Mayor And Police Plead For Leads In Murder, Safety Board Investigates Jet's Fatal Engine Blow-Out

Nov 20, 2019

Mayor Seeks Help In Stopping ‘Cycle’ Of Violence, HomicidesAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Albuquerque’s mayor and police department are pleading for investigative leads in the shooting death of the mother of two State Police officers as the city’s annual homicide tally approaches record levels.

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller on Wednesday said a surge in local homicides is the culmination of a decadelong trend linked to drug abuse, gangs and depleted police ranks.

He says the city is preparing an anti-violence initiative while seeking $30 million in new funding from the Legislature to combat crime.

Albuquerque Police Lieutenant Scott Norris says police are searching for a 2000 Jeep Cherokee in connection with the death of a woman whose husband reported she was shot Tuesday morning. Police provided no further details.

The Albuquerque Journal identified the deceased woman as the mother of State Police officers.

Albuquerque Police Say Woman Killed In Apparent Robbery Attempt Albuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Albuquerque police are investigating a homicide in which it appears the victim was shot in her car in a residential neighborhood on the city's west side as she prepared to go to a gym.

Police say preliminary indications that the killing Tuesday morning stemmed from an attempted robbery and that several people saw a brown Jeep Cherokee leaving the area after shots were fired.

The victim's identity wasn't released by APD Tuesday. However, The Albuquerque Journal reports she has been identified as Jacqueline “Jackie” Vigil, the mother of two New Mexico State Police officers.

GOP Navajo Nation Member Joins US Senate Race In New Mexico Associated Press

Elisa Martinez, a Latina Republican and member of the Navajo Nation, is joining the race for an open U.S. Senate seat in New Mexico.

Martinez formally announced Wednesday she will seek the GOP nomination to take on likely Democratic nominee U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján.

The anti-abortion activist will face contractor Mick Rich and college professor Gavin Clarkson in the Republican primary.

Martinez says she’s an advocate for “traditional, New Mexican issues” and blasted “liberal socialist Democrats” for seeking to reform health care.

Martinez grew up in Gallup, New Mexico. Her father has deep Hispanic roots in the state going back 15 generations and her mother’s family is Zuni Pueblo and Navajo.

If elected, Martinez would become the first Native American woman elected in the U.S. Senate.

Results Elusive As New Mexico Combats Alcohol, Drug DeathsAssociated Press

The state with the nation's highest alcohol-related death rate and a longstanding opiate problem is looking for answers in three afflicted communities that have deployed extensive resources to address an epidemic of destructive substance use.

An expert study released Wednesday by the Legislative Finance Committee traces a doubling of annual state spending on services to people with drug and alcohol problems across New Mexico, with attention to special programs across the state’s largest urban area in Albuquerque and two small, impoverished communities in the north and west of the state.

The aggressive deployment of opioid overdose antidotes and closer monitoring of prescriptions has helped stabilized overdose death rates as alcohol-related deaths continue to climb.

At the same time, many emergency rooms and physicians appear ill-equipped to screen and treat addiction.

New Mexico GOP Lawmaker Unveils Bail Reform ProposalAssociated Press

New Mexico Republicans have unveiled a proposal aimed at changing how state judges decide who remains jailed before trial.

State Rep. Bill Rehm said Wednesday he will push a bill that would force judges to consider the seriousness of the suspect’s charge and criminal history when considering release.

The Albuquerque Republican says he will work with Democrats to come with a bipartisan proposal to safeguard against violent defendants being released from jail before trial.

The move comes after a state judge ordered a defendant charged in the 2016 brutal killing and dismemberment of a 10-year-old Albuquerque girl to be released from jail pending his trial.

Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez, the top prosecutor in New Mexico's busiest court district, wants lawmakers to tackle a similar proposal.

New Mexico State Senator To Propose Buying Small PlaneAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

A New Mexico state senator has announced plans to propose purchasing a plane to help cabinet secretaries and other officials travel throughout the state.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Tuesday that Legislative Finance Committee chairman and Democratic Sen. John Arthur Smith is expected to introduce a bipartisan plan that would use funding in next year's state budget to buy an aircraft.

Smith says he is thinking of something more modest than the executive jet sold in 2011 by then-Gov. Susana Martinez.

Officials say Smith did not reveal any potential cost estimates, but a small airplane could cost about $2.5 million used or $4 million new compared to a $10 million jet.

Officials say the plane would encourage officials to visit remote parts of the state and better respond to community needs.

New Mexico May Form Hate-Crimes Unit After Texas MassacreBy Morgan Lee Associated Press

New Mexico's top prosecutor wants to create a special investigative unit to guard against hate crimes and bolster cybersecurity in response to the August mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and other emergent threats.

Attorney General Hector Balderas on Tuesday asked the Legislature to provide funding for five new employees as a precaution against potential attacks on public schools, retail stores and other vulnerable public venues.

Police say a gunman was targeting Mexicans as he opened fire on Aug. 3 at a retail store within 10 miles of New Mexico, killing 22 people. More than 40% of New Mexico residents claim Latino heritage.

Officials including Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham have expressed support for possible new criminal statutes related to domestic terrorism and hate crimes.

Lujan Grisham spokeswoman Nora Sackett said Tuesday that a public safety package will be on the agenda for the Legislature’s rapid-fire 30-day session in January, without providing more details. Legislative sessions in even-numbered years are confined to budget issues and additional issues specified by the governor.

Safety Board Considers Cause Of Jet's Fatal Engine Blow-Out - Associated Press

The National Transportation Safety Board is meeting to consider the cause of a deadly engine failure on a Southwest Airlines flight last year.

The incident killed a passenger from Albuquerque who was blown partly out of the plane when a piece of the engine shattered the window next to her.

The safety board met Tuesday in Washington.

According to preliminary findings, a fan blade in one engine broke, starting a cascade of events that led to the engine blowing apart about 30,000 feet over Pennsylvania.

Jennifer Riordan, a 43-year-old banker and mother of two, died from her injuries. Pilots were able to land the plane without serious injury to other passengers.

The incident led to more intensive inspections of fan blades on certain engines made by CFM International.

Man Facing Trial In Killing Of Albuquerque Girl Out Of Jail - KRQE-TV, Associated Press

A defendant charged in the 2016 killing of a 10-year-old Albuquerque girl has been released from jail pending his trial.

Fabian Gonzales has been in jail for more than three years and faces a charge of child abuse resulting in death.

Gonzales initially was accused of raping and murdering Victoria Martens. But prosecutors later determined he wasn't at the girl's apartment when she was killed.

Gonzales' cousin, Jessica Kelley, and Victoria's mother, Michelle Martens, have taken plea agreements in the girl's death.

A judge earlier this month ruled Gonzales should be released from jail because his two misdemeanor convictions from years ago and DWI don't qualify for pretrial detention.

Albuquerque TV station KRQE reports prosecutors filed an appeal Tuesday in an effort to get Gonzales back behind bars.

Cat Found In New Mexico After Going Missing In Oregon - Associated Press

A cat who has been missing for five years in Portland, Oregon, has been found in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The Santa Fe Animal Shelter announced this week that Sasha the black cat was recently found wandering the streets of New Mexico's capital. Officials said a scan of the cat's microchip revealed that the kitty had traveled more than 1,200 miles from Oregon.

American Airlines offered to fly the cat to Portland, along with a member of the Santa Fe Animal Shelter. Officials will present the animal to Viktor Usov, the cat's original owner.

Usov says the family thought they'd never see the cat again.

Storm Systems To Drop Rain, Snow While Crossing New MexicoAssociated Press

Forecasters say back-to-back storm systems will pass across New Mexico this week, bringing showers and thunderstorms starting late Tuesday and "treacherous" travel conditions in mountain passes by Thursday.

The National Weather Service says the first system will spread northeast through the state late Tuesday night and Wednesday. Snow levels will fall to near 8,500 feet by Wednesday evening.

The second system will move through the state Thursday, with snow levels as low as 6,000 feet and over 12 inches of snowfall in higher terrain.

Colorado To Provide Next Year’s Capitol Christmas Tree - Daily Sentinel, Associated Press

Next year’s U.S. Capitol Christmas tree will come from western Colorado.

U.S. Forest Service officials said Monday a tree will be cut from Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre or Gunnison national forest to adorn the Capitol building’s West Lawn in 2020.

Spokeswoman Kim Phillips told The Daily Sentinel that a formal announcement will be made Friday, and she declined to provide further details.

Each year, a national forest is chosen to provide a tree for the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

This year’s tree is a 60-foot blue spruce cut from the Carson National Forest outside of Taos, New Mexico.

The Capitol tree last came from western Colorado in 2012, a 73-foot Engelmann spruce from the White River National Forest east of Meeker.