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OPENING DAY
Officials lift high-water advisory, open K-13

Officials on Monday afternoon lifted the high-water advisory for areas downstream of Tuttle Creek Lake along the Big Blue and Kansas rivers.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said water releases from Tuttle Creek Dam have been reduced to 12,000 cubic feet per second (cfs), which led to the advisory being lifted.

The releases had been as high as 30,000 cfs after Tuttle Creek Lake nearly reached its capacity of 1,136 feet above sea level during the last week of May.

The Corps anticipates that release rates will likely be lowered to 3,000 cfs by the end of the week as the lake continues to fall.

The downstream area had been under at least a high-water advisory since the morning of May 29. Officials placed areas of the Northview neighborhood under an evacuation advisory from the evening of May 29 to June 2.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Pat Collins, Riley County emergency management director, said in a press release. “Any large amount of rain can impact the Tuttle Creek Lake level. We encourage people to stay alert and aware.”

Collins said 1,128 feet above sea level is the “critical trigger” for implementing emergency preparedness and precautionary measures. The lake elevation was 1,129.24 feet as of Tuesday.

Also on Monday, Kansas Highway 13 over Tuttle Creek Dam reopened after 15 months of construction.

The Corps completed a bridge deck replacement project over the dam’s spillway gates.

Along with K-13, the river pond area of Tuttle Creek State Park reopened Monday.

Scattered showers and storms are expected in the area over the next several days. Officials said up to 2 inches of rain is possible later in the week and into the weekend.

Even as the river levels decline, officials said riverbank stability will be an issue. Riverbank soils are saturated, and large sections can detach and fall into the river at any point.

Emergency officials rescued a 28-year-old man last week in Wabaunsee County after he fell into the Kansas River because the bank he stood on caved in.

Officials in Riley and Pottawatomie counties will meet later this week to determine whether public access boat ramps can be reopened for the weekend.

The Flood Information Hotline was deactivated Tuesday, but information is available on the city of Manhattan website at cityofmhk.com/flood and on the Manhattan Flood Updates Facebook and Twitter pages.

The lake is 54.24 feet above its normal level.


Local
Former 1st Infantry Division soldier to receive Medal of Honor

A former 1st Infantry Division staff sergeant will become the first living Iraq War veteran to receive the Medal of Honor.

President Donald Trump announced Monday that David Bellavia, 43, will be awarded the Medal of Honor on June 25 at the White House for his bravery during the Second Battle of Fallujah.

Bellavia exposed himself to enemy fire as he defended his soldiers on Nov. 10, 2004, his 29th birthday. He was the squad leader with A Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division.

In a statement describing Bellavia’s actions that day, The White House said he “rescued an entire squad, cleared an insurgent strongpoint and saved many members of his platoon from imminent threat.”

Bellavia was clearing a block of houses when his platoon became pinned down. He entered the house where his squad was trapped and provided cover fire so that he and his fellow soldiers could exit safely.

A Bradley Fighting Vehicle arrived to help suppress the enemy, but it could not fire directly into the house. Bellavia re-entered the house, armed with an M16 assault rifle, and shot at insurgents who were firing rocket-propelled grenades. He killed one insurgent and wounded another, who ran to another part of the house. Bellavia was soon engaged by another insurgent rushing down the stairs when the previously wounded insurgent re-emerged.

Bellavia returned fire, killing both attackers. He then took enemy fire from an insurgent who had appeared from a closet across the room. He pursued him up the stairs and killed him. Soon thereafter, he moved to the roof where he engaged and wounded a fifth insurgent, who fell from the roof of the building.

Bellavia, a native of Waterport, New York, received the Silver Star for his actions, which will now be upgraded to the Medal of Honor. All five of the previous Operation Iraqi Freedom Medal of Honor recipients received the honor posthumously.

Bellavia enlisted in 1999 and left active duty in 2005 after serving in Kosovo and Iraq. In 2007, he published his memoir, “House to House: An Epic Memoir of War.”

He currently hosts his own radio show in the Buffalo, New York, area. He is also the co-founder of Vets for Freedom, a conservative political advocacy organization.


Courts
Escort says she didn’t plan to have sex with defendant

A first-time meeting with her alleged rapist was not intended to include sex, a woman who worked as an escort at the time said Tuesday at a trial for a Manhattan man charged with multiple sex offenses.

Tommie Baggett, 18, is charged with one count of rape, three counts of attempted rape, one count of criminal sodomy, one count of aggravated criminal sodomy, one count of aggravated robbery, three counts of aggravated burglary and three counts of aggravated battery.

Baggett was linked by DNA to four alleged sexual assaults that occurred from August 2016 to March 2017.

The alleged victims, all women, were identified by name in Riley County District Court. The Mercury typically does not report the names of sexual violence victims.

The trial began Monday before Chief Judge Meryl Wilson. The first victim, who said she was raped in August 2016, testified in court Tuesday morning.

The woman said she had recently taken up escorting to earn extra income when she met her attacker through a dating app. She said while some people may associate escorting with sex work, there is no guarantee of sex. She said she understood escorting as financial compensation for dating and companionship, such as attending an event with a client.

Escorting, or paying someone for their time, is legal according to Kansas law, but explicitly paying someone for sexual acts — prostitution — is not.

The woman said she agreed to meet a man in Manhattan early on a rainy morning, and when she couldn’t find the address he texted her, she agreed to meet him at a nearby park.

She said she thought they would just talk and get to know each other, but they had not discussed money or what they expected of one another. They talked briefly under a shelter at the park, and then the woman said the man punched her in the face, and he instructed her to perform oral sex on him before raping her.

The woman said she did not consent to any of the actions. She said the man then took her phone and her keys, stole about $200 from her car and reset her phone to delete messages, apps, contacts and more. She said the man then left the scene.

The woman said when she spoke to police that day, she was not initially forthcoming. Defense attorney Jeffery Adam said during her first interview with police, she did not reveal she was an escort, did not accurately disclose what city she was coming from (Junction City), did not consent to a sexual assault exam and did not allow police to search her vehicle.

The woman said she wanted to protect friends and did not want to have an invasive exam done after the traumatic experience. She also said she didn’t want the vehicle searched because it was newer and did not belong to her.

“I was afraid of involving my friends (who suggested escorting), the perception surrounding (escorting) and how it would affect people taking me seriously,” she said.

Police collected some evidence from the victim, but the case went unsolved.

Deputy Riley County Attorney Bethany Fields outlined the other three incidents during the trial on Monday.

In February 2017, the second and third victims, who were roommates at the time, had spent the day at a house party before going to Aggieville that night with friends. Witnesses testified the women had been drinking on and off throughout the day and evening.

The second victim came home first, alone, and a sober roommate woke up to let her inside the locked house. The roommate said she awoke again to let the third victim inside when she returned from Aggieville.

The second victim said during the trial that she woke up during the night to a man beside her in bed. She said they exchanged small talk for a short while as she tried to figure out who he was, and the man moved on top of her, choked her and covered her mouth to stop her from yelling. The second victim said she fought back, hit a part of his face and he left her room.

She said she went downstairs to find the friend she had gone out with — the third victim — and the friend seemed “disoriented.” The second victim said she could see marks on her friend’s neck and a popped blood vessel in her eye. The two concluded they had suffered the same experience, and they called the police.

Although the women in the house said they took precautions after the incident, such as changing the locks on doors, another incident involving the same man took place about a month later on the evening of Fake Patty’s Day in March 2017, Fields said.

Fields said a man had entered the residence through a basement window that night and went in the room of a different roommate, the fourth victim.

The fourth victim said Monday she had been drinking intermittently that day, but didn’t recall meeting any strangers or inviting anyone over to the house. She said she woke up that night to a man standing over her. She said he asked if they would have sex now because she said she would. The woman said she did not recognize the man and refused.

When she turned her light on, she said the man tried strangling her but fled after she fought back.

Fields said DNA evidence collected from the women in each case matched the eventual DNA profile collected from Baggett, who was arrested in 2018 for possession of marijuana.

“The probability of another male with the same DNA profile is (very low),” Fields said.

Baggett’s defense attorney, Jeffery Adam, said statements from the alleged victims were not reliable.

He pointed out that the first victim did not tell police the whole story when she spoke to police initially and that when a detective questioned the first victim, he confronted her about the fact that one would need the phone’s passcode to reset the device. The first victim did not agree with this assessment based on what she’d seen.

Adam said the second and third victims had also been drinking the day of the incident, and none of the victims identified Baggett as the assailant in a police photo lineup.

Police who collected evidence from the home after the March incident found an unknown glove and sock in the basement bathroom, which none of the roommates recognized. They also found a slightly ajar window above the kitchen sink with disturbed dust and a partial footprint around it. Detectives also discovered footprints in the snow outside the home.

The trial continued Tuesday afternoon.


Education
K-State announces interim enrollment vice provosts

K-State announced Tuesday two interim vice provosts.

Emily Lehning will serve as interim vice provost for enrollment management. Mary Hale Tolar has been named interim vice provost for student success. Both women will begin their new jobs June 30 and report to Charles Taber, university provost and executive vice president.

Lehning currently serves as associate vice president for student life and director of New Student Services. She has been involved in recruiting since becoming assistant director of New Student Services in 2001. She was promoted to assistant dean for student life and coordinator of New Student Services in 2005, then became assistant vice president for student life and director of NSS in 2008. She has served in her current role since 2015.

Tolar currently serves as the director of the Staley School of Leadership Studies. She came to K-State in 2006 as associate director of the School of Leadership Studies. She was promoted to director in 2009 and was made an associate professor in 2014.

“Both Drs. Lehning and Tolar have indicated they will not be candidates for the permanent positions,” Taber said. “I want to thank them for their willingness to provide the leadership, stability and the balance needed in a time of major transition while we complete the national searches now underway for both the vice provost for enrollment management and vice provost for student success.”