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Headlines for Friday, December 27, 2019

​​​​​​​Here are the headlines for our area, as compiled by KPR news staffers.

Noted Conservative Kansas Lawmaker to Retire January 16

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — One of the Kansas Legislature's most conservative members and strongest abortion opponents is retiring next month. Republican state Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook of Shawnee announced Friday that she will step down Jan. 16. She said in her announcement that “new leadership is sometimes required" to promote “time-honored" conservative principles. Pilcher-Cook is a 65-year-old computer software engineer who has served 15 years in the Legislature. She's been a consistent supporter of new abortion restrictions and a foe of same-sex marriage and measures aimed at combatting anti-LGBTQ discrimination. Fellow Republicans in her Kansas City-area Senate district will name her replacement. 


Report Sees Progress After Kansas Juvenile Justice Changes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new report says Kansas has been putting fewer juvenile offenders in its detention center and lessening their time on probation in the three years since it overhauled its juvenile justice system. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the oversight committee issuing the report Thursday recommended doubling the state's annual spending on juvenile justice programs to nearly $22 million. Advocates sought the changes in 2016 to deal with more offenders in their home communities. They argued that youth were removed from their homes and sent to residential facilities or correctional institutions too often. They wanted programs to reduce repeat offending.  


Kansas Expanding Program for Avoiding Lines at DMV Offices

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas is allowing some residents seeking to get or renew a driver's license to schedule appointments so that they can avoid a tedious wait in line. The Division of Vehicles in the Kansas Department of Revenue recently expanded the program to an additional nine offices in populous areas after launching a pilot program in Topeka in August. Q-Flow allows people to use a website to make appointments up to 30 days in advance. The division says the wait is less than 15 minutes for 95% of the people setting appointments and it is looking at bringing Q-Flow to more offices. 


UPDATE: More Details Emerge in Beechcraft Facility Explosion

(KMUW/Kansas News Service) —  Federal workplace safety officials were dispatched to the scene of an explosion this morning (FRI) at the Textron Aviation plant in east Wichita. Officials say around a dozen people were injured, including one seriously, when a nitrogen leak led to an explosion. The blast heavily damaged the building that houses Beechcraft’s composite manufacturing and experimental aircraft fabrication. Beechcraft is part of Textron Aviation. Company officials say the plant was closed for the holidays and there was minimal staffing when the explosion occurred. Residents in east Wichita reported feeling the concussion from the blast. Officials from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are investigating the explosion. 

( – earlier reporting – )

More than a Dozen Hurt in Blast at Beechcraft Plant in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say more than a dozen people were injured when a nitrogen line ruptured at a Beechcraft aircraft manufacturing facility in Wichita, Kansas, and caused part of the building to collapse. Sedgwick County Deputy Fire Chief Daniel Wegner says the explosion happened at around 8 a.m. Friday. The county's emergency medical services director, John Gallagher, says 11 patients were taken to a hospitals and four were treated at the scene. As of Friday afternoon, four had been released, three were in serious condition and one person was in critical condition. The cause of the blast is under investigation. 


Worker Critically Injured at Wichita Recycling Facility

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a worker at a Wichita recycling facility suffered a critical head injury when he was struck by a spring. Wichita police say the accident happened around 8:20 a.m. Thursday as the 51-year-old worker was dismantling a dock lift at the Donham Recycling Facility. The man was rushed to the hospital. His name wasn't immediately released. 


Police: Man Kidnapped Woman, Made Her Dance at Strip Club

BAXTER SPRINGS, Kan. (AP) — An Oklahoma man is accused of abducting a woman and forcing her to dance at a Kansas strip club, then taking the money she earned at the club. Gary Ballard of Tulsa is charged with aggravated human trafficking and aggravated kidnapping. The 23-year-old victim was reported missing from Coweta, Oklahoma. three weeks ago. Authorities say Ballard repeatedly hurt her and drove her to Cherokee County, Kansas, in the state’s southeastern corner. Detectives got a tip that the woman might be in Cherokee County. A news release says they found her Thursday night at a strip club.


Baby Jesus Statue Missing Again from Wichita Church Nativity

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita church says a baby Jesus statue has been stolen  -- again  --  from an outdoor nativity scene. The Church of the Blessed Sacrament says in a Facebook post Thursday that it would like the statue back “no questions asked.” When the statue went missing in January of 2018, the church posted a sign saying: “This is why we can't have nice things.” The sign also asked people to pray for the statue's return. The statue later was found in a yard of a home and returned to the parish office. 


2 Arrested After Missing Wichita Woman is Found Dead in Car

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A paroled killer and a woman whom he had lived with have been arrested in the death of the man's girlfriend. KAKE-TV reports that jail records show that 39-year-old Ahmad Bey and 34-year-old Vanessa Waner were each booked early Friday on suspicion of first-degree murder in the death of 41-year-old Melinda Sprague. Bey was also jailed on a state warrant. Capt. Brent Allred said a coworker reported Sprague missing when she didn't show up for work on Tuesday. Her vehicle was found Thursday behind a business with her body inside.


Prosecutor Calls for Justice for Wrongfully Convicted Man

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas prosecutor who helped free a man who spent 23 years in prison for a double homicide he always said he didn't commit is calling for justice as the state fights the man's effort to get compensation. Wyandotte County District Attorney Mark Dupree Sr. described the case of Lamonte McIntyre as a “glaring stain on the criminal justice system" in an open letter Tuesday. McIntyre was 17 in 1994 when he was arrested in Kansas City for the double homicide. McIntyre was sentenced to two life sentences but he was freed in 2017 after Dupree asked the court to vacate his convictions.


Former Colombian President to Deliver Landon Lecture

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Former Colombian president and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Juan Manuel Santos is speaking next year at Kansas State University. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Santos's Feb. 4 address is part of the Landon Lecture series. The series is named for former Kansas Gov. Alf Landon, who was the 1936 Republican nominee for president. The series was established in 1966 to bring in speakers to discuss issues facing business, politics and international relations. Santos received undergraduate degrees in economics and business from another Kansas school _ the University of Kansas _ in 1973.


Topeka Zoo Wants Used Live Christmas Trees for Its Animals

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Zoo animals in Topeka will soon be making use of castoff live Christmas trees. The city said in a news release that the trees can be dropped off starting Thursday at a special location at Gage Park, where the zoo is located. Zoo Director Brendan Wiley says animals that can benefit from the trees include lions, tigers, owls, mountain lions, giraffes, black bears and painted dogs. Once the animals make use of the trees, they will be ground up and turned into mulch. The trees must be free of ornaments, hooks, tinsel and tree stands. They also can't be in plastic bags.  


Topeka Man in Custody After Four Hour Stand-off with Police

TOPEKA, Kan. — A Topeka man has been arrested in connection with a domestic disturbance after a standoff yesterday (WED) with officers that lasted for about four hours. The Topeka Capital Journal reports that 39-year-old Michael Allen Ogle was arrested and charged with aggravated battery and felony interference with law. Officers were dispatched to a home in southwest Topeka just after 7:30 a.m. Christmas Day on a report of a violent domestic disturbance. The female victim told officers that a man was inside the home and was armed. Police say Ogle barricaded himself inside the house and refused to come out. Topeka police negotiators were able to persuade the man to leave the house. After the suspect was taken into custody, a dog ran out of the house and charged officers. One of the officers fired his weapon, killing the dog. Ogle was taken to a local hospital for treatment of minor injuries then then taken to the Shawnee County Jail.


Police Identify Woman Stabbed to Death in Olathe

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — The woman stabbed to death last week in suburban Kansas City has been identified. The Kansas City Star reports that Olathe, Kansas, police on Thursday identified the victim as 68-year-old Patricia Fitzgerald of Montgomery, Texas. She was killed Dec. 20. Police were called to a home for a report of an armed disturbance and found Fitzgerald. She was pronounced dead at the scene. A 38-year-old woman who knew Fitzgerald also was found at the scene and taken to a hospital for treatment of minor injuries. No arrests have been made and the investigation continues.


Topeka Police Officer Arrested for DUI

TOPEKA, Kan.-- A Topeka police officer was arrested Christmas Eve for driving under the influence.  WIBW reports that Officer Jeremy Gallegos was booked into the Shawnee County Jail on suspicion of Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol. Shawnee County Deputies responded to a traffic accident on SW Randolph Avenue and took Gallegos into custody. He has since been released and placed on administrative leave pending a review by the Shawnee County District Attorney's Office.


Remains Found in Missouri in 2015 Were Those of Kansas Man

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have determined that a body that was found in the Missouri River four years ago is that of a missing Kansas man. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that DNA was used to help identify the remains of Phillip Owen Morgan. The Lawrence, Kansas, man was 38 when he was reported missing on June 11, 2015. Three days later, the body of an unidentified drowning victim was found near the Missouri town of Hartsburg, which is about 10 miles northeast of Jefferson City. Several people told police that Owen liked to hike near the Kansas River, which was flooding when he disappeared. 


2 16-Year-Olds Injured in Wichita Shooting

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Two 16-year-olds are hospitalized but expected to survive after a shooting in Wichita. Police Officer Paul Cruz told the Wichita Eagle that the shooting happened about 12:15 a.m. Thursday on the city's north side. Someone dropped the male teenagers off at a hospital at about the same time officers were sent to a home about a report of a possible shooting. Police found shell casings and bullet strikes to a home in the neighborhood where the shooting was reported. A 71-year-old woman and a 39-year-old man were inside. They were unhurt. No arrests have been made. Cruz says the shooting was drug-related.


Wichita's Indoor Football Team Moving to New Arena for 2020

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The indoor football team in Wichita is leaving its downtown arena for another home north of the city built specifically for the sport. The Wichita Eagle reports that the Wichita Force has announced that it will leave the Intrust Bank Arena downtown and move to Hartman Arena in Park City. The first of six home games at the new venue is set for April 3. Wichita oilman and restaurateur Wink Hartman developed the 5,000-seat arena largely as a home for the Wichita Wild. Hartman owned the Wild, and it played there from 2009 until it folded in 2014.


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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