Archive for May, 2016

Those who complain about The Star (and other papers) only printing “bad news” don’t have much to complain about today.

Consider these developments, for example:

— A U.S. District Court judge ruled that a jury can consider allegations that Missouri Highway Patrol Trooper Anthony Piercy violated the civil rights of Brandon Ellingson, when Piercy essentially catapulted the 20-year-old Ellingson out of his water patrol boat in 2014 and then failed to rescue him before he drowned in the Lake of the Ozarks…It’s gratifying that a judge — a federal judge, no less — said from the bench what has been painfully obvious all along.

— The American Royal Barbecue competition is moving to Kansas Speedway…Makes sense to me. Holding it at Arrowhead sure didn’t.

Pope Francis said he would establish a commission to study whether women can serve as deacons in the Catholic Church…According to all ancient available, Jesus never said women couldn’t be church leaders, so it’s about time the Catholic Church took steps to stop relegating women to the sidelines.

— Thanks to DNA testing, 38-year-old Jibri Liu-Kinte Burnett was sentenced to nearly 18 years in prison for raping and nearly killing a Kansas City, Kansas, woman in August 1999…In 2001, before the attacker’s identity was known, the Wyandotte County District Attorney’s office wisely filed criminal charges under the name “John Doe” so the statute of limitations would not expire before someone was identified.

— And, finally, Steve Kraske deduced from results of a new Quinnipiac poll that Donald Trump could beat Hillary Clinton in November…Wait a minute. That’s not such good news! (At least to most of us.)

Let’s take a closer look…Kraske deduced from a Quinnipiac University poll that a Trump-Clinton match would be close — and Trump could win — if he prevailed in three swing states with lots of electoral votes: Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania. The Quinnipiac survey indicated that if the election were held now, the vote could be close in those three states.

Ah, but before we allow The Great Kraskini to rattle us too much, consider an alternate analysis by Chris Cillizza, who writes a political blog called “The Fix” for the Washington Post. Cillizza says:

“Start with the best-case scenario map for Trump and Republicans in which he holds every state Mitt Romney won in 2012 and adds Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania to the GOP column. Trump wins 273 electoral votes — and the White House — under that map. But his margin for error is tiny — three electoral votes! — and this map assumes that he not only wins Florida and Ohio, both of which President Obama carried in 2008 and 2012, but also Pennsylvania, which no Republican presidential candidate has claimed since 1988.”

Under a second scenario Cillizza examined — where Trump wins the upper Midwest, including Pennsylvania and Ohio, but loses Florida due to the state’s large Hispanic population — Clinton ends up with 294 electoral votes to 244 for Trump.

The third scenario Cillizza posed gives Trump Ohio and Florida but has Clinton winning Pennsylvania. Trump loses that round, too, gathering 253 electoral votes to 285 for Clinton.

Cillizza concludes that “even if Trump is able to continue his competitiveness in these (three) states, it will take something close to a running of the table for him to get to 270.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m not worried. And The Great Kraskini should stop dropping his crystal ball on people’s toes.

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The fatal shooting Monday of Kansas City, KS, police detective Brad Lancaster was an awful tragedy. But from The Kansas City Star’s thorough accounts, it is clear a few more people could have ended up dead.

We are very lucky that more funerals are not being planned and more tribute stories being written.

Consider the terror that five other people, including two children, endured:

brad lancaster


:: After shooting Lancaster near Kansas Speedway about 12:15 p.m., 28-year-old Curtis Ayers of Tonganoxie drove west on State Avenue in Lancaster’s vehicle. He must have been going mighty fast, but a KCK police officer was able to ram the detective’s car with his own patrol car. Unfortunately, Ayers was able to elude apprehension there and continued on to 118th and State, where he crashed the detective’s vehicle. He then carjacked a woman who was driving with two small children, forced the woman from the car and took off with the two children…Can you imagine how scared she was she might never see her children alive again? And the children — separated from their mother by a madman?

:: Ayers drove to the Falcon Lakes subdivision in Basehor, where he saw a house with an open garage and a car inside. (Police constantly warn against leaving garage doors open, and this is why.) Ayers walked into the house and put a gun in the face of the resident, who was sitting on a couch…How about that for unsettling your Monday afternoon? The homeowner turned over his car keys to Ayers, who took off in the resident’s car. The most fortunate part of this phase of the story is Ayers left the two kids behind and they were later reunited with their much-relieved mother.

:: Our unhinged criminal then headed east, where Kansas City police spotted him on Bruce R. Watkins Drive about 2:30 p.m…At that time, Lancaster was in a hospital emergency room, dying…At the Bannister Road exit, Ayers crashed the stolen car into a bridge pillar. He then approached a woman who was stopped in traffic, stood in front of her car and ordered her out. Before she could react, Ayers, armed with a shotgun, fired twice into the car, striking the woman with pellets in the shoulder, arm, neck and head. She, too, was lucky, driving away with non-life-threatening wounds. Another motorist was also counting his blessings. He told police Ayers fired into his vehicle, missing him…Imagine how long those minutes were for those two motorists? 

:: Finally, police were able to move in close enough to get a shot at Ayers. An officer struck him with a rifle shot, and he was taken into custody about 2:35 p.m.

:: There was no reprieve — no luck — for Brad Lancaster, who died about 3:30 p.m. and left behind a wife and two daughters, one 9, the other 10. Can you imagine the anguish they are going through — and will for years?

Contributions to a memorial fund for Lancaster’s family can be mailed to:

Kansas City, KS, Police Department
Attn. Chief’s Office
700 Minnesota Ave.
Kansas City, KS 66101

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Sometimes I wonder why I keep going to the Kentucky Derby.

Thoroughbred horse racing has such a sordid backdrop — dotted with crooked trainers, owners of questionable repute and excessive, dangerous medication of horses — that it’s kind of amazing the sport is still drawing crowds at all.

But just as it is with brain-injury-riddled professional football, the power, beauty and grace of the athletes is difficult to resist.

And so on Saturday, there I was again, along with 167,000 other people, taking part in the thrill and spectacle of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.

But once again, for those looking past the mint juleps and colorful hats and outfits, the nasty underbelly of thoroughbred racing was on display.

The winning horse, as many of you know by now, was an undefeated colt named Nyquist. Nyquist was the 2-1 favorite (the fourth year in a row that the favorite has won), and he did it in impressive fashion, holding off a stirring but belated stretch run by the second favorite, Exaggerator. (For the record, I bet Suddenbreakingnews — he finished fifth — and left a few hundred dollars at the track.)

In the winner’s circle, it was all smiles and jubilation, with two of the leading participants being 47-year-old trainer Doug O’Neill and 60-year-old owner J. Paul Reddam.

The problem is both men have checkered histories, very checkered. O’Neill has accumulated nearly 20 equine medication violations — drugging his horses to either make them run faster or raise their pain threshold — and has served 45-day suspensions in both New York and California. He’s an engaging and attractive fellow, but he’s a proven cheater. Some people call him “Drug” O’Neill.

As for Reddam, I didn’t know much about him until I read a story in today’s Louisville Courier-Journal. It seems he owns a company called CashCall. Hmmm. The writer of the story, Jason Frakes, described CashCall as “a firm specializing in small loans at high interest rates.”

Being a Kansas Citian and having written about some local men who wandered down crooked alleys, I recognize the description of a payday lending scam when I see one.

I Googled CashCall and Reddam, and guess what? Yep, like some of our local schemers, Reddam apparently has been involved in the online payday loan business. In December 2013, the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau sued Reddam, CashCall and two other companies he owned, charging that the defendants illegally debited money from consumers’ checking accounts. The case is pending in U.S. District Court in California, where Reddam lives.

An amended complaint filed in March 2014 says, “Defendants initiated banking orders to extract funds from consumers’ bank accounts to pay obligations that under state law were void or that consumers had no obligation to pay in whole or part…Defendants thus took money from consumers, many of whom were struggling financially, that the consumers did not owe. These consumers suffered significant financial harm as a result.”

The suit says Reddam played a central role in developing and setting into motion “the nationwide scheme through which loans that his companies marketed, financed, purchased, serviced, and collected.” Reddam contends the loans did not have to comply with state licensing and usury laws because they were made in the name of a company owned by a member of an Indian reservation…That company, however, was a wholly owned subsidiary of CashCall.

So, take a look at this photo of a joyful winner’s circle yesterday. In my opinion, only one of the three people pictured front and center is a winner.


winner's circle

From left, trainer Doug O’Neill, owner J. Paul Reddam and jockey Mario Gutierrez


One of the elements of thoroughbred racing I have always loved is the concise, ear-catching way writers for the Daily Racing Form — thoroughbred racing’s most authoritative publication — chart the races. DRF analyzes how every race at major North American tracks are run, complete with descriptions of every horse’s performance.

Here is chart for the first three finishers in the Derby:

Nyquist came away in good order, was content to track the pace three deep, took closer order under confident handling leaving the three-eighths pole, overpowered Gun Runner soon into the lane, spurted clear while shifting towards the rail in midstretch, kept on under a downturned right-handed stick and held Exaggerator at bay.

Exaggerator drafted back off the early pace saving ground, picked up steam into the far turn, angled out and aggressively knifed his way between foes nearing the quarter pole, swung out before being straightened into the stretch, then closed strongly to narrow the gap.

Gun Runner showed speed from the gate, was allowed to settle off of the leader while saving ground, eased out advancing toward the half mile marker, overtook Danzing Candy departing the three-eighths pole, was confronted by Nyquist soon after, held a slim advantage into the lane, then gave way grudgingly through the final sixteenth.”

For comparison purposes, here’s the chart for Danzing Candy, who finished 15th:

Danzing Candy advanced wide and took command under the wire the first time, angled in when clearing, secured the rail to dictate terms, was collared three furlongs out, ceded command soon after and gave way readily.”

…Not just “gave way,” but “gave way readily.” What a wuss!

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When Mark Mangelsdorf is released from the Kansas State Penitentiary this Saturday, the 34-year-old David Harmon murder case — beguiling and frustrating from start to finish — will officially be closed.

While Harmon was asleep, Mangelsdorf beat him to death with a crowbar in 1982 because he and Harmon’s wife, Melinda Harmon, had become close and had visions of a life together. David, of course, loomed as an impediment. But there was an equally big impediment. Being a good Nazarene and the daughter of the regional Nazarene superintendent, Melinda could not countenance divorce.

And so the couple turned to murder.

Olathe police might have solved the case in short order, except for one person, J. Wilmer Lambert, Melinda’s father. In his 2009 book, A Cold-Blooded Business, author Marek Fuchs described Lambert in a way that explained his later obstructionist role in perhaps the most heinous murder case Olathe has ever seen.

Lambert, Fuchs wrote, was “aggressive and worldly,” despite his spiritual calling.

“Lambert had an air of quiet superiority and a reputation for being demanding, tight-fisted, judgmental; he also took good care of relatives by finding them work in and around the church, as well as housing them, accumulating properties as he went along.”

Melinda’s story about the murder was two men came into their house, wanting David to give them the keys to the bank where he worked. One of the men knocked her unconscious, she said, and when she awoke, David was dead.

When police sought a detailed interview with Melinda, her father insisted on accompanying her and two officers, including Detective Roger LaRue, to headquarters.

Here’s how Fuchs 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.

Fuchs says a nervous assistant district attorney rushed out of a nearby office and arranged  compromise that allowed Lambert to be present for the interview.

Fuchs wrote that during the dust-up with Lambert, Melinda “observed the events around her passively, like a bystander at an accident.”

LaRue then informed Melinda she was a suspect, but Lambert, having gained the upper hand, grabbed his daughter by the shirt, walked her to the elevator, and they left the building.

That was the last time Olathe police talked with Melinda until December 2001, when two cold-case detectives approached Melinda at the Ohio home she shared with her husband, a dentist, and their two children.

Mangelsdorf also left the area, heading east, where he earned a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard. He married and moved to New York, where he worked for years as a marketing executive.

A measure of justice began to take shape in that 2001 police interview with Melinda, when her father was no longer her keeper. Giving in to her conscience, she changed her story and said she suspected Mangelsdorf was the killer.

Later, she and Mangelsdorf pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, and both were sentenced to 10 years. Melinda was released from prison last year, after serving nine years.


And J. Wilmer Lambert…what about him?

He died more than three years ago while living in Columbus, Ohio. His obituary says nothing about his time in Kansas.

The obituary says, in part…

“He went to meet his Lord on October 14, 2012, after serving Him all of his life. His focus on getting to Heaven had an impact on every life he touched. J.W. (as he was lovingly called) was a born leader. As a minister he was responsible for the building of new church buildings, increasing the membership of the churches, and spreading the vision of the Nazarene Church. Later he became the District Superintendent for the North Dakota, Upper New York and Central Ohio Districts. His energetic style and persistence raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the churches on the various Districts. He was well thought of and respected by his peers. His care and guidance affected all those who served under him. He truly loved what he did as a minister and a District Superintendent and gave everything he had to further the Church and his belief in God. He had a deep heart for church missions and organized and participated in over 20 mission trips around the world. He also established a center to train ministers in Mexico. He made many life-long friends who appreciated the qualities that made him the man he was. They will not forget him and will miss him every day. J.W. loved life to the fullest. His many interests included hunting and fishing. Later in life he learned to paint and became a fine artist. His paintings hang in many homes of his family and friends…He is survived by two daughters, Janet Hyde (and Don Stalenger) and Melinda Raisch (and Mark Raisch); and two grandchildren, Landon Raisch and Layne Raisch. He loved his family with his whole heart and spent every moment he could with his grandchildren. He was their grandfather (“Paps”), mentor and coach and they will miss him greatly. His daughters are forever grateful for the love and support they received from their father.”

One daughter undoubtedly is particularly grateful for “the love and support” her father provided.

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Now that the push for a new single-terminal airport seems to be gaining momentum, the big question is when to put the $1 billion revenue-bond proposal (or maybe $999 million, just to avoid the “b” word) on a ballot.

In my last post on the subject, I said I thought this year would be too soon. The airlines are agitating for an August election, and I think that’s definitely too soon. A KC Star editorial last week — undoubtedly written by Yael Abouhalkah — said an August vote could make it appear that the city is trying to ram the issue down voters’ throats.


Steve Glorioso

In need of keen insight on the matter, I turned to my longtime friend Steve Glorioso, who has been involved in local and national elections for nearly half a century. In an exchange of emails, Steve explained why the November general election offered the best option: “Younger voters could be the key to victory, and they vote in much greater numbers in November general elections, especially presidential ones. In August primaries, older voters are dominant.”

But…but, I replied, what about presidential elections attracting “a lot of uninformed voters, with their heads in the sand and who don’t want anything new”?

Steve pointed out the only Clay Chastain, light-rail plan that passed (but never came to fruition) was in a November general election. It wasn’t a presidential election, but it was the 2006, “off-year” general election.

“The under-35’s voted for it.” Steve said. “They just wanted light rail.”

…A letter in Saturday’s KC Star confirmed for me Steve was on the right track. Under the headline “Disgrace at KCI” was a letter from Don Hurlbert, a retiree who was city engineer during the construction of KCI in the late 1960s and early 1970s. I remember his name from when I covered City Hall from 1985-1995.

In his letter, Hurlbert, who has to be at least as old as I am — 70 –railed against a single terminal, saying the city could never replicate an airport as convenient as KCI.

“You can drive to a parking garage and walk under cover to your gate and depart or await arrivals with the most convenience. The facility was designed with that in mind. The idea that anyone could build one facility with the same convenience is asinine.”

Well, if we were going to follow Don’s reasoning, why would we have ever built the Truman Sports Complex?

We could have just held on to good ol’ Municipal Stadium and painted it from time to time. Remember? You could park right on the street and walk a block or so to the entrance and stroll right in. Now, of course, with the Royals and Chiefs so damned popular, you’ve gotta park way out in the farthest reaches of Lot F and walk a quarter- to a half-mile before waiting in a long line to put your cellphone and change in a plastic tub and then go through a metal detector.

Yeah, these modern times are hell, aren’t they? There are so many people everywhere. Big tie-ups on the highways. Waits to be seated in restaurants. And those checkout lines at Costco!

How will we muddle along?

Oh, I know, let’s let the young people lead the way; none of that stuff bothers them…I want them voting on the airport…In a way it’s too bad Bernie Sanders is sinking beneath the floor, arms waving wildly above his head. If he and the new airport proposal were on the ballot in November, the airport bonds would pass 2 to 1.

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