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Headlines for Wednesday, January 11, 2023

News Summary updated image
Emily Fisher

Kansas Governor Tests Positive for COVID, Postpones State-of-the-State Address

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP/KPR) — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly has been forced to postpone her annual State of the State address after testing positive for COVID-19. Kelly's office announced Tuesday that she had tested positive. The test came after an inaugural ball Sunday night, her swearing in for a second term as governor and inaugural address Monday and a news conference Tuesday morning at the Statehouse. The State of the State address had been scheduled for Wednesday night, during a joint session of the House and Senate. The speech now is scheduled for Tuesday, January 24. It will be carried live on Kansas Public Radio and other public radio stations across the state.

Kelly's office said her staff still plans to release her budget proposals Thursday as planned. Her office also said it had informed people attending the ball, the inaugural ceremony and the news conference that she had tested positive. Kelly's office said she began experiencing symptoms Tuesday and that they have remained mild. She is fully vaccinated and will work in self-isolation, her office said.


Attorney General Kris Kobach Wants Kansas Court to Rethink Abortion Rights Protections

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas’s anti-abortion Republican attorney general is asking the state’s highest court to reconsider a landmark decision protecting access to abortion months after a decisive statewide vote affirming abortion rights. Attorney General Kris Kobach said Wednesday that one reason for the Kansas Supreme Court to reconsider its 2019 ruling is the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June overturning Roe v. Wade and declaring that the U.S. Constitution doesn’t grant a right to abortion access. The Kansas court is set to consider that issue and others in two abortion cases on January 30. However, Kobach said he is likely to ask for a few weeks’ delay because he took office only Monday.


KCI’s New, Single Terminal Gets Ready to Open

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KC Star) - Kansas City International Airport’s new single terminal should be ready to open in just a few weeks. The Kansas City Star reports that the actual opening date for the $1.5 billion terminal has not yet been made public but will be later this month. Retail and restaurant areas, as well as signage, are still being installed in the new terminal. Justin Meyer, deputy director of the Kansas City Aviation Department, says the building is constructed and now, contractors are working on the final components.


Olathe Police: Man Found Dead in Johnson County Creek

OLATHE, Kan. (KMBC) — The Olathe Police Department is investigating after a man was found dead in a Johnson County creek. KMBC TV reports that officers were called to a creek (near North Somerset Terrace and North Mur-Len Road) Tuesday afternoon. When officers arrived, they found a man dead in the water. Police are still investigating but say no foul play is suspected at this time. The man's identity has not yet been released.


Family Mourns KC Area Woman Shot, Left in Ditch New Year’s Day

MIAMI COUNTY, Kan. (KC Star) - Family members of a Belton, Missouri, woman who was shot and mortally wounded in rural Kansas have started an online fundraiser to assist with organizing a memorial to celebrate her life. The Kansas City Star reports that 41-year-old Jennifer Christine Rodriguez died after being shot and left in rural Miami County on New Year’s Day. Rodriguez died in the hospital on January 3, two days after deputies from the Miami County Sheriff’s department found her severely wounded by gunshot in a ditch a few miles east of Paola (near 299th Street and Somerset Road). A 36-year-old suspect in her killing was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound in Grandview the same day. An online fundraiser on the GoFundMe platform has raised more than $4,000 for the woman's memorial.


FBI, KU Join Together to Host Cybersecurity Conference

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - Officials with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Reserve and multiple technology leaders will gather for a cybersecurity conference at the University of Kansas this month. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that KU and the FBI are hosting the free cybersecurity conference January 27 at KU’s Burge Union. The public is invited to attend at no charge, but registration is required.

The conference will feature panel discussions on future challenges related to cybersecurity, a panel on creating a pipeline of talent for the cybersecurity industry, and a presentation on ransomware and how it is deployed by hostile actors like North Korea. The conference comes as KU is seeking to establish itself as a leader in cybersecurity research and education.

Click here to register for the conference.


Conservative Kansas Lawmakers Push Back More Aggressively on LGBTQ Rights

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Conservative Kansas legislators are pushing back more aggressively this year on LGBTQ-rights issues than in the past two years. They now propose to ban gender-affirming care for trangender youth and restrict how public schools discuss sexual orientation and gender identity. Those are in addition to the ban on transgender athletes in girls' and women's K-through-12, club and college sports they pursued in 2021 and 2022. The measure on transgender athletes is part of GOP leaders' agenda for this year, and Senate President Ty Masterson said he wants to pursue restrictions on how schools deal with human sexuality issues in their classrooms. Two GOP senators have introduced the measure on gender-affirming care.


Kansas City Middle School Ordered to Pay Former Student $700,000 over Teacher’s Behavior

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (WDAF) — A Kansas City jury found Hogan Prep Middle School liable of discrimination and a former teacher guilty of battery involving a former student. WDAF TV reports that a judge ordered Hogan Prep to pay $700,000 in actual and punitive damages. It also ordered former 7th grade teacher Douglas Bliss to pay the victim $250,000. The lawsuit accused Bliss of molesting a 7th grade student who attended Hogan Prep during the 2017-18 school year. The plaintiff claims she reported Bliss’ behavior to the vice-principal in 2018 but nothing came of it. The lawsuit claims the victim has been hospitalized for severe depression and tried to take her own life multiple times since she was assaulted.


Kansas Has Nine Inmates on Death Row. Will Any Ever Be Executed?

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Currently in Kansas, nine men are on death row. But many are wondering whether the state will every carry out another execution. With the U.S. Supreme Court declining to hear appeals from convicted murderers Jonathan and Reginald Carr, questions have been raised regarding their status and the status of other Kansas inmates who were sentenced to death. KWCH TV reports that the last time anyone was executed in Kansas was in 1965. While Kansas reinstated capital punishment in 1994, some inmates have now been on death row for decades.

Ron Wurtz, vice chair of the Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty, says the process for an execution can take years, even decades, due to a lengthy appeals process. The appeals go back and forth between local, state and federal courts. After all appeals are exhausted, the issue would then head to the governor who might consider clemency. If the governor decides not to intervene, the Kansas Supreme Court would set an execution date. The Lansing Correctional Facility has a death chamber to be used for lethal injection.

Currently, Wurtz says, no one is sure when the next execution in Kansas could happen.


Mother of Kansas Clergy Abuse Victim Welcomes New KBI Report

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - The mother of a child abuse victim welcomes a new report that shows the Catholic Church in Kansas protected priests who molested parishioners. Wichita resident Janet Patterson says Robert Larson exploited his authority role as a Catholic priest to abuse her son in the 80s. “We don't assume – or understand – that our very leaders in the spiritual life are the ones who are doing the betraying," she said. A new Kansas Bureau of Investigation report says the Catholic Church regularly concealed abuse in Kansas. Many priests never faced justice. The Kansas News Service reports that Larson was convicted of abusing four children. Many others alleged he abused them, too. Five died by suicide, including Janet Patterson’s son, Eric. (Read more.)


Missouri Boarding School Under Investigation Will Shut Down

UNDATED (AP) – A Christian boarding school in Missouri that's been under intense scrutiny over abuse allegations will close later this month. It's citing financial hardship. Agape Boarding School in Stockton has been the subject of state and location investigations and several lawsuits filed on behalf of former students. A statement from the school for boys says it will stop providing service effective Jan. 20. Attendance at Agape has plummeted to just 12 students since the abuse allegations surfaced. A former student who has alleged abuse says the closure means that “the healing process can start."


KCK Man Arrested for Allegedly Killing 16-Year-Old Girl in 2014

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KSHB) — A Kansas City, Kansas, man has beens taken into custody for allegedly killing a 16-year-old girl in 2014. An investigation by the KBI and the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department led to the arrest of 38-year-old Billy I. Dupree. KSHB TV reports that Dupree is currently being held at the Lansing Correctional Facility due to prior convictions. Nearly eight years after the young girl's death, the Kansas Attorney General’s Office requested that the KBI join Kansas City police in investigating once it was “determined that the murder had taken place in Kansas City, Kansas. The victim's body was located December 21, 2014, near 24th Street and Monroe Avenue in KCMO. The Kansas Attorney General’s Office expects to prosecute the case.


New Principal at Topeka-Based Youth Prison School Fired in Arkansas over Sex Scandal

TOPEKA, Kan. (TCJ) - A school at a Kansas juvenile prison hired a leader who had previously been fired from a post in Arkansas. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Matthew Wendt had been dismissed in Arkansas over sexual harassment allegations stemming from an affair with a subordinate. In July, Topeka's Lawrence Gardner High School, which serves youth at the Kansas Juvenile Correctional Complex, hired Wendt as its new principal. Wendt was terminated from his position at the Fayetteville School District in 2018, following a complaint from a former secretary, who alleged that Wendt stalked her, used her employment as a means of controlling her and berated her with expletives. Wendt has denied the allegations.

A school district investigation framed the relationship as a consensual sexual one that eventually soured but dismissed Wendt for violating school policies. It's unclear whether the Kansas Department of Corrections knew about Wendt's background when he was hired. A spokesperson for the agency wouldn't comment. According to his LinkedIn page, Wendt, a Kansas native, also served as a principal at a foreign school in China, as well as working as an international education consultant based in Topeka.


One St. Mary Football Player Dead, One Injured in Oklahoma Crash

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (KSHB/KPR) - A football player from the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth was killed and another player was critically injured Monday morning in Oklahoma as they traveled back from a bowl game in Miami Beach, Florida. University officials say 25-year-old Justin White died in the crash. His teammate, 24-year-old Hennessy Thomas, sustained critical injuries and was transported to a hospital in Oklahoma City. KSHB-TV reports that the two were returning from an all-star college bowl in Florida, where they played in front of NFL scouts. The crash happened just before 3 am Monday on Interstate 35, about 65 miles south of Oklahoma City. School administrators say White was originally from Jackson, Mississippi. Thomas, is from Rayville, Louisiana.


Wyandotte County Has First Black Female Judge

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (KCUR/KNS) - Wyandotte County now has its first Black female judge, Candice Alcaraz. She has served as an assistant district attorney in Wyandotte County since 2016. She beat a sitting judge with nearly 69% of the countywide vote in the November election. The 32-year-old Alcaraz, who was sworn in Monday, will rule on both criminal and civil cases.


5 Alpacas Missing After Several Others Shot in Kansas

MARION COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) — Five alpacas are missing after several others were shot in northern Peabody Sunday night. KSNW TV reports that several alpacas were shot (in the 800 block of Old Mill Road). According to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, five of the animals are still missing. Anyone with information regarding the shot and missing alpacas is asked to call the Marion County Sheriff’s Office at (620) 382-2144.


7 Deer Lay Dead in Kansas Field, Game Wardens Search for Suspect

HANOVER, Kan. (WIBW) - Kansas game wardens are searching for the person responsible for shooting, killing and leaving seven deer to lay dead in fields near Hanover in north-central Kansas. WIBW TV reports that a Washington County landowner reported at least five whitetail deer had been shot with a small caliber rifle and left to lay in their fields. During their investigation, game wardens said they found two more deer that had been shot and left to lay. They say the animals were killed just outside the town of Hanover. Game wardens believe all seven deer were killed January 2 and 3. Anyone with information about the crime is asked call Operation Game Thief at (877) 426-3843.


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. This news summary is made possible by KPR members. Become one today. And follow KPR News on Twitter.