Sheriff: Teen suspect in murder of family learned to shoot from father

Posted at: 01/22/2013 11:06 AM
Updated at: 01/22/2013 12:09 PM
By: Tracy Dingmann,

Bernalillo County Sheriff Dan Houston says murder suspect Nehemiah Griego learned to shoot from his father, and the two often went shooting together with guns that were not kept locked up in the home.

Houston revealed that fact during a grim news conference Tuesday that detailed the murders of five members of the Griego family Saturday in their South Valley home.

Nehemiah Griego, 15, is accused of killing his parents Greg and Sarah Griego, along with 9-year-old Zephania, 5-year-old Jael and 2-year-old Angelina.

The weapons used in the killings – a .22 rifle and an AR-15 rifle - belonged to his parents and were in the home legally, Houston said. Greg Griego, a pastor and former gang member, had an extensive record but was not believed to have ever been convicted of a felony, he said.

The sheriff said officers believe the teenager shot his mother as she slept at about 1 a.m. on Saturday morning. His brother, Zephania, 9, was awake and distraught and was killed after that. His sister Angelina, 2, was killed while asleep, but his sister Jael, 5, was awake when killed.

Griego then waited several hours for his father to return home between 5 and 6 a.m. from his job as a security officer at a rescue mission. The teen then ambushed his father, shooting him several times with the AR-15, the sheriff said.

Officers believe he had planned the attack for at least a week.

The teenager then loaded guns into the family car and planned to commit many more violent acts, Houston said.

Reports that he planned to go to a nearby Walmart, shoot people and then die in a shootout with police were accurate, he said. Officers believe the teen had planned the attack for at least a week.

Houston also said Griego may have intended to kill the parents of his 12-year-old girlfriend. Griego sent the unidentified girl a picture of Griego’s dead mother shortly after she was killed – and before he killed Greg Griego, the Sheriff said. It is not clear whether she will face any charges.

Instead of killing more people, Griego went to Calvary Church, where he spent several hours with his girlfriend and others. Greg Griego was a former pastor at the church and the family still worshipped there.

Griego apparently had no plans to hurt anyone at the church.

While he was there, Griego told church officials several stories about what happened to his family. Police were eventually contacted and discovered the bodies at about 9:15 p.m. Saturday.

Houston said Griego appeared “surprised” at his arrest and said he shot his family because he was annoyed at his mother.

He said Griego also told police he regularly played the violent video games “Modern Warfare” and “Grand Theft Auto,” although his parents did not allow it. It was not clear how Griego had access to the games.

Houston said Griego's demeanor was calm and that he did not appear to show remorse for killing his family.

"There is no best judgment of motive on our part,” Houston said. “It is beyond any human reasoning or understanding at this time."

Griego will appear in court Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. and will be treated as an adult.

New Mexico law allows prosecutors to charge children 13 and over as adults in serious cases, legal experts tell KOB.

Stay with KOB for continuing coverage.