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Archive for Saturday, June 11, 2005

Local briefs

June 11, 2005

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Sentence re-examined in hit-and-run fatality

A judge has reconsidered the jail sentence for a man convicted of striking and killing an intoxicated pedestrian near Teepee Junction.

Joseph J. Bell will spend this weekend and the next weekend in the Douglas County Jail under the order signed recently by Judge Michael Malone. Bell also spent last weekend in jail.

At Bell's sentencing May 19, prosecutors recommended that Bell get probation and serve three weekends in jail. Instead, Malone ordered him into custody immediately and said he'd consider letting Bell out in about a week.

On May 27, Malone reconsidered the case, released Bell and ordered him to serve the three consecutive weekends. Malone also ordered that if Bell shows up late or under the influence of alcohol, he's not to be released.

Bell entered a plea earlier this year to vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of an injury accident. He was driving a Chevrolet Suburban that struck and killed Devin Scott Emery on March 14, 2004, outside a fraternity and sorority party.

Charges filed in charity basketball tourney scam

A man accused of scamming at least eight local business by getting donations for a phony charity basketball tournament has been formally charged in Douglas County District Court.

Troy L. Sonderland, 23, is charged with one count of felony theft, one count of conspiracy to commit felony theft, and five misdemeanor counts of theft.

Police arrested Sonderland in late May after an undercover sting at a Eudora pizza shop.

Prosecutors say he and a group of at least three others made fliers soliciting money from area businesses including Bucky's Drive-In 2120 W. Ninth St., and Pizza Shuttle, 1601 W. 23rd St. A judge set Sonderland's next court date for June 28. He could face more than two years in prison if convicted.

The other suspects have not yet been formally charged and are scheduled to have their first court appearances later this month.

Storms knock out power throughout Lawrence

A brief but powerful storm hit Lawrence around 10 p.m. Friday night and caused power outages throughout the city.

Jim Ludwig, Westar Energy vice president of public affairs, said roughly 3,120 customers in Lawrence lost electrical power after lightning struck a power substation. The homes affected were between 13th and 19th streets, and near Tennessee and Kentucky streets, he said.

Westar crews were on the scene of the lightning strike late Friday night, trying to assess the damage and reestablish power. Other homes throughout the rest of Lawrence experienced isolated outages, Ludwig said.

KU professor to be honored with sculpture

Kansas University officials today will dedicate a newly-landscaped plaza between Wescoe and Budig halls at 11 a.m. in honor of a recently retired languages professor.

The Woodyard Plaza will be named after George Woodyard, a KU professor emeritus of Spanish and Portuguese who also served as KU's first dean of international studies and programs. Under Woodyard's leadership, outside funding for international programs more than quadrupled. Woodyard retired in May after 39 years at KU.

The courtyard was made possible largely through a $50,000 donation made by Woodyard's late sister, Dorothy Woodyard. The plaza will feature three wrought-iron benches and a raised bronze plaque.

School officials reflect on past year at retreat

It was difficult to count how many times the word "proud" was used during an administrative retreat Friday at the Lawrence school district headquarters as administrators, staff and the district's board of education reflected on the past school year.

"I want you to brag, because you have a lot to brag about," Supt. Randy Weseman told the crowd.

The group discussed successful initiatives and programs and the challenges ahead for the next year. Issues included teacher and staff collaboration, the closing of Lawrence Alternative High School, expansion of Lawrence Virtual School, and the departure of principals and board members and the arrival of new ones.

Board members Austin Turney and Leni Salkind are both finishing their second terms. They will be replaced by Craig Grant and John Mitchell. Turney reflected on his two terms, saying the board has become more active and he will continue to be involved.

"Being reasonably blessed with good health, I can say I'm not going away," he said.

Topeka man charged with setting deadly fire

A Topeka man was charged with setting an arson fire that killed his sister and seriously injured her boyfriend.

Troy Ray Davis, 37, was arrested and charged Thursday with aggravated arson and first-degree murder in the death of Melanie Dreasher, 28, who died May 11. Davis was also charged with reckless aggravated battery and aggravated assault.

Her boyfriend, Chad Brian Sarnstrom, has since been released from a hospital in Kansas City, Kan.

Shawnee County Dist. Atty. Robert Hecht said in a statement that Davis threatened the couple and set the fire. Davis sustained minor injuries in the blaze.

Davis remained jailed Friday on $25,000 bond.

Identity of body found in yard not yet released

Lawrence Police on Friday had not yet released the identity or cause of death for a man found dead Thursday evening outside a duplex in west Lawrence.

Police have said there were no immediate signs of foul play. An autopsy was scheduled to be performed Friday, but coroner Erik Mitchell declined comment and referred questions to police.

A landlord who was mowing the lawns at some of his properties found the man's body about 5:30 p.m. in the backyard of a duplex in the 1100 block of Randall Road. The man was believed to be in his mid-20s.

Crime

Police investigating money order scam

Police are investigating a 26-year-old Lawrence man on suspicion of trying to cash nearly $7,000 in counterfeit money orders at a Lawrence bank.

Police said the man came to Capitol Federal, 1046 Vt., on Wednesday and tried to get cash for eight money orders, each written for $850. The bank employee noticed the money orders were missing some security features, and she called police.

The man left the bank, but officers later made contact with him. He had not been arrested as of Friday, and the case remained under investigation, said Sgt. Dan Ward, a Lawrence Police spokesman.

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