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Ex-CCDC officer charged in stabbing released pending trial

The former Chaves County Detention Center officer charged in Monday's stabbing of an inmate will be allowed to remain free while she awaits trial.

Per electronic court records, Chaves County Magistrate Judge James Mason on Wednesday ordered Vereniz Cano Villalobos, 36, of Roswell, be released on her own recognizance pending trial on one count of conspiracy to commit aggravated battery, great bodily harm.

Mason imposed conditions of release on Villalobos, which include a requirement that she not come within 1,000 feet of the victim or any possible witnesses, and that she remain in her residence between the hours of 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.

No attorney representing Villalobos was named in electronic court filings as of Thursday.

Villalobos was dismissed from her position as a corrections officer at the Chaves County Detention Center (CCDC) and was being housed at Roosevelt County Detention Center following a Monday afternoon stabbing that left an inmate wounded.

Electronic court documents allege that Villalobos had unlocked the shackles and restraints on inmate Steven Perez, 31, and pressed controls that opened the door to the victim's cell, thereby affording Perez the opportunity to stab the inmate.

Perez reportedly stabbed the inmate numerous times in the back, head, right hip area and right hand. The inmate has since received medical attention for injuries the sheriff's office described as serious, but not life-threatening.

According to court records, Perez has since been charged with one count each of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, great bodily harm; conspiracy to commit aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, great bodily harm; possession of a weapon or explosive by a prisoner; and tampering with evidence.

Surveillance video from the hallway outside the cell where the stabbing occurred confirmed the attack happened after the victim and other inmates used the open food port holes in their cell doors to throw feces at Perez and Villalobos and taunted Perez about his status as a sex offender.

On the video, Villalobos is subsequently shown taking Perez to a nearby secure area, where she removes his shackles, just before Perez reportedly reaches into the waistband of his pants.

Perez is then seen on the video walking uncuffed to the door of the victim's cell. Villalobos is alleged to have been shown on the video going to a control screen and pressing a button three times which unlocks what court records say appears to be the victim's cell door before then walking away from the control area.

Once the door is unlocked, Perez enters the cell moments before the victim falls out of the cell doorway. Armed with a mop, Perez comes out and proceeds to strike the victim numerous times. The injured inmate later told investigators the stabbing took place while the two men were inside the cell.

The weapon used in the stabbing was later discovered in the toilet inside the cell where the stabbing occurred.

Villalobos has maintained her innocence. Court records indicate that when questioned about the stabbing, she explained that she had unlocked Perez's restraints so he could take a shower after having the feces thrown at him. She claimed that she had not unlocked the cell door, and if she had, it was done by accident.

Perez insisted the incident was self-defense. He later recounted to investigators that when the cell door opened, he entered to confront the victim about the feces that was thrown. Perez alleged the man who was stabbed then produced the weapon and tried to use it on him. He added that during the altercation, the weapon fell into the toilet.

Roswell teacher honored as one of Disney’s 100 Inspiring Teachers

Even though Margaret “Peggy” Bohlin didn’t think anything would come from it, she completed an essay about 500 words long that addressed the question, “How do you use creativity and imagination to inspire students?”

The entity interested in the answers she and more than 7,900 other teachers wrote was The Walt Disney Company.

“I found out about it on Facebook,” said Bohlin, who teaches seventh- and eighth-grade science at All Saints Catholic School. She’s also the director of Camp Invention, a week-long STEM summer camp, and teaches Aerospace Connections in Education, which is part of the Civil Air Patrol.

Bohlin approached the project with some skepticism.

“I didn’t think I had a chance,” Bohlin said. “And at first I thought it was a scam.”

Nonetheless, she ended up being chosen from among that group of teachers as one of Disney’s 100 Inspiring Teachers.

“I thought, ’Oh, my God. They actually chose me!’” she remembered.

Bohlin was also the only teacher from New Mexico to be picked.

She stated that she believes what might have set her apart from many of the other entrants is that she wrote about her faith — and how she uses it to inspire her students.

Bohlin and the 99 other teachers were invited to the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, last week to take part in an all-expenses-paid visit to the theme park.

They participated in workshops created to provide K-12 teachers with fresh and unique ideas to use in their classrooms.

A Disney Imagination Campus is located at Disneyland, as well as at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. The focus of the offerings for educators is that they can provide their students with imagination-powered learning so they can grow up to become “the next generation of creative thinkers and leaders,” according to the Disneyland Resort.

Each of the teachers was chosen because they have already been “bringing creativity and imagination to life in their curriculum,” Disney also noted in its announcement about the event.

There were several workshops, including a large group assignment to create an amusement park.

This imaginative creation was named “From the Sea to the Sky,” Bohlin said.

It required five different components: entertainment, a place to eat, family attractions, rides and attractions she described as being “more intense” than those for the entire family, and a gift shop.

Along with workshops, there were ample opportunities to explore Disneyland and the California Adventure Park during the four days.

“I wanted to take it all in,” she said.

On one day alone, she managed to get in 29,000 steps while seeing everything she could.

The teachers were in the spotlight at Disneyland during a cavalcade along Main Street USA. They also were able to enjoy special experiences, such as meals and entertainment, during their visit.

Though Bohlin has been teaching for decades, she was also excited about seeing so many teachers who were just starting their careers.

The overall experience left her “honored, privileged and humbled,” Bohlin said. “I’m extremely grateful for Disney giving me the opportunity to go.”

Each participant was allowed to bring a travel companion whose visit was partially paid for by Disney as well. Bohlin chose her 25-year-old son, Marcus, a first-year teacher in Pueblo, Colorado.

“I wanted to honor him as well,” she said.

Last year’s event hosted a group of 50 teachers, This year was special because it was held right before the start of National Teacher Appreciation Week, which ends today. This is also Disney’s 100th anniversary.

The teachers also received items to take home, such as T-shirts, Mickey Mouse ears, a rain poncho, a hard-cover book about the history of Disney and a "really nice" tote bag.

Bohlin wore the ears in the airport during her flight back home because she didn’t want to crush them by putting them in her bag.

And her feelings of elation continue. She also wore her mouse ears again on Monday and planned to wear her Disney T-shirt today, Bohlin added.

New Mexico proposal would extend free child care, boost pay
New Mexico has published a proposal to extend indefinitely free child care for most children up to age 5 across the state, with increased payment rates to private and public child care providers

SANTA FE — New Mexico would extend indefinitely no-pay child care for most children up to age 5 with increased payment rates to private and public child care providers under proposed regulations announced Monday.

New Mexico's current child care subsidies — among the most expansive in the nation — were initiated with federal coronavirus relief money. Education officials are now grappling with financial strategies to sustain efforts to expand the reach and quality of child care services in a state with low rates of workforce participation and high rates of childhood poverty.

New Mexico in April 2022 expanded eligibility and waived co-payments for child care assistance to families earning as much as four times the federal poverty rate — equal to about $120,000 for a family of four. But the provisions are set to expire in August.

The proposed regulatory change from the Early Childhood Education and Care Department would extend those guidelines and ensure that service taxes on child care assistance are not paid by parents. Future changes to copayments would include a three-month advance notice to parents before changes take effect.

Enrollment in the assistance program has increased over the past year by nearly one-third to roughly 19,340 children under age 6, according to the department. Children ages 6 and over receive financial assistance for before-school and after-school programs.

About 72,000 children in 43,000 families are eligible for child care assistance under current rules.

The proposal still may be amended in response to comments in writing and at a public hearing in June. The changes are part of a push by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to eliminate financial barriers to an array of child care services, from infant care to private day-care for toddlers, preschool in public school settings and after-school programs.

Details of payment rate increases for child care providers have not been finalized. New Mexico has a reimbursement formula that focuses on the local cost of running child care businesses, instead of the market rate of what parents can pay.

Surging state spending on early childhood education is underwritten in part by a roughly $2 billion trust sustained by taxes on oil and natural gas production and investment income.

Additionally, voters in 2022 approved increased annual withdrawals from the state's land grant permanent fund to pay for early childhood education initiatives.

Deputies increase carnival patrol after alleged gun threat by teen

Chaves County Sheriff's deputies will have an increased presence at Tobosa's Carnival Event for the remainder of its run after a teenager allegedly pulled an AR-15 handgun on someone.

No one was hurt during the episode, but Undersheriff Charles Yslas said deputies will do more walk-through patrols each night until the carnival ends Sunday.

“I have them going out in the evening, just basically walking around, making contact with the vendors, making sure they are OK,” Undersheriff Charles Yslas said.

The carnival event, which was facilitated by Tobosa Developmental Services in Roswell, a disability services provider, has been underway since May 4 each night in the parking lot of the Wool Bowl Stadium at 1600 N. Grand Ave.

Authorities say no one was injured Tuesday night when a 17-year-old male reportedly threatened another person with an AR-15 pistol at the carnival. Yslas said a deputy responded at 8:40 p.m. to a call that came in about the incident.

“Whenever our deputy arrived, he arrived by himself. The individual was pointed out to him. So at that time, he approached the individual, he made contact with him,” Yslas explained.

Once the deputy went up to the teenager, it was discovered that he was part of a group of 15 teenagers, who then began to encircle the deputy. Fearing for his safety, Yslas said the deputy pulled out his own weapon. The teenagers complied with orders to step back, show their hands and get on the ground before more deputies arrived.

In all, five of the teenagers were taken into custody. Of those, three were later released without charges. The 17-year-old was charged with one count each of unlawful carrying of a deadly weapon by a minor and disorderly conduct. He has since been transported to a juvenile detention facility elsewhere in the state.

A second teenager, a 16-year-old, was charged with resisting, evading or obstructing an officer, and was released after being cited on the charge.

Yslas added that it is not known why the gun was pulled, because the victim in the incident fled before deputies reached the scene. He explained that the gun matches ammunition the Sheriff's Office believes was used in a drive-by shooting that happened earlier in the week. No charges have yet been filed against the teenager in that case.