New Mexico AG Wants New Sex Offender Law Amid Epstein Probe - By Mary Hudetz Associated Press
New Mexico's attorney general wants to change a law that allowed Jeffrey Epstein to avoid registering as a sex offender in the state, where the financier owns a sprawling, secluded ranch and authorities say they are interviewing victims.
Attorney General Hector Balderas said Friday he will renew his push for legislation that would require anyone with a conviction of "human trafficking for commercial sexual activity" to register as a sex offender in the state. In a statement, Balderas described the law as weak.
Similar legislation to expand the statute for the sex offender registry died in the last legislative session without receiving a hearing.
Epstein pleaded guilty in 2008 to soliciting a minor for prostitution in Florida.
Balderas' spokesman Matt Baca also said New Mexico authorities were interviewing possible victims of Epstein.
Police Say 5 Texans Died In Fiery NM Crash – Associated Press
Four oilfield workers from Texas and the driver of tractor-trailer rig are dead following a fiery head-on crash on a New Mexico road in the heart of what has become the busiest oil and gas region in the United States.
New Mexico State Police say the crash happened Thursday morning when the driver of a pickup truck carrying three passengers crossed the center line into eastbound traffic and collided with a tractor-trailer rig, police said.
Both vehicles caught fire after the crash. The four workers in the pickup truck and the semi driver were all declared dead at the scene.
It's unclear what caused the pickup truck to cross lanes, but Officer Ray Wilson said Friday that alcohol does not appear to have been a factor.
The crash comes as local government officials and some state lawmakers have pushed for more funding to improve roads throughout New Mexico's share of the Permian Basin given the significant increase in traffic as a result of the ongoing oil boom.
Police identified the driver of the pickup truck as Arturo Barboza, 22, of Odessa, Texas. His passengers were Alonso Hernandez, 28, and Enrique Leon, 58, both of Odessa, and Justin Brown, 25, of Montgomery. Police did not say what company the men worked for.
The driver of the tractor-trailer rig was identified as Rayshawda Riley, 27, of Arlington. Police said the rig was used for hauling sand but was empty at the time of the crash.
Police Rule Santa Fe Deaths Murder-Suicide – KOB-TV, Associated Press
Santa Fe Police announced the death of 2 people found in a vehicle outside a state government building Thursday was a murder-suicide.
KOB-TV reports police said Friday 34-year-old Jessie Saucedo shot his wife, 32-year-old singer Ernestine Saucedo, twice in the chest. Saucedo has a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Ernestine Saucedo performed Tejano-style music under her maiden name of Ernestine Romero. She was an executive budget analyst supervisor for the state Public Education Department.
Santa Fe Police said the couple was married but had not been living together recently.
Police Say 2 Found Fatally Shot In Vehicle Were Married Couple – Associated Press
Santa Fe police say two people found fatally shot in a car between two state buildings were a state employee who was a popular local singer and her husband.
Police identified the couple found dead Thursday afternoon as 32-year-old Ernestine Saucedo and 34-year-old Jessie Saucedo. Ernestine Saucedo performed Tejano-style music under her maiden name of Ernestine Romero.
Police said their investigation continued but there wasn't a suspect at large and that police recovered at least one firearm from inside the vehicle parked outside the building housing the state Public Education Department.
That could mean the deaths resulted from a murder-suicide or double suicide.
State Employee Among 2 People Found Fatally Shot In Santa Fe – Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press
Authorities say a state employee was one of the two people found dead in the downtown Santa Fe area.
The Albuquerque Journal reports that police have identified them as Ernestine Saucedo, an employee of the state Public Education Department and popular local singer who performs under the last name Romero, and her husband, Jessie Saucedo.
Police say there isn't a suspect at large, which could mean the deaths resulted from a murder-suicide or double suicide.
The Albuquerque Journal reports their bodies were found in an SUV parked near the state Public Education Department Jerry Apodaca Education Building around 1 p.m.
In a statement, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham called the incident "a horrific tragedy" and said Ernestine Saucedo "was tragically and violently taken from us too soon."
Santa Fe Gears Up For Annual International Folk Art Market - Associated Press
Artists and craftspeople from around the globe are descending upon New Mexico's capital city this weekend for what organizers bill as the world's largest folk art festival.
The annual International Folk Art Market kicks off Friday evening with a party and wraps up Sunday on Santa Fe's Museum Hill.
More than 150 artists are representing 50 countries. Their wares include jewelry, ceramics, beadwork, metal work, textiles and basketry.
The artists are selected after experts review their work.
The market drew about 21,000 visitors last year and has generated more than $31 million in artist earnings since its inception in 2004.
Organizers say the market has a ripple effect in communities around the world and more than 1 million lives have been touched as a result over the last 15 years.
Police Say 5 Texans Died In Fiery NM Crash – Associated Press
Authorities say all five people killed in a fiery crash in southeastern New Mexico's oil country were from Texas.
New Mexico State Police say the crash happened Thursday morning on a state road east of Jal when the driver of a pickup truck crossed the center line into eastbound traffic and collided head-on with a tractor-trailer rig.
Officer Ray Wilson said Friday it's unclear what caused the driver, identified as 22-year-old Arturo Barboza of Odessa, to cross the center line.
Barboza's passengers 28-year-old Alonso Hernandez and 58-year-old Enrique Leon, both of Odessa, and 25-year-old Justin Brown of Montgomery were also killed.
Police identified the semi driver as 27-year-old Rayshawda Riley of Arlington.
Both vehicles caught fire after the collision.
Local leaders and some state lawmakers have voiced concerns about safety as traffic has increased on rural roads throughout the region because of the oil boom in the Permian Basin.
New Mexico Launches STEM Challenge For High School Students – Associated Press
New Mexico is asking its high school students to take up the gauntlet as part of an academic challenge that aims to answer one question: How will you use science and technology to help with national security?
Los Alamos National Laboratory came up with the question and will be partnering with teachers and businesses as the students use what they learn in the classroom next semester to formulate their answers.
At stake are stipends for teachers, extra state funding and cash awards and academic letters for students who make the cut for the special science teams.
Bill McCamley, head of the state labor department, announced the challenge Friday while in Albuquerque. He says it comes as the state begins working with new science standards that focus more on real-world problem-solving.
New Mexico Court Asked To Review State Anti-Corruption Law – KRQE-TV, Associated Press
A court has asked the New Mexico Supreme Court to review an anti-corruption law under which the state attorney general had charged four public officials.
KRQE-TV reported Thursday that state Attorney General Hector Balderas has appealed or filed notice to appeal four cases involving wrongdoing by state and county officials in which district courts dismissed charges linked to the state Governmental Conduct Act.
A section of the law prohibits public employees from using their offices for their benefit.
District judges have said the law is too vague or is not intended for criminal charges.
The state Court of Appeals has deferred the matter the higher court, which has not announced if it will accept the case.
Presbyterian Hospital Plans Albuquerque Campus Expansion – Associated Press
Presbyterian Hospital is planning to expand its downtown Albuquerque campus with the construction of an 11-story tower.
Presbyterian Healthcare Services announced Wednesday the $260 million project that will add 144 patient rooms, bringing the hospital's room total to 656.
Hospital officials say the project that's expected to be completed in 2022 aims to cut down wait times and modernize patient rooms.
All of the new rooms will be private.
Officials say the expansion will double the size of the emergency room waiting area.
The hospital also is building a new parking garage that will add 800 spaces to the campus. The hospital expects the structure to be completed next year.
Groups Call For Review Of Drilling Permits Near Chaco Park – Associated Press
Environmental groups and some Navajo officials are calling on U.S. land managers to hold public hearings and conduct a more thorough review of several applications to drill in northwestern New Mexico's San Juan Basin.
The groups have outlined their concerns in a letter to Bureau of Land Management state director Tim Spisak.
They initially sued in 2015, saying the agency violated environmental and preservation laws in approving drilling permits.
A federal appeals court dismissed the preservation claims but did rule that land managers conduct another environmental review for six of the permits. The court concluded the agency needed to consider the cumulative effects on water resources.
Environmentalists contend the subsequent review also was deficient and only 10 days were allowed for comment. They're seeking hearings and a 60-day comment period.
Tribes Gain Access To FBI Sex Offender Registry, Feds Say – Associated Press
The Justice Department says dozens of tribes will gain access to the FBI's National Sex Offender Registry through a tool that has been developed for them.
Federal authorities announced Thursday that it had developed an online system that will allow tribes the chance to enter data about sex offenders. The information will be included in the FBI's registry.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr says the database access will give tribal law enforcement officials the information they need to prevent sex crimes.
More than 50 tribes that already are part of what's known as the Tribal Access Program, or TAP, will be able to have access to the sex offender database. TAP was started in 2015 and allows tribes to exchange data with national crime information systems.
New Mexico, Colorado Get Fired Up Over Hot Peppers – Associated Press
The long-simmering battle between New Mexico and Colorado over which state grows the best chile is heating up.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham went on the offensive Wednesday after Colorado Gov. Jared Polis proclaimed on Twitter that hot peppers from Pueblo were the best and would be stocked across a four-state region by a well-known grocery store chain.
Polis went on to say stores in Lujan Grisham's state would be supplied with inferior New Mexico chile.
Lujan Grisham fired back, saying New Mexico chile is "the greatest in the world" and she's ready for a chile duel.
Researchers at New Mexico State University have explained that soil conditions, warmer temperatures, the right amount of water and a longer growing season result in the unique flavor of the state's chile.
Arizona Woman Accused Of Smuggling After Border Patrol Stop – Las Cruces Sun-News, Associated Press
The U.S. Border Patrol says an Arizona woman has been arrested after an agent stopped a van carrying 10 people suspected of entering the country illegally.
The Las Cruces Sun-News reported Wednesday that 33-year-old Evelyn Limas of Casa Grande has been charged with felony smuggling following the stop last week near the New Mexico border town of Columbus.
Limas' court-appointed lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the allegations.
Court documents say the agent stopped the van after it was observed picking up a group of people who had crossed the border.
According to the documents, Limas told the agent that she was an Uber driver and was taking the group to Ruidoso.
The 10 passengers were arrested and taken to the Deming Border Patrol Station.