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Headlines for Tuesday, January 17, 2023

News Summary updated image
Emily Fisher
/
KPR

UPDATE: Defense Attorney Says Man Harmless Despite Threat Against Kansas Lawmaker

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A defense attorney says a man charged with threatening to kill a Kansas congressman is harmless. A public defender told jurors Tuesday during a federal criminal trial that 32-year-old Chase Neill of Lawrence believes he has a special relationship with God and his weapons are “meteors and plagues,” not “knives and guns.” Prosecutors say Neill became fixated on U.S. Rep. Jake LaTurner and threatened to kill LaTurner in a call in June to the Republican congressman's Topeka office. The trial began amid what authorities say is a sharp rise in threats to the nation's lawmakers. But the public defender told jurors that the June call didn't prompt local authorities to arrest Neill or send him to a mental hospital.

(–Earlier Reporting–)

Trial Begins for Man Accused of Threatening Kansas Congressman

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A criminal trial is set to start in federal court today (TUE) for a Lawrence man charged with threatening to kill one of the state's congressmen. The start of 32-year-old Chase Neill's trial was to come weeks after a judge concluded evidence of mental illness didn't mean Neill can't help his attorney or follow what happens in court. Federal prosecutors argue in court documents that the Lawrence resident developed a fixation on Republican Rep. Jake LaTurner. Neill is accused of threatening to kill LaTurner in a June 5 voicemail message left at LaTurner's office and continuing to make threatening calls the following day.

A pretrial report said Neill believes he is "the Messiah." Prosecutors have said in court documents that Neill believes he was "obligated by God" to warn "certain public figures" and detail the results of not heeding his warnings. U.S. District Judge Holly Teeter concluded during a hearing last month that "a preponderance of the evidence" showed Neill was mentally competent to stand trial. The official notes from the hearing showed Teeter relied on a psychological evaluation of Neill, but that document is sealed and closed to the public. A magistrate who ordered Neill to remain in custody in June 2022 said he also had threatened other members of Congress. The others have not been named and Neill is charged only with threatening LaTurner. Neill's attorney and prosecutors declined to comment ahead of the trial. LaTurner's office also did not comment.

LaTurner was a Kansas state senator and state treasurer before winning his U.S. House seat in 2020. Until the Republican-controlled Kansas Legislature redrew political boundaries last year, LaTurner's eastern Kansas district included Neill's hometown of Lawrence, which includes the main University of Kansas campus and is among the state's most liberal communities.

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Rain and Snow Headed to Northwest, North-Central Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - After some mild January weather, a winter storm is expected to track through parts of Kansas Tuesday night and through Wednesday. KWCH TV reports that most - if not all - of the snow should fall in northwest and north central Kansas. The expected rain and snow could lead to dangerous driving conditions in that part of the state. Forecasters say rain will begin late Tuesday night for southwest, central, and eastern Kansas, but the northwest will be getting snow. Heaviest accumulations will be near Goodland, St. Francis, and Colby with 3-6 inches possible by Wednesday afternoon. All of the snow will be tapering off by Wednesday evening. A return to sunshine is likely Thursday, but it will still be chilly with highs in the 30s and 40s.

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KBI: Armed Man Found Dead After Officer-Involved Shooting

CHEROKEE COUNTY, Kan. (KPR) – The Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) says an officer-involved shooting Monday night in southeast Kansas left one man dead from an apparent, self-inflicted gunshot wound. The fatal shooting victim has been identified as 28-year-old Phillip A. Doerr, of Falls City, Nebraska. The KBI says a woman in Galena called 911 to report that a man was being held at gunpoint by another man (at 9550 SE Bobcat Street). The armed man then left the residence in a Ford flatbed truck. Deputies from the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office spotted the pickup. The driver of the truck, later identified as Phillip A. Doerr, did not pull over. After a short vehicle pursuit, the truck came to a stop. Doerr exited the truck while firing at deputies, hitting their patrol car multiple times. Both deputies returned fire and Doerr fled into the woods. Later, deputies heard a single gunshot coming from the trees. At approximately 8 pm, Doerr's body was discovered with an apparent, self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. An autopsy will be conducted. No law enforcement officers were hurt during the incident. The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office contacted the KBI Monday night for assistance. The KBI is now conducting its own investigation.

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Beware When Pumping Gas; Skimmers Found on Gas Pumps in Northwest Kansas

ATWOOD, Kan. (KSNW) — Skimmers have been found hidden on gas pumps in northwest Kansas. According to KSNW TV, police in Atwood located skimmers inside gas pumps, which made them nearly undetectable. Authorities in Rawlins County recommend residents either pay inside the store or very closely inspect the gas pump before paying at the pump. Police say motorists should first examine the lock to see if it has any visible damage or if the gas pump door appears to have been pried open. Then, police say, people should check the safety seals near the lock to make sure they are intact and have not been tampered with. Anyone who spots signs of tampering should notify the store immediately. Anyone who notices someone acting suspiciously around a gas pump or attempting to get inside should call 911.

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ACLU Prepares for Battles in Kansas Legislature 

TOPEKA, Kan. (Kansas Reflector) - The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas is preparing to challenge the state Legislature’s recent actions regarding transgender children, voting rights, and reproductive health care. The Kansas Reflector reports that ACLU lobbyists say they will seek common ground on criminal justice reform and legalizing medical marijuana. One of the first bills that was introduced this year would ban gender-affirming care for some young people and some GOP lawmakers are reportedly considering a measure that would ban ballot drop boxes and reduce the period for early voting. Leaders at the ACLU of Kansas say the state has been on the front lines in many of the battles over voting rights, LGBTQ protections and other "culture war" issues.

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Kansas Among Few States Without Clinics to Treat Long COVID Symptoms

WICHITA, Kan. (KNS) - Clinics designed to treat the after-effects of COVID-19 are specialized clinics with the expertise for treating long COVID. But Kansas is one of the few states without a clinic for long-COVID patients. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in five American adults who had COVID-19 developed long COVID symptoms. That means about 200,000 Kansas residents are suffering from the syndrome. Kathryn Burke works with a support group for people with long COVID. She says the shortage of clinics in the state often leaves people in rural areas a very long drive away from a health care provider who might restore their lung capacity or clear their brain fog. “It is hard for people in more rural locations, less wealthy locations to be able to access long COVID care simply because the medical clinics and medical centers around them simply may not have the funding or the staffing to dedicate time and money towards long COVID clinics," she said. (Read more.)

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Kansas Medicaid Recipients Must Renew Enrollment After Pandemic Pause

TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) - The federal government has extended the COVID-19 public health emergency again, but it does not include simplified Medicaid eligibility that kept people enrolled over the last three years. During the pandemic, people on Medicaid did not have to prove their eligibility every year. Starting in April, Kansans on Medicaid will have to go through the renewal process to determine whether they are still eligible. State Medicaid Director Sarah Fertig recently told state lawmakers that it will take time and require workers to review each case individually. "We cannot just run a report and kick everybody off," she said. "Because we don’t know whether some of these folks are still eligible and we won’t know until their case comes up for redetermination and we get information from them on their current circumstances.” Fertig told lawmakers that the process will likely take about a year. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment estimates the pandemic rule increased the Medicaid rolls by about 21%, or more than 100,000 Kansans.

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Scientists: Warmer, Drier Climate Affecting Wheat Yields

MANHATTAN, Kan. (KNS) - Kansas State University researchers have pinpointed how much hot, dry and windy weather it takes to stifle wheat production. The recent study found that just 10 hours of extreme heat, dryness and wind together can reduce wheat production by 4%. Kansas saw more than its share of those days over the past year. And K-State agronomy professor Stephen Welch says those extreme events are becoming more common here. “That precise combination of events has been increasing over the 40-year period due to climate change," he said. "That's a key factor.” The study also found that the extreme weather in Kansas is tied to a specific long-term temperature cycle in the Pacific Ocean. That connection could help predict the risks that wheat crops face in coming decades.

Norton County resident Chris Tanner has felt the impact of a warming climate on his farm in northwest Kansas. Many of his wheat fields didn’t produce enough to bother harvesting at all. “It can be very, very bountiful or it can be the complete polar opposite and be a famine," he said. "You have to learn how to weather those storms in life.” The study says the frequency and intensity of extreme hot, dry, windy events are likely to increase as the earth continues to warm in the coming decades.

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10 Librarians Nationwide Receive "I Love My Librarian" Awards

NEW YORK (AP/KPR) — This year's winners of the "I Love My Librarian Award" include a Manhattan woman. Tara Coleman, based at Kansas State University, has been leading a campuswide common reading program. Coleman is one of 10 librarians selected as winners based on nominations from library users around the country. Each of the 10 honorees receives a $5,000 cash prize and a $750 travel stipend to attend the library association's LibLearnX event later this month in New Orleans. The awards are made possible by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and support from the New York Public Library. The awards were established in 2008. This year, judges at the library association chose the winners from more than 1,500 nominations.

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Missouri Man Sentenced for Shooting Deaths of Wife and Her Parents

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — A southwest Missouri man who shot and killed his wife and her parents because he was upset his in-laws would not leave their house has been sentenced to life in prison. Prosecutors say 50-year-old Jesse Huy, of Strafford, was sentenced Friday to three life terms with no parole for murder and nine years for armed criminal action. The sentences will run consecutively. He pleaded guilty to killing his 48-year-old wife, Tonya F. Huy, and her parents, 71-year-old Ronald L. Koehler, and 78-year-old Linda J. Koehler, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Huy called Greene County authorities in March 2021 to report he had killed the victims by shooting them in the head while they sat at a table inside his home in Strafford, according to court documents. When asked why he did it, Huy said "well, they wouldn't leave. I've been waiting for a week for them to leave. I've had enough." He said he shot his wife because she sided with her parents. Investigators said the Koehlers were visiting to help their daughter recover from back surgery.

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Former Kansas City Chiefs Draft Pick Facing Kidnapping Charge

UNDATED (PennLive.com) - A former All-SEC defensive lineman who played in the NFL for Kansas City, Houston and Washington, has been arrested and charged with kidnapping. The website PennLive.com reports that Jerrell Powe is being held without bail. According to reports, police in Ridgeland, Mississippi said they were called Thursday afternoon to a Chase Bank for a report of a person being held against their will. Police say the person told them they had been kidnapped in Laurel, Mississippi before being driven to the bank and forced to withdraw money. Police say Powe and 35-year-old Gavin Bates were still on the scene when they arrived. Bates is also reportedly facing a kidnapping charge. Powe was a two-time All-SEC pick at Ole Miss before the Chiefs took him in the sixth round, 199th-overall, of the 2011 NFL Draft. The 6-foot-2, 330 pounder played with the Chiefs through 2013 and then played with Houston in 2014 and Washington in 2015.

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D.C. Lawyer Suspended from Kansas Practice Following Trustee Misconduct

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - A lawyer in Washington D.C., Maryland and Kansas has been suspended from the practice of law in all three locations following a case that stems from trustee misconduct. WIBW TV reports that Isaac Henry Marks Sr. had been admitted to practice law in Kansas since 1987. He was also a licensed attorney in Maryland and Washington, D.C. But court records indicate disciplinary action was taken against Marks in 2018 for conduct while he was working as a trustee in D.C. The D.C. Court of Appeals suspended his license for a year in 2021. But Marks failed to notify officials in Maryland and Kansas of the disciplinary action taken against him, leading to the suspension of his law license in both states.

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Great Bend Zoo Announces Death of "Winnie" the Grizzly Bear

GREAT BEND, Kan. (KAKE) - The Great Bend Zoo has announced the death of one of its grizzly bears. KAKE TV reports that the the bear named "Winnie" died over the weekend. The zoo says Winnie’s siblings, Piglet and Pooh, appear to be handling the death as expected but will have each other and their zoo keepers to help them during the grieving process.

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Kansas Farmers Raise Concerns over Feral Hogs

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Feral hogs have been spotted roaming around parts of Kansas. According to KWCH TV, a Garden Plain police officer posted a video of the animals to the department's Facebook page after receiving reports of people seeing the hogs. On Saturday, more feral hogs were reported near Lake Afton. Farmers in the area north of Garden Plain say they’ve dealt with feral hogs on their property before and they’re hoping it won’t become a major problem. The animals can cause major damage to crops. The American Farm Bureau federation says feral hogs have caused more than $2.5 billion in damages to agriculture, livestock and the environment.

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Maine Gets 1st Mega Millions Jackpot with $1.35 Billion Grand Prize

UNDATED (AP) - Maine scored its first Mega Millions jackpot when a ticket purchased in the state matched the winning numbers for the lottery's estimated $1.35 billion grand prize. The Maine State Lottery says the winning ticket was sold at Hometown Gas & Grill in Lebanon, Maine. The lucky combination of numbers drawn late Friday night were: 30, 43, 45, 46, 61 and gold Mega Ball 14. The winner, whose name is not yet known, overcame steep odds of 1 in 302.6 million, which led to three months of drawings without a claim on the jackpot. The Hometown Gas & Grill owner says there's quite a buzz at the small-town gas station and he hopes someone in town is the winner. The southern Maine town of over 6,500 residents borders New Hampshire. The jackpot was the second largest in Mega Millions history and the fourth time the game has had a billion-dollar win. The largest Mega Millions jackpot in October 2018 was $1.53 billion claimed by a single ticket holder in South Carolina. Friday's drawing also marked the seventh time there was a grand prize winner on Friday the 13th, a date superstitiously considered unlucky.

Beyond Maine's jackpot, 14 tickets matched five white balls to claim the second-tier prize of $1 million. Four were sold in New York, two in California and one each in Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas, Mega Millions said.

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KCK Public School Workers Training to Use Narcan for Overdose Emergencies

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (WDAF) — Educators in Kansas City, Kansas are training to use Narcan, the emergency spray that’s used to save anyone who’s overdosed on fentanyl. Officials call the training preventative and proactive. WDAF TV reports that 50 doses of the life-saving tool are now owned by KCK Public School administrators and that 153 district employees have been trained to administer the drug. District employees were trained just before students went on holiday break in December. So far, the district’s police officers and nursing staff are among those who’ve been trained. Kansas state officials will provide Narcan only to high schools for the time being, and not elementary or middle schools.

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Houston, KU Basketball Remain Atop AP Top 25

UNDATED (AP) - Houston and Kansas remain firmly atop The Associated Press men's college basketball poll after a record weekend of Top 25 losses. Eleven ranked teams went down Saturday, tying a record that has stood for nearly 12 years, while UConn and Marquette lost Sunday to help give the AP poll one of its biggest shakeups in recent history. Clemson, Baylor and Rutgers joined FAU in entering the poll. That came at the expense of San Diego State, Duke, Wisconsin and Missouri.

The banged-up Houston Cougars, who had to fight off South Florida to avoid their own upset loss, watched their advantage over the Kansas Jayhawks shrink ever so slightly, pulling in 34 of 60 first-place votes from a national media panel. Kansas received 23 votes to remain second while Purdue picked up the remaining three to stay third. Alabama remained at No. 4 while UCLA, riding a 13-game winning streak, climbed two spots to round out the top five. Kansas State fell two spots to No. 13 after losing to TCU.

The Kansas Jayhawks may have had the most impressive week, beating Oklahoma on Tuesday before squeaking by Iowa State 62-60 on Saturday — though the Cyclones were notable enough in defeat that they actually climbed two spots to No. 12 in the poll.

Read more about AP college basketball here.

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Sunflower Showdown Heads to Manhattan

MANHATTAN, Kan. (KPR) The second-ranked Kansas Jayhawks travel to Manhattan tonight (TUE) to face the 13th-ranked K-State Wildcats in the Sunflower Showdown. Kansas is riding high after a close victory in Lawrence against Iowa State. K-State is coming off a weekend loss to TCU. From previous experience in Manhattan, KU forward Jalen Wilson knows what to expect at Bramlage Coliseum. “It’s going to be a heated environment," he said. "They’re going to be hostile as usual. All the chants, but we’ve just got to stay focused. Luckily, we had a game at Mizzou, so we have preparation for a game like that.” Wilson averages 19 points a game to lead the Big 12. The Jayhawks are undefeated in the conference and 16-and-1 overall. The Wildcats are 15-and-2 on the season. KU has beaten K-State in their last seven meetings. The game tips off at 6 pm.

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Saturday Perfection: Jacksonville QB's 37-0 Mark at Stake vs Chiefs

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Trevor Lawrence has a near-decade-long winning streak in Saturday games. Lawrence improved to 37-0 as a starting quarterback on that day when the Jacksonville Jaguars rallied from 27 points down to stun the Los Angeles Chargers 31-30 in an AFC wild-card game last weekend. Lawrence’s undefeated stretch spans high school, college and the past two Saturday nights in Jacksonville. He can make it 38 in a row when the Jaguars play at Kansas City in the divisional round Saturday.

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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.