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Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 3:20 a.m. MST

  • New Mexico Republicans compete to appear on primary ballot

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Republican Party contenders for Congress and statewide elected office are scheduled to compete for positions on the ballot ahead of the June primary election. A pre-primary convention Saturday is scheduled to bring together local GOP delegates from across the state to meet and listen to candidates. Five contenders are seeking the Republican nomination to challenge incumbent Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, including state Rep. Rebecca Dow of Truth or Consequences, Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block and former television meteorologist Mark Ronchetti of Albuquerque. The convention will determine who gets on the primary ballot with at least 20% of endorsement votes and who gets top billing with the highest approval.

  • Haaland: 16 tribal water settlements will get $1.7 billion

PHOENIX (AP) — The Biden administration will use $1.7 billion from the recently enacted federal infrastructure bill to fund 16 tribal water rights settlements. U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced the funding Tuesday during a visit to Arizona. The money will ensure that tribes get access to water they've been promised but have been unable to use because of a lack of funding for infrastructure to store and move it. Access to reliable, clean water and basic sanitation facilities on tribal lands remains a challenge for hundreds of thousands of people.

  • New Mexico man guilty in 1980 killing of 79-year-old woman

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — A New Mexico man has been convicted of raping and killing a 79-year-old woman in Southern California more than four decades ago. Sixty-four-year-old Andre Lepere was convicted Tuesday in Orange County. He was accused of killing Viola Hagenkord, whose body was found in her Anaheim bedroom in 1980. Authorities say DNA collected at the scene was reexamined last year and tied Lepere to the crime scene. At his trial, Lepere claimed he'd had consensual sex with the woman —a claim that the prosecutor called ridiculous. Lepere will be sentenced last month. He could face life in prison without the possibility of parole.

  • Proposal to nix derogatory term targets hundreds of US sites

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Federal officials have come up with a list of potential replacement names for hundreds of geographic features in three dozen states that include the word "squaw." U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in November formally declared the term derogatory and initiated a process to remove the term from use by the federal government and to replace other existing derogatory place names. The list was announced Tuesday and includes sites in New Mexico, Arizona, California and many other states. The agency will host virtual meetings to consult with tribes in March. A task force will prioritize the replacement names and make recommendations to the Board on Geographic Names before it meets later this year.

  • Albuquerque balloon fiesta seeks waiver of FAA tracking rule

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Organizers of Albuquerque's international balloon fiesta are seeking a waiver from federal aviation officials, saying a requirement that aircraft have specific tracking technology could affect the annual event. The Federal Aviation Administration rule affects most of the airspace above New Mexico's largest city. The agency granted a waiver for last year's fiesta, and event officials tell the Albuquerque Journal they are seeking a similar exemption for this year's 50th anniversary celebration. Balloonists say the rule remains a problem as it prevents passengers from getting expansive views from higher flights and bars pilots from more scenic locations such as the Rio Grande.

  • Companies face penalties for well violations in New Mexico

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — State oil and gas regulators have issued notices to two companies for violating their permits for wastewater injection wells in southeastern New Mexico. The Oil Conservation Division said Tuesday that the civil penalties include more than $2 million against XTO Permian Operating for violations at four wells, and $7,200 against Mewbourne Oil Company for violations at one well. Division officials said the violations undermine their ability to ensure that wastewater disposal wells are properly constructed. The state updated its guidelines last year following an increase in seismic activity in the Permian Basin that was believed to be associated with injection wells.

  • Ex-Las Vegas school guard pleads guilty to student sex abuse

LAS VEGAS, N.M. (AP) — A former Las Vegas, New Mexico, school security guard has pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a female student. The Las Vegas Optic reports 53-year-old Abran Ulibarri pleaded guilty Monday to criminal sexual penetration of a minor, three counts of false imprisonment, criminal solicitation to commit tampering with evidence and bribery of a witness. Attorney General Hector Balderas announced the agreement, commending the 14-year-old victim for coming forward. Las Vegas police initially investigated the allegations but then the state took over. Investigators say Ulibarri and the girl, a student at West Las Vegas Middle School, had a sexual relationship for months in 2019 Ulibarri faces up to 10 years in prison.

  • Albuquerque police search for suspect in violent crime spree

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Albuquerque police say a man accused of a trail of crimes including home invasions, car jackings and three kidnappings remains on the loose. Authorities say the suspect went on a crime spree beginning late Sunday night near Elm Street and Thaxton Avenue. The man allegedly broke into a home and forced a woman to drive with him in her car. He then left her at another home where he opened fire and fled in a vehicle from there. He is accused of then abducting two women in their car from a gas station. They were later found. They say the man then broke into a third home and took a car there.