Two People Shot And Killed In Downtown Santa Fe, Land Office Predicts Record Revenue

Jul 11, 2019

State Employee Among 2 People Found Fatally Shot In Santa FeAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

Authorities say a state employee is one of the two people found dead in the downtown Santa Fe area.

The name of the woman wasn't immediately released Thursday afternoon.

Santa Fe police earlier said a man and a woman both appeared to have been fatally shot but didn't identify either person.

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 two bodies were found in an SUV parked near the New Mexico Supreme Court and state Public Education Departments buildings around 1 p.m.

In a statement, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham called the incident "a horrific tragedy" and says the state employee "was tragically and violently taken from us too soon."

Police Say 2 People Found Fatally Shot In Downtown Santa FeAssociated Press

Police in Santa Fe say a man and woman have been found dead in the downtown area and both appear to have been shot.

Police say there is not a suspect at large, which could mean the deaths resulted from a murder-suicide or double suicide.

The names of the two adults who died weren't immediately released.

The Albuquerque Journal reports two bodies apparently were found in an SUV parked near the New Mexico Supreme Court and state Public Education Departments buildings around 1 p.m. Thursday.

Police say the scene remains active and a few surrounding streets have been closed off so detectives can investigate.

Groups Call For Review Of Drilling Permits Near Chaco ParkAssociated 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 SayAssociated 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 PeppersAssociated 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.

Lethal Measures Off Table For Controlling Wild Horse Herds - By Keith Ridler, Associated Press

The Trump administration will not pursue lethal measures such as euthanasia or selling horses for slaughter to deal with what officials say is an ecological and fiscal crisis caused by too many wild horses on rangelands in the U.S. West.

U.S. Bureau of Land Management Acting Director Casey Hammond told the Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board on Thursday that those options are not on the table.

The agency is preparing a report requested by Congress on potential solutions for the wild horse problem.

Federal officials say the nearly 90,000 wild horses in 10 Western states are more than three times appropriate levels. Officials estimate that up to 18,000 foals are born each year.

Another 50,000 wild horses are being held in corrals at a cost of $50 million annually.

Presbyterian Hospital Plans Albuquerque Campus ExpansionAssociated 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.

Arizona Woman Accused Of Smuggling After Border Patrol StopLas 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.

Man Struck On Phoenix Freeway Identified As Albuquerque Man Associated Press

Arizona authorities have identified a pedestrian killed when struck while running across Interstate 10 in west Phoenix early Wednesday morning as a New Mexico man.

The Department of Public Safety said Thursday the man killed was 54-year-old Abelino Rudolfo of Albuquerque.

Trooper Jonathan Montes told The Associated Press in an email that the DPS investigation into the incident continues and that authorities don't know why Rudolfo was on the freeway and whether he had been in another vehicle before being struck.

The 4:41 a.m. incident resulted in the closure of westbound lanes, snarling traffic on the metro area's west side during the morning commute.

The DPS said the driver of the pickup that struck Rudolfo remained at the scene and apparently would not face any criminal charges.

New Mexico Land Office Predicts Record-High RevenueAssociated Press

Revenues from development on state trust land over the last fiscal year are on track to surpass $1 billion.

The New Mexico State Land Office announced Wednesday the total tally has yet to be calculated due to the nature of royalty payment collections but that conservative year-end estimates indicate a record high.

Revenues reached $852 million for the 2018 fiscal year. If predictions hold, the 2019 fiscal year will mark a nearly 40% increase.

Most of the revenue has come from the oil and gas boom, but the agency also reported increases in commercial lease payments and solar and wind energy leases.

Money also is earned from grazing leases, rights of way easements, permits and other fees.

The revenue earned from activity on state trust land helps to fund public education, hospitals and other institutions.

New Mexico Regulators Chart Course For Coal Plant Closure - By Susan Montoya Bryan Associated Press

New Mexico regulators have decided on a course for how they will handle a major utility case that marks the beginning of the end for coal-fired electricity generation in the state.

The state's largest utility, Public Service Co. of New Mexico, recently submitted its application for closing the San Juan Generating Station in northwestern New Mexico. The filing includes a mechanism for financing the closure and options for replacing the lost capacity — both elements tied directly to the state's new energy transition law.

The Public Regulation Commission on Wednesday voted to split the proceeding into two parts — one for the closure and financing and the other for the replacement power.

Commissioners and staff say they expect numerous legal issues to be raised as the effects of any decision will be felt for decades.

NTSB Finds Pilot Flew Too Low, Causing New Mexico Fatal Crash Associated Press

A report released this week says investigators found no problems with a helicopter that crashed in New Mexico in January 2018, killing five people including Zimbabwe opposition leader Roy Bennett.

The National Transportation Safety Board said the pilot apparently caused the fatal wreck by flying too low over mountainous terrain at night.

Besides Bennett, his wife Heather, a co-pilot and wealthy businessman also were killed. The businessman's girlfriend who also is the co-pilot's daughter was the sole survivor.

Federal investigators previously reported that the fatally injured pilot said he'd flown into terrain and that the accident was his fault.

The report did not identify pilot Coleman Dodd by name but New Mexico authorities have said previously that he was the pilot.

New Mexico Official Sets Private Prison Transfer Timeline - Associated Press

The top prison official in New Mexico says a privately run lock-up that is expected to transfer to state control this year has continuously struggled to maintain staffing numbers.

The comment from Corrections Secretary Alisha Tafoya Lucero during a legislative hearing this week comes as officials set Aug. 3 as the day when they and the GEO Group will begin the three-month process of transferring the Northeast New Mexico Detention Facility in Clayton to state management.

A spokesman for GEO Group, a Florida-based company that currently operates three out of 11 prisons in the state, made the decision to end its contract to run the prison owned by the town of Clayton because of difficulties recruiting and retaining workers.

Lucero told lawmakers that the facility was having "a difficult time maintaining safe and reasonable standards," but did not elaborate.

Forest Official Upholds Cancellation Of Grazing Permit - Associated Press

A regional official with the U.S. Forest Service has upheld the cancellation of a grazing permit belonging to a New Mexico rancher who killed an endangered Mexican gray wolf.

Southwest Regional Forester Calvin Joyner outlined his decision in a letter last week.

Craig Thiessen had appealed after the permit was revoked in November, saying he had no livelihood without his cattle grazing in Gila National Forest.

Thiessen pleaded guilty last year to knowingly taking threatened wildlife. The 10-month-old wolf pup was fatally struck by a shovel in February 2015.

Fish and Wildlife Service officials said the wolf died of injuries Thiessen inflicted.

Thiessen stopped short of admitting to killing the wolf in his plea agreement.

There are about 130 Mexican wolves in the wild in New Mexico and Arizona.

New Mexico Gets Approval To Change School Grading SystemAlbuquerque Journal, Associated Press

The New Mexico Public Education Department has received federal approval to amend its grading system for school performance.

The Albuquerque Journal reported Monday that the U.S. Department of Education last week approved changes to the state's education plan, allowing it to replace the A-F grading system.

State education officials say the new dashboard system will contain more qualitative information including academic stats in subject proficiency and growth, budgetary data and graduation rates and readiness.

The department's secretary of policy, strategy and accountability, Timothy Hand, says the dashboards will report all federally required information, but they will not give letter grades for schools.

Officials say the current grading system was criticized for demoralizing teachers and students at low-performing schools.

Hand says they plan to launch the new system by November.

Pebble Labs To Expand Biosciences Business In New Mexico Associated Press

A company started by a former scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory plans to expand over the next decade, investing as much as $60 million in its bioscience operations.

State officials are pledging at least $4 million in economic development incentives to Pebble Labs USA Inc. Los Alamos County is assisting with the issuance of $12.5 million in industrial revenue bonds.

Pebble Labs also qualifies for up to $3.25 million in employee training money and may apply for future incentives such as the state's high-wage jobs tax credit.

The company's research involves food and crop safety as well as curbing occurrences of vector-borne diseases.

With its expansion announcement, the company said Tuesday it had a breakthrough in substantially reducing disease in farm-raised fish and shrimp without the use of antibiotics.

FCC Approves Priority Window For Tribes To Expand Broadband - Associated Press

The Federal Communications Commission has approved a priority filing window for tribes to obtain licenses that could boost internet service in rural communities.

The commission voted 3-2 Wednesday in favor of the filing window for federally recognized tribes.

The 2.5 Ghz-band of spectrum largely is unassigned in the U.S. West and is seen as key to expanding 5G access.

The licenses could help tribes establish or expand broadband coverage in underserved areas. Tribally owned entities, including colleges and universities, also would be given priority for licenses.

The filing window for tribes could open as early as December. The remaining spectrum would be auctioned off for commercial use.

The FCC vote also removed the educational use requirement for the spectrum. The changes won't affect existing license holders.

Mining Company Rejects EPA Order For Superfund Cleanup Work - Durango Herald, Associated Press

A mining company says it won't carry out cleanup work ordered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as part of a Superfund project in southwest Colorado.

The Durango Herald reported Wednesday that Sunnyside Gold Corp. sent the EPA a letter saying the company isn't responsible for pollution flowing from inactive mines in the area.

The EPA wants Sunnyside to help pay for some of the initial investigations into the Bonita Peak Superfund cleanup, citing the company's previous mining activity there.

The EPA says it will review Sunnyside's letter before deciding its next step.

The Bonita Peak Superfund project includes the Gold King Mine, source of a 2015 spill that polluted rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. An EPA-led contractor inadvertently triggered the spill while excavating at the mine entrance.

Colorado-Based Power Provider Now Under Federal RegulationDenver Post, Associated Press

A Colorado-based power provider serving four states has voted for the federal government to regulate it.

The Denver Post reported Wednesday that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will oversee the Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association and set its electric rates.

Tri-State says the move will give it more flexibility than being regulated by four states where it serves electric cooperatives: Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and Nebraska.

Colorado lawmakers say they asked for a delay in the decision last week because they wanted more time to determine the implications of the change.

A new law requires Colorado regulators to approve Tri-State's plans for where it gets its power, whether from coal or renewable sources.

State agencies say their ability to regulate planning, emissions and environmental issues will not change.

Woman Convicted In Sex-torture Case To Be Released -KRQE-TV, Associated Press

The former girlfriend of convicted sex torturer and suspected serial killer David Parker Ray will be getting out of prison.

The New Mexico Corrections Department tells KRQE-TV that Cynthia Lea Hendy will be released next week.

Hendy has served nearly 20 years of her 36-year sentence, including two years of in-house parole.

The sex-torture accusations surfaced in 1999 when a naked woman was found running down a street with a chain on her neck, claiming she escaped from a trailer near Ray's mobile home.

Police searched the trailer and found torture devices, including surgical tools and chemicals, as well as video cameras.

Authorities said Ray wrote of having some 40 victims. FBI agents believe he may have killed some and buried bodies near Elephant Butte Reservoir, but no bodies have ever been found.