, haven’t been released.


Lawmaker: Recreational Marijuana Unlikely in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas lawmakers are moving ahead with a plan to legalize "medical" marijuana. But Republican leaders have no interest in pursuing recreational marijuana even as Colorado and Missouri laws change. The Kansas News Service reports that a medical marijuana committee in the Kansas Statehouse is meeting this week for the first time since Missouri voters passed recreational marijuana through a ballot initiative. Senator Rob Olson, the Republican chair of the committee, says cannabis for medical purposes is all that’s possible right now. Recreational marijuana is still too divisive. “It won't pass," Olson said. "I'm just trying to do what I believe the people want. And they might want it recreational but getting it passed - I don't see a way of doing that.” Olson says there are still dozens of questions to work out with proposed medical marijuana legislation, including issues like tax revenue and concerns from law enforcement.


Town of St. Marys Renews Library Lease 
UNDATED (KNS) – A Kansas town has renewed the lease for its public library after months of debate over LGBTQ materials. The City Commission in St. Marys, northwest of Topeka, voted Tuesday night to extend the lease for its regional library for another year. City leaders had threatened not to renew the lease unless the library removed all LGBTQ or socially divisive books from its shelves. One commissioner had also proposed removing any book dealing with critical race theory. Commissioners said an outpouring of community support for the library prompted them to extend the lease.


Lisa Larsen Once Again Chosen as Mayor of Lawrence 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (Lawrence Times) – Lawrence city commissioners voted in a new mayor and vice mayor last (TUE) night. The Lawrence Times reports that the last election's top two vote recipients were voted into the positions, as is traditional for the city. Lisa Larsen, the longest-serving current city commissioner, will once again serve as mayor. She previously served in the position in 2019. Bart Littlejohn is vice mayor. Larsen said in her comments following the vote that it would be crucial for the community to work towards sustainable and equitable growth policies, and encouraged public participation in a planned land development code update.  


Kansas Game Wardens Warn of Coyotes Heading into Town

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) - Game wardens with the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks are warning the public that more and more coyotes are heading into town across the state. KSNW TV reports that wildlife officials blame extreme drought conditions for the uptick in coyotes seeking food and water in more urban areas. Game wardens say city residents who spot a coyote should remain calm because most of the animals avoid people.


U.S. Marshals Offers Reward for 2 Escaped Missouri Inmates

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KSHB) - Authorities are searching for two inmates who escaped from a Kansas City area jail.  In Cass County, Missouri, the sheriff's office says the search continued Tuesday afternoon for 33-year-old Trevor Scott Sparks, of Kansas City, and Sergio Perez-Martinez, of Panorama City, California. KSHB TV reports that the two men escaped Monday night from the county jail in Harrisonville. The U.S. Marshals Service is offering a $5,000 reward for each individual for tips that lead to their capture. The two inmates were in custody on drug and money-laundering charges.


Judge Orders Midwest Slaughterhouse Cleaners Not to Hire Minors

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) _ A federal judge has ordered a Wisconsin company that cleans hundreds of slaughterhouses nationwide to ensure it is complying with child labor laws. Investigators identified at least 50 minors scrubbing and sanitizing dangerous equipment at five different meatpacking plants in Missouri, Nebraska, Arkansas and Minnesota.  The company, Packers Sanitation Services, has now entered into an agreement with the Labor Department. The company employs some 17,000 people working at more than 700 locations nationwide. As part of the agreement, the company promised to hire an outside consultant to review its hiring policies and provide additional training for managers. Investigators are still in the early stages of reviewing thousands of pages of records from other plants.


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.


Two Kansas High Schools Investigate Offensive Chants at Game

UNDATED (AP) -  Two Kansas high schools are investigating after students at one school reportedly yelled racist and offensive taunts at the other school's basketball teams. The basketball coach at Topeka High School says the men's basketball team faced "outright racism'' when they played Valley Center High School on Saturday. Coach Geo Lyons says Valley Center students taunted his players. Valley Center administrators have apologized to Topeka High officials. They say an investigation uncovered inappropriate behavior but not specifically racist taunts from students during the game. Valley Center's coach, Geo Lyons, has started a petition to have Valley Center High School fans removed from future sporting events.


Will Shawnee County End Its Recycling Program?

TOPEKA, Kan. (TCJ) - Shawnee County may decide to curb - or even end - its recycling program. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the cost of offering curbside recycling has risen to the point where it is increasingly impractical for government entities. The county's 10-year contract with the company that handles recycling will come to an end December 31st and shutting down the program is one of several options under consideration.


Jackson County to Pay $5.3 Million for Age Discrimination

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Jackson County, Missouri, will pay $5.3 million to a former sheriff's deputy who alleged he was fired because of his age and health conditions. The county legislature voted Monday to settle the lawsuit filed by Doug Caster, who was fired in December 2015. Caster alleged he and other senior deputies were targeted by former Sheriff Mike Sharp and undersheriff Hugh Mills. Caster, who was 59 at the time, said he also was targeted because he had to take sick leave to treat his diabetes. In its response to the lawsuit, the county had denied the allegations and said Caster was fired for rules violations.


Kansas Native Kirstie Alley Dies at 71

LOS ANGELES (AP/KPR) - Kansas native Kirstie Alley, a two-time Emmy winner who starred in the 1980s sitcom "Cheers," has died. She was 71. Her death was announced by her children on social media and confirmed by her manager. The post said she died of cancer that was recently diagnosed. Alley starred on TV shows and in films. The Wichita native attended Kansas State University and the University of Kansas before moving to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career.


Vandalism at Missouri Elementary School Includes Swastika

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) _ Police in Springfield, Missouri, are investigating after vandals spray-painted a swastika during a vandalism spree at an elementary school that is under construction. Springfield Public Schools spokesman Stephen Hall said the district immediately replaced the window where the swastika was found and removed graffiti on the exterior of the building. He declined to say how much damage was found inside the building but noted the district will have to file an insurance claim to recover some of the cost. The vandalism comes as the Anti-Defamation League said anti-Jewish incidents reached a record high last year.


Kansas Attorney General Files Suit Against Drug Companies over Cost of Insulin

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt is suing major drug manufacturers and pharmacy benefit managers for driving up the cost of insulin for Kansans. The Kansas News Service reports that almost 250,000 Kansans are diabetic and insulin prices have increased by more than 600% in the past 20 years. The filing claims the groups violated Kansas consumer protection laws. It alleges that the insulin manufacturers worked with the pharmacy benefit managers to raise prices and that was rewarded with financial kickbacks. Eli Lilly responded to a similar lawsuit filed in Arkansas saying the claims were inaccurate and that the company offers several affordable solutions. This is the second lawsuit about drug prices in the state to come out of an ongoing investigation.


Legislative Veterans to Lead Both Parties in Kansas House

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas House Republicans have promoted their No. 2 leader into the top job of speaker. Meanwhile, Democrats on Monday picked a veteran of state and local politics to lead them over a much younger relative newcomer. State Rep. Dan Hawkins, of Wichita, faced no opposition among the 85 GOP House members and members-elect to his promotion. He’s served four years as majority leader. GOP unity contrasted with a divide among Democrats over who should lead them for the next two years. They voted 21-19 for 71-year-old state Rep. Vic Miller of Topeka over 32-year-old Rep. Brandon Woodard of Lenexa. Woodard is the first openly gay man in the Legislature.


Northwest Kansas Newspapers Sold to Mullen Newspapers

OBERLIN, Kan. (AP) _ Six northwestern Kansas newspapers and a shopper have been sold to brothers from Washington and Montana. The Oberlin Herald reported that Jesse and Lloyd Mullen of Mullen Newspapers purchased The Herald, Colby Free Press, The Goodland Star-News, The Norton Star-Telegram, The St. Francis Herald, Bird City Times and The Country Advocate shopper from Steve and Cynthia Haynes, who are retiring after nearly 30 years with the newspapers. The Mullen brothers said they were born into a newspaper family in Wyoming, and have bought and operated several newspapers in the western and northwestern U.S. They named Frank Perea of Holyoke, Colorado, as publisher. Perea said he plans to move to northwestern Kansas in 2023. 


Bonner Springs Man Sentenced for Child Sexual Exploitation

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KPR) – A northeast Kansas man has been sentenced to 27 years in prison for engaging in sexual acts with a child and taking nude pictures and videos of the child. According to court documents, in September 2022, 35-year-old Joshua Courtney, of Bonner Springs, pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual exploitation of a child and four counts of  possession of child pornography. Acting on cybertips submitted to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, law enforcement agents found dozens of pornographic images in Courtney’s Google photos. Courtney admitted to investigators to taking nude photos of a 10-year-old child, filming while he engaged in sexual acts with the child, and sending these materials to others. He also admitted receiving child pornography of other children on his cell phone. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) and the U.S. Secret Service investigated the case.


Parsons Man Sentenced for Producing Child Porn

WICHITA, KAN. (KPR) — A Kansas man has been sentenced to nearly 29 years in prison for the production of child pornography. According to court documents, 30-year-old Dillon Everman, of Parsons, admitted in pleading guilty that he encouraged and requested co-defendant Dustin Strom to sexually abuse two young children and send him images of the abuse. Everman then saved the images and created a shareable link that he made available to Strom and others. In October 2022, 26-year-old Dustin Strom, of Parsons, and was sentenced to 60 years in prison after pleading guilty to producing child pornography. Homeland Security  Investigations  (HSI)  and the Kansas Internet  Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) investigated the case.


Groundbreaking Underway at New Sports Complex in Overland Park

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (KPR) – Governor Laura Kelly has announced the groundbreaking of a multi-sport complex in Overland Park. The Bluhawk Sports Facility is part of a $400 million project funded, in part, by STAR Bonds. The facility will be built in two phases, anchored by a neighborhood shopping center, restaurants, and retail outlets. Officials say the complex will be one of Kansas City's premier indoor, multi-sport complexes.

The Bluhawk facility will include basketball, volleyball and pickleball courts, as well as an indoor turf field for soccer, baseball, football, rugby and lacrosse. The complex will feature public skating, offering one of the area’s only regulation-size ice rinks.  


Program Aims to Educate Kansas Foster Parents About Child Trafficking

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Foster parents can soon take new training to help them identify signs of child trafficking. The Kansas News Service reports that the goal is to boost the state’s response to those crimes. Shanna Jager, executive director of the Children’s Alliance of Kansas, says this training will not only teach families to identify signs of trafficking, but help them build relationships with foster children so kids can avoid trafficking in the future. The program also hopes to dispel common misconceptions around what trafficking looks like. There are multiple forms of trafficking training that already exist. But programs are currently different for police, social workers or foster parents. "Our effort is really an attempt to streamline some of that work, make it a little more consistent, a little more uniform, so that all caregivers are receiving the same message statewide," Jager said. The new training starts with a test program next month.


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.