Local and State News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico district attorney who drew national attention for seeking charges against two Albuquerque officers who killed a homeless man says she shouldn't be taken off the case.

Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg said in a court filing this week that she saw no conflict of interest despite her office working closely with Albuquerque police on other cases.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico House of Representatives committee has approved legislation that would allow industry professionals to teach part-time in classrooms without having to go back to college to receive a teaching degree.

The bill by Republican Conrad James of Albuquerque cleared the House Education Committee Tuesday on a 6-5 vote. It now heads to the full House.

James says his bill will help recruit more teachers and allow industry experts to share their knowledge with students.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico House panel has voted in favor of legislation that would establish a commission dedicated to studying options for transferring federal lands to state control.

The bill cleared the House Agriculture, Water and Wildlife Committee on a 9-1 vote Wednesday after two hours of debate. It still must clear a number of other committees before reaching the House floor.

Similar efforts have died in the past over the concerns of environmental groups, American Indian tribes and some sportsmen.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Five New Mexico Corrections Department employees have been placed on administrative leave in connection with allegations of sexual harassment.

Corrections spokeswoman Alex Tomlin said Wednesday that the five employees, including Central New Mexico Correctional Facility Warden Robert Stewart, were placed on leave after authorities were notified of the allegations.

Tomlin says an internal investigation also has been launched to see if any complaints of sexual harassment were ignored at the prison in Los Lunas.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Two pilots soaring over the Pacific Ocean have made history by surpassing an official world distance record for human flight in a gas balloon.

The Two Eagles pilots, Troy Bradley of Albuquerque and Leonid Tiukhtyaev of Russia, traveled more than 5,260 miles (8,465 kilometers) to put themselves in contention for the record.

It still needs to be ratified by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, a process than can take weeks.

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico State University says it will fill a gap in lottery scholarships for the spring semester for all eligible students at the Las Cruces campus.

The state Higher Education Department notified colleges and universities in December that the scholarship award will not cover 100 percent of tuition this semester.

New Mexico State said its announcement Thursday means that students attending the Las Cruces campus won't have to pay as much as $129 out of their own pockets or through other financial aid.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A redacted version of an audit that led to the shake-up of behavioral health services for needy New Mexicans is now public.

State Attorney General Hector Balderas released the audit during a news conference in Albuquerque, saying the state needs to do a better job of ferreting out fraud without disrupting services that citizens depend on.

He says he's making changes in the way the attorney general's office investigates such matters.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The Roswell district attorney won't prosecute two Santa Fe police officers involved in a 2013 non-fatal shooting.

The Albuquerque Journal reports 5th Judicial District Attorney Janetta Hicks stated her decision in a letter Thursday to New Mexico State Police.

The Santa Fe police officers shot at a suspect who was driving his mother's van that had been reported stolen.

Hicks says the officers were defending themselves as they had to rapidly move out of the way of the vehicle to avoid being struck.

RIO RANCHO, N.M. (AP) — The Sandoval County Sheriff's Office is investigating the death of a man in Rio Rancho that is being called suspicious and appears to be a homicide.

Sheriff's officials say deputies say deputies were called Wednesday afternoon to investigate an unattended death.

Deputies say they found 30-year-old Matthew Senter lying near his vehicle unresponsive.

They say Senter had an argument with his girlfriend the previous evening and left the residence.

He walked alone to his vehicle that was parked in a vacant lot that is owned by his friend.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A Mexican national has pleaded guilty in Las Cruces federal court trafficking drugs in Eddy County.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for New Mexico says 33-year-old Israel Mireles-Rivera, who had been living in Hagerman illegally, entered his plea Friday afternoon.

Mireles-Rivera was arrested in January 2014 on three counts including conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute and being a person in the U.S. illegally who owned a firearm.

FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) — An 8-year-old Flora Vista girl who was accidentally shot by her younger sister is in stable condition.

The San Juan County Sheriff's Office says the girl was upgraded Saturday from critical condition at San Juan Regional Medical Center.

Det. Lt. Kyle Lincoln says the incident happened Friday when both girls and a third sister were helping their father clean the house.

According to Lincoln, the 6-year-old sibling dropped a rifle and hit the trigger, causing a gunshot wound to her sister's throat.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A former northern New Mexico sheriff convicted in a road rage incident is seeking a delay in his sentencing while he seeks a new trial.

Former Rio Arriba County Sheriff Tommy Rodella is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday on his Sept. 26 convictions for brandishing a firearm and depriving a motorist of his rights during a March incident.

Rodella's lawyers on Friday requested a new trial and cited that request as grounds for postponing the sentencing.

Federal prosecutors oppose both requests.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Santa Fe County authorities say the death of a woman who had been reported missing was an apparent homicide.

Deputies found the body of 30-year-old Julieanne Kelly on her family's property in the Santa Fe area late Friday. Her body had blunt-force trauma.

Kelly's father had earlier told authorities that his daughter had not returned home.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Albuquerque police say a 22-year-old man is dead following a shooting at a retail store.

Details of the Sunday night shooting remain sketchy.

Police haven't released the victim's identity. Police do say there's been no arrest and that witnesses weren't able to provide any suspect information.

The shooting occurred at a Walmart store at 2550 Coors Northwest around 9 p.m., but it's not clear whether the shooting occurred inside the store or outside in the parking lot.

ALBQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Winter isn't over but a new preliminary forecast says runoff from mountain snows spells trouble for New Mexico, which has been beset by years of drought.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that the National Water and Climate Center's preliminary forecast is based largely on snowfall so far in the mountains of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado.

Runoff from that snow flows into the Rio Grande Valley during the spring and summer.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Public Regulation Commissioner Patrick Lyons says he will not recuse himself from the case involving the closure of two units at a coal-fired power plant in northwestern New Mexico.

Lyons denied accusations that he had any improper communication with PNM, the utility that operates the San Juan Generating Station. The environmental group New Energy Economy had sought his recusal.

Lyons said in a filing this week with the commission that he has not prejudged the case and will be able to make a fair and impartial decision.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Acoma Pueblo says it has reached an agreement with New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez's administration on a gambling compact.

Tribal officials say the deal would increase the percentage of revenue it shares with the state from operating a casino on Interstate 40 west of Albuquerque.

Acoma Tribal Secretary Jonathan Sims says officials feel confident their proposed deal will win approval from the state Legislature during its 60-day session that convenes Jan. 20 in Santa Fe.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A Dulce man has been sentenced to eight years in federal prison for involuntary manslaughter.

Prosecutors say 24-year-old Isaiah Dean Trujillo also was sentenced Thursday to three years of supervised release.

Trujillo was arrested in the case last May.

Authorities say two women died from injuries sustained during the rollover crash and two other passengers were hurt within the Jicarilla Apache Nation on April 24, 2013.

Prosecutors say Trujillo was the driver of the vehicle and was intoxicated at the time of the incident.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A portion of an Albuquerque street has been closed after authorities say a bus crashed into a home.

Authorities say the bus rammed into the house Thursday but it is unclear what caused the crash. Another vehicle appeared to be involved.

Passengers were seen being taken away from the scene on stretchers. Their injuries are not known.

No other information was available.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A homeless man with a lengthy criminal record has pleaded not guilty to charges related to the shooting and wounding of an Albuquerque police officer during a weekend traffic stop.

Christopher Cook appeared in court with his attorney Wednesday afternoon.

Cook was arrested before dawn Tuesday after being spotted staggering along a road. Police Chief Gordon Eden said the arrest was a lucky break in a case that spurred a massive three-day manhunt.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A federal judge is refusing to reconsider his dismissal of a salesman's lawsuit against the Albuquerque Police Department and a former police chief in connection with the conduct of the investigation into two 2007 killings.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that U.S. District Judge William P. Johnson in late December also refused to allow Travis Rowley to file a new version of the suit that Johnson ordered dismissed last July.

Rowley and another door-to-door salesman were jailed for nearly 17 months before being cleared.

BLOOMFIELD, N.M. (AP) — San Juan County say a Bloomfield police officer was justified in shooting a possibly suicidal man.

The Daily Times reports that the finding by the District Attorney's Office means that Office Andy Darby won't face criminal charges in the Aug. 27 fatal shooting of 61-year-old John J. Rogers.

The office told New Mexico State Police in a Dec. 31 letter that evidence suggests that Rogers threatened Darby with a handgun before Darby shot Rogers.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Santa Fe may not be able to legally force Public Service Co. of New Mexico to sell its electric distribution system in Santa Fe to the northern New Mexico city.

City Attorney Kelley Brennan advised the City Council recently that state law on electric utilities apparently doesn't allow cities to use condemnation to force a sale of an existing electric utility.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports that Brennan's legal opinion represents a major snag in Santa Fe's yearslong push to create a government-owned electric utility.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — An international team led by two veteran pilots is preparing to break a pair of major ballooning records when it launches its helium-filled balloon this week.

Albuquerque pilot Troy Bradley and fellow pilot Leonid Tiukhtyaev of Russia say they anticipate launching early Friday morning from Saga, Japan.

The team's mission control will be located in Albuquerque at the Anderson Abruzzo International Balloon Museum.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Patients and employees on one floor of an Albuquerque hospital were briefly evacuated because of a reported smoke odor.

Albuquerque Fire Department officials say firefighters didn't smell smoke but instead noticed an electrical odor on the ninth floor of the downtown Loveless Hospital on Tuesday afternoon.

They say a melted motor in the HVAC system was discovered.

There were no injuries and all patients and employees later returned to the ninth floor.