Headlines for Monday, September 18, 2023
KC Area Auto Workers Could Soon Be Affected by UAW Strike
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The United Auto Workers strike against the "Big 3" automakers is, what the union is calling, a limited strike in which workers at only some auto plants are involved. The union is striking at three factories, one each in Michigan and Ohio and the General Motors plant in Wentzville, Missouri, near St. Louis. Now, hundreds of workers at the Fairfax GM assembly plant in KCK will likely be laid off sometime this week. GM's Wentzville facility provides parts to the KCK plant and, with the assembly line idled in Wentzville, the Wyandotte County plant's 2,000 employees will likely be sent home soon. The UAW Local that represents workers at the Ford plant in Claycomo, Missouri, say they have been asked to maintain "strike readiness."
Auto Workers Strike Enters Another Day with No Signs that a Breakthrough is Near
UNDATED (AP/KPR) — The auto workers' strike against Detroit's Big Three is now in its fourth day and there are no signs of an early breakthrough that might end the strike. In fact, the United Auto Workers (UAW) union has threatened to escalate the walkout against Ford, General Motors and Stellantis. President Joe Biden is sending his acting Labor secretary and another top aide to Detroit early this week to see what they can do to bring the two sides together. An administration official says acting Labor Secretary Julie Su and senior aide Gene Sperling won't be mediators — they won't be at the bargaining table — but will try to help in any way that the union and the companies think is constructive.
A spokesman for General Motors said that representatives of the company and the UAW were continuing to negotiate today (MON). So far, the strike is limited to about 13,000 workers at three factories — one each at GM, Ford and Stellantis. GM warned, however, that 2,000 UAW-represented workers at an assembly plant in Kansas City are "expected to be idled as soon as early this week" because of a shortage of supplies from a GM plant near St. Louis, where workers walked off the job Friday. Workers at the Kansas City plant build the Chevrolet Malibu and Cadillac XT4.
The UAW is seeking wage increases of 36% over four years, while the companies have offered about 20%. The union is also demanding a 32-hour work week for 40 hours of pay, and other changes.
Rather than launching an all-out strike of its 146,000 members, the union opted to target three factories a plan that could make the union's $825 million strike fund last longer. Workers walked out of a GM plant in Wentzville, Missouri, a Ford plant near Detroit, and a Stellantis factory in Toledo, Ohio, that produces Jeeps.
Johnson County Youth Pastor Accused of Trying to Kill His Family
SHAWNEE, Kan. (KCTV/KPR) — A Johnson County teacher and youth pastor has been charged with attempted murder in an attack and house fire that injured his wife and children. Authorities say 41-year-old Matt Richards tried to stab his wife and five children and then set their house on fire early Saturday morning. KCTV reportsthat Richards is a 7th grade English teacher at Christ Preparatory Academy in Lenexa and served as youth pastor at Crossroads Christian Church in Shawnee. His wife and children were all hospitalized after the incident. Three of the children have been treated and released. Richards is being held on $5 million bond.
Three People Found Dead in Camper at Kansas Racetrack Likely Died from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
MCPHERSON COUNTY, Kan. (KC Star) — The bodies of three people were found Saturday inside a camper at a motocross track in Inman. Officials suspect they died from carbon monoxide poisoning. The McPherson County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately identify the victims but the Kansas City Star reports the victims included two children and a pregnant woman. As of Monday morning, a GoFundMe page had raised $27,000 for the woman's husband and three-year-old son, the family's only surviving members.
Authorities Investigate After 3 Found Dead in Camper at Kansas Race Track
INMAN, Kan. (AP/KC Star/KPR) — Authorities say three people have been found dead in a camper at a Kansas race track. The McPherson County Sheriff's Department says the discovery was made at the Inman Motocross track. The sheriff's department said Saturday that it is instigating with help from Inman police. No other details were immediately released, including the names of the victims or how they died. However, loved ones told the Kansas City Star that the dead include a pregnant woman and two young boys. Inman Motocross said in a post there had been a "tragedy" and that the Kansas Motocross Championship Series was being postponed. "Today," the post said, "we hug our loved ones extra tight and say I love you an extra time."
Man's Body Found at Kansas Park
HARVEY COUNTY, Kan. (KAKE) — An investigation is underway after a man's body was found over the weekend in a park in Newton. KAKE TV reports that emergency personnel were dispatched to East Park Sunday afternoon, where a body was found in a dried-out portion of the lake bed. Investigators in Harvey County are still trying to determine the victim's identify and cause of death.
Prosecutors: Man Charged in Pregnant Girlfriend's Murder Searched Online for "Snapping Necks"
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man charged with killing his pregnant girlfriend searched online for information about "snapping necks" and abortion before her body was found in the trunk of his car, newly released court records show.
The Wichita Eagle reports the affidavit showed Alexander Lewis' cellphone web browsing history also included searches about stun guns, lethal weapons and murder. Lewis, who is jailed on $500,000 bond, was charged last month with capital murder in the death of Zaiylah Bronson, a Wichita State University student who was studying to become a math teacher. She was about 16 weeks pregnant. The 22-year-old Lewis has not entered a plea to the capital murder charge. A defense attorney for Lewis declined to discuss the contents of the affidavit with The Eagle and told The Associated Press he had no comment.
The killing happened at Bronson's apartment near campus, according to the affidavit. Surveillance cameras last recorded Bronson alive at 8:13 am on August 26, when the couple took a dog out into the courtyard. Soon after, he searched for "snapping necks" then left to move his car closer to her door and retrieve a backpack containing items that included duct tape and towels, the affidavit said. Other troublesome searches, including for "weapons that can kill," had occurred the day before. At 10:24 am, surveillance video showed Bronson's feet dangling from a blanket-wrapped bundle as Lewis lugged her out of the apartment. He then drove off, searching online for murder before he called 911 about an hour later, the affidavit said.
When officers arrived at Lewis' apartment, he told them Bronson was in his car trunk, saying, "I got scared," according to the affidavit. An ax and shovel were also found in the trunk. He explained to the officers Bronson had broken up with him the day before and that they argued throughout the night. He said eventually "he wanted her to stop talking, so he 'grabbed her'" around the neck with his arm and squeezed "until she stopped moving," the affidavit said.
Former Missouri Police Officer Who Shot into Car Gets Probation
CLAYTON, Mo. (AP) — A former Missouri police officer has been sentenced to five years of probation for shooting into a fleeing vehicle several times and wounding the driver. Matthew Schanz pleaded guilty to second-degree assault and was sentenced Monday. As part of the plea agreement, Schanz must surrender his state law enforcement certification until his probation ends. Schanz and Christopher Gage were officers in Velda City, a St. Louis suburb. In February 2020, they stopped a driver for having expired temporary tags. Prosecutors say the driver drove off when officers found marijuana. The 37-year-old driver crashed after being shot. He has recovered. Gage pleaded guilty last year to unlawful use of a weapon and was sentenced to three years of probation.
Relative of Slain Black Teen Calls for White Kansas Teen to Face Federal Hate Crime Charges
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A family member of a slain Black 14-year-old is calling for a white Kansas teen to be tried on federal hate crime charges in the shooting death. The Lawrence Journal-World reports Kamarjay Shaw's cousin, Michael Berry, called for federal involvement in a letter to the U.S. attorney for Kansas. Derrick Del Reed was 17 when Shaw was killed this March but is charged as an adult with first-degree murder. The trial is set to start November 27, and the now-18-year-old is jailed on $500,000 bond. Berry noted in his letter that Reed had used threatening racial slurs before the killing.
During the preliminary hearing in August, a detective testified Reed used threatening racial slurs in Snapchat messages sent the morning of the shooting. Reed said in the messages he was tired of fighting with Shaw and his friends and was ready to start shooting, the detective testified. The hearing ended with the judge finding enough evidence for the case to proceed to trial. Reed's defense attorney didn't immediately return a phone message from The Associated Press on Saturday inquiring about the request.
The defense previously tried to gain immunity from prosecution via a self-defense claim, but that was denied. Testimony showed the shooting happened after a teenage girl called one of the boys hanging out with Shaw via Snapchat and told Shaw to come outside because Reed wanted to fight him. Shaw was at least half a football field away from Reed's front door when gunfire erupted, witness testimony showed.
Two Kansas Counties Designated as Primary Natural Disaster Areas
UNDATED (KPR) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated Riley and Wabaunsee counties as primary natural disaster areas due to prolonged drought. The declaration makes ag producers in those counties eligible for emergency loans. The loans can be used to meet a variety of needs including equipment replacement, livestock or to refinance certain debts. The USDA's Farm Service Agency says nine other counties in eastern Kansas are also eligible for emergency loans. Those counties include Clay, Geary, Lyon, Marshall, Morris, Osage, Pottawatomie, Shawnee and Washington. (Read more.)
Topeka Council Updates Ordinance on Homeless Encampments
TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) — The Topeka City Council has approved amendments to a camping ordinance as officials try to find solutions to the city's homeless problem. WIBW TV reports that the updated ordinance will ban camping within 500 feet from trails and within 50 feet of sidewalks. Local business owners and other residents have been expressing concerns about the growing population of unhoused people throughout Shawnee County. Business owners say they are losing business because customers are frightened by homeless people sleeping on benches and on the sidewalk in front of their stores. City officials say the latest count showed more than 80 homeless encampments in Shawnee County. The new camping ordinance goes into effect November 17.
Midwest Towns Scramble as Drought Threatens Drinking Water
SEDAN, Kan. (Kansas Reflector) — After more than a year of drought, some Midwest towns are now searching for new sources of drinking water. Some communities are also restricting water usage. Portions of southeast Kansas have suffered under persistent drought. The Kansas Reflector reports that the lack of rain has been so severe in the town of Sedan that it’s now threatening the local water supply, which comes from a nearby lake.
A community of about 900 people, Sedan has taken extraordinary measures to conserve the dwindling water supply. The city pool closed in the middle of the summer. So did the town’s only car wash. Local schools shut off drinking fountains, furnishing bottled water instead. Sedan has also banned residents from using tap water for plants or lawns.
Conservation efforts appear to be working. Sedan has cut its water usage by about 30% since entering a water emergency in early August.
This part of Kansas is suffering what the U.S. Drought Monitor characterizes as exceptional drought, its most severe category. While droughts frequently take a toll on agriculture here, residents are now facing unprecedented challenges with drinking water supplies. The U.S. Drought Monitor's map shows exceptional drought in parts of Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and Texas, among other states.
Group Tries to Raise Awareness About Mental Health for Kansas Farmers
WICHITA, Kan. (KMUW/KNS) — The suicide rate among farmers and ranchers is about three times higher than in the general population. Mental health experts say there are several factors influencing that in Kansas including the state’s stubborn drought as well as numerous financial challenges. Steve McCloud, with the Kansas Farm Bureau, is also a farmer in Harvey County. "My feed supply this year is about one-fourth of what I normally harvest. No one ever wants to be the generation that loses the farm," he said. September is suicide prevention month and the Farm Bureau is working to reduce the stigma concerning mental health care among its members.
McCloud recently told a group of farmers and ranchers that it’s often difficult to reach out for help with mental health challenges. "Sometimes the hardest thing to do is raise your hand and say I need help. Farmers tend to be pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps folk, and it’s hard," he said. Kansas State University’s Research and Extension also offers suicide-prevention training to educate people on how to recognize the warning signs of suicide.
New "Mom-Friendly" Drug Treatment Center Coming to Topeka
TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — A drug treatment program that specifically helps Kansas mothers is expanding to Topeka. And the service is in high demand. Designated women’s programs take in mothers and their children. It's one of the only programs in the state that helps mothers beat addiction and get child care at the same time. Having to leave their kids is a reason some mothers won’t go into treatment programs. Shane Hudson is the president and CEO of CKF Addiction Treatment. He says opening more centers isn’t easy because they need to be located in cities with jobs, public transit and other resources that help mothers once released. “It's a little bit challenging as you get to the smaller communities (but) not impossible," he said. Hudson said stigma around treatment also makes it hard to expand. Some people don’t want treatment centers in their neighborhood.
Rising Rents in Kansas City Lead to More Evictions
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KC Beacon) — Rising rents in Kansas City have left more residents facing eviction. The national moratorium on evictions ended two years ago and landlords are looking to make up for lost income by raising the rent. The Kansas City Beacon reports that eviction efforts are now running higher than before the pandemic. So far this year, there have been nearly 1,400 evictions in Jackson County, Missouri.
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have influenced landlords to raise rental costs. Many are looking to recoup the money they lost due to the national eviction moratoriums. According to the website Rent.com, the Kansas City area saw the highest yearly increase in rent among the 50 biggest cities in the country. In Jackson County, renters pay an average of $1,044 per month.
Kansas Wildlife Officials Set New Limits on Collection of Exotic Turtles
TOPEKA, Kan. (KNS) — Kansas wildlife commissioners are trying to crack down on pet smugglers collecting native animals like ornate box turtles. Wildlife commissioners have set new limits on how many native amphibians and reptiles people can possess. The new rules forbid people from having more than two ornate box turtles, for example. Officials worry that exotic pet smugglers are hurting native populations. Lawmakers considered making it illegal to collect any ornate box turtles, but the plan didn’t advance. The new rules don’t apply to three common species of frogs and turtles that people with fishing licenses can capture and eat.
Fall Turkey Hunting Season Cancelled in Kansas
LAWRENCE, Kan. (KNS) — Fall turkey hunting season has been cancelled in Kansas. Wildlife experts are trying to figure out why the species is declining. The wild turkey population is shrinking in many states. Fewer offspring appear to hatch and survive. In Kansas, wildlife officials estimate that turkey numbers have fallen by 60% since 2008. That led to canceling the fall hunt this year. The more-popular spring hunt is not canceled. Starting this winter, Kansas State University will study the turkey decline with funding from the state and the National Wild Turkey Federation.
KC Chiefs Beat Jacksonville Jags
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (KPR) — The Kansas City Chiefs beat the Jacksonville Jaguars, 17-9, for their first win of the season. Tight end Travis Kelce returned after missing the season opener with a knee injury, and caught one of the two touchdown passes thrown by quarterback Patrick Mahomes. But Kelce says the spotlight belonged to the Chiefs defense for preventing the Jaguars from scoring a touchdown. "We’ll keep growing. I know we’ve got great leadership. Right now, hats off to the defense and the way they’re playing - keeping us in games," he said. "We love them for it and we have to stop shooting ourselves in the foot on offense." Defensive tackle Chris Jones was in the starting lineup after settling his contract dispute. He recorded one-and-a-half sacks in the game. The Chiefs return to Arrowhead Stadium next Sunday to play against the Chicago Bears.
High-Octane Chiefs Relying on Defense to Keep Them in the Game
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs have relied for years on their dynamic offense to rescue their middle-of-the-road defense. On Sunday, it was the other way around. Given the makeup of the roster, and the way Patrick Mahomes and Co. have performed in a close loss to the Lions and their 17-9 win over the Jaguars, that could be the norm this season. The Chiefs have struggled with dropped passes, wide receivers that have been unable to get open, an inconsistent run game and far too many penalties to effectively keep drives alive. Oh, but that defense. Time after time, coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's bunch made plays to keep Kansas City in the game, holding Jacksonville to 271 yards and quarterback Trevor Lawrence to just 197 through the air.
"You know," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said, "I'm an offensive guy, but that was a beautiful thing defensively. Offensively, we got to take care of the penalties and turnovers, but the battle-through-it showed me a little something."
It certainly helped that the Chiefs had game-wrecking defensive tackle Chris Jones back on the field. After finally agreeing to a reworked deal for this season, and ending a holdout that kept Jones out of the Detroit game, he not only made his debut but made an impact. Jones had 1 1/2 sacks and seemed to be in the Jacksonville backfield on every play.
"Yeah, defense was incredible.," Mahomes said. "That's a really good offense, and for them to shut them down — they were like, 0 for 4 in the red zone. Couple critical stops after we turned the ball over, and then three-and-out a couple of times, and they kept holding them to field goals. I mean, the defense won that game."
The Chiefs pass rush looked far more disruptive with Jones in the middle of the line than it did Week 1 against the Lions. Second-year pro George Karlaftis had 1 1/2 sacks and first-round pick Felix Anudike-Uzomah was in on the first sack of his career. And the Chiefs are now two games closer to getting defensive end Charles Omenihu back from his six-game NFL suspension.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Just about everyone's hands on offense need help. Sure, Stickum is illegal, but there has to be some other solution for a team that dropped eight passes against Detroit and fumbled four times against Jacksonville, including punt returner Richie James fumbling a chance deep in his own territory when he lost the ball in the Florida sun.
Wide receiver Skyy Moore was one of the biggest offenders when it came to dropped passes in Week 1. But he owned his poor performance, answering every question from reporters earlier in the week, and then played much better against the Jaguars. He had three catches on four targets for 70 yards and a touchdown.
James was supposed to be the sure-handed special teams standout that the Chiefs were missing last season when he came over from the Giants. But along with his mistake on punt return, James has failed to make much of an impact at wide receiver.
The Chiefs came out of their game against Jacksonville healthy. That includes tight end Travis Kelce, who hyperextended his knee the previous week and missed the opener against Detroit. He had four catches for 26 yards and a touchdown.
270: Reid moved into a tie with Hall of Fame coach Tom Landry for fourth on the NFL's career wins list. His next victory will break that tie and put him behind only Don Shula, Bill Belichick and George Halas.
The Chiefs return to Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday to face the Bears, who are 0-2 after losing to the Buccaneers last weekend.
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. You can also follow KPR News on Twitter.