Investigations

Fears arise ahead of teen killer's scheduled release

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) - It was horrific and cruel. Nehemiah Griego was 15-year-old when he ambushed and killed his parents and three younger siblings. March 20, he'll be free. That frightens a lot of people who are taking their concerns to New Mexico State Police.

Vince Harrison watched Nehemiah Griego grow up at Calvary Church. Harrison is in charge of church security.

"I got a call from one of the pastors that he was making some weird statements about his family being deceased," Harrison said.

It was Jan. 19, 2013. Harrison drove the 15-year-old home from the church.

"We started taking him down to his house in the South Valley and got some weird vibes," he said.

Harrison called Bernalillo County dispatch. Deputies would discover five bodies.

Griego had killed his mother while she slept, then shot his 9-year-old brother. The home-schooled teen then went across the hall and shot his two young sisters, who were crying, in the head. He would wait hours for his father to come home from work, then ambushed him.

He said he did it because he was frustrated with his mom. Griego would plead guilty.

In 2016, a children's court judge ruled he would be sentenced as a juvenile, saying Griego had shown he is receptive to psychological treatment and could be rehabilitated.

Griego turns 21 in March. He'll be released and will get a second chance.

"Here's a kid who's getting out with a clean slate. He's not going to be listed as a convicted felon. He can go out and buy a gun," Harrison said.

Harrison, a former Albuquerque Police officer, says he's concerned, and it had him calling State Police.

"The most concerning thing now as of recent, I found out from a law enforcement contact that he had made some statements a couple of years ago while in juvenile prison that he had wanted to kill some other people from the church," Harrison said.

State Police Chief Pete Kassettas is reviewing the claims.

"Go through everything that he may have said during his time at CYFD or any other point in his incarceration to make sure people feel as safe as they can when he's released," Chief Kassettas said. "If there were threats made, which we're trying to look at and substantiate, there could be criminal charges. I'm not saying there are. The other issue is protection of the folks who are associated with this case that he may be talking about after he gets out."

Since his sentencing, Griego has spent the past two years getting treatment from the New Mexico Children, Youth, and Families Department.

"Because of the role we play in regards to juveniles who are incarcerated, I am not by law allowed to say anything about a specific person who is incarcerated with us. That's actually one of the concerns we have. At CYFD we have no ability to voice concerns with people," CYFD Secretary Monique Jacobson said.

Jacobson has been fighting to change the law, saying she should be able to discuss these cases to make sure teen killers have gotten the help they need.

"In some of these instances we believe before they are released they need to go before a judge so we can weigh in and let them know: Did they participate? Have they seen behavioral changes?" Jacobson said.

Griego's family did not wish to comment, but a source close to the case says he will be moving out-of-state and is planning to get more counseling.

Attorney General Hector Balderas is appealing the sentence, saying Griego can't be rehabilitated, showed no remorse and will be a danger to society.

"There were three children that were killed. Has he changed? Does he have a change of heart? Like I said, only God knows his heart, but there is a concern, absolutely," Harrison said.

The court of appeals will hear arguments to change Griego's sentence at the end of the month. AG Hector Balderas says he will ask the legislature to change the law to allow judges to reconsider sentences if the killer doesn't respond to treatment.

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