Letters to the Editor
Relative feels family was mistreated during investigation
I am sending this letter to both the Albuquerque Journal and Farmington Daily Times. I am a New Mexico native (my family came here in the 1930s), born and raised in San Juan County, and a 13-year resident of Albuquerque. I am writing this letter because of my concerns for New Mexico children and our sometimes mismanaged and ineffective law enforcement and judicial systems.
There have been too many high-profile child abuse and murder cases involving young children who have endured horrible abuse and met their deaths in unspeakable ways. In one case, a young girl was murdered, dismembered, and burned.
An innocent boy was caged like an animal, his battered body finally discovered in a trash barrel in a rural area. In another, a boy was refused medical care by his caretakers and died, his tiny body buried in a makeshift grave. An innocent girl was found murdered on a filthy mattress in a house where the police had been called many times before. A baby’s body was recently found buried in a backyard, placed there by her father. In too many of these instances there were warning signs that were either ignored or mishandled, and resulted in the horrific deaths of innocent children.
In another story, in 2018 a man from Kirtland, New Mexico took two of his sons (ages 6 and 9 at the time) with him for some target practice (bottles and cans) in a rural area using a small caliber handgun. He had done this many times before. On this occasion, just as his father squeezed the trigger, the 6 year old darted out in front of his father because one of the bottles had fallen over. A bullet entered below his right ear and exited near his cheekbone on the other side.
The father acted quickly in getting his son emergency medical treatment, as can be attested to by records. The boy spent a week at UNMH, has no memory of the accident, and has only a slight hearing loss in one ear as a result. By the grace of God, his life was spared. The family entered counseling to help them get through this trauma and continue on with their lives.
San Juan County detective J. Nyce investigated the accident and interrogated the 9-year-old brother using leading questions several times as to the events that day, choosing to decide that there were “inconsistencies” between his story and his father’s. Detectives came to the mother’s place of employment to question and “update” on several occasions.
They did not concern themselves with the father’s lack of any prior difficulties with law enforcement, and were not interested in any testimonials from character witnesses on his behalf, stating that they were not “questioning his character.” Apparently, due to the other child abuse cases in the state they may have felt the need to jump on the bandwagon lest they be accused of not handling the case correctly and letting an “abuser” go free.
With evidence presented by San Juan County detectives and evidently without further investigation, Mr. Kapshaw in the District Attorney’s office decided to file charges in the accident and charged the father with “abuse of a child, intentional or negligent” which further devastated the family in the wake of this terrible accident.
Again, the man had absolutely no record of any legal or law enforcement difficulties. He was well-known in the Kirtland area for his involvement with his children in their school and sports activities. He was employed at the same place for over 20 years, and his job was placed in jeopardy due to the possibility of him being a felon.
Ten months later, after hiring competent legal counsel at major expense to the family, he was handed a sentence that included conditional probation for 3 years and then removal of charges from his record after he successfully completed the probation period. The family was relieved that the presiding judge, John Dean, felt this was indeed a horrible accident and the family was ready to complete the probation period (at monetary expense to them) and move on with their lives.
Those 10 months of turmoil were difficult on the entire family, but most of all on the father. The Farmington Daily Times saw fit to run a front-page article complete with photo on Sunday, April 22, 2018, when charges were initially filed, implying that he was some sort of evil child abuser. In another act of poor journalism, the Daily Times chose to combine two stories into one in November, 2018, announcing that two San Juan County men had reached plea agreements, where they combined his photo and write-up with that of an actual child molester, giving the impression he was in the same category as the child molester.
As scary as this story sounds, it was, in fact, an accident, but the accused was charged and treated with the same crime as some of those above-mentioned abusers and murderers! Those innocent children are dead at the hands of their parents, caregivers, or persons their parents allowed to have access to them, but this particular 6 year old is alive as the result of a terrible accident involving his loving and caring father, who never had and never would intentionally hurt any of his children or allow anyone else to harm them.
The man I have described in this letter is my son-in-law, Val Rodriguez. He was subjected to extreme duress for almost a year, including the possibility of losing his job and income, the thought of possible jail time, and the stigma attached to him that he had intentionally brought harm to his son, my grandson.
Ten days before Christmas, at the age of 44, Val suffered a fatal heart attack. No doubt the stress of everything he had been subjected to contributed to his early and untimely death. He and my daughter and grandsons had a beautiful life together. She is now a young widow with two young sons to raise without their father. It would have been considerate for San Juan County officials to reach out to my daughter and offer their sympathy, but no such effort was made.
Fortunately, my son-in-law came to a revival of faith through this difficult time and died a saved believer in Jesus Christ. That is his ultimate victory and justice.
I pray that all New Mexico children will be spared any abuse at the hands of any sort of abuser. I also pray that our law enforcement officers and prosecutors will not become overzealous when applying the law.
My son-in-law’s name is Val Rodriguez. I want everyone to remember his name — and remember who he really was — a man who loved his wife, his children, and his family.
Patricia R Schmitt Evans
Changing with the times
It should be abundantly clear to all that the way we produce electricity is changing rapidly. We have witnessed the evolution of fossil fuel power generation, and our industrial workforce has over the years worked to rebuild and modernize the power plants to have a lesser impact on the environment.
Because of renewable energy generation technology improvements and cheap natural gas, the energy producer (PNM) has decided the economics of burning coal for power generation have changed coupled with the widely held belief that our climate is changing, and as most believe, not for the better resulting in the reduction of the use of coal for energy across our nation.
For over 50 years the Operating Engineers Local 953 has represented the coal miners who have provided the fuel for both PNM San Juan and APS Four Corners power plants. In its heyday the mines employed over a thousand of our Union members at three mines, the Navajo Mine, San Juan Mine and the La Plata Mine, today we are down to half that number. Over 65% of the coal miners are Native American, and for generations, the mines delivered solid and stable professions which have provided for our families and our extended family members. Coal mining has become a way of life for thousands of residents of San Juan County.
I worked in the coal mines as a union miner in various positions for 34 and have served as a union representative for 13 years, twice elected as Business Manager of the Operating Engineers Local 953.
With the leadership of Governor Lujan Grisham and legislative leaders like our fellow coal miner, House District 4 Representative Anthony Allison, we are all working to make the transition to cleaner and more economic renewable sources of electrical energy while preserving, to the greatest extent possible the livelihoods of thousands of working-class families from the educators of our children, coal miners, power plant employees, to the delivery driver, salesperson, grocery clerks.
There must be a willingness to work together to accomplish the transition to renewable energy with the protections for those most affected by the transition which are provided in House Bill 498 which has been introduced by Representative Allison.
The bill addresses many of the challenges as we face the inevitable fact that the San Juan County economy must diversify. The diversification process must include programs like the creation of the Energy Transition Displaced Worker Assistance Fund and the Energy Transition Economic Development Assistance Fund which are in House Bill 498. Combined these two initiatives will provide important tools for job creation, workforce training, apprenticeship opportunities, and business development.
We have a lot of work in front of us but Operating Engineers Local 953 is ready and willing to work together with our community, State and Local elected officials, and our education and business communities to ensure San Juan County not only endures the planned plant closures but flourishes into the future with new opportunities.
Barry W. Dixon
Business Manager IUOE Local 953,
Gessing, Rio Grande Foundation not non-partisan
The Daily Times published an opinion piece (Your Turn) by Paul Gessing of the New Mexico Rio Grande Foundation, where he characterized the group as being distinctly non-partisan. A review of their website reveals that the group is an extremely partisan, hard right conservative/libertarian organization founded by Hal Stratton, a former Republican attorney general for New Mexico. The group denigrates the Democratic legislature of our state and warns about the perils of a ‘Blue Tsunami.’
In his column “Shift to renewables shouldn’t cost rate payers” Mr. Gessing warns about the dangers of following the advice of Governor Michelle Lujan-Grisham, environmental groups, and PNM to raise the renewable energy portfolio. He claims that New Mexicans will have to pay an additional cost of $ 2.3 billion dollars in energy bills. However, he does not reference an independent analysis of these economic effects, but instead cites figures by his own foundation. The Rio Grande Foundation makes up its own numbers.
On the same day the Daily Times published this letter, the Albuquerque Journal also published a piece by the Rio Grande Foundation which railed against the proposed ordinance to ban the use of many plastic goods in Albuquerque.
The author tried to use something from the Environmental Protection Agency’s website to downplay the environmental impacts of plastic waste, but conveniently forgot to mention the EPAs own statistics that we use 380 billion plastic bags and wraps each year in the US, at the cost of 12 million barrels of oil to produce, while very little of this is recycled.
I appreciate the Daily Times giving local citizens a forum to express their concerns. However, a person writing an opinion piece should tell the truth about the nature of the organization they are representing. I will be honest about my identity. I am Steve Clarke, Ward 4 leader for the San Juan Democratic Party. I am also one of the leaders for Indivisible San Juan, which is a Progressive advocacy group. In addition I have helped lead the non-partisan effort to create a Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, and Americans Together which brought Democrats, Republicans, and Independents together to dialogue in a civil manner.
Green hurts jobs
I was just reading an article in your paper about the power plant closure. I loved how it was written about the energy transition act and energy transition charge. I would ask people to see the truth. Not the lies being told about this cheap green energy.
PNM is going to sell bonds to recover the costs from closing the power plant. And the public is going to pay for them in higher electric rates on your bill. Those are the facts.
It's funny PNM is going to get their money back, the environmentalists are getting their way and the power consumers are going to pay for it all. Sweet.
And I can tell you about some of the effects of the plant closure from personal experience. I am a former San Juan Mine employee. I am a former homeowner and taxpayer from Farmington, and I basically had to give my home away because the home prices are going down the tubes from people leaving Farmington in droves.
So just keep listening to the lies on how great this green energy is. And it does not hurt anybody.