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

US panel to focus on Native American missing, slain cases

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland wants to do more than just put a bandage on a crisis that she says has been decades in the making. Haaland on Thursday announced the members of a commission that will craft recommendations on how the federal government can better tackle unsolved cases in which Native Americans and Alaska Natives have gone missing or have been killed. Haaland blamed the disproportionately high number of such cases on a lack of urgency and coordination. The commission is expected to hold public hearings and gather testimony over the coming months. Meanwhile, some tribes and states, including New Mexico, have created their own response plans to address the problem.

New Mexico seeks opportunity in Texas border disruptions

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico is highlighting its support for proposals to route an international rail line through its Santa Teresa border crossing, capitalizing on Mexico's unease with disruptions along the Texas portion of the U.S. border. Mexico had considered a route through Texas, but in recent days officials have said they can no longer rely on that state. Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in April required all commercial trucks from Mexico to undergo extra inspections, tying up traffic. The administration of Democratic New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Wednesday that it will send a delegation to Mexico City to explore opportunities at the border crossing.

Fire crews close in around massive New Mexico wildfire

LAS VEGAS, N.M. (AP) — Firefighters in New Mexico are taking advantage of diminished winds to build more fire lines and clear combustible brush near homes close to the fringes of the largest wildfire burning in the U.S. The blaze has charred hundreds of square miles of tinder-dry forest, destroying dozens of homes and triggering the evacuation of thousands across an expansive stretch of rural northeastern New Mexico. President Joe Biden has approved a disaster declaration for areas devastated by the fire, while a congresswoman pressed the U.S. Forest Service on Thursday for a full account of its role in lighting a prescribed fire that fed the conflagration.

Las Vegas ex-pastor, teacher pleads guilty in child sex case

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A church pastor and former elementary school teacher from Las Vegas has pleaded guilty to a child sex crime in a plea agreement that avoids trial and is expected to get him 2-to-20 years in state prison when he's sentenced Aug. 15. Records show that Reynaldo Crespin pleaded guilty Monday to attempted lewdness with a child under 14. Several other sexual assault and lewdness charges were dismissed. Crespin is 59. He taught from 2016 until this year and was a founder of New Horizon Christian Church in northeast Las Vegas. Records show he may also be sentenced to lifetime supervision as a sex offender.

US to hold back Lake Powell water to protect hydropower

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Federal water officials have announced they'll keep hundreds of billions of gallons of Colorado River water inside Lake Powell instead of letting it flow downstream to southwestern states and Mexico. U.S. Assistant Secretary of Water and Science Tanya Trujillo said Tuesday the move will allow the Glen Canyon Dam to continue producing hydropower while officials strategize how to operate the dam with a lower water elevation. The decision won't have any immediate impacts on the amount of water allocated for the region's cities and its farm. But it reflects the compounding challenges facing the region, where roughly 40 million people and a $5 billion-a-year agricultural industry rely on the Colorado River.

Change trains: Mexico favors N. Mexico over Texas

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The Mexican government is snubbing Texas and moving a proposed border rail link to New Mexico, after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott backed up border crossings with state truck inspections in April. Mexican diplomats met Tuesday with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and touted a rail line linking Mexican seaports on the Pacific with the San Jeronimo-Santa Teresa crossing in New Mexico. Mexican officials had considered a route through Texas, but in recent days they've said they can no longer rely on the state. Abbott had required all commercial trucks from Mexico to undergo extra inspections, tying up traffic and causing millions in losses.

Albuquerque sees 3 different homicides over the weekend

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Authorities in Albuquerque are dealing with three difference homicide scenes that occurred over the weekend. Albuquerque police say on Sunday officers responded to a single-vehicle car crash. One person died at a hospital. But the victim had suffered a gunshot wound. Earlier in the day around 4 a.m., a woman asked a neighbor to call police after she claimed to have stabbed her boyfriend. Officers found a man dead with wounds consistent with a stabbing. The woman was taken to the hospital for injuries and has not been arrested. Then on Saturday night, police found two people shot to death inside a home. There have been no arrests.

Arizona wildfire forces fast decision: Fight or flee flames?

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Ferocious winds that sent what was a small wildfire racing toward homes on the outskirts of a northern Arizona city presented a dilemma. Most residents in the "Girls Ranch" neighborhood north of Flagstaff, Arizona, fled the flames. One couple stood their ground. Another raced to save animals on neighbors' properties. Two homes in the close-knit neighborhood were among 30 in the area that were destroyed. The wildfire left a mosaic of charred land before it was almost fully contained this weekend. The blaze is one of many this spring that have forced panicked residents to make life-or-death, fight-or-flee decisions as wildfire season heats up in the U.S. West.