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Kindergarteners from Nancy Lopez Elementary School finished off the school year with splash from the Roswell Fire Department's fire hose at Spring River Park Thursday morning.

Roswell man sentenced to 9-year prison term for shooting

A Roswell man convicted of carrying out a drive-by shooting on a family outside an apartment building last year that left one man injured received a nine-year prison term Monday.

Per a press release from the Office of the District Attorney for New Mexico's 5th Judicial District, Anthony Puente, 21, was given a 14-year sentence, nine of which will be served in prison. The remaining five years will be suspended and served on supervised probation. He will receive 349 days of credit for time served.

The sentencing came after a two-day trial in April that concluded with a jury finding Puente guilty on three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, along with one count each of shooting at or from a motor vehicle, tampering with evidence, conspiracy to commit tampering with evidence and conspiracy to commit shooting at or from a motor vehicle.

Records indicate 20-year-old Kika Monarrez faces the same charges.

Monarrez, who was Puente's girlfriend at the time, is alleged to have scouted the location moments before the shooting. She then reportedly drove Puente away and helped him hide evidence. Electronic court records say a trial for Monarrez is scheduled for July.

Charges against Puente were the result of a May 31, 2022, shooting in which a man was shot in the hand while getting out of a car that was parked outside of a 700 block of East Third Street apartment building. His girlfriend and two infant children were also in the vehicle.

According to court records, witnesses said and camera footage in the area confirmed that moments before the shooting, a woman, later identified as Monarrez, exited the black Nissan Altima that Puente was also inside of at the time. Monarrez then walked over to the Nissan that was parked in the alley and got into the vehicle.

Puente then allegedly opened fire from inside the Altima, unleashing 10 rounds. Seven of those rounds reportedly struck a parked blue vehicle. The Nissan then headed down the alleyway before unleashing four more rounds as multiple people were coming out of the building in response to the gunfire.

Court records said the vehicle containing Puente and Monarrez then drove off. Monarrez was recognized by an officer who viewed surveillance video of the moments before the shooting. A witness also identified Monarrez from an array of photos presented by investigators.

Monarrez and Puente allegedly removed several items from the vehicle from which the shots were fired.

When interviewed by police, Puente, who claimed he had been shot at two weeks earlier, said he fired at the vehicle after seeing a laser beam coming from it. He said he then shot at the parked vehicle because he believed they were planning to shoot at him. He added that he later blacked out and did not remember most of what happened after that.

Per court records, the nine-year prison term fell far short of the 41 years in prison and 10 years probation recommended by the prosecution, the maximum penalty allowed under New Mexico law.

Under the sentencing memorandum submitted by Assistant District Attorney Timothy Wyatt, none of that time would have been suspended and all the sentences would run consecutively. Nearly half of that time — 20 years — would consist of enhancements for using a firearm in the commission of the crimes.

In the memorandum, Wyatt argued that what he called Puente's “complete apathy and lack of appreciation of his actions” demonstrated Puente would be a poor candidate for probation, and that imposing the maximum sentence would serve as a warning to others who might consider carrying out acts of gun violence.

“This type of behavior should be discouraged as strongly as possible and a message must be sent to the community of Roswell that no matter your age, no matter your history (or lack thereof) gun violence shall not be tolerated,” Wyatt wrote.

He added that the court should suspend no more than five years of that time to be served on supervised probation.

Puentes' attorney, Francis Rio, in his sentencing memorandum pushed back against the recommendation of the District Attorney's office, calling it absurd.

“The state's request that a five-year enhancement be added to each count where it's possible, and then its request that all counts be run consecutively, borders on prosecutorial vindictiveness,” Rio said in the memorandum.

He noted the 20 years of additional time for using a firearm would subject Puente to a term of imprisonment that would exceed that of someone convicted on two counts of second-degree murder.

“Defendant simply requests a reasonable sentence for shooting someone in the finger, which is what occurred here,” Rio stated.

In his recommendation, Rio called for the firearm enhancements for the aggravated assault counts involving the two infant children be dropped, and that the sentences for all of the offenses in the case be allowed to be served concurrently.

Rio said his client should be given a probated sentence, a deferred sentence or a conditional discharge. He stated that because of Puente's young age, it could be argued that his brain had not yet fully developed and therefore he did not fully grasp the nature and consequences of his actions at the time of the shooting.

Budget situation concerns city department heads

Members of the city’s General Services Committee heard from employees who head a variety of operations that provide activities and experiences to the public.

There will be 29 full-time and 21 part-time open positions in city government not being filled during the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1. This move will result in a cost reduction of more than $1.7 million. There have been other cuts and several projects removed from the budget as well.

Uncommon and unanticipated expenses, such as improvements at the Roswell Air Center required by the Transportation Security Administration that could total $2.8 million alone, had already been taken into account in assembling the budget.

Mayor Timothy Jennings said the final blow was the news that the city owed nearly $1.5 million for employee life insurance and health benefits as the draft budget was receiving final touches for the official presentation to the City Council on May 15.

“I don’t like it either,” Jennings said Wednesday at the committee meeting. “It is what it is. We’ve got to figure it out.”

He said the late addition of health and insurance costs might be the subject of legal action. If the money comes back, it could provide some financial relief.

The Recreation Department has dropped some activities. The customary lineup of Youth Sports Intro classes won’t be held this summer.

Like any other year, “summer is huge,” said Recreation Director Colette Hall.

The summer camp is still on. This session will be held for only 30 children, not 40, the number of youths participating in past years.

But changes due to budget reductions in the Recreation Department are likely to be more noticeable after youths return to school, Hall noted after the meeting.

And the Spring River Zoo is without a zoo educator and doing more with fewer people than anticipated.

“I’m not an educator, but I’ll do the job,” said John Wright, the zoo director.

Wright emphasized that the zoo staff will do their best to meet visitors’ expectations. But sometimes animal welfare and safety issues must come first. And doing more with less can lead to employees feeling stressed.

‘It’s a challenge,” Wright also said.

Plans continue at the Roswell Museum for floors to be redone.

At least that’s the hope. Creating new signage has been postponed for this upcoming fiscal year, said Caroline Brooks, the museum’s executive director.

“I have to depend on the experts,” said Councilor Juan Oropesa, who also chairs the committee, as he listened to what these supervisors had to say about how the budget will affect these city operations.

Wright said it would be a good idea to train some of the volunteers to provide zoo education. But that proves difficult when the employees there are already quite busy at the zoo and doing their best to handle a variety of tasks.

Heavier reliance on volunteers is being considered within other similar departments that provide these types of services to the public.

This is a time for tough choices, but “it’ll be better next year,” Jennings added.

Spring River Seniors play 'fore' lifelong friendships

Golf could be a metaphor for life, but it isn’t that simple.

The Spring River Seniors play the Nancy Lopez Spring River Course every week, and have been for a “long, long time,” according to consensus on Wednesday. Larry Reeves, the current president of the group, joined in 1996 when the group had close to 70 members.

Now the group has about 30 members, including Jimmy Valdez, the 1956 Little League World Champ. “An historic figure,” his friend said proudly.

The community of golfers has suffered some losses, but today they’re exchanging healthy hellos and hearty claps on the back.

Part of the appeal of golf might be the silence, the quiet between shots, the opportunity to think as you’re walking the course.

For the seniors who play the Spring River golf course, the smiles between friends, the “nice shot” and “nice putt” exchanges and the gentle ribbing when a shot lands in the pond are a lifeline to their sense of community.

The familiar birds of Roswell sing over the sounds of landscaping equipment and the crack of the ball: mourning doves, the great-tailed grackle, western kingbirds and the northern cardinal. A red-throated house finch springs from a tree. The birds, like the golfers, return every spring to the course.

Teeing off from the clubhouse, the sun warms the golfers’ backs. Their shadows spread before them on the grass.

There’s a joy in being outside in the sun, a peace that comes from being around people you know. Coming to the same place, week after week, year after year, is nostalgic. You can measure your current self against the person you were before.

“Now we’re warmed up,” someone says on Hole 2. They’re keeping score, and at the end of the season, they’ll crown a senior club champion, the King of the Hill. Every Wednesday, there are tournament-style games and smaller prizes, including “closest to the pin.”

Golfers don’t say much, and when they do, it’s usually about the game. Their most recent hit. Compliments to another golfer when they make a good shot. Words of disparagement directed at yourself when you miss the ball.

Still, there’s a closeness that exists between the golfers, a shared commitment to the game and to each other. There’s laughter and a gentle ease.

The golfers value their friendships with each other. The Harvard Study of Adult Development, which began in the 1930s and is ongoing, shows that relationships with other people are the most important contributor to a flourishing, fulfilled life.

If a person wants to enter old age feeling satisfied and content, they put their relationships with other people first. That’s what the Spring River golfers put into practice every Wednesday.

Golf is everything people say they value: fresh air, the sound of birds and most importantly, each other.