By Casey Peacock: PNT Staff Writer
Editor’s note: this is the last in a three-part series taking a look at the major stories that shaped news in Roosevelt County in 2006. This installment takes a look at the months of September, October, November and December.
Intermingled in the closing months of 2006 were a mixture of progress and change for the area, sadness for many families, and new developments in some of the areas high profile crime cases.
Stanley Bedford was a granted a change of venue for his trial, which will be moved to Albuquerque, and is tentatively scheduled to begin in May 2007. Bedford, is accused of killing Portales couple Odis and Doris Newman, in March of 2005.
Transitional movement has already begun to take place at Cannon Air Force Base, with 70 to 80 personnel from the 16th Special Operations Wing moving onto the base monthly.
“The 16th Special Operations Wing is already here, and we (Cannon officials) are working on a seamless transition,” said base commander Col. Scott West.
Digital technology has continued to enter the community of Portales as Eastern New Mexico University dedicated its new broadcast center with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Transition to the new facility is expected to be completed in 2007.
Experts state that Africanizied bees are on the rise in the area. Reports indicate that 69 percent of bees sent in by pest control agents in Roosevelt County are Africanized. Experts predict that the colonies could divide, which could bring the total of Africanized colonies in the area to 2,056 in just three years.
• A Portales woman was attacked by bees in her back yard in September and required treatment at a hospital.
• Bids will be taken after the first of the year for improvements to the courthouse square.
• Plans are being put into place to remodel both the Yam Theater and the Portales Inn.
• Roosevelt General Hospital receives and installs new Computerized Tomography Imaging (CT) Machine.
• Local food bank officials said the number of people visiting their facilities is growing.
Charged with the March 2005 killing of Portales couple, Odis and Doris Newman, Jerry Fuller entered a guilty plea in the Ninth Judical District Court on Oct. 5. Fuller will be held in the Roosevelt County Detention Center pending sentencing.
“Essentially the offer was that Mr. Fuller enter a guilty plea to all the charges against him and testify against any other individual in the case in exchange for 127 years (in prison),” 9th Judicial District Attorney Matt Chandler said.
Also connected with the Newman case, was the sentencing of Archie Crawford, of Portales. Crawford was sentenced to eight years in the New Mexico penitentiary, for his role in the Newman case.
A nationwide sting netted the arrest of former Eastern New Mexico University student Matthew Coker, who was charged with possession of child pornography. Coker, a 2004 graduate of Clovis High School, was among more than 100 people who were arrested as a result of the nation-wide sting operation.
Scott Kirby of Portales signed a plea agreement in the theft of over $600,000 taken from Respond, Inc., an armored car service that employed Kirby. Kirby could serve up to nine years in the penitentiary, and will have to pay restitution.
Sens. Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman introduced a bill authorizing the Bureau of Reclamation to provide assistance to the Eastern New Mexico Rural Water Authority. The bill would provide planning, design and construction of a water pipeline from the Ute Reservoir to communities in eastern New Mexico.
• Southwest Cheese celebrated their grand opening.
• An accident claimed the lives of two area teens and critically injured two more teens, all riding in the same vehicle. The accident occurred at the intersection of US 70 and County Road 4, along the Roosevelt/Curry County line.
The crash of an F-16, from CAFB, in Iraq, killed pilot Maj. Troy Gilbert. Though not stationed at CAFB, Gilbert has ties to the regional area. Gilbert, is the son-in-law of Clovis residents, Jay and Judi Gurley.
A two-vehicle accident on Nov. 1, claimed the life of Freedom Newspapers employee Steve Aguilar. The accident also involved Dennis Johnson, who is married to CNJ reporter, Sharna Johnson. The crash occurred at the intersection of Wheaton Road and Curry County Road 13. Aguilar, was remembered for his ear-to-ear grin and his passion for sports.
World renowned science fiction author and Portales resident, Jack Williamson, passed away at his residence at the age of 98. Williamson, authored more than 50 novels and short stories during his career, that spanned more than 75 years. Williamson also hosted the annual Jack Williamson Lectureship for science fiction, sponsored by ENMU, where he was a professor emeritus of English.
Area fire departments are once again facing a dangerous fire season. Under a new joint powers agreement, all firefighters will be required to be red card certified in order to respond to a fire. If the certifications are not met, the departments could lose state reimbursement.
l The Portales Rams football team beat St. Michael’s 25-20 in the Class 3A semifinals, advancing them to the state championship game, against Las Vegas Robertson.
l Implementation of a new area code of 575 for the area will happen sometime in 2008.
Portales resident Tammy Jo Garcia was sentenced to five years in prison, for embezzling $139,164 from Eastern New Mexico University. Garcia will be placed on supervised parole for five years following her release and was ordered to pay restitution during the same time period.
The Portales Rams football team was defeated by Las Vegas Robertson, 28-6, in the 3A state championship played at Blackwater Draw.
Capt. Kermit O. Evans, was killed in a helicopter crash, while serving in Iraq. Evans was commander of the CAFB bomb disposal unit.
Southwest Med Evac has moved into the area, providing the local area with live-saving medical care via helicopter.
“It’s one of the best things medically to happen to our community. It’s been a great thing for our community,” said Lt. Gary Nuckols, Portales Fire Department.
Winter weather hit the area with a storm that produced ice, wind and snow. According to officials, several accidents occurred in the area due to conditions, though no serious injuries were reported. Area residents also experienced power outages related to the storm.
• United Way hosted the blessing tree campaign to raise funds for Roosevelt county entities.
• Travis Husted talks about donating a kidney to his father, Andy Husted.
• Secretary of Education Veronica Garcia upheld a previous decision by Portales Municipal Schools board to deny a charter application to the Horace Mann School.