Pastor's Disappearance Sparks Debate Over Treasure Hunt, Fire Near Rio Rancho 60 Percent Contained

Jun 19, 2017

Pastor's Disappearance Reignites Debate Over Treasure HuntThe Associated Press

Police say a body has been found along the Rio Grande in northern New Mexico not far from where a Colorado pastor parked his vehicle before heading out to search for a supposed hidden cache of gold and jewels.

Authorities have yet to identify the body, but the case of missing pastor Paris Wallace of Grand Junction has reignited calls by some for the treasure hunt to come to an end.

In 2016, another Colorado man died in the New Mexico backcountry while searching for a bounty that an antiquities dealer said he stashed somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. It has inspired thousands to search in vain across remote corners of New Mexico, Yellowstone National Park and elsewhere.

In the latest case, crews began looking for Wallace last week after his family reported him missing.

Fire Near Rio Rancho 60 Perfect Contained – KOB

Firefighters made progress on a wildfire burning on the Westside of Rio Rancho.

KOB reports New Mexico Service officials say the Encino Fire is about 60 percent contained.  The blaze is now considered to be about 1,278 acres.

Fire officials said much of the fire’s activity died down last night and they worked today to strengthen the fire perimeter.

It started yesterday afternoon near the intersection of King Boulevard and Encino Road.  The cause of the fire is still unknown. 

Public Defense Assigned To Suspect In New Mexico ShootingsThe Associated Press

A 21-year-old man charged with multiple counts of murder in connection with a shooting spree last week across northern New Mexico will receive legal representation from public defenders at the state's capital crimes unit.

New Mexico Chief Public Defender Bennett Baur said Monday that Damian Herrera is unable to pay for his own defense and has been assigned to public attorneys who specialize in severe criminal charges.

Herrera is accused by police and prosecutors of fatally shooting his stepfather, brother and mother at the family's home in La Madera on Thursday. Authorities say Herrera then traveled 200 miles (322 kilometers) across New Mexico and fatally shot two more people before his arrest the same day.

Baur says Herrera will plead not guilty to provide defense attorneys with access to evidence.

NM State Police Identify Man Who Took HostagesThe Associated Press

New Mexico State police have identified a man they say held more than a dozen people hostage inside a roadside store north of Alamogordo where he fled after exchanging gunfire with pursuing officers.

Police say a SWAT team went into the McGinn's Pistachio Farm store Sunday afternoon, freed the 14 hostages and arrested 21-year-old Kaleb Scroggins. They say Scroggins has a lengthy arrest record.

Alamogordo police had been seeking Scroggins after a shooting earlier Sunday, spotted his vehicle and gave chase. State police say he drove into traffic on U.S. Highway 54 and was broadsided. Jumping out, he exchanged gunfire with officers before running into the store.

Otero County sheriff's and state police negotiators tried to talk Scroggins into surrendering, but eventually the SWAT team had to go inside.

Land Commissioner Halts Oil And Gas Related Well EasementsHobbs Sun-News, Associated Press

State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn has taken action to cut back usage of fresh water from the Ogallala aquifer for oil and gas production. The aquifer is a source of drinking water serving Hobbs and other cities in southeastern New Mexico.

Dunn announced in May that he will stop issuing or renewing easements intended for use of fresh water for oil industry activities.

Dunn told the Hobbs News-Sun that his action was in response to the City of Eunice selling water for hydraulic fracturing commonly known as fracking. Dunn says he will continue to issue easements for water going to citizens.

Mayor Matt White sees the move as a threat to the city of Eunice that heavily relies on oil and gas industries.

Body May Be Pastor Missing After Search For Hidden TreasureSanta Fe New Mexican, Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, Associated Press

New Mexico State Police say they found a body of over the weekend that may be that of a Colorado man searching for a famous hidden treasure.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports police found the body in the Rio Grande Gorge near Pilar, five to seven miles from where Paris Wallace parked his car.

The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reports family members told authorities Wallace traveled to New Mexico to search for a chest of gold rumored to be hidden in the mountains by author Forrest Fenn.

Fenn, an eccentric author, announced  that he hid a chest full of gold and jewels somewhere in the Rocky Mountains worth at least $1 million in 2010. Those who seek the alleged treasure say the clues are hidden in his writings.

The Daily Sentinel reports that no one has been in contact with Wallace, the lead pastor of Connection Church, since Tuesday. His wife reported him missing to authorities after he missed a meeting with someone on Wednesday.

Police are waiting for autopsy results from the Office of the Medical Investigator before releasing man’s identity.

New Mexico Inmate Sues State For Right To Breast-FeedAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A New Mexico inmate who is suing the state prison system because she hasn't been allowed to breast-feed her baby has secured a restraining order allowing her to do so.

The Albuquerque Journal reports Monique Hidalgo filed suit against the Department of Corrections, its officials and two guards on Thursday.

Hidalgo has been in prison since September 2016 after multiple probation violations in a drug case.

The lawsuit states orders from Hidalgo's doctor and her baby's physician team say she should breast-feed her daughter to help her recover from being born dependent on opioids.

Hidalgo gave birth to a girl at the University of New Mexico Hospital on May 22. But when she returned to prison on June 8, she was no longer allowed to breast-feed the infant during routine family visits.

New Mexico Lab Ships Mislabeled Waste Container To ColoradoSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

Los Alamos National Laboratory failed to accurately label a drum of liquid waste that was shipped to a Colorado disposal center.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the incident happened last month and involved chemicals used to remove buildup from pipes in a cooling system.

The problem was cited in an email to the New Mexico Environment Department. It marked the second time in recent months that the lab failed to accurately document the pH level of waste sent to Veolia ES Technical Solutions.

Los Alamos spokesman Kevin Roark says the lab believes the lower pH value was immaterial to the disposal process.

The lab has racked up violations for failing to accurately assess and document hazardous waste drum contents.

Evacuees Return Home As El Cajete Fire Mostly ContainedKOB-TV, Associated Press

A fire in northern New Mexico sparked by an abandoned campfire that prompted evacuations has been mostly contained.

KOB-TV reported the El Cajete Fire burned 1,400 acres and was 80 percent contained as of Sunday evening. However, officials told the Santa Fe New Mexican they found more abandoned campfires in the area over the weekend even as firefighters battled the blaze.

The fire started Thursday near the border of the Santa Fe National Forest and the Valles Caldera National Preserve.

Evacuees have been allowed to return home and NM Highway 4 has been reopened, but motorists should expect delays.

New Mexico's request for funding to help with the fight against the fire was granted by the federal government.

Gov. Susana Martinez announced the federal assistance Friday, saying the money will help cover the costs of emergency protective measures and firefighting activities.

Forest officials have imposed restrictions that prohibit building campfires or using charcoal, coal or wood stoves expect in developed campsites where grills are provided.

The restrictions cover the entire Jemez Ranger District and other parts of the Santa Fe National Forest.

Police: Mother Dies Following Shooting Rampage In New MexicoAssociated Press

Authorities say the mother of a man who went on a shooting rampage in New Mexico died several hours after being taken off life support, bringing the number of deaths to five.

District Attorney Marco Serna and Rio Arriba County Sheriff James Lujan confirmed the death late Friday of 49-year-old Maria "Brenda" Gallegos.

Serna initially reported her death after she was removed from life support, leading authorities to believe she had died.

But he said later she remained in critical condition for some time before dying.

Twenty-one-year-old Damian Herrera is accused of fatally shooting his stepfather and brother before turning the gun on his mother on Thursday.

Authorities have said he then traveled 200 miles across New Mexico and fatally shot two more people before he was arrested.