SANTA FE — Prosecutors now believe that 20-year-old Jordan Nunez, not his father Thomas Ferguson, is the one who killed 13-year-old Jeremiah Valencia last November, according to new court documents.
The documents also say that Nunez repeatedly tortured Jeremiah with a homemade spear and a button-controlled shock collar and that Jeremiah’s mother, 36-year-old Tracy Ann Pena, and younger sister also may have taken part in the torture, although the girl may have done so against her own will.
Both Pena and Nunez, 20 – who are charged with child abuse resulting in death and tampering with evidence in Jeremiah’s death – are expected in Santa Fe District Court Wednesday as prosecutors intend to argue that they should be held in jail until trial.
Nunez’s father Thomas Ferguson, 42, was also charged in the boy’s death, but he hanged himself in the Santa Fe County jail in late April. Pena was Ferguson’s girlfriend when Jeremiah was killed at the family group’s Nambé home last year.
Investigators believe Jeremiah was kept in a dog cage for long hours without food and water. After being killed Nov. 26, Ferguson, Nunez and Pena stuffed his body into a plastic storage bin and buried it off N.M. 503 near Nambé, police say. Jeremiah’s autopsy indicated that he died from blunt force trauma and had some bone fractures that were healing and some that were more recent.
In an amended motion for pretrial detention for Nunez and Pena filed Friday, Santa Fe Deputy District Attorney Todd Bullion claims that Nunez killed Jeremiah – whereas previous court documents indicated that it may have been Ferguson – and that Nunez bragged about it to a friend on Facebook by saying that he “took someone off the map” and “did some dirt.”
“Eyewitness testimony has the Defendant (Nunez) causing the fatal blow to the victim as he was trapped in a dog cage whimpering from a beating he had received the night prior,” Bullion wrote.
The motion also says that on Aug. 29 the state learned Nunez “tortured Jeremiah on a daily basis for a period of at least a month with a homemade spear” and would stab it into various points on Jeremiah’s body.
Bullion adds that Nunez would consistently shock Jeremiah. “This was done by forcing Jeremiah to wear a shock collar,” Bullion wrote. “The collar would be triggered by a remote button.” The motion says Jeremiah’s sister, about a year younger than Jeremiah, said Jeremiah constantly wore the collar around his neck or on one of his legs.
Nunez’s defense attorney, Mark Earnest, says in a repsonse motion that Nunez was under pressure from Ferguson to commit the abuse and did it to stay on Ferguson’s “good side.”
“While the charged crimes are horrific… the evidence shows that Thomas Ferguson, not Jordan, directed the abuse of Jeremiah Valencia and that Jordan, (Jeremiah’s sister), and Tracy Pena participated in that abuse – if at all – under the threat of violence from Ferguson,” Earnest wrote.
Earnest’s motion implies that Ferguson also made the girl to dish out some punishment on her brother. “(Jeremiah’s sister) said that Ferguson forced her poke Jeremiah with the spear although she didn’t want to,” Earnest wrote.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Padgett also filed an motion for pretrial detention against Pena. The prosecutor writes that Pena openly spoke with Ferguson about beating Jeremiah while Pena was in jail in August 2017.
“I’ve already gotten him like he pissed me off I (expletive) started to (expletive) him up the other day, Jordan saw me, I (expletive) slammed him into the kitchen floor,” Padgett quotes Pena as saying. “Like he’s already pushing it, pushing it.”
Pena’s lawyer has not responded to the motion as of press time. Jeremiah’s sister is expected to testify at the hearing.