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Judge orders Nehemiah Griego sent to MDC

Nehemiah Griego, second from right, is escorted following an appearance in Children’s Court on Monday. A judge on Thursday moved Griego from juvenile custody to the county jail. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)



Nehemiah Griego,

Nehemiah Griego will be moved from juvenile custody to the Metropolitan Detention Center, a judge ruled Thursday after determining the young man who killed his parents and three young siblings should be detained.

Finding that Griego was both a flight risk and a danger to the community, 2nd Judicial District Judge Michael Martinez granted a request by the state to hold him as he awaits resolution of his case.

Griego, just 15 at the time of the crimes, was sentenced as a juvenile. He was originally scheduled for release on his 21st birthday on Tuesday.

Martinez’s decision can be revisited, and Griego’s attorney Stephen Taylor agreed during Thursday’s hearing in Children’s Court that he should be detained at least temporarily. Griego’s defense team is working on a plan “that we feel will guarantee his safety and continue to provide him treatment,” Taylor said in an interview. The plan will eventually be presented to a judge for consideration.

Although the judge seemed reluctant to send Griego to the county jail, Martinez ultimately decided that Griego would be moved there immediately after the hearing.

“I do this with great trepidation,” Martinez said. “I just don’t think it’s healthy for the young man to be placed in jail.”

The state Court of Appeals last week overturned the District Court’s decision to sentence Griego as a child in the 2013 killings. Had he been sentenced as an adult, he faced up to 120 years in prison.

The case was sent back to District Court on March 9 for a second amenability hearing, in which a judge must again consider whether Griego should receive a juvenile or adult sentence – a process that will likely take several months.

“It’s a huge disappointment. This boy’s put in five years of treatment with the goal of rehabilitating himself and a shot at independence and release when he turned 21,” Taylor said. “That was what the court ordered. And then all of a sudden, as of Friday, that was upended. And now he’s being held like an adult.”

Defense lawyers have not decided whether they will ask the Supreme Court to review the Court of Appeals decision, and Taylor said their first priority is finding a safe place for Griego to stay while the case is pending. Griego could be housed alone in a segregation unit for his protection, conditions that Taylor has previously said would be detrimental to the rehabilitative progress he has made in recent years.

Prosecutor James Grayson argued in court Thursday that Griego has had nine disciplinary incident reports while in juvenile custody, and that he has made generalized threats toward police and others.

“In this case, we have a horrific crime that was planned,” Grayson said. “It was conducted with firearms, and we have a defendant who continues to have anger issues.”

Griego at some point planned to move to Colorado, and he has taken steps to change his name, which Grayson mentioned as he argued that Griego is a flight risk.

Martinez found that there was a high incentive for Griego to flee, given the extensive sentence he may face, depending on the outcome of the second amenability hearing.