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Headlines for Thursday, January 12, 2023

A graphic representation of eight radios of various vintages, underneath the words "Kansas Public Radio News Summary"
Emily Fisher

Kansas Governor Learns COVID Test Gave Her False Positive

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly's office says she plans to return Friday to the Statehouse after learning that a COVID-19 test earlier in the week gave her a false positive result. Kelly has been working in self-isolation at the governor’s residence since the false positive Tuesday. Her office announced that she had tested positive for COVID-19 and she postponed the annual State of the State address from Wednesday to January 24. Kelly’s office said Thursday that she took the test after experiencing what it called cold-like symptoms. She continued testing and after several negative results, her doctor and state health department experts determined that the first test was a false positive.

Kansas Public Radio will carry the re-scheduled State of the State Address live on Tuesday, January 24, 2023, beginning at 6:30 p.m.


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.


Kansas Chief Justice: State Should Do More To Recruit, Keep Judges

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - The highest-ranking judge in Kansas says the state needs to do more to hire and keep the best candidates for sitting on the bench. The Chief Justice of the Kansas Supreme Court, Marla Luckert, says some deadlines for judicial openings came and went without any applicants. Others have just a few. One opening in Manhattan got only three applicants. “That is a fraction of what we would have seen in years past," Lukert said. District court judges earn $135,000, while a district magistrate judge earns between $69,000 and $100,000. The 23 new judicial positions in Kansas were created after a caseload study found additional need.


Fight over Kansas Budget Surplus: How Much Gets Socked Away?

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democratic Governor Laura Kelly and the Republican-controlled Kansas Legislature are headed toward big fights over budget issues. They are likely to clash over spending on special education programs, pay raises for government workers and how much the cash-flush state should sock away for worse economic times. Kelly released budget proposals Thursday that include depositing $500 million into the state’s rainy day fund. She also wants to give state workers a 5% pay increase and phase in a 61% increase in spending on K-12 programs for children with special needs. Top Republican lawmakers want Kansas to put at least $1 billion in the rainy day fund and have misgivings about the other Kelly proposals.


KBI: Body Found in Attic of Brown County Home

HORTON, Kan. (KPR) — Authorities say a body has been found in the attic of a home in Brown County. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) says the local sheriff's office received a 911 call from a woman in Horton on January 10, requesting assistance. When deputies arrived, they discovered a man’s body, later identified as 56-year-old Gene Dunlap, in the attic of the house. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The KBI is calling this a suspicious death. An autopsy is scheduled. Anyone with information related to this case is asked to call the KBI at (800) KS-CRIME or the Brown County Sheriff’s Office at (785) 742-7125.


Water Quality Recovering Downstream After Keystone Oil Spill in Northern Kansas

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Kan. (KNS) - State officials say water quality is improving downstream of the Keystone oil spill area in northern Kansas. When the pipeline burst last month in Washington County, emergency crews built dams to contain the oil. But the Kansas News Service reports that those dams couldn’t fully stop the flowing stream. The state found benzene and other chemicals farther downstream in Mill Creek and the Little Blue River. Last week, Canadian oil company TC Energy diverted the creek to temporarily bypass about four miles of the area that needs intensive cleanup. Now, state officials say chemical levels downstream are improving, but people and livestock should still stay out of Mill Creek downstream of the oil spill.


Kansas Schools Almost Miss Out on Millions in COVID Relief Funds

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas schools almost lost millions of dollars in federal COVID-relief funding after new State Board of Education members voted not to support it. Board member Dennis Hershberger said he worried about public schools getting “drunk” on federal money. The board did not have the six votes required to allocate relief funds to 19 Kansas districts. Minutes after the vote, board member Cathy Hopkins, of Hays, said she didn’t mean to deny the money. She asked the board to reconsider, and the funding was approved. “I was voting my own conscience and not understanding and knowing enough about the program, so the shock of the outcome left me speechless," she said. Hershberger, Danny Zeck and Michelle Dombrosky continued to reject the funding. Kansas has received more than $1 billion in federal COVID-relief funds for schools. The money is meant to address learning loss, mental health and other pandemic-related issues.


Kansas Board of Education Skeptical of Teacher Transfer Plan

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - The Kansas Board of Education is not endorsing a measure that would allow teachers to transfer more easily between states. The Interstate Teaching Mobility Compact is a partnership aimed at addressing the nationwide teacher shortage. It would allow qualified teachers moving to participating states to bypass licensing review barriers. Supporters say it could get more teachers into Kansas classrooms, where they’re needed. But Kansas Board of Education member Jim McNiece worries about lowering standards for teachers. “We’ve waived a lot of things, to the point where I’m not sure we have requirements anymore," he said. The Kansas News Service reports that the state school board has put off making a decision, for now. But Kansas lawmakers could propose legislation that would compel public schools to abide by the compact.


Former Owner of Olathe Drug Treatment Clinic Sentenced for Meth Trafficking

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KPR) – The former owner of an Olathe clinic that treated opioid addiction has been sentenced for trafficking in methamphetamine. Federal prosecutors say 46-year-old Trevor J. Robinson, of Olathe, was sentenced Tuesday to more than 11 years in federal prison without parole. Robinson owned and operated Nuvista, an outpatient clinic in Olathe for individuals with opioid addiction.

In November, he pleaded guilty to one count of possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine. According to court documents, Robinson used the Nuvista clinic location to process, store, and distribute meth.

Although the government does not currently have evidence Robinson sold drugs to specific clients of the clinic, prosecutors say the evidence does show he distributed drugs into the same community he was trying to service with treatment. Robinson has four prior felony convictions for drug trafficking in California.


Kansas Man Arrested for Alleged Child Rape

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Kan. (KAKE/Hutch News) - A man suspected of child rape has been taken into custody, following a weekend standoff with police in southeast Kansas. KAKE TV reports that detectives with the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office and agents from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation were called Sunday night to serve an arrest warrant for 32-year-old Niklas Nelson for raping a child and making a criminal threat. Nelson's father told authorities his son was hiding in a large shop on the property and that he may be armed. Law enforcement surrounded the shop and attempted to contact Nelson. The Montgomery County Emergency Response Team was activated and the KBI deployed an armored vehicle. The Kansas Highway Patrol also deployed a helicopter in case Nelson ran. After a standoff, Nelson was taken into custody and booked on charges of rape, possession of meth and interfering with law enforcement. Nelson has prior convictions for aggravated assault and obstruction.


Special Prosecutor Named in Case Involving Alleged Sex Crimes at Lawrence School

LAWRENCE, Kan. (LJW) - A special prosecutor has been appointed to handle the case of a former Raintree Montessori School employee in Lawrence who’s accused of committing child sex crimes at the school. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that 20-year-old Mateo Emilio Clavel Wills is charged with four counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child under the age of 14 — two counts involving a 3-year-old and two counts involving a 4-year-old. The charges are off-grid felonies. A special prosecutor, Jeannette Wolpink, has been appointed to take over the case. Wolpink works for the prosecutor’s office in Jackson County, Missouri.

It’s not clear why a special prosecutor had to be appointed or whether there was a conflict in the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office that necessitated that. The Journal-World reached out to the DA’s office via email, and a spokesperson said the office was unable to comment. In general, little information has been available about Wills’ case since his arrest last year. The arrest affidavit in the case, which would have detailed the evidence police gathered in support of the arrest, was sealed by the court. Wills has been held in the Douglas County Jail since his arrest in July 2022.


Facebook Parent Company Meta Amasses 900 Acres Around Northland Data Center

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KC Business Journal) - Facebook's parent company, Meta, has already announced an $800 million data center set to open in the Kansas City area in 2024. But the project may get even bigger. The Kansas City Business Journal reports that Meta has queitly acquired nearly 900 acres around the area where the data center will be located. The Journal reports that property purchases between July 2020 and December 2022 could allow Meta to build a far larger campus in Kansas City's Northland.


More than 100 Flights Delayed Wednesday at KCI

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCUR) - More than 100 flights at the Kansas City airport were delayed early Wednesday after the Federal Aviation Administration ordered a nationwide shutdown of domestic departures. The FAA ordered the delays after its system for alerting pilots and airports of hazards went offline, temporarily. The federal agency cleared flights to resume at 9 am when the notification system was restored. It's still not clear what caused the system to fail.


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.


Experts: Kansas City-Area Homeowners Could See More Rats as Weather Turns Colder

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (WDAF) — Experts warn a higher number of rats may soon try to move into homes and apartments across the Kansas City metro. WDAF TV reports that a pest control company says its been unseasonably warm recently, but colder weather is on the way. And just like other animals, rats will be looking for warmer areas to escape the winter chill. Zachary Smith, owner of The Pest Dude, says rodents, above all other pests, are a public health concern as they can cause considerable damage to both residential and business properties. Smith says they are seeing an increase in service calls as rats continue looking for somewhere warm to spend the winter. Orkin, Inc., the Atlanta-based pest control company, agrees. It ranked Kansas City, Missouri, as the No. 27th “Rattiest City” in the country in 2022. While Kansas City fell out of the top 25 on the list in the latest ranking, it still comes in higher than St. Louis at No. 30.


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.


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 January 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."


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.


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.


Big 12 Conference Hasn't Had Top-to-Bottom Start Like This in a Decade

UNDATED (AP) – Big 12 men's basketball is off to roaring start. No. 11 Kansas State has already surpassed last season's overall win total at 15-1 and is 4-0 in conference play along with No. 2 Kansas and No. 14 Iowa State. That comes as Texas Tech and West Virginia have lost their first four conference games. The last time the Big 12 had multiple teams open league play 4-0 with multiple other teams going 0-4 was 2012-13. The Big 12 is still the only league in the county with half of its teams ranked, and every team still has a winning record.


No. 1 Seed Chiefs to See Familiar Route Through Postseason

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs will have a familiar route through the playoffs no matter what direction it goes. In the divisional round, the Chiefs could face former Andy Reid assistants now leading the Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens, an AFC West rival in the Los Angeles Chargers or longtime star Tyreek Hill with his new team, the Miami Dolphins. And in a potential AFC title game, the Chiefs would face the Bills in a rematch of two years ago or the Bengals in a rematch of last year. Kansas City also played Buffalo in last year's divisional round in an epic overtime thriller before losing to Cincinnati in overtime with a spot in the Super Bowl on the line.


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.