Latest New Mexico news, sports, business and entertainment at 5:20 p.m. MDT

Jul 10, 2019

New Mexico land office predicts record-high revenueSANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Revenues from development on state trust land over the last fiscal year are on track to surpass $1 billion.The New Mexico State Land Office announced Wednesday the total tally has yet to be calculated due to the nature of royalty payment collections but that conservative year-end estimates indicate a record high.Revenues reached $852 million for the 2018 fiscal year. If predictions hold, the 2019 fiscal year will mark a nearly 40% increase.Most of the revenue has come from the oil and gas boom, but the agency also reported increases in commercial lease payments and solar and wind energy leases.Money also is earned from grazing leases, rights of way easements, permits and other fees.The revenue earned from activity on state trust land helps to fund public education, hospitals and other institutions.


New Mexico official sets private prison transfer timelineALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The top prison official in New Mexico says a privately run lock-up that is expected to transfer to state control this year has continuously struggled to maintain staffing numbers.The comment from Corrections Secretary Alisha Tafoya Lucero during a legislative hearing this week comes as officials set Aug. 3 as the day when they and the GEO Group will begin the three-month process of transferring the Northeast New Mexico Detention Facility in Clayton to state management.A spokesman for GEO Group, a Florida-based company that currently operates three out of 11 prisons in the state, made the decision to end its contract to run the prison owned by the town of Clayton because of difficulties recruiting and retaining workers.Lucero told lawmakers that the facility was having "a difficult time maintaining safe and reasonable standards," but did not elaborate.


NTSB: Pilot flew too low, causing New Mexico fatal crashALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A report released this week says investigators found no problems with a helicopter that crashed in New Mexico in January 2018, killing five people including Zimbabwe opposition leader Roy Bennett.The National Transportation Safety Board said the pilot apparently caused the fatal wreck by flying too low over mountainous terrain at night.Besides Bennett, his wife Heather, a co-pilot and wealthy businessman also were killed. The businessman's girlfriend who also is the co-pilot's daughter was the sole survivor.Federal investigators previously reported that the fatally injured pilot said he'd flown into terrain and that the accident was his fault.The report did not identify pilot Coleman Dodd by name but New Mexico authorities have said previously that he was the pilot.


New Mexico regulators chart course for coal plant closureALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico regulators have decided on a course for how they will handle a major utility case that marks the beginning of the end for coal-fired electricity generation in the state.The state's largest utility, Public Service Co. of New Mexico, recently submitted its application for closing the San Juan Generating Station in northwestern New Mexico. The filing includes a mechanism for financing the closure and options for replacing the lost capacity — both elements tied directly to the state's new energy transition law.The Public Regulation Commission on Wednesday voted to split the proceeding into two parts — one for the closure and financing and the other for the replacement power.Commissioners and staff say they expect numerous legal issues to be raised as the effects of any decision will be felt for decades.


Woman convicted in sex-torture case to be released(Information from: KRQE-TV, http://www.krqe.com)ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The former girlfriend of convicted sex torturer and suspected serial killer David Parker Ray will be getting out of prison.The New Mexico Corrections Department tells Albuquerque television station KRQE that Cynthia Lea Hendy will be released next week.Hendy has served nearly 20 years of her 36-year sentence, including two years of in-house parole.The sex-torture accusations surfaced in 1999 when a naked woman was found running down a street with a chain on her neck, claiming she escaped from a trailer near Ray's mobile home.Police searched the trailer and found torture devices, including surgical tools and chemicals, as well as video cameras.Authorities said Ray wrote of having some 40 victims. FBI agents believe he may have killed some and buried bodies near Elephant Butte Reservoir, but no bodies have ever been found.___


New Mexico gets approval to change school grading system(Information from: Albuquerque Journal, http://www.abqjournal.com)ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico Public Education Department has received federal approval to amend its grading system for school performance.The Albuquerque Journal reported Monday that the U.S. Department of Education last week approved changes to the state's education plan, allowing it to replace the A-F grading system.State education officials say the new dashboard system will contain more qualitative information including academic stats in subject proficiency and growth, budgetary data and graduation rates and readiness.The department's secretary of policy, strategy and accountability, Timothy Hand, says the dashboards will report all federally required information, but they will not give letter grades for schools.Officials say the current grading system was criticized for demoralizing teachers and students at low-performing schools.Hand says they plan to launch the new system by November.___


The Latest: 200 unaccompanied kids in Border Patrol custodyCARRIZO SPRINGS, Texas (AP) — U.S. Customs and Border Protection says only 200 unaccompanied immigrant children remain in Border Patrol custody. That's compared to up to 2,700 children the agency had last month.Children who travel to the U.S. alone or who arrive with relatives who aren't parents or legal guardians are considered unaccompanied minors. They are supposed to be turned over within 72 hours to the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, which contracts with shelters. HHS then releases the children to a vetted sponsor, usually a relative.But a spike in the number of unaccompanied kids and a delay in HHS picking them up resulted in children languishing in overcrowded Border Patrol facilities for weeks.The agency says HHS has been able to pick up kids from CBP custody much more quickly since getting more funding. HHS has not responded to a request for comment.


Arizona man sentenced to 20 years for 2 New Mexico killingsALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A 28-year-old Arizona man has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for two fatal stabbings on the Navajo Nation's reservation in rural northwestern New Mexico.Michael Yonnie of Winslow was sentenced Monday in federal court in Albuquerque on his March 20 guilty pleas to two counts of second-degree murder in the July 18, 2014 killings in Torreon of Darrell Joe and Andy Sandoval.A sentencing memorandum filed on behalf of Yonnie said he was despondent over his sister's June death and thought foul play was involved.According to the memo, a family member told Yonnie that Joe and Sandoval were somehow at least partly responsible for the sister's death.The U.S. Attorney's Office said Yonnie attacked the two victims at two locations near each other.