11 Kids Found In Rags In NM Amid Tales Of Guns & Exorcism, State Engineer Halts Water Proposal

Aug 6, 2018

Kids Found In Rags In New Mexico Amid Tale Of Guns, Exorcism- Associated Press

A raid on a New Mexico desert compound turned up 11 children wearing rags and living in filth, and also broke open a bizarre tale of guns, exorcism, and a search for a missing young boy who suffers from seizures and is nowhere to be found.

The boy's father was among five people arrested after the raid near the border with Colorado, and documents made public in a court filing Monday said the father told the boy's mother before fleeing Georgia that he wanted to perform an exorcism on the child because he believed he was possessed by the devil.

Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said deputies arrested the father, Siraj Wahhaj, and four other adults on child abuse charges after finding the 11 children inside a filthy makeshift compound in the tiny community of Amalia littered with "odorous trash" and lacking clean water.

Wahhaj's son, Abdul-ghani, who was 3 when he disappeared last December, was not among the children found, but Hogrefe said authorities have reason to believe the boy was at the compound several weeks ago.

State Engineer Halts Water Proposal In San Agustin Plains- Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A company that sought to pump billions of gallons of water annually from an aquifer in Catron and Socorro counties is reconsidering its plan.

The Office of the State Engineer recently dismissed the application filed by Augustin Plains Ranch LLC.

A spokeswoman for the office tells the Albuquerque Journal the company didn't identify specific quantities for beneficial use.

The proposal to pump from the San Agustin Plains has faced criticism from environmental groups, ranchers, farmers and others in the two counties.

The New Mexico Environmental Law Center represented many of them in trying to halt the project that would have transported water to the middle Rio Grande Valley.

Republican Candidate For Governor Clarifies Inaccurate Tweet- Associated Press

The Republican candidate for governor is clarifying a twitter post that inaccurately said he attended a luncheon for educators in central New Mexico.

U.S. Rep. and congressional candidate Steve Pearce tweeted Monday that a representative of his congressional office attended the luncheon in Belen last week while the congressman was campaigning elsewhere in the state. Pearce described his proud support for educators in the clarification.

State Democratic Party Chairwoman Marg Elliston says that the original tweet was dishonest because Pearce was campaigning far away in Farmington and stressed the importance of accountability on education issues.

Pearce and Democratic Rep. Michelle Lujan-Grisham are campaigning to replace GOP Gov. Susana Martinez, who cannot run for a third consecutive term in 2018.

Awaited 'Trinity Test' Cancer Study May Be Released In 2019 - By Russell Contreras, Associated Press

The National Cancer Institute says its long-anticipated study into the cancer risks of New Mexico residents living near the site of the world's first atomic bomb test likely will be published in 2019.

Institute spokesman Michael Levin told The Associated Press that researchers are examining data on diet and radiation exposure and expect to finish the study by early next year.

Levin says the study will then be published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal and could be available by spring 2019.

Residents say the World War II-era Trinity Test caused generations of southern New Mexico families to suffer from rare cancer and economic hardship.

Residents did not learn that the test had involved an atomic weapon until the U.S. dropped bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the war ended.

Monday is the 73rd anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing.

Solstar Space Tests Commercial Wi-Fi System During LaunchSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

The Santa Fe startup tech firm working to bring commercial Wi-Fi to space has successfully completed a second test of its system.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Solstar Space posted a message to social media while using its system about 74 miles above sea level last week.

The company piggybacked its Space Communicator on a reusable rocket created by commercial spaceflight company Blue Origin. The New Shepard crew capsule launched near Van Horn, Texas. The flight lasted about 11 minutes.

Solstar CEO M. Brian Barnett says the company is working to create reliable internet connections through a satellite network already in place to service commercial space vehicles. The first customers of the internet system will likely be passengers on commercial spacecraft.

Message Led To Discovery Of 11 Kids In New Mexico CompoundSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

A message from someone inside a makeshift compound in rural northern New Mexico that people were starving is what led to the discovery of 11 children living in filthy conditions.

Taos County Sheriff's officials say the children, ranging from age 1 to 15, were removed from the compound in the small community of Amalia and turned over to state child-welfare workers.

Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe says two men were arrested during the search — one on a Georgia child abduction warrant and the other on suspicion of harboring a fugitive.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that three women were also arrested. Officials believe they are the mothers of the 11 children.

Hogrefe says they were the saddest living conditions he's ever seen.

He says there was little food in the compound, which consisted of a small travel trailer buried in the ground and covered by plastic with no water, plumbing or electricity.

New Mexico City Celebrates Urlacher's Hall Of Fame InductionAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Residents of the southeastern New Mexico city of Lovington are celebrating the induction of Brian Urlacher into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Urlacher starred at Lovington High School and the University of New Mexico before embarking on a 13-year NFL career with the Chicago Bears.

The Bears won four division titles and one conference championship with Urlacher, their career tackles leader who also had 41 1/2 sacks and 22 interceptions.

The five-time All-Pro middle linebacker and member of the 2000s NFL All-Decade Team is the record 28th Bears player inducted into the Hall of Fame.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Lovington Mayor David Trujillo proclaimed Saturday as Brian Urlacher Day.

City residents gathered around TVs and watch parties to celebrate Urlacher's enshrinement.

Lovington's Lea Theater showed the induction ceremony on its movie screen.

Gallup Fires Police Chief After Year Of Legal DisputesGallup Independent, Associated Press

The troubled police chief of Gallup has been fired.

Gallup City Manager Maryann Ustick told The Gallup Independent last week that police Chief Phillip Hart is no longer a Gallup employee but declined to give details.

The termination comes as Hart and the city of Gallup have been embroiled in legal disputes for about a year.

Hart disputed the city's policy of allowing community service aides to pick up and commit intoxicated residents to the detoxification center.

He also said that the city violated the Whistleblower Protection Act by placing him on administrative leave around August and prohibiting him from fulfilling his duties after he sought clarification on the city's detox policy.

Hart did not immediately return phone messages seeking comment.

Libertarian Party Courts Gary Johnson For Senate RunAssociated Press

Former New Mexico Gov. and unsuccessful presidential candidate Gary Johnson has received an invitation to run for the U.S. Senate under the Libertarian Party banner.

The central committee of New Mexico's Libertarian Party on Saturday voted to offer Johnson the nomination after the withdrawal of State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn as the party's candidate.

Johnson is mulling the offer and has two weeks to decide. He would compete against Democratic incumbent Sen. Martin Heinrich and Republican Mick Rich, a construction contractor and newcomer to politics.

In 2016, Johnson won 9 percent of the vote in New Mexico as the Libertarian presidential candidate, while Hillary Clinton won the state.

Rich said Friday that his "commitment is stronger than ever" to his campaign.

Las Cruces Police Shoot, Kill Man Who Attacked OfficerLas Cruces Sun-News, Associated Press

The Las Cruces Sun-News reports that a 29-year-old man was killed by a Las Cruces police officer after having injured another officer.

The Las Cruces Police Department says police were dispatched to a home about 10:30 p.m. Friday after receiving a report of a disturbance. Police say that shortly after arriving at the home, one of the officers was injured by the 29-year-old man. The officer suffered injuries that were not life-threatening.

Police say another officer fired his gun, killing the 29-year-old man.

The Sun-News reports that police did not identify the man who was shot and killed or the police officers involved in the incident. Police say the officer who fired the fatal shot will be placed on administrative leave, which is standard procedure.

Autopsy Report Finds 13-Year-Old Boy Died From Blunt Force TraumaSanta Fe New Mexican, Associated Press

An autopsy has confirmed that a 13-year-old boy whose body was unearthed from a shallow grave in Nambe' in January died from blunt force trauma.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the state Office of the Medical Investigator said in autopsy report released Friday that Jeremiah Valencia had numerous broken bones and other injuries consistent with the police theory that he was beaten and tortured before his death.

Thomas Wayne Ferguson, the boyfriend of the boy's mother, was charged with first-degree murder and other crimes in the death and torture of the boy and was awaiting trial when he was found dead in his jail cell in April, an apparent suicide.

The boy's mother and Ferguson's 20-year-old son await trial on charges of intentional child abuse resulting in death and other crimes.

Graduation Rates At UNM Improve Over The Past 8 YearsAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

The graduation rate at the University of New Mexico has more than doubled in the past eight years.

The Albuquerque Journal reported that in 2010, about 13 percent of University of New Mexico students earned their degree within four years.

Today, a third of students reach that milestone in that time.

Heather Mechler, director of UNM's Office of Institutional Analytics, says the university's five-year graduation rate reached 47 percent by the end of the spring semester.

The six-year rate rose to 50 percent.

Numbers for the three graduation rates are expected to grow with summer degree additions.

Mechler says final numbers should be available later this month.

3 Years After Colorado Mine Spill, Victims Awaiting Payment - By Dan Elliott, Associated Press

Three years after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency triggered a massive mine spill that polluted rivers in three states, the federal government still hasn't repaid the victims for the millions of dollars in economic damage they claimed.

The EPA said this week it's making progress on reviewing about 380 claims for lost income, fallen property values and other losses from the 2015 spill at the Gold King Mine in southwestern Colorado.

But the agency hasn't said when it might finish.

An EPA-led contractor crew was doing excavation work at the entrance to the Gold King on Aug. 5, 2015, when workers inadvertently unleashed 3 million gallons of wastewater.

The water sent a yellow-orange plume of pollution into rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. Tribal lands were also affected.

Hearing Officer Balks At Proposed Route For Power LinesAlamogordo Daily News, Associated Press

Backers of a $2 billion high-voltage power line project say they'll continue to try to win regulatory approval of a proposed route through seven New Mexico counties despite a hearing officer's adverse recommendation.

The Alamogordo Daily News reports that Hearing Examiner Ashley C. Schannauer endorsed a right of way proposal for the SunZia Southwest Transmission Project but recommended that the Public Regulation Commission deny the proposed route through Lincoln, Torrance, Soccoro, Sierra, Luna, Grant and Hidalgo counties.

Schannauer concluded that the project's filing didn't adequately consider zoning and land-use requirements.

The 520-mile SunZia project is intended to funnel wind and solar energy from rural spots in New Mexico and Arizona to larger markets.

Project spokesman Ian Calkins said SunZia backers are confident they'll win PRC approval of the route.