Ryan Lowery is an award-winning independent journalist whose work has been published by the Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, Albuquerque Journal, Santa Fe New Mexican, Santa Fe Reporter and many others.

Ryan covers New Mexico politics as a regular contributor to Source New Mexico and regularly covers criminal justice and investigative stories across northern New Mexico for the Las Vegas Optic.

He and his colleagues at the Optic were awarded the 2021 Sunshine Award from the New Mexico Press Association for their coverage of transparency problems within the City of Las Vegas and one of its school districts.

Ryan was also awarded the 2020 William S. Dixon First Amendment Freedom Award from the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government for his reporting that highlighted lack of transparency from multiple government agencies.

Featured Stories

A New Mexico District Court judge on Tuesday ordered the removal of Republican Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin from his elected position and barred him for life from serving in elected federal and state positions. This ruling marks the first time an elected official is set to be unseated by court order as a result of participating in or supporting the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. 

Judge Francis J. Mathew wrote in his decision that Griffin’s attempts “to sanitize his actions are without merit” and that his characterization of his actions “amounted to nothing more than attempting to put lipstick on a pig.”

Escaping Smack City
Ryan Lowery | Las Vegas Optic

The nickname “Smack City” has haunted Las Vegas for the better part of four decades — a name unwillingly bestowed upon the city by Harper’s magazine in 1974.

In the 47 years since the Meadow City donned its second nickname, city leaders and members of law enforcement have, at various times, tried to prevent people from using the more dubious nickname, acquiesced that it’s here to stay or tried to forget it altogether.

Gubernatorial candidate Mark Ronchetti received a cash donation from a man implicated in a scheme to falsely award the state’s electoral votes to Donald Trump, a finance report filed last month shows.

Lupe L. Garcia and four others signed phony legal documents and submitted them to the National Archives in an attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. At the end of June, Garcia donated $2,000 to Ronchetti’s campaign, and the campaign hasn’t responded to questions about the donation.

Since announcing his candidacy for governor late last year, Mark Ronchetti has accepted cash donations from three fake electors and one other person who’s accused of attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, campaign finance documents show.

The Ronchetti campaign has accepted a total of $15,000 from Lupe L. Garcia, Rosalind Tripp and Deborah W. Maestas, three New Mexicans who attempted to falsely award the state’s electoral votes to Donald Trump. Ronchetti also accepted a $500 donation from John Eastman, a former Trump lawyer who is under scrutiny by a congressional committee for his role in attempts to overturn the 2020 election.

It’s been one year since Shana’s body was recovered, and to date, no one has been arrested or charged in her death. Family members reported Shana missing on Jan. 18, 2020. On May 6, 2020, two city enforcement service specialists made a gruesome discovery: Shana’s badly decaying body hidden beneath the floorboards of a vacant building on the city’s west side — her head covered with a plastic bag; her body wrapped in a tarp and blanket, secured with wire. 

For 12 months, her family has been trying to get updates on the investigation from the Las Vegas Police Department, but few details have been provided.

Fifteen weeks after Shana Storey was reported missing, city code enforcement officers discovered her badly-decomposed body under the floor of a home on Romero Street. The discovery wasn’t a complete shock, however, especially not to Storey’s family who’d been told by several people that her body was in the house, under the floor. What was most shocking, according to Katrina Stansbury, one of Storey’s sisters is that news of the discovery came from an acquaintance on Facebook, not from anyone at the Las Vegas Police Department.

The Otero County Commission met Thursday for the first time since former Commissioner Couy Griffin was removed from office by court order earlier this week because of his participation in the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Griffin’s nameplate and chair were both absent from the dais as the two remaining commissioners called the regular meeting to order. Griffin, however, attended the meeting and even spoke during the public comment session.

The body of a missing woman was found under the floorboards of a home in May, but that wasn’t the first time police visited the property. It wasn’t even the first time police responded to reports of a body on the property.

Decriminalizing Addiction
Ryan Lowery | Las Vegas Optic

Many people in America are jailed for crimes driven by addiction, but Alamosa, Colorado, is taking a different approach by focusing on treatment, not jail.

With food costs increasing and the need for more farmworkers on the rise, two federal bills aimed at lowering costs for consumers and easing strains on farmers await approval in Congress.

H.R. 1603, better known as the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (FWMA), passed the U.S. House of Representatives in March 2021 with bipartisan support. It stalled in the Senate amid debate over a provision to create a path to legal permanent residency for undocumented farmworkers already working in the U.S. With the legislation’s fate unknown, one of the bill’s biggest proponents has unveiled a separate but similar bill aimed at revising the agricultural visa system and offering migrant farmworkers a path to permanent residency.

In a six-month period, Las Vegas City Schools spent more than $38,000 in legal fees either responding to records requests, researching laws, redacting requests or pushing back against requests and complaints.

Las Vegas City Schools has quietly raised fees for accessing public records, and though the state’s AG has chided the district for attempting to charge illegal fees for access to public records, the district continues to ignore the law.

Sold for Sex
Ryan Lowery | Santa Fe Reporter

Sex trafficking plagues New Mexico women; however, because there’s no uniform definition of the crime, a lot of it goes undetected.

The House select committee investigating the violent and deadly Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol and former President Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results released its final report late Thursday.

The 846-page report is the culmination of an 18-month investigation that included more than 1,000 witness interviews and nearly a dozen public hearings. While detailing Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of an election he lost, the report describes how the former president and his allies tried to use fake electors in New Mexico and six other states to help him ignore the will of voters and stay in power.

A car horn disrupted the quiet July evening. Then came the gunshots. Three bullets that killed Leroy “Smurf” Lucero, leaving his wife without a husband, and his four children without their father. His violent death also shifted the focus of a nearly five-year-long FBI investigation to Las Vegas.

The laughter of Adelina Tafoya was tragically silenced on July 6 when someone shot and killed her, mistaking her for a drug dealer. Two other teens were shot that night. For now, Tafoya lives on in the many TikTok videos she made, a digital substitute for the fun-loving girl who was taken from her family.

Early one June morning, 24-year-old Jordan Sisneros watched 27-year-old Cruz Gallegos die. After he was shot, the gun was turned on gun on her. To date, only one of the several people in that Las Vegas home on June 15, 2019, have been charged.

Jeromy “Joker” Vasquez was shot and killed in Las Vegas, New Mexico, in January of 2018. Multiple law enforcement agencies say a convicted felon named Albert Herrera is the man who shot Vasquez, and Las Vegas Police know that Herrera tossed the gun out a window of a vehicle. The FBI says Herrera is a felon who was on probation, in part for a firearms violation, and yet, there is no record Herrera was detained, arrested or questioned further.

A traffic stop in early January led police to 893 fentanyl pills, two firearms and the arrest of a man wanted on a misdemeanor stalking charge. Albuquerque police say it also helped lead them to 39-year-old Solomon Pena, a 2022 Republican candidate for the New Mexico House who police suspect is the architect of a plan to shoot at the homes of several elected Democratic officials.

The afternoon of Jan. 3, a Bernalillo County sheriff’s deputy stopped a car driven by 21-year-old Jose L. Trujillo in Albuquerque’s South Valley. The reason for the stop, according to a sworn affidavit filed in Bernalillo County Metropolitan Court, was that the silver Nissan Maxima did not have a current registration sticker on its license plate. Though driven by Trujillo, the vehicle was registered to Pena.


Ongoing Series

Breaking Down Barriers
Ryan Lowery | Las Vegas Optic

In February 2020, the Las Vegas Optic launched an ongoing series on drug and alcohol addiction in the New Mexico counties of San Miguel and Mora. The series explores the roots of addiction, what’s being done about it, and it looks at how other communities are addressing addiction.


News Features

Public art installations add to Boise’s existing, established downtown art scene, but the city’s growing artwork collection gives the public even more reason to spend time downtown.

Historic clock returned to downtown Las Vegas, NM
Ryan Lowery | Albuquerque Journal

Thanks to the hard work of many in the community, an electric clock that has adorned the sidewalk along Douglas Avenue in downtown Las Vegas, NM, since the 1920s has returned.

Some, like veterinarian Dr. Douglas Thal, are calling for hunters to use non-lead ammunition to help stop wildlife from being poisoned.

Motorists in Las Vegas, New Mexico can still find the full-service treatment.

This former “Harvey Girls” dormitory in Las Vegas, NM will soon have rooms for rent once more. The building’s owners have given new life to this historic building rich with history.