Aragon’s South Valley home up in flames
Former state Senator Manny Aragon's sprawling home that neighbors called his "castle" burned to the ground on Wednesday. Crews were still on the scene 17 hours after the fire working to mop up and investigate its cause. Aragon was once considered the most powerful lawmaker in the state ($). He held the president's job at New Mexico Highlands during a brief stint following his retirement from the Legislature. Then, he went to federal prison for his role in the Bernalillo County Metro Courthouse scandal. He's kept a low profile since and was not living in the house when it burned. The New Mexico Watchdog, a defunct blog site, famously gained entrance to the home and posted a video tour in 2009.
Thomas Wayne Ferguson, the man initially suspected of torturing and killing 13-year-old Jeremiah Valencia last November, was stopped by Santa Fe police as they arrested his girlfriend just days before the boy was killed. Despite Ferguson's lack of a valid driver's license and comments during the arrest by Tracy Ann Peña (Jeremiah's mother) about her daughter, body camera video obtained by Edmundo Carrillo at the Albuquerque Journal shows police let Ferguson walk away. Department policy is to check with the state Children, Youth and Families Department in those situations for a record of child abuse. Ferguson had at that point been charged but not convicted of child abuse. Ferguson also had an active warrant for his arrest, but the state Department of Corrections apparently failed to enter it into a national criminal database. Ferguson later killed himself in custody. Prosecutors now say his son, Jordan Nuñez, played a primary role in the boy's murder.
Libertarian senatorial candidate and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson headlines a weekend event held by the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Advocate Alliance. SFR's Aaron Cantú chatted with the candidate about the the link between the party and marijuana legalization battles in New Mexico.
The Sunspot Observatory on a crest in Southern New Mexico is apparently still locked down by the FBI. The observatory's director says the telescope "did not see aliens." So, you know … aliens don't live on the sun. We're saved. The feds still haven't commented on the reason for the shutdown, which also includes the evacuation of homes in the unincorporated community of Sunspot, about 20 miles south of Cloudcroft.
Second suit filed against NMSP chief
Pete Kassetas, the head of the New Mexico State Police, faces a lawsuit involving claims under the Human Rights Act, Whistleblower Protection Act and Fraud Against Taxpayers Act. The suit was filed under seal yesterday ($), so no details of specific charges are available. It's unclear if the fraud claim's secrecy is valid, so we may learn more. Kassetas also faces a lawsuit for sexual harrassment and other misbehavior. The plaintiff in the latest case, former state police officer Jessica Turner, is engaged to a plaintiff in the first lawsuit, Ryan Suggs.Turner resigned earlier this year after a controversial DWI stop.
UNM Foundation CEO to retire
Henry Nemcik will step down from his post heading the University of New Mexico Foundation. The foundation, which has been a fundraising arm for the school, recently had its offices raided by special agents from the New Mexico Attorney General's Office. The agents were looking for information related to an expensive golf junket by UNM Atheltics charged to the school by disgraced former Athletics Director Paul Krebs. Earlier this year, a state judge smacked the foundation over its secrecy in a public records lawsuit.
Happy Anniversary, Railyard
The Santa Fe Railyard celebrates its 10th anniversary this week, vaulting former Mayor Debbie Jaramillo into the spotlight once more. Sort of. The plan was decades in the works, and took a big leap forward when the city bought the land during Jaramillo's tenure in 1995. You can read about that in the Albuquerque Journal's article on the anniversary. Or you can read a version that doesn't mention Jaramillo ($) in The New Mexican. Better yet, just read SFR's cover story from last week on Debbie Jaramillo's legacy.
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