Local News

  • April tax revenues boost New Mexico state finances

    SANTA FE (AP) — New Mexico state government is reporting a surge in tax revenues that may help ease lingering budget difficulties.
    The Legislative Finance Committee on Monday said that revenues in April increased by 7.7 percent to $587 million over same month in 2016.
    The increase in tax revenues has been led by retail and business transactions, along with resurgent oil production.
    Revenues are still lagging for the 10-month period that started in July 2016, trailing the prior fiscal year by about $21 million.
    New Mexico expects to narrowly fulfill a $6.1 billion spending plan for the coming fiscal year by drawing down reserves and using money for construction projects to shore up its general fund.
    April oil production in the state increased by 3.4 percent from a year ago.

  • Valles Caldera National Preserve expected to reopen today

    The Valles Caldera National Preserve was expected to resume its normal hours of operation and visitor services today, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., following the emergency closure prompted by the El Cajete Fire.

  • Los Alamos helped the helpers as fire raged

    Local charity Famine to Feast made good on their promise Sunday, delivering 2,000 pounds of snacks, water and toiletries donated by Los Alamos residents and businesses to firefighters still battling the Cajete Fire in the Jemez Mountains.

    As soon as the fire started Thursday, Famine to Feast began a donation drive where residents and businesses could contribute.

    Two pickup trucks loaded with supplies stopped in at the La Cueva Volunteer Fire Department to drop everything off Sunday morning.

    La Cueva Chief Lee Taylor welcomed the donations from Los Alamos, saying it was more than enough.

    “With this quantity, we’ll share it with the other fire departments in the area,” Taylor said. “It’s obviously more than we’ll need for this incident, but we will use it for future incidents. We have lots of search and rescues we do, more fires, it will definitely be a benefit to the firefighters and the rescuers.”

    The supplies will be distributed as needed to the firefighters this weekend. Helping Famine To Feast with their efforts was Smith’s, Los Alamos National Bank, Ruby K’s, Metzger’s and High Mesa Dental and Los Alamos Medical Center.

  • El Cajete Fire 80 percent contained

    The El Cajete Fire is 80 percent contained, the roads are open and everyone that was evacuated was back in their homes by Sunday night, according to officials with the California Interagency Incident Management Team, the command that has been overseeing the fire.

    There were 323 fire personnel working the fire Sunday.

    “Everything is good, everything is progressing as expected and we’re at 80 percent containment,” California Interagency Incident Commander Mark von Tillow told community members assembled at the Jemez Mountain Baptist Church Sunday evening. “We will continue on working securing the line, mopping up the places where we built a line, controlling monitoring, making sure nothing gets out.”

    The bulk of the fire is between NM 4 and Los Griegos Peak.

    The California Interagency Incident Management Team is also watching the weather, as thunderstorms are expected in the area in the next few days.

    “We are making sure everything’s secured and that we’re ready to respond to anything happening in the area if we have to,” von Tillow said. 

  • El Cajete Fire is 65 percent contained

    According to the Santa Fe National Forest Office, El Cajete Fire has been 65 percent contained by fire crews. The source of the fire has been reported as an abandoned campfire.

    The fire is burning in the Jemez Ranger District on the Santa Fe National Forest, on both sides of NM Highway 4 along the southern boundary of the Valles Caldera National Preserve. The Cajete Fire started approximately one mile northeast of Vallecitos de los Indios (Sierra de los Pinos) on Thursday morning. The fire area runs along the East Fork of the Jemez River and is west of the 2011 Las Conchas Fire burn scar and southeast of the 2013 Thompson Ridge Fire burn scar.        

    There are approximately 323 personnel fighting the flames, including four Type 1 Crews, five Type 2 crews, nine engines, one dozer, three water tenders, two Type 1 helicopters, one Type 2 helicopter and two Type 3 helicopters.

    California Interagency Incident Management Team 3, led by Mark von Tillow, Incident Commander, is managing the fire.

    There was minimal growth overnight and the fire now covers 1,367 acres. Today, fire crews will patrol and monitor established containment line along the northern perimeter of the fire, while additional crews construct and improve line on the southern perimeter.

  • LA County undersheriff found dead

    Los Alamos County Undersheriff John Horne has died.

    Sheriff Marco Lucero released a statement Friday evening. Horne was found in his home early Friday afternoon by his father.

    "Undersheriff Horne was an honorable man who served the community," Lucero said. "His Christian faith was his anchor, and we know that he is being welcomed into the Kingdom."

    Horne was an active member of Lucero's team, and a contributing member of the community. Last year, he participated in a crime discussion panel where he and other members of the community talked about issues of crime and homelessness in Los Alamos. 

    Horne urged the community to find local solutions, especially when it came to homelessness of local residents.

    "There was a situation where we had to evict a person and there was absolutely no place for them to go. This was in the wintertime and we have to have some place to take them. We eventually ended up taking her to Santa Fe, but even there she was out of her element and put more stress on her, increasing the problems with her mental health issues," Horne said. "I think there would be a room or two the county can get their hands on to house them."

  • Cajete Fire continues to burn

    El Cajete Fire, which began at 10:45 a.m. on Thursday, continues to blaze through the Jemez Mountains.  
    According to New Mexico State Forestry, the fire has now grown to 1,315 acres.
    No structures have been burned.

    NM 4 continues to remain closed from the intersection of NM 4 and NM 126.

    The fire area has had little to no moisture over the last two weeks, and hot, dry conditions are expected to continue.
    Evacuations remain in place for Ruby Hole tract homes on Bennett Lane, Sierra Los Pinos, Cox Ranch and Valles Caldera. Jemez Mountain Baptist Church is being used for evacuees.

  • Rael stands trial for child pornography

    Los Alamos resident David Rael stood trial on this week for charges of manufacturing and possession of child pornography. Rael allegedly downloaded several files that depicted boys and girls under the age of 18 involved in various sexual situations with adults through the file sharing program called Ares.

    When asked about the files on his computer, Rael attributed the questionable videos to being blind in one eye and being intoxicated at the time of the alleged downloads.
    Rael, defended by Marc Edwards, holds the position of whether the videos in question was ever opened or watched in its entirety by the defendant.

    Rael was arrested for driving while intoxicated and causing an accident Jan 2016. He pleaded no contest to his DWI and was sentenced to 364 days in jail.

    In total, Rael is facing three counts of manufacturing child pornography, one count of possession and one count of distributing.

    The state gave its opening statement, which ran through the details of the case. “All the evidence and testimonies that the state will present today will show the defendant guilty of three counts of manufacturing child pornography, one count of distributing child pornography and one count of possessing child pornography,” stated Assistant Attorney General Celedonia Munoz.

  • County hosts Dump the Pump Day

    Los Alamos County hosted its first ever, local Annual National Dump the Pump Day Thursday.

    Participants were invited to bring their bikes and appetites for a 3-mile community ride, followed by a free lunch of hot dogs, chips and refreshments.

    A few lucky people also had the chance to win the raffle for a mountain bike donated by Wal-Mart, and adult bike helmets donated by the Los Alamos Heart Council.

    The event, which was originally set for May 19 as part of Bike to Work Day, is part of a larger initiative to highlight bicycling as an effective form of transportation in Los Alamos.

    “One of the big goals that we are trying to achieve is to be considered a bike-friendly community by the League of American Bicyclists,” said County Engineer Eric Martinez. “These events recognize the good system for residents to use and also let visitors know that you can also get around town on bikes.”

    Among the participants were members of the Los Alamos Fire Department and Los Alamos Police Department bike patrols.

    “I think it’s a good thing for the community and to show support for getting the word out about biking,” said Ryan Weir of the Los Alamos Fire Department, when asked why he chose to participate.

  • Bingham trial delayed

    The preliminary hearing for a former Los Alamos detention officer being accused of child sexual abuse has been postponed until Aug. 10.

    Deputy District Attorney Michael Nunez said the charges against Dustin Bingham, 36, are still being investigated.
    “There is still an ongoing investigation,” Nunez said.

    Bingham was arrested May 3 after he confessed to Los Alamos County police to having sexual contact with two children. He is also being accused of secretly setting up secret video and social media accounts for his alleged victims so they could communicate with Bingham without the children’s parents finding out.

    When confronted by police through a conference call between the relatives who reported the crimes to police and Bingham, Bingham allegedly told police that he would sometimes fondle the children “when the girls were wearing bras and sometimes when they were not wearing bras. Dustin also stated he ‘needed help.’” LAPD Det. Ryan Wolking said in his report.

    Bingham is facing eight counts of criminal sexual contact of a minor, one count of child solicitation by electronic communication device and two counts of sexual exploitation of children.