One morning nearly six years ago, 15-year-old Nehmiah Griego crept into his mother’s room as she slept and proceeded to shoot in her in the face. The New Mexico teen went on to kill his father and his three younger siblings, two of whom were reportedly weeping as they were murdered, before confessing to the crime at his church.
A judge will now decide whether Griego, now 21, has been fully rehabilitated or whether he should be sentenced as an adult for the crime after a week-long hearing that will recount the details of the grisly murders, and the treatment he's received since that fateful, fatal night, according to the Albuquerque Journal.
In opening statements to Children's Court Judge John Romero, prosecutors contended Monday that Griego is still a danger to both his remaining family and the community at large.
"There would be no safeguards to ensure protection of the community," prosecutor Mari Martinez said, according to the newspaper.
Prosecutors also played portions of Griego's taped confession, in which he unemotionally describes the moment he shot and killed his two younger sisters, ages 2 and 5.
“I completely turned off my conscious,” he said in the tape, according to KOB 4. “I really did. I just let the beast come out.”
Griego pleaded guilty to second-degree murder after the killings and was sentenced as a juvenile, making him eligible for release after he turned 21.
But prosecutors appealed the decision to sentence him as an adult and won, leading to the new hearings this week to determine whether he should be released or face new sentencing as an adult. If sentenced as an adult, he could face up to 120 years in prison.
The killings occurred around 1 a.m. on a morning in January of 2013.
Griego shot his mother Sarah first in the face, then woke up his 9-year-old brother, Zephaniah, who had been sleeping beside her, and forced him to look at his mother's face before killing him too, People reports.
Next, Griego went into another bedroom where his two younger sisters were crying and shot and killed them.
Griego then patiently waited for hours until his father, Greg, a pastor and volunteer firefighter, arrived home from a night shift before killing him, according to People.
He'd later refer to his father as a "carcass at the bottom of the stairs" when speaking to investigators, KRQE News 13, a local Albuquerque outlet, reports.
Earlier this week, former detective Kyle Hartsock testified that the crime continues to haunt him to this day.
“It was the coldness of how they were killed,” he said, according to the Albuquerque Journal. “The disposability of their lives in such a cold and calculated way was not something that I’d run into before.”
Sarah and Greg Griego have been described as devout Christians who were very protective. Sarah Griego was a stay-at-home mother who homeschooled many of the couple’s 10 children, while Greg Griego worked as a pastor and volunteer firefighter.
Martinez described Greg as a "gun enthusiast" and said he had once been mixed up in gangs before straightening himself out, the paper reports.
Nehmiah Griego's defense team believes the 21-year-old has been rehabilitated, although details of his treatment have been sealed and the courtroom was cleared while they made their opening remarks.
In past hearings, however, they've argued that Nehemiah Griego had been abused and beaten by his father. One beating was so suffer, it left him unconscious, they've alleged.
His older sister, Vanessa Lightbourne, has said previously she doesn't believe he should be released and views him as a "danger to society and "danger to our family," according to an earlier report from KRQE.
"You know he murdered five people and for him to do that, I don't think anybody can come back from that," she said.
[Photo Credit: Associated Press]
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