Year in review: Top stories of 2012

The following are some of the top stories featured in the Quay County Sun during 2012:


— New Mexico State Police are investigating the shooting death of Tucumcari City Commissioner Daniel Lopez. Officials said police found Lopez in his Tucumcari home at 11:48 p.m. Dec. 29, injured by a gunshot. He later died at Dan C. Trigg Memorial Hospital in Tucumcari.

— A state judge on Dec. 4 granted a motion to dismiss litigation the Village of Logan filed in an attempt to halt construction on the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water System, also known as the Ute Water Project.

The litigation, heard by Judge Sarah Singleton of the First Judicial Court in Santa Fe, is one of three that have been filed this year against the Eastern New Mexico Water Utility Authority, a body comprised of municipalities in Curry and Roosevelt counties.

QCS staff photo: Thomas Garcia

Chief Deputy District Attorney Tim Rose speaks with officers at the scene of the double homicide on Nov. 26.

— Tony Day, 14, waived a detention hearing for two open counts of murder in connection to the Nov. 26 deaths of Sue Day, 67, and her daughter Sherry Folts, 49, at the family home on Quay Road 63.

Attorney Jeffrey Buckels said he met with Tony on Nov. 29, at which time he decided to waive a detention hearing scheduled for later that day.

It took a District Court jury in Tucumcari less then 30 minutes Dec. 27 to find a former Tucumcari Police officer guilty of criminal damage to property of a household member.

— Pete Vargas, 32, stood silent at the Tenth Judicial District Court as the decision of the jury was read. Judge Drew Tatum sentenced Vargas to 364 days probation, anger management courses and pay restitution for damaged property.

Vargas was originally charged with fourth-degree felony breaking and entering and misdemeanor criminal damage to property in an incident Feb. 26 at the residence of a former girlfriend, Roseann Quintana. The felony charge of breaking and entering was dropped and the criminal complaint was amended in a plea deal with Ninth Judicial District Attorney Matt Chandler on Nov. 28.


Tony Day, 14, is in custody after police say he shot his mother Sue Day and stabbed her daughter, Sherry Folts on Nov. 27, in their home Monday night outside of Tucumcari.

QCS staff photo: Thomas Garcia

Ordinance committee member, veterinarian Jean P. Corey talks to the residents about the proposed animal ordinance.

— Residents called for a petition to overturn a new animal ordinance adopted Nov. 26 at a Quay County Commission meeting.

The commission voted unanimously to approve the ordinance drafted by a committee of residents and aided by Tenth Judicial Assistant District Attorney Tom Blankney.

— The lengthy process of searching for a new president for Mesalands Community College will begin after the first of the New Year, said J. Bronson Moore, trustee chairman.

Draft minutes from an Oct. 31 Mesalands Community College board meeting show president Mildred Lovato was fired.

The closed-door session was part of a special meeting, Moore said, adding that Lovato was sent a certified letter explaining her status at Mesalands.


Quay County Commission continued a legal battle with Ute Lake Ranch Inc., in the Tenth Judicial District Court.

An injunction was requested against Ute Lake Ranch Inc., a Colorado Corporation, and DVR. LLC, on May 12, 2011.

The injunction asks the court to prohibit Ute Lake Ranch Inc., from selling, leasing or otherwise conveying any interest in real property encompassed in Ute Lake Ranch's subdivision Filing No. 1.

— Frank Keller pleaded not guilty to an open count of murder Oct. 15 in Quay County Magistrate court in connection to the death of Kimberly Draman.

Keller, 45, was charged on Oct. 12, with an open count of murder, tampering with evidence and unlawful taking of a motor vehicle.

The remains of Draman, 53, who had been missing from Tucumcari since Sept. 13, were discovered Oct. 5 on private property 12 miles northeast of Tucumcari.

— Emergency workers rescued a Tucumcari teenager Oct. 1 from a narrow ledge on the face of Tucumcari Mountain.

Police, Farmers Electric Coop employees and a member of a local fire department reached Alex Jauck, 14, who were stranded about midway up the 700-foot landmark south of the city.

— Tucumcari remains without a general surgeon as Dr. Sitarama Krishna Kothalanka's surgical and partitioning privileges at Dan C. Trigg Memorial hospital are suspended in February.


Another group may be planning to file an application to bring a racetrack and casino to Tucumcari, said Warren Frost, executive director of the Quay County Gaming Authority.

Frost informed the Tucumcari City Commission of the rumored investment group on Sept. 27 during their regular meeting. He said in the past 10 days he has heard the group will apply for the casino under a separate license than the one filled by Coronado Partners LLC.

Frost said he does not know the identity of the investment group or its members.

— Two Clovis residents have pleaded guilty and four others have been bound over for trial in district court on felony charges connected to what police say was an underage drinking party on Ute Lake resulting in critical injuries to their friend, Shaina Pool of Clovis.

Kendra Gibbons and Tre Orozco, both 18, pleaded guilty Sept. 12 in Quay County Magistrate Court to possession of alcohol by a minor as part of a deal with the 10th Judicial District Attorney, according to Tim Rose, chief deputy district attorney.

Rose said the four other defendants, Brittany Holt, Jonathon Maes, Logan Denton, all 21, and Spencer Norris, 20, all from Clovis, waived their right to a preliminary hearing and were bound over to face felony charges in 10th Judicial District Court.

— A local man led Quay County Sheriff's deputies and Quay County Detention Center guards on a short foot chase after escaping custody Sept. 18.

Jessie Garcia, 55, slipped one hand out of his handcuffs kicked the door of deputy Bill Anderson's patrol unit, striking Anderson and proceeded to run out of the Sally Port at QCDC, said Undersheriff Larry Cooksey.

Cooksey said Anderson had grabbed Garcia but lost his balance and fell. He said QCDC Administrator T.J. Rich and other QCDC personnel were near that area started chasing Garcia.

Cooksey said Garcia ran east towards Saint Ann's Catholic Church, where he was taken back in to custody and booked in to the jail.

— A New Mexico State Police officer was treated for minor injuries after his state police unit was struck Sept. 3, head-on by an erratic driver from Clovis on U.S. Highway 54 near Logan, said Capt. Jimmy Glascock.

Glascock said officer Joshua Campos and Severino Chavez, 19, of Clovis, were taken to Dan C. Trigg Memorial Hospital. He said Campos was released from the hospital a few hours later with minor injuries. Chavez sustained serious, but less-than-life-threatening injuries, according to Glascock.


— Former Tucumcari resident Amber Campbell missed qualifying for finals of the women's hammer throw by one spot Aug. 8 at the Summer Olympic games in London.

Campbell, who lived in Tucumcari as a youth, had a top throw of 69.9 3 meters (229 feet) and finished 13th among the 37 throwers. The top 12 throwers advanced to the finals.

— More than a dozen residents, city and county officials joined the staff of Xcel Energy on Aug. 7 to break ground on a new backup power plant in Tucumcari.

The new power project includes an expansion of the existing Campbell Street Substation and modifications to local electrical distribution to accommodate the new generator.

— On Aug. 2 more than 100 residents attended the New Mexico State University Agricultural Science Center Centennial celebration. The center's first Ag Science Day was held Aug. 4 1912 and 96-year-old Horace Woods spoke about how agriculture has changed over the years.


— Met Life and the New Mexico Association of Secondary School Principals selected Logan school's former principal for the state's principal of the year award.

Gary Miller, now principal of Clayton Municipal Schools, received the award for his achievements and recognition from his peers from his nine years service as principal at Logan (2003-2012).

— Robert Capen, 31, Richard "Andrew" Gutierrez, 40, and Brandy Bemis, 31, all of Tucumcari were arrested July 25, Tucumcari residents are charged with crimes relating to the sexual assault of two children under age 13

On July 19, in federal court, Lawrence Lucero, 65, of Tucumcari, was arraigned on a five-count indictment charging him with three counts of receipt of a visual depiction of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct, and two counts of possession of matter containing visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

— A new investment group has expressed interest in building a race track and casino in Raton should La Mesa fail in its appeal to save their gaming and racing license.

La Mesa was awarded the state's final gaming and racing licenses in June 2009. The New Mexico Gaming Control Board nullified those licenses the following year.

Canadian developer Michael Moldenhauer filed two appeals at the New Mexico Court of Appeals, contesting the voiding of their licenses.

On June 12, the court voted to uphold nullification of the gaming license by the New Mexico Court of Appeals. The court has yet to rule on the racing license.


Two men accused of murder in Illinois and being pursued by U.S. Marshals were arrested June 23, at a Loves Truck stop in Tucumcari, according to federal officials.

James E. Johnson, 22, and Carlton Neely, 20, were arrested by deputy U.S. Marshals and the New Mexico State Police without incident, said Kevin Jackson, head of central Illinois' U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force.

Johnson and Neely have been charged with the first-degree murder of Justin Siebenthal, 21, who was shot to death June 13 in Peoria, Ill. Siebenthal was one of at least four people the pair are accused of shooting.

— New Mexico State Police divers recovered the body of 45-year-old Albuquerque man believed drowned June 2 at Conchas Lake.

Lt. Lance Bateman of the state police said divers recovered the body of the man at 5:10 p.m., in 12 feet of water. Officers were told by friends of the man that he was swimming off with friends and did not resurface after going under water.


— On May 29, 15-year-old Sandia Park resident Griffen Walter drowned at Conchas Lake diving off of his family's fishing boat Tuesday, according to the New Mexico State Police.

Officers were told that a 15-year-old boy had jumped off the family fishing boat and began to swim to shore. The boy was swimming towards the shore when he went under the water and did not return to the surface.

— A May 21 fire at the Tucumcari Animal Hospital claimed the lives of over 50 animals. The clinic was operated by Veterinarian Jean P. Corey.

Tucumcari Police Chief Jason Braziel said the department is working with state police to determine if the animal hospital fire has a connection to two other recent suspicious fires in Tucumcari.

— Gov. Susana Martinez made a campaign stop in Tucumcari to promote the candidacy of Angie Spears, who was running for state Senate.

Spears was running against Pat Woods for the Republican spot in District 7, which covers Curry, Quay and Union counties.

— One current and two former employees filed suit against Mesalands Community College.

Joanna Gutierrez, Kenneth Cooper and Jennifer DeBord, filed suit for the unethical, inappropriate and illegal actions at Mesalands. Linda G. Hemphill, lead council for the plaintiffs said her clients want to shed light on practices that allegedly took place under former President Phillip O. Barry's administration at Mesalands.

— Two injunctions were filed in the 10th Judicial District Court calling for a halt to current and future construction of an intake structure at Ute Lake that is part of the Ute Water pipeline.

Both injunctions were filed May 5 and named the Eastern New Mexico Water Utility Authority as the defendant. The water utility wants to pipe water from the man-made reservoir in Logan to communities in Curry and Roosevelt counties.

The first injunction was filed by the South Shore Village, Unit 1, Landowner's Association. It charges the authority violated the protective covenants of the unit's lots.

The second injunction, filed by the village of Logan, states the authority violated the village's zoning ordinance.

QCS staff photo: Thomas Garcia

The remains of the Sands Dorsey building still smolders Tuesday afternoon. The building caught fire twice on May 8 once at 1 a.m., and again at 3 a.m.

— The Sands Dorsey building was damaged further by two fires. Tucumcari Fire Chief Mike Cherry said city fire crews responded twice to a fire early on the morning of May 8. The first fire, Cherry said, was an external fire on the east wall, around plywood covering the windows. The second time they were called out, at 3 a.m., Cherry said the southern portion of the building was fully engulfed. City crews took two hours containing the blaze.

— State secretary of education designate Hanna Skandera made an impromptu visit to Tucumcari Elementary School. It was part of her plan to get a first-hand look at local school districts.

— Pete Vargas, 32, a 3 1/2-year veteran of the police department, tendered his resignation effective April 19. Vargas surrendered Feb. 27 to state police after an incident the day before at his girlfriend's residence. He is charged with breaking and entering and criminal damage to property.

— The Eastern New Mexico Water Utility Authority hired Montgomery and Andrews Law Firm f Santa Fe as legal representation for a lawsuit filed by the Village of Logan.

The Village of Logan filed suit Tuesday against state, federal and local agencies calling for the halt of construction, funding and advancement of any portion of the proposed Eastern New Mexico Rural Water System, more commonly known as the Ute Water Project.

— Tucumcari city commissioners voted to hire Doug Powers as city manager. Powers had been serving as interim city manager since Sept. 29, 2011, when then-City Manager Bobbye Rose was fired.


— The Logan Longhorns defeat the Cliff Cowboys 55-45 to win the 1A boys basketball state championship. This was the Longhorns second blue trophy since their first in 1998.

— After 12 years serving as the Tenth Judicial District Attorney Ron Reeves, announced he will not seek re-election and will retire at the end of his term in December.

Reeves began practicing law in 1991 and was elected district attorney for the Tenth Judicial District, covering Quay, DeBaca and Harding counties, in 2000.

— A Tucumcari woman advanced to the top 100 in a national model search contest.

Cassie Huffman, a mental health counselor who teaches a psychology class at Mesalands Community College, survived the first cut in the Maurice's Main Street Model Search.


— Tucumcari Fire Chief Mike Cherry was appointed by Governor Susana Martinez to the state's Fire Protection Grant Council.

The Fire Protection Grant Council is the governing body which approves the applications for grant funding from state fire agencies, said State Fire Marshal John Standefer.

— Freedom Communications announced the sale of the Clovis News Journal, Portales News-Tribune, Quay County Sun and their affiliated publications to Clovis Media Inc.

CMI Publisher Ray Sullivan said All 60 full-time and two part-time associates would retain their jobs in ownership transition, expected to take place before the end of February.


— A pair of appeals filed by a Raton-based racetrack and casino have gone through the briefing stage and are now awaiting a ruling in the New Mexico Court of Appeals, with local officials optimistic the rulings will give Tucumcari another chance at a racino.

— Casslyn Mae Welch and Tracy Allen Province are scheduled to enter guilty pleas today in connection with the Aug. 4, 2010, kidnapping and murder of a vacationing Oklahoma couple who had stopped at an Interstate 40 rest stop in Quay County.

— Quay County communities form the Tucumcari Quay County Regional Water Authority which is a Joint Powers Authority that serves to protect the interests of those entities when dealing with water issues at Ute Lake Reservoir.

— Compiled by Thomas Garcia

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