Saturday, May 15, 2021
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Helpful Links regarding COVID-19

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Local information
City of Roswell COVID-19 updates

Roswell-Chaves County Emergency Management
Roswell Link
Chaves Link

Latest health information and virus updates
New Mexico Department of Health
Link

World Health Organization
Link

Business Assistance and Information
Roswell-Chaves County Economic Development Corp.
Link

New Mexico District Office of the U.S. Small Business Administration
Link

U.S. Small Business Administration Disaster Assistance Funding
Link

New Mexico Economic Development Department
Link

WESST (formerly Women’s Economic Self-Sufficiency Team)
Link

School updates
Roswell Independent School District
Link

Sidney Gutierrez Middle School
Link

Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell
Link

New Mexico Military Institute
Link

Dexter Consolidated Schools
Link

Hagerman Municipal Schools
Link

Lake Arthur Municipal Schools
Link

Free Meal Assistance
Roswell Independent School District—Grab & Go Extended Spring Break Meals
Link

New Mexico Senior Food Hotline
1-800-432-2080

State changes face mask order for vaccinated

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The New Mexico Department of Health announced Friday that fully vaccinated individuals will not be required to wear face coverings or practice social distancing in most settings, a revision in state rules that reflects guidance issued Thursday from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Health Department said its amended public health order took effect Friday.

In most circumstances, fully vaccinated individuals are no longer required to wear a mask in either indoor or outdoor settings. They also will not have to practice social distancing, unless that practice is recommended by the CDC.

Fully vaccinated is defined as people who have had two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines at least two weeks previously or those who have had the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine 14 days ago or more.

Individuals who do not meet those requirements must continue to wear a mask in public settings.

The Health Department release also indicated that all people, regardless of vaccination status, will continue to be required to wear masks in all health care settings, correctional facilities, homeless shelters, public transportation vehicles and stations, and schools.

State officials also said that New Mexico residents should continue to use COVID-safe practices. That includes wearing “well-fitted” masks as required by localities, tribal entities and individual businesses.

“The state fully supports businesses and workplaces that may continue to require masks for employees and/or customers on the premises, regardless of vaccination status,” the news release stated.

The public health order also said businesses, houses of worship and nonprofit organizations should continue to follow CDC guidance concerning face coverings and social distancing.

Other public health orders remain in place regarding limits on mass gatherings and the statewide risk-assessment framework.

State officials have said that New Mexico will be able to drop the risk-assessment framework and lift most pandemic-related restrictions on commercial activities when 60% of eligible New Mexicans have been fully vaccinated.

As of May 13, 51% of eligible New Mexicans have been fully vaccinated. In Chaves County, as of May 10, 38.3% of residents — or 16,052 people — are at least partially vaccinated, while 32.4% are fully vaccinated.

All New Mexicans 16 or older are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. They can schedule their vaccine appointment at www.vaccineNM.org or by calling 855-600-3453. Parents of New Mexicans ages 12 to 15 can register their child for the approved Pfizer vaccine at www.vaccineNM.org.

Four new cases of COVID in county Friday

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The New Mexico Department of Health announced 223 new cases of COVID-19 in 24 counties and one correctional facility in its Friday update.

Chaves County reported four cases Friday, according to the press release. Bernalillo County had the most cases at 75. San Juan County had 36, Doña Ana County had 16 and Otero County had 10. The remaining counties and the Otero County Processing Center all had fewer than 10 cases.

The total number of cases in New Mexico is now 200,650. Chaves County has had 8,971.

One death related to COVID-19 was reported Friday, a woman in her 70s from San Juan County. She had been hospitalized and had underlying health conditions.

The total number of deaths in the state is now 4,113 including 171 in Chaves County.

As of Friday, 112 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 in the state.

In vaccinations, 52% of people age 16 or older in the state have been fully vaccinated and 63% have received at least one dose. In Chaves County, 32% are fully vaccinated and 38% have received at least one dose.

Chaves County is in the Yellow Level of the state’s COVID-19 risk assessment system. From April 20 to May 3, the county met one of the state’s three assessment criteria with a test positivity rate of 4.25%. The target is 5% or less. The county had an average of 11.7 new cases per day per 100,000 people, missing the target of 10 or fewer. The target for the third metric, percentage of eligible residents fully vaccinated, was 40%.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.

To keep up with local coverage of the coronavirus, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/covid-19-situation/.

Suspicious package at airport was forgotten luggage

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Breaking News

An abandoned piece of luggage at the Roswell Air Center prompted a temporary evacuation of the airport’s terminal and the delay of some flights Friday.

Todd Wildermuth, public information officer with the Roswell Police Department, said police were called by airport personnel at about noon after a suspicious package was reported at the airport.

Bomb technicians with the New Mexico State Police were dispatched to the scene. When technicians were examining the luggage, its owner came back to the airport and said that it belonged to her.

No one was in danger during the incident and Wildermuth said the terminal was reopened by 3 p.m. Some flights were delayed as a result, but as of Friday afternoon, Wildermuth said he did not know how many.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or breakingnews@rdrnews.com.

County projects $63.9 million in 2022 expenses

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“We are always trying our best to ask for only what is absolutely needed,” says Chaves County Chief Financial Officer Anabel Barraza, who presented an interim fiscal year 2022 budget Thursday with total expenses of $63.9 million. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

Interim budget includes $12.55 million in federal relief funds for the year

Chaves County commissioners are considering an interim fiscal year 2022 budget with $63.9 million in total expenses that the lead financial officer represented as a “flat” budget with tax revenues still impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Anabel Barraza, the chief financial officer for the county, told commissioners during a Thursday morning workshop at the Chaves County Administrative Center that budget numbers could change between now and May 20, when the Board of Commissioners is expected to vote for the interim budget.

If approved, the budget will be sent to the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration for review. Once the state approves the interim budget, it becomes effective for the 2021-22 fiscal year starting July 1. A final budget is prepared that month after cash balances from the 2020-21 fiscal year are known. Mid-year adjustments sometimes are made around December or January.

Barraza told commissioners that $12.55 million in federal relief funding from the American Rescue Plan signed into law in March has been built into the budget, with about half expected in a month and the remaining funds by next summer. County Manager Bill Williams said the county is considering using some of the money to build a new site for the Department of Health. The existing site, which the county is required to provide for the community, is aging, Williams said, and he liked the idea of using the funding for something lasting.

While the county is financially sound, it is still dealing with the expectation of lower tax income due to the effects of the pandemic.

“We are in the black in all of our funds,” said Barraza. She added that county employees were conservative in their gross receipts tax estimates for the coming year, which represent about 25% of total revenues.

“As you know, our gross receipts have been declining, and right now we are at a 7.83% decrease compared to last year,” she said. “So upon the recommendation of the Finance Committee, we cut those projections for next fiscal year back 15%, just because we know that there is still a lot of industries that have been impacted by the pandemic.”

According to information presented during the workshop, fiscal year 2022 operating revenues are projected at $27.47 million, while operating expenses are estimated at $27.63 million.

Total revenues — which include grants and contracts — have been put at $57.64 million, while total expenses – including $3.33 million for emergency and capital outlay spending – are $63.9 million.

Barraza said that the deficit between the expenses and revenues are within the county’s tolerance levels.

Compared to the 2021 interim budget, operating expenses and revenues are similar, but a $12.8 million difference in total expenses between the two years exists.

The interim budget in fiscal year 2021 had total expenses of $51.1 million and total revenues of $47.31 million. Operating revenues were $26.77 million, and operating expenses were $26.64 million.

On Thursday, budget requests by department administrators included only three additional positions by the Sheriff’s Office, Integrated Technology Services and the Treasurer’s Office. The Chaves County Detention Center also asked to reclassify an officer position so that it could create a deputy administrator position.

The budget also includes initial allocations for outside entities such as the towns of Dexter, Hagerman and Lake Arthur; economic development organizations in the county; and agencies that provide services on behalf of the county. Current requests total $498,094, with the entities budgeted to receive about what they did last year. Pending requests for $20,000 from the Roswell Hispano Chamber of Commerce and $50,000 from MainStreet Roswell also are expected soon, although it is not known at this time if those items will be approved as is or at all by commissioners.

Capital project funding includes about $274,000 for equipment and furniture, $400,000 for an ongoing project to upgrade emergency radio communication equipment and $150,000 to complete the elevator at the Chaves County Courthouse. There are also three improvement projects planned for the Administrative Center: $350,000 to replace the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system; $500,000 for the renovation of Area D to relocate the emergency communications center; and $845,000 for a new roof.

Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

Half of eligible New Mexicans now fully vaccinated

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The New Mexico Department of Health announced Thursday that half of New Mexicans age 16 or older are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced last month the state would fully reopen from health order restrictions when 60% of the eligible population becomes fully vaccinated. That is projected to happen at the end of June.

“More than half of eligible New Mexicans are now fully vaccinated, far above the national average of 35%. We’re well on our way to 60% fully vaccinated — and a long-awaited reopening,” DOH Cabinet Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins said in a press release Thursday.

Although children as young as 12 are now able to receive the Pfizer vaccine, the state will continue to consider residents 16 and older as eligible in measuring its progress in reaching that goal, health officials have said. Parents of those 12 and older can register their children for a vaccination appointment at vaccineNM.org, however.

The NMDOH vaccine dashboard showed Thursday afternoon that 51% of those eligible, or 857,798 New Mexicans, are fully vaccinated. Just over 1 million, or 62.3%, have had at least one dose.

Chaves County, along with other southeast New Mexico counties, lags behind the state numbers. Just over 32%, or 16,052 of those 16 and older in Chaves County, are fully vaccinated, while 38.3%, or 19,010, have received at least one dose, according to the dashboard Thursday afternoon.

In its daily case update, the health department reported 202 new cases of COVID-19 in 22 counties and one correctional institute.

Chaves County reported six new cases. Bernalillo County had 73, followed by San Juan County with 32. Torrance County reported 18 and Valencia County had 12. Curry and Santa Fe counties each had 10. The other counties and the Guadalupe County Correctional Facility each reported fewer than 10 new cases.

The total number of cases in the state is now 200,432 including 8,967 in Chaves County.

Two deaths related to COVID-19 were reported Thursday — a man in his 50s from Bernalillo County and a man in his 60s from Santa Fe County. Both had been hospitalized and had underlying health conditions.

The total number of deaths in New Mexico related to COVID-19 is 4,112 including 171 in Chaves County.

As of Thursday, 196 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 in the state.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.

To keep up with local coverage of the coronavirus, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/covid-19-situation/.

Ribbon cutting held for new water tower

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Above: City employees and area elected officials, including Roswell Mayor Dennis Kintigh, center, holding scissors, and State Sen. Stuart Ingle (R-Portales), third person to the right of the mayor, cut the ribbon Thursday as one of two new 750,000-gallon water towers at the Roswell Air Center was prepared for its final test to go online later in the day. The other 750,000-gallon tower on East Gillis Street will become operative once the old tower comes down. The old tower, which had a 500,000-gallon capacity, was built in the early 1940s when the Air Center was a military base. The total project cost for design and construction was $6.95 million. The new towers will serve the entire city. (Lisa Dunlap Photos)

State outlines plan to serve older adults

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The state intends to provide at least $1.38 million in services required by the federal Older Americans Act during the next four years in the planning and service area that includes Chaves County and 10 other counties.

The New Mexico Aging and Long-term Services Department is sharing its October 2021 to September 2025 plan so that it can receive public comments. People have until May 19 to make comments during a Friday webinar or by email, mail, an online form or phone call.

The plan covers state services not only for people 60 or older, but also for disabled adults.

Chaves County is part of planning and service area 3 (PSA), with the state having four PSAs covering all counties, as well as two additional tribal PSAs for the Navajo Nation and the Mescalero Apache Nation.

Statewide, the ALTSD expects to provide services worth $7.06 million over four years for its programs and services under the Older Americans Act requirements.

According to the draft plan, the PSA3 area has 12.3% of the state’s population who are 60 or older, or about 63,220 people. The area also has the largest percentage of older residents living in rural areas by far, with 45.43% of the state total, or 58,231 of the 128,176 rural senior residents in New Mexico.

The Older Americans Act has four main goals that the state department must work to achieve to receive federal funding. Those include helping older residents remain in their homes or communities of choice; expanding and innovating uses of grant funds to improve community living; establishing and expanding ways to increase consumer control and choice; and preventing the abuse, neglect or exploitation of older residents. The draft plan outlines numerous strategies and objectives the state department expects to undertake during the coming years.

As part of its efforts to develop the plan, the state department conducted a statewide needs assessment conducted by the Institute for Social Research at the University of New Mexico and in cooperation with the National Resource Center on Native American Aging. That research found that the greatest needs among older residents or disabled adults in the state are nutrition, with 68% of respondents identifying this as a top need; transportation (59%) and social interaction (43%).

The draft report and information on how to provide comments are available on the ALTSD website, www.nmaging.state.nm.us. People also can call the general information line at 800-432-2080.

County group reduces workers’ compensation fees again

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Most New Mexico counties will receive 50% discounts for their workers’ compensation programs for the second year, and Chaves County will save $158,130 for the 2021-2022 policy year starting July 1.

The New Mexico County Insurance Authority Board of Directors voted Wednesday to reduce by 50% the amount that 30 counties that participate in the self-insurance pool will have to pay for coverage for 2021-2022, according to a news release. The reductions in contributions total $3,829,209.

“The financial strength of the pool allows the board to provide much needed financial assistance to our members by substantially reducing contributions for the second year in a row,” said Board Chair Lance Pyle. “While economic recovery and a return to normal operations has begun, our members’ resources are stretched and this assistance helps them provide for critical services.”

Chaves County has saved $318,951 during the past two years, according to Susan Mayes, communications director for New Mexico Counties. For the 2020-21 policy year, the savings was $160,821.

The New Mexico County Insurance Authority self-insurance pool has provided compensation coverage to participating county governments since 1987. It also provides counties with property and liability coverage and law enforcement liability coverage.

Keep Roswell Beautiful organizes cleanup effort at parks

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Local residents and organizations have the opportunity to help spruce up Roswell’s parks by participating in a “Park Community Cleanup” organized by the City of Roswell’s Keep Roswell Beautiful program.

The event on Saturday, May 22, will take place from 9 to 11 a.m., according to a press release issued by the city.

Individual and group volunteers can select which city park they would like to clean. Registration for the event is open at surveymonkey.com/r/parkcleanup. On the day of the event, volunteers will check in at Pioneer Plaza downtown to confirm the park they want to clean and to pick up supplies, which will be provided to all volunteers.

The first 100 registered volunteers will receive a free meal from El Toro Bravo restaurant, one of the sponsors of the event. The other sponsors are Keep Roswell Beautiful, the Roswell Hispano Chamber of Commerce, and the state Tourism Department’s Keep New Mexico True litter-reduction/prevention campaign.

For more information about the “Park Community Cleanup,” call Keep Roswell Beautiful Coordinator Thalia Pantoja-Gruis at 575-637-6238.

Business grants available from state

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Applications are now being accepted for Local Economic Development Act (LEDA) Recovery Grants of up to $100,000, the New Mexico Economic Development Department and the New Mexico Finance Authority announced Thursday.

The $200 million relief fund was created in the 2021 legislative session to help businesses that were hit the hardest by the pandemic. Applications are due no later than June 15.

“We know that small businesses are the lifeline of New Mexico’s economy; their success and stability is critical for building a successful and sustainable recovery,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said. “New Mexico has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in small business grants, loans and tax holidays. I am glad to now expand with LEDA recovery grants. The state will continue to deliver support for New Mexicans as we move forward, both now and in the future.”

The funds are intended to encourage job growth. Eligible businesses must have at least one employee and no more than 75 employees in any one location. They also must have operated in New Mexico on or before Oct. 1, 2019, be current on all state and local tax obligations, and have experienced a decline in business revenue between taxable years 2019 and 2020. No business sector is excluded from the funding. Nonprofit organizations are also eligible to apply.

Expenses that can be covered by grant funds are rent, mortgage or lease payments on the business premises. Grant applications are prioritized based on the severity of economic decline experienced by the business. Funds are paid quarterly subject to employment information submitted by the recipient.

Applicants may submit one application per business location and can check the status of their applications online. Awards are expected to be made in early July.

The application as well as additional information and guidelines about the program can be found on the New Mexico Finance Authority website, www.nmfinance.com.

Prospective applicants can submit questions via email at LEDA@nmfa.net or by calling 505-992-9696.

Championship coach Neighbors trusts God, resigns

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Former Goddard girls basketball coach Jared Neighbors. (Steve Notz Photo)

No matter what else he does in life, former Goddard basketball coach Jared Neighbors will stand in pretty tall company in Roswell.

He will be in rare company at Goddard High School. The other coach that stands tall at Goddard is Leon Sims, the boys’ basketball coach that won a state championship in 1988. Neighbors was the first coach to bring the girls a state title in District 4-5A, with a 35-30 victory over No. 2 Los Lunas in 2017.

To reach that game was a miracle in and of itself. All throughout the tournament, Neighbors said his team was David and the other teams were Goliath. In the first round, Goddard had to beat Albuquerque Academy 30-24 to meet up with district rival Roswell, led by Jaedyn De La Cerda. Goddard had some confidence, they had beaten Roswell in an upset earlier in the season.

Goddard would need all of their faith at The Pit to knock off the Lady Coyotes. Goddard won by playing six players and winning 54-52. In the championship game against Los Lunas, they went cold from the field for the third quarter before winning 35-30.

“Winning the state title was never a goal,” Neighbors said. “It has always been about loving on kids and getting them to believe in themselves and teaching them how to play the game. When that year started we were not even ranked in the top 10. One of the highlights was knocking off Roswell when they were ranked No. 1 in the state.”

Neighbors said that team was a special team. He had the team watch the North Carolina State victory over Houston. He labeled his team David versus Goliath.

“You can read the Bible,” Neighbors said. “Every time David beats Goliath.”

During the time-outs in pressure situations, he talked to them about relaxing and enjoying the moment and listening to the music. He would tell his team this is fun. The night before the championship game, the team talked about their goals in life. Neighbors told them there would be ups and downs. Struggles and triumphs in each person’s life. There was laughter and tears.

“I told the team at breakfast the next morning,” Neighbors said, “in a typical year, you don’t know when your season is going to end. But we know our season is going to be over tomorrow win or lose. We know that God overcame the world and we will too.”

For Neighbors, a devout Christian, numbers mean something. He has been taking it a year at a time since he has been here. This is his seventh year here and seven is the number of perfection and completion.

After seven years as coach, he said that the Lord had opened up this door for him and his wife to move to the Marshall Islands to teach.

Neighbors will not be coaching, only teaching. He noted that he is not retiring and that he will be back to coaching at some point, but right now he is following the Lord. There were tears of sadness when he told his team Sunday night that he was leaving them.

Neighbors knows that he is leaving a team capable of winning the state title next year with Alexis Sandoval, Daci Smith, and Ericca Cannon, to name a few of the players that will be coming back next year. Neighbors said the COVID-19 pandemic played a big decision in his leaving.

“We prayed about it,” Neighbors said. “It’s a hard place to get into too. We both got in.”

Neighbors’ wife, Crockett, will teach as well.

“We had a great church family here, the community has been amazing to us and we love it here. We prayed about it and the Lord gave us peace about this decision.”

When Neighbors came to Goddard, the team had not had a winning season for a while. In his third season, Goddard won the state title. Neighbors said that when he first met his team, he was excited.

He liked the family atmosphere and that the parents supported him. It was amazing that he won playing six players. Neighbors said that he played with the talent he had. He always wanted to run and for the last two years, he has.

In his first three years, the team made the playoffs. Neighbors said that he was encouraged by the parents to keep going.

Some of his favorite moments in his seven years have been the special trips. Having devotionals with them in the hotels, the overnight trips, and going down the rapids in Colorado. He loved summer ball, and racing cars in Phoenix, Arizona.

Neighbors said that he will miss assistant coach Hayden Hill. Neighbors said that they have played well off of each other.

His favorite moment of his coaching career here is winning the state title and the kids dog-piling each other.

“I want the kids to know I care about them,” Neighbors said. “I care about them more than just the basketball. I have not retired, I will be back. I’m just taking a pause. I will be back. I don’t know where or when, but I will be back. I’m not retiring from coaching. We are just trusting God.”

Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or sports@rdrnews.com.

Charlie’s Angels looking to complete the comeback

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The Charlie’s Angels Dance Team won their third National Championship trophy in five years in 2020. (Daily Record File Photo)

Charlie’s Angels would like to forget 2019. In the Pit, the Angels’ home away from home and where they have dominated the competition for years, there was silence and a pause that fell over the packed crowd. Teams were hoping and wishing that this was the year, they would be the team to dethrone the Angels.

As the public address announcer announced teams placing in order a gigantic cheer was heard all around the arena when the PA announcer said the new 5A champion was Atrisco Heritage. Stunned to silence. The Angels stood frozen in time like a statue. Their world stopped and the 23 girls on the dance team could not believe what they were hearing. Maybe they could lose at nationals, but not a home. Not in New Mexico, where they have won 12 state titles.

Shock gave way to tears, disbelief, and then anger, because there was a feeling among many that the best team did not win. No matter how the Angels felt, it would go down in the New Mexico Activities Association history books as Atrisco Heritage winning the state title.

For the seniors on that team, they have to live with the loss. They can never get a redo and have another chance to win. It was that night that the Angels plotted their comeback to get back to the top of the dance world in high school.

For Angels coaches Kim Castro and Silvia Hernandez, the significance of winning made them reexamine everything — from the way they practiced, to the girls they would put on their team. The attitude would be paramount in the new edition of the Angels.

The motto was “The comeback is better than the setback.” The Angels came back with a hunger not seen before in any dance team. No matter how many times a move was practiced, it was not enough. If the slightest kick was a second behind Castro would spend hours at home watching tape.

Hernandez made sure everything lined up on the uniforms and the small things that people take for granted were right and tight.

Both coaches knew the only way to get back to being No. 1 was to get back to basics in every area they could control. It was that attention to detail that proved to be what the team needed. Roswell won the POM competition in the National Dance Alliance in 2020 for the third time in five years. They captured half of their goal in getting their titles back. All that remained was to win state.

Then when it all came crashing down. All of their hard work was for naught. Life happened and the COVID-19 pandemic hit, ending their 2020 season. Atrisco Heritage is still the reigning champion going into the 2021 season. The Angels will have to beat 17 teams to win back their crown.

“It was a real bummer,” Castro said. “It’s been a rough year. We’ve only had five performances. We haven’t performed as much as we normally do. I know what we are capable of doing. We are not focused on any team, we are focused on what we can do and doing it right.”

Castro said it has been two years since her team has competed at state. The good news is they are healthy and no one is injured. She told the six seniors from last team that she was saddened for them. But they have a lot to be thankful for and they won nationals.

For the Angels, it will have been two years since they have competed and were crowned champions. For a little while, it looked like there would be no competition this year. At least not in person. Suddenly, tickets are being sold and fans are able to attend events on Friday and Saturday.

“I want to thank everyone that supports us and believes in us,” Castro said. “We are moving forward and not looking back. We are ready as we are going to be. Our six seniors are ready, and the girls will be ready as well. We haven’t won a title in a couple of years and we’re ready.”

The Angels will perform Jazz at 1 p.m., and POM at 3:30 p.m.

Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or sports@rdrnews.com.

051421 Alton’s Power Block Athlete of the Week

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Alton’s Power Block Athlete of the Week is Goddard basketball player Damian Aragon, left. Standing on the right is Karissa Mesquita, an Alton’s Power Block Gym employee. (Shawn Naranjo Photo)

Ava Villars Edmonson

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It is with profound sadness that the family of Ava Villars Edmonson of Albuquerque, formerly of Roswell, announce her peaceful passing on May 10, 2021 at the age of 93 years old.

Ava began life’s journey August 12, 1927 in Colfax County, IN, and was the daughter of Edith and Ralph Villars. She married Harold Edmonson on December 24, 1947 in Danville, IN. They were married 64 wonderful years before he died on April 19, 2012.

She was a devoted wife, loving mother, and gentle grandmother. She was a true example of the love of Jesus. She never said unkind words, she loved unconditionally, and she extended forgiveness where most would not. She was smart, witty, strong, and kind. She enjoyed reading, sewing, music, and helping others. She traveled everywhere to watch graduations, attend birthday celebrations, dance recitals and competitions, baseball, and soccer games. She was a family hero and breast cancer survivor who was the epitome of strength and courage. She was a volunteer in the Salvation Army and in her 80s drove the “old ladies” to church and played the piano during services.

She had the heart of a servant and worked as a homemaker, missionary, and pastor’s wife in Ganado, AZ, Suacoco, Liberia, West Africa, El Paso, Austin, Gonzales, and Rockport TX, Santa Fe, Las Vegas and Farmington, NM, and Monument Valley, UT. Roswell became her home in 1988.

Along with her husband, she was preceded in death by her youngest son, Jeffrey Edmonson, two brothers, and two sisters.

She is survived by her children Alan and Bernadette Edmonson, of Albuquerque and Sarah and James Cieslik of Corpus Christi, TX, her brother Gerald Villars of Frankfort, IN, sister-in-law Elaine Edmonson of Port Orchard, WA, and in-laws Larry and Cory Edmonson of Pittsford, NY.

Mightier than a wave of the sea was her love for her grandchildren. She is survived by grandchildren Crystal and Jeff Levonius of Dallas, TX, Amorette and Justin Miller of Birmingham, AL, Alan Jr. and Andrea Edmonson of Carlsbad, and Noland and Gabriela Edmonson of Las Cruces, Hannah and Matthew Doster, Rebekah, and Abigail Cieslik of Corpus Christi, TX.

Her great grandchildren often told her she was not just their great grandma, she was a truly great grandma. She was loved fully by 17 great grandchildren who appreciated that even in her old age she knew how to email, text, Facetime, and always sent appropriate emojis. #coolgrandma. Great grandchildren include Brendan, Lauren Ava, Lachlan, Ethan, Caden, Camden, Justin, Madilyn, Landon, Grayson, Gilbert and wife Nadya, Maddux, Addison, Brooklyn, Alexa, Aleah, Nolan, and great great grandchild Zaid.

Visitation is at Anderson Bethany Funeral Home at 9:00 am on Sunday, May 16, 2021. A memorial and graveside service are pending. In lieu of flowers, donations in her memory may be made to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital or Shriner’s Hospitals.

Quintuple homicide suspect changes plea

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Juan David Villegas-Hernandez sits while waiting for court proceedings to begin Thursday at the Chaves County Courthouse. The trial of Villegas-Hernandez, which was scheduled to last weeks, ended after four days when he moved to change his initial plea of not guilty to one of no contest on five counts of first degree murder, willful and deliberate. Villegas-Hernandez is scheduled to be sentenced May 19. (Alex Ross Photo)

The trial of a man suspected in the 2016 shooting deaths of his wife and four children came to an abrupt end Thursday when the defendant withdrew his initial plea of not guilty.

Juan David Villegas-Hernandez, 40, waived his right to continue with the trial and changed his plea from not guilty to no contest on five counts of first-degree murder, willful and deliberate.

Herman Ortiz, attorney for Villegas-Hernandez, at a Thursday morning meeting told Judge Dustin K. Hunter of New Mexico’s 5th Judicial District Court, along with prosecutors in the case, that his client had notified him of a desire to change his plea. No terms of sentencing were agreed to as part of the plea change.

A change of plea in the middle of a trial is something Scott Key, district attorney for New Mexico’s 12th Judicial District and a prosecutor in the case, said is unusual, and it was not anticipated.

Nonetheless, he said it was welcome relief for family members of the victims, some of whom were slated to testify all day Thursday and Friday.

Villegas-Hernandez will be sentenced on all five counts at a Wednesday, May 19 hearing. Each count of first degree murder carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment without parole. At the hearing it will also be decided whether the sentences will run concurrently or consecutively.

Speaking to the media after the plea was officially agreed upon, Key said the prosecution plans to ask that the sentences run consecutively, or one after another.

Hunter said that because Villegas-Hernandez is not a U.S. citizen, he could be removed from the U.S. upon completion of his sentence. Key later confirmed that Villegas-Hernandez is not a citizen, but is in the country legally.

Villegas-Hernandez was charged in connection with the June 11, 2016 fatal shootings of his wife, 34-year-old Cynthia Villegas, and four daughters: Yamilen, 14; Cynthia Janeth, 11; Abby, 7; and Ida, 3, in their 2503 North Davis Street home in Roswell.

The prosecution contends Villegas-Hernandez shot all five at point blank range with a .22 caliber rifle or handgun after finding out his wife wanted to divorce him. That same day he then reportedly fled to Mexico, where he was located by Mexican police the next day.

Ortiz declined to comment Thursday on the case or why his client opted to change his plea. Key though said several members of the victims’ family testified Wednesday, including one woman who had spoken to Villegas-Hernandez several times on the day of the shootings. Key said her testimony was compelling and important to the state.

The trial began Monday with a jury selection process that lasted until Tuesday morning before state witnesses were called. In all, the state was expected to call up to 25 witnesses to provide testimony during the trial that was initially scheduled to end May 28.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or breakingnews@rdrnews.com.

Trial begins in 2016 quintuple homicide

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Juan David Villegas-Hernandez, front, enters the courtroom and prepares to sit down Tuesday during his trial in New Mexico’s 5th Judicial District Court at the Chaves County Courthouse. Villegas-Hernandez is charged with five counts of first degree murder, willful and deliberate, in the June 11, 2016 fatal shooting of his wife and four daughters. On Tuesday after jury selection had been completed, the prosecution and defense each made their opening arguments and the state’s first witnesses provided testimony. (Alex Ross Photo)

After a day and a half of jury selection, the trial of a man charged in the 2016 fatal shooting of his wife and four daughters got underway Tuesday.

The prosecution and defense, along with Judge Dustin K. Hunter of New Mexico’s 5th Judicial District Court, spent Monday and most of Tuesday selecting 12 jurors and four alternates in the trial of Juan David Villegas-Hernandez at the Chaves County Courthouse.

Villegas-Hernandez, 40, faces five counts of first degree murder, willful and deliberate, in the June 11, 2016 shooting deaths of his wife, 34-year-old Cynthia Villegas, and their four daughters: Yamilen, 14; Cynthia Janeth, 11; Abby, 7; and Ida, 3, at their 2503 North Davis Street residence in Roswell.

Jurors and others in the courtroom and a neighboring room were required to wear face coverings. Seating for jurors was spaced out throughout the courtroom. The podium and witness stand also had to be frequently wiped down.

Carolyn Glover, public information officer for the New Mexico 12th Judicial District Court, which is prosecuting the case, said the trial is scheduled to last until May 28, but might end sooner.

Glover cited measures taken in the courtroom to curtail the spread of COVID-19, as well as the up to 25 witnesses that will be called by the state to testify — and multiple pieces of physical evidence presented — as reasons for the length of the trial.

RoxAnne Esquibel, chief deputy district attorney for New Mexico’s 12th Judicial District, who along with District Attorney Scot Key is prosecuting the case, contends that Villegas-Hernandez was responsible for the crime.

“The evidence in this case will show that the defendant and only the defendant had the motive, the means and the opportunity to commit these crimes,” Esquibel said.

The prosecution said Villegas-Hernandez committed the murders after discovering Cynthia Villegas planned to divorce him. Esquibel said evidence presented would show that the day before the shootings, Villegas-Hernandez allegedly made statements to relatives expressing contempt for his wife.

Cynthia Villegas and her daughters were found dead inside the North Davis Street residence, each shot in the head at close range with a .22 caliber rifle or handgun.

Ten .22 caliber shell casings were found in the house. Esquibel said that testimony would later be provided confirming Villegas-Hernandez owned a .22 caliber rifle.

One of the bodies, that of Yamilen Villegas, was found when relatives went to the house at about 11:30 p.m. after Villegas-Hernandez offered inconsistent explanations that day and a day earlier about the whereabouts of Cynthia Villegas and the four girls.

Esquibel said Villegas-Hernandez’s own aunt would testify that earlier in the day, she had gone to the house and was concerned when Villegas-Hernandez acted strange and would not let her in when she asked about Cynthia Villegas and the girls.

Villegas-Hernandez, Esquibel added, later reportedly packed up some personal effects and headed to Mexico in his red pickup truck. Villegas-Hernandez’s own brother, the next day, contacted Mexican authorities due to worries about his brother’s behavior, Esquibel said. After being arrested Villegas-Hernandez was sent back to the United States.

Villegas-Hernandez’s attorney Herman Ortiz conceded the brutality of the crime, calling it horrific and heartbreaking.

“There is no question about that. I feel that way and my client feels that way,” he said.

Ortiz added there are no statements or testimony from anyone about Villegas-Hernandez being seen leaving the house with blood on his clothes or with a firearm and no evidence that his client ever possessed or purchased a gun. He also disputed the contention by the prosecution that Villegas-Hernandez had a motive to kill his family, saying his client had no motive to do so.

Instead, Ortiz said, investigators with the RPD conducted their investigation poorly. “The evidence will show that when they examined the crime scene there were items that were pointing in another direction,” he said.

Ortiz criticized the RPD for waiting until a few months before the trial to try and locate another individual in Mexico who Ortiz said is responsible for the deaths of Cynthia Villegas and the four girls.

Though Ortiz did not give the name of that individual, he said the person had a history of leveling threats against Villegas-Hernandez and his family and was in Mexico.

Villegas-Hernandez, he said, would offer his version of events about what had happened and who he believed was responsible.

Anna Carrasco, a niece of Cynthia Villegas, who was the relative who stumbled upon Yamilen Villegas’ body, was the first witness called by the state to testify.

She said that on the night of June 11, 2016 she and other relatives went to the North Davis Street home. Because both doors were locked and a spare key was not available, she said that she entered the house with the assistance of other relatives through a partially broken window, with the intention of unlocking the front door for them.

She testified that when she entered she soon saw what appeared to be a body and exited through the broken window, severely injuring herself on the shards of broken glass. She then called 911.

Lt. Ray Sharpe, one of the first officers to respond to Carrasco’s 911 call, also testified that he had responded to a call on North Davis Street of an unknown trouble, and a female in the street bleeding.

He said when he arrived, he encountered Carrasco, who was bleeding and “pretty hysterical.” Later after going back to his unit to get some first aid equipment and learning that Carrasco went into another house, he learned of possible bodies in the 2305 North Davis Street residence.

Footage from a body camera worn by Sharp that night was played for the jury, showing his encounter with Carrasco. After learning of the bodies inside the house, one officer entered the home through the partially broken window, unlocked the front door to the house and began going from room to room.

The footage showed the bodies of Cynthia and Yamilen Villegas lying on the floor in separate rooms. All three other victims were found dead from gunshot wounds while lying together in the same bed partially covered by sheets.

Sharpe said he and officers then secured the house for detectives when they came onto the scene.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or breakingnews@rdrnews.com.

RISD board hears update on construction projects

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The new construction manager for Roswell Independent School District gave an update on Mesa Middle School and Nancy Lopez Elementary School plans at Tuesday night’s school board meeting.

Jeremy Sanchez told the RISD board his experience as regional manager for the New Mexico Public School Facilities Authority gives him a “unique and specific perspective” on the projects in the district’s near future. He joined PSFA in 2013, according to a staff bio on the authority’s website, and said for the past five and a half years he has worked with RISD on capital outlay projects such as Parkview Early Literacy Center, Del Norte Elementary School, and the upcoming Mesa Middle and Nancy Lopez schools. He’s also worked with the districts in Hobbs, Hagerman, Clovis and Portales.

Sanchez said the design for Mesa Middle’s renovation and construction was completed at the end of April and is being reviewed for permit application by the state. The district and PSFA are expected to issue a request for proposals for the construction in the summer.

The project, estimated at $21 million, will add a second gymnasium, a two-story wing for classrooms, a pick-up and drop-off plaza and a new track and field. About half the project will be renovation and half new construction.

The state will take on about 71% of the cost, Sanchez said.

“Assuming all things go well with the construction request this summer, that project construction timeline is estimated at about 16 months,” he said.

Superintendent Mike Gottlieb asked Sanchez if the state would be able to help if the costs for materials or labor increase due to the pandemic. Sanchez said that has been an ongoing conversation with districts, as projects that were already underway had not intended to address delays or increased costs related to the pandemic.

“The state is very much aware of those things and I feel that due to my unique perspective of working for the state and coming to the district, I can usher in those conversations should something bidding-wise be outside of what we originally estimated for this project,” he said.

Regarding Nancy Lopez Elementary, Sanchez said the early planning stage, which addressed such topics as the school’s educational programming and enrollment, was approved by PSFA in March.

The school’s future enrollment is something that should be considered as that information leads into the design stage, Sanchez said. The district is beginning the process of forming a five-year facilities master plan.

“I’m hoping that we can schedule time very soon for discussion between the district and PSFA as to what the right size of that school facility is,” he said.

“Partnering with the state on that master plan as well as the design for Nancy Lopez, we can leverage those two processes at the same time and ensure we’re getting sufficient space for the kids and the staff at Nancy Lopez,” he said.

Board President Hope Morales suggested the district keep its eye on land to the east of the school for the project as well.

“I just think now is the right time for us to look into it and keep that as an option,” she said.

In addition to hearing the construction update, the board unanimously approved several items on its agenda Tuesday including an application for $1.4 million for elementary arts funding through the New Mexico Fine Arts Education Act; evaluation of the bus contractors; selecting Benchmark Business Solutions, 301 N. Main, for district copier service; and revisions to the district’s social media and school volunteer policies.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.

Franchise owner discusses major rebuild project

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The rebuilt southside McDonald’s will be twice the size of the former restaurant, says owner Nic Snowberger. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

When the south side McDonald’s restaurant reopens in about four months, it will not feature a UFO design as the north side location does, but it will be much larger and a “test” of the corporate brand’s new design and technology, says the owner.

Construction started this month on the fast-food restaurant in the 1800 block of South Main Street, one of three now owned in Roswell by Nic Snowberger and his company, Snowberger Enterprises.

Construction is being headed by CKP Construction, based in Amarillo, Texas, a contractor approved by the McDonald’s corporation.

The global franchiser also has authority over restaurant designs, which is why the rebuild will not be another UFO-shaped structure, which required special permission to construct.

While Snowberger chose not to disclose project costs, he indicated that the restaurant reconstruction is a major project for the company.

“I can tell you that we are sparing no expense,” he said. “It is the largest restaurant that they offer, and we are going all out in building it with every amenity that is possible.”

He explained that the restaurant will include an indoor playland, as well as state-of-the-art technology and equipment, a new “futuristic” design concept, a computer-controlled energy-saving system and energy-efficient lighting, heating and cooling, and windows.

He said it also will be more than twice the size of the previous restaurant.

He explained that the former site, which he bought in June 2011, was about 2,900 square feet, while the new site will be 6,100 square feet.

“When they built it the early ‘90s, they did not project that it was going to do the amount of business that we do there now,” he said.

The restaurant had been remodeled once before.

“They actually wanted us to remodel again, and I am the one who pushed for a complete rebuild,” he said, “really for the employees and the customers to have the type of restaurant they deserve on that side of town and the employees’ having the type of facility they need.”

He said that he would like to see more employees as well once the new restaurant opens. It had a staff of about 70 people, he said, and he would like to see the number grow to 100.

The existing south location employees, he said, were able to retain their jobs during the construction by working at the UFO location in the 700 block of North Main Street or the north location in the 4100 block of North Main Street. Some also joined the Artesia location. Snowberger Enterprises’ other restaurants are in Santa Rosa and Edgewood.

A location inside of Walmart in Roswell has closed permanently, Snowberger explained. Walmart has decided on a national level to discontinue in-store McDonald’s sites, and Snowberger said that Walmart’s increased focus on home delivery, online sales and curbside delivery had resulted in lower foot traffic during the past five years.

While the coronavirus pandemic has been difficult in many ways for businesses, Snowberger said his local restaurants added 20 to 30 employees to keep up with demand.

He called the more than 200 McDonald’s employees in Roswell “heroes” for their willingness to provide an essential service during the past year.

“Even though there was a pandemic,” he said, “they chose to come to work every day, put on a mask and gloves, work in an altered environment and help deliver an experience that the people of Roswell were still looking for.”

The McDonald’s Corp. reported on April 29 that its first-quarter 2021 revenues on a global basis increased by 9% to $5.1 billion, compared to first-quarter 2020 revenues of $4.7 billion. Net income was up by about $431 million, totaling $1.54 billion. The largest growth in global sales occurred in the United States, according to the corporation’s financial report. About 93% of the corporation’s 39,000 locations worldwide are owned and operated independently.

Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

$30K bond set for battery, robbery suspect

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A local judge ruled last week that a man facing armed robbery and aggravated battery charges could not be held without bond while awaiting trial.

Mario Caballero (Submitted Photo)

At a pretrial detention hearing May 4, Judge Dustin K. Hunter of New Mexico’s 5th Judicial District Court denied a motion by the District Attorney’s Office that would have kept Mario Caballero, 21, incarcerated until after his trial or otherwise ordered by the court.

Caballero, of Los Lunas, is charged with one count each of armed robbery and aggravated battery, deadly weapon in connection with an April 6 incident at a truck stop north of Roswell. Caballero is accused of robbing a woman of her vehicle before dragging her across the pavement and then later leading police on a chase.

Two other charges in the case — aggravated assault and unlawful taking of a motor vehicle — have been dismissed by the prosecution, according to court documents.

Hunter said the violent nature of the alleged incident “shocks the conscience” and that part of him wanted to grant the state’s motion on that basis alone. However, he said, evidence presented by the state did not show the public could not be kept safe if Caballero was let out on conditions of release pending trial.

“Ultimately the court is going to find that the state did not prove, by clear and convincing evidence, that there is no condition of release … that could reasonably protect the safety of the community and the victim,” he said.

Bond was set for Caballero at $30,000 cash or surety. He will be released to the custody of his mother. Other stipulations of his release include that he not leave his residence between the hours of 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 a.m., that he acquire employment and/or education and that he make weekly contact with his attorney.

In arguing for the pretrial detention motion, Taina Colon, deputy district attorney, noted the vehicle’s owner was dragged for 12 to 18 feet by her own vehicle as the suspect reportedly sped away. “The disregard for her life that was shown in trying to get this vehicle by robbing her indicates a serious risk to the community if this defendant is released,” she said.

Frank Rio, Caballero’s attorney, argued at the hearing that the incident is not part of a larger pattern of dangerous or criminal behavior by his client. He noted his client does not have any felony convictions and at the time of the April 6 incident he was not on parole, probation or court-ordered conditions of release.

“It’s just an isolated incident that something went wrong that day with my client’s mental health situation when this occurred,” Rio said. He added that he, along with his client and Caballero’s mother, are considering whether to file a motion to have Caballero evaluated for competency.

Colon called two witnesses at the hearing: The victim — a 62-year-old woman — and Detective Augustin Perez of the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office. No witnesses or evidence were presented by the defense.

The victim testified that on April 6 she encountered a man, later identified as Caballero, at a Roswell restaurant. She recalled in her testimony that she had just walked out of the restaurant and was proceeding to her Toyota Corolla when she heard a waitress call out from the restaurant for Caballero to pay for his meal.

In her testimony, the victim said she was told by Caballero that he did not have any money. She then gave him a $20 bill to pay for his meal. The victim added that Caballero also asked her if she could drive him to the truck stop at The Chisum Travel Center, which she agreed to do.

The victim testified that when she and Caballero reached the truck stop, she was taking the keys from the ignition and beginning to climb out of the driver’s seat when he reportedly grabbed the keys from her hand. She added that she then saw a knife fall to the floorboard of the front passenger’s seat before Caballero allegedly tried using his feet to push her out the driver’s side door.

“I just remember hearing him say give me the car, give me the car. Get out of the car, give me the car, get out of the car,” the victim said.

Caballero then reportedly climbed into the driver’s seat, placed the vehicle in reverse, and dragged the woman along the pavement before he reached U.S. 285.

The woman said she sustained several injuries, including stitches on her head and on her right arm, fractured ribs, a hole in her left elbow, and an injury to her left knee.

New Mexico State Police later spotted the Corolla, which had been reported stolen, heading north on U.S. 285. A stop was attempted on the vehicle, which did not stop, according to court documents. After hitting a spike strip deployed by law enforcement south of Vaughn, the car came to a halt and Caballero was taken into custody.

He also faces charges of aggravated fleeing a law enforcement officer and possession of a stolen vehicle in Guadalupe County.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or breakingnews@rdrnews.com.

2 new COVID cases Wednesday in Chaves County

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The New Mexico Department of Health reported 196 new cases of COVID-19 and three deaths related to the virus in its Wednesday update.

Only two new cases were in Chaves County. Bernalillo County had the most at 68, followed by San Juan County with 29 and Doña Ana with 18. Twenty-one other counties reported nine or fewer cases.

The total number of cases in New Mexico is 200,232 including 8,961 in Chaves County.

The three deaths were a woman in her 80s from Doña Ana County, and a woman in her 60s and a man in his 80s both from San Juan County. The woman had been hospitalized and the man was a resident of a nursing and rehabilitation center in Bloomfield.

The total number of deaths related to COVID-19 in New Mexico is 4,111. In Chaves County there have been 171 deaths related to the virus.

In vaccinations, 48% of New Mexicans age 16 or older have been fully vaccinated and 60% have received at least one dose. In Chaves County, 32% of eligible residents are fully vaccinated and 38% have received at least one dose.

Chaves County is in the Yellow Level of the state’s COVID-19 risk assessment system.

From April 20 to May 3, the state met one of the state’s three assessment criteria with a test positivity rate of 4.25%. The target is 5% or less. The county had an average of 11.7 new cases per day per 100,000 people, missing the target of 10 or fewer. The target for the third metric, percentage of eligible residents fully vaccinated, was 40%.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.

To keep up with local coverage of the coronavirus, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/covid-19-situation/.

ENMMC honors employees of the month

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Eastern New Mexico Medical Center would like to recognize and congratulate three of their recent Employees of the Month, according to a press release from the hospital.

Jose Gurrola was named October 2020 Employee of the Month for ENMMC. (Submitted Photo)

Jose Gurrola, from the Sunrise Unit, was named October 2020 Employee of the Month.

“Jose Gurrola is a joy to work with. He builds a great rapport with the patients and is always willing to work extra shifts to ease the load of his co-workers. Jose is always looking out for the safety of the unit as well as the hospital. One of his safety catches was he discovered a disheveled man hiding out in the chapel, after calling for security, he helped calm the man and assisted him to safety and to the ER Department. We feel we are lucky to have Jose on our team,” the press release stated.

The November 2020 Employee of the Month for ENMMC was Sharlotte Palafox, RN, pictured left, with CEO Warren Yehl. (Submitted Photo)

The November 2020 Employee of the Month was Sharlotte Palafox, RN.

“After Sharlotte completed her three-year commitment with the International Passport Agency, she joined our team in August 2020 and continued her excellent work in our Dialysis Department. During this time through the end of December, she was the only nurse in our Dialysis Department and had to work long hours every day, and offered to work weekends as well without complaining. Sharlotte also worked with COVID patients, making every effort to keep everyone safe. Along with Biomed and offsite tech support, she works well with them and takes great pride in her equipment to make sure the machines are operating properly for the safety of our patients. Sharlotte loves her job and exemplifies excellence,” the press release continued.

The December 2020 Employee of the Month for ENMMC was Rene Wheeler Cox. (Submitted Photo)

The December 2020 Employee of the Month was Rene Wheeler Cox from Trauma Services.

“Renee has gone above and beyond to assist with the COVID-19 vaccine process. When she was asked if she would be willing to help, her response was, ‘I will do anything I can to help.’ Renee is always willing to do what she can to help our department and hospital. She has been instrumental in getting the vaccine information into NMSIS and has also assisted in administering the vaccines. Without her willingness to help and go above and beyond, we would not have been able to accomplish what we have,” the press release stated.

3 Lovelace hospitals recognized with ‘A’ safety grade

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Lovelace Medical Center, Lovelace Women’s Hospital and Lovelace Regional Hospital received an “A” safety grade in the spring 2021 Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade report, according to a press release from Lovelace.

The report is a national distinction recognizing the facilities’ achievements protecting patients from errors, injuries, accidents and infections, the release states.

It is the second safety grade “A” in a row for LMC and LWH.

The Leapfrog Group is an independent national watchdog organization committed to health care quality and safety. It assigns grades to general hospitals across the country and is updated every six months. It is the only hospital ratings program based exclusively on hospitals’ prevention of medical errors and other harms to patients in their care.

Lovelace Health System chief executive officer Ron Stern said, “The entirely of our hospitals, from our physicians to our staff, are committed to patient safety and we pride ourselves on the adherence to the measures associated with the Hospital Safety Grade. Quality and patient safety are a constant focus and it’s nice to be recognized for our hard work.”

Lovelace Medical Center, Lovelace Women’s Hospital and Lovelace Regional Hospital are the only three hospitals in the state to earn an “A” Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade for Spring 2021, according to the press release.

051321 Roswell Events

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Ongoing

Free children’s book program

United Way of Chaves County announced that the Dolly Parton Imagination Library is now available for children from birth to preschool. United Way of Chaves County is excited to offer this program to the children in the community. It is 100% free. For more information, visit imaginationlibrary.com.

Ongoing

Virtual RMAC and Puzzle Room

Join the Roswell Museum and Art Center on its Facebook page in Museum Moments Facebook videos and Space is Awesome on Fridays. There is no specific posting time, so check often. The RMAC Puzzle Room is once again open. Puzzle Room reservations are available during museum visiting hours, Tuesdays through Fridays, from 1 to 5 p.m. To make a reservation, call 575-624-6744.

Until June 11

RAiR exhibit

The Roswell Artist-in-Residence Masha Sha’s exhibit Unsaid will be at the Marshall and Winston Gallery in the Roswell Museum and Art Center, 1011 N. Richardson Ave. The Russian artist lives in the U.S. and her exhibit centers around visual relationships with language. Sha has been working on a series of large scale drawings emphasizing the graphic and poetic nature of words. For more information, visit roswell-nm.gov/1259/Roswell-Museum-Art-Center or call 575-624-6744.

Until June 20

Indigenous American Art, 1960-2000

Featuring the work of well-known Indigenous artists like Fritz Scholder (Luiseño), R.C. Gorman (Navajo), Pablita Velarde (Santa Clara Pueblo), and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith (Salish), this exhibit opens at the Roswell Museum and Art Center, 1011 N. Richardson Ave. It demonstrates a wide variety of traditional and contemporary subject matter depicted through an equally wide variety of materials from sand painting to bronze sculpture. This exhibition will serve as an introduction to the subject with a follow-up show traveling from the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian in the second half of 2021. Also open as of now in the entrance is the exhibit Animals!, which remains open until May 30, featuring various artists’ perspectives on the animal kingdom. For more information, visit roswellmuseum.org.

June 5

Elks for Vets Charity Golf Tournament

The 12th annual Elks for Vets Charity Golf Tournament begins at 8 a.m. at the New Mexico Military Institute Golf Course. The tournament will conclude with a gathering at the Elks Lodge, depending on the COVID-19 restrictions. Limited entries available. For more information, call 575-622-6033.

June 14

HSSNM Flag Day and brick campaign

The Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico invites the public to celebrate Flag Day with its new flag and brick installations at 200 N. Lea Ave. For more information, visit roswellnmhistory.org, email historydirector@outlook.com or call 575-622-8333.

July 1 to 3

MainStreet Roswell AlienFest

The first AlienFest in Roswell is hosted by MainStreet Roswell. It is focusing its endeavors on hosting an event downtown that will support local merchants and the economy while celebrating the mystery around the UFO crash in 1947. More details will be posted on its website ufofestivalroswell.com. All events are dependent on the State of New Mexico mandates for COVID-19.

July 2 to 4

Roswell UFO Festival

The city of Roswell announced the 25th annual UFO Festival, celebrating the anniversary of the alleged crash of an unidentified flying object outside of Roswell in 1947 will be held. 2020 would have been the official 25th anniversary, but due to COVID-19 social distancing, only a small local event was held. The city has a full schedule of events and entertainment planned for 2021, from costume contests and live music to golf excursions, there will be entertainment for the entire family. Sign up on the new website and Facebook @roswellnmufofestival to receive the event schedule once it is released. For more information, visit ufofestival.com.

July 3

Alien Chase

The Alien Chase welcomes runners and walkers, when the event, featuring a 5K run and 5K walk, sends participants onto the course beginning at DeBremond Stadium, 100 W. 11th St., at 7 a.m. There are nine age categories, and awards will be given to the top three male and female finishers in each age group in each race. Awards will also go to the top overall male finisher and top overall female finisher. Race packets will be available for pick up on race day, from 3 to 6 p.m., at the Roswell Recreation and Aquatic Center, 1402 W. College Blvd., or just before the races start, from 6 to 6:30 a.m., at DeBremond Stadium. For more information, race registration and entry details, visit roswellconnect.com or call 575-624-6719.

Postponed

Bowl for Kids’ Sake

The annual Bowl for Kids’ Sake, which benefits the nonprofit organization Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeastern New Mexico, has been postponed until restrictions due to the COVID-19 crisis are lifted. For more information on becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister, visit bbbssenm.org or its Facebook page.

The calendar is subject to change due to unforeseen circumstances. For updates and more information, contact the event venue or organizer.

If you would like your event listed on the entertainment calendar, please email vision@rdrnews.com or call 622-7710 ext. 309.

Rivalry was worth the price of admission

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Roswell’s Victoria Sandoval (13) receives the throw at home plate as Goddard’s Alexis Ramirez (8) slides in during Tuesday’s doubleheader. Ramirez scored on the play as Sandoval was not able to hold onto the ball. (David Rocha Photo)

Both Goddard and Roswell had waited over 16 months for this day to come. Finally, it was a typical New Mexico day, windy and chilly, but perfect for softball. In the inaugural Sandoval Bowl, the focus pregame was on former Roswell coach Art Sandoval, who had coached Roswell head coach Rebecca Marrujo and Goddard coach Jessica Zamora.

A Goddard batter tries to avoid a Roswell pitch. (Steve Notz Photo)

It didn’t take long for the focus to get back to the rivalry, and the kids themselves. Goddard took advantage of Roswell’s errors in the first inning to jump to a 3-0 lead. The lead would be more than enough to give Valaree Manzanares the win, as she pitched seven strong innings, giving up eight runs on 11 hits while striking out three in a 12-8 win at Roswell softball complex.

Roswell managed to get it together and come back to tie the game in the third. The Lady Coyotes’ Mireya Grajeda and Leah Sanchez each had an RBI to tie the game. Goddard would score one run in the fourth inning to take a 4-3 lead.

The death knell for Roswell was when the Lady Rockets put up eight runs in the fifth inning. Goddard received doubles by Alyssa Linares, Kiara Ramirez, Alexis Ramirez and Presleigh Dutra. Sanchez pitched well for Roswell, going seven innings, allowing 12 runs on nine hits over five innings. She would strike out four batters.

Goddard collected 11 hits in the first game, with multiple hits by Kaydence Ray, who went 3-for-4 at the plate, while other Rockets’ Dutra, Linares, and Ramires had multiple hits. On the base paths the Rockets were wearing them out with four players stealing four bases. The team stole 15 during the game. Dutra had four.

Roswell’s Talyssa Espinoza and Alyana Tarin each had multiple hits. The Lady Coyotes had 11 hits in the game. One keynote was that their defense was very good, they didn’t commit an error in the game.

Comeback and extra innings fill opening day

Roswell and Goddard couldn’t settle things during seven innings, so they had to go to extra innings. Not only did the visiting Lady Rockets take advantage of it, but they stressed Roswell as they scored three runs to win the second game of the doubleheader 10-7 Tuesday night at the Roswell Soccer Complex.

In the second inning, the Goddard offense was started by a Juliet Hernandez hit into a sacrifice, scoring a runner from third base.

Roswell trailed 1-0 until the third inning when they scored three runs, with Mireya Grajeda and Leah Sanchez knocking in RBIs as Roswell led 3-1.

Goddard (4-0) trailed 6-3 in the sixth inning when second baseman Dutra laced a three-run triple between the right field gap, scoring three runs and tying the game at 6-6.

Both teams tied the game in the seventh inning, forcing extra innings.

The game was tied with Goddard batting in the top of the eighth inning when Alexis Sandoval doubled on an 0-1 pitch to score one run.

Ericca Cannon earned the win for the Lady Rockets. She gave up 12 hits over eight innings while striking out 10 batters.

Goddard’s Yadi Arellanes, Dutra, Linares and Alexis Sandoval had multiple hits. The Lady Rockets were aggressive on the base paths, stealing eight bags during the game.

Roswell’s Victoria Sandoval took the loss for Roswell, allowing nine runs on 13 hits while striking out eight Lady Rockets.

Roswell (0-2) had 12 hits in the game. Sarai Morales was perfect on the day, going 5-for-5, and stole three bases. Talyssa Espinoza and Maria Aragon also had multiple hits for Roswell. Roswell had three players steal two bases during the game.

Goddard will play a doubleheader at home on May 18. They opened the season in Clovis, beating them 23-10 and 14-10, on May 8. Goddard will have to defend against overconfidence.

Roswell’s road won’t get any easier — they face Rylee Crandall. Crandall is a Baylor commit, and Artesia is the 2018-19 defending 5A state champion. Artesia is 5-0 on the young season.

Goddard will play Clovis on May 18 at 4:30 and 6:30 p.m., at home.

Roswell will play at Artesia Friday at 6:30 p.m.

Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or sports@rdrnews.com.

Reese earns all-district honor

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Goddard junior Noah Reese (22) was named first-team all-district in District 4-4A. Not pictured: junior James Torrez (30) was named honorable mention. (AJ Roe Photo)

Chaves County prep sports schedule for May 13-15

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Schedule is subject to change.

Thursday, May 13

Baseball

Capitan at Dexter, 4 p.m.

Gateway Christian at Jal, 4:30 p.m.

Softball

Dexter at Capitan, 4 p.m.

Friday, May 14

Baseball

Tularosa at NMMI, 4 p.m.

Tularosa at NMMI, 6 p.m.

Softball

Roswell at Artesia, 6:30 p.m.

Saturday, May 15

Baseball

Dexter at Loving, 11 a.m.

Dexter at Loving, 1 p.m.

Goddard at Roswell, 12 p.m.

Goddard at Roswell, 2 p.m.

Bradley Houston

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Family, education, agriculture, and travel were extremely important in Brad Houston’s life. But he loved his play time too! Everything from a lively hand of bridge to a hotly contested tennis match, an energetic night of square dancing, dashing to the lake to water ski when the surface was smooth as glass or just nodding off waiting for the fish to bite. He intertwined these passions throughout each stage of his life and enjoyed his 92 years immensely.

John Bradley Houston was born in Fort Sumner, New Mexico, November 4, 1928. He was raised by his parents, Robert and Eunice Houston, and was an only child until the age of 16 when the first of his three sisters was born. Brad’s dad was a carpenter and farmer, his mom was a homemaker. When Brad was four, the family ventured to Ima, New Mexico to homestead with several other families. The lack of rain doomed the venture and the families returned to Fort Sumner. His dad found work with the WPA dam in Ft. Sumner and his mother was a homemaker. Brad found work wherever he could, from pulling weeds to transplanting sweet potatoes. Brad developed his strong work ethic and desire to get an education during these difficult times.

Brad graduated from Fort Sumner High School in 1946. He attended New Mexico State University, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture in 1951 and completing his Master of Arts degree in 1957. Elaine Black was the “dream girl” of his fraternity, she became Brad’s dream girl too. Brad served in the U.S. Army from April 1951 until April 1953, spending six months in Korea. He was fortunate to have some radio communications training so did not spend time on the front line in Korea. Stories have been told that his unit played poker during down time and that all of his winnings were sent back to Elaine for their nest egg. He married Elaine shortly after his return from Korea.

In 1953, Brad began working as a teacher at Roswell High School. He started the Vocational Agriculture Program in 1954 and served as the FFA (Future Farmers of America) advisor for 14 years. His drive and ambition to create excellence resulted in a highly successful chapter that has produced several generations of farmers and ranchers. His students were awarded the National Gold Emblem Chapter for 10 years, the State Gold Emblem Chapter for 10 years, and the State Sweepstakes winner for 4 years. He served as the superintendent of the Farm Products and Farm Mechanics Division at the Eastern New Mexico State Fair for 10 years. Brad developed relationships with students, their families and the agricultural community that have continued throughout his life. Brad and Elaine’s 2 daughters were born in Roswell. They were often seen hanging out with Dad in his old green truck, roller skating in his shop or “working” with him in the concession stand at the Roswell High School basketball games.

Continuing his career as an educator, in 1967 Brad moved to Las Cruces where he was an instructor of Agriculture Engineering classes at New Mexico State University for 3 years. Brad and Elaine enjoyed NMSU faculty life and loved to attend Aggie basketball and football games. In Las Cruces they developed a lifelong love of square dancing.

Brad began his second career as a dairyman in 1970 when he and his family moved to Arrey, New Mexico. He managed Price-Black Farms, at that time the home of the largest registered Guernsey herd in the U.S., milking over 1,700 cows. The dairy received honors for the All-American Guernsey Bull and the top milk producing Guernsey Cow in the country for 5 years. In 1982, Brad and Elaine returned to Roswell. Brad served as vice president and general manager of Price’s Roswell Farms until he retired in 2003. He was instrumental in improving the genetics of the herd, making the dairy one of the best in the Southwest. The Roswell dairy milked 2,400 cows, raised replacement heifers and bulls and sold herd sires to other dairies.

During his 33-year dairy career, Brad was active with the Sierra County, Chaves County, Sandoval County and New Mexico Farm Bureau boards, working from the grassroots level to promote legislation beneficial to farmers and ranchers. The New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau recognized Brad for his many years of service by naming him Farm Family of the Year in 2017. He was also selected as the 2017 Eastern New Mexico State Fair parade grand marshal for his crucial role in agriculture in New Mexico. Brad received the Distinguished Alumni award for the College of Ag and Home Economics at NMSU in 2007.

Brad served 6 years on the First United Methodist Church Board of Trustees and ushered during church services for 15 years. He was the agricultural representative to the Chaves County Chamber of Commerce and helped sponsor the annual Rise with Roswell Agriculture Business Breakfast. He also served on the Central Valley Electric Cooperative Board, the NMSU Agriculture Science Center at Artesia Advisory Board, the AMPI Milk Market Board, the NMSA Dairy Advisory Board and others.

Brad still managed to find time to play tennis with fellow members of the Roswell Tennis Association, play bridge at the Roswell Adult Center along with weekly games with friends, and square dance at least once a week. Many horses passed through Brad’s life, but his favorite was Skippy, a beautiful sorrel that thoroughly enjoyed putting Brad’s backside on the ground a time or two. He was an avid gardener and enjoyed the Roswell Symphony. Brad and Elaine traveled worldwide and throughout the United States. He enjoyed spending time with his family, playing games for hours.

Brad was predeceased by his wife Elaine, sister Barbara and brothers-in-law Allen, Don and Kenneth. He is survived by sisters Dorothy and Bobbie (Ron), daughters Debra (Rocky) and Janet (Pancho), grandchildren Kristy (Glenn) and Steve (Olivia), great-grandchildren Hunter, Caden, David, Austin, Taylor, and Garrett.

The family extends their deepest gratitude to friends and staff at Peachtree Retirement Village, especially Mary Beth, Chapa, Gaby, and Betty.

Services will be held at 10:00 on May 18, 2021 at the First United Methodist Church, 200 N. Pennsylvania Ave., Roswell, NM 88201.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Cowboy Bell Scholarship Fund at the First United Methodist Church, 200 N. Pennsylvania Ave., Roswell, NM 88201.

Arrangements have been entrusted to Ballard Funeral Home and Crematory. An online registry can be accessed at www.ballardfuneralhome.com.

Jeffery Scott Miller Jr.

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Jeffery Scott Miller Jr., 29, was called home on Sunday, April 25, 2021. Please take a moment and share a kind thought or memory with Jeffery’s family at www.andersonbethany.com

Services will be held at Anderson Bethany Funeral Home on Saturday, May 15, 2021, at 3:00 PM.

Jeffery was born on May 27, 1991, in Roswell, NM, to Scott and Sandy Miller. He was a fun, loving, caring, and amazing father to his two daughters: Roweyn 9, and Summer, 3. Jeffery enjoyed fishing, camping, watching football, and just being outside. The time he spent with family and friends was always full of laughter, jokes, and good times. From times camping and catching handfuls of ladybugs or just getting together to watch the kids play. Football games were always fun, and there was never a dull moment. Jeffery’s favorite football team was the Steelers or just any team playing against (especially those beating) the “Cowgirls.”  He lived his life to the fullest and made lasting memories every step of the way.

Jeffery is survived by the love of his life, Mary Taylor; their two children: Roweyn and Summer Miller; mother, Sandy Whitt and husband John of Alto; father, Scott Miller and wife Vina of Angier NC; grandparents: Jerry and Ann Berg of Roswell, Wayne and Kathie Butts of Roswell, Bobby and Josephine Seward of Roswell, Robert Miller of Redondo Beach CA, Bill and Wilma Goodall, and Dina Villa of Roswell; siblings: Donavan Miller and Anthony Miller of Roswell, John, Jodie, Kerri of New Mexico, Damian, and Erin of North Carolina; nephews: Johnathan, Sean, Mason, Colin, Hayden, and Larry; nieces: Reagan and Kennedy; with multiple aunts, uncles, and cousins. Though, Jeffery was loved by countless others.

Those blessed to serve as Honorary Pallbearers are Anthony Barrow, Jeremy Thomasson, and Tom Turner.

MATTHEW 5:4

Blessed are those who mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Jeffery’s tribute was written in his honor by his family.

Jacob Ryan Lopez

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On Tuesday, May 4, 2021, Jacob Lopez went home to be with his daddy and the Lord at the age of 31. Jacob was born on October 8, 1989 to Margarito and Helen Lopez (Landry) in Roswell, NM. He grew up and attended school in Roswell where he graduated from Goddard High School in 2008. Jacob had a passion for basketball at a very young age, in which he persued all through school and many Gus Macker tournaments. His dream was to one day play in the NBA.

He also enjoyed fishing, having bbqs, being with his family and friends, camping, and attending church. He was a godly man that was not afraid to pray for anyone in need. He spread light, love, smiles, and hugs to anyone that came into his life. He never met a stranger, if you were a friend or mentor you were one for life.

Jacob is known for his quick wit, his infectious smile, his love for his sons, and his kind and compassionate spirit. The love he had for the 49ers was for life. He also enjoyed watching the Lakers and Yankees.

He was welcomed to heaven by his father, Margarito Lopez, his cousin Joshua Landry, his grandfather, Julian Lopez, his nephew Ysiah Ray, his “Granny”, Ruby Mabry, and his three aunts, Pat York, Helen Dennis, and Barbara Chenoweth.

He left behind his two sons, the center of his world, Darius and Bryson Lopez of Hobbs, NM, his mother, Helen Landry (Benny) of Ft. Worth, his “Meemaw” Evelyn Landry of Roswell, his brother Gabriel (Ashley) Lopez of Ft. Worth, his brother, Marcos Lopez of Ft.  Worth, his sister Azharae Sanchez Lopez of Aurora, Co., his nieces Harmony Lopez and Jenessa Cannon Lopez of Roswell, Sophia and Piper Lopez of Ft. Worth, and his nephew Brodie Lopez of Ft. Worth and Victor Ray of Aurora, Co. He leaves behind numerous aunts, uncles, cousins, and lifelong friends who will miss him. He is also survived by the love of his life the last six years, Cheyenne Keller and her children Zoey and Anthony of Ft. Worth, and his godparents Jaime and Christina Fierro of Roswell.

Services will be held Saturday, May 15, 2021 at 10:00 am at Anderson Bethany Funeral Home. Pallbearers will be Gabriel Lopez, Marcos Lopez, Azharae Sanchez Lopez, Dominique Miller, Coach Kevin Jones, Coach Hayden Hill, Coach BJ Jones, and Coach Brian Luck. Honorary pallbearers will be all the lives Jacob touched in his time on Earth with us the last 31 years.

The family would like to express their appreciation for the outpouring of love, compassion, and prayers during this difficult time, and thank you to “Doc” at Anderson Bethany Funeral Home for bringing my son home to rest with such compassion and understanding. There will be a celebration of life following the home going at his uncles where we will be doing what Jacob loved, BBQing, being with friends and family, and celebrating. All are welcome to attend.

Rest easy and fly high my son, Jacob Lopez until we meet again!!!

Person of interest now a suspect in stabbing death

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John Eric Lerma, 29, is seen in this photo taken in 2016, according to the Roswell Police Department. (Submitted Photo)

A man who was originally sought as a person of interest in the stabbing death of another man in Roswell Tuesday is now a suspect in that case.

Police Tuesday night obtained an arrest warrant for John Eric Lerma, 29, of Roswell, on charges of first-degree murder and tampering with evidence, Todd Wildermuth, public information officer with the Roswell Police Department, said Wednesday morning.

Lerma, according to a press release issued late Tuesday, is described as 5 feet, 10 inches tall and 185 pounds with black hair and brown eyes.

People with information that could lead to Lerma’s location or information pertinent to the case should contact the RPD at 575-624-6770 or Chaves County Crime Stoppers at 1-888-594-8477.

Detectives initially named Lerma as a person of interest in their investigation into the death of Mario Zion Olivas Jr., 20. Olivas was from Dexter but at the time of his death was staying in Roswell.

Olivas, according to a press release late Tuesday, was allegedly stabbed at about 8:30 a.m. in the driveway of a 200 block of West Mathews Street residence during an altercation between multiple people. He later died at an area hospital.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or breakingnews@rdrnews.com.

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