INMATE ESCAPE KILLINGS
Jury deliberating death penalty for Arizona inmate
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - The jury considering the death penalty for an Arizona inmate who kidnapped and murdered a retired Oklahoma couple has adjourned until Monday.
The federal panel began deliberating Thursday whether John McCluskey should be executed or sentenced to life in prison for the August 2010 slayings of Gary and Linda Haas of Tecumseh, Okla. The couple crossed paths with McCluskey and fellow fugitives on a New Mexico highway following an Arizona prison break.
McCluskey was convicted in October of murder, carjacking and number of other charges.
Much of the sentencing phase focused on whether he was capable of controlling his impulses and making reasoned decisions when he kidnapped and killed the couple. The defense argues he has a low IQ and has suffered a hard life of abuse, brain damage and addiction.
Prosecutors say he is a remorseless, cold-blooded killer.
AP Newsbreak: NM officer in van shooting on leave
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - The New Mexico State Police officer who fired at a minivan full of children during a chaotic October traffic stop has been placed on administrative leave.
New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas told The Associated Press on Thursday that officer Elias Montoya has been placed on paid administrative leave pending a disciplinary investigation into the shooting outside the small tourist town of Taos.
Video from a dashboard camera on the police cruiser showed Montoya shooting at the minivan as motorist Oriana Farrell drove away from a chaotic traffic stop that included another officer bashing the van's window with his night stick. Farrell had been stopped by state police for speeding and fled twice after arguing with an officer.
She and her teen son were later arrested.
The video garnered national attention, and Kassetas said he would launch an internal investigation.
ALBUQUERQUE POLICE SHOOTINGS
Chief: Man shot by police didn't have gun
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Albuquerque Police Chief Allen Banks says the man shot by police on Sunday didn't have a gun, but was holding an object that officers and witnesses mistook for one.
Banks told reporters Thursday that 34-year-old Shaine Sherrill pointed an unknown object at officers responding to a domestic disturbance before they shot him multiple times.
He called Sherrill's actions "overt and deliberate."
Banks says a knife and metal brake pad were found at the scene. He says officers have been unable to interview Sherrill, who remains in critical condition.
Officials say three officers were involved in the shooting, which was the fourth involving Albuquerque police in just over a month and the 33rd in three years.
The U.S. Justice Department is investigating the department over the shootings and allegations of excessive force.
NEW MEXICO WEATHER
NM sheriff's deputy struck on snowy highway
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - A sheriff's deputy is in critical condition after authorities say he was struck by a vehicle while directing traffic on a snowy New Mexico highway.
New Mexico State Police says Sandoval County sheriff's deputy Robert Baron was transported to University of New Mexico Hospital following the accident on Interstate 25 near the San Felipe Pueblo.
The crash came as a storm system swept through parts of New Mexico on Thursday, dumping up to 6 inches of snow across the state and causing dangerous driving conditions, school closures and delays.
National Weather Service forecasters say snowfall accumulations in some areas could reach 6 to 8 inches. Torrance County and north toward Las Vegas are expected to be the hardest-hit areas. A winter storm warning was in effect until 11 p.m.
COURTHOUSE FRAUD-ARAGON RELEASED
Former NM lawmaker released from federal prison
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - A former Democratic legislative leader who was convicted of conspiracy and mail fraud for his role in an Albuquerque courthouse fraud scandal is being released from federal prison.
The Albuquerque Journal reports that Manny Aragon was released Thursday from a federal lockup in Colorado, where he had been serving time since June 2009.
A Bureau of Prisons spokesman confirms that Aragon had served enough of his 5 ½ year sentence to make him eligible for a halfway house. It's not immediately clear where Aragon would be going.
Aragon was accused of pocketing $650,000 in a scheme with four other people to bilk the state out of $4.2 million during construction of the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Courthouse.
The former state Senate president was one of the most influential politicians of his era.
NM Lottery Board hires interim CEO
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - The New Mexico Lottery Board has voted to hire a former Arkansas lottery vice president to serve as the interim chief executive of the New Mexico Lottery.
The board of directors announced the hiring of David Barden on Thursday. He will begin his assignment in Albuquerque later this month once a background check has been completed.
Barden will be paid $2,500 a week.
Barden served as vice president of Arkansas Lottery Commission between 2009 and 2011 and as senior attorney and then director of marketing and product development for the South Carolina Education Lottery from 2001 to 2009.
He has a degree from the Ohio Northern School of Law and currently lives in South Carolina.
The board also voted to begin an international search for a permanent CEO.
AP files open records lawsuits against NM governor
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - The Associated Press has sued Gov. Susana Martinez's administration for refusing to release records about her work and travel schedules, cellphone calls and expenses of security officers.
The lawsuits were filed Thursday in state district court in Santa Fe against the governor, the Department of Finance and Administration and Department of Public Safety.
The governor's office issued a statement in which it stood by its record on open government.
One lawsuit contends that agencies violated the Inspection of Public Records Act by not providing actual overtime and expense reports and receipts for security officers. The administration released aggregate tallies, saying disclosure of documents such as procurement card statements could create a security risk.
The other lawsuit seeks release of complete work calendars and redacted numbers from cellphone logs.
Proposal reignites passions over Mexican wolves
PINETOP, Ariz. (AP) - A regional official with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the limited area set aside in New Mexico and Arizona for recovery of the Mexican gray wolf is tying the agency's hands.
Regional Director Benjamin Tuggle says the agency can't maintain the species' genetic viability in such a small area.
A plan to expand the range of one of the Southwest's rarest animals has reignited passions about whether and where humans should coexist with the predators.
The Arizona Republic reports that ranchers and rural families were outraged as the expansion plan was discussed at a public meeting Tuesday in Pinetop. A similar meeting was held last month in Albuquerque.
Biologists say there are at least 75 Mexican gray wolves in the two states.
Wage protesters rally in Arizona, New Mexico
PHOENIX (AP) - Workers, labor activists and supporters are gathering at fast-food restaurants around Arizona and New Mexico as part of a national effort calling for higher wages.
About 30 protesters gathered before noon Thursday outside a McDonald's in the heart of Phoenix. In New Mexico, protesters braved snow and frigid temperatures as they rallied in Albuquerque and Las Cruces.
They held signs that read "Raise the Wage" and "Respect Workers."
Ileana Salinas is a case worker at a labor rights center in Phoenix. She says she sees many cases in which fast-food workers don't make enough money to get by.
Salinas says the problem is fast-food workers are no longer just young people in their first job. She says the economic recession has forced breadwinners to take such jobs to provide for their families.
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