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Young killer seeks name change as release nears

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

At age 15, Nehemiah Griego shot and killed his parents and three young siblings. Now, ahead of his scheduled release later this month, court documents show that he’s seeking to change his name.

Griego filed his name change case under the name John Doe in January, and his attorney has filed requests to keep documents and hearings in the case secret.

Nehemiah Griego

In one such request, he asks to seal the document that would show the name Griego hopes to adopt, which does not appear to have been filed yet.

Griego killed five members of his family in January 2013 at their South Valley home and has been in custody since his arrest days afterward. He was convicted and sentenced as a child, which under New Mexico law means he will be released on his 21st birthday, March 20.

Matthew Bernstein, who is representing Griego, wrote that a name change will “assist him in avoiding unnecessary recognition.”

“Petitioner’s legal name is unique, and a simple online search would connect him to past alleged actions that would jeopardize his personal safety,” Bernstein wrote in a motion that never identifies Griego as the petitioner. He declined to comment on the case Thursday.

Second Judicial District Judge Shannon Bacon last week ruled that the file must appear under Nehemiah Naphtali Griego, rather than John Doe, meaning the case now shows up when his name is searched in court databases.

Griego first shot his mother, Sarah, and 9-year-old brother, Zephaniah, then walked into his sisters’ room and killed 5-year-old Jael, and 2-year-old Angelina. Hours later, he shot his father, Greg, when he returned home after his shift at a homeless shelter.

His attorneys have said that, as a child, Griego suffered severe abuse and beatings from his father.

An appeal by the state Attorney General’s Office attempting to have the sentence overturned is pending. If Griego had been sentenced as an adult, he would have faced up to 120 years in prison.