Prosecutors seek life for New Mexico man who killed family | TribLIVE.com
U.S./World

Prosecutors seek life for New Mexico man who killed family

Associated Press
1813317_web1_1813317-797d5316927645f99c1635a79d3bec60
Nehemiah Griego wipes away a tear during his sentencing hearing Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, in Albuquerque, N.M., for the deaths of his parents and three younger siblings he committed in 2013. Griego convicted of killing his parents and younger siblings in 2013 when he was a teenager says he’s sorry and wishes he could take it back. (Jim Thompson/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)
1813317_web1_1813317-6e0b47b91abc41dbaec00f265bdcf1e3
Nehemiah Griego appears during his sentencing hearing Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, in Albuquerque, N.M., for the deaths of his parents and three younger siblings he committed in 2013. Griego convicted of killing his parents and younger siblings in 2013 when he was a teenager says he’s sorry and wishes he could take it back. (Jim Thompson/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)
1813317_web1_1813317-8ebabaa919414c89ac5d9e50b8c322e0
Nehemiah Griego appears during his sentencing hearing Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, in Albuquerque, N.M., for the deaths of his parents and three younger siblings he committed in 2013. (Jim Thompson/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)
1813317_web1_1813317-831274f3e9fb4e94a5d1358f8c1b0f8c
This undated photo released by the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office shows Nehemiah Griego, around the time of his arrest as a 15-year-old for the 2013 murders of five members of his family in Albuquerque, N.M. Griego who shot and killed his parents and three young siblings when he was a teenager is scheduled to be sentenced. Griego will appear Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, in state district court in Albuquerque. Now 22, Griego faces up to 120 years in prison or as little as probation and treatment. (Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office via AP)
1813317_web1_1813317-730923154f3247538d1672d729af4f21
In this Jan. 21, 2013, file photo, a bouquet of flowers adorns the entrance to a home on where a couple and their three young children were found shot to death south of Albuquerque, N.M. Nehemiah Griego, who shot and killed his parents and three young siblings when he was a teenager is scheduled to be sentenced, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, in state district court in Albuquerque. Now 22, Griego faces up to 120 years in prison or as little as probation and treatment. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A New Mexico man convicted of killing his parents and three younger siblings when he was 15 apologized to the rest of his family Tuesday as he asked a judge for an opportunity at rehabilitation and redemption.

Nehemiah Griego, now 22, was the last person to address the court during an emotional daylong sentencing hearing. He expressed remorse for the 2013 killings, saying he was a different person at the time.

“I am sorry,” he told his older sisters who were among those in the packed courtroom. “I wish I could take it back, but the reality is that we can’t.”

Griego pleaded guilty to the crimes in 2015 and a judge earlier this year determined he should be sentenced as an adult following an appeal of an early sentence handed down by a children’s court judge.

Describing the killings as callous and calculated, prosecutors argued that Griego should spend the rest of his life in prison.

“These killings were not an accident. They were not done to defend himself, to defend his family or anyone else,” prosecutor Mari Martinez told the judge. “They were methodically plotted and carried out in cold-blood.”

Two of Griego’s sisters made tearful pleas, saying they want their brother to remain locked up, under heavy guard, where he can get the mental health treatment he needs. They say he has shown no remorse and if let out could hurt himself or others.

Griego sat in an orange jumpsuit, his head hung low as the sisters testified. He later broke down, wiping tears from his face during a break in the proceeding as well as when he addressed the court.

Defense attorney Stephen Taylor said there are several factors that the court should consider, not just the heinousness of the crime. He argued that Griego can be reformed and has made progress while in state custody.

State District Judge Alisa Hart heard testimony from family members who have tried to help Griego in recent years, detectives who investigated the case, a child psychologist and other experts.

It’s unclear how soon she could make a decision on what his punishment will be. Griego faces up to 120 years in prison.

The case has taken many twists and turns, prompting hearings and appeals over Griego’s progress and mental health treatment while in custody and arguments over whether he should be sentenced as a juvenile or an adult.

That argument was settled earlier this year when Hart determined that Griego was not amenable to treatment as a juvenile.

Over the years, Griego’s lawyers have presented testimony indicating their client endured abuse and neglect, claims that some relatives corroborated and others disputed during Tuesday’s hearing. While in state custody, Griego also was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Prosecutors have focused on the chilling details of the killings, arguing that Griego should serve a maximum of three consecutive life sentences plus another 30 years, ensuring he would never be released.

Sheriff’s deputies have said the shooting rampage began in his parents’ bedroom, where he shot his mother as she slept. He then shot his brother and two sisters — ages 9, 5 and 2.

Griego’s father, a reformed gang member and pastor at an Albuquerque megachurch, was shot and killed hours later when Griego ambushed him as he returned home, authorities said.

Prosecutors said Griego also had plans to commit a mass shooting at a public place and had loaded guns into the family van in preparation. He ended up meeting his 12-year-old girlfriend instead.

In 2016, a children’s court judge found that Griego showed he was treatable, placing him on track for release on his 21st birthday after he received two more years of therapy. The New Mexico Court of Appeals overturned that decision in 2018.

After turning 21, Griego was transferred to the Metropolitan Detention Center in Albuquerque pending the outcome of his case.

Despite the concerns of some relatives, Griego’s attorneys are hopeful he can be sentenced to probation and continued treatment.

Taylor suggested during the hearing that mental health services are lacking within the prison system. He read a letter to the judge from Nathaniel Jouett, another teen who was sentenced earlier this year to decades in prison for a deadly shooting at a New Mexico library.

In the letter, the 18-year-old Jouett writes that he was taken off his medication and is now “surrounded by violence, drugs and negativity.”

“I’m having to rehabilitate myself,” Jouett wrote.

Taylor said he didn’t want this to happen to Griego and asked the judge for a “creative solution” that would allow for continued rehabilitation.

Categories: News | World
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.