Friends and fellow congregants trickled into the sanctuary of the Cavalry Albuquerque mega-church Friday afternoon to memorialize one of their former pastors, Greg Griego, his wife, Sarah, and three of his young children.
Four miles away, 15-year-old Nehemiah Griego sat inside the Bernalillo County Juvenile Detention Center on charges of killing his family.
After Nehemiah’s initial explanation to authorities began to unravel, he changed course.
He hadn’t actually returned home from a friend’s house Saturday to find his slain family, he eventually admitted in an interview detailed in court documents, but rather he had gone to his parents' closet, picked up a .22-caliber rifle and shot his mother in the head. He told the interviewer he “lost his sense of conscience” and also shot his younger brother, his two younger sisters and then his father.
He had planned to go to a Wal-Mart and shoot others, officials said, but instead drove to Calvary Albuquerque church.
It was there, at the church where his gang member-turned-pastor father once worked and where people gathered Friday to mourn the deaths, that Nehemiah told the church’s security guard that his family was dead. A church member then called 911 and drove Nehemiah home, where he was taken into custody, according to a statement released by the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s office.
Nehemiah, who faces two counts of murder and three counts of child abuse resulting in death, will be charged as a serious youthful offender, Kayla Anderson, a spokeswoman for the District Attorney's Office in Albuquerque, said Friday.
“He can be sentenced to what an adult could be sentenced to, but a judge has more discretion,” she said, adding that a grand jury is expected to hear the case by the first week in February.
In a statement posted on the church’s website, pastor Skip Heitzig described his congregation as “stunned.”
“We are doing what we can as a church body to minister to the remaining family members,” Heitzig said. “Only the Lord Jesus Christ can heal this type of pain and heartache.”