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2017 YEAR IN REVIEW (part 1)

Murder suspect Victor Salazar is led to a waiting patrol car following his capture on a Tuesday evening in June on Walsenburg’s far south side. Escorting the suspect are Deputy Paul Saunders and Sheriff Bruce Newman. Photos by Eric Mullens.

2017 seemed to be a year of extremes. The weather was extreme- with once-in-a-century (we hope) windstorms that blew over hundreds of power poles, trees, train cars, and anything else not well nailed down.

There were extreme crimes; murder, robberies, jail breaks, marijuana raids and wild car chases.

And there were also extreme cases of kindness, with locals going out of their way to help those experiencing difficulties, from their neighbors, to those in other states, and countries.

Because so much happened this past year, we have to split up our year in review into two parts. Here is a sampling of news from Huerfano, Las Animas, and Colfax counties for the first six months of the year. Next week we’ll finish the year.


January 5

Major projects on Walsenburg’s horizon

by Eric Mullens

WALSENBURG — On a unanimous vote Tuesday night, the Walsenburg City Council approved moving forward with a partial engineering study that will allow them to meet a state deadline for a loan application to rehabilitate and expand the storage capacity of City Lake Dam. The estimated cost of the partial study is $98,000.

The city council has already decided the mandated rehab project for the water storage facility will include an expansion to accommodate an additional 120 acre feet of water, and the action this week should allow the city to meet a deadline for a low interest loan application from the Colorado Water Conservation Board in April. The full engineering study will be completed prior to construction.

The city council also directed administration to contact Petroglyph Energy Inc., and formally tell the company the city is still interested in the possibility of acquiring the company’s 21.6 mile long natural gas pipeline. Council heard a presentation from contract engineer Bradley Bean during the work session.

Possible new festival for La Veta

Town board voices concerns over damage to Town Park’s turf

by Bob Kennemer

LA VETA — Coming before the La Veta Town Board this past Tuesday was local business owner, Sandy Dolak, who was asking the LVTB for a letter of support and use of the Town Park. Dolak is applying for a grant to the University of Denver and Colorado Creative Enterprises for a grant in the amount of $10,000 for an event she is calling the Huajatolla Heritage Festival, to be held on August 12 and 13. According to Dolak, she has $3,000 in pledges from local businesses for the event, along with the Huerfano County Historical Society and La Veta Public Library as co-sponsors.

The event would showcase Hispanic and Native American arts and culture, with a goal of, “socially engaging art” as required by the grant. I feel that this event will be large enough to use numerous venues throughout the town, but the Town Park will be the central location,” said Dolak.

January 12
Sheriff Bruce Newman left and HCSO Deputy Dee Pacheco escort Randy Roybal, 25, to an awaiting police vehicle following his capture Friday night on east Seventh Street in Walsenburg. Roybal escaped from the jail’s recreation area and was free for about 15 minutes before he was taken back into custody without force. Photo by Eric Mullens

Wind Assault

ROCKY MOUNTAIN SOUTHWEST – 97-mile-an-hour winds snapped power poles, tipped over train cars, bowled over semis, uprooted trees and peeled off roofs. Monday in Huerfano and Las Animas counties felt more like an attack than a weather event. All it lacked was Godzilla wandering around, tearing things up.

Where to start listing things that were blown over? On a large scale, Colorado closed I-25 at noon to semi-trailer traffic from Monument to the New Mexico border, after 16 trucks were blown over, with three in Huerfano county. By the afternoon, highway exits had clusters of semis pulled over, waiting for the wind to die down. The closure was lifted by 7:30 that evening.

San Isabel Electric wrestled with over 6,000 customer without power, as dozens of power poles were snapped, dragging lines down. Between mile marker 49 and 42 on I-25, fifteen poles were down. Another pole had fallen across the southbound off-ramp at exit 29, with live wires forcing the state patrol to close it until it cold be repaired. Areas mainly affected were Aguilar, Rye, Colorado City, Tercio, Beulah, Monument, Burnt Mill, Apishapa and El Moro areas.

Trinidad McDonald’s sees ADA lawsuit following discrimination complaint

by Bill Knowles

TRINIDAD — Stephen Hamer, a local activist for people with disabilities and ADA advocate, has filed both a civil rights complaint and a lawsuit against the McDonald’s in Trinidad, alleging the business management and the McDonald’s corporation has discriminated against him and is in noncompliance with the Americans with Disability Act (ADA).

Both the civil rights complaint and the ADA lawsuit were filed Jan. 10, 2017.

The civil rights complaint alleges that on Nov. 15, 2016, Hamer, was unable to access the condiment counter. Hamer uses an electric wheel chair or a scooter for mobility. When he spoke with a manager about the problem, management “…dismissed my request for an accommodation and declined to accommodate me,” according to the complaint.

Phelan Management Services, Inc., doing business as McDonald’s, made no comment on the complaint. Phelan is an independent franchise owner of the McDonald’s brand serving Raton and Las Vegas in New Mexico, and Alamosa and Trinidad in Colorado.

Walsenburg house fire is labeled arson

staff report

WALSENBURG — On Sunday Jan 8, 2017 at 11:00 pm, Huerfano County Fire Protection District was dispatched to a reported structure fire in the 900 block of west 7th St in Walsenburg.

Initial investigation regarding the origin of the fire is that a neighbor had dumped hot ashes from his stove against the garage. He has been arrested for arson.

Trinidad Bank of the West robbed January 5, investigation continues

by Eric Mullens

TRINIDAD — One week ago today near closing time, a man wearing what appeared to be a winter coat with a hood pulled down over his face entered the Bank of the West, 213 N. Commercial St., went to a teller counter and brandished a handgun, demanding the bank employee turn over all of the large denomination bills in their cash drawer.

The teller had little choice but to hand over the undisclosed amount of cash and the lone gunman fled the building, but not without leaving some clues behind.

January 19

Aguilar: cold, dark and hurting

Power outage from last week’s windstorms left town without power for four days

by Bill Knowles

AGUILAR — The windstorms that whipped through Huerfano and Las Animas Counties last week with gale force winds estimated to be 85 mph with gusts near 110 mph slammed into Aguilar Monday afternoon, January 9, knocking out power, ripping off roofs, and toppling trees. By Thursday afternoon of last week, power to most of the small Colorado town was still out, and residents were looking at the possibility of losing food and medications that need to be refrigerated.

The World Journal spoke with Richard Ellis and his life partner Juanita Meehan, both residents of Aguilar, both disabled and wheelchair bound. Their power had been down since the windstorm, and even though work crews were replacing downed distribution lines and poles were within earshot of their home, they were beginning to worry about losing their food and Meehan’s medications.

“She’s a diabetic and needs insulin,” Ellis said. “We’ve been keeping it on cold packs and I hope we can get the power back on before we lose it.”

Work crews from Ward Electric Company out of Longmont were busy replacing distribution poles and stringing distribution lines just a half-block from Ellis’s house. A half dozen trucks and a large crew of workers were working in an easement that connected Baca to Linden.

Ward Electric Company is just one of four contractor crews brought in by San Isabel Electric Association to help get Las Animas County and Aguilar residents back up on line.

San Isabel spokesman Fred Sola spoke to a crowd of Aguilar residents during a town hall type meeting at Roughnecks Saloon in Aguilar, Thursday morning, January 12. He told residents SIEA hoped to have most of the power back on by late that afternoon or evening. Most of the residents who attended the meeting were appreciative of the efforts the electric company had made in restoring power to the area. The amount of wind damage to San Isabel’s infrastructure was beyond what most people had experienced in their lifetimes.

One dead, one injured in Friday, Jan. 13 crash, and four* dogs missing

staff report

WALSENBURG — The Colorado State Patrol is currently investigating a single-vehicle crash which resulted in a single fatality on I-25 between Walsenburg and Colorado City just inside Pueblo County last Friday.

The crash occurred at 2:49 am January 13, 2017, near milepost 72.

The driver of the Freightliner, Charles Roberts, 59, of Katy, Texas, was not wearing his seatbelt at the time of the crash and was pronounced deceased on scene.

The front passenger of the Freightliner, Jared Roberts, 29, also of Katy, Texas, and the son of Charles Roberts, was not wearing a safety belt at the time of the crash and was transported to a local hospital with moderate injuries.

The Pikes Peak Humane Society picked up more than 20 dogs that had been in the van. Some of them had suffered minor injuries. The Houston-based Rescued Pets Movement said four dogs were missing after the crash.

At this time excessive speed and / or alcohol or drug use is not considered a factor in the crash. However, the crash does remain under investigation.


“Coco,” The smallest of the four missing dogs has been found; cold and hungry, but safe, according to Susan Daniel.

Searchers are using drones, scent dogs and good old fashioned leg power to look for the animals along I-25.

Monday’s windstorms power loss restored to most of area after four days in the dark

8,400 area residents out of power from windstorm, Aguilar hardest hit

staff report

PUEBLO WEST, CO — Service has been restored to the 8,400 area households who were without power after hurricane strength wind gusts wreaked havoc throughout San Isabel Electric’s service territory last week. The outage lasted up to four days in some areas, with the restoration announcement being made about 5:30 on Thursday, January 12 according to a press release from San Isabel Electric Association.

January 26

Coffee & Canvas Enchants Raton

by Colette M. Armijo

RATON — Last Saturday, January 21, Enchanted Grounds Espresso Bar & Café was transformed into a delightful studio for creativity for its first Coffee & Canvas event. Artist Nikki Zabicki, who is a working artist well known in Raton’s community for her hand crafted items such as belt buckles, décor and clothing, guided 15 enthusiastic participants through the steps to creating their own masterpiece.

Trinidad city manager Gabe Engeland quits

Takes job in Sierra Madre, California

by Bill Knowles

TRINIDAD — Trinidad’s city manager Gabriel Engeland, is leaving Trinidad and taking the position as city manager for the city of Sierra Madre in California. He will take over the reins of the city beginning in March following an extensive search by the Sierra Madre City Council.

Update on Aguilar

by Bill Knowles

AGUILAR — Two week after a windstorm blew through the area, taking out electrical service for Aguilar, the World Journal had a conversation with Aguilar Mayor Mark Piano and Town Clerk Tyra Avila.

The loss of electrical service was the single largest event that generated the most concern for Las Animas County officials. Storage and preparation of food, especially meat, became a problem. Another concern was the storage of medications, such as insulin for diabetes, that need refrigeration.

The windstorm itself, with estimated winds between 65 and 95 mph, created debris as sections of roofing were blown from houses and out buildings. Power distribution poles were knocked down, bringing with them power lines that fell across vehicles and houses. The entire town found itself without power by Monday evening Jan. 9.

San Isabel Electric Association pays for replacement of the poles and lines. The funds used for the replacement are found in the access charge portion of the monthly customer bill. Damages are also covered by insurance.

Volunteers, who have so far done a lot of the clean up, are handling debris pick up and delivery of the debris to dumpsters located at the old CDOT building west of city hall on Main Street.

Huerfano Commissioners vote to change economic development consultant

by Eric Mullens

WALSENBURG — On a recommendation by the county’s economic development board, headed by administrator John Galusha, the board of commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to change the firm working on the county’s comprehensive economic development strategy.


February 2
TANGLED LINES- over 38 power poles and their transformers were blown down just in the Aguilar area from the windstorm on January 9. SIEA repair crews had to clear the debris away before they could begin hooking the power back up. Photo by Bill Knowles.

Colfax Sheriff announces arrest in March 2016 Eagle Nest child death

by Eric Mullens

RATON — The Colfax County Sheriff’s Office announced the arrest of an individual in connection with a March 2016 death of a child in Eagle Nest.

Mariano Araica-Avalos was arrested Friday, January 27 on a charge of Abuse of a Child Resulting in Death. Eight-month old Arayah Araica was pronounced dead at the scene at a private residence on March 19, 2016. The initial call reported an unresponsive child at the home.

The suspect at that time told investigators his young daughter had fallen from her bed.

An autopsy indicated the girl died from significant trauma, including broken ribs, muscular neck hemorrhage and a fractured skull.

The investigation was conducted by the CCSO with assistance from the New Mexico State Police Investigations Bureau and Crime Scene Team.

Sheriff says deputies busy, but transition efforts by city are disappointing

by Eric Mullens

WALSENBURG — Huerfano County Sheriff Bruce Newman says the transfer of equipment, evidence, and records from the former Walsenburg Police Department to his office is going very slowly, but he isn’t all that surprised.

“It was never going to be as smooth as they claimed it would be,” Newman told the World Journal mid-week. He said two weeks ago, the day after former city police chief Tommie McLallen reported to city council, some radios, firearms and ammunition was turned over to the sheriff’s office, but nothing else has happened since. Newman said no records, including open case files or evidence has been turned over making case follow-up of old police cases impossible. Newman said Wednesday it is his understanding the city has indicated the full transition will be completed by February 15. He said it is his understanding the city will seek an outside agency or individual to accomplish an evidence inventory before items are turned over to the sheriff’s office.

In the meantime, sheriff’s deputies have made nearly 60 arrests since the beginning of the year and are busy with new cases.

Raton’s Holy Trinity gets a new vicar

by Bill Fegan

RATON — Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Raton welcomes their new vicar, the Rev. Kathryn Boeschenstein. Mother Boeschenstein, familiarly known as Mother Kathy, comes to Holy Trinity from St. James in Taos, where she was an associate priest.

February 9

Trinidad School District 1 violates Title IX in failure to report sexual assault

by Bill Knowles TRINIDAD — In January, the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) found Trinidad’s School District 1 violated Title IX by not properly reporting claims of sexual assault, bringing to an end a three-year investigation, according to reports filed by both the Pueblo Chieftain and KOAA TV.

In 2013, Kimberly Begano, a cheer coach at the high school, contacted the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) telling them the district was not properly reporting sexual assault claims and that she wanted to see the district and its board held accountable.

The investigation covered a three-year period, and shows the school has violated Title IX by not properly reporting three separate situations. During the course of the investigation the OCR spoke to 80 witnesses.

The OCR’s investigation also uncovered a history of problems with male staff members, mostly coaches, having sexual relationships with students. Begano was a student herself at Trinidad High School in the late 1980s when the then, and current, head football coach Randy Begano sexually assaulted her. Randy Begano is now Ms. Begano’s brother-in- law. After the OCR investigation began, Ms. Begano filed a restraining order against Randy, however the order was not issued, even after the court found the order credible, due to an issue concerning the statute of limitations.

Trinidad City Council looks at expanding marijuana business

by Bill Knowles

TRINIDAD — The Trinidad City Council opened their regular meeting Tuesday with a discussion giving city staff direction in crafting a new marijuana ordinance that would allow marijuana clubs to operate in the city limits. Marijuana clubs are buildings that would be used by users in a social setting. So far clubs in the state and in Trinidad are illegal even though some are now operating without licenses or regulations.

PeopleCare employee jailed, charged with two felony counts

by Bill Knowles

TRINIDAD — Chantel Rose Marie Price and her boyfriend Donavan Billiot have both been arrested and charged with two felony counts each involving crimes against an at-risk adult living in Trinidad, and the unauthorized use of a financial transaction device (debit card).

Price, employed by PeopleCare Home Health Care Services of Pueblo, worked as a caregiver for Dolores Olguin of Trinidad. Billiot was not employed by PeopleCare.

Investigation showed that after two months of activity, balanced against the funds deposited and the $600 balance left, that the pair had removed approximately $4,000 from the account.

$15 million safety improvements planned for I-25 between Port of Entry and Raton

by Carol Bridge

RATON — A very well attended meeting was held Tuesday, January 31 in Raton. Nearly 40 interested citizens came to hear a study team made up of, or advised by, the Federal Highway Administration, New Mexico Department of Transportation, New Mexico Fish and Game, and representatives of engineering, environmental, utility, and geological companies. This team presented a timeline, details, and the budget of phase one of a larger three phase plan to improve the highway, roughly between the Port of Entry and Raton.

Traffic stop yields drugs, gun and stolen property

by Eric Mullens

WALSENBURG — A traffic stop by Huerfano deputies on Jan. 23rd in Walsenburg led to the recovery of stolen property, the seizure of hard drugs and a pistol.

February 16

Plea offer considered in Vallejos sex assault case

by Eric Mullens

WALSENBURG — Although it has been months since the last disposition hearing in the sexual assault case against a former Huerfano Sheriff’s captain, the case was not disposed of during a disposition hearing Friday, February 10, in district court here.

The defendant, Kevin Vallejos, appeared, along with his attorney, prosecuting attorneys, and the judge via a telephone conference call once again. Other than an appearance in person following his arrest in late August 2016, the defendant and the other principals in the case have all appeared telephonically in the felony case investigated by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

Vallejos remains free on a $100,000 bond on charges of sexual assault by one in a position of trust (victim under the age of 15 years; a class three felony) and attempted sexual assault (overcoming a victim’s will; a class five felony).

The charge in count one stems from allegations made in 1998 while the charge in count two are from an allegation made in May 2016.

Trinidad City Council appoints Valentine interim city manager

by Bill Knowles

TRINIDAD — During a special meeting on Friday, February 10 at City Hall, the Trinidad City Council voted 7-0 to choose current utilities director Mike Valentine as interim city manager.

Las Animas County Commission sees end of $4.2 million airport project

by Bill Knowles

LAS ANIMAS — During their regular meeting Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017 the Las Animas County Commissioners began putting together the final accounting for the $4.2M runway project for Perry Stokes Airport.

Runway 3/21 was the biggest part of the project, and with final inspection showing another coat of paint on the runway symbols was needed, the commissioners voiced their approval of the work. Still needed is a final accounting of the charges that, when completed, will garner the county their final payments from the FAA. The commission is still waiting for the final billing from RBK Construction to arrive, and voted 3-0 to table the final settlement until the Feb. 21 meeting.

Raton commissioners table Old Pass Road discussion

by Marty Mayfield KRTN Multi-Media RATON — Raton City Commissioners met Tuesday evening in regular session and tabled the discussion on the old pass road since they hadn’t received an opinion yet.

Laura Brewer spoke about the road, reminding the commissioners of its importance for both the Iridium layer and the Santa Fe Trail, noting the terrible condition of the road up to the layer, as well as Goat Hill and the disrepair of the signage at the Iridium layer. Commissioner Ronald Chavez noted the commission didn’t have the opinion yet and that he was planning to bring a possible solution to the commission as soon as they get an opinion that will hopefully meet the requests of land owners, and fullfil historic preservation of the area while maintaining access to the area.

February 23

Shot taken at husband of Trinidad sex assault accuser

Death threats and gunfire follow Kim Begano

staff report

TRINIDAD — The Pueblo Chieftain reported in last Tuesday’s edition that Jim Begano, the husband of Kimberly Begano, was shot early Monday morning around 4:30 am, by an unknown gunman with the possibility of a second suspect involved.

Ms. Begano, who filed a federal Title IX complaint alleging sexual assault by a Trinidad High School coach and a possible cover-up by school authorities that took place in the 1990s, told Trinidad Police that Jim Begano, her husband was leaving for work when the incident happened.

The assailant was alleged to be waiting on top of the garage for Mr. Begano, shooting at him as he stepped out of the backdoor. The bullet was found lodged in the wall of the house.

Begano fell to the ground and fired back. It’s not known if the suspect was hit according to the Pueblo Chieftain report. Begano was injured as a result of his dive to the ground.

The incident follows a death threat left on the windshield of her car last week. The note simply read, ‘You’re going to die.’ This lead Ms. Begano to believe she was the intended target of the Monday morning assault. According to the Chieftain’s report Ms. Begano stated that she believes the shooter was trying to shoot her husband so they might gain access to the house and shoot her. Either that or shoot him in an effort to intimidate her and shut her up.

Sparks fly and tempers flare at La Veta Town Board session

New resident claims that town owes her money, ordinances don’t apply to her

by Bob Kennemer

LA VETA — In what was a short agenda, the La Veta town board spent about an hour dealing with a series of complaints from a new La Veta resident over building permits, water taps/fees, and flood plain issues. It was not the first time Margaret Flynn has had conflicts with the board over her property.

Referring to a 36 page packet, which she had supplied to the board, Flynn repeatedly told the board that the town owed her money for not being able to obtain water from the town and her tap, repeatedly adding that many of the town’s ordinances did not apply to her.

In what, at times, became an impossible path to follow, Flynn, the mayor and the board tried to iron out the issues. However, to no avail. Flynn claimed that because she has no meter, she should not be paying for water and the town should pay her back. She also claimed that her neighbors on both sides have no water meters.

Mayor Doug Brgoch stated that Flynn and her neighbors all had water meters and the town maintenance crew could meet with her to show her their location. Trustee Dave Molyneux clarified that a meter had been placed on town property in front of Flynn’s lots. A pipeline had been placed under the sidewalk onto her property, where an elbow was placed, allowing the pipe to come up out of the ground. Molyneux noted it was, at that point, up to Flynn to attach a spigot or tie the line into her home. Thus, the town has supplied water to the lots. However, the home has yet to be built, nor has Flynn even applied for a building permit.

Commissioners impose ban on new commercial marijuana cultivation

by Eric Mullens

WALSENBURG — The Huerfano County Commissioners on Tuesday passed a resolution that puts a six month ban on any new commercial marijuana cultivation operations in unincorporated parts of the county.

The ban, which does not affect hemp production, will be in place until Monday, August 21, 2017. The temporary ban prohibits the alteration, or use of any building, structure, real or personal property, for the commercial cultivation of marijuana. The newly imposed ban will not affect one commercial cultivation application already filed with the land use office. Currently Huerfano County has 12 commercial cultivation operations licensed, with five of them producing product.

Miners’ Colfax Medical Center sees a recent influx of flu patients

by Carol Bridge

RATON — The Miner’s Colfax Medical Center Board met Friday, Feb. 17 in regular session and members learned the flu sweeping through the area has caused an increase of patients seen in the emergency room.

According to Shawn Lerch, CEO, due to the vaccine not being 100% effective, there was a major outbreak in the community. MARCH 2017

March 2

Tragedy in Trinidad

Young girl falls to her death off of Simpson’s rest

staff report

TRINIDAD — As a result of injuries sustained from a fall from Simpson’s Rest Sunday, an 11-year-old female was pronounced dead at San Rafael Hospital shortly after arrival, according to a press release from the Las Animas County Sheriff’s department.

At about 5:30 pm Sunday evening, members of the Las Animas County Sheriff’s Office, Trinidad Police Department, Trinidad Fire Department, and the Trinidad Ambulance District responded to a dispatch call reporting that a child had fallen from the mountain. When deputies arrived, they located an injured 11-year-old female on the southwest side of Simpson’s Rest.

It appeared that she had fallen approximately 15 to 20 feet.

Deputies began administering emergency first aid to the child until emergency medical personnel arrived on scene.

She was taken to Mt. San Rafael Hospital for further treatment but efforts were not successful and the child died from injuries sustained from the fall.

According to witness accounts, the child was with several family members on Simpson’s Rest, walking around the area. The reason for the fall is unknown but appears to be accidental, according to the press release. The incident is still under investigation.

Raton Public Service Company discusses high electric bills, new generator

by Carol Bridge

RATON — High electric bills and a new generator were on the agenda for the Wednesday, February 22 regular meeting of the Raton Public Service Company (RPSC) board.

January was a positive month for revenue as the usage was higher than any month for decades. We knew it was cold and our electric bills proved it. The installation of the new generator proceeds with a start up goal of mid May. There will be a test of the new equipment with existing operations in April.

The public needs to be aware there will be rolling blackouts during the testing period and should notify the RPSC if there is a medical need for electricity during this time. Healthcare facilities and other agencies that depend upon constant electrical service will also be notified.

Suspect captured in Trinidad Bank of the West armed robbery

by Eric Mullens

TRINIDAD — The Trinidad Police Department announced Thursday, Feb. 23 the arrest of a suspect in the January 5, 2017 armed robbery of Bank of the West.

Eric Robinson aka ‘Monkey’ was arrested on a warrant on charges of aggravated robbery (class 3 felony); menacing (class 5 felony), theft (class 1 misdemeanor, and violation of a court order.

Robinson is scheduled to appear in Third Judicial District Court on Friday, March 10 and is currently in custody at the Las Animas County Jail on a $100,000 cash only bond.

Huerfano county hospital board opts out of Prop 106 assisted end of life

by Eric Mullens

WALSENBURG — Meeting in regular session last week, the Huerfano County Hospital Board of Directors voted unanimously to opt out of allowing Prop 106 physician assisted end of life procedures at Spanish Peaks Regional Health Center.

SPRHC CEO/President Kay Whitley said the hospital board and members of the senior team at the facility supported this statement, “Spanish Peaks Regional Health Center and Spanish Peaks Veterans Community Living Center have made the decision to not dispense life-ending medications on our hospital grounds or within our hospital walls. We support our physician’s individual conscience and honor the physician/patient relationship; with that we will not prohibit our physicians from participating in a patient’s right to a dignified death in their own home as defined by Proposition 106, which is the law and was passed by an overwhelming margin by the citizens of Colorado and Huerfano county.”

Report: $10 million to bring La Veta’s school buildings up to code

by Bob Kennemer

LA VETA — At their regular meeting on February 27, the La Veta Board of Education heard from their facilities task force chair John Albright that the tentative cost to bring the buildings which comprise the La Veta schools campus up to current code is $10 million.

March 9

Huerfano inmate makes short lived jail break

by Eric Mullens

WALSENBURG — Shortly before 8 pm Friday, March 3, an inmate at the Huerfano County Jail scaled the razor wire fence surrounding the detention center’s recreation yard and make a brief bid for freedom.

On and off duty sheriff’s personnel immediately began a search of an area encompassing East Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Streets.

Deputies were searching the area around St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Carl’s Jr. restaurant, and the historic Mazzone Hall, when the escapee, clad only in a t-shirt and green and white striped jail issued pants, showed himself.

Deputy Dee Pacheco was working her way across the street from the church, when she aimed her flashlight onto the recessed porch of Mazzone Hall on East Seventh Street, revealing 25-year old Randy Roybal’s hiding place. Roybal jumped up, scrambled off of the porch and began running east into the backyards of residences in the next block. Other deputies, including Sheriff Bruce Newman and Captains Milan Rapo, jail administrator Ray Walsh, and Craig Lessar, gave chase from the alley behind the hall. HCSO Sgt. Joe Albano and deputy Ben Bounds were also involved in the search effort.

Roybal, of Gardner, was captured without force approximately one and 1/2 blocks east of the hall in the yard at 218 E. Seventh. He was in custody by approximately 8:10 pm, having eluded authorities for only about 15 minutes. Roybal was transported to Spanish Peaks Regional Medical Center for treatment of cuts he received while escaping.

Surveillance video leads to suspect ID in senior center break-ins

by Eric Mullens

TRINIDAD — The Sayre Senior Center in Trinidad has been the victim of a number of burglaries since the middle of December 2016, but now a suspect is in custody.

La Veta Town Board denies requests from Margaret Flynn

by Bob Kennemer

LA VETA — Responding to requests from new La Veta resident Margaret Flynn, the LVTB denied her request for a variance from Ordinance 276 pertaining to Flood Plain Damage Prevention.

Eight year prison term in deadly 2016 DUI crash

by Eric Mullens

WALSENBURG — Even without visual aids, Third Judicial District Attorney Henry Solano, and members of Mason Lykins family painted a vibrant, emotional picture of who this much loved young man was during the sentencing hearing Wednesday for his killer, undocumented immigrant Maximiliano Delacruz Munoz.

District Judge Claude Appel sentenced Delacruz-Munoz to eight years in prison for vehicular homicide, 289 days (time served) for DUI and five years probation. The defendant will be deported to Mexico following his prison term.

March 16

Tensions mount between city and sheriff’s office on computer crime files

Huerfano County Sheriff’s Office prepared arrest warrant for Walsenburg city administrator Klusmire last week

by Eric Mullens

WALSENBURG — The transition of equipment and case files from the City of Walsenburg to the Huerfano County Sheriff’s Office under the mandate of the IGA (intergovernmental agreement) prepared and signed in accordance with the November 2016 vote on municipal question #300, is not complete and ensuing weeks of delays has caused enough drama the city administrator was nearly arrested last week.

Domestic dispute at Las Animas County Courthouse injures city councilwoman

by Joy Gipson

TRINIDAD — According to Las Animas County Security Officer Anthony Mattie, on Friday afternoon, March 10, in the Trinidad County Courthouse, a male probation client waiting for his appointment with a probation officer got into a verbal altercation with his girlfriend that quickly escalated into a physical assault.

A security guard and probation personnel stepped in and subdued the situation by separating the assailant, Simon Garcia, from his girlfriend. The security guard and some male probation officials were restraining the male individual while Pat Fletcher, a probation office employee was escorting the girlfriend to a vacant conference room. The assailant violently broke loose and attacked the women knocking them both to the floor.

March 23

Huerfano sheriff investigating liquor store armed robbery

by Eric Mullens

WALSENBURG — Huerfano County Sheriff’s deputies are investigating an armed robbery that happened Saturday, March 18 at Up Town Liquors in Walsenburg.

Miners’ health benefits issue advocacy opportunity lost due to weather

by Carol S. Bridge

RATON — All three Colfax commissioners were present on a regular public meeting March 14, which was unexpected, as vice chairman Roy Fernandez had expected to be in Washington DC advocating for local miners and their families whose health care and pensions are at risk through congress’s failure to act on the Miners Protection Act, Senate Bill 175 and House Resolution 179.

Fernandez was able to attend this meeting only because flights to Washington, DC were cancelled due to severe storms in the DC area. This issue has immediate and local consequences for county and regional residents.

To avoid honoring commitments to miners, several coal and petroleum industries are reneging on past promises by filing bankruptcies, leaving in jeopardy over 24,000 miners who had accepted lower pay for years in exchange for lifetime health benefits.

New LAC administrator takes stock of county’s financial woes

by Bill Knowles

LAS ANIMAS — The county’s new administrator, Priscilla “Pete” Fraser, started her job with the county on March 1, and she hit the ground running.

Fraser is facing serious budgetary challenges, and there is a possibility of both the DA’s office and sheriff’s office putting up a sales tax question for public safety reasons. It will prove to be a hard sell to the county’s voters. If a public safety sales tax does pass, it will release funds back into the general fund to be used somewhere else.

Former cop’s sex assault trial set for September

by Eric Mullens

WALSENBURG — A trial date has now been set for a former sheriff’s office command officer’s trial on sexual assault charges.

On Friday, March 17 a plea hearing had been set in Third Judicial District court in Walsenburg concerning the charges against Kevin Vallejos, but the Clerk of Combined courts, Lorraine Cisneros, notified the press assembled to cover the hearing, the defendant had chosen to take the case to a jury trial.

March 30

Huerfano / La Veta fire departments fight structure fire Sunday afternoon

by Eric Mullens

WALSENBURG — Huerfano and La Veta fire protection district firefighters responded to a structure fire at approximately 1:45 pm Sunday, March 26 in north Rio Cucharas.

HCFPD Captain Fred Partee said the location of the reported chimney fire was on CR 504 off of U.S. Hwy 160 and sheriff’s deputies who were the first to arrive on scene reported smoke visible from a residence. While Huerfano County firefighters responded, deputies reported smoke growing and flames visible from the dwelling. At that time a mutual aid request was made by Huerfano for La Veta Fire Protection District to also respond to the scene.

“Upon arrival HCFPD reported heavy smoke and fire from the roof of a single family dwelling. An aggressive attack was initiated and the fire was contained above the living room and part of a bedroom in the “attic space” and roofline. Heavy fire, smoke and water damage was sustained the residence,” Partee said.

No injuries were reported and the cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Both HCFPD and LVFPD responded with two fire trucks and six firefighters each.

Surprise spring storm packs a wallop

by Brian Orr and Bill Knowles

HUERFANO/COLFAX — We were seduced.

We got to thinking that Winter was done, and that Spring was here.

The temperature had flirted with the high 70’s, the plants were all coming up, the robins were all flitting around; we even saw buzzards!

And then; wham! Our predicted rain with a ‘few flurries’ turned into a region-wide power loss, the closure of I-25 for much of the morning, and from five to 20 inches of very wet snow in various parts of the region.

As the storms moved into the Huerfano and Las Animas counties, displays of lightning and thunder announced its arrival. As rain began to fall the winds picked up around midnight March 24 causing the first outages to occur. A little before 6 am, most of the I-25 corridor was without power, with well over 100 power poles snapped off due to the high winds that preceded the storm. As of noon Tuesday, there were still 600 homes and business without power, over four days after the storm.

State attorney general looking into Welcome Center at Trinidad

by Bill Knowles

TRINIDAD — The Colorado Tourism Office (CTO) in Denver has asked the state’s attorney general to look into issues of non-compliance with the annual contract between the CTO and the City of Trinidad on the operation of the Welcome Center in Trinidad.

According to an email the World Journal received from the CTO, “…the Attorney General’s Office is still reviewing the issues and the CTO is unable to comment any further at this time.”

The core of the issue is the question: for whose benefit is the center operating? Ultimately it is this issue that fostered and promoted the clash between the center’s manager, Barbara Howard, and the City of Trinidad.

Should the center boost Trinidad, or should it boost the state as well? The disagreement resulted in the lockout and firing of Howard, the walkout of the volunteers, and the involvement of the attorney general.

APRIL 2017

April 6

Traffic stop leads to felony arrest

by Eric Mullens

WALSENBURG — It’s important to follow all the traffic laws in Huerfano County, especially at night, especially in bad weather, and especially if your vehicle contains illegal drugs valued higher than the average Walsenburg household income.

At about 11:30 pm Monday, April 3, Huerfano sheriff’s deputies Sgt. Corey Daniels and Captain Craig Lessar contacted a vehicle at CR 340, Bear Creek Road, for failure to use turn signals and failure to dim headlights to oncoming traffic. A quick computer check showed the driver, 26-year old Victor ‘Vicc’

Sandoval of Walsenburg had a revoked driver’s license and a $10,000 cash only drug warrant out of Pueblo. Sandoval was taken into custody and his vehicle, a 1996 Chevy pickup was about to be searched incident to his arrest when the deputies saw, in plain sight, drug paraphernalia including a pipe and a see through glass container which held a large piece of suspected heroin. The deputies secured the vehicle, stopped their search and while Sandoval was being booked for the Pueblo warrant, wrote a search warrant affidavit for the vehicle. The warrant was approved and the vehicle was searched Tuesday afternoon at the secure indoor impound facility on East Fifth Street.

The search turned up the suspected heroin, which weighed in at nine grams, various drug paraphernalia items, $2,200 in cash and approximately 150 grams of suspected methamphetamine. Captain Lessar told the World Journal the suspected meth was the purest batch of the drug he could remember encountering in the region. Investigators surmise the drug could be ‘stepped-on’ or diluted with other substances, as much as three times and still be a viable black market product; putting the estimated street value at $30,000.

San Isabel Electric Association can’t catch a break:

Restores most severe outage in twenty years, more outages follow

by Bill Knowles SO COLO — Late winter and early spring storms have caused several outages across the southern Colorado area since the start of the year beginning with a wind storm in January that knocked out service in the Aguilar area for a week, damaging over 60 poles and miles of transmission and distribution lines.

A brief reprieve in February and then more storms brought in gale force winds, snow, and rain moved through the area in late March and early April, setting the stage for what San Isabel Electric crews began calling the “worst outage in over twenty years.” By the morning of March 24, around 5,000 residents in the two county area were without power after two transmission poles were knocked out, with damage concentrated in the La Veta and Trinidad territories. By the end, crews had replaced around 250 poles and 100 cross arms.

Trinidad begins discussion on changes to city charter

by Bill Knowles

TRINIDAD — The Trinidad City Council met in a special work session Wednesday, March 29, at city hall to discuss possible changes to the city’s charter, changes they view as necessary.

The charter lays out how the government of the City of Trinidad operates and sets limits and boundaries to the powers of both the city staff and city council.

Four of the seven city council members were present. The three who were absent were council members Carlos Lopez, Liz Torres, and Pat Fletcher.

Before any changes can be made to the city charter, the council must draft a question for the city’s regular election November ballot. The voters of the City of Trinidad must approve the changes drafted by the city council before they go into effect.

April 13

Trinidad City Council approves trout structures along Purgatoire River

by Bill Knowles

TRINIDAD — In an abbreviated meeting, the Trinidad City Council approved a grant that will cover a $147,305 project to build up the Purgatoire River for trout fishing and kayaking along the Boulevard Addition of the river.

The partners who are helping to fund the project are the Purgatoire River Water Conservancy District, putting up $25,000; the City of Trinidad, which is funding $38,885; and the State of Colorado’s Department of Parks and Wildlife, at $83,420.

The Boulevard Addition involves the part of the river that stretches from the dam to Highways 350/160 as a recreational corridor. This will further enhance the river, along with several other projects, such as the paved trail, and the planned pedestrian bridge.

RE-2 boasts six winners at state science fair

by Bob Kennemer

LA VETA — The RE-2 Board of Education at the regular meeting heard from teacher Tracy McCay that six middle and high school students competed at the Colorado Science and Engineering Fair in Fort Collins last week. Three hundred and seventy-nine students from across Colorado competed for awards, scholarships, and internships.

In the junior division in the Environmental discipline Kaleb Andreatta and Cavin McCay received 3rd Place in the grand award category. Sarah Duzenack received an Honorable Mention in the grand award category in plant sciences. Brecken Dobbs received the Colorado Dental Association Award.

In high school Cassie Blew received the American Psychology Award. Lexy Guadagnoli also competed at the high school level. Blew and Guadagnoli will attend the INTEL International Science and Engineering Fair in Los Angeles in May.

McCay went on to provide the board a report on student council activities. She said, “I asked the students to create their own goals for student council, as I felt they would have more buy in if the ideas came from the council.”

April 20

Child hostage drama ends peacefully Monday

by Eric Mullens

WALSENBURG — An armed Huerfano County man, possibly fearing deportation, reacted to sheriff’s deputies arriving at his property Monday morning to perform a welfare check by taking his son to a building near the residence and holding him there for over an hour.

Huerfano County Sheriff Bruce Newman said Jose Tarango, 53, told deputies repeatedly, he was not going to hurt his son, and not going to hurt lawman, although Newman said he was armed with both a rifle and pistol.

Newman said Tarango was leaving the residence with his six year-old son when deputies arrived. “He didn’t grab the boy or try to use him as a shield,” Newman told the World Journal Monday afternoon. Deputies had been called by Tarango’s wife’s family members to do the welfare check. Tarango had been arrested prior to the Monday incident on a domestic violence case, and was free on bond.

While the suspect may never have had any intention of hurting his child, the sheriff’s office took no chances, setting up at least two observation positions manned by officers with long guns.

The sheriff had moved into a position about 30 feet from the subject and continued to negotiate the boy’s release. “I told him, if he let the boy go we would leave,” Newman said.

Tarango let the boy go unharmed after about an hour and when he was safely with officers the sheriff called off the operation. “He didn’t pose a threat to the public or his family,” Newman said. “He was more a threat to himself. His father tried to talk him into coming out, but that failed.”

Farm feud in La Veta

Farm to table program at odds with neighbor

by Bob Kennemer

LA VETA — Once again, the La Veta Town Board heard a lengthy complaint from Jeffrey Cole and Marcella Smith. The Smiths live directly west of property owned by Matthew and Kristina Heim. Ms. Heim is the creator of the Wahatoya Community Initiatives Program, which includes a farm-to-table program. The Heim’s farm property is known as the Cuchara River Farm. Using interns and a farm manager, the farm grows organic vegetables along with organically raised pork and poultry.

Ms. Smith read from a letter she and her husband had submitted to the LVTB, stating the WCI program is a commercial business being run in a residential area. She also stated the new born piglets have gotten loose and went onto her property. Foul odors from the pigs were also cited. Additionally, the Smiths have voiced concerns that the Heims are running a boarding house to house the interns and farm manager. The property is not zoned for a boarding house.

Board member Mickey Schmidt said, “I think it is pretty irrefutable that we have a commercial operation. We should refer this to zoning enforcement.” Mayor Doug Brgoch added, “We may also need to contact our attorney, as we now have a prima facie case.”

Matt Heim then responded to the board. “We were never notified of this issue being on the agenda tonight.” He went on to explain that all of this part of long term intimidation on part of the Smiths. “A year and a half ago I had to call the marshal because he [Jeffery Cole Smith] drove his truck onto my property and was actively cutting a fence down. He claimed he had a driveway easement through our land. We took legal action and found that they [the Smiths] don’t have legal standing.

Walsenburg takes next step in City Lake Dam project

by Eric Mullens

WALSENBURG — While the regular Walsenburg City Council meeting took only about 20 minutes Tuesday night, council members fixed what was described as a technical issue by passing Resolution 2017-R-6 and committed nearly a half a million dollars for the next phase in the City Lake Dam rehabilitation and expansion project.

With five members present, city council voted unanimously to adopt and pass the resolution (17-R-6 Northlands Water and Sewer Bond Refinancing and Loan Resolution) paying off the interim construction loan and refinancing, at a lower interest rate, the original construction loan for the Northlands Sanitary Sewer system. The action removed the term ‘qualified tax-exempt obligations’ from page 19 of the document. City Administrator Leslie Klusmire will hand carry the paperwork to Denver prior to April 24 to ensure the city does not have to pay any penalties that would be incurred with a delay of closing.

Trinidad City Council approves flurry of Marijuana licenses

by Bill Knowles

TRINIDAD — The Trinidad City Council approved five marijuana licenses and set a hearing date for one new retail marijuana store application during their regular meeting Tuesday evening.

Ahab, LLC, doing business as Strawberry Fields, has filed a new retail marijuana store application. Its business address will be at 116 Santa Fe Trail. A public hearing date was set for June 6, 2017.

A license was also approved for a retail marijuana store owned by RJJ Trinidad, LLC who is doing business as Native Roots Trinidad. The company is located at 3140 Santa Fe Trail. The primary owner of Native Roots is Nr Parentco LLC, with headquarters located in Denver, and is one of the largest marijuana companies in the state by virtue of the number of licenses it holds. It has 18 stores throughout the state, with 15 recreational licenses and 13 medical licenses, along with their cultivation operations.

After undergoing intense questioning by the city council with a focus on the number and types of legal problems several of the partners had during their college days, the public hearing was closed and the council went into executive session.

April 26

‘Dark times now; better times ahead’

Former Senator Ken Salazar tells Dems to keep the faith at Mother Jones Dinner

by Edie Flanagin

WALSENBURG — The meal, silent auction, speakers, and many friendly faces made the fourth annual Mother Jones Dinner a successful fundraiser.

The crowd was so large on Friday night at the Huerfano County Community Center that an extra table had to be set up. Many attendees were there to hear keynote speaker, former Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar; but other speakers also made the night memorable.

Salazar gave a “pep talk” to the gathered Democrats who took a beating in last year’s election. He pointed out that the loss of the White House is not the worst thing that has ever happened to our country. He said we survived assassinations and the civil rights movement turmoil of the sixties. Salazar also said we “survived the fight for women’s suffrage less than a hundred years ago. And we survived the horrors of the civil war and slavery. Each crisis has made the nation stronger; we will survive the Trump years by becoming a stronger party and nation.” He reiterated that he will not run for Governor in 2018 due to several pressing family issues.

Dale Lyons, chairman of the Huerfano County Democratic Party, gave a rousing speech. She channeled the energy and fiery personality of the dinner’s namesake, Mother Jones, in an inspirational talk about what the Democratic Party stands for. She said each of us has a duty to fight for justice, fairness, and equality for all Americans.

Wild chase ends with two suspects in custody

by Eric Mullens

WALSENBURG — Huerfano County sheriff’s deputies got into a wild chase early Sunday morning that began in Walsenburg and ended with a foot chase on Lascar Road and the arrest of two suspects.

At about 3:15 am, Deputy Paul Saunders and Captain Craig Lessar had just finished a business check at the Loaf & Jug, 200 Main St., when Saunders saw a black SUV without headlights on cross Main St. and proceed west on Colorado Ave. Saunders not only saw the vehicle, but heard it as well, as it appeared to have a flat right front tire. The lawmen pulled up to the vehicle in the 300 block of W. Third St., and turned on their overhead emergency lights. Before the deputies could even get out of their patrol vehicles, the black Yukon SUV sped off. The SUV headed to Hendren and turned north, throwing sparks and chunks of the flat tire. The driver, later identified as Christina Medina, 26, of Alamosa, turned the vehicle onto east Spruce and headed towards Walsen. At this time both sheriff’s vehicles had activated sirens as well as their emergency lights. The suspect vehicle blew through every stop sign it encountered and turned north on Polk Ave. from Spruce, from there the truck turned west from Polk onto E. Grand, and from there it turned right and headed north on Walsen Ave.

The chase had lasted until about 3:36 am when the front passenger wheel dug into the dirt on the side of the county road and stopped the vehicle in its tracks. “Two occupants, one male and one female, immediately began to exit the damaged vehicle; the female came out of the driver side of the car, and the male came out of the passenger side,” Saunders wrote in his affidavit.

Lessar pulled up behind the suspect vehicle and yelled at the pair telling them to get on the ground and that they were under arrest. Both suspects began to run further down the dirt road and into an open field on the left side. Deputy Roberts followed the suspects in his patrol vehicle as Lessar and Saunders checked the SUV for any other suspects, finding none, they too got back in their cars and chased down the suspects.

Both subjects were arrested and a dog they had in the SUV was placed in the Walsenburg Animal Shelter. The license plate came back to a white 2008 Ford pick up registered to Denver County government, a vin (Vehicle Identification Number ) check on the Black Yukon showed it was stolen from Felix A. Quintero of Delta, CO.

Two unidentified weapons and a tin box containing suspected methamphetamine were recovered from Medina. A glass pipe was recovered from Jaracuaro.

Lessar told the World Journal Sunday night that once the two suspects were secured inside the sheriff’s vehicles they immediately fell asleep.

Where is the equity?! Is the Cuchara Sanitation and Water District killing Cuchara?

by Bob Kennemer

CUCHARA —Over the past several months the owners of the Cuchara Inn in downtown Cuchara, have come before the CSWD to discuss what they see as excessively high water rates especially because the facility was essentially closed while under recent remodeling. At the April meeting of the CSWD board Cuchara Inn owner Scott Lynch, with support from local resident Marshall Moore, approached the board asking for some kind of relief from these high rates at least while under construction. The board granted the inn a 50% discount for the winter construction period.

However, the Inn owners, Scott and Dani Lynch, were unable to proceed with construction due to a death in the family, which kept them preoccupied. In an effort to be honest, the Lynches continued to pay the regular rate because they had not proceeded with the construction. Their goal was to revamp the plumbing and electricity so they could close down sections of the inn when not in use, to lower their consumptive use of power and water.

As the inn owners proceeded to review all of their costs, they soon realized the water bill was their doom. “In the off season, we realized the water bill would break our back,” said Dani. Scott stated, “It is not fair and equitable. I’m not trying to get my water for free. I’ll pay an off season fee.”

At a recent meeting with several Cuchara business owners and concerned residents, all of the attendees agreed with the Lynches. Most business owners asked to be unnamed, fearing reprisals from the CSWD board. However, several comments were expressed such as, “Why handicap free enterprise?” and “Will this help the community?”

MAY 2017

May 4

Fight call leads to arrest of two on drug charges

by Eric Mullens

WALSENBURG — Tuesday night Huerfano Sheriff’s deputies responded to a fight in progress call that led to the midnight issuance of a search warrant and the subsequent arrest of two people on felony drug charges.

Deputies Paul Saunders and Joe Roberts were dispatched to the fight call outside of 521 Alfredo Ave., and while still responding received an update from dispatch that individuals involved in the fight had left the scene in a grey Ford Escape.

Three county law officers then went to the Alfredo location and as they approached the adjacent home, 810 Andreo, they could hear what sounded like a violent fight taking place inside. Aguirre’s father, Toby, allowed the deputies into the home where they went to a small back bedroom in the northeast corner of the dwelling.

As deputies entered the room, Jared Aguirre was sitting on a bed with what appeared to be a rifle between his legs with the barrel pointed at the ceiling.

Saunders said in his report the bed Aguirre was sitting on also had on it, in plain sight, a burned piece of tin foil, also in plain sight in the bedroom was a digital scale with what appeared to be a black round substance on it the deputy reported was consistant with heroine. Other debris in the room, including glass pipes, “tooters” and other pieces of burned tin foil were observed.

May 11

How bad is Raton’s drug crisis? Let’s find out.

byCarol Bridge

RATON — “How severe is the drug crisis in Raton?” is a question that is being asked by an offshoot of the Colfax County Health Council. The group will be answering this question in the coming months as different representatives from local agencies come together to compare facts and statistics from their respective programs in order to pool their knowledge. The goal is to begin to solve the problem of illegal chemical use in Colfax and adjoining counties. From the severity and number of comments from the different organizations of Raton, we must agree that this community is, indeed, in crisis.

Sue Fleming, a concerned citizen, has agreed to facilitate the meetings whose immediate challenges include: 1) Gather statistics from agencies such as local law enforcement, the courts, CYFD, Probation, the New Mexico Department of Health, Mental Health, schools and other agencies that care for people who are abusing drugs or alcohol. 2) To better identify, utilize and promote what resources currently exist. 3) To identify funding sources and to gather information in order to request available grants. 4) To identify and promote self help groups such as AA and NA. 5) To institute an evidence based program in the schools to address drug and alcohol abuse. 6) To identify and promote adult education opportunities to begin to address the revolving door of local incarcerations. 7) To investigate and encourage local programs such as outdoor and motivational activities. 8) To facilitate the cooperation of service organizations, churches and other efforts such as childhood literacy.

RE-1 officials travel to Denver to plead Peakview case with Colorado Department of Education

by Dan Harper

GARDNER/WALSENBURG — Gardner School hosted the RE-1 school board on Monday, May 8, and the elephant in the room was the looming visit to the State Board of Education on Wednesday, May 10.

The options on the table are external management, or closure and consolidation of the district’s K-8 schools, Gardner and Peakview. Huerfano RE-1 Superintendent Mike Moore and Peakview Principal Brenda Duran expressed frustration, and exhaustion with the process so far. The amount of documentation required for the reports and plans have eaten up 15 days of time that Duran could have used to help her school. Moore has lost similar amounts of time. The board expressed its frustration with the process and possible cost.

At this point, the management plan the state board is proposing could cost the district at least $29,500. It could be much higher as the meager grants available may not cover the total price. The mood of the board and community is a combination of despair, frustration and anger. It is felt the state board didn’t listen to their own panel that assessed the district a year ago, nor will they listen to RE-1 now.

Hoehne robbery still under investigation Three suspects on the loose

by David J. Santistevan, Jr.

TRINIDAD — The Las Animas County Sheriff’s Office continues to investigate a Wednesday April 26, 2017 robbery in which a Hoehne woman was beaten and tied up, according to the sheriff’s report. The suspects are still at large.

According to the report, Gage Montoya arrived at his mother-in-law’s house, located at 19470 CR. 91.2, around 4 pm on April 26, 2017. Upon entering the home of Marsha Gerry, Montoya found Gerry tied up. He then called law enforcement.

When deputies arrived, Gerry told them three unknown persons (of which one was female and another a hispanic male), had hit her, tied her up, and stolen firearms from the residence. Deputies observed Gerry with two cuts above her right eye and a cut above her nose along with bruising on both of her forearms.

May 18

Klusmire fired

Walsenburg City Administrator terminated immediately on 5-2 vote

by Eric Mullens

WALSENBURG — Walsenburg’s City Administrator Leslie Klusmire’s job was on the line Tuesday night, and while personnel matters are, by law, discussed in closed door executive sessions, the topic appeared to be the worst kept secret in the city.

When the final council agenda item, innocuously titled ‘City Administrator’ came up, council member Dennis Hoyt passed a two page letter to the rest of the city council and made the motion to terminate Klusmire as city administrator. Council member Clint Boehler seconded the motion and Mayor Jim Eccher began to read the letter into the record.

Klusmire has been the city administrator for approximately 14 months, having been hired by the city council in March 2016.

“In the opinion of the city council, it is time for the relationship between the city and you to end,” the letter addressed to Klusmire said. “The city council believes that some of the issues that have developed during your employment with the city are incapable of being rectified.”

Raton schools see drastic reductions across the board

by Carol Bridge

RATON — In a surprisingly subdued meeting the announcement was made that 9.5 teachers, seven non certified staff, and others, including an administrator, custodian, and a secretary, were included in the reduction of force action. English and math positions and other important programs were eliminated, including the Alternative Credit Recovery program, intermediate FCCLA, PE and Music reductions for the elementary schools, and high school library staff and the high school art programs.

Unlike the previous meeting, where several staff members were denied an opportunity to speak because of the way the meeting was structured, this meeting was without protest or statements of concern from the public. With these cuts, class sizes will increase and staff will be asked to do more with less. New Mexico public education is already one of the lowest funded in the nation, and these cuts will further put local students at a disadvantage.

Connie Grimm appointed as new La Veta trustee

Recent flooding not as bad as thought

by Bob Kennemer

LA VETA — The first item on the La Veta Town Board’s agenda this past Tuesday was to appoint a board member to fill the seat of Dave Molyneux, who had resigned due to health reasons. Connie Grimm, who was a past resident of La Veta and has once again made this her home for the last several years, was chosen to be the new trustee, and will serve until the next election in the spring of 2018.

Going over departmental reports, the board heard the streets in Moore Park need work due to recent flood damage, noting some houses had been entirely surrounded by water and could have been lost during this Stage 1 Flood Alert. Additional damage was reported on Mayfield Street near the Cuchara River, where a fire hydrant came close to being washed away. Grant monies may be available to help offset costs to the town during this recent flooding.

The recent rain had caused leaks in the roof above the gift shop at the Francisco Fort Museum as well as the saloon on the museum grounds.

May 25

La Veta students participate in the International Science and Engineering Fair

by Pat Keeling

LA VETA — Two La Veta students, along with science fair sponsor Pat Keeling, attended the International Science and Engineering Fair last week in Los Angeles, California. Cassie Blew competed in the fair while Lexy Guadagnoli attended the event as an observer.

Cuchara Chapel gives record $42,000 in scholarships

by Don Pike

HUERFANO — Thanks to the record contributions and some returned scholarship funds, the Cuchara Chapel awarded eighteen $2,000 scholarships to the following Huerfano County High School graduating seniors:

At the Awards Banquet on May 25 at La Veta High School scholarships were presented to Carissa Cardenas, Matthew Dobbs, Gabriella Lopez, McKenzee Miller, Kaylee Ortibez, Jordon Tiggs-Reyes, and Trevor Warren.

JUNE 2017

June 1

Bomb threat; burglar caught; artistic license revoked

by Eric Mullens

WALSENBURG — Huerfano County Sheriff’s deputies have been busy with Walsenburg incidents including an attempted extortion bomb threat this week, the capture of a burglary suspect and an assault and vandalism case that both happened last week.

Bomb threat:

When an employee arrived at Rocky Mountain Propane on West Seventh Tuesday morning, May 30, they discovered a shocking fax had arrived at the business.

The fax directed the company to send money to a specific account or a bomb placed at the building would be detonated. Huerfano County Sheriff Bruce Newman said deputies were dispatched to the scene to check for any kind of explosive device. None was found and further investigation by deputies indicated the telephone numbers associated with the threat were well known to state fraud criminal investigative agencies.

There are no suspects, local or otherwise named in the incident at this time.

Burglary in progress:

On Tuesday, May 23, the sheriff’s office was notified of a possible burglary in progress at 316 E. Fifth St., the home of Joe Feiccabrino. Sheriff Newman, Undersheriff Dave McCain, Deputy Dee Pacheco, and Captain Milan Rapo rushed to the area. The neighborhood has been plagued for some months as a target of a burglar or burglars.

Upon arrival Newman and McCain entered the alley adjacent to the home while Rapo and Pacheco went to the front of the garage. As Rapo and Pacheco came to the detached garage the suspect, Jason Sheffield, 32, walked out of the building. He was arrested on charges of second degree burglary, a class four felony and second degree trespass, a class three misdemeanor.

Second confirmed case of rabies found in Trinidad & Las Animas County

by David J. Santistevan, Jr.

TRINIDAD — A late May press release from the Las Animas/Huerfano Counties Health Department (LAHCHD) has confirmed a second case of rabies has been identified in Las Animas County, a bat found at Central Park on Smith Street in Trinidad. Earlier in May, the LAHCHD reported a skunk in the Hoehne area also tested positive for rabies.

Wildlife officials encourage everyone to stay away from stray animals, wild animals and to get their pets checked and vaccinated.

June 8

Murder in Toltec

by Eric Mullens

WALSENBURG — Bad blood between family members may have been the motive for a fatal shooting that happened Tuesday afternoon in the Toltec neighborhood northwest of Walsenburg, marking the first homicide in Huerfano County in 2017.

Huerfano sheriff’s deputies and Spanish Peaks Regional Health Center ambulance personnel responded to 1434 CR 590 after a 911 call reporting at shooting at 4:16 pm June 6. The victim, 41 year old Steve Salazar was rushed to the regional health center but died of multiple gunshot wounds at about 5 pm.

According to Huerfano County Sheriff Bruce Newman, the suspect was identified as Victor Salazar, 38, the victim’s cousin, who allegedly fled the scene in a black Chevrolet pick-up. The victim’s parents were in their home at the time of the incident. It is believed, however, the shooting was witnessed by an 11 year old family member who was at the home when his uncle was fatally gunned down. Sheriff Newman told the World Journal the victim was standing inside the fenced portion of the yard at the home, when the suspect allegedly drove up and fired from his vehicle. “There may have been some kind of confrontation,” Newman said, but the investigation was ongoing at press deadline, and he did not have further details.

Shortly after 5 pm, the emergency 911 center in Walsenburg received a phone call from a citizen in the area of San Antonio Street on the city’s far south side, reporting a man who appeared to be hiding on the roof of an abandoned house in the area. Sheriff Newman left two deputies at the crime scene, and he, along with other deputies and two troopers from the Colorado State Patrol rushed to that area, known to locals as ‘Chico Hill’. Deputies and troopers armed with shotguns and rifles found the suspect and took him into custody without incident.

Joy Festival’s 50th anniversary

Events here, and across the pond

by Joe Tarabino

TRINIDAD — Coinciding with the fiftieth anniversary of the first Joy Festival gathering which was held at Drop City on June 9-11, 1967, the Carnegie Public Library will be the center of this year’s cultural vortex between 5 and 7 pm on Friday, June 9. Most of the rest, as those who are fond of pop up art are wont to say, is up to you.

The other Joy Festival being held in Groombridge Hill & Place, near Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England, is a family oriented event with everything from creative workshops, music, and dancing, to sack races for children, and is accessible for only 65 pounds sterling (£). The Brits also provide luxury toilets at £3 ($3.87) per use, and either teepee or gypsy caravan camping options for an additional £600 for the weekend.

June 15

Careless smoking may have been cause of fire

by Eric Mullens

WALSENBURG — Huerfano County Fire Protection District firefighters responded to a single family home fire around 1:30 Thursday afternoon.

The fire at 825 W. Cedar was reported by neighbor Paul Gomez, who is a captain with the fire service. Gomez said he saw heavy smoke billowing out from under the eaves of the home and called in the emergency.

A large number of fire trucks and personnel responded to the incident. Fire Captain Fred Partee said at the scene last week, firefighters worked on information there may have been children living at the home and did a full dynamic entry to locate anyone who may have been inside. Luckily, there was no one inside the home at the time of the fire.

According to Gomez, the initial review of the fire scene indicates the fire began in the east end of the home, where the master bedroom is located, and spread to the attic of the single-story ranch style dwelling.

Salazar murder gun remains missing

by Eric Mullens

WALSENBURG — Despite efforts by the sheriff’s office to find it, the gun believed to have been used in the June 6 alleged fatal shooting of one cousin by another has not been discovered.

Salazar was taken into custody without incident on Tuesday evening and was interviewed by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. He was not in possession of the suspected murder weapon when apprehended.

Colfax Commissioners voice alarm at Colfax child welfare statistics

by Carol Bridge

RATON — The Colfax County Commissioners met on June 13 for a nearly three hour meeting that included a lengthy executive session. Debbie Ortiz of CYFD spoke about a grant that will help 30 local families. The grant will allow at risk families in the county to receive specialized services in an attempt to alleviate the alarming rate of child abuse and neglect cases. Commissioner James Landon Newton related his concern about recent statistics from the New Mexico Department of Health, which state that Colfax County is the worst county in New Mexico in the number of confirmed abused and neglected children.

The statistic is even more disturbing because New Mexico itself ranks second to the last nationally. Newton called for the community to come together over this issue, especially because the Raton Public Schools have taken such drastic budget cuts and are less able to help. The commissioners voted unanimously to support the grant designed to improve family functioning.

June 22

WJ uncovers undisclosed jail drug investigation

Las Animas jail inmate charged for possession of drugs

by Bill Knowles

TRINIDAD — A sweep by detention officers resulted in the discovery of drugs in the cell pods at the Trinidad Judicial Center last May, although it has taken an investigation by the World Journal to quell rumors that firearms were also found in cells in recent searches.

The independent investigation by the World Journal uncovered a situation, which is also currently under investigation by the 3rd Judicial District Attorney’s Office, with assistance from the Colorado Department of Corrections, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, and several agencies of the federal government.

When DA Henry Solano was contacted for comment the office released a limited statement indicating that an investigation was underway but gave out very little detail.

The statement said there has been “an unfortunate sequence of events during recent weeks at the Las Animas County jail.”

City Council approves Tier 1 recreation marijuana grow City council July meetings set for 11th & 18th

by Eric Mullens

WALSENBURG — It’s summer and the living is easy, and the thoughts of Walsenburg City Council have already turned to tax issues for the November election. While a proposed ballot tax question concerning the creation of a municipal excise tax on marijuana sales within the city limits was presented to council members for their initial review Tuesday night, no formal action was taken. With six members present, the city council conducted a public hearing as the city’s marijuana licensing authority on a retail marijuana cultivation license request from Judy A. Marquez of Monument, CO, for a Tier One (1800 or fewer plants) project on land off of Parsons Road owned by Martra Holdings Operating Partnership.

Trinidad City Council hears ethics violation

by Bill Knowles

TRINIDAD — During the regular Trinidad City Council meeting on Tuesday, the city’s board of ethics heard an alleged ethics violation filed by Trinidad City Council member Joe Bonato against fellow council member Anthony Mattie. The allegation concerns actions which occurred during an April 20, 2017 executive session of the board.

The complaint alleged that Mattie charged on Bonato after some words were exchanged between the two as the city council, along with city attorney Les Downs, and Beth Tatarko, Vice President of the Austin Peters Group, sifted through a list of applicants for a job opening.

The complaint states that Mattie, who had just left work as a courthouse security guard, was still wearing his uniform and was armed.

Trinidad Area Arts Council board member charged with theft of art funds

by Bill Knowles

TRINIDAD — Bree Anne Wetherhold-Pappan, former director of the Trinidad Area Arts Council (TAAC), has been charged with theft of the organization’s funds and will face a jury trial in Las Animas County starting Sept. 19, 2017.

The initial report of the alleged theft was filed on Dec. 2, 2016, after the president of TAAC, Mallory Pillard, discovered questionable activity through banking and credit card statements. The credit card was issued by the Bank of America on an account belonging to TAAC.

Documentation provided to police by TAAC showed that, “Pappan had written checks for personal items as well as cash, and had also used the council’s credit card numerous times for personal items, cash withdrawals, cell phone service, and subscriptions,” according to the police affidavit in support of the arrest warrant, filed with the Las Animas County combined courts on Feb. 13, 2017.

Court rules: Commissioner Abeyta out

Dems to name new LAC Commissioner

by Bill Knowles

TRINIDAD — Judge M. Jon Kolomitz, on June 16, 2017, ruled Anthony Abeyta was not qualified for election in Las Animas County District One because of his lack of residency in that district, and therefore a vacancy now exists in the office of Las Animas County Commissioner District One.

June 29

Democrats pass commissioner pick to Hickenlooper

Governor has 10 days to decide

by Bill Knowles

LAS ANIMAS — A meeting of the Las Animas County Democratic Party’s Vacancy Committee on Monday evening showed an internal struggle focused on the choice of three candidates to fill the county commission seat vacated earlier this month when Anthony Abeyta stepped down under court order after a judge found he was not living in the district he was elected to represent.

On June 16, the court ordered the seat vacated and, following state law, gave the Democrats ten days to find a replacement. There are three individuals expressing interest in the position: James Casias, Joseph Costa, and Sarah Ruybalid.

However the meeting was marred when procedural questions arose shortly from the start, with former District Attorney Frank Ruybalid objecting to the procedure used to notify all necessary members of the committee.

Trinidad jail investigation discovers evidence tampering Pending cases have been damaged

by Bill Knowles

TRINIDAD — As investigators examine the situation at the Las Animas County jail involving the discovery of drugs in an inmate’s cell, they have discovered that evidence from the breached evidence locker has been tampered with, damaging a number of cases slated for prosecution by the District Attorney’s office.

DA Henry Solano, noted in a conversation with the World Journal, that the amount of evidence tampered with and the number of cases affected were as yet unknown. However when the breach was discovered, the DA’s office began notifying defense attorneys for defendants slated for trial.

According to Solano, there are no criminal investigations aimed at jail staff, the sheriff’s office, or Trinidad Police. However there may be procedural investigations aimed at the agencies which occupied the judicial center at the time of the incident.

Salazar charged with first degree murder

by Eric Mullens

WALSENBURG — The Third Judicial District Attorney’s Office formally charged Victor Salazar with first degree murder in the alleged shooting death of his cousin, Steven Salazar, 41, during advisement proceedings in district court here Monday.

Victor Salazar, 38, allegedly shot and killed his cousin on June 6, 2017 in the front yard of Steven Salazar’s parents in Toltec. The suspect was captured by Huerfano County sheriff’s deputies and Colorado State Troopers about one hour after the shooting in the Cemetery Hill area in Walsenburg after citizens called 911 to report a suspicious person hiding on the roof of an abandoned home on San Antonio Street.

In the hearing this week, Victor Salazar was charged with first degree murder (after deliberation); possession of a weapon by a previous offender; felony menacing; a misdemeanor count of child abuse (regarding a minor child who was at the scene at the time of the alleged killing). Salazar also faces a number of felony habitual criminal, and crime of violence counts stemming from prior felony convictions dating back to 2003 through 2013.

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