National Weather Service Issues Alert over Fire Danger for KPR Listening Area and Beyond
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Strong winds, warmer conditions and low humidity are combining to create a fire danger across several states, including parts of Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and Missouri. The National Weather Service has issued red flag watches and warnings for most of all four states on Monday. A red flag warning means that critical fire weather conditions are present. The weather service says south to southwest winds of 15 to 30 mph, with gusts as high as 50 mph, are expected in areas covered by a red flag watch or warning. Outdoor burning is not recommended. On Sunday, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly declared a state of disaster emergency for wildland fires.
Damaging Winds Move Across Kansas, Leaving Thousands Without Power
WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) – High winds have left thousands without power after downing power lines and power poles across Kansas. KWCH TV in Wichita reports that more than 9,000 customers lost power in and around Wichita due to the winds. Gusts of up to 60 mph were reported at Wichita’s Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport and in Hutchinson where crews continued battling a large grass fire. Meteorologists say the winds will die down but not any time soon. Sustained winds of 25-35 mph will continue with gusts of up to 50 mph overnight. South winds are being powered by a cold front that has yet to reach Kansas. Once the front arrives, winds will scale back, but that won’t happen until sometime Tuesday morning.
Nearly 302,000 COVID-19 Cases and 4,902 Deaths Recorded in Kansas Since Pandemic Began
TOPEKA, Kan. (KPR/AP) – The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) reported Monday that there have been 301,862 cases of COVID-19 in the state, including 4,902 deaths, since the start of the pandemic. That’s an increase of 429 cases and 11 deaths since Friday. Johnson County has recorded the largest number of cases in Kansas, with more than 56,000. Another update will be released Wednesday.
Kansas City Plans Memorial to Honor Those Who Died from COVID-19
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (WDAF) — An upcoming tribute will honor everyone from Kansas City, Mo., who died during the COVID-19 pandemic. WDAF TV reports that Kansas City is planning to hold the KC COVID-19 Memorial Tribute at the National WWI Museum and Memorial on April 10. The event will take place from 7:30-9:30 pm. The parks department plans to place candles along the Museum and Memorial’s Mall. Each candle will represent one person from Kansas City who lost their battle with COVID-19. The drive-thru event will be open to the public. Visitors can travel past the candles while listening to a program broadcast over the radio on FM 100.5. It will include messages from Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, U.S. Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver II, and Bert Malone, with the Missouri Public Health Association. The Kansas City Women’s Chorus will also be featured in the program. The Downtown Marriott Hotel will also show a candle on the side of its building. “This memorial will provide a dedicated space for our community to grieve and remember those we’ve lost in this difficult year,” Lucas said. “This pandemic has devastated our community in many ways, but the mothers, fathers, siblings, partners, and friends who are no longer with us today due to this virus have left the deepest wound. I grieve with members of our community who have been impacted so directly by COVID-19, and I keep them in my prayers.” So far, 540 people from Kansas City, Mo., have lost their fights with COVID-19.
Kansas Mulls Paying Businesses Hit by COVID-19 Restrictions
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas legislators are working on a plan for setting aside potentially several hundred million dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funds to pay businesses harmed by state and local restrictions imposed last year to check the virus’ spread. The state Senate Judiciary Committee hoped to vote Monday on a bill that would set up state and local funds to pay claims from businesses that either were shut down or had their operations curtailed by state restrictions. Officials would be required to set aside federal COVID-19 relief funds. One attorney representing a Wichita fitness studio’s owner who is suing the state
Criminal Charges Filed Against Kansas Senate Majority Leader
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — One of the Kansas Legislature’s most powerful lawmakers has been charged with driving under the influence and a felony offense for trying to elude law enforcement. Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop is also accused of speeding the wrong way on a highway in Topeka. He faces a total of five criminal charges, including the felony count, the misdemeanor DUI count and a misdemeanor count of reckless driving. The Wichita Republican turned himself in at the local jail. His bond has been set at $5,000. The charges were announced by local Republican District Attorney Mike Kagay. The accusations stem from Suellentrop’s early-morning arrest March 16 on Interstate 70 just blocks east of the Statehouse.
Protesters Call for Kansas Senate Majority Leader to Resign
TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT)— Protesters gathered outside the Kansas State Capitol Monday as new details have come to light about Kansas Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop’s DUI case. “This isn’t about whether you’re conservative or liberal, or whether you’re a Democrat or Republican,” Jae Moyer said. “Suellentrop, what he did sets a terrible example.” Moyer, who’s from Shawnee, joined protesters in calling for Suellentrop to resign. KSNT TV reports that a group of Kansans from across the state lined up outside the Capitol, trying to catch lawmakers as they drove into work. Protesters waved signs calling for Suellentrop to step down from office. “If you see a grown a man getting away with something like that, that just continues to drive the idea that it’s okay,” said Abbey Killinger, who joined the protest from Topeka. Suellentrop bonded out of jail on Friday. No one was there to pick him up. According to a criminal complaint, he’s being accused of driving under the influence. Prosecutors said he led police on a 90 mile-per-hour chase, going the wrong way down the highway. Some Democrats are speaking out about the Senator’s arrest. Governor Laura Kelly commented on the situation, while touring a vaccine clinic on Monday. “This is something that the Republican caucus needs to address,” Kelly said. It’s up to the Senate Republican caucus to determine whether Suellentrop keeps his leadership position in the Senate. On Friday, Senate leadership released a statement on the charges filed against Suellentrop.
“Upon learning of these formal charges, we have begun reaching out to other members of the Republican caucus about how to proceed most
effectively moving forward. Our highest priority is to keep working without distraction for Kansas families and businesses as the state reopens.”
– Joint Statement from Senate President Ty Masterson and Vice President Rick Wilborn
Some Democratic lawmakers are concerned with how the incident may reflect on the state’s legislature. Long-time Senator David Haley, D-Kansas City, said he’s unsure of what moves will be made moving forward. “We are concerned. I certainly am. I’ve heard from constituents who’ve said there shouldn’t be two standards,” Sen. Haley said. Right now, no court date has been set. The future of Suellentrop’s position as a Senator is determined by the Senate.
GOP Conservatives Help Medical Marijuana Advance in Kansas
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas medical marijuana supporters have found support from some conservative Republican legislators, allowing a proposal to advance after weeks of deliberations. Some Republicans say they have been motivated by conservative neighbors Missouri and Oklahoma legalizing the medical use of marijuana in 2018 through ballot initiatives. Others say many of their constituents support it. The state House Federal and State Affairs Committee on Monday approved the bill 13-8, sending it to the full House for approval. The measure has received pushback from law enforcement groups that say that there’s not enough evidence that marijuana can treat medical conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and Parkinson’s disease. (Read more.)
Weekly Medical Marijuana Sales in Missouri Top $2 Million
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A medical marijuana industry trade group says more than 90,000 people have received approval to use medical marijuana in Missouri, and weekly sales have topped the $2 million mark. The Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association says the $2.4 million in medical marijuana sales for the week ending March 19 followed four straight weeks of sales just under $2 million. The trade group says more than 90,000 patients and caregivers have received state-approved medical cannabis cards, and thousands of other applications have been filed. Missouri voters in 2018 approved medical marijuana. Dispensaries opened in October. Residents with cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma and 20 other qualifying conditions are eligible.
Plan Advances to Create Kansas Child Advocate in AG’s Office
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican lawmakers have advanced a measure to create a Kansas child advocate’s position in the attorney general’s office. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill to create the advocate’s office to investigate complaints about the state’s foster care system for abused and neglected children. The measure goes next to the Senate. Even some GOP lawmakers in the House are wary of putting the advocate under the attorney general with Republican Attorney General Derek Schmidt running for governor in 2022. But the Senate committee rejected a bipartisan House alternative to have the advocate appointed jointly by the governor and Kansas Supreme Court’s chief justice and be under the Legislature.
Operation Sees More Than 250 Arrested over 10 Days in Topeka
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A joint operation conducted by federal, state and local police over 10 days has led to more than 250 people being arrested in Topeka and the seizure of 24 guns, nearly 19 kilograms of illegal drugs and $25,000 in cash. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the effort, dubbed Operation Frontier, was carried out in early and mid-March. Officials said it targeted violent fugitives, gang members and criminal offenders following a significant rise in violence in the area between 2014 and 2019. Officials say that of the 258 arrests made, 138 were felony arrests.
More than 250 People Arrested on Drug and Gun Charges in Topeka
TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — U.S. Marshals and local law enforcement took 258 people into custody during a 10-day operation to reduce violent crime and drug activity in the capital city. In addition to the arrests, 16 of which were identified as gang members, operatives found 24 firearms, nearly 19 kilograms of drugs including marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin. KSNT TV reports that $25,000 in cash was also seized. The operation was conducted between March 5 and March 14. “Over the past few years, violent crime has been on the rise in Topeka, especially homicides and shootings,” said Ron Miller, U.S. Marshal for the District of Kansas. “The U.S. Marshals Service joined forces with local and state agencies and other Department of Justice federal law enforcement agencies to try to combat this upward trend in violence, especially gang violence. We are proud to say that working together we sought to reduce ongoing violence and gang activity that we have seen throughout Topeka and Shawnee County.” In a release issued this (MON) morning, authorities reported an uptick in shootings, as a result of several feuds between local gangs. Area gangs have been actively recruiting young prospective members which included targeting the local foster care system. Many members of these gangs carried firearms for protection due to their gang affiliation and for protection while distributing controlled substances, according to the U.S. Marshals. The violent clashes between rival gangs caused multiple shootings, and also injured bystanders. Available data from 2014 through 2019 shows that violent crime in Topeka increased from a total of 636 violent crimes in 2014 to a total of 878 violent crimes in 2019, an increase of around 38% in violent crimes over a 6-year period.
DNA Cold Case: Kansas Ex-Con Charged in Unsolved 1979 Murder of Colorado Woman
GREELEY, Colo. (KPR) — A Kansas man with a lengthy rap sheet has been charged with murder in the 41-year-old slaying of a Colorado college worker who was found sexually assaulted and strangled in her car. KOKI TV reports(link is external) that 64-year-old James Herman Dye, of Wichita, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the November 26, 1979, death of Evelyn Kay Day. He was arrested March 22 and booked into the Sedgwick County Jail, where he remains awaiting extradition to Colorado. Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke explained that the two counts of murder represent differing theories of Day’s killing. The first, murder after deliberation, alleges that he committed the crime with the intent to kill Day. The second, felony murder, alleges that he caused Day’s death in the commission of another felony, in this case, a sexual assault. Prior to Dye’s arrest, Day’s killing was the second-oldest unsolved cold case homicide in Weld County. The oldest, according to Weld County records, is the June 23, 1975 disappearance and slaying of Margorie Sue “Margie” Fithian, who was last seen alive with her 18-month-old son at a Denver bus station. The 23-year-old Fithian, of Greeley, was shot twice in the face on the side of a dirt road a few miles north of Roggen, about 60 miles from Denver in rural Weld County. She died en route to a hospital. Her son, who was unharmed, was found on the side of the road with his mother, holding her hand, according to the Weld County Sheriff’s Office website. Like Day, Fithian worked at Aims Community College in Greeley.
Authorities say Dye had a criminal history in both Colorado and Kansas. In October 1977, two years before Day was killed, he was arrested in Weld County and charged with sexual assault. He was charged with the sexual assault of a child in February 1981 and with attempted sexual assault in May of that same year. Records of any prison time he served were not immediately available. Law enforcement officials found that Dye’s DNA profile matched that of the semen found inside Day during her autopsy. His profile also linked him to genetic material found on the sleeve of Day’s coat, as well as fingernail scrapings taken from Day’s right hand.
FBI Offers $50,000 Reward in 1998 Cold Case Killing
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The FBI is offering a reward of up to $50,000 in the death of a Kansas City-area woman who died more than 22 years ago. Rhonda Tribue was a mother of six from Kansas City, Kansas. She was found dead on October 8, 1998. Her body was in the roadway near Edwardsville. Authorities say she died of blunt force trauma. She was 34. The FBI says Tribue had been at the Firelight Lounge in Kansas City, Kansas, hours before her death. Anyone with information can call a tip line at 800-CALL-FBI, or go to tips.fbi.gov.
Tourism Division to Become Part of Kansas Department of Commerce
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — It’s official: The state tourism division in Kansas will become part of the Department of Commerce starting July 1. Governor Laura Kelly’s proposal, which was announced last year, recently passed a 60-day period without action by the Legislature, meaning the order can be implemented. Kelly said Monday that the realignment “will support our businesses, our tourism industry, and will play a significant role in our COVID-19 recovery efforts.” The tourism division is currently part of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.
2 Members of Oklahoma Panhandle State University Rodeo Team Killed in Kansas Crash
HASKELL COUNTY, Kan. (KOCO) — Two members of the Oklahoma Panhandle State University rodeo team have been killed in a crash in southwest Kansas. According to the Kansas Highway Patrol, a Dodge Ram and a dump truck were traveling east on U.S. Highway 56 Friday morning in Haskell County. KOCO TV reports that the Ram went to pass the dump truck, but officials said the vehicle made contact with the front bumper on the driver’s side of the dump truck. The contact caused the dump truck to go into a south ditch and the Ram to go into a north ditch, where it rolled and caused a trailer to detach. Two of the passengers in the Dodge Ram died. Kansas Highway Patrol officials have identified them as Hadly McCormick and Cade Bullock. KAKE-TV in Wichita reports that the two were members of the Oklahoma Panhandle State University rodeo team. University officials posted on social media that they are saddened by the loss of Bullock and McCormick and that they hold their families and friends in their prayers. School officials also said a third member of the team was involved in the crash. The third person in the Dodge Ram was taken to a hospital with suspected minor injuries. (Read more.)
Shooter at Kansas Jewish Centers Appeals Death Sentence
LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — An attorney for an avowed anti-Semite who fatally shot three people at two suburban Kansas City Jewish sites in 2014 contends his client should not have been allowed to represent himself because he could not have understood the specific legal aspects of a death penalty case. The Kansas Supreme Court heard arguments Monday in Frazier Glenn Miller Jr.’s appeal of his death sentence. Miller, also known as Frazier Glenn Cross Jr., was sentenced to death in 2015 for killing three victims in Overland Park, because he wanted to kill Jews. Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe, representing the state, argued Miller knew what he was doing when he gave up his right to counsel.
Kansas City Residents Arrested After Theft, Multi-County Chase
JEFFERSON CITY, MO. (The News Tribune) — Two Kansas City women and one juvenile have been arrested for robbery and assault at a Kohl’s store in Jefferson City. Officers arrived while the theft was still in progress. According to a news release from the Jefferson City Police Department, responding officers were told three female suspects had assaulted several people while trying to get in their vehicle with stolen items. Witnesses said one suspect struck and bit a Loss Prevention Officer during the encounter. He sustained injuries that required medical attention. No other individuals required medical attention. The News Tribune reports that arriving officers obtained a vehicle description, including the license plate, and the information was broadcast to other officers. Moments later, another Jefferson City police officer stationed near the Missouri River Bridge observed the suspects’ vehicle and attempted a traffic stop. The suspect failed to yield to the emergency vehicle and fled. The vehicle eventually began traveling northbound onto U.S. Highway 63 toward Columbia. The pursuit continued north on U.S. 63, and a request was made for assistance from other agencies. The Missouri Highway Patrol advised an aviation unit was available and heading to the area. Once the aviation unit was overhead, the Jefferson City pursuit was terminated. The suspects entered Ashland where police pursued the suspects until reaching the intersection of U.S. 63 and Grindstone Parkway where the Boone County Sheriff’s Department deployed tire deflation devices. The three suspects were taken into custody and transported back to Jefferson City for processing. The $2,000 worth of merchandise was recovered. Two of the suspects, a 24-year-old and a 29-year-old, are in custody on charges of first-degree robbery, assault, stealing and felony resisting arrest. The third suspect, a juvenile, was taken to the Prenger Center and held for second-degree robbery, stealing and third-degree assault.
Kansas County Considers Changing Creek’s Racially Loaded Name
LEAWOOD, Kan. (AP) — A group working to change the name of a stream called Negro Creek that runs through parts of suburban Kansas City hopes to expand the effort to include other Kansas geographical sites that have the term in their names. So far, the work has focused on a creek that flows through a golf course in Leawood and parts of Overland Park in Johnson County. Historians aren’t sure how the creek was named in the 1850s, but a leading theory is that it was named after an escaped Black slave who killed himself near the waterway rather than be recaptured. A committee comprised of county officials, historians and activists has begun the lengthy process of renaming the creek.
Kansas Man Convicted in Triple Murder Dies in Prison
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (KOAM / The Hutch News) – A Kansas man convicted of killing an 18-year-old woman and the 2-year-old twins she was baby-sitting in 1984 has died in an Oklahoma prison. KOAM TV reports that 54-year-old Arnold Ruebke Jr., of Kingman, died last week. He’d been in Oklahoma under an intrastate compact between the two states’ prison systems since shortly after his 1985 conviction. The Hutchinson News reports that a Reno County jury found Ruebke guilty of three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of kidnapping for the deaths of 18-year-old Tammy Mooney and the two young boys, Andrew and James Vogelsang. Their bodies were found three days after they went missing in a wooded area near the Vogelsang home in the small Reno County town of Arlington. Ruebke has always maintained his innocence. The state built its case largely on circumstantial evidence around the theory that Mooney, a babysitter, interrupted a burglary of the trailer and Ruebke, who had a prior conviction, killed her in order to avoid going to prison. She was holding the twins when she was killed.
Body Found in Woods, Four Days After Car Crash
GRANDVIEW, Mo. (AP) — The body of what is believed to be a Kansas City-area driver who had been missing since an accident last week has been found in a wooded area near the crash site. KCTV-TV reports that relatives on Sunday found the body in Grandview. The victim’s name has not been released. Police were called Wednesday night to a report of an accident. Officers searched but found nothing in the area that night. A subsequent search on Friday also turned up nothing. Relatives formed their own search party and found the body on Sunday. A medical examiner will determine if the body is that of the crash victim.
Prosecutor: Ex-Public Defender Employee Indicted
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A federal grand jury has indicted a former Missouri public defender employee on charges that she smuggled heroin into a state prison. The indictment says that 43-year-old Juliane Colby, of Shawnee, hid the drugs in 2019 in an envelope marked “Legal Mail” that contained other information related to a criminal court case. The Kansas City Star reports that she faces charges of conspiracy to distribute heroin, illegal use of a communication facility and attempted distribution of heroin. Colby also is accused of trying to bring other contraband into the Western Missouri Correctional Center in Cameron.
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.