Editor’s note: As is Observer tradition, we’re taking a look back at what we believe are the most impactful stories in Rio Rancho and Sandoval County this year.

Did we leave out something you think is important? Write a letter to the editor to tell us about it and send to edit[email protected] or 409 NM 528, Ste. 101, Rio Rancho, NM 87124.



CTE facility: Rio Rancho Public Schools finalized its purchase of the old Alliance Data building on Zenith Court to use as a Career-Technical Education facility. Planning for the build-out began.

New Rio Rancho Public Schools Board of Education member Jessica Tyler, center, is sworn in by retired 13th Judicial District Judge Louis McDonald, right, as her daughter Carley, son Chase and husband Bob are there for the occasion before the Jan. 16 board meeting. Gary Herron photo

School board swearing-in: Rio Rancho Public Schools new board member Jessica Tyler, and re-elected board member Jeffrey Morgan were sworn into office on Jan. 17. The school board elections took place in November 2021. New board member Gary Tripp officially took office in November 2021 because his predecessor, Wynne Coleman, resigned the month prior.

Officer-involved shooting: Rio Rancho Police officers responding to a report of domestic violence fatally shot John Paul Romero, 42, on Jan. 26, after they interrupted him while he was threatening a family member with two knives, according to body camera footage. The footage shows Romero charging officers with a machete and two Tasers, with the officers failing to stop him before the fatal gunshots. The three officers involved were put on standard administrative leave and then returned to work.

Mobile vaccination: Sandoval County Fire and Rescue Department began distributing COVID-19 vaccines to people living in remote parts of the county to lessen the spread of the virus and resulting hospitalizations.



Younger firefighters: Rio Rancho Fire and Rescue Department announced the lowering of its hiring age from 21 to 18, in line with a national trend. Leaders hoped the move would bolster department staffing. RRFR had raised the hiring age from 18 to 21 around 2007,  then-interim Fire Chief Jimmy DeFillippo said.

Take off the masks: After nearly two years, on Feb. 17, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham lifted the pandemic-related mandate requiring people to wear masks in public. People in medical settings and congregate-living situations such as nursing homes or jails were still required to wear face masks to try to lessen the spread of COVID-19.

Joe Gutierrez prepares to jump onto a rail at the new skate park on Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022, at Rotary Park in Bernalillo. (Photo by Stephen Montoya/ Sandoval County)

Skate park: The Town of Bernalillo opened a new skate park with a pump track that allows continuous skating or cycling without the need to stop and backtrack. Bernalillo Economic and Community Development Director Mike Kloeppel said the skate park is one of the first, if not the first, in New Mexico with such a configuration.

Akins Manufacturing: The Sandoval County Commission approved an investment of $800,000 in Local Economic Development Act funds in the new site of Akins Manufacturing in Algodones. The company’s move from Albuquerque brought 40 jobs to Sandoval County. Its former facility was too small to accommodate its growth.



City election: In the City of Rio Rancho election, Gregg Hull won a third term as mayor, the only person to do so in Rio Rancho history, with 68 percent of the vote; Karissa Culbreath kept her appointed District 5 city council seat with 56 percent of the vote; and G. Robert Cook also won a fourth term as municipal judge with 64 percent of the vote. In District 3, Bob Tyler and Joshua Jones went into a runoff election as the top vote-getters in a three-way race in which no one received more than 50 percent of the vote. Jeremy Lenentine was unopposed in the race for the District 2  city council seat. Sixty-seven percent of voters approved a new quality-of-life general obligation bond, and 62 percent supported a permanent fund with $10 million in starting money.

Teen homicide suspect: Brayden Baldree, 15, was charged in the March 8 fatal shooting of his aunt, 45-year-old Carmen Kester. According to police, Baldree shot Kester, tried to hide her body, drove away in her SUV and led police on a car chase. Officers caught him hear Sundt Road and Pearl Drive. The teen was charged with second-degree murder, aggravated fleeing of a law enforcement officer, car theft and tampering with evidence.

Dr. Matthew Wilks, UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center
(Courtesy photo)

Doctor in Ukraine: Dr. Matthew Wilks, an emergency room physician at UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center, traveled to Ukraine to provide medical relief to refugees leaving conflict zones as Russian invasion of that country was in its early days.

Santa Fe Police Office Robert Duran. Courtesy of Santa Fe Police Department.

Officer lost: Santa Fe Police officer and Rio Rancho resident Robert Duran was killed in a car wreck during a vehicle pursuit in Santa Fe. According to investigators, a woman falsely claimed to have been kidnapped and then led police on a chase that went the wrong way down I-25, resulting in the crash that left Duran deceased and the woman and a retired firefighter injured.

First female fire marshal: Rio Rancho’s first female fire marshal, Jessica Duron-Martinez, took her position. She said she hoped her accomplishment would inspire other women to consider opportunities they might not have previously thought about. She joined Rio Rancho Fire and Rescue Department in 2009, after having worked as a Kirtland Air Force Base firefighter for five years.

Young artist: A piece of artwork by Mya Jackson, a seventh-grader at the Sandoval Academy of Bilingual Education, was accepted into the National PTA “Reflections” art competition.

Leland Hust. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis / Albuquerque Journal)

Jury convicts Hust: A Valencia County jury on March 25 found Leland Hust, 24, of Rio Rancho guilty of child abuse resulting in death and criminal sexual penetration of a child under 13 in the rape and fatal strangulation of 6-year-old Ariana “Jade” Romeo in 2018. The charges carry a mandatory prison sentence of 48 years combined. It was Hust’s second trial in the case, as the first resulted in a hung jury. Hust had been in jail since being charged several months after the child was found dead in a Rio Rancho home. The trial was moved to Valencia County after a judge ruled media coverage would bias potential Sandoval County jurors.

Fatal fire: Two people were found dead in a burned house March 27 on Doral Park Road. Rio Rancho firefighters were called to the scene early in the morning and found the house already engulfed in flames, with a piece of the roof collapsing soon after. After extinguishing the fire, they found the bodies of 25-year-old Josiah Inventor and 26-year-old Clarissa Bradfield inside. An investigation could not determine the cause of the fire, but indicated no foul play was involved.



Recreational marijuana: State legislation legalizing the retail sale of adult-use recreational marijuana took effect April 1. The state already had dozens of medical marijuana dispensaries, and many broadened their sales to recreational pot in following months. Recreational cannabis generated tens of millions of dollars in sales. Four days after the legalization, several Placitas Elementary students became sick after eating cannabis edibles that looked like regular candy. The incident heightened complaints from critics of recreational pot. Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office investigated and determined the ingestions was accidental. No charges were filed. All of the children recovered.

City council runoff election: A runoff election in Rio Rancho City Council District 3 on April 12 returned Bob Tyler to his seat for a second term. He garnered 56 percent of the vote compared to the 44 percent Joshua Jones received. Turnout was 9 percent.

James DeFillippo

New fire chief: The Rio Rancho Governing Body on April 14 approved the appointment of Jimmy DeFillippo as the permanent Rio Rancho fire chief. He’d served as interim chief since September 2021.

Burning house and teens helping: A house on Rio Ruidoso road caught fire on a windy day, April 22. The flames quickly consumed the home, and it took twice as many firefighters as usually respond to structure fires to keep the blaze from spreading. The residents, Mary and Al McCoy, a senior-citizen couple, were left with minor burns and smoke inhalation. Two Cleveland High School seniors, Sophie Shurter and Brooke “Cue” Curley, heard Mary calling for help and assisted Al from the burning house. He later died in the hospital. The couple’s dog died in the fire. Neighbors started a collection for items Mary needed and helped her find temporary housing.



Dems file suit vs. county commission: The Democratic Party of Sandoval County and several Democrat leaders filed a lawsuit against the Sandoval County Commission and county clerk over the redistricting plan commissioners approved in December 2021.

The lawsuit was filed in 13th Judicial District Court. Several plaintiffs and their attorney, Kenneth Stalter, gave a press conference at the county administration building. Stalter said the plaintiffs wanted the court to stop the implementation of the adopted map and have the county commission redraw it.

New mayor in Corrales: Dr. James Fahey Jr. took office April 1.

Corrales Mayor Jim Fahey stands in front of the Old San Ysidro Church. Photo by Raiden Ruiz for the Village of Corrales (Instagram #villagecorrales)

“There were a number of projects started with the last administration, and we’re going to try to finish those and maybe add to some of them,” he said in May.

Fahey is looking at a potential agreement with the Middle Rio Grande Conservation District that would allow Corrales to take over a drainage ditch MRGCD may no longer need. That move would be a chance to lay pipe for a fire suppression system along the drain.

“We don’t really have a fire suppression system at all,” he said. “We have sort of a modern-day bucket brigade.”

Without a system of hydrants, firefighters have to ferry water in with water-tender trucks, which can slow their work, if a blaze starts.

And Fahey hoped to install a sewer line at Priestly Place and Coroval Road, where homes are on quarter-acre lots, denser than the one- or two-acre lots standard in Corrales. Village homes use septic tanks and private water wells since there’s no municipal water and wastewater system, except for a limited septic tank effluent pumping system.

And at the Corrales Recreation Center, Fahey plans to build a regulation gym and locker room next to the facility, as well as renovating the smaller, old gym. The village had bond money for the project.

Near the center, the village owns the former Jones family property, with two barns that store public works equipment and materials. The vacant family home at the front of the property contains asbestos.

Fahey would like to demolish the house and replace it with a facility containing a black-box theater, classroom space, art galleries and maybe a commercial kitchen. The village has a conceptual plan but insufficient funds for the project.

City budget and reopening fire station 6: Part of the City of Rio Rancho’s proposed fiscal year 2022-23 budget would include about $1 million that would go toward improvements at Fire Station 6 in the Mariposa subdivision.

The city recommended the allocation of about $1.12 million for renovations and improvements to the station, which consisted of addressing the station’s ceilings, walls, flooring and bathrooms; acquiring appliances and furniture; and landscaping.

Funding would also help pay for a new fire engine and other equipment, though there is no timetable for when the engine would be purchased.

The station closed in 2014 and a study was conducted to identify a need to re-prioritize resources.

Kelli Mortensen, then an animal care associate with Sandoval County, interacts with a blue heeler named Smokey on Tuesday, May 24, 2022, at the county’s temporary animal shelter in Bernalillo. (Matt Hollinshead/Observer)

Sandoval County Animal Services pushed to the brink: Kennels are well over 100 percent capacity, with approximately 25 strays — predominantly medium- and large-sized dogs, plus a couple of cats — occupying them.

The animals are typically found as strays rather than being surrendered by owners. In recent months, SCAS is finding animals all over the county, from Cuba and unincorporated Rio Rancho to Algodones and Peña Blanca.

Although adoptions took place during the pandemic, officials theorized last year that more people were getting out more and returning to the office amid relaxing COVID-19 restrictions and therefore couldn’t spend as much time with their pets. So, those owners gave up the pets.

Sandoval County Community Services Director Anne Ryan said circumstances like pets being displaced by the Cerro Pelado fire near Jemez Springs only compound the ongoing problem of pet owners not properly caring for the animals.



Residential roads pilot program: The City of Rio Rancho’s fiscal year 2022-23 budget includes funding for a pilot program to address residential roads, city employee raises and improvements to Fire Station 6 in Mariposa.

The new budget the Governing Body adopted projects revenues to be about $84.7 million, $13.8 million higher than the one the city adopted a year ago ($71 million).

The revenues would also be about $11.2 million, 15 percent above projected expenditures ($73.5 million).

Of that $11.2 million, the city is proposing to use $4.1 million for debt service and $5.5 million on a pilot program to rehab/mill and inlay city streets.

The project would allow Rio Rancho to start work on 68 miles of residential streets that are aging but are not suitable for the Neighborhood Streets Improvement Program, which focuses on crack patching and sealing.

Engineers will assess the worst roads then come up with suggestions on what the city should do.

Primary election: Over 18,000 Sandoval County residents came to vote during June’s primary election. According to the New Mexico Secretary of State’s website, 18,641 votes were cast.

Among those contests was the Republican primary for sheriff, where Darrell Elder defeated Pat Mooney, 4,603-4,182 votes. Elder faced Sheriff Jesse James Casaus in the Nov. 8 general election. Casaus, a Democrat, ran unopposed and received 7,509 votes.

Jay Block

Block loses gubernatorial bid: Albuquerque TV stations proclaimed Mark Ronchetti, with 59 percent of the vote, as the GOP nominee to face Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham in November.

Jay Block, though, the first candidate from Rio Rancho to aspire for the state’s highest office, was still hoping for Sandoval County results to turn the tide.

“No, I’ve not conceded,” he says. “There’s only 30 percent of the vote in right now and Sandoval County (results), from what I’ve seen, hasn’t come in yet. We’re still pressing ahead.”

The “pressing ahead” soon ended.

At about 9 p.m., Ronchetti delivers his victory speech.

As for his fourth-place finish in the primary, where he got 10 percent of the votes, Block laments, “I think I’m the best candidate, but I didn’t have the most money. I’m competing against a guy telling us the weather who has the most money. … So life’s not fair; I have all this experience, but he’s been on TV … for 20 years. I accept that.”

Block said he wouldn’t run for office again.

Solar farm: In June, the City of Rio Rancho took a step closer to becoming home to one of the largest solar farms in the state, after  the Rio Rancho Governing Body unanimously approved a resolution to modify the Quail Ranch Master Plan, enabling the Atrisco Solar Farm to be built.

The farm will be located on the west mesa, on roughly 3,100 undeveloped acres in the western portion of Quail Ranch.

The area is considered an ideal site for the farm as the land is flat; vegetation is primarily scrub brush, and the population is relatively sparse.

If built as planned, the solar farm could produce up to 400 megawatts of energy per day and provide power to 100,000 to 150,000 homes, making the farm one of the largest in the state.

Another hockey team? Rio Rancho seemed to be on the verge of getting another hockey team.

The team, which will be named the New Mexico Raptors, was expected to be part of the ECHL, a 27-team league in 20 states and two provinces in Canada. Play will start in October 2023 on the Raptors’ home ice — the Rio Rancho Events Center.

The team is owned by RJ Sports LLC out of Duluth, Ga., said Joe Cordova, one of the team’s owners and former Rio Rancho city councilor.

“RJ Sports LLC has plans to bring an ECHL team to the Rio Rancho Events Center,” Cordova confirmed in an email Wednesday.

By the end of the year, there was no confirmation from the ECHL about a team being placed in Rio Rancho.



Gas prices soar: New Mexico gas prices declined slightly after July 4, but AAA predicted a price u-turn coming.

The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline statewide on July 6 was $4.598, a drop from $4.615 the day before. A week ago, the price was $4.690 and a year ago it was $3.088.

Mid-grade July 6 was $4.928, while premium was at $5.210 and diesel was $5.512.

Flash ahead to the end of the year, and unleaded gas was well under $4 — and even a dime or more below $3 a gallon.

Mike Ryan

Former Observer publisher passes: Many in the community were saddened in July to read that Mike Ryan, once the publisher and man-about-town, had died after failing health.

Genie Blair Ryan, his wife of 38 years, said her husband had been the director of advertising for Tucson newspapers “and when he went to work for Wick, they appointed him the publisher in Rio Rancho, and we moved here in January 1988.”

Sometimes, being the publisher of a newspaper could be bittersweet, but that didn’t matter to Ryan, ultimately forced out of his position by Wick Communications in July 2002 and replaced two months later by Shane Maddox.

“He wasn’t afraid to take a stance, so we dealt a lot with people being upset with us,” Genie said. “He was involved in all sorts of organizations, but we also had a whole lot of fun. He fought for the things he cared about.”

The top three things he cherished, she said, were “Faith, family and community.”

Also in failing health, Genie Ryan passed away in December.

James Taylor, on stage on a July Sunday evening in the Rio Rancho Events Center. (Photo courtesy of Events Center.)

Concert Taylor-made: Like the state of New Mexico, legendary singer/songwriter James Taylor has seen fire and rain.

And, as expected by more than 5,500 seated in the Rio Rancho Events Center one Sunday evening in July, that was his encore song — “Fire and Rain,” released in August 1970 — after more than two hours of songs.

Taylor, 74, and his top-notch All Star Band, each of whom got time to shine with at least one solo, performed almost two-dozen songs.

Alleged bank robber caught: Robert Alex Sanchez Jr. was arrested and charged with bank robbery after the First American Bank, 3002 Southern Boulevard, was held up July 26.

He entered the bank through a north door and demanded money from a teller. When the teller refused, Sanchez pointed to a red bag he was carrying and said there was a bomb inside, and the teller complied, giving him $2,843, as well as a GPS tracker.

He left, leaving the bag inside, and the New Mexico State Police were notified to send their bomb technicians, with the bank quickly evacuated. Inside the bag were three pieces of painted wood and an LED light.

After an investigation, Sanchez was arrested.

According to the criminal complaint, after he had been read his Miranda rights, he admitted being responsible for the robbery — but he’d had financial hardships, as well as pressure from his wife, to “contribute more to the household.”

He pleaded not guilty at his Aug. 18 arraignment before U.S. District Court Judge Jerry H. Ritter. On Aug. 23, a grand jury indicted Sanchez on the bank robbery charge. Due to his criminal background, he was remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshal’s Service.

Hust sentenced: Leland Hust, 25, was sentenced to 48 years in prison in late July by District Judge George Eichwald

He was found guilty March 25 on two felony counts in the August 2018 rape and strangulation death of 6-year-old Ariana “Jade” Romeo of Rio Rancho.

In remarks before Eichwald, District Attorney Chief Deputy Jessica Martinez said Hust had a history of uncontrollable outbursts and “cannot be rehabilitated. … Anything less than 48 years (behind bars) will put the community at risk when he gets out of prison.”

That spring trial was the second for Hust, after a 2021 jury deadlocked.

District Attorney Barbara Romo said she was satisfied with the sentence, “but it won’t bring Ariana back.”



RR man assaults officer: A Rio Rancho man was arrested and accused of assaulting a New Mexico State Police officer on the side of the road in Valencia County.

The NMSP officer was on patrol Aug. 2 when he spotted a disabled motorcycle on the side of the road in the area of El Cerro Loop and Florian Lane in Los Lunas.

The officer pulled over to see if the driver needed assistance and realized the motorcycle did not have a license plate. As a result, the officer decided to run an inquiry into the driver, David Gillman Jr., 37, of Rio Rancho.

The officer learned Gillman was wanted in connection with several outstanding felony warrants in Bernalillo County. The officer said Gillman fled on foot and into a nearby empty lot. The officer gave chase on foot. When the officer caught up with him, Gillman struck him several times in the face before he was subdued.

Gillman faced charges of receiving/transferring a stolen motor vehicle (felony); battery upon a peace officer (felony); and resisting, evading, or obstructing an officer (misdemeanor). Gillman also was given citations for driving without a license, proof of insurance and a license plate, and booked into the Valencia County Detention Center.

Martina Gutierrez

History Teacher of the Year: Martina Gutierrez, who teaches four sections of world history and two class periods of human rights to sophomores at Rio Rancho High School, was named 2022 New Mexico History Teacher of the Year by The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

Gutierrez grew up in the Duke City, graduated from Albuquerque High in 1991 and originally wanted to be a journalist. That aspiration disappeared when she discovered history, thanks to “an amazing teacher,” Carol Lovato, who passed away in December.

An educator since 1997, with time spent at Polk Middle School in Albuquerque and at Bernalillo High School, she also was an education curator at the Maxwell Museum on the UNM campus.

This is the second year in a row a Rio Rancho Public Schools educator has been named the state’s winner. In 2021, Rio Rancho Middle School’s Michelle Van Sant, who teaches a gifted seminar, received the state nod.

As the state’s winner, Gutierrez received $1,000.

Katie Bone in action. (Photo courtesy of NBC/Elizabeth Morris)

TV star:Katie Bone, a 16-year-old Bernalillo athlete, literally fell short of advancing to Stage 2 of the American Ninja Warrior national finals, but all but assured she’ll return to the NBC-TV show in 2023.

“I still have to do the application process,” she said. “It was cool to see, all the support I received this season, and how many people have watched my run, and followed my journey and — hopefully, (I’ll be back) next year.”

Earlier, her ANW competitions had been qualifying and semifinals, respectively, in San Antonio and Los Angeles, before she headed to Las Vegas, Nev., in May, for the taping of the finals.

Just 16 and a Type 1 diabetic, which was diagnosed when she was 11, Katie was a favorite of the show’s announcers and America will see more of her in the years to come. And, if all goes well, she’ll compete in Paris as a member of the U.S. climbing team in the 2024 Summer Olympics.

Not only a nationally ranked rock climber, she’s a member of the USA national speed-climbing team, and has spent the past couple of weeks in Plano, Texas, competing in speed climbing at the Youth World Championships. She went into competition that ranked third.

Deputies snag drugs: The Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office intercepted the shipment of 22,000 fentanyl pills and four pounds of meth. Around 8,000 fentanyl pills were ready to hit the streets in Sandoval County.

Laura Whittenburger of Rio Rancho, was arrested and taken into custody, to face charges of Conspiracy to Trafficking Dangerous Illegal Narcotics. For this, she could get up to nine years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

The street value of all the illegal drugs seized during this operation was $40,000 to $55,000, according to the sheriff’s office.

A Joint Task Force operation was put into effect working closely with other agencies on August 18.

Affordable homes harder to find: “Rio Rancho was built on affordable housing,” Lectrosonics President Gordon Moore told the Aug. 11 meeting of the Rio Rancho Governing Body, when the Dominium site plan discussion came up.

Moore told the city council about he and his wife’s move to Rio Rancho in 1978, when they couldn’t afford to buy a home in Albuquerque.

Now, he said, his employees — his company pays $9.5 million annually to its workers — are having trouble finding affordable homes in the City of Vision.

Moore’s comments were featured in a short video presentation at a NAIOP Rio Rancho Roundtable meeting at premiere Cinemas.

When asked how many homes in the $200,000 to $250,000 price range could be sold now, the answer seemed to be as many as were available.

But there really aren’t any available, and it seems that’s now the low end of home prices.

Prices have surged 35.7 percent since January 2020, and 80 percent of that increase has taken place since January 2021. The median resale price — not for new homes — is now $330,000.

Cannabis sales steady: Cannabis sales in New Mexico continued to stick at around $40 million in August.

According to data from the state’s Cannabis Control Division of the Regulation and Licensing Department, total sales exceeded $40 million, reaching $40,679,290.

Medical sales made up more than $16 million while recreational soared to $24.2 million.

Albuquerque led the way, not unexpectedly. Santa Fe was second, followed by Las Cruces, Hobbs and Rio Rancho.

Rio Rancho medical sales weighed in at $805,783, while recreational hit $749,385 for a total of $1,555,169.43, the report said.



 Fire causes RRMS evacuation: Students at Rio Rancho Middle School were forced to evacuate on Sept. 6 around 9 a.m. because of a fire in the building. Firefighters responded as well.

Rio Rancho Public Schools said two students started a fire in a trash can in the girls restroom at the school. The sprinkler system was activated and the fire was extinguished quickly. The students returned to class and all protocols were followed according to RRPS.

Golden Chile Award again: For the second consecutive year, Sandoval County’s Senior Program has earned the Golden Chile Award from New Mexico Grown in recognition of its innovative Senior Center food programming.

This top award honors a program that is mature and fruitful, according to New Mexico Grown, and recognizes the partnership and commitment to improving access to New Mexico Grown foods for all New Mexicans.

“Healthy communities are created by healthy economies, and when we support our local farmers a cascade of health benefits result — for the grower, the consumer, and the community as a whole. Sandoval County Senior Programs’ staff has done a remarkable job of helping to ensure food security for Sandoval Seniors,” said Community Services Director Anne Ryan.

The Golden Chile Award Program is managed and organized by the NM Grown Coalition, a network of public institutions, community-based organizations, and individuals working together to strengthen community food systems across New Mexico.



Tesla dealership coming: Santa Ana Pueblo leaders and U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich announced that Tesla is building a dealership on Pueblo land in partnership with Tamaya Ventures, a Santa Ana Pueblo-owned company.

The site is west of Santa Ana Star Casino near the intersection of US 550 and NM 528. Construction has already begun and is set to finish in March of 2023.

“This is an exciting start to the next frontier of tribal economic creation, diversification and competitiveness,” said Joey Sanchez, Pueblo of Santa Ana governor.

Tesla is currently banned from selling vehicles in New Mexico’s, which still has laws prohibiting direct sales of electric vehicles to the public without going through third-party dealerships.

That’s why Tesla wanted to build on Pueblo land, where those laws do not apply. They have already done this with Nambe Pueblo in Santa Fe.

Shariff family buys Joe’s Pasta House: Joe’s Pasta House has been sold to the Shariff family.

The family confirmed its acquisition on Facebook.

“We are the Shariff Family and the new owners of Joe’s Pasta House. We are honored as a family to own, operate, and manage this iconic restaurant. Our number one goal and promise is to maintain the authenticity, quality, and traditions of Joe’s Pasta House and to continue to create amazing experiences and memories with you all,” the post said.

According to General Manager Andrea Hall, nothing will change about the menu, the restaurant or the staff. It will still be Joe’s Pasta House.

County approves Paseo del Volcan extension: The Sandoval County Commission approved funds on Oct. 26 for Huitt-Zollars to start work on the design and construction phase of the Paseo del Volcan extension.

The county plans to extend Paseo del Volcan to Rainbow Blvd. from Unser Blvd. Public Works advertised Sandoval County’s on-call engineering firms for this project and only had one response, which was Huitt-Zollars.

According to the full commission agenda, the New Mexico Department of Transportation has awarded Sandoval County an agreement in the amount of $2.78 million to acquire rights of way, and to plan, design and build improvements to PdV from Unser Blvd to Rainbow Blvd.

Huitt-Zollars was awarded $936,396.10 for the project.



General election: Voters came out to pick their representatives Nov. 8. Local winners were:

  • State House District 23: Alan Martinez (R) 54% with 7,183 votes.
  • State House District 41: Susan Herrera (D) was unopposed.
  • State House District 43: Christine Chandler (D) was unopposed.
  • State House District 44: Kathleen Holmes Cates (D) 51% with 6,281 votes.
  • State House District 50: Matthew McQueen (D) was unopposed.
  • State House District 57: Jason Harper (R) 52% with 6,040 votes.
  • State House District 60: Joshua Hernandez (R) was unopposed.
  • State House District 65: Derrick Lente was unopposed.
  • 13th Judicial District judge: Allison Martinez 50% with 29,619 votes.
  • Magistrate Judge, Sandoval Division 1: Ann Marie Maxwell-Chavez was unopposed.
  • Magistrate Judge, Sandoval Division 2: F. Kenneth Eichwald was unopposed.
  • Magistrate Judge, Sandoval Division 3: Delilah Montaño-Baca was unopposed.
  • Sandoval County Commissioner District 1: Katherine Bruch 59% with 8,730 votes.
  • Sandoval County Commissioner District 3: Michael Meek 54% with 7,569 votes.
  • Sandoval County Sheriff: Jesse James Casaus 53% with 31,267 votes.
  • Sandoval County Assessor: Linda Gallegos 52% with 30,535 votes.



Suspect in RRHS threat identified: Rio Rancho Police Department identified a suspect in the threats of violence directed in early December toward Rio Rancho High School.

“All threats of violence against human life are taken seriously by the Rio Rancho Police Department,” Lt. Jacquelynn Reedy said.

According to RRPD, a male juvenile was identified, and contacted by police yesterday afternoon. Detectives discovered information that led to the seizure of the suspect’s electronic devices.

Search warrants for the forensic analysis of those devices were done, which provided evidence that the suspect was directly involved in the threats against RRHS.

Rio Rancho Police are working with the FBI and 13th Judicial District Attorney’s Office for the filing of criminal charges.

“Hoax threats are not a joke and can carry severe consequences,” said an RRPS news release. “According to the FBI, ‘Issuing a threat — even over social media, via text message or through e-mail — is a federal crime (threatening interstate communications). Those who post or send these threats can receive up to five years in federal prison, or they can face state or local charges.’”

Later start times for secondary schools? Nearly 2,000 parents and guardians of students in Rio Rancho Public Schools recently participated in the district-wide School Start Times Survey.

There were just over 1,000 responses from RRPS staffers and 1,949 parent/guardian responses.

RRPS has formed a committee to review the data and develop a recommendation, which could determine no changes are necessary.

“This will be a very difficult topic to address,” RRPS Superintendent Sue Cleveland said at the Dec. 5 meeting of the school board, “but we really ought to take a look at it. “A majority thought we ought to do something different.”

Cleveland said RRPS wouldn’t be the first district to alter its starting times for students.

In the RRPS survey, 50.5 percent of staff members who responded support new start times and think RRPS should further study and review options for the 2023-24 school year.

Also, 32.3 percent of staff members who responded are open to further study and considerations, while 17.1 percent do not support any changes.

Of the responding parents/guardians, 43.4 percent think RRPS should further study and review options for the 2023-24 school year; 38.8 percent are open to further study and considerations, with 17.8 percent not supporting any changes.

Zane Skinner. Courtesy of Sandoval County.

RRPD: 19-year-old fatally shoots dad: A 19-year-old Rio Rancho man was arrested after the Dec. 9 murder of his father.

Zane Skinner was charged with open counts of murder and tampering with evidence, and been booked into the Sandoval County Detention Center.

RRPD received a call from a male, identified as Zane Skinner, about a homicide that occurred at his residence, according to RRPD Lt. Jacquelyn Reedy.

Upon officers’ arrival at a North Pole Loop address, Michael Skinner, Zane’s father, was found deceased from an apparent gunshot wound.

Zane Skinner initially denied having killed his father, whose naked body was found in the bathtub of the master bedroom.

Zane Skinner was detained and taken to RRPD for an interview, where he agreed to provide a statement and admitted to shooting his father. The teen told investigators he woke up about 5 a.m. on Dec. 9, took a .45-caliber handgun from the garage, went to his father’s bedroom, woke him and asked if he abused animals.

Then, Zane Skinner said, he shot his father twice in the head, dragged the body to the bathroom, retrieved a knife and stabbed Michael Skinner’s body at least five times.

According to officers, the bedroom and bathroom looked as if someone had tried to clean them.