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Local and State News

PHOENIX (AP) — A female Mexican wolf from an ongoing reintroduction effort in Mexico has been captured on private ranch land in southeastern Arizona. U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials say the wolf captured Sunday has been relocated to the Sevilleta Wolf Management Facility in New Mexico, where it is in good health. Management agencies in the U.S. and Mexico will determine the most appropriate long-term management action for the young wolf.

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — Police in Las Cruces are looking for the driver of a hit-and-run vehicle that fatally struck a 52-year-old legally blind man from Kentucky. They say the vehicle that struck Michael Chadwick between 5 a.m. and 6:20 a.m. Thursday is believed to have dark blue metallic paint and have front-end damage, possibly including a broken headlight or broken windshield. Police say Chadwick was from Somerset, Kentucky and had been living in Las Cruces recently.

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — The first Rio Grande water of 2017 will be released Friday from the Caballo Reservoir. The Las Cruces Sun-News reports (http://bit.ly/2nPG2M7 ) that water could fill the riverbed near Las Cruces as soon as Saturday. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is slated to release the water early Friday. The riverbed in south-central New Mexico has been mostly dry since the end of farming season last fall. The first water being released is for farmers in the El Paso, Texas, area, which begins water delivery earlier than the Elephant Butte Irrigation District.

SANTA TERESA, N.M. (AP) — Federal officials say an officer's suspicions and use of a drug-smelling dog and an X-ray system led to the discovery of cocaine with an estimated street value $1 million at a U.S.-Mexico border crossing. Customs and Border Protection officials say 31 pounds (14 kilograms) of cocaine were found Wednesday in a pickup's fuel tank at the Santa Teresa port of entry in southern New Mexico. Officials say an officer making a secondary examination noticed irregularities in the vehicle's appearance and that the dog then alerted for the presence of narcotics.

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — An Ohio man accused in the 2016 slaying of a police officer in New Mexico has rejected a plea agreement, clearing the way for a trial later this year. Jesse Denver Hanes appeared Wednesday in federal court in Las Cruces. He told the judge he couldn't plead guilty to something he didn't do. The Las Cruces Sun-News reports (http://bit.ly/2omg2FS) that the proposed agreement called for Hanes to plead guilty to 14 charges in pending cases out of New Mexico and Ohio.

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — The first Rio Grande water of 2017 will be released Friday from the Caballo Reservoir. The Las Cruces Sun-News reports (http://bit.ly/2nPG2M7 ) that water could fill the riverbed near Las Cruces as soon as Saturday. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is slated to release the water early Friday. The riverbed in south-central New Mexico has been mostly dry since the end of farming season last fall. The first water being released is for farmers in the El Paso, Texas, area, which begins water delivery earlier than the Elephant Butte Irrigation District.

CARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) — Carlsbad may pay $125,000 toward a fund to fix a man-made underground cavern that is in danger of collapse. The Current-Argus reports (http://bit.ly/2nPBe9e ) that the City Council has approved a budget adjustment that includes the $125,000 the state has requested Carlsbad contribute to fixing the cavern. Experts and city officials have worried for years that the I&W brine well could collapse, costing up to $1 billion in damaged infrastructure.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Acting University President Chaouki Abdallah says it's time to tighten the University of New Mexico's purse strings. The Albuquerque Journal reports (http://bit.ly/2nPvoER ) that Abdallah spoke at a campus town hall meeting last week and told the audience that less state funding and enrollment declines have caused the university to exercise money-saving measures at a campus town hall meeting this week.

PHOENIX (AP) — Navajo Nation political leaders are planning to ask the federal government for subsidies to keep a mine and generating station in northern Arizona open. The Arizona Republic reports (http://bit.ly/2nPBqFz ) that the current owners of the coal-fired Navajo Generating Station say it is not currently profitable and voted recently to run it until the end of 2019 and then give up ownership. Closing the power plant would lead to the closure of the Kayenta Mine.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Concerns about New Mexico's short-term cash reserves are taking center stage as state lawmakers await veto decisions by Republican Gov. Susana Martinez on a budget for the coming fiscal year. Top finance officials under Martinez said Wednesday that a $102 million operating reserve cushion leaves the state perilously close to insolvency as the fiscal year comes to a close in June. Martinez says she is preparing plans to possibly furlough state government workers as soon as April, and reduce service days at state museums, parks and motor vehicle offices.

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — A detective assigned to investigate a 2014 deadly shooting involving two Santa Fe County sheriff's deputies says she was deliberately obstructed by her supervisors because she had previously reported sexual misconduct within the detectives' unit at the Las Cruces Police Department. The Las Cruces Sun-News reports (http://bit.ly/2nktMQw) Detective Irma Palos leveled the allegations in a whistleblower lawsuit filed last fall. The retrial of Tai Chan, the former deputy accused of killing his partner, is set for May.

ROSWELL, N.M. (AP) — Authorities in New Mexico and Arizona are warning the public about counterfeit money that is being passed around. Roswell police say multiple local businesses have been victimized the past few days when fake bills in denominations ranging from 10s to 100s were used to purchase items. In Arizona, Mohave County Sheriff's officials say bogus currency has been passed in Lake Havasu City the past few weeks. Investigators believe the counterfeit bills in both states are coming from or being produced by the same source.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — An American Airlines pilot died after having a medical episode just before landing in Albuquerque. The Albuquerque Journal reports (http://bit.ly/2oBo8K5) that the captain declared a medical emergency on flight 1353 a couple of minutes before landing at Albuquerque International Sunport on Wednesday evening. A spokesman for the airline tells the newspaper that the captain landed the flight from Dallas-Fort Worth without incident. The plane taxied normally to a gate and was met by paramedics. American Airlines first officer William "Mike" Grubbs was pronounced dead.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Police say a man who allegedly threatened customers outside an Albuquerque grocery store with a machete has been arrested. The man's name wasn't immediately released Wednesday night. Police say they received reports of an armed man at the store in southeast Albuquerque about 4:45 p.m. When officers responded, police say the suspect ran into a backyard of a house. That prompted officers to set up a perimeter around the area. A police dog searched for the suspect and found him hiding in bushes. Police say the machete was recovered from bushes.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's governor has signed legislation to gradually set aside up to $5 million to help repair damaged or polluted state trust lands. The bill signed by Gov. Susana Martinez on Wednesday creates the State Trust Lands Restoration and Remediation Fund. The account can be tapped to clean up illegal dumping, restore watersheds from wildfire damage or deal with invasive plant species. Republican Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn proposed the legislation as his agency grappled with waste-water spills by a financially troubled oil-well company and wildfire recovery efforts.

LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — An Arizona man has been sentenced to more than five years in federal prison for methamphetamine trafficking in New Mexico. Prosecutors say 32-year-old Carlos Matta Heredia of Phoenix received a 63-month prison term Wednesday in a Las Cruces court, followed by three years of supervised release. Heredia was arrested last May after authorities found about six pounds of methamphetamine in his vehicle during a routine traffic stop on Interstate 10 in Luna County.

ROSWELL, N.M. (AP) — A man accused of killing his family in Roswell last summer has been extradited and is in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service. New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas made the announcement Wednesday. Juan David Villegas-Hernandez was taken into custody by Sonora state police in June after investigators in Roswell said the 34-year-old shot and killed his wife, Cynthia Villegas, and their four daughters. The bodies were discovered by relatives who stopped by the family's home after not hearing from them for several days.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Across New Mexico, unusually warm March weather and virtually no rain for a month combined to create a weather phenomenon called a flash drought. The conditions resulted in dust storms that closed highways, warnings for some to stay inside and rapid mountain snow melting that could compromise drinking water supplies and farmers' irrigation needs. Flash droughts leave top layers of soil bone dry. Other affected areas include pockets of Arizona and Utah plus northern California and parts of the Midwest.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The top prosecutor for New Mexico's most populous judicial district wants the state Supreme Court to clarify the circumstances under which certain defendants can be held without bail pending trial. Bernalillo County District Attorney Raul Torrez announced Wednesday that he'll be filing a writ with the high court. The Albuquerque Journal reports (http://bit.ly/2nklO9Z) that Torrez's move came after he watched a federal proceeding in which a U.S. magistrate ordered Paul Salas held pending trial. Salas is accused of 47 armed robberies in the Albuquerque area.

LAS VEGAS, N.M. (AP) — A man found guilty of a grisly Las Vegas killing has been committed to 20 years at the New Mexico Behavioral Health Institute. The Las Vegas Optic reports (http://bit.ly/2njKoYB ) that 49-year-old Ricky Quintana was found guilty of second-degree murder in the April 2003 death of Michael Grube. He was convicted through evidentiary hearings after he was found unfit to stand trial. Grube's body was found nearly decapitated in April 2003. He suffered more than 50 blunt-force and sharp-force injuries and his genitals had been removed.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Taxes are going up for residents of Bernalillo County. The Bernalillo County commissioners voted Tuesday to raise the gross receipts tax, a move that is expected to raise $30 million in revenue. The increase of three-sixteenths of 1 cent on the receipts tax will add 18.75 cents to the cost of a $100 purchase. It does not require voter approval. The tax increase goes into effect July 1. In total the gross receipt tax moves from 7.3125 percent to 7.5 percent in the Albuquerque city limits and from 6.25 to 6.4275 percent in unincorporated areas of the county.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke says geographic and physical challenges will make it difficult to build the "big, beautiful wall" that President Donald Trump has promised on the U.S.-Mexico border. Zinke told reporters Wednesday that building a wall "is complex in some areas," including a national park and the Rio Grande River, which twists through much of the 2,000-mile border. Zinke told the Public Lands Council, a group that represents western ranchers, on Tuesday that the U.S. is not going to "cede" the Rio Grande to Mexico by putting a wall on the U.S.

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico this year will receive the largest tobacco settlement payment it has ever received from the industry. The state attorney general's office made the $50 million announcement Tuesday, saying the payment includes an additional $14.5 million as a result of a court ruling in which the judge sided with New Mexico over allegations that the state had been shortchanged by the industry. Attorney General Hector Balderas said the payment will ensure additional funds are funneled to public education and health programs.

ALAMOGORDO, N.M. (AP) — White Sands National Monument in southern New Mexico is celebrating the highest number of visits in more than a decade. Park officials reported this week that 555,793 recreation visits were recorded at White Sands during the National Park Service's Centennial Year in 2016. That's an increase of nearly 12 percent over 2015 and the highest recorded since 1998. National park sites across the country recorded 331 million recreation visits in 2016.

RIO RANCHO, N.M. (AP) — An insurance claim and support center operated by Safelite Solutions is two years ahead of its hiring schedule and plans to hire more workers than originally anticipated. Gov. Susana Martinez joined company executives and local officials in Rio Rancho on Tuesday to celebrate the grand opening of Safelite's center. Since June, the company has created 517 full-time jobs and 288 part-time positions. Safelite plans to have more than 1,000 employees at its Rio Rancho operation by the end of the year.

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