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Headlines for Thursday, July 16, 2020


U.S. Carries Out 2nd Execution in a Week; Lansing Man Put to Death

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) — The United States has carried out its second federal execution in three days, killing by lethal injection a Kansas man whose lawyers contended he had dementia. Wesley Ira Purkey, of Lansing, was put to death today (THUR) at a prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, for kidnapping and killing a 16-year-old girl in Missouri.  The 68-year-old inmate expressed remorse before his execution, saying he regretted the "pain and suffering" he caused. The victim's father said he hoped Purkey "rots in hell." The Supreme Court cleared the way for Purkey's execution to take place just hours before. The Trump administration has pressed for a resumption of federal executions after a 17-year hiatus.  Another inmate, Daniel Lewis Lee, was put to death Tuesday.


Kansas Governor Says She'll Delay Reopening K-12 Schools Until After Labor Day

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas’s governor says she will delay the reopening of the state’s K-12 schools for nearly a month - until after Labor Day - because of a resurgence in reported coronavirus cases. Democratic Governor Laura Kelly’s announcement is all but certain to generate criticism from the Republican-controlled Legislature.  Kelly announced her plans only hours after the State Board of Education approved roughly 1,100 pages of reopening guidelines for local boards of education.  The non-binding guidelines call for all teachers and staff to wear masks inside and suggests that all students be told to wear them if they’re in middle or high school. Approval of the guidelines come after a weekslong spike that has pushed the state's reported coronavirus cases past 20,000.  Kelly said she will issue an executive order Monday to delay reopening of schools until September 9.


Kansas Congressman Seeks to Disqualify Prosecutor in Voting Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A freshman Kansas congressman who listed a UPS postal box as his residence on a voter registration form is seeking to disqualify a prosecutor from pursuing a case against him. The Kansas City Star reports that Kansas Congressman Steve Watkins's attorney filed a motion Wednesday night asserting that Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay has a conflict of interest and that the case is politically motivated. Watkins faces three felony charges and one misdemeanor charge related to an investigation into whether he voted illegally in a 2019 municipal election.


Kansas Congressman's Colleague Backs GOP Foe After Charges

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas official who is trying to unseat a freshman congressman who has been charged criminally with election fraud picked up the endorsement Thursday of another member of the state's congressional delegation. Rep. Ron Estes said he is endorsing State Treasurer Jake LaTurner over fellow Rep. Steve Watkins because the charges against Watkins mean Watkins's eastern Kansas seat will be in danger if Watkins wins the primary. Watkins's legal problems stem from his having listed a UPS Inc. postal box as his residence for voter registration purposes. He has called the criminal charges ``hyper-political'' and says he expects to be exonerated. 


Democrat Outpaces Top of GOP Field in Senate Race in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The presumed Democratic nominee for an open Senate seat in Kansas raised almost $1.3 million more than the top-tier Republican primary candidates combined during the second quarter of the year. Democratic state Sen. Barbara Bollier's impressive-for-Kansas finance numbers worry establishment Republicans as many of them fear a new political action committee with Democratic ties is trying to steer the GOP nomination to polarizing conservative Kris Kobach with attacks on Kansas Rep. Roger Marshall. But the $3.7 million Bollier raised from April 1 through the end of June surpasses the $2.4 million raised by the top four Republican candidates. 


Protesters in KCK Demand Changes Following Death of 3-Year-Old

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Protesters are demanding changes after a 3-year-old Kansas girl died despite her grandparents raising concerns about her safety with child protective services. The Kansas City Star reports that more than 30 people gathered Wednesday near the Kansas Department for Children and Families building in Kansas City, Kansas, chanting that they wanted justice for Olivia Ann Jansen. The girl's remains were discovered Friday after her father, Howard Jansen III, reported her missing. The 29-year-old and his 33-year-old girlfriend, Jacqulyn Kirkpatrick, have since been charged with felony murder and other crimes. Authorities haven't released how she died.  


Kansas Reports Close to 21,000 COVID-19 Cases; Including Nearly 300 Fatalities

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — Kansas health officials have recorded 20,933 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.  The virus, confirmed in 102 of the state's 105 counties, has also claimed 299 lives.  Wyandotte and Johnson Counties have the most cases.  Another update is expected Friday.   

(Kansas health officials release new data on COVID-19 case numbers on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.


Missouri Governor Tries to Reassure as COVID-19 Cases Continue to Climb

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Governor Mike Parson is seeking to reassure Missourians about the coronavirus pandemic as the state reported 888 new confirmed cases, its second largest single-day increase. Parson said in a tweet Wednesday that “WE ARE NOT DEFENSELESS AGAINST COVID-19.” He also said the state is better prepared than it was in March and has accelerated testing. His tweet came as the number of new cases rose Wednesday to 29,714, up nearly 18% from a week ago. The only other day with a bigger jump was Tuesday, when 936 new cases were added to the total.


Kansas Fair Manager Resigns After State Fair Canceled

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — The general manager for the Kansas State Fair has resigned. Robin Jennison said in his resignation letter that he is leaving to keep front-line workers employed after the fair was canceled amid pandemic concerns. The fair board voted last week to cancel the event for the first time in its 100-year history after several large vendors pulled out.  The Wichita Eagle reports Jennison said he’d be surprised if the state fair was able to survive into next year without furloughs or layoffs, adding he could not in good conscience watch that happen.


Missouri Social Services See Most Job Cuts Due to Pandemic

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — State officials say the majority of Missouri government jobs being cut from already-filled positions will be eliminated from the social service department. They blamed the coronavirus pandemic’s economic impact on the state for the layoffs. Officials said they will eliminate a total of nearly 500 state jobs, 200 of them are unfilled positions across state agencies. Another 200 of the remaining 300 jobs will be cut from the state Department of Social Services, including the Children’s Division. The Kansas City Star reports that of the total 96 positions that will be eliminated, 80 are filled and 16 are vacant. Other divisions within the agency, including Youth Services, will also see cuts.


Kansas Man Pleads Guilty to Payday Loan Scheme, Tax Evasion

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Federal prosecutors say a Kansas businessman pleaded guilty Thursday for his role in two fraud schemes involving false payday loan debt and tax evasion totaling more than $8 million. The U.S. attorney's office for the western district of Missouri says in a news release that 51-year-old Joel Jerome Tucker of Prairie Village, Kansas, pleaded guilty to one count each of transporting stolen money across state lines, bankruptcy fraud and tax evasion. Under his plea deal, Tucker must pay more than $8 million in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service and forfeit an additional $5,000. He faces up to 20 years prison.


Former Police Officer, Wife Killed in Motorcycle Crash West of Concordia

CONCORDIA, Kan. (AP) — A former police officer and his wife have been killed in a motorcycle crash in north-central Kansas. The Kansas Highway Patrol said the motorcycle collided with a pickup truck Tuesday while rounding a curve about 3 miles west of Concordia. The Wichita Eagle reports that he victims were identified as Michael Eugene Kaufman and Delinda Lea Kaufman, both of whom were 67 years old and from Hutchinson.


U.S. Lawmakers: Don't Release Drug-Diluting Pharmacist Early

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Four U.S. lawmakers are calling on Attorney General William Barr to block the early release of a former Kansas City pharmacist who pleaded guilty in a scheme to dilute tens of thousands of prescriptions for seriously ill patients to boost profits. U.S. Sens. Roy Blunt and Josh Hawley, along with U.S. Reps Emanuel Cleaver and Sam Graves, said in a letter Thursday that they “strongly disagree” with freeing Robert Courtney seven years early because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Bureau of Prisons said it doesn’t discuss release plans for specific inmates. But an attorney for the victims said Courtney could be released as early as this week to a halfway house and then to home confinement.


Kansas Man Pleads Guilty in Oklahoma Cold-Case Deaths

VINITA, Okla. (AP) — The Kansas man charged in the 1999 deaths of an Oklahoma couple and the disappearance and presumed deaths of their teenage daughter and her friend has pleaded guilty to an accessory to murder charge. The Tulsa World reports 68-year-old Ronnie Busick entered the guilty plea Wednesday in an agreement with prosecutors. He was sentenced to 15 years, serving 10 years in Oklahoma Department of Corrections custody and five years under supervised release. Busick may get a lesser sentence if he provides information that leads to the recovery of the two Craig County teens. Busick is the only suspect still alive. The two girls have not been found despite numerous searches.


Kansas Priest Sentenced to Prison for Possessing Child Porn

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Federal prosecutors said Wednesday that a Kansas priest was sentenced to more than three years in prison for possessing child pornography. The U.S. attorney's office said in a news release that 47-year-old Christopher Rossman was also ordered to pay $5,000 under the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act. He admitted in his plea that investigators found child pornography on his Samsung Galaxy tablet. Rossman formerly served at the Annunciation Catholic Church in Baldwin City, Kansas. The archdiocese contacted law enforcement after monitoring software installed on Rossman’s computer devices showed he had visited adult and child pornography websites in September 2016.


Lawrence Developer Sentenced to Prison in Oread Hotel Tax Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP/LJW) — The developer of the seven-story Oread Hotel, adjacent to the University of Kansas campus, has been sentenced to a year and a day in prison for a scheme to collect fraudulent tax refunds from the city of Lawrence. The U.S. attorney’s office said in a news release that 54-year-old Thomas S. Fritzel of Lawrence was also fined $25,000. Fritzel pleaded guilty in January to one count of criminal conspiracy.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Fritzel read from a prepared statement, in which he took full responsibility for his actions and said he had learned “very hard and expensive” lessons.  As part of Wednesday’s hearing, the judge granted a request from Fritzel’s attorney that the sentence be served concurrently with a three-month sentence in a separate felony case related to the improper disposal of asbestos during a different construction project.  In the asbestos case, Fritzel was found guilty of three felonies related to illegal disposal of the hazardous material during a construction project at the former Alvamar Country Club, now known as the Jayhawk Club.  Fritzel has been out on bond during the proceedings for both felony cases, and the judge told him that he could remain on release until he is notified by the U.S. Marshals Service to report to the prison facility that the Bureau of Prisons designates.


Missouri Governor Calls Special Session to Address Increasing Violence

O'FALLON, Mo. (AP) — Missouri lawmakers will reconvene later this month to consider ways to stem the increasing violence that's been especially deadly in both urban areas of the state, St. Louis and Kansas City. Governor Mike Parson announced Wednesday that he was calling a special session.  Unlike some other states that are considering police reforms, Parson said Missourians need to get behind police, and indicated that the racial injustice protests themselves have played a role in the increase in crime. Parson says the special session that starts July 27 will be singularly focused on finding solutions to violence. While the worst of the crime is in St. Louis and Kansas City, Parson calls it a “Missouri problem.”


Mixed Response to Federal Crime Fighting Help in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A new effort to combat violent crime in Kansas City through an infusion of 100 agents from the FBI and other federal agencies has been greeted with a mixture of praise and concern from community leaders. KCUR reports that supporters of the program that the White House announced last week said the city needs help as its homicide count for the year soars. But others want funding to focus on community investment and repairing the relationship between police officers and Black residents. A police spokesman said the federal agents will be involved with investigations and prosecution of violent crime as opposed to routine street patrols.


KU to Test All Students, Staff for COVID-19

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas says it will test for COVID-19 all students, faculty and staff who return to campus for the fall semester. The Lawrence Journal-World reports Chancellor Douglas Girod said the university has made arrangements with the Clinical Reference Laboratory in nearby Lenexa to conduct the saliva testing. On-campus housing at the university will be setting aside rooms for quarantining if students do exhibit COVID-19 symptoms or test positive for the respiratory virus. (Read more in the Lawrence Journal-World.)


Walmart, Sam’s Club Will Require Shoppers to Wear Face Masks

UNDATED (KSNT) - Retail giant Walmart will soon require customers to wear face masks inside its stores.  KSNT TV reports the policy will begin July 20 at more than 5,000 Walmart and Sam’s Club locations.  Walmart said 65% of its stores are already located in areas where there is a government face mask mandate.  Company leaders say the policy change comes as they look to prioritize the health and safety of customers and employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Walmart will have an employee dedicated to enforcing the company’s requirements at store entrances.  “The ambassadors, identifiable by their black polo shirts, will work with customers who show up at a store without a face covering to try and find a solution,” the company said.  Sam’s Club members who show up without a mask will be provided a complimentary mask.


Best Buy Requiring Customers to Wear Masks Amid Virus Spike

NEW YORK (AP) — Best Buy stores across the country now require customers to wear face coverings, even in states or localities that don’t require them to do so.  The policy took effect Wednesday.  The consumer electronics retailer joins a growing but still shortlist of major retailers that have instituted mask mandates throughout their chains. Starbucks announced last week that customers who visit its company-owned café locations in the U.S. are now required to wear face coverings.  


Judge: Kansas Must Pay Groups Who Challenged 'Ag-Gag' Law

UNDATED (AP) - A federal judge has awarded nearly $176,300 in attorney fees and expenses to animal rights advocates who successfully challenged provisions in a Kansas law that banned secret filming at slaughterhouses and other livestock facilities. U.S. District Judge Kathryn Vratil issued the award Wednesday after finding earlier this year that the state’s “Ag-Gag” law unconstitutionally criminalized free speech. The judge ordered Kansas to pay $175,317 in attorneys fees and $980 in expenses to opposing counsel. The litigation was brought by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Center for Food Safety, Shy 38 Inc., and Hope Sanctuary.


Bankers Say Economy Remains Weak in Rural Parts of 10 States

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A new survey of bankers suggests the economy remains weak in rural parts of 10 Plains and Western states. The overall index for the region remained negative at 44.1 in July even though it improved from June’s 37.9. Any score below 50 suggests a shrinking economy, while a score above 50 suggests a growing economy, survey organizers say. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says weak agriculture crop prices, retail sales and layoffs have hurt the bankers' economic confidence. Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.


Kansas School Embraces Ivanka Trump Ad Campaign: "Find Something New"

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita State University's technical school has embraced a national program the president's daughter has touted telling workers who lost jobs because of the pandemic to "Find Something New." The move comes a month after cancelling a speech by Ivanka Trump. The university's tech school president, Sheree Utash, serves on a White House panel seeking to promote technical and job training opportunities. Utash spoke to the Sedgwick County Commission Wednesday about the new national ad campaign. She says the school is involved in the campaign and is highlighted as one of the institutions within it.  


College Football & the Coronavirus; Season Approaches as COVID-19 Cases Spike

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR/KNS) - When it comes to college sports that generate revenue, football is king.  From major universities to smaller schools, football is the lifeblood of athletic programs.  But just like everything else, the coronavirus continues to complicate college sports.  And, as more student athletes test positive for the virus, colleges must now make a big decision: move ahead with fall sports like football, or... put the games on hold.  Some college sports conferences have already decided how they'll handle the football season during this pandemic.  Others have not.  Sports correspondent Greg Echlin examines the impact of college football on their schools and communities.


KPR's daily headlines are generally posted by 10 am weekdays and updated throughout the day.  KPR's weekend summary is usually published by 1 pm Saturdays and Sundays.


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