Editor’s note: This is the second in a four-part series highlighting the 2023 news of Rio Rancho and Sandoval County


  • Amanda Herman, a fifth-grade teacher at Bernalillo Elementary, received the Golden Apple Award,
  • State courts ended masking and social distancing requirements, and the state ended its public health emergency regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The Rio Rancho Public Schools Board of Education OK’d a pilot project for a bathroom remodel at Rio Rancho High School. The bathroom aims to decrease vandalism, smoking and vaping; be inclusive and safe for all students; increase ease of security, supervision and accessibility; and maintain privacy.
  • The Rio Rancho boys won the state powerlifting title with the Storm as runners-up. The Rams also had four individual champions and Clevland two; the RRHS girls team was third and Cleveland fourth, and each girls team had one champion.
  • A call to remove certain books, all with LGBTQ+ themes, dominated a city council meeting. The discussion would go on to be the topic of several following meetings.

Vehicles pass through flood waters on Highway 4 in the village of San Ysidro, N.M., on Thursday, April 13, 2023. Melting of heavy snow pack in northern New Mexico mountains is causing flooding of the Jemez River. (Chancey Bush/Albuquerque Journal)

  • Snow melt caused flooding of the Jemez River, prompting the Sandoval County Commission to declare an emergency/disaster in the Jemez Corridor.
  • The horse-feeding ban discussion returned to the Sandoval County Commission with the proposal of a revised ordinance.
  • Bruce Carver announced his retirement, to take place at the end of June, as Rio Rancho Public Schools’ executive director of athletics. Todd Resch was eventually named as his successor.
  • Henry Cordova was charged with murder in the death of Juneanne Fannell. The murder occurred after Sandoval County deputies responded to a call from Cordova earlier in the day, stating he wanted Cardana out of the house. The victim had told police she didn’t feel safe with him.
  • Rio Rancho resident Keith Lee, and Albuquerque Academy sixth grader, advanced to the national spelling bee after winning the New Mexico State Spelling Bee.

Keith Lee, a sixth-grader at Albuquerque Academy, sits with his mother Yi-Hsuan Chang with his father Po-Hsuen Lee, left, while getting words of encouragement during a quick break during the New Mexico State Spelling Bee at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Southwest Albuquerque, N.M., on Saturday, April 1, 2023. Lee won the Spelling Bee and will go on to compete at the Scripps National Spelling Bee at the end of May. (Chancey Bush/ Albuquerque Journal)

  • Three teens were announced in the January double homicide of two brothers in southwest Albuquerque. Mario Lange, 17, had been arrested in Rio Rancho in February on unrelated charges and held in custody and rebooked on the murder charges in the double homicide of Matthew Lopez, 15, and Gabriel Lopez, 14. Also charged were Marissa Lopez, 17, and Querida Lovato, 17.
  • The New Mexico United hosted New Mexico State University for a U.S. Open Cup match at Rio Rancho Stadium.
  • The WWE hosted a live show at the Rio Rancho Events Center, setting an attendance record with a sell-out crowd. The organization is set to return in 2024.
  • Reports of a shooting at Tamaya Resort and Spa turn out to be a hoax.
  • Rio Rancho Public Schools set the 2023-24 school calendar with early-release Wednesdays removed.
  • Vista Grande Elementary School raises $32,000 for the American Heart Association.
  • Rio Rancho High School named Colton Oord as the new girls soccer head coach.
  • The Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce hosted its inaugural Civics Bee. Submissions are now being accepted for the 2024 contest.


  • Longtime KOB weatherman Steve Stucker took his Thank You New Mexico Tour to Rio Rancho upon his retirement.

Kevin Hendricks/Observer.
Steve Stucker, left, and Mayor Gregg Hull chat during Stucker’s visit to Rio Rancho Wednesday.

  • The book issue intensifies as two members of the community are removed from a city council meeting. City Manager Matt Geisel detailed the city’s process for children and clarified the pornography laws as it applies to libraries.
  • Intel brings in its new crane after the previous one fell in March.
  • Rio Rancho Public Schools details its $80 bond proposal for the school board. The bond passed in November’s election.
  • The body of a female was discovered off NM 165 near Placitas.
  • The Rio Rancho Rams baseball team is crowned District 1-5A baseball champs after defeating Cleveland.
  • Cleveland High School boys basketball coach Sean Jimenez resigns. He is later charged with embezzlement, a case that was eventually dismissed.
  • Former Ram Keshawn Banks signs a free agency deal with the Green Bay Packers.
  • The World Health Organization downgrades COVID-19, saying it no longer qualifies as a global emergency. The announcement, which was a symbolic gesture of the end of the pandemic, came more than three years after the WHO declared it an international crisis.
  • Rio Rancho High School junior Breton Sego receives the Best Actor award at the 2023 New Mexico High School Musical Theatre Awards, also known as the Enchantment Awards.
  • A new Whataburger location opens on Unser Boulevard.
  • The Rio Rancho Rams take the title in the baseball state tournament. The Cleveland Storm are eliminated from the tournament in an early round on a forfeit due to after the pitcher exceeded his pitch count.
  • Lincoln Middle School goes Hollywood as “Rez Ball,” a Netflix film produced by LeBron James, utilizes the school’s gym for filming.
  • SWAT is activated in Rio Rancho and eventually arrests Peter Ryan Lynch on a federal warrant for violation of terms of pretrial release stemming from an April arrest on federal charges of receipt or possessions of an explosive device.

Members of the SWAT team exit the restricted area Wednesday evening. (Tracy Goldizen/Observer)

  • Kenneth Todd, Glynes Foster, Gary Hveem and Jim Wheatley are inducted into the Rio Rancho Public Schools Hall of Honor.
  • The Cleveland Storm boys track and field team collected its seventh straight state title. Stratton Shufelt and Nic Trujillo took individual titles. Rio Rancho placed fourth. The Ram girls placed fourth, and Cleveland girls sixth.
  • Angelita Chacon, Patricia Hurtado and Luz Scott were arrested in the death of Mary Melero, and developmentally disabled adult. Attorney General Raul Torrez called the case ‘torture.’ The case brought about investigations into the care given to people on the DD waiver program, and it was announced in December that they uncovered hundreds of abuse cases.
  • Rio Rancho schools celebrate graduations, with Rio Rancho High School stating they had the largest graduating class in New Mexico at .
  • A jury awards $22.7 million to an Air Force veteran after a botched surgery at Rust Medical Center in 2019.
  • ESPN and the Special Olympics honor Rio Rancho Elementary School students for their inclusivity, including a guest appearance by U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich.

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich speaks to an assembly of Rio Rancho Elementary students in May. (Tracy Goldizen/Observer)

  • The Hub @ Enchanted Hill opens, featuring a new library, indoor pickleball courts and more than 11,000 square feet of space.
  • A high Rio Grande results in a high number of river rescues.
  • Sandoval County Commissioner Jay Block announces he will run for state senate in 2024.
  • Cleveland High School announces Santa Fe coach Zach Cole as the new boys basketball coach.


  • After a revised ordinance was brought to the Sandoval County Commission, a ban on feeding wild horses was passed with the exception being nonprofits with experience in caring for horses.
  • James and Megan Garrigan, the owners of Upscale Rio and Lily & Liam Bistro, won the Sonny Brown Award for medium business, which recognizes companies for their ethics and community service.
  • A shootout during a Memorial Day weekend motorcycle rally in Red River left three dead and five injured. A Rio Rancho man was charged with murder in the shooting, but that charge was later dropped.
  • The Arizona Cardinals bring their Nike 11-ON camp to Clevland High School.
  • The 14-U Rio Rancho Cannons baseball team qualified for the USSSA Easton Elite World Series in Florida.

Eder Estrada, service technician, wipes down at Tesla Model 3 during the grand opening of the Santa Ana Tesla dealership on the Santa Ana Pueblo in N.M., on June 1, 2023. (Chancey Bush/ Albuquerque Journal)

  • Tesla opened its second New Mexico Location in Santa Ana Pueblo.
  • Supports of Bernalillo’s Katie Bone, 16, gathered to watch her run to the women’s title on American Ninja Warrior.
  • Jehovah’s Witnesses host their three-day regional convention for the first time since 2019 at the Rio Rancho Events Center.
  • Nancy Orellana-Recinos of Rio Rancho was one of nine people indicted in a human smuggling operation in El Paso.
  • Santa Ana Star Casino Hotel expands its sportsbook with a restaurant and bar.
  • John Herr announces his candidacy for Sandoval County Commission in 2024.
  • The annual Kids Count report ranks New Mexico as the worst state for child well-being.
  • Rio Rancho was recognized as a top 100 place to live in America by Livability.com.
  • Rio Rancho natives David and Angie Weigland expand their Whispering Bean Coffee Roasters into their hometown.