Prosecutors seek life for New Mexico man who killed family

Prosecutors said Tuesday they want a New Mexico man convicted of killing his parents and three younger siblings when he was 15 to spend the rest of his life in prison.

The recommendation came during a sentencing hearing where prosecutors described the 2013 killings by Nehemiah Griego as horrendous, callous and calculated.

“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.”

Griego, now 22, 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.

Two of Griego’s older sisters made tearful pleas Tuesday at the hearing, 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. They accused him of making up stories about abuse to justify his violent behavior.

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.

Two detectives testified about their questioning of Griego after he was taken into custody and their memories of that night when they responded to the family’s home, finding the bodies of his parents and siblings.

Griego’s defense team was set to present its case later in the day.

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 state District Judge Alisa 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. While in the custody of the state Children, Youth and Families Department, he 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, saying the judge assigned to the case at the time didn’t consider some testimony presented by the prosecution.

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

Despite the concerns of some of Griego’s relatives, his attorneys have held out hope that he would be sentenced to probation and continued treatment.

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