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Headlines for Tuesday, July 14, 2020

 

Kansas Freshman GOP Rep. Watkins Charged with 3 Felonies

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A freshman Kansas congressman who had listed a UPS Inc. store as his residence on a voter registration has been charged with three felony crimes, including unlawful voting. Republican Rep. Steve Watkins is accused of voting illegally in advance in the 2019 local city and school board election, voting when not qualified and interfering with law enforcement by providing false information. Those felony charges were filed Tuesday in state district court in Shawnee County, which includes Watkins’s hometown of Topeka. Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay, who is a Republican, also charged Watkins with a misdemeanor charge of failing to notify the state of an address change. Watkins called the charges “hyper-partisan.” 

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Topeka Police Investigate 3 Deaths, 2 Separate Shootings Just Hours Apart

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Topeka are investigating two separate shooting incidents that happened hours apart and resulted in three deaths. Police say the first shooting was reported around 8 p.m. Monday, and arriving officers found two victims with gunshot wounds. Police say one victim had non-life threatening injuries. The other victim, 66-year-old Harry T. Jenkins of Topeka, was pronounced dead at the scene. Just before 2 a.m. Tuesday, police responded to another shooting and found two victims with gunshot wounds dead inside a home. They were later identified as 37-year-old Crystal D. Andrews and 13-year-old Mercedes M. Holford, both of Topeka.

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COVID-19 Case Count in Kansas Exceeds 20,000, Including 288 Fatalities

TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR) — Kansas just had its worst week-long spike in coronavirus cases since the pandemic began. The state reported an average of 451 new coronavirus cases a day during the seven-day period that ended Monday.  In just three days (Friday, Saturday and Sunday), another 1,447 COVID-19 cases were reported, bringing the new statewide total to 20,058 since the pandemic began.  The virus has also claimed 288 lives in Kansas.  The virus has been confirmed in 101 of the state's 105 counties. Wyandotte and Johnson Counties have the most cases.  The latest figures were released Monday.  Another update is expected Wednesday.

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

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Kansas's Largest City Worries About Running Short of ICU Beds

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Officials in the Wichita area worry that a continued resurgence of novel coronavirus cases will force hospitals in Kansas’s largest city to scramble for new intensive care unit beds to treat the seriously sick. County Manager Tom Stolz told Sedgwick County Commissioners on Tuesday that if current hospitalization trends and use of ICU beds for coronavirus patients continue into next week, it’s likely the situation will be deemed “critical.” The county health department reported that eight of the 35 ICU beds available for coronavirus patients were open as of Monday. Kansas surpassed 20,000 reported coronavirus cases as of Monday and its health department reported 288 COVID-19-related deaths.

(–Related–)

Mayor: Wichita Hospitals Could Hit Capacity This Month

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The mayor of Wichita is warning that the city's hospitals could hit capacity this month as the number of coronavirus patients surge. The Wichita Eagle reports that Mayor Brandon Whipple issued his warning Monday as the Sedgwick County Health Department reported that the hospitals are converting rooms to intensive care units. He urged the public to wear masks. The Sedgwick County Health Department reported that there were 54 total patients with COVID-19 in Wichita area hospitals on Monday. That is an increase of about 69% from last Monday, when there were 32. 

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Coronavirus Creates Election Worker Shortage in Wichita Area

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The top election official in the Wichita area is begging people to volunteer to work the polls because many of the retirees who normally fill the jobs have decided to skip this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Wichita Eagle reports that Sedgwick County Election Commissioner Tabitha Lehman said the office still needs about 170 more poll workers with less than a month to go before the primary. The COVID pandemic has sidelined 75 percent of the regular pool of election-day workers, who are senior citizens at particularly high risk of serious illness if they catch the novel coronavirus.

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Missouri Reports 310 More COVID-19 Cases; Total Surpasses 27,000

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri Department of Heath and Senior Services is reporting 310 more confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 27,443. The state on Sunday also reported five more deaths, bringing the total to 1,069. State health officials say new cases of the coronavirus are being spread primarily by young people who infect many others. Health department spokeswoman Lisa Cox says the average age of newly diagnosed cases in the past week was a little over 37 years. Officials suspect the actual number of people with COVID-19 is much higher than the state-released statistics indicate because many people with mild or no symptoms do not get tested.

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Missouri Governor Signs Bill for Free COVID-19 Testing

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — COVID-19 tests recommended by doctors now must be free to Missouri patients under a new law. The law was among several Governor Mike Parson signed Monday. Other measures signed by Parson will require hospitals to perform rape kits when needed. Currently, some sexual assault survivors must travel hours to get a rape kit. Vaping will be banned in and around public schools beginning August 28. Another law that takes effect at the end of August will ban edible medical marijuana shaped like fruit or other shapes that might appeal to children.

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Grandparents of Dead Kansas Girl Raised Concerns to State Agency

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The grandparents of a 3-year-old Kansas girl who was killed said they raised concerns about her safety with child protective services before her death.  The toddler's death is the latest tragedy involving the state agency responsible for overseeing young children.  Elisabeth and Howard Jansen II spoke out on Sunday after their 29-year-old son Howard Jansen III and his 33-year-old girlfriend Jacqulyn Kirkpatrick were charged in the death of Olivia Ann Jansen, The Kansas City Star reported.  “She’s gone because of him, and her, and the system that wouldn’t help us," the girl's grandfather said.

Olivia’s body was found Friday nearly nine blocks from her Kansas City home, from which her father had reported her missing. Authorities haven’t released how she died.  Elisabeth Jansen said she expressed fears to the Kansas Department for Children and Families on June 21 that drugs were in the home where Olivia lived.  “We knew it was bad, but we had no idea what we’re finding out now,” Howard Jansen II said.  Their son and Kirkpatrick kept Olivia from them, and they hadn’t seen the girl since March, the grandparents said, adding that Olivia’s biological mother was going to let them take care of the girl once she was released from prison.  Laura Howard, secretary of the Department for Children and Families, said her agency reviews critical incidents to determine if there are any policies or procedures that need to be addressed.  

The grandparents were among the dozens of people gathered outside the Wyandotte County courthouse when District Attorney Mark Dupree announced that their son and his girlfriend had been charged with felony murder, aggravated endangering a child and criminal desecration in Olivia’s death.  Dupree said there was nothing he could say to ease their pain, but vowed to seek justice for “baby Olivia.”  Olivia's grandparents said the little girl was once sassy but, at some point, she lost her spark.  “She knew she was going to die,” Elisabeth Jansen said.  

Child welfare officials also have acknowledged that they received repeated reports about a 2-year-old Wichita boy before he was found dead in a motel of a methadone overdose last May. A 3-year-old Wichita boy’s body was found encased in concrete in 2017 after relatives repeatedly reported abuse. In the Kansas City area, a 7-year-old boy was tortured, starved, killed and fed to pigs in 2015 despite extensive involvement with welfare officials.

Earlier this month, the state settled a class-action lawsuit filed by child care advocates who accused the state of not providing foster children with adequate mental health care and moving them too frequently between homes.

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Casino Company Boyd Gaming Laying off Workers in 10 States, Including Kansas

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A U.S. casino company with 29 properties in 10 states is laying off thousands of employees, citing a slow restart to business following closures due to the coronavirus pandemic. Las Vegas-based Boyd Gaming Corp. said in a statement Monday that an unspecified number of furloughed employees will not return to work. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported 2,500 company workers in Nevada could be affected. The publicly traded company had about 10,000 employees in Nevada and another 14,300 nationally, according to its last annual report. Boyd Gaming operates the Kansas Star Casino in Mulvane and the Ameristar Casino and Hotel in Kansas City, Missouri. It also has properties in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

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Next Federal Execution Could Face Delay over Kansas Man's Mental Fitness for Execution 

CHICAGO (AP) — Legal experts say the man next on the list to be executed by the federal government after a nearly 20-year hiatus ended this week may have a better chance of avoiding lethal injection. That's because Wesley Ira Purkey suffers from dementia. His lawyers say he can no longer grasp why he’s slated to die. Purkey, of Lansing, Kansas, was convicted of a 1998 killing and is scheduled for execution Wednesday at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana. That's where Daniel Lewis Lee was put to death Tuesday. Lee was convicted of killing an Arkansas family in a 1990s plot to build a whites-only nation. He became the first of four condemned men scheduled to die this summer.

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Wichita Father Charged with Murder in Toddler's Drowning

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita father has been formally charged with murder in the drowning death of his 2-year-old son in a neighborhood swimming pool in Wichita. The Wichita Eagle reports 44-year-old William K. Kabutu faces a charge first-degree felony murder and an alternative count of second-degree murder that alleges the death was unintentional but occurred under reckless circumstance. He is also charged with two counts of aggravated child endangerment. Police allege Kabutu was intoxicated on July 7 when took the 2-year-old and his 4-year-old brother to the pool and allowed the children to slip through the bars of a fence.

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Victims' Lawyer: Drug-Diluting Pharmacist Set to Be Released

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — An attorney for victims of a man who diluted tens of thousands of prescriptions says the former Missouri pharmacist is being released from prison early because of the coronavirus. The Kansas City Star reports that Michael Ketchmark called on officials to reverse their decision in the case of Robert Courtney. The 67-year-old former Kansas City pharmacist was sentenced to 30 years in prison in December 2002 after admitting to diluting the drugs to boost profits. But Ketchmark told the newspaper he was informed that Courtney could be released as early as this week to a halfway house and then to home confinement. The Bureau of Prisons didn’t immediately return messages from the AP seeking comment.

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Former Kansas Boy Scout Leader Charged with Rape, Child Abuse

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — A former Boy Scout leader has been charged with rape and child abuse for crimes dating back years. The Kansas City Star reported 45-year-old Andrew Rowland of Overland Park faces charges of rape, aggravated indecent liberties with a child and child abuse. The allegations in a July 4 criminal complaint date from 2010 to 2018. Rowland was the scoutmaster for Boy Scouts of America Troop 284 in Overland Park.

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KU Earns $29.9 Million Contract to Develop, Deliver State Education Assessment Tests
 
LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) — The Kansas Department of Education and the Achievement & Assessment Institute at the University of Kansas have announced a five-year, $29.9 million contract for KU to develop, deliver and support the statewide assessment program for Kansas, including academic and English language proficiency assessments. School officials called the contract the largest in KU history and said it will continue the longtime relationship between the two institutions, delivering state-of-the-art technology and resources to support teaching and assess student learning.  The Kansas Department of Education and KU’s Achievement & Assessment Institute have partnered in developing assessments for more than 40 years. The latest five-year contract will support AAI’s ongoing delivery of the current academic assessments, the Kansas English Language Proficiency Assessments and the Dynamic Learning Maps Alternate Assessments, as well as the design and development of the next generation of academic assessments.  (Read more.)

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Kansas Wheat Harvest Nears Completion, Smaller Harvest Expected

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The latest government report shows the winter wheat harvest in Kansas is nearing completion well ahead of last year or the average for this time of year. The Agriculture Department’s National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Monday that 95% of the state’s wheat crop has now been cut. The state’s other major field crops are also making progress this summer. The agency says that 47% of the corn in Kansas is silking. About 6% of the soybeans are now setting pods. And 9% of the sorghum has headed in the state.  Kansas farmers are harvesting fewer bushels of winter wheat this year.  That's according to a new government report based on crop conditions as of July 1st.  The USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service revised an earlier estimate downward and now says the state should harvest about 307 million bushels.  That's 9% fewer bushels than were cut last year.  It also estimates growers in Kansas will cut 6.4 million acres of wheat.  That's down 2% from last year.

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Textron Aviation Announces More Layoffs 

WICHITA, Kan. (KMUW) — Textron Aviation says it will lay off about 800 employees, the majority of whom work in Wichita. The company’s announcement this (TUE) morning is the latest in an seemingly-unending string of bad news for the city’s aviation industry. Textron Aviation said in June it would lay off about 250 salaried employees. Today’s (TUE) layoffs will include members of the company’s unions. The company blamed continued economic uncertainty from the pandemic for the latest reductions. Wichita’s aircraft manufacturers have announced about 6,000 job cuts since January. That doesn’t include the hundreds of jobs lost at smaller aviation supply companies. 

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Jackson County, Missouri, Voters Will Decide Whether to Remove Statues

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Voters will decide in November whether to remove the statues of President Andrew Jackson from the downtown Kansas City courthouse and the Historic Truman Courthouse in Independence. The Kansas City Star reports that the seven white members of the Jackson County legislature voted Monday to put the local question on their general election ballot. Its two Black members voted against it, urging their colleagues to have the courage to make the decision themselves. Andrew Jackson, for whom Jackson County is named, was both a slave owner and oversaw the forceful removal of Native Americans from their homes.

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Kansas Junior Colleges Move Fall Sports to Spring

WICHITA, Kan. (KMUW) — The state's junior colleges will move their fall sports seasons, including football, to the spring. The N-J-C-Double A (NJCAA) voted Monday to make the switch . Men's and women's soccer also will move to the spring, along with volleyball. N-J-C-Double A officials say pushing the close-contact sports to the spring will provide a safer environment for athletes. Winter sports, most notably men's and women's basketball, will not begin until January. The Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference includes 21 two-year schools in Kansas, including Barton, Butler, Cowley and Hutchinson.

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Kansas State Fair Canceled but Officials Still Hope to Hold Livestock, 4H Events

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas State Fair Board has decided to cancel this year's fair amid the coronavirus pandemic.  Monday's reversal came a week after the board initially voted to continue with the fair. But that decision sparked fear and concerns from vendors and the community.  About half the vendors had canceled amid worries about delays with travel quarantines, difficulties in putting crews together and cancellations of other fairs. Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska have also canceled their fairs.  The board is still interested in finding a way to safely hold livestock and 4H events.

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There's No Stopping the Largest Night Rodeo in Kansas

PRETTY PRAIRIE, Kan. (Topeka Capital-Journal) – Nothing is going to stop an 83-year-old-rodeo if the people in Pretty Prairie can help it. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Kansas' Largest Night Rodeo in Pretty Prairie will take place this week (July 15-18).  “People are locked down and ready to get out,” said Jon Stucky, president of the Board of the rodeo. “Cowboys are looking for places to go.”  Contestants are coming from as far away as Australia and Canada and across the United States. Local favorites include Pretty Prairie hometown cowboy, Blaine Kaufman, Coy Arnold of Hutchinson, Tyler Garten of Kingman, Ty Rumford of Abbyville and Remington Fry of Arlington. World-class bullfighters Evan Allard and Wacey Munsell, who performed at the Pretty Prairie Rodeo in 2018, will be back at this year’s 2020 rodeo.  Because so many rodeos across the nation have postponed opening, many contestants are looking to compete. This year, the Pretty Prairie rodeo has a record number of contestants registered to participate in bareback riding, bull riding, tie down roping, steer wrestling, team roping and barrel racing. On Friday and Saturday night, after the rodeo ends, ticket holders are invited to dance under the stars as Prairie Smoke performs.

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