WRITER: Mackenzie Clark

Lawrence adult entertainment club says Supreme Court decision on religious services should apply to local health order

In an ongoing legal dispute over a Douglas County health order that limits bars’ operating hours amid the coronavirus pandemic, an attorney now says a U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down attendance limits at religious services should apply to an adult entertainment club in Lawrence. Attorneys for the county, however, say that argument fails to note that free religious exercise protections of the First ...

Floyd Bledsoe shares what life is like 5 years after exoneration; he’s still pushing for accountability for his wrongful murder conviction

Brynlee Alice Jean Bledsoe is still too young to know the significance, but someday she'll understand that her middle names are in honor of two of the women who helped free her father from prison in 2015. Brynlee, who will turn 2 next month, and her two big brothers are making the time pass by much more quickly for Floyd Scott Bledsoe than it did as he spent almost 16 years behind bars. This Tuesday, Dec. 8, ...

City of Lawrence receives near-perfect score for LGBTQ inclusivity; much of the credit given to local law enforcement

The city of Lawrence has earned a high “A” for LGBTQ inclusivity in annual rankings by the Human Rights Campaign, in large part because of score improvements in the category of law enforcement. Lawrence scored 98 out of 100 possible points on the 2020 Municipal Equality Index, or MEI, which scores cities on various criteria including nondiscrimination protections, policies for municipal employees, city ...

Former KU basketball player Silvio De Sousa formally charged with felony aggravated battery

Former University of Kansas basketball player Silvio De Sousa was formally charged with aggravated battery during a brief first appearance in court Friday. De Sousa appeared with counsel Hatem Chahine on a summons for the midlevel-severity felony. The probable cause affidavit supporting the charge alleges that De Sousa struck a man who told him to “shut the (expletive) up” around 2:30 a.m. on Jan. 1 ...

Man charged with endangering child in connection with shooting that injured 6-year-old Lawrence boy

A man was charged during a first appearance in court Friday in connection with an August shooting that critically injured a 6-year-old boy. Rashun B. Lewis, 27, is charged with aggravated endangering a child, a low-level felony. He appeared in Douglas County District Court Friday with attorney Nick David. Tayshawn Mack Harris, 6, was shot in the head and flown to Children’s Mercy hospital in critical ...

Man pleads to lesser offense, is sentenced to probation in Lawrence rape case

A judge sentenced a man to two years of probation Thursday in what began as a rape case, and she told the man to stop saying the victim was lying, as he has been convicted of a felony. Evan P. Hiesberger, 23, was initially charged with rape of a victim overcome by force or fear, a severe level-1 felony, and violation of a protective order, a misdemeanor. On Oct. 22, he pleaded no contest to a less severe, ...

Man convicted in Lawrence grease thefts sentenced to probation

Almost a year after pleading guilty in two cases stemming from thefts of grease, a man has been sentenced to probation, and he told the judge he’s going to turn his life around. Byron P. Aston, 30, previously of Springfield, Mo., was charged Feb. 27, 2019, with felony theft for allegedly stealing more than a ton of used cooking grease from bins behind three downtown Lawrence restaurants. Prosecutors said ...

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 ...