Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 6:20 a.m. MST
- CHILE DROP RETURN
LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) — Organizers say the annual Chile Drop will return to Plaza de Las Cruces this year for an in-person celebration to ring in 2022. event coordinator Russ Smith tells the Las Cruces Sun-News it's going to be a "robust street party." The celebratory event was held virtually last year as COVID-19 spread during the winter months. It was prerecorded and aired Dec. 31 for viewers. This year, live music, food and entertainment will be offered starting at 9 p.m. New Year's Eve in downtown Las Cruces. Main Street will be blocked off around the plaza so the event will be pedestrian friendly.
- PEDESTRIAN KILLED
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Bernalillo County Sheriff's officials say they are investigating a pedestrian death in Albuquerque. They say the vehicle involved left the scene of the fatal collision Saturday, but was later located and a suspect now is in custody. Authorities say the driver is suspected of DWI. The names of the victim and the driver haven't been released yet.
- VIRUS OUTBREAK-NAVAJO NATION
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — The Navajo Nation has reported 40 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and three additional deaths. The latest numbers released Saturday pushed the tribe's total to 40,765 cases since the pandemic began with 1,576 known deaths. Health officials on Tuesday had reported 46 cases and three more deaths on Friday. Based on cases from Nov. 26-Dec. 9, the Navajo Department of Health issued an advisory Monday for 58 communities due to uncontrolled spread of COVID-19. Tribal President Jonathan Nez has issued a reminder to get the vaccine or the booster as the Christmas holiday approaches. The reservation covers 27,000 square miles and extends into parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.
FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) — The Salvation Army says Farmington-area residents of northern New Mexico are donating gifts and money after somebody stole a van loaded with $6,000 worth of toys to be distributed to over 350 children. The marked van was stolen Tuesday from outside a store. Lt. Christopher Rockwell said the community's response was heartwarming and that "the Grinch will not have this victory." Farmington police an arrest warrant has been issued in the case and they are looking for a 37-year-old man who is considered a suspect. Police say the van and toys haven't been recovered yet, no arrest has been made and a possible motive for the theft hasn't been determined.
- MISSING INDIGENOUS-SPECIAL UNIT
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Prosecutors in New Mexico's busiest judicial district and the state Indian Affairs Department are teaming up to create a special investigative unit to focus on cases of missing and slain Native Americans. State Indian Affairs Secretary Lynn Trujillo and Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez announced the memorandum of understanding Thursday to create the unit. The team within the district attorney's office will help a statewide task force with analysis, case investigations and interventions. Officials said New Mexico has the fifth-largest Native American population in the U.S. and the highest number of Indigenous people who have been killed or are missing in the country.
- REDISTRICTING-NEW MEXICO
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's Democratic governor has signed legislation to redraw the state's three congressional districts and divide a conservative stronghold into multiple districts over the objections of Republicans. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Friday that the new congressional map gives a baseline for competitive federal elections without giving any party or candidate an unfair advantage. Republicans disagree, calling it a power grab by Democrats. Consultants to the Legislature say the new congressional map gives Democrats an advantage in all three districts to varying degrees. Republicans need a net gain of five seats in 2022 to take control of the U.S. House and effectively freeze President Joe Biden's agenda.
NEW YORK (AP) — British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell has appeared in court for a rare weekend hearing where attorneys made arguments about how the judge should instruct a jury on the law in Maxwell's sex abuse trial. U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan scheduled the hearing on Saturday in an otherwise closed courthouse with jurors absent. The scheduling was an effort to keep Maxwell's trial on a fast track that will have her case reach a jury early next week. Closing arguments and Nathan's instructions are set for Monday. The 59-year-old Maxwell has denied charges she groomed teenagers to have sexual enounters with financier Jeffrey Epstein.
- EPA-SUPERFUND CLEANUP
Federal environmental officials have announced a $1 billion infusion to the Superfund program. The money comes from the infrastructure bill that President Joe Biden recently signed into law. It'll help officials tackle a backlog of highly polluted Superfund sites in 24 states. Nearly 50 toxic waste sites will be cleaned up, and ongoing work at dozens of others will get a funding boost. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan made the announcement Friday at a Superfund site in Philadelphia. He says most of the sites are in minority communities that have suffered disproportionately from contamination.