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Headlines for Tuesday, May 9, 2023

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Emily Fisher

DEA Confiscates Drugs, Arrests 72 in Kansas and Missouri Following Year-long Drug Operation

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KSHB) — The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has announced the results of a year-long operation targeting two Mexico-based drug cartels. KSHB TV reports that "Operation Last Mile" ran from May 1, 2022 to May 1 of this year. It targeted operatives working with the Sinaloa and Jalisco cartels. The DEA says the two cartels are responsible for the vast majority of fentanyl and meth brought into the U.S. The DEA says it worked with state and local authorities to arrest 72 people in Kansas and Missouri. The agency says it confiscated a total of 1.3 million fentanyl pills, 100 pounds of fentanyl powder, 200 pounds of meth, 400 guns and nearly $500,000 in cash.


2 Parsons Residents Arrested Following Discovery of Missing Man's Body

PARSONS, Kan. (Montgomery County Chronicle) — Two Parsons residents have been arrested near Branson, Missouri, in connection with the death of a missing southeast Kansas man. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation has confirmed the discovery of the body of 23-year-old Dakota A. Patton, of Labette County, who had been missing since April 25. The Montgomery County Chronicle reports that Patton’s body was found in a rural field northeast of Parsons on Monday. The KBI also said that two people were arrested in Hollister, Missouri, which is near Branson, in connection with Patton’s death. Authorities arrested 32-year-old Clint W. Nibarger and 47-year-old Kimberly J. Thomas, both of Parsons. The two were arrested by the Taney County, Missouri, Sheriff’s Department around 6 pm Monday. Nibarger and Thomas were booked into the Taney County Jail and await extradition to Kansas. The investigation continues.


Kansas Physician Admits to Role in Telemedicine Fraud Scheme

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A doctor from Kansas has admitted to a role in a telemedicine fraud scheme for unnecessarily ordering genetic testing and orthotic braces, defrauding Medicare of about $16 million. Gautam Jayaswal, of Overland Park, pleaded guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court in St. Louis to conspiracy to commit health care fraud. He could face up to five years in prison and must repay the money. Federal prosecutors say Jayaswal contracted with several companies and fraudulently ordered orthotic braces for 1,433 patients. The plea agreement says companies he worked for used those orders to defraud Medicare of nearly $1.4 million. He also signed orders for medically unnecessary genetic tests for 2,061 patients, costing Medicare Part B about $14.7 million.


Abortion Clinics in 3 States Sue to Protect Pill Access

UNDATED (AP/KPR) — Abortion providers in three states filed a lawsuit Monday aimed at preserving access to the widely used abortion pill mifepristone. The lawsuit comes as the drug's approval is threatened by a separate Texas lawsuit winding its way through U.S. court system. Mifepristone is part of a two-drug regimen used in medication abortion, the most common method for ending pregnancy in the U.S. The lawsuit filed by clinics in Kansas, Virginia and Montana is the latest legal action over the decades-old pill. The providers are suing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration over several longstanding restrictions on the drug's use. But the groups said they hope to secure a court order preserving access in their states.

A federal judge in Texas issued a ruling last month that would have revoked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's longstanding approval of the pill, an unprecedented challenge to the federal drug regulator. But the Supreme Court blocked that decision and other limits from a lower court from taking effect while the lawsuit continues. Abortion-rights advocates and their opponents continue jostling for a legal foothold on the issue across the country.

The clinics in Kansas, Virginia and Montana sued the FDA in federal court to force the agency to drop several longstanding restrictions on how mifepristone can be prescribed.

But from a practical standpoint, the groups said they are seeking a court order that would shield mifepristone access in their states as the litigation over the drug proceeds. That is what 18 liberal states achieved last month when a federal judge in Washington state issued a ruling ordering the FDA to preserve access to mifepristone in those states, regardless of any conflicting court decisions. The ruling came shortly after the Texas decision, creating confusion for abortion providers and their patients. The plaintiffs in Monday's lawsuit said they hope to prevent similar chaos as the legal battle over mifepristone accelerates. An appeals court in New Orleans is set to hear arguments in the Texas case later this month.

"Plaintiffs cannot retool their practices overnight with no notice — healthcare has no on-off switch. They and their patients require clarity around their continued provision of mifepristone," states the lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of the clinics by the Center for Reproductive Rights, a New York-based legal and advocacy group that works to ensure access to abortion.

The group said it included abortion providers in Kansas, Virginia and Montana in the lawsuit because those states are not parties to either the Texas or Washington cases, but they have many lawmakers who are hostile to abortion access and "are caught in the middle of this maelstrom."

In recent years, the FDA has made mifepristone easier to get, dropping a two-decade-old requirement that women pick up the pill in person. But the FDA has repeatedly concluded that the remaining requirements — including prescriber certification and patient forms — are necessary. In their lawsuit, the clinics argue that these restrictions "stigmatize and undermine access to medication abortion."

The abortion providers who are suing include the group Trust Women, which operates abortion clinics in Wichita, Kansas, and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.


Audit Finds Systemic Failings Regarding Sexual Abuse Cases Reported at Hesston College

HESSTON, Kan. (Kansas Reflector/KPR) — An audit of a small Mennonite college in rural Kansas has found systemic failings when it comes to sexual abuse reports. The audit found that in some cases, those who reported sexual abuse were pressured to meet their alleged abusers face-to-face and “forgive and forget” the abuse. The Kansas Reflector reports that Hesston College commissioned an international law firm last year to review legal compliance and make recommendations about the college’s policies. In the 64-page report released in April, reviewers found frequent violations, including cases in which administrators failed to adequately respond to reports and failed to give the person reporting abuse access to support and resources.

Due to the small size and religious nature of the campus community, which has about 325 students, the audit posited that reporting was made more difficult. Several report filers said the college’s religious values put pressure on survivors to forgive those accused of abuse. Students told the auditors that they felt blamed by college administrators for sexual harassment, including employees telling students not to go out late or wear “flashy things.”

Advocacy groups such as Into Account have said sexual misconduct and assault has been a systemic issue at Hesston since the college’s beginning. Daniel Bender, the Mennonite bishop who founded the college in 1909, confessed to repeatedly sexually abusing his daughter. The latest review, conducted in November 2022, was the result of multiple student complaints about mishandled sexual misconduct reports and a student campus protest demanding action. Students also demanded that Bender’s portrait be removed from the college’s administration building, or a plaque be put up explaining his abuse. The portrait was removed months later, following the audit’s publication. The audit recommended more professional training, student outreach and oversight of the campus Title IX office, along with changing the college’s approach to having survivors reconcile with their abusers.


Herington Teacher Arrested on Child Sex Charges Now Faces Additional Charges

DICKINSON COUNTY, Kan. (KPR) — The Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) and the Dickinson County Sheriff’s Office have arrested a Herington man on child sex charges. The KBI says 61-year-old Russell L. Thomas was arrested for three counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child and misdemeanor battery. The arrest occurred this (MON) morning in Herington. Agents also arrested Thomas in April for aggravated intimidation of a witness connected to the investigation. He was released after bond was posted. Following today’s (MON) arrest, Thomas was booked into the Dickinson County Jail.


Forensic Genealogy Leads to Arrest in 2007 Kansas Rape Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Kansas have arrested and charged a man in a 2007 sexual assault by matching a DNA sample to data submitted to genealogy websites. Fifty-two-year-old Ted Foy, of Augusta, is jailed on $500,000 bond. Foy was charged last week with rape, aggravated sexual battery and aggravated criminal sodomy. His attorney, public defender Sonya Strickland, hasn't responded to an Associated Press email seeking comment. The Wichita Eagle reports that it was the Wichita police department's first arrest using investigative genetic genealogy.

The process received widespread attention after it was used in 2018 to track down a California serial killer who was responsible for at least 13 killings and dozens of rapes in the 1970s and 1980s. Since then, the method has led to the identification of dozens of suspects in cold cases, though some critics have voiced privacy concerns. "With these sorts of dragnets, you are using probable cause against one person to invade the privacy of millions," said Albert Fox Cahn, the executive director of Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, a privacy and civil rights organization.

Investigators reopened the November 13, 2007, case in 2020 and spent well over 100 hours on it, said Capt. Christian Cory. The assault happened less than 5 miles from McConnell Air Force Base and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations Cold Case Team was involved. Cory declined to explain how the the base was involved, saying only that the team had a special interest in the case.

More details could emerge if a judge releases the probable cause affidavit. Cory said, in general, that connection to a distant relative is only the start of the investigation, which would often require getting DNA from closer family members, and hopefully the suspect, and creating a case that shows the person could have committed the crime. The police department is using genealogy to investigate five other cold cases, all murders and sexual assaults, he said. Cory expects some of the other cold cases will be solved. "I'm very happy that there's another tool that we can use to bring justice to the victims in these cold cases," he said.


Our Love Affair with Uniform Landscapes Kills Trees. So, Kansas and Missouri are Going for Variety

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (KNS) — Communities in Kansas and Missouri are starting to diversify the types of trees they plant. Houses sell for more money in neighborhoods with big, leafy, mature tree canopies. So, pests that can kill many trees quickly can pose real economic dangers. When cities find they have too many of the same kind of trees, those trees become extra vulnerable to pests and disease. Now, communities in both states are hedging their arboreal bets by diversifying their tree populations. (Learn more.)

What are the best trees for Kansas and Missouri homes? Here's what experts recommend.


Organized Retail Crime on the Rise in Kansas; Attorney General Vows to Crack Down

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach says organized retail crime has been on the rise across the nation, and Kansas is one of the worst states for the crime. KSNW TV reports that across the nation, the numbers have increased rapidly over the last five years. “In pre-2019, typically, you might see around $60 billion worth of merchandise being stolen by these organized retail gangs or organizations,” Kobach said. “Now, it’s over $500 billion worth of merchandise every year.”

Senate Bill 174 was recently passed in Topeka. Beginning July 1, the Attorney General’s office will be the primary prosecutor in the state rather than the district or county attorney. The bill includes a category of cases that involve a series of crimes in multiple counties. “That’s typically how these organized retail crime networks work,” Kobach said. “They’re not just operating in one county. They’re hitting store after store after store, and they’re crossing county lines. And so in a case like that, it’s more appropriate to bring the greater resources of the Kansas Attorney General’s Office rather than expect one county to prosecute when you’ve got a criminal gang operating in multiple counties in a single day.”

Kobach says he has seen the issue most prominent in northeast Kansas. But it is happening across the state, including Wichita. “They’re looking for a concentrated amount of really expensive stuff that they can steal quickly, so it tends to be areas that have those stores,” Kobach said. Sergeant Trevor McDonald, with the Wichita Police Department, says retail crime in Wichita is up by 35% this year. He says the that increase can be separated into two categories: shoplifters paying for an addiction and organized retail crime. “Just because they’re stealing from a retailer doesn’t mean that it’s not affecting each and every one of us because the dollar has to come from somewhere,” McDonald said.


Kansas Senator: Wichita Needs to Expand Aviation Efforts

WICHITA, Kan. (KMUW/KNS) — Kansas Senator Jerry Moran says Wichita needs to expand beyond commercial aviation to retain the title of Air Capital of the World. His comments came Monday during a stop at a Rotary Club meeting in Wichita. Moran spoke about his efforts to attract companies like SpaceX to the state, saying Wichita and Kansas should both delve further into the military and space industries. “Where better than the air capital of the world can we find opportunities for companies either to start, to grow, to alter their business plan, to do more than just care for general aviation and commercial aviation?" he said. Manufacturing accounts for about 14% of the state’s economy, thanks in large part to major aviation manufacturers like Spirit AeroSystems. Moran also spoke about the potential for Amtrak expansion in Kansas, as well as the development of nonstop flights from Wichita to the nation’s capital.


Storm Tears Roofs Off Buildings in Northern Missouri

TRENTON, Mo. (AP) — Severe storms tore the roofs off several buildings in northern Missouri and pelted the region with softball-sized hail. Grundy County Emergency Manager Glen Briggs told KSHB television that several buildings in Trenton, about 100 miles north of Kansas City, sustained serious wind damage when the storm moved through Saturday night. The National Weather Service says hail nearly 4-inches in diameter was also reported in the area. No injuries were reported. Most of the roof of the Wesley United Methodist Church in downtown Trenton was damaged. Pastor Steve Martin says people used tarps to cover the "big gaping holes" in the sanctuary.


K-State Offers Students Amnesty for Reporting Drug-Related Emergencies

MANHATTAN, Kan. (KNS) — A new policy at Kansas State University will let students report drug-related emergencies or other concerns without fear of being punished for breaking the law. K-State’s new amnesty policy goes into effect in August. It lets students report safety-related incidents such as alcohol or drug-related emergencies, assaults, sexual harassment or hazing. And the person making the report will not be sanctioned for minor violations, such as underage drinking. The policy echoes Good Samaritan or whistle-blower laws that offer legal protection to people who assist others or report criminal behavior. It’s one of several new policies at K-State that deal with campus organizations and student conduct.


AP Source: K-State Close to $44 Million New Deal for Chris Klieman

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP/KPR) — Kansas State and Chris Klieman are finalizing a new contract that would give the Wildcats' football coach a substantial pay raise while keeping him tied to the program for the next eight seasons. A person familiar with the deal tells the AP the contract will have a total value of $44 million, making Klieman one of the better-paid coaches in the Big 12. The agreement was first reported by ESPN. Klieman led the Wildcats to the Big 12 title last season before losing to Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

Klieman's previous contract ended after the 2026 season, so the new deal adds four years to it. His average pay will go from $4 million annually to $5.5 million per year, or slightly more than Texas is paying coach Steve Sarkisian. The 55-year-old Klieman led the Wildcats to a Big 12 championship last season, beating TCU in the title game before the Horned Frogs went on to play in the College Football Playoff. It was the first conference title for K-State since 2012, when Hall of Fame coach Bill Snyder was in his second tenure in Manhattan, and a big breakthrough for the Wildcats.

Along with hiring Klieman, Kansas State Athletics Director Gene Taylor also hired men's basketball coach Jerome Tang, and negotiations have begun on a new contract for him after leading the Wildcats to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament during his first season.


Man Dressed Like a Bud Light Can Pulled over in Kansas for DUI

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Kan. (KC Star) — A Franklin County sheriff's deputy pulled over a suspected drunk driver on Cinco de Mayo. Nothing too unusual there but in this case, the driver was dressed like a can of Bud Light. The Kansas City Star reports that the driver was headed northbound on I-35 when he was pulled over last Friday. The driver was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving.


Toxic Algae Blooms Return to Kansas Waterways for the Spring and Summer

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KNS) — Toxic algae blooms have returned to Kansas waterways for the spring and summer. Ted Harris is an assistant research professor at the Kansas Biological Survey. He says blue-green algae blooms are getting worse, and that appears to be fueled by climate change. “Around the year 2000 in lakes like Marion, Milford (and) Perry – some of our lakes that are the worst bloomers in the state – we saw a rapid expansion," he said. "And so what that attributes to is longer blooms, more intense blooms.” Blue-green algae are currently blooming at Melvern Lake, south of Topeka. The blooms are sometimes toxic, so people should stay out of the water and keep pets away.


Kansas State Employee Virtual Job Fair Set for May 17

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — The state of Kansas is hiring. Job-seekers are invited to attend the State of Kansas Agencies Virtual Job Fair Wednesday, May 17 (8:00 am to 5:00 pm). This virtual fair, which is hosted by KANSASWORKS, will focus on highlighting employment opportunities within many of the state’s 98 government agencies.

Registration is required to participate in the event, regardless of previous participation. The Virtual Job Fair portal features a job-seeker training video, a list of participating employers, and channels for attendees to register and log in. Job-seekers are encouraged to dress professionally, as employers might request to engage in a video interview. Candidates can participate via any digital device. Any individual with a disability may request accommodations by contacting their nearest workforce center at (877) 509-6757 prior to the event.

Click here to register for the May 17 State of Kansas Agencies Virtual Job Fair.

KANSASWORKS links businesses, job candidates and educational institutions to ensure that employers can find skilled workers. Services are provided to employers and job candidates through the state’s 27 workforce centers. KANSASWORKS is free for all Kansans to use. State employment opportunities can be found at jobs.ks.gov.


Kansas Angler Receives Multiple Citations After Attempting to Fish with Handgun

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (WIBW) — An angler in Kansas received multiple citations after he attempted to fish in Garden City with a 9 mm handgun. According to WIBW TV, game wardens, with the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, say that Finney County officials seized a 9 mm handgun that had been used to take fish in Garden City. Authorities noted that it is illegal to use firearms to catch a fish.


Chase County Featured in Kansas Ghost Towns Documentary on PBS

CHASE COUNTY, Kan. (Emporia Gazette) — Humanities Kansas recently awarded a $10,000 grant to PBS Kansas, based in Wichita, to support the “Kansas Ghost Towns Documentary, Part 2.” The Emporia Gazette reports that the documentary is part of a continuing exploration of towns that have disappeared across the state. Humanities Kansas is an independent nonprofit spearheading a movement of ideas to empower the people of Kansas to strengthen their communities and our democracy. “The humanities connect people to place over time and across generations,” shared Julie Mulvihill, Humanities Kansas Executive Director. “This documentary will create a space for important conversations that will help us see more clearly our past and plan for our future.” “Kansas Ghost Towns, Part 2” features insightful interviews with expert scholars including author Sandra Wiechert; Jay Price, Wichita State University History Professor; and others. Part 1 of Kansas Ghost Towns premiered in September 2022, and viewers requested a sequel. The documentary is scheduled for broadcast during the station’s Summerfest membership drive. It will premiere on Thursday, August 31 at 7 pm.


This summary of area news is curated by KPR news staffers, including J. Schafer, Laura Lorson, Tom Parkinson and Kaye McIntyre. Our headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays and updated throughout the day. These ad-free headlines are made possible by KPR members. Become one today. And follow KPR News on Twitter.