Family searches for missing Cross Canyon man

By Bill Donovan
Special to the Times

GALLUP, March 5, 2013

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O n December 23, 2012 Lee Bitson was seen leaving NCI. Since then his whereabouts have been a complete mystery to family and friends.

Cora James, his niece, said family members have spent a lot of time searching Gallup and Window Rock trying to find any trace of him. Police in Gallup and Window Rock have also been on the look out for him with no success.

"He's my favorite uncle," said James, adding that the 75-year-old lived in the St. Michaels area near the old two-story trading post, but came into Gallup frequently.

He was raised in the Cross Canyon, Ariz. area where he also has family but no one there has had any word of his whereabouts.

She said her uncle has never gone missing before but family members are afraid that after leaving NCI he may have had a heart attack or a stroke. They don't think it was a robbery since they think he had little, if any, money on him when he went missing.

Another factor to consider in all of this, said James, was the fact that Bitson received regular monthly checks at the post office and none of these have been picked up since he went missing.

Family members at times went into Gallup and tried without success to trace his steps after leaving NCI but no one knows where he went from there.

It's possible, said James, that he may have left NCI with a group of people.

NCI officials, however, said they couldn't release any names because of privacy issues.

"We also conducted a search in the two story area," she said and that went nowhere. The family is planning to conduct more searches in the future, she added.

Police in Gallup and Window Rock said there has not been a body found since then that have not been identified.

James said her uncle's name has also been put into the national register of missing persons.

Anyone who has any information about Bitson's whereabouts are asked to contact the Window Rock police at 928-871-6113 or James at 928-717-6160.

President Obama signs disaster declaration for Navajo Nation

According to a press released issued by the White House, President Barack Obama today declared a major disaster exists for the Navajo Nation and ordered Federal aid to supplement the Tribe's efforts in the area affected by a severe freeze during the period of Dec. 15, 2012 to Jan. 21, 2013.

Federal funding is available to the Navajo Nation and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by the severe freeze, the release states.

Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures for the Tribe.

N.M. state basketball tournament begins Friday

The New Mexico Activities Association released the following information regarding the 2013 U.S. Bank State Basketball Championships:

The first round of the tournament will be played on Friday, March 8 (girls) and Saturday, March 9 (boys) at the home sites of the higher seeded teams. 

Tickets for the first round games will be $5.00.

The Class A-5A seeding meetings were held on Sunday, March, 3; brackets are posted on the NMAA website.

The Class B seeding meeting will be held on Sunday, March 10; brackets will be posted by 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Advancing teams in the tournament will play in Albuquerque for the quarterfinals, semifinals and state championships, scheduled for March 12-16.

Most teams will play at The Pit, with all state championship finals being played on Friday, March 15 and Saturday, March 16.

Rio Rancho's Santa Ana Star Center will host games March 12 to March 14. The class A and B quarterfinals and semifinals will be played at Bernalillo High School from March 12 to March 14. 

The University of New Mexico will charge $5.00 for parking at The Pit for all vehicles entering with fewer than 4 people.  Parking is free at Santa Ana Star Center and at Bernalillo High School.