WRITER: Mackenzie Clark

Fire department credits smoke alarms for quick response that saved lives and Lawrence home

Three family members made it out of their home safely Wednesday morning and the home was saved thanks to working smoke detectors, according to Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical. Residents of a home in the 1000 block of Summerfield Way, which is in a neighborhood near Harvard Drive and Congressional Way in west Lawrence, were awakened by smoke alarms, according to a news release from Tom Fagan, LDCFM ...

Lawrence man, 20, sentenced to probation in armed robbery case

A judge on Tuesday sentenced the second of three men charged in connection with an armed robbery case to three years of probation. Isaak A. Torkelson, 20, of Lawrence, was charged in May with aggravated robbery for allegedly stealing a man’s phone while threatening him with a hammer, or in the alternative, inflicting harm on the man during the course of a robbery. Torkelson’s charge, a level-3 felony, was ...

Judge: No new trial for Tommy May, convicted in 2018 double shooting that injured 2 in Lawrence

A judge on Monday denied motions seeking a new trial for Tommy J. May, convicted almost a year ago in connection with a July 2018 double shooting in Lawrence that injured a woman and paralyzed a man, among other offenses. A jury found on Dec. 19, 2019, that May, 61, had shot a woman in the face, shot a man in the back, fled the scene of the apartment fourplex in the 700 block of West 25th Street, where May and ...

Douglas County sheriff-elect has been shaped by interactions with people he serves, he says

Douglas County Sheriff-elect Jay Armbrister said it may sound “a little played out,” but he enjoys helping people who can’t help themselves. That help runs the gamut from driving a stranded motorist into town to buy a gallon of gas to consoling people who are considering taking their own lives, he said. “When somebody faced their demon and they called 911, I wanted to be the person that was there to ...

Attorney wants Lawrence massage therapist’s sex crime case severed, says allegations are ‘totally separate’

The attorney for a Lawrence massage therapist who previously contracted with University of Kansas women’s athletic teams wants the man’s child sex crime charges severed from additional counts whose alleged victims are adults. Shawn P. O’Brien, 49, was initially charged with one count of aggravated indecent liberties with a child, a high-severity felony. However, four adults then came forward and alleged ...

The future ‘holds everything’ for women in law enforcement, Douglas County's incoming undersheriff says

Douglas County's incoming undersheriff, Stacy Simmons, was actually close to retirement “before Jay asked me to take on this journey with him,” she said, referring to Sheriff-elect Jay Armbrister. Now she’s planning to stick around a while because she and Armbrister have the same goals, and they both want to fix problems in the community that they love, she said. “I want to see it (the community) ...

Lawrence man, 19, charged with aggravated criminal sodomy

A Lawrence man was charged Tuesday in Douglas County District Court with three child sex crimes. Angel G. Fitzgerald Johns, 19, was arrested on a probable cause warrant Monday afternoon at the address listed as his home, according to jail records. Lawrence police had arrested Fitzgerald Johns in September, but he was released without being charged at that time, jail records show. On Tuesday, he had a first ...

Motorcyclist died days after crash in eastern Lawrence, police say

A Eudora man died several days after his motorcycle collided with an SUV in eastern Lawrence, according to a crash report. Terry L. Ellison, 56, died Nov. 11 following the crash, which occurred just before 5 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 5. Lawrence Police Department spokesperson Patrick Compton provided the Journal-World details from the crash report Monday. The driver of a Ford Explorer, a minor, was eastbound ...

'In a position to make some change': Incoming Douglas County District Attorney Suzanne Valdez shares perspectives, plans

Suzanne Valdez said she loves being around people. And months before she even takes office as Douglas County's next district attorney, she has surrounded herself with community stakeholders and her future team members. In addition, the longtime law professor at the University of Kansas said that teaching is near and dear to her, which is why she wants to emphasize mentorship and training once she is sworn in ...

Lawrence man sentenced to 38 months for sexual battery; juvenile charge not counted

A judge sentenced a Lawrence man on Thursday to just more than three years in prison for aggravated sexual battery after determining that his juvenile record shouldn’t count against him. Dominic C. Bartholomew, 25, was charged in January with rape, a level-1 felony. On Aug. 6, however, he pleaded guilty to the less severe level-5 felony. A woman who was a friend of Bartholomew’s at the time of the ...

Federal judge denies Sandbar’s request for injunction against health order limiting bars’ hours

A judge on Thursday denied a request from the owner of a downtown Lawrence bar to prevent enforcement of a health order that restricts the hours that bars can be open amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Peach Madl, longtime owner of the Sandbar, 17 E. Eighth St., filed a lawsuit in federal court last month against Lawrence-Douglas County Health Officer Dr. Thomas Marcellino for an order he issued. The order ...

Douglas County’s jury trial plan approved; court can use fairgrounds buildings to allow for social distancing

Douglas County District Court has gotten approval for a plan to resume holding jury trials, though it’s still not clear when that might actually happen. The plan involves using buildings at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, including health questionnaires with juror summonses, and lots of masks and hand sanitizer. The Kansas Supreme Court suspended time limits and deadlines in court cases because of COVID-19 ...

Attorney testifies that he told prosecutor ‘you’ve got the wrong guy’ in murder case — but admits he provided no concrete evidence

A Lawrence attorney testified Friday that he told a prosecutor almost six years ago, “Rontarus didn’t do it — you’ve got the wrong guy.” However, he said that statement was based on what two distraught family members of the victim had told him, and he didn’t know of any evidence to support their belief that the victim’s husband — not Rontarus Washington Jr. — was responsible for her ...

Judge weighs injunction in Sandbar case against Douglas County health order that restricts bars’ hours

The owner of a downtown Lawrence bar is asking a federal judge to immediately stop, pending the duration of a lawsuit, Douglas County from enforcing a health order that requires bars to stop serving at 11 p.m. Peach Madl, longtime owner of the Sandbar, 17 E. Eighth St., filed a lawsuit in federal court last month against Lawrence-Douglas County Health Officer Dr. Thomas Marcellino for an order he issued amid ...

Prosecutors drop charges against Lawrence skateboarder in case that questioned police officer’s truthfulness

Prosecutors have dropped a case against a Lawrence skateboarder whose defense attorney questioned the arresting officer’s credibility. Duc M. Tran, 45, was arrested after he was stopped for skateboarding in the street in downtown Lawrence on June 29, 2019, as the Journal-World has reported. Tran previously told the newspaper that his left elbow was fractured and both shoulders were dislocated as a result of ...

Judge considering whether Tommy May, convicted in 2018 shooting, should get a new trial

A judge will make a ruling later this month on whether a man convicted in a shooting that injured two people should get a new trial. Tommy May, 61, of Lawrence, was convicted on several charges after a jury trial in December 2019, including attempted first-degree murder, attempted second-degree murder, aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer and more. The charges stem from a rapid series of events on ...

Affidavit alleges Silvio De Sousa hit man who told him to shut up; man lost vision in one eye

A man has reportedly lost vision in his left eye after an alleged altercation with former University of Kansas basketball player Silvio De Sousa, according to court documents. De Sousa, 22, is facing a charge of aggravated battery, a level-5 or midlevel-severity felony, in connection with an alleged incident that occurred at 2:36 a.m. Jan. 1 outside a Lawrence bar. An affidavit supporting the charge says ...

Douglas County Sheriff’s Office’s annual report shows bookings hit lowest in jail’s history in 2019

A new annual report from the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office shows that bookings into the Douglas County Jail in 2019 were the lowest the jail has seen since it opened in 2001. According to the report, posted online Wednesday, the total of 4,363 bookings in 2019 is a 15.4% drop from 2018’s 5,158, which was the previous low. The 2017 total was 5,357, and the 2016 total was 5,329. The monthly average of ...

Woman, 29, dies after being trapped under vehicle in Lawrence

Updated story - Nov. 12 — Lawrence woman killed in towing accident was mother of 2, according to funeral fundraiser page Updated at 1:08 p.m. Monday A 29-year-old woman died after being trapped under her own vehicle Monday in Lawrence, police say. The woman, a resident of a home in the 3400 block of Augusta Drive where the incident occurred, was attempting to have her car towed, around 11:20 a.m. ...

Man sentenced to probation for sexual battery of teen in Lawrence

A Lawrence man was sentenced Monday to three years of probation for a sex crime against a teenage girl. Lawrence police arrested Randy Lee Flaherty, 36, in May, and he was charged in Douglas County District Court with attempted rape. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of aggravated sexual battery on Sept. 9. During the plea hearing, Flaherty told the judge he had gotten in bed with the teen victim and ...