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Miss Las Cruces arrested on suspicion of DWI

By Vanessa de la Viña, vanessa@kvia.com
Published On: Dec 18 2012 04:42:21 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 14 2014 09:10:07 PM CST

ABC-7's Vanessa de la Vina reports.

LAS CRUCES, N.M. -

Dec. 19, 2012 update: Miss Las Cruces Sarah J. Richardson has voluntarily resigned her title after being arrested and charged with aggravated DWI.

In a statement Richardson wrote, "I have officially resigned my title as Miss Las Cruces 2013. My actions are not congruous with the actions of a Miss America candidate, and I realize that at this time I must step back and reflect, prioritize my life and accept the consequences. I am very sincerely sorry for those that I have let down in this incident."

On Wednesday, the Miss Las Cruces scholarship pageant accepted her resignation. The executive director Aleiha DiRenzo said, "It is the wish of the Miss Las Cruces Organization that Richardson be remembered for her service, and not be defined solely by the events of December 17."

The first runner up, Taylor Rey of Las Cruces, has been named Miss Las Cruces 2013.

Original story, posted Dec. 18, 2012: A Las Cruces beauty queen isn't smiling because she won the crown.

Sarah J. Richardson's latest photo shoot was her mug shot after being arrested for aggravated DWI in Las Cruces on Sunday.

Las Cruces police said around 10 p.m. on Sunday, Richardson, 22, crashed her PT Cruiser into a light pole at the intersection of Avenida De Mesilla and Hickory Drive. The pole fell over, hitting a nearby traffic light.

The crash left hundreds of nearby businesses and homes in the dark after the power was knocked out. El Paso Electric said about 1,700 customers were left without power from Sunday night into the early morning hours on Monday.

"You couldn't see anything except the lights from the cop cars and all the accident," one witness told ABC-7.

Police said several cars driving through the area got tangled in the fallen wires and debris.

"Power lines were down everywhere. The transformer that was on the corner with the light pole was taken down. They drug them up the street and that was a problem with all the electric," a witness said.

Nearby hotels were packed with guests in town for New Mexico State University's commencement ceremony. They were all left without power.

Hotel managers were forced to give out thousands of dollars in refunds.

Some hotels are still working to fix electrical issues from the crash.

Richardson was crowned Miss Las Cruces in November, but she could lose that title after this arrest.

"This is an anomaly in an otherwise sterling reputation for the program, and this one incident is by no means indicative of the Miss America organization as a whole, Miss New Mexico, or the Miss Las Cruces pageant," Miss Las Cruces pageant director Alihea DiRenzo told ABC-7.

Richardson is charged with aggravated DWI and due cause collision. An aggravated DWI charge means she either refused to take a blood alcohol content test or had a BAC of .16 or higher, twice the legal limit.

"If she will be stripped of her title or she resigns, we don't really know at this point. Nothing official has happened yet. We were very surprised. You never anticipate something like this, much less for someone like Sarah Richardson, who is a great volunteer in the community," DiRenzo said.

DiRenzo said Richardson is a full-time student at NMSU majoring in dance.

If convicted, Richardson faces jail time up to 90 days with a mandatory 48-hour sentence, plus a fine up to $500, the loss of her license and community service.

DiRenzo said the Miss America Organization, which oversees the Miss Las Cruces pageant, expects to have a decision within the next few days.

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