Headlines for Thursday, December 15, 2022
City Reverses Course, Keeps Temporary Homeless Shelter Open in North Lawrence
LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR/LJW) - Lawrence city officials now say they will keep open a temporary homeless encampment along the Kansas River through March 12, 2023. Officials say people staying at the temporary site behind Johnny's Tavern will be able to choose to shelter at the Winter Emergency Shelter on cold nights as shelter space allows. The Winter Emergency Shelter will also remain open through March 12, 2023. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the Winter Emergency Shelter and the temporary support site are both scheduled to cease operations in March.
Canadian Company Reopens Most of Keystone Pipeline Following Kansas Oil Spill
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The operator of a pipeline with the largest onshore crude oil spill in nine years has reopened all of it except for the stretch in Kansas and northern Oklahoma that includes the site of the rupture. Canada-based T.C. Energy said in a statement Wednesday night that its Keystone system has restarted operations from Canada to southern Nebraska and from there to south-central Illinois. It also is operating the pipeline from northern Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast.
The December 7 spill forced the company to shut down the Keystone system and dumped about 14,000 barrels of heavy crude oil into a north-central Kansas creek running through rural pastureland in Washington County. Each barrel is 42 gallons, the size of a household bathtub.
"The affected segment of the Keystone Pipeline System remains safely isolated as investigation, recovery, repair and remediation continues to advance," the company said in a statement. "This segment will not be restarted until it is safe to do so."
According to U.S. Department of Transportation data, last week's spill in Kansas was the largest on the 2,700-mile Keystone system since it began operating in 2010. And it's the largest onshore oil spill since a Tesoro Corporation pipeline rupture in North Dakota leaked 20,600 barrels in September 2013.
The crude carried by the pipeline is extracted from tar sands in western Canada, can sink in water and can be harder to clean up than more conventional crude oil, according to experts and environmentalists. A 2016 National Academies of Sciences study said the tar sands oil has an "exceptionally high density" compared with other crude oils that can "pose particular challenges when they reach water bodies."
Company and officials have said no drinking water supplies were affected, the oil didn't reach larger waterways and no one was evacuated. But the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Friday that four dead animals and 71 dead fish had been recovered. The EPA also said the company has recovered 5,567 barrels of oil and water and 5,000 cubic yards of oil-contaminated soil, or enough to fill about 24,000 bathtubs.
Concerns that spills could pollute waterways spurred opposition to plans by TC Energy to build another crude oil pipeline in the same system, the 1,200-mile Keystone XL, across Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska. President Joe Biden's cancelation of a permit for the project led the company to pull the plug last year.
Kansas Educators Hope to Address Increase in Chronic Student Absenteeism
WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Data from the Kansas State Department of Education show a significant jump in chronic absenteeism - an increase of about 14% five years ago to about 24.5% last school year. KWCH TV reports that this means nearly one in four students was considered chronically absent, missing 10% or more days in a school year, including excused and unexcused absences. Across the state, many children are missing school because of illnesses. But this is an issue involving more than just that and the COVID-19 pandemic. Factors like transportation, mental health and family situations are also in play.
Osage City Schools Close for Remainder of 2022 Due to Rampant Illnesses
OSAGE CITY, Kan. (WDAF) — Osage City Schools will close for the remainder of 2022 due to widespread illnesses throughout the district. According to WDAF TV, USD 420 sent out a message Monday stating that more than 40% of the student body was absent from school due to a variety of illnesses. Superintendent Ted Hessong said that number had grown to 46% by Tuesday. Reported illnesses include the flu, strep throat, RSV and a stomach virus. The loss of nearly half the student population, along with numerous staff members, prompted Hessong to make the decision. “It’s kinda hard to have school when half the student body is gone,” Hessong said. The closure affects the elementary, middle and high schools. Classes are expected to resume on January 3, 2023.
Veteran Kansas City Officer Chosen to Lead Police Department
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 25-year veteran of the Kansas City police department has been chosen as the city's new police chief. The Board of Police Commissioners announced Thursday that Stacey Graves was chosen to lead the department. Graves, who is currently acting deputy chief, takes over a department facing several challenges, including a federal investigation into claims of racism against Black officers, a whistleblower complaint over the department's handling of evidence and public records requests, and years of criticism from civil rights groups about the use of excessive force against Black residents. Graves is the first woman to be named permanent chief in Kansas City; two other women served as interim chiefs.
Parsons Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for Child Sex Crimes
PARSONS, Kan. (KPR/KAKE) - A southeast Kansas man has been sentenced to life in prison for sex crimes against two children. On Tuesday, a Labette County judge sentenced 38-year-old Jered Bybee, of Parsons, under Jessica's Law, maning he won't be eligible for parole for 25 years. KAKE TV reports that Bybee pleaded no contest in April to two counts of aggravated criminal sodomy. The crimes occurred between 2013 and 2016 and involved two different victims under the age of 10. The case was investigated by the Parsons Police Department, Kansas Department for Children and Families and the Heart of America Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory.
Lawrence Man Accused of Child Sexual Assault on Wisconsin Indian Reservation
MILWAUKEE (WLUK) -- A Kansas man is facing federal charges for allegedly sexually assaulting a child in 2019 on the Menominee Indian Reservation. WLUK reports that 54-year-old Gerlad Pamaska Jr. is charged with aggravated sexual abuse, which carries a minimum prison sentence of 30 years. He could face life in prison if convicted. According to court documents, Pamaska "engaged in a sexual act" with a child under the age of 12 on the reservation around July 25, 2019. Pamaska used to live in Keshena, Wisconsin, but now lives in Lawrence.
KC Police, FBI Search for 28-Year-Old Man for Double Homicide
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KC Star) - A 28-year-old murder suspect is being sought by Kansas City police and the FBI in connection with a double homicide in October in which two people were found dead in a Santa Fe Hills neighborhood apartment. The Kansas City Star reports that Glenn A. Pulluaim Jr. faces two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of armed criminal action in Jackson County for the killings of 35-year-old Chantell Gipson and 26-year-old Austin Scott. Pulluaim fled the area of the double homicide in a vehicle belonging to a homicide victim that was later recovered. Police say all leads have been exhausted, and they are turning to the public for help to locate him. Police say Pulluaim should be considered armed and dangerous. Anyone with information concerning his whereabouts is asked to call the TIPS Hotline at (816) 474-TIPS.
Woman Gets 10 Years in Prison for Fatal Stabbing of Fiancé in Leavenworth
LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (KC Star) - A 41-year-old woman has been sentenced to 10 years in a Kansas prison for the fatal stabbing of her fiancé in Leavenworth in 2021. Prosecutors say Eva Olisha Banks, of Leavenworth, pleaded guilty in November to voluntary manslaughter and two counts of aggravated battery in the killing of Jerrold Jermaine Rhodes. The Kansas City Star reports that she was sentenced Wednesday to 93 months for the voluntary manslaughter conviction and a combined 13 months for the assault convictions. On June 12, 2021, Leavenworth police were called to the 2500 block of Fourth Avenue after Banks called 911 saying her fiancé had been stabbed and needed help. Banks and Rhodes were found in the master bedroom.
Rhodes had been stabbed in the abdomen, according to prosecutors, and Banks was holding a towel against the wound. Rhodes was pronounced dead by medical personnel. During early police interviews, authorities say Banks reported she and Rhodes had an argument at a convenience store and she returned home to find him stabbed — a story prosecutors say was disproved. She later admitted that she stabbed him in the bathroom with a paring knife in response to a long history of domestic abuse, prosecutors said.
Long-Term Care Pharmacy in Lenexa Agrees to Pay $3 Million Settlement
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (WIBW) - A Kansas-based long-term care pharmacy will pay $3 million as part of a settlement that resolves allegations that it illegally dispensed controlled substances. WIBW TV reports that PharmScript of Kansas, a long-term care pharmacy in Lenexa, has agreed to pay $3 million to resolve allegations that it violated the law by dispensing controlled substances to residents without a valid prescription. The settlement resolves allegations that the company was wrongfully reimbursed by Medicare and Medicaid programs. Federal officials say PharmScript is a wholly owned subsidiary of PharmScript Holdco, LLC, and provides medication and services to those in skilled nursing facilities and to residents in assisted living facilities in both Kansas and Missouri.
Kansas Set to Receive $77 Million from Walgreens, CVS in Opioid Settlement
TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas will get at least $77 million from a settlement over the role pharmacies played in the opioid epidemic. The Kansas News Service reports that the settlements with CVS and Walgreens stem from lawsuits that accused the big companies of contributing to the opioid crisis. The suits argued the companies did not properly oversee how opioids were dispensed at their stores. The money Kansas receives will be used for grants to fight addiction. The money will be available to government organizations and non-profit groups once the settlement is finalized. Attorney General Derek Schmidt says the state is also negotiating opioid settlements with other companies.
Disgraced FTX Founder Sam Bankman-Fried Donated to Kansas Democratic Party
TOPEKA, Kan. (TCJ) - The Kansas Democratic Party was a recipient earlier this year of a contribution from Sam Bankman-Fried, the now-indicted former head of cryptocurrency giant FTX. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Bankman-Fried was a prolific donor to political causes, mostly supporting Democrats, a habit that has increasingly come under scrutiny following the demise of his former companies. The Washington Post reported he gave $40 million to political campaigns in the most recent election cycle. That included a $10,000 donation to KDP on August 31, 2022. Federal Elections Commission records show that the only donation with apparent Kansas connections in the most recent election cycle. A spokesperson for the KDP did not immediately respond as to what the party did with the money and whether it has been donated or returned in recent days. FTX, an international cryptocurrency exchange, and its affiliates filed for bankruptcy on November 11 in one of the most high-profile casualties of the nascent cryptocurrency industry.
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 Legislature May Act to Make Expungement of Criminal Records Easier
TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - It would be easier for Kansans to clear their criminal records under proposals before the Kansas Legislature next year. Plans to change the state’s expungement laws have been under consideration for years. The Kansas News Service reports that Kansans can be denied expungements if they have outstanding fines or fees owed to the courts. Michelle Ewert, associate law professor at Washburn University, wants that to change. Expungement cleans someone’s criminal record of certain crimes, which makes it easier to get a job or housing. Ewert says keeping someone from getting a clean record because they owe money can stop them from being productive members of the community. "Allowing people to move forward when they are just trying to do better that this is something that if we can address this issue will have so many positive ripple effects in other parts of people's lives," she said. Lawmakers begin a new legislative session in Topeka in January. Republicans and Democrats are both pushing for this change.
California Woman’s Missing Dog Found 1,600 Miles Away in Kansas Field
LOUISBURG, Kan. (KCTV) — A Northern California woman lost her beloved dog and, after months of searching, she thought she’d never see him again. Now, he might be home just in time for Christmas. KCTV reports that Heather Reichart finds strays in her Kansas pasture all the time. But something told her this one was different. “I went out to the pasture to see what our dog was barking at and found him,” Reichart recalled. Reichart brought the dog, who is named Zeppelin, to the Wildcat Vet Clinic in Louisburg. They were able to identify Zeppelin through his microchip.
“You just scan it and the number that comes up,” said Aaron Stohs, a veterinarian. “It’s pretty cool. You just type it in on the web.” It turns out that Zeppelin’s home is 1,625 miles away in Sacramento, California! His owner, Sandra O’Neil, got to see Zeppelin on FaceTime. It was the first time she’d seen him since he went missing 14 months ago. She said hope was never fully lost. The day before he was found, she sent up a prayer for his return.
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.