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Pretrial hearing begins in case involving death of Jeremiah Valencia

SANTA FE — Attorneys will have to wait two more weeks to finish a presentation before a Santa Fe District Court judge can rule on whether two adults who allegedly took part in the torture, murder and disposal of a teenage boy will be locked up until trial.

A pretrial detention hearing started Tuesday for Tracy Ann Pena, 36, and Jordan Nunez, 20, who are both charged with child abuse resulting in death and tampering with evidence for the killing of Pena’s 13-year-old son, Jeremiah Valencia.

Testimony from Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office Detective Ernest Alderete took nearly the whole day, so the defense will get to present its case Sept. 19. Jeremiah’s younger sister, the only non-defendant who witnessed the alleged killing, is expected to testify.

Court documents say Jeremiah was kept in a dog kennel for hours at a time and was deprived of food and water and forced to wear a diaper. He was also allegedly tortured with a homemade spear, a hammer and an electric shock collar.

Prosecutors in recent court documents say that Jeremiah is believed to have been killed by Nunez, on Nov. 26. The boy’s remains were found in a plastic storage container in a shallow grave off N.M. 503 near Nambé in late January.

Thomas Ferguson, 42, Nunez’s father and Pena’s boyfriend who previously had been described by authorities as Jeremiah’s apparent killer, was also charged but committed suicide in the Santa Fe County jail in April.

Deputy District Attorney Todd Bullion said in court Wednesday that Nunez tortured Jeremiah with the button-controlled shock collar almost daily and has a propensity for violence, noting that Nunez picked up a battery charge for apparently punching a random person at a Pojoaque grocery store in December.

“Mr. Nunez is an individual who delights in violent behavior, and that is the definition of dangerousness,” Bullion said.

But attorneys for Pena and Nunez argue that they were forced to commit the abuse and dispose of the body by Ferguson, who had a long criminal history including prior charges of assaulting women or children.

“He terrorized everyone that lived in that house,” defense attorney Theresa Duncan said.