Archive for April, 2015

Over the course of almost 25 years, the 1982 murder of David Harmon became the most spell-binding crime story in the history of Olathe.

Harmon, 25, was beaten to death with a crowbar. While sleeping in his bed, he was struck 12 to 14 times with such force that one of his eyeballs was knocked from its socket and ended up on the floor several feet from the bed.


Mangelsdorf (KS Dept. of Corrections photo)

When the beating began, his 24-year-old wife, Melinda Harmon, was in beside him in the bed. Wielding the blows was Mark Mangelsdorf, a man with whom Melinda Harmon had become intimate.

The crime should have been solved in a few days, but it took 24 years to bring the perpetrators to justice.

During that time, both Melinda Harmon and Mark Mangelsdorf went their separate ways, married (he twice), had children and put the events of Feb. 28, 1982 behind them.

Tomorrow, after nine years behind bars, Melinda Raisch will be released from a Topeka prison.

Kansas City Star police reporter Tony Rizzo had an excellent story about Raisch’s pending release in Monday’s paper. Rizzo has followed the story over the years and understands how it deeply resonates, particularly in Johnson County.

Over the years, the story has received national attention, including being the subject of a compelling book, “A Cold-Blooded Business,” written by Marek Fuchs, a former reporter for The New York Times and now a writing teacher at Sarah Lawrence College.

Because of space constraints, Rizzo was not able to explain why it took so long to solve the crime.



The thread that linked David and Melinda Harmon and Mark Mangelsdorf was the Nazarene Church and MidAmerica Nazarene University, then MidAmerica Nazarene College, in Olathe.

The Nazarene Church, or its teachings, also may have held the key to the motive, too. Fuchs suggests in his book that, to Melinda and Mark, murder may have been preferable to Melinda seeking a divorce from Mark. The Nazarene Church strongly discourages divorce.


In 1982, Olathe was not the booming suburban city that it has become. It was, frankly, a podunk town along I-35 that was only distinguished area-wide by the presence of the Nazarenes and their college.

Melinda Harmon’s father, J. Wilmer Lambert, was a high-ranking official with the Nazarene Church, and it was he, ultimately, who thwarted the police investigation.

Full of swagger and self-importance, Lambert so intimidated detectives and an assistant prosecutor that, after three cursory interviews with Melinda, police quit trying to get more from her. Largely because law enforcement officials deferred to Lambert, Fuchs wrote, “The investigation had been a board-certified disaster.”

Melinda’s cover story — incredibly lame, as the police recognized — was that two black men entered her and David’s apartment and demanded that David turn over the keys to a bank where he worked. The men then killed David and knocked her to the ground, leaving a slight bruise on her cheek.

Wanting to interview Melinda at length, Detective Roger LaRue and another investigator went to a home where Melinda and her father were staying after the murder. Melinda agreed to go to police headquarters for an interview, but Lambert announced he was coming along.

Here’s how Fuchs, in his book, describes what occurred next:

When the group got to police headquarters, stashed in a building with other city offices, they took the elevator to the fifth floor. When they stepped off the elevator, LaRue attempted to separate Melinda from her father.

LaRue told Lambert, “Melinda’s going to have to be questioned closely. And read her rights.”

“The hell she will,” said Lambert. “She’s coming home with me and right now, you bumbling pieces of shit,” he said, advancing at LaRue, pushing a forefinger into his chest, again and again and again.

At that point, an assistant district attorney rushed out of a nearby office and worked out a compromise, allowing Lambert to be present for the interview. Fuchs wrote that during the standoff with Lambert, Melinda “observed the events around her passively, like a bystander at an accident.”

Before the interview began, LaRue informed Melinda she was a suspect. With that, Lambert grabbed his daughter by the shirt, walked her to the elevator, and they left the building.

And, until two cold-case detectives approached Melinda at her Ohio home in December 2001, she was not interviewed again.

That 2001 interview, which Melinda Raisch willingly agreed to, set the stage for her subsequent first-degree murder conviction and Mangelsdorf’s plea to a charge of second-degree murder.

In 2006, each was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison. David Harmon’s father, 83-year-old John Harmon, was at first pleased with the plea deal but changed his mind after learning that both defendants would be eligible for parole in less than six years. “In a real sense, she destroyed my family,” Rizzo quoted Harmon as saying.

Raisch, now 57, is planning to return to Ohio, provided that Kansas and Ohio officials approve.

Mangelsdorf, 55, is eligible for parole in May 2016.


In every Kansas Department of Corrections mug shot I have seen of Melinda Raisch, she is smiling. Below are corrections department photos from 2010 (left) and from a few days ago.



Accompanying an early mug shot of Raisch in Fuchs’ book is this caption: “Always smiling, she invested in presenting a good front.”

It’s just another oddity in a wholly confounding and ultimately frustrating case that many Kansas City area residents will never forget.

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From what I’ve heard the last couple of days, I was overly optimistic that common sense would prevail in the immediate wake of Bishop Robert Finn’s firing/resignation.

There have been several disappointing, unofficial developments — disappointing from my personal perspective and that of tens of thousands of Kansas City area Catholics yearning for more enlightened Catholic leadership.

Among the developments —

:: Interim Administrator Archbishop Joseph Naumann has decided to stand behind the pending reassignment of the Rev. Richard Rocha, currently director of diocesan vocations, to pastor at St. Thomas More in south Kansas City. Rocha, a conservative priest, will succeed Thomas More’s extremely popular pastor of six years, Rev. Don Farnan, who is widely considered a liberal and progressive priest.

:: Farnan has not budged from his decision to decline a transfer to the parishes in Gallatin and Hamilton, Missouri, and instead will take a leave of absence. (He told me last week that he had also given consideration to going in a different direction altogether, perhaps working with missions or Catholic Relief Services, the “humanitarian agency” of the Catholic Church in the United States.)

:: Rev. Vincent Rogers, pastor at St. Andrew the Apostle Church in Gladstone, will, indeed, take over at Visitation Church in the South Plaza area. The prospect of an arch-conservative pastor like Rogers has so upset many in the Visitation community that the outgoing pastor, Rev. Pat Rush, who is retiring, sent an e-mail to parishioners saying, in effect, “calm down and be prayerful.”

For the majority of parishioners at Visitation and St. Thomas More, those developments are — or will be, when officially confirmed — extremely disappointing.

In my last post (and thanks again to the thousands of people who read it and the dozens who commented) I speculated that Naumann, stepping into a huge controversy, would rescind the transfers of Farnan and Rogers and reconsider Finn’s desperate, out-the-door machinations.

I guess I should have known better…A former diocesan priest who is a good friend, sent an e-mail about that post, saying: “I have a lot of doubts that Naumann will rescind the appointment of Rogers and Rocha… Naumann and Finn are in the same ideological camp.”

It appears, then, that as far as the diocese’s interim leader is concerned, it’s “full speed ahead” with the orthodoxy and rigidity that ultimately played a big role in bringing Finn down.

This is very unfortunate, but, as is always the case with Catholic Church administration, little or nothing can be done about it.

But all is not lost. It’s important, I think, for disillusioned Catholics in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph to focus on the larger picture because several rays of sunshine are peeking through the cloud cover.

Consider, for example —

:: “King Finn” is dead, and in Pope Francis the Church is finally blessed with a forward-thinking leader who is steadily loosening the vise that his predecessor tightened around the heads of the faithful.



:: Crux, the Boston Globe’s online site “covering all things Catholic,” reported recently that the Vatican’s special commission on clergy sexual abuse has given Pope Francis a proposal on how to discipline bishops who fail to protect minors from sexual abuse by clergy under their oversight. Marie Collins, a member of the commission, would not divulge any details but said, “It’s gone to the Holy Father and it’s up to him when he makes a decision.”



:: The Archdiocese of Chicago recently got a new leader, Archbishop Blase Cupich, a former pastor in Omaha, who is thoughtful, intellectual and moderate. (Cupich succeeded the now-deceased Archbishop Francis George, one of Pope John Paul’s arch-conservative henchmen.)

Here’s a taste of Cupich’s approach. In April 2011, he spoke at a two-day conference at Marquette University law school. His subject was “Harm, Hope and Healing: International Dialogue on the Clergy Sex Abuse Scandal.”

Among other things, Cupich said it was essential that church officials maintain a “visceral connection” to the pain and damage done to those abused by priests, and that bishops needed to continue soul-searching or risk “regression or complacency.”

Can you imagine Finn saying anything like that? Urging church officials to put themselves in the shoes of victims of clergy sexual abuse?  Hell, no! His perspective was always looking down from his lofty perch, from where he ruled with mitred head and croziered hand.

Let’s hope Francis will assign Kansas City a bishop like Cupich, someone whose eyes are open and heart is big. If that happy circumstance should come to pass, the diocese could truly get on with shedding the suit of armor that Finn has cloaked the diocese in the last 10 years.

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With the papal firing of Bishop Robert Finn, at least two significant diocesan issues have been left swaying in the wind.

They revolve around Finn’s recent reassignment of some priests. Two of those reassignments were immediately controversial, and they probably will be one of the first orders of business taken up by the diocese’s interim administrator, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of the Kansas City, Kansas, archdiocese.

Every year, the bishop reshuffles some priests, usually those who have been at their existing parishes at least six years. This year, Finn announced the reassignments several weeks earlier than usual, which, in itself, raised eyebrows.

Under Finn, the reassignments have always been heavily tinged with diocesan politics; it can be a nasty business for those not in Finn’s good graces.

john w

Rev. John Wandless

Listen to the assessment of Rev. John Wandless, a retired priest who lives in the South Plaza area. (For the record, Father John and I are friends and have worked on a couple of political campaigns together.)

“I thought something was going on two weeks ago when Bishop Finn made some scorched-earth pastor assignments sending ultra-conservative pastors to moderate parishes and pastors from moderate/liberal parishes to the boondocks… In other words he was putting his boys into choice assignments — just before he was called to Rome — without regard, it seems to me, for the best interests of the parishes.”


One of the controversial reassignments was the proposed transfer of Rev. Don Farnan from heavily populated St. Thomas More Church in south Kansas City to parishes in Gallatin and Hamilton, Missouri. (Hamilton is directly east of Cameron; Gallatin is northeast.)


Rev. Don Farnan

Farnan, regarded as part of the diocese’s liberal contingent, is a jewel of a priest. He has a remarkable pastoral touch, combining compassion and eloquence with common sense and terrific leadership ability. (Indicative of his giving nature, not long ago he donated one of his kidneys to a young boy he had never met.) To dispatch him to the hinterlands — while it would have been a godsend for Catholics in Gallatin and Hamilton — would have been a tremendous under-usage of his talents.

This morning, Farnan graciously granted me a telephone interview and laid out the details of the brouhaha over his reassignment.

Here’s how it went:

On March 12, Farnan and Finn spoke briefly at the diocese, where Farnan had gone on other business. Finn told Farnan he was thinking about transferring him but didn’t say where. Farnan, who is in his ninth year at St. Thomas More, said that he had been thinking for a couple of years about what he might want to do next as a priest.

He told Finn he’d prefer to stay at St. Thomas More but that he was open to anything else, except that he’d like to take a sabbatical before accepting a new assignment.

Finn told him that wasn’t possible, that the diocese could not pay his salary while he was on sabbatical. Farnan dismissed the financial consideration, saying that wasn’t a problem for him.

On March 28, diocesan vicar general Rev. Charles Rowe called Farnan and informed him he would be transferred to Gallatin-Hamilton. Farnan told Rowe, as he had told Finn, that he intended to take a leave of absence before accepting any transfer.

Finn called Farnan on Holy Thursday, April 2, and they had what turned out to be a testy conversation.

They talked again about Gallatin-Hamilton, and Farnan repeated that he was not prepared to accept the transfer at that time.

“He sort of went off,” Farnan said, referring to the bishop. Finn ended the ensuing conversation by saying, “We can communicate through the vicar.”

That was Farnan’s last communication with Finn.

Farnan said he believes his situation is one of several issues that Naumann will address before Pope Francis names a permanent successor to Finn.

My guess — and this is strictly my speculation — is that Farnan will end up staying at St. Thomas More for another year to allow the dust to settle. After that, it’s anybody’s guess, but I would think that Naumann and the next bishop will be more solicitous and considerate of Farnan’s wishes.


Another priest-transfer controversy pertains to Visitation Church, 52nd and Main, where the Rev. Pat Rush, a widely admired priest and a former vicar general, is getting set to retire. Rush is also in the liberal contingent.

As Rush’s successor, Finn had appointed a priest named Vincent Rogers, whose unfortunate claim to fame, publicly at least, was getting arrested in a prostitution sting operation in 2003. His attorney at the time, John P. O’Connor, told me today that Rogers was not convicted. O’Connor said he didn’t remember any other details of the resolution, such as whether Rogers was ordered to take part in a diversion program.

Rogers has been pastor at St. Andrew the Apostle Catholic Church in Gladstone for several years. The announcement of his transfer to Visitation has thrown that parish — one of the diocese’s most prosperous parishes, along with St. Thomas More — into an uproar.


Rev. Vincent Rogers

Another unsettling factor to Visitation parishioners, besides the prostitution sting, is that Rogers is one of a handful of priests who, as Farnan put it, “most reflect Finn’s style and personality.” That is, they are ultra-conservative.

The sting operation involved 20  law enforcement agencies in Kansas and Missouri. About 100 people were arrested after answering Internet and newspaper ads from what appeared to be escort services.

An archived Kansas City Star story from 2003 about the operation says that Rogers, then pastor at a St. Joseph parish, told then-Bishop Raymond J. Boland that he had been arrested on suspicion of soliciting a prostitute.

The story goes on to say, “Rogers reportedly told Boland that he made telephone calls to arrange for a massage and he was taken into police custody when he arrived for the appointment.”

Boland placed Rogers on administrative leave but said he had not received any complaints of “similar misconduct” during his decade as a priest.


My personal feeling about Rogers is that even if he was convicted, it should not bar him from serving at Visitation, assuming he has had no subsequent legal problems. If he has cleaned up his act — and remember, that was a dozen years ago — I applaud him. It goes without saying that celibacy is a difficult way of life for most people.

Still, I can understand how the arrest would be unsettling to Visitation parishioners. And I can understand, even more, parishioners’ reservation about drawing an ultra-conservative pastor.

To the best of my knowledge, the parish has never had an ultra-conservative pastor since its founding in 1909. It has been home to such great pastors as the late Msgr. Arthur Tighe, the late Richard Carney and former priest Tom Minges, who is now a minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

Overall, a conservative priest is not a good fit for Visitation. It is a progressive congregation with many young families, a goodly number of whom are drawn to the parish because of its excellent school.

I suspect Vincent Rogers will not be going to Visitation. If I had to guess, I’d say he, like Farnan, will be staying at his current parish for another year or two.

Let’s hope Naumann rescinds these two transfer orders soon.


Note: If you’re waiting for an explanation from the Vatican as to why the pope “accepted Finn’s resignation,” don’t hold your breath. the announcement was made yesterday in a one-sentence news-of-the-day-type roundup. It was written in Latin…A story in today’s KC Star quotes Rev. Thomas J. Reese, senior analyst with the National Catholic Reporter, as saying: “This is typical of the way the Vatican works. It doesn’t like to explain things. It hopes that people will just be satisfied with the fact that they got rid of him.” I don’t know about you, but it’s certainly satisfactory for me!

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The long-anticipated move out of Rome — the move that I had nearly given up hope on — has come to pass.

Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn — reviled by thousands of area Catholics since being convicted of failing to report priest sexual abuse in the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese — is out.

Hallelujah! Hosanna in the Highest!

Break out all the cliches. And, more important, break out the hats and hooters (the party variety): Those dispirited Catholics, as well as the rest of us who have watched this sorry spectacle drag out for three years, are in a mood to party.   

A good friend of ours who has worked at the Catholic chancery for 20 years texted me and Patty the thrilling news at 6:36 a.m. The message:

“And Finn is out of here! And the crowds roar!”

That last sentence was figurative, of course, but so fitting.

Archbishop Joseph Naumann of the Diocese of Kansas City in Kansas will serve as “Apostolic Administrator” until Pope Francis appoints a new bishop.

Naumann met with employees at 10:15 a.m at the chancery, 20 W. 9th Street. His first words, our friend at the chancery said, were: “How about those Royals?”


For the record The Kansas City Star does not have a story in today’s printed edition. Early this morning it posted an Associated Press story on its website. Shortly after 7 a.m., The Star posted a local story under the lead byline of the very able and knowledgeable Judy L. Thomas. Here’s that link…http://www.kansascity.com/news/local/article19121754.html

The New York Times also has a story…http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/22/us/missouri-bishop-convicted-of-shielding-pedophile-priest-resigns.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

The National Catholic Reporter has been leading the way on the story. Here’s the link to today’s report…http://ncronline.org/news/accountability/us-bishop-finn-symbol-churchs-failure-sexual-abuse-resigns

Yesterday, NCR had the “scoop,” with a speculative story that ran under the headline “Kansas City swamped with unsubstantiated rumors of Finn’s resignation.” http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/kansas-city-swamped-unsubstantiated-rumors-finns-resignation

Another journalistic note here: Based on yesterday’s NCR story, The Star should have had a story in today’s paper. It dropped the ball, in my opinion.

In addition, it’s my opinion that if Mark Morris, The Star’s brilliant former courts reporter, had not retired last month, The Star would have had a story yesterday. (See his disclaiming comment below.)

Morris not only covered the bench trial in which Finn was convicted of a misdemeanor in the Shawn Ratigan case, but he also tracked diocesan developments closely, reading NCR and other Catholic-related publications regularly. (Mark’s byline appears on today’s web story by Judy Thomas because before leaving the paper he wrote extensive background copy to help the paper be ready for today’s turn of events.)


Our former bishop

I have not had a chance to fully read either NCR story, but I’m going to tell you what the chancery employee told me about the lead-up to Finn’s ouster.

A week ago Tuesday night, chancery employees got an e-mail saying Finn was canceling a confirmation (one of Catholicism’s “seven sacraments”) the next day, apparently because he was going out of town.

“He would never cancel a confirmation,” the insider said. “It (the e-mail) didn’t say where he was going or why.”

Suddenly, the atmosphere in the chancery, where morale had been lower than low, began to lift. A feeling that change could be imminent was in the air.

In about 24 hours, Finn was back. And word began to spread in the chancery that the bishop had been summoned to Rome for a meeting. That was big; it might not have signaled a change at the top, but what else could have precipitated such an urgent meeting at the Vatican?

I had heard elsewhere that after returning from Rome, Finn was glum. He’s basically a sourpuss, but apparently he was more glum than usual.

The chancery employee said that since Finn’s return, “I’ve had a steady stream of priests in my office, talking.”

And what was the employee’s overall reaction to the upheaval?

“I want to go to work today…It’s a good day; it’s going to be a good day.”

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Understandably, much of Kansas City — including the Fitzpatrick household — has been in a near frenzy since Friday’s Royals-Oakland A’s game, when A’s third baseman Brett Lawrie barreled into Royals’ shortstop Alcides Escobar with spikes high, spraining Escobar’s left knee.

Lawrie’s intimidating and dangerous move set off a retaliation sequence that probably won’t end with the last out of Sunday’s game, which the Royals won 4-2, thanks to dramatic eighth-inning doubles by Lorenzo Cain and Kendrys Morales.

I was at Sunday’s game, and it was one of the most intense regular-season games I have ever seen.

But after thinking about all that happened during the three games and reading reports by Royals’ and Athletics’ reporters, I am afraid that the Royals ultimately sacrificed the moral high ground, if you will.

On the Kansas City end, the refrain from Kansas City Star reporters and Royals TV and radio commentators is something like, “These Royals will not back down.” (That’s the headline on Vahe Gregorian’s column on The Star’s website tonight.)

Not surprisingly, Oakland reporters see it through a different-colored lens.

Consider this from a blog post tonight by John Hickey, A’s beat reporter for the Oakland Tribune.

The Royals were the best feel-good story of 2014, a scrappy, hustling team that put a full-court press on opponents and ran them out of the gym, in the process running themselves into the World Series.

Six months later, the Royals have an entirely different persona. They’ve become angry. They’ve become nasty.

With hostilities unresolved and clashing perspectives abounding, the next Royals-A’s series — in Oakland at the end of June — is likely to be very ugly. There will almost surely be some hit batters, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if there’s a big fight.

The Royals ceded the high ground, in my opinion, with two specific actions — one Saturday and one Sunday.

Incident No. 1

Everyone within a two-hour drive of Kansas City is now aware that Royals’ pitcher Yordano Ventura plunked Lawrie in the elbow in Saturday’s game, which the A’s won 5-0.

Ventura was perfectly justified in hitting Ventura to even the score for Lawrie’s reckless slide into Escobar the night before.

But here’s where Ventura screwed up — and, perhaps tellingly, I got this from an Oakland reporter’s account, not from anything I heard or read in in local reports:

Ventura apparently smiled at Lawrie after hitting him…Not smart.

One of the worst things a player can do under baseball’s unwritten rules is to show up an opponent. It’s OK to exact non-lethal revenge against an opponent, but you can’t give him the “gotcha” smile when you do it. You keep a straight face, turn your back and act like nothing out of the ordinary happened.

But Ventura, a young and emotional guy, indulged himself in obvious delight when he evened the score.

Lawrie, for his part, was professional. He didn’t even look at Ventura. He was expecting to be hit; took the pitch in the elbow; and headed straight to first base.

Normally, that would have been the end of the skirmish: You got us; we got you.

But it resumed anew on Sunday, and — who knows? — maybe that damned smile was responsible.

Incident No. 2

I arrived in the bottom of the first inning, and as I walked along the concourse behind the seating area, thunderous booing was underway. I looked up at a monitor in time to see Royals’ manager Ned Yost giving an incredible ass chewing to home plate umpire Greg Gibson. Their faces were so close that if Yost had bad breath, Gibson would be able to report if it was from onions or bananas.

After Gibson gave Yost the heave-ho, I asked a bystander what I had missed. I was told A’s pitcher Scott Kazmir had hit Cain with a pitch…Hit him in the foot, I learned later.

I also learned later that pitching coach Dave Eiland had gotten tossed before Yost. Apparently both were arguing — probably sprinkling their assertions with the verboten “f” word — that Kazmir should be thrown out out of the game, just as Ventura had been kicked out Saturday after hitting Lawrie.

Ejecting Kazmir might have calmed things down, but he stayed in the game, and the Royals decided more retaliation was in order.

It came in the top of the eighth. With Lawrie at the plate and the game tied 2-2, Royals’ reliever Kelvin Herrera threw a low and inside pitch that made Lawrie do a little jump-back. Watching from my seat behind the netting on the first-base side of home plate, I thought that might be sufficient.


Kelvin Herrera being ushered off the field Sunday

But no. On the next pitch Herrera threw a fastball behind Lawrie’s head. Gibson, the home plate umpire, immediately threw Herrera out of the game. Just as quickly, Herrera gave up the ability to claim the wild pitch was accidental: On the way to the dugout, glowering at Lawrie, he pointed to his own head and mouthed some words.

Lawrie and the rest of the A’s interpreted that to mean Herrera had intended to hit him in the head. “He needs to pay for that,” Lawrie said after the game.

For his part, Herrera said he yelled, “Think about it,” at Lawrie while making the finger-to-head motion.

…Two problems for the Royals here: First, you should never throw at or near a player’s head intentionally. Obviously, that could result in serious injury or even death. That’s going over the line…And then, to point to his head, regardless of what message he was trying to send to Lawrie, was incredibly ill advised.

More than protecting his teammates — which is what a retaliatory pitch is intended to do — Herrera put his teammates in harm’s way. When the Royals go to the Oakland Coliseum in June, I will be watching and cringing with every A’s pitch to — or at — Royals’ batters.

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More and more, the idea of building a new, single terminal at KCI seems to be wafting into the clouds. Up, up and away…

After the mayor’s special task force on KCI last year endorsed construction of a single terminal, eliminating the antiquated three-terminal model we have had for more than 40 years, absolutely nothing has happened.

It was clear that public sentiment runs strongly against significant changes at KCI, and, as a result, political advocates of a single terminal — such as Mayor Sly James — found it in their best interests to pipe down.

And on Wednesday the c.e.o. of Southwest Airlines, the biggest user of KCI, probably snuffed out any remaining hopes of Kansas City getting a modern, attractive airport for the next 15 to 20 years.

Gary Kelly, who was in town on unrelated aviation business, suggested that a major redesign of KCI would cause airline fares to increase significantly. Low costs for the airlines, Kelly said, mean low prices for customers.

He didn’t mention, of course, that Southwest has been raising fees so fast that it’s now almost undeserving of the title “low-cost airline.” Two or three years ago, a research firm named Topaz International conducted a survey of 100 routes flown by Southwest. Here’s what it discovered:

When comparing airfare only, competing airlines were lower than Southwest Airlines over 60% of the time, and higher than Southwest Airlines 35% of the time. This result is surprising given the perception in the marketplace, and with many travel managers, that Southwest Airlines is in fact the low-cost carrier in all markets they serve.

Although cost considerations are paramount for Kelly at KCI, it was a different story a few years ago at Dallas’ Love Field, where Kelly was completely behind a $500-million-plus renovation. But that was Dallas, where Kelly resides and Southwest has its headquarters.

…My interpretation, then, of Gary Kelly’s comments is: We want to keep costs down so we can continue raising prices and increasing our profit margin. So, don’t bother us with talk of a modern airport with amenities that most other big cities have.


I think it would be a great thing if Academie Lafayette and the Kansas City School District would team up and develop a progressive “early college” school on the Southwest High School campus.

The prospect of such a collaboration fell apart a few months ago, but it has been revived — to some extent — this week, with the Stowers Foundation pledging to pay for $2 million in start-up costs.

In the long run, though, money probably won’t overcome the opposition of several community organizations, some of which are worried about “resegregation.”


Two groups that oppose the partnership are the Urban Summit, an organization spearheaded by the Baptist Ministers Union, and the Metropolitan Organization for Racial and Economic Equity, also known as More Squared.

I find considerable irony in those two groups’ opposition to an invigorated Southwest High.

MORE Squared’s website says the organization was created in 2004 “as an interfaith social justice organization reflecting different cultural backgrounds, faith traditions, skin colors and economic means.  We are united in our commitment to transforming our communities by creating a metropolitan area that embraces all people and offers everyone the opportunity to achieve their greatest potential.”

It seems to me that a racially balanced, college prep school in the Brookside area would do a lot to offer more students the opportunity to achieve their greatest potential.

The Urban Summit’s mission sounds similar. It is “to develop initiatives to foster community relations, enhance economic growth and improve the quality of life in the urban core.”

While a high-achieving Southwest High would not directly enhance the inner-city economy and quality of life, it could certainly go a long way toward fostering closer ties with the white community.

In addition, it would give a lot of African-American students the opportunity to shed the albatross that the KSPS system hangs around their necks. And surely some of those students would be inspired, after graduating from college, to do whatever they could to give other inner-city students a helping hand up.


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It is now clear why former State Auditor Tom Schweich killed himself: He was emotionally unstable — prone to periods of being “very low” and if not clinically depressed at least subject to bouts of situational depression.

An exhaustive report released late Tuesday by the Clayton, Missouri, police department shows the extent of Schweich’s emotional and physical problems.

In addition to significant emotional dips, Schweich also had a chronic physical condition — Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel disorder that typically causes stomach pain, diarrhea and weight loss.

Crohn’s frequently exacts an emotional toll on sufferers and their families. WedMD says: “Having Crohn’s disease can be stressful. The disease affects every part of your life. Seek support from family and friends to help you cope. Get counseling if you need it.”

I never saw Schweich in person, but in every photo I’ve seen, he never appeared healthy; he looked gaunt and pale…No wonder.



Schweich, who was seeking the Republican nomination for governor, shot himself with a .22 caliber pistol the morning of Feb. 26. His wife Kathy was in the same room at the time he shot himself, but she had her back to him and was talking on the phone to a woman with whom Schweich had been speaking before handing the phone to his wife.

In the days leading up to his suicide, Schweich was preoccupied but what he saw as a “whispering campaign” that he was Jewish. He wasn’t Jewish, but he probably thought that if he wasn’t able to stamp out the rumor, it would cost him support and campaign contributions in some quarters.

Schweich wanted to go public and call out Republican Party chairman John Hancock, whom he believed was spreading the unfounded rumors. But all of Schweich’s political advisers, including former U.S. Sen. John C. Danforth, were urging him to hold off.

Schweich was also upset about a radio ad that likened him to the Barney Fife character on the old Andy Griffith TV show.

From Tuesday’s police report, it is easy to deduce that while the whispering campaign and the Barney Fife ad may have caused Schweich significant distress, the underlying factors in his suicide were emotional instability and overall poor health.

Police found more than 20 prescription drugs in Schweich’s home, including prednisone — a steroid that can have uncomfortable side effects — and hydrocodone — a painkiller.

Antidepressants did not appear to be among the drugs.

The strongest evidence that Schweich was not a well man, however, came from police interviews with three people: Schweich’s wife Kathy; Martha Fitz, a woman who is a friend and ally of Danforth and was a friend and adviser to Schweich; and Trish Vincent, Schweich’s chief of staff in the auditor’s office.

Here are excerpts from police interviews with the three women:

Kathy Schweich

“K. Schweich informed me (the interviewing officer) that her husband had talked about killing himself before and had done so while handling his firearms, but that she never thought he would actually act on his statement. She further explained that she knew he would sometimes get depressed…”

(The two lines that immediately follow those words are blacked out in the public version of the police report, so we don’t know what else she might have said about her husband’s depression.)

Martha Fitz

Fitz told an officer that Schweich could “get depressed from time to time” but, like Kathy Schweich, “she never thought he was at the point of suicide.”

Trish Vincent

“Although she (Vincent) does not believe that he suffers from depression, she does know that there are times when he seems ‘very low’…She further informed me that she does not believe that any one person or event caused him to kill himself, but that there was an accumulation of numerous things that added stress…and caused him to kill himself. T. Vincent described T. Schweich as a very anxious person who took everything very personal.”


I think the first reaction many people had when they heard about Schweich’s suicide was bafflement at how a veteran politician who was running for governor could get so upset about a false rumor or a below-the-belt radio ad that he would take his own life.

I never bought it. And in a Feb. 27 post, I theorized that clinical depression was the root of Schweich’s problem.

In light of the police report, I believe more than ever that Schweich was clinically depressed. Further, I think he probably avoided seeking a diagnosis or treatment because he knew it would end his chances of becoming governor.

Tom Schweich’s suicide was a terrible tragedy, but, truth be told, he was totally unfit to serve as governor. At least through his suicide he escaped his demons.

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I would bet a hundred bucks that the most-read story in the print edition of Saturday’s Kansas City Star was the one about the four young dipsticks who robbed a guy in Independence Wednesday night after the only girl in the group invited the victim — whom she knew — to meet him and have sex with her.

The story ran at the top of A4, which features local news.

There are two reasons this was probably the most-read story in the paper:

1) The defendants are white.

2) The perps were incredibly stupid.

The latter point always makes for a good read, and the former…well, let’s just say it’s not very often that you see four mugs shots of white people stripped under a crime story.

Three of the defendants look like they might be high-school students; two are 18 and one, the woman, is 19.

For the record, the defendants are Sydney M. Adams, the woman; Zachary A. Donahoo and Tristen W. Bishop, the 18-year-olds; and 23-year-old James T. Hunter. All four are charged with robbery and kidnapping.


As for the dumb-criminal dimension, like I said, the victim knew Adams, apparently very well. The story describes Adams as an “old friend” of the man she solicited.

So, if you’re planning a robbery — and you don’t intend to kill the victim — why would you solicit someone who knows you and can identify you? What would possibly make Adams think she and her compatriots could get away with it????

If you haven’t read the story, here’s what happened, in a nutshell: The guy arrives at the residence and Adams meets him wearing only a towel. She directs him to a bedroom, where he is confronted by the three guys, one of whom has a gun. They rob him, take him for a ride and release him. An Independence police officer spots him — he’s wearing only boxers and shoes — and interviews him. The gig is up.

Longtime Independence reporter Brian Burnes did a good job with the story — just played it straight and let the head-scratching facts carry it. Also deserving credit are the editors who decided to play the story prominently and strip the mug shots below the headline.


Too bad we don’t always see such good editorial judgment.

On Tuesday, The Star ran a three-paragraph under the headline “Kansas man gets four years for beheading man with guitar string.”

I don’t know if the story ran in a print edition. Bill Barnhart, a reader of the blog, called it to my attention.

Bill wrote: “The Star has been reporting about this guy that killed another man with a piano or guitar wire and was sentenced to only four years. How could something like that happen? It doesn’t seem right. Have you heard anything more about that one?”

Great question.

When I got to checking, I found The Star’s three-paragraph story, which The Star picked up from the Associated Press.

The story, out of Lyndon, KS, about 20 miles south of Topeka, said a man named James Paul Harris, 30, was sentenced Monday in Osage County District Court for involuntary manslaughter in the death of 49-year-old James Gerety. It went on to say that Harris originally was charged with first-degree murder but pleaded no contest to the reduced charge in December.

The Star’s version of the AP story gave no indication whatsoever why the charge was drastically reduced and why Harris got only four years.

But when I Googled the AP story, I found a couple of versions that offered more information. One key sentence that The Star omitted said the prosecution was hamstrung by ‘credibility issues’ with a major witness.

That sheds a little light on the issue, but not much. I got the full story on the website of the Topeka Capital-Journal, which had sent a reporter to Lyndon to do an in-depth story. The story included these paragraphs:

The prosecutor’s office accepted the plea to the less serious homicide charge of involuntary manslaughter because prosecuting James Gerety’s slaying as a premeditated first-degree murder faced challenges, Osage County Attorney Brandon Jones said.

Other than a portion of the victim’s skull, prosecutors didn’t have the victim’s body, the murder weapon hadn’t been recovered, not all the prosecution witnesses were available, and prosecutors faced “credibility issues” with a major witness, Jones said.

“It was going to be a tough case to prosecute,” Jones said.

That explains why the prosecutor was willing to accept a plea bargain with a four-year sentence in a gruesome case.

The Star’s handling of the story, on the other hand, was nothing less than a disservice was to its readers.

A good rule of thumb — and I don’t know if I’ve heard this before or if I’m just coming up with it now — is that if a story poses more questions than it provides answers, it’s better to not run it at all, if you’re not willing to take the time to run down the answers. 

In the case of the guitar-cord slaying, KC Star editors were just plain lazy.


One other Star note. Some of you have probably noticed that for most Kansas City Royals’ night games, The Star is now reporting the final score and a few bulleted highlights, instead of full game coverage. There are two reasons for that: The Star has gone to earlier deadlines, and it is trying to push more traffic to the website. Another upcoming change is a redesign of the print edition and the website.

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I’m sure that, like me, most people who read or heard about Tiffany Mogenson’s tragic death on Oct. 11, 2013 have, at one point or another, put themselves in her place when reflecting on the circumstances of her death.

She was alone in her car, sitting in the driver’s seat, stopped eastbound on 75th Street at Roe Avenue (I think), when a car going 90 miles an hour hurtled up (that’s redundant, but accurate) and crashed into the back of her car.

Tiffany suffered head and pelvic injuries and died almost instantly.

I have put myself in her position because I realize full well it could have been me. Of course, it could have been you — any one of you.


Kansas City Star photo

I put myself in Tiffany’s position and wonder what my reaction would have been? I (or you) probably would have heard the roar of an engine, or at least some unusually loud sound, and glanced up at the rearview mirror. Death approaching. Nowhere to go, no time to take evasive action.

Maybe I would scream. Maybe I would curse. Maybe I would pray. I guess I would instinctively duck as much as I could and hope the unguided missile coming at me would catapult over my car after initial impact…and that, miraculously, I would live.

But almost any scenario you could imagine that involved survival probably wouldn’t happen. Miracles seldom attend events like that.

I hope Tiffany, a 30-year-old dance studio owner and former Chiefs cheerleader, didn’t see or hear anything until impact. But I’m afraid she did.

It’s the capriciousness of it and the fact that things like that aren’t supposed to happen at 75th and Roe that boggle the mind.

Who hasn’t sat at that light? Facing any direction at one time or another? I probably go through that intersection — usually east or westbound — two to five times a month.

…I feel so sorry for Tiffany’s husband Mike, for her sister Stacy Chaloux, for her 8-year-old niece and for all her relatives and friends. She was ripped from them and robbed of her future by a guy who had been drinking for 24 hours, supposedly because he was depressed over a pending divorce.

The man, 33-year-old Roy Lee Maney, was sentenced on Wednesday to 15 years and eight months in prison for reckless second-degree murder and leaving the scene of an accident.

How about that for irony? Maney lived…Not only lived but was able to run from the scene before being caught.

Just before the crash, a Prairie Village police officer had been pursuing Maney for speeding. (He had at least two other prior traffic violations, including one for speeding, as well as a conviction for not having insurance or a driver’s license.)

In Maney’s maniacal path was Tiffany Mogenson, idling at the intersection, perhaps listening to the car radio. She was there, alert and alive one second, dead several seconds later.

It was an unimaginably rotten and tragic convergence of events. And it could have been me. It could have been you. But for just plain luck.

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Yesterday’s primary election has set the stage for showdowns in two key City Council races between challengers backed by special interests and incumbents who have shown that their goals coincide with the city’s best interests.

Here are the two races that, over the next two months, will be getting the most attention from people who follow Kansas City politics.

District 4 At-Large: Incumbent Jim Glover, a four-term veteran, will be trying to hold off challenger Katheryn Shields, a former City Council member and former Jackson County executive. This race will be voted on citywide.

District 1: Unless something changes (more about that in a minute). incumbent Dick Davis, former c.e.o. at the Area Transportation Authority, will battle it out with Heather Hall, a newcomer who is associated with the Tea Party. Even though this is an in-district race and will be voted on only in Clay County, it could be pivotal to Kansas City’s immediate future.

Here’s a closer look at the two races.

Jim Glover-Katheryn Shields



Glover defeated Shields by fewer than 500 votes (12,913 to 12,451) in Tuesday’s primary, with two other candidates finishing far back. Glover and Shields will go head to head in the June 23 general election.

Glover is going for a fifth council term. The City Charter limits office holders to two consecutive terms, but with a break of at least four years between each two-term stint, a candidate can run as many times as he or she chooses.

Glover first served on the council from 1991 to 1999. He ran for mayor in 1999, the year Kay Barnes was elected to her first term. Glover then was elected to the council in 2003, and in 2007 he again ran unsuccessfully for mayor. (Mark Funkhouser was the winner.) In 2011, Glover was once again elected to the council.



Shields was on the council from 1987 to 1995, when she was elected Jackson County executive. She served three terms as county executive, leaving office at the end of 2006.

Glover’s foremost achievement was helping bring Costco, Home Depot and Marsh’s Sun Fresh to Midtown in the late 1990s. As architect of “The Glover Plan,” he pushed relentlessly to fill Midtown’s retail black hole, and area residents have reaped the benefits ever since.

Glover is a strong advocate for neighborhood improvements, and he is an adversary of Firefighters’ Local 42, which continuously agitates for bigger Fire Department budgets, more union firefighting jobs and a broader fire union sphere of influence. Local 42 is supporting Shields.

As City Hall reporter for The Star from 1985 to 1995, I covered both Shields and Glover. I did volunteer work for Glover and contributed financially to him when he ran for mayor in 2007. I also contributed to his council campaign four years ago.

I have not volunteered for Shields in any of her campaigns and to the best of my recollection have not contributed to her financially.

My biggest concerns about Shields are her allegiance to Local 42 and her motives for wanting to return to office. My guess is that she misses the spotlight and the “action” and simply wants back in. Glover is not without ego, either — like I said, he’s run for mayor twice — but I think he has a better vision of what it takes to keep the city moving forward. From me, he gets the nod on “the trust factor.”

Heather Hall-Dick Davis



Hall defeated Davis yesterday by a vote of 1,380 to 1,267. Davis narrowly edged former Local 42 president Louie Wright and will advance to the June 23 general election. According to final, unofficial results, Davis had 1,267 votes to 1,235 votes for Wright.

The Clay County Board of Election commissioners will certify the result on Friday. Wright would then have five days to get a court order, if he wanted a recount. (Getting such an order would not be difficult.)

I put in a call to Wright at a restaurant he owns in North Kansas City — Johnny’s Back Yard — but had not heard back from him before publishing this post.

Tuesday’s three-way contest poses an interesting dynamic for the general election. Davis has the support of the Citizens Association, an organization that has long fought for progressive city government. Hall will have the backing of the Tea Party and the Fraternal Order of Police, of which her husband is a member.



If Wright does not seek a recount (or if he does and again falls short), he will likely swing Local 42’s backing to Hall. That would be significant and would make Hall the favorite to win the general election, although it’s possible that a larger general-election turnout would give Davis a boost.

Besides the union scenario, also working against Davis are his age — 78 — and the fact that he is not an avid campaigner. Bob Mayer, a developer who is an adviser to Davis, put it very candidly when I spoke with him today.



“He (Davis) and his supporters are going to have to step it up to win that race,” Mayer said.

Mayer interrupted our chat — understandably — to take a call from Davis. Later, Mayer sent me an email saying, of Davis, “He is very realistic and understands what he needs to do.”

I covered Dick Davis a bit when he was at the ATA and have always liked and admired him. I have contributed to his re-election campaign. I don’t know Hall but am concerned about her Tea Party and union connections…For me, Davis is the clear choice. I hope he campaigns hard and is able to raise enough money to get his message to Clay County voters and convince them he’s the clear choice.

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