Warning some of the video from the case may be disturbing for some. 

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Violent threats, shots through an apartment floor, and a pair of double murders. For families caught in the middle of it, they believe tragedy could have been prevented. KRQE Investigates takes viewers through the harrowing case of John Paul Ballejos.

In September of last year, a well-positioned surveillance camera at an Albuquerque apartment complex captured a murder in cold blood. Daniel Humphrey was opening his door when a man walked up to him, pulled out a gun, and shot the 31-year-old in the head. 

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The gunman then went inside and shot Humphrey’s aunt, 46-year-old Sonia Tenorio, killing her. Witnesses quickly ID’d the killer in the video as the victims’ upstairs neighbor, John Paul Ballejos.  

Albuquerque’s SWAT team arrested Ballejos the next day at a relative’s home less than five miles from the double murder. Lapel video from the arrest shows Ballejos’ sweating profusely, his head doubled over, and unable to answer officers’ basic questions. 

Did anyone see this coming?  

Two wrongful death lawsuits claim someone should have. The lawsuits include allegations that had authorities taken a closer look at what happened in the months and even years leading up to apartment complex murders, lives could have been saved.

“You go through his history and you see nothing but red flags,” explained David Adams, an attorney representing the victim’s families in two wrongful death lawsuits. “Restraining orders, violation of restraining orders, death threats, drugs, stolen vehicles, possession of deadly firearms. So all of these are red flags,” Adams added. 

On behalf of the victim’s families, Adams filed two wrongful death lawsuits against the Albuquerque apartment complex management, the company they use to conduct background checks on tenants called ‘AppFolio’, and against the Albuquerque Police Department. 

“The most alarming part of the case that came up initially was knowing that he discharged a firearm into the apartment where two people were later killed,” Adams explained. Less than two months before Tenorio and Humphrey were killed at their apartment, the family called 911 from that same apartment.

July shooting report

Lapel video from last July shows Sonia Tenorio’s niece explaining to Albuquerque police officers what just happened. “There’s the bullet hole right here,” she showed them, pointing up to her bedroom ceiling. 

“OK, did you hear anything?” The officer asked. “Yeah, hell yeah I heard a big ole ‘boom’ and I was like, ‘I’m familiar with the sound of a gun, you know?”

(Bullet hole in family’s bedroom ceiling, as seen from officer’s lapel camera)

She reported a gunshot went through her bedroom ceiling. “I have kids. I have an infant who’s one, who’s crawling,” Tenorio’s niece explained. “That was my biggest scare was – what if my baby was right there?”

No one was hit that day, but the family was clearly shaken. “I hope it was accidental,” the woman told the officer. “Maybe he was just cleaning his firearm and it went off, but you should have a little more knowledge than that, you know?”

Tenorio’s niece also told officers that her upstairs neighbor, John Paul Ballejos, creeped her out. “Just in case,” the woman said, as she showed the officer text messages where Ballejos came onto her.  

“Are you single?” One text message read. “How did you get this number?’ I told him,” Tenorio’s niece recalled. “He said someone needed to use the phone, your homie or something. And after that, I never responded again. Like, that’s creepy,” she added. “Mmhmm. For sure,” the officer replied. 

Officers combed the parking lot that day, took a report, sent in someone to take evidence photos, and knocked on Ballejos’ door upstairs, but no one answered. That door knock is what a lawsuit against APD claims was its “only investigative steps to speak with, investigate, or apprehend Mr. Ballejos for felonious shooting into an occupied dwelling.” 

“It definitely came from his apartment,” an officer told Tenorio’s niece, as she was showing police the bullet hole through her bedroom ceiling. The officer was referring to her upstairs neighbor, Ballejos, but the officer also explained it would be hard to prove it was him in court due to no one seeing him fire the shot. 

Nearly two months later, APD would return to the family’s apartment, this time investigating two murders. 

“Did you guys see anybody?” An officer is heard on lapel video asking distraught witnesses what they saw the night police responded to the apartment complex where Humphrey and Tenorio were murdered. 

Adams said when officers took the shooting report in July, investigators should have known Ballejos was a convicted felon and the prime suspect in another double murder. 

Suspect in another double murder 

Ballejos’ uncle, Hesiquio Cordova, and his uncle’s longtime girlfriend Virginia Serna were found shot to death in their Barelas home back in May. Relatives told investigators they’re certain Ballejos pulled the trigger, but he wasn’t charged.  

Adams points to red flags Ballejos’ own uncle raised when he filed a restraining order against his nephew in 2020, writing Ballejos was violent and “Constantly reminds us that he’s murdered someone before and got away with self-defense …  and that he will not be afraid to kill us,” Cordova wrote. 

“For the family, holding people accountable that could have had a role in preventing this from happening,” is the motivation for the wrongful death suits, Adams said. 

Two days after his neighbors reported a gunshot through their ceiling, an APD officer noted he went back to the complex and traced the SUV parked outside Ballejos’ apartment to his murdered uncle, Hesiquio Cordova.

However, there’s no mention in that July report that the officer knew his uncle was killed in May or that Ballejos was the suspect. “Case closed pending further leads,” the officer’s report states. 

Albuquerque police declined an interview about Ballejos’ cases, but a spokesperson for the department told KRQE News 13 that detectives are still actively investigating the Barelas murders, and confirmed Ballejos remains their prime suspect. 

Suing the apartment complex management

According to the lawsuit, Ballejos was not immediately evicted after the gunshot through his neighbor’s ceiling. The apartment complex did file an eviction notice, and he was evicted about a month after the incident. 

Adams said the complex used a third-party company to conduct the background check for Ballejos’ housing voucher application, which somehow turned up zero cases. “You can see from the lawsuit that there was at least 11 cases that he had at the time that he had been screened as an applicant,” said Adams. 

Had Ballejos’ background check included his criminal history, Adams argues the landlords would have seen red flags as a potential tenant in the first place. “Not doing anything usually results in the worst-case scenario, which is exactly what happened here,” he said. 

Looking further through Ballejos’ lengthy criminal history, Adams points out another missed chance to potentially get Ballejos help and prevent these tragedies. By the time the July shooting report was taken, Ballejos was already a convicted felon for stealing a vehicle. 

In 2016, Ballejos’ mom called the cops saying her son was on meth, holding a gun to her face. Ballejos told officers at the time he was suffering from PTSD after he’d killed a home intruder the year prior in a “justifiable homicide.”  

Months later, the case involving his mom was dismissed “due to lack of victim cooperation.” 

Now charged in two murders and the prime suspect in two more, Ballejos will stay in jail pending trial for the murders of Tenorio and Humphrey. 

APD wouldn’t comment on the lawsuit, except to say they’ll respond to the allegations in court. Ballejos’ trial is scheduled for November.