Lawmakers Send Budget To Governor, Trial Set In New Mexico Girl's Death

Oct 7, 2016

New Mexico Legislature Sends Budget Fix To GovernorAssociated Press

New Mexico lawmakers sent a package of state agency spending cuts and budget measures to the governor on Thursday and scuttled efforts by Republicans, including Gov. Susana Martinez, to reinstate the death penalty.

The legislation would shore up the state's general fund with cuts to agency spending of $171 million, or nearly 3 percent overall. It would sweep idle cash from agency accounts, collect money from stalled local construction projects and close tax-incentive loopholes.

The plan included spending cuts of 5.5 percent at most executive agencies. No cuts are planned at departments overseeing public safety and child welfare services. Funding for the Judiciary and legislative offices both would decrease by about 3 percent.

The budget would cut spending to public schools by $90 million, or 3.3 percent, and trim funding for higher education by $42 million, or 5 percent.

House Republicans rejected Senate proposals to freeze gradual reductions to the corporate income tax rates or to collect taxes on internet sales from out-of-state companies like Amazon.

The Legislature's budget plan would restore operating reserves to an estimated $56 million, or 1 percent — down from more than $700 million in mid-2015.

Trial Set For Mom, Others Charged In New Mexico Girl's DeathThe Associated Press

A trial has been scheduled for three suspects charged in the horrific killing and rape of a 10-year-old New Mexico girl.

Fabian Gonzales, Jessica Kelley and the victim's mother, Michelle Martens, are set to stand trial Oct. 2, 2017, for the death of Victoria Martens. They are charged with child abuse resulting in death, kidnapping and tampering with evidence in connection with the girl's killing.

Victoria was found dead by police in her mother's apartment the day she was to celebrate her 10th birthday, with authorities saying her remains had been wrapped in a blanket and set on fire in a bathtub.

Albuquerque District Court Judge Charles Brown said Friday all three suspects could request separate trials at a status conference April 10, 2017.

They have all pleaded not guilty.

Religious Leaders Criticize GOP For Death Penalty DecisionThe Associated Press & The Santa Fe New Mexican

Religious leaders in New Mexico are slamming the governor and House Republicans for voting to reinstate the death penalty during an all-night special session, leaving little opportunity for a debate.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that while the efforts were made futile after the Senate refused to consider the bill, the condemnation is indicative of the conflict the issue is sure to draw when the Legislation reconvenes in January.

At a news conference Thursday, Santa Fe Archbishop John C. Wester called the move to reinstate the death penalty overnight "offensive."

Rabbi Harry Rosenfeld of Congregation Albert in Albuquerque says the death penalty issue would have been more suited for a regular legislative session, rather than the all-night special session.

Probation Term For Ex-Purchasing Agent For New Mexico TribeThe Associated Press

The former purchasing agent for the Jicarilla Apache Nation has been sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to pay $5,000 in restitution for embezzling funds from the New Mexico tribe.

Federal prosecutors say 46-year-old Vanessa Cohoe was indicted last December on theft of funds.

The indictment alleged that Cohoe embezzled about $23,000 from the tribe between December 2010 and May 2011.

It also alleged that she embezzled more than $1,000 by using the Jicarilla Apache Nation's credit card on eight separate occasions in early 2011.

Cohoe pleaded guilty in the case in May.

She was the purchasing agent for the Jicarilla Apache Nation from 2007 to 2011.

Cohoe was suspended in May 2011 and fired the following months after the embezzlement scheme was discovered and investigated.

Roswell Police Asking Residents Not To Dress Up As ClownsAssociated Press

Police in a southern New Mexico city are asking residents not to dress up as clowns and carry baseball bats around town amid a national "scary clown" craze.

The Roswell Police Department said they have received several reports this week of clowns with bats walking around in the city. Authorities say it appears to be connected to the recent national news reports of "scary clowns" sighting in various states.

Roswell police say although it is not illegal to dress as a clown and carry a baseball bat, officers are asking "residents to not do such things."

Police say such moves create fright in neighborhoods.

Authorities in Roswell say police have not located any of the reported clowns.

Death Penalty Bill Fails To Clear NM SenateAssociated Press

The New Mexico Legislature has adjourned from a special legislative session without considering a measure to reinstate the death penalty and other criminal justice initiatives backed by Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.

The Democrat-led Senate adjourned Thursday without taking up stricter sentencing provisions approved by the House or Representatives.

New Mexico repealed the death penalty in 2009. Martinez and allies in Legislature have pushed for stricter criminal sentencing as a response to the recent killing of two police officers and the August sexual assault, killing and mutilation of 10-year-old Victoria Martens in Albuquerque.

Many Democrats said it was inappropriate to consider the weighty issue of capital punishment during an abbreviated special session.

New Mexico AG Appeals Sentencing Of Man Accused Of Killing 5Associated Press

The New Mexico Attorney General's Office is appealing the sentencing of a man who pleaded guilty to killing his parents and three siblings in 2013.

Attorney General Hector Balderas filed a brief Thursday with the state Court of Appeals.

He's asking appeals judges to consider Nehemiah Griego's premeditation of the murders, his mental health issues and his violent tendencies as justification for sending the case back to Children's Court for more hearings on amenability.

Griego was 15 when he opened fire at his family's home. He's now 19.

In March, a Children's Court judge sentenced Griego as a juvenile instead of an adult and ruled he'll remain in state custody until he's 21.

Treating Griego as an adult would've given him the possibility of up to 120 years in prison.

Authorities: 20 Drug Overdose Deaths In New Mexico This YearAssociated Press

State authorities say they're investigating 20 drug overdose deaths in New Mexico this year that were likely caused by illicitly manufactured fentanyl.

The New Mexico Department of Health and the state Office of the Medical Investigator say that of the 20 deaths, 11 also had methamphetamine present in toxicology results.

The overdose victims ranged in age from 17 to 63 and 85 percent were male.

Authorities say illicitly manufactured fentanyl has been increasingly seen alone or in combination with other drugs as a cause of drug overdose death nationally.

They say it is among a group of synthetic opioids sometimes substituted for and sold on the street as heroin, oxycodone or other drugs.

Authorities say illicitly manufactured fentanyl also has a potency many times higher than that of morphine.

Latino Democrat: Trump Supporter Tried To Run Me Over Associated Press

A New Mexico Hispanic Democratic candidate says a Donald Trump supporter tried to run over him and his mother in a parking lot.

Sergio S. Gonzalez, a Democratic candidate for county commissioner in southern New Mexico, told The Associated Press a woman attempted to strike him outside the Democratic Party headquarters in Roswell, New Mexico last week after the woman yelled obscenities about Democrats.

The 39-year-old retired Marine told police the driver shouted Trump's name before trying to hit him and his 72-year-old mother. Gonzalez says he, his mother and two others were just standing in the parking lot when the woman came over to yell obscenities.

No arrests have been made.

Republican Party of Chaves County chairman Jason Perry told the Roswell Daily Record the woman, who has not been identified, likely isn't among the local GOP leadership.