Archive for Saturday, April 30, 2005

Area briefs

April 30, 2005

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Regulators open Aquila investigation

Kansas City, Mo. -- The Kansas Corporation Commission has begun a general investigation into Aquila Inc.'s energy transaction practices.

The state regulatory agency filed an order late Thursday to look into complaints by large industrial ratepayers and consumer advocates that the Kansas City-based utility's operations are inefficient and contribute to higher than necessary electricity rates.

Those claims were made in connection with two commission reviews of Aquila's rates. The agency determined in January that it needed to start another, more general review of the company within 90 days.

Commission officials said they would hold a hearing with the parties in June to narrow the scope of the investigation.

Aquila spokesman Dick Butkus said the claims focused on transactions between the company's Missouri and Kansas operations.

"We do these kinds of transactions to provide better and the most cost-effective service for our customers," Butkus said.

Man pleads guilty in Topeka car wash slaying

Topeka -- A Topeka man pleaded guilty Thursday to shooting a man to death last year at a southeast Topeka car wash while the victim's wife and children watched from inside the vehicle.

Jesse James Romero, 20, made his plea during what had been scheduled as a pretrial hearing before District Judge Eric Rosen. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for 20 years.

Mark Duncan, 39, of Berryton, was shot to death July 7, 2004, while washing his sport utility vehicle at Squeaky's Auto Wash. Prosecutors said Romero and two other men had spent much of that day stalking shopping centers in search of a potential robbery victim.

Prosecutors have recommended a sentence of about 23 years for Chandler, though the judge could impose a sentence of up to 60 years under state sentencing guidelines.

Five documents in BTK case unsealed

Wichita -- Just two days after six media organizations, including The Associated Press, asked District Judge Greg Waller to unseal seven motions and orders in the BTK serial murder case, five of those documents were made available to the public Friday.

Of the seven, only a motion filed by Dennis Rader's defense lawyers and the probable-cause affidavit that led to Rader's arrest remain sealed.

The opened documents include the financial affidavit Rader filled out on Feb. 28; the prosecution's witness list, which includes 247 names -- including a former Wichita Eagle reporter who died in 1995; a motion asking the judge to "determine the Public Defenders conflict of interest;" and two other motions that address mail to and from Rader.

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