Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 11:20 a.m. MST

Feb 8, 2020

CARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico homicide suspect is in custody in Nevada. Authorities say 21-year-old Preston Thompson is jailed in Las Vegas and awaiting extradition to New Mexico's Eddy County to face a murder charge in the shooting death of 26-year-old Carlie Overturff last September. Clark County Detention Center records indicate Thompson is serving a jail sentence for grand larceny auto and that he faces a hearing Monday on a fugitive warrant. The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports that Thompson had been missing since September. Eddy County sheriff's Capt. Matt Hutchinson told the Current-Argus that investigators received information that Thompson had left Carlsbad and might be in Nevada. New Mexico court records don't list a defense attorney for Thompson in the murder case.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Latino activists say they hope the controversy around the novel "American Dirt" brings more attention to recent and overlooked works by Latino writers. Advocates say these books rarely get the attention of the general public since publishers don't promote them liker other works by white writers. Latino advocates last month took to social media to complain about "American Dirt" by Jeanine Cummins for its alleged stereotypes about Mexican immigration. Advocates suggested on Twitter and Facebook works by Latino authors that boosted sales. Houston-based Arte Publico Press publisher Nicolas Kanellos says some of his books by immigrant writers have sold out.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico state Senate endorsed a red-flag gun bill Friday that has been prompted by concerns about the a mass shooting last year in El Paso, Texas, and suicide prevention efforts. The bill would allow law enforcement officers to petition a state district court to order the temporary surrender of firearms. Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham supports new tools she says will help law enforcement prevent gun violence. Rural sheriffs oppose the Democratic-sponsored legislation, arguing that officers can already intervene in the event of mental health crisis and detain people for their own safety or who present a danger to others.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A court ruling says New Mexico criminal defendants may be allowed to argue that they were trying to defend another person from excessive force by an officer. The state Court of Appeals decision in a case from Curry County overturns Sarita Jones' convictions for battery upon a peace officer and resisting or abusing a peace officer and grants her a new trial. The decision said the Clovis woman was entitled to seek a "defense of another" jury instruction because her case involved alleged excessive force directed by police at her son. The appeals court said a trial judge erroneously ruled that defendants claiming to have been defending another person couldn't cite allegedly excessive force by police. 


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico's new Ethics Commission says it has received no complaints so far involving lawmakers or state officials. Agency Executive Director Jeremy Farris says the lack of complaints is probably a result of the agency's website still being new and because commissioners only have jurisdiction over cases after July 1, 2019. Farris says requirements that complaints get notarized also may be discouraging people from coming forward. Commissioner Garrey Carruthers says he hopes state lawmakers later modify the state ethics law to drop the notarization requirements. Voters overwhelmingly approved the creation of the commission in 2018 in the wake of a series of high profile corruption scandals involving public officials.


SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Department of Corrections has paid its cabinet secretary $195,000 to settle a civil lawsuit alleging she was paid less than a male counterpart because she is a woman. The Santa Fe New Mexican reported Thursday that Alisha Tafoya Lucero filed the lawsuit in 2013 when she was deputy warden at a state penitentiary, claiming she was paid $29 an hour while a male colleague in a similar job was paid $39 an hour. Officials say this is one of three lawsuits over violations of the Fair Pay for Women Act that the Court of Appeals ruled in 2018 applies to government employees.


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A report has revealed that an oil refinery in southeast New Mexico is one of 10 facilities in the country releasing high levels of the cancer-causing chemical benzene. The Albuquerque Journal reported Thursday that the HollyFrontier Navajo oil refinery in Artesia is emitting benzene levels four times the Environmental Protection Agency's action level, but is not violating federal law. Officials say that more than 3,000 people live within a mile of the refinery. Benzene is found in crude oil and used to manufacture plastics and pesticides. Federal health officials say prolonged exposure to the chemical can damage bone marrow, decrease red blood cells and lead to cancer.


LEMITAR, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Chile Association wants local chili pepper farmers to become state-certified amid more competition from foreign growers. Association president Glen Duggins told KOAT-TV in Albuquerque, New Mexico, this week farmers are seeing more foreign imports from as far as China or India. He says some of the imported chili peppers are sold under the New Mexico name. Meanwhile, Duggins says state farmers are moving to other more profitable crops. State officials are pressuring local farmers to get their peppers the "Certified New Mexico Chile" label by the New Mexico Chile Association. There are only five large farms that are certified out of about 20 across New Mexico.