Here’s a look at some of the local news over the past week:
IN SANTA FE
Change at Indian Market
John Torres Nez took the board that oversees Santa Fe Indian Market by surprise when he sent its members an email on Sunday telling them he was resigning. “All of us were a little shocked because he brings such a great working relationship with the artists,” said board member Stephine Poston. Poston said she wasn’t aware of any previous indication from Torres Nez, co-director of the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts since 2012, that he intended to leave.
Torres Nez himself was mum, but Indian Market artists rallied to support him on Facebook.
Challenger’s petition tossed
Former amateur cage fighter, cop and State Senate security guard Algin Mendez got a lesson in New Mexico politics on Monday.
His attempt to qualify as a Democratic candidate in Santa Fe County’s District 46 state House of Representatives seat ended when a judge threw out 100 signatures on Mendez’s nominating petitions, disqualifying him from the ballot.
Mendez was trying to challenge District 46 incumbent Carl Trujillo of Nambé in the Democratic primary. Trujillo now has no opposition for re-election. “Oh, this is way rougher – politics,” said Mendez when asked whether cage fighting or politics was tougher.
Giant hamster on the loose
Kia of Santa Fe’s 25-foot-tall, inflatable hamster has disappeared from the dealership on St. Michael’s drive. Hamsters are the stars of a series of TV and web commercials for Kia’s Soul model. “Kia’s put a lot money nationwide into the hamster marketing and we’ve definitely been playing off of that,” said Kia of Santa Fe’s Vanessa Harvey.
The stolen blow-up hamster, which cost a couple of thousand dollars, wasn’t inflated when it was taken overnight and the thieves didn’t get the pump. “There’s a flat, 25-foot hamster running around Santa Fe somewhere,” Harvey added. “We just don’t know where to look.”
Charges in two shed ‘apartment’ deaths
Five months after two boarding home residents died of carbon monoxide poisoning in a backyard shed where they were being housed, the couple caring for them is facing criminal charges. Denise A. Encinias, 41, and Jose Encinias, 47, who live north of Las Vegas, have each been charged with two counts of neglect of a resident resulting in death. Jose Encinias is also facing a misdemeanor count of installing an LP gas heater without a license and not having that installation inspected or certified.
Cochise Bayhan, 56, and Alex Montoya, 61, died inside the shed in the early morning hours of Oct. 24. The men were former New Mexico Behavioral Health Institute patients who were released from the hospital on Oct. 9 and moved into the Encinias family’s boarding home the same day. Arrest warrant affidavits reveal that Montoya was paying $500 a month for rent, while Bayhan was paying $600 a month to stay in the shed.
Man alleges jail beating
A Taos man claims in a lawsuit that several State Police officers violated his civil rights with “excessive force” after they Tasered and assaulted him at the Taos County jail. Two of the officers named as defendants were also involved in a controversial October traffic stop near Taos in which a third officer fired at a van full of children, resulting in his dismissal.
A jail video shows John Moya spitting at officers before he’s taken to the floor. It shows one officer taking out what appears to be a Taser, but the brief struggle is only half visible and any use of a Taser is out of the camera’s field of view.
Confusing cold case is back
By one account, Inez Garcia, 26, and her husband were at a downtown Santa Fe bar on Water Street in November 1952. Garcia suddenly jumped out of their car, walked away and was never seen again.
But a newspaper article from 1954, when Garcia had been missing for 15 months, tells a different story – that, after a night of drinking, she was last seen leaving a downtown bar following a stranger who had just appeared.
Now Santa Fe police believe they may have new clues in the form of bone fragments they dug up from a garage on Oñate Place where Garcia, her now-deceased husband and their children lived in the 1950s. The husband, Juan Andres Jose Garcia, who died in the 1990s, was long considered a suspect in the case.
Work on new interchange underway
Construction on the first privately funded major interchange in northern New Mexico, extending Jaguar Drive to N.M. 599 in southwest Santa Fe, is underway.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held Tuesday for the project that is being undertaken by Commercial Center@599, developer of a major planned commercial, office and manufacturing complex that will be served by the interchange.
Katharine Fishman, president of the company, credited the her father, well-known Española businessman Richard Cook, for getting the project off the ground.
The interchange will serve the Village Plaza at Tierra Contenta, a commercial development that is expected to include a gas station, grocery store, medical facilities, a bank, fast food outlets and professional office suites, and the Santa Fe Commercial Center, with space for what the company describes as manufacturing, recreation and entertainment, and education facilities, along with a hotel and more offices.