July 17 First News: Former APD officer acquitted in murder case. (listen)

Former Albuquerque police officer Levi Chavez has been acquitted of 1st degree murder charges in the 2007 shooting death of his wife. He had maintained his innocence saying her death was a suicide.  The case drew much attention statewide with tales of extra-marital affairs and evidence tampering by Albuquerque police. Jurors rendered their “not guilty” verdict after some 10 hours of deliberations that began Monday following weeks of testimony.

Santa Fe’s Public Safety Committee has endorsed that proposal that would allow attendees of ball games at Fort Marcy Park to consume beer throughout the concessions and seating area. It’s currently restricted to a small, fenced beer garden some have called a “beer jail.”  Supporters say the less-restricted access will still maintain accordance with state and local laws and regulations. The matter heads to the Public Works Committee at the end of this month and could arrive before full City Council in September. If passed, it would be in place for the Fuego’s 2014 baseball season.

In concert with similar events across the nation, a number of pro-immigrant rallies are to be held today in southern New Mexico to lobby support for passage of comprehensive immigration reform. In particular, Republican party and congressman Steve Pearce's offices will be the focus of the gatherings. Pearce opposes the Senate's work on immigration reform and instead favors efforts to first secure the nation's border. As for an eventual path to citizenship, the southern New Mexico republican has said people should return to their home countries and then get in line.

Governor Susana Martinez has announced that her administration is developing a statewide strategic veterans’ cemetery plan to establish cemeteries for  New Mexico’s rural-area veterans.   Martinez says the goal is to provide resting places for the large portion of New Mexico’s veteran population that live far from the three federal cemeteries currently available to them at Santa Fe, Ft. Bayard, and Ft. Bliss. The VA has a strict mandate that a minimum of 100,000 veterans must live within a 75-mile radius of any new proposed national cemetery site.  Roughly 131,000 of the state’s 173,000 veterans live beyond that prescribed range. The New Mexico Department of Veterans’ Services is drafting a plan for the development of 3 or 4 small three-to-five acre veterans’ cemeteries in rural areas that would be under state control.

Next week, Santa Fe Community College begins New Student Orientation for the Fall 2013 semester. The school says that students who participate in the orientation sessions have higher GPAs and higher cumulative credit hour attainment than those who do not.  They also are more likely to commit to the following semester.  Next Wednesday's July 24th daylong event also encourages attendance by student's parents and spouses.

Today, the New Mexico Rail Runner Express is marking its 7th anniversary. Celebrations are planned this afternoon at the rail line's Sandoval County/US 550 and Downtown Albuquerque Stations with a free pizza party.  Railrunner officials say the train has so far served some 7 million passengers with more than a quarter billion miles traveled.

Weather for Santa Fe – partly sunny today, a high near 75 and a 50% chance for isolated afternoon and evening thundershowers. Overnight lows in the mid 50s. Temperatures warm closer to seasonal norms tomorrow with a high of 80 expected along with a 40% chance of precipitation.