Affidavit details suspects' accounts in teen's death, burial
J.R. Oppenheim and Caleb James
February 01, 2018 10:14 PM
Editor's note: This story contains graphic information detailed in a court document. It may not be suitable for all ages. Reader discretion is advised.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- One suspect charged in the death of a Santa Fe County teen allegedly told investigators his father forced him to help bury the victim and threatened him if he talked about what happened.
According to an updated arrest warrant affidavit, 19-year-old Jordan Nunez said Thomas Ferguson brutally attacked and killed 13-year-old Jeremiah Valencia at his family home on State Road 503 in Pojoaque last November.
Deputies said earlier in the week that Ferguson, 42, is the main suspect in the case. Ferguson, his son Nunez, and Valencia's mother Tracy Pena each face charges of child abuse resulting in death, tampering with evidence and conspiracy.
According to the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office, the 35-year-old Pena led investigators to the area where Valencia was buried. Both Pena and Nunez allegedly said they were forced to bury Valencia's remains.
The updated affidavit includes interviews with Pena and Nunez from Jan. 29 with graphic details including items Ferguson allegedly used to kill Valencia and bury him in a shallow grave.
"The torture was astronomical and sometimes done for no apparent reason," the affidavit said.
Outlining the night Valencia died, Nunez reportedly told investigators Ferguson punched Valencia before dragging him throughout the house and into Ferguson's room. Nunez then said Ferguson punched Valencia in the room so hard that he knocked the teen's teeth out, picked Valencia up by the neck, and slammed him on the ground two or three times, the affidavit states.
Pena also has a daughter who detectives have extensively interviewed. The daughter reportedly told investigators, Valencia was beaten and abused so frequently that he needed a cane to walk. On that late November day, the daughter also said Ferguson beat Valencia and dragged him through the kitchen and into the bathroom hallway."
Nunez also allegedly told investigators that Ferguson forced Valencia's body, which Nunez thought looked lifeless, into a dog kennel.
Pena was jailed at the time of Valencia's death. In a separate interview, Pena told investigators she returned home from jail only to find her son dead and was forced to help transfer the body to the garage. Pena allegedly said Ferguson made her and Nunez bury the body off State Road 503 three days later.
Nunez reportedly described a similar account. According to the affidavit, Nunez told authorities Ferguson pointed a sawed-off shotgun at him and made him and Pena move Valencia's body to the garage, and later digging a hole to bury the boy.
Previous instances of abuse Nunez allegedly described include Ferguson using brass knuckles, a cane, a spear, a hammer and steel-toe boots to attack Valencia.
"Based on the investigation at this point, the facts surrounding the matter identify Jeremiah Valencia as an individual who was cruelly punished, physically abused and cruelly confined while in the care of Thomas Ferguson, Tracy Pena and Jordon [sic] Nunez," the affidavit states.
Other investigative documents provide even more insight in between the detail -- a picture of a prison built inside a family home. Nunez reportedly told investigators his father had installed locks to keep the family in the house. According to a search warrant, investigators removed at least five doorknobs from the house, including one with a keypad.
Pena's friends have said she tried to leave the relationship with Ferguson. According to the court documents, Pena and Nunez both discussed Ferguson's history of abuse.
Neighbors said the children didn't attend any local schools, which is part of the reason why the alleged abuse flew under the radar.
J.R. Oppenheim and Caleb James
Updated: February 01, 2018 10:14 PM
Created: February 01, 2018 03:53 PM
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