As town mourns slain teen, details emerge about suspect's past
January 31, 2018 10:15 PM
POJOAQUE, N.M. -- At a Wednesday night vigil, a northern New Mexico community gathered to remember 13-year-old Jeremiah Valencia as a kid who liked joking around and loved basketball.
Authorities say he died after enduring years of abuse before his body was buried in a remote area of Santa Fe County. Investigators have arrested Jeremiah's mother, Tracy Pena; her boyfriend, Thomas Ferguson; and Ferguson's son, Jordan Nunez.
Vigil organizers said they worried few would come, but a large turnout provided some comfort. It proved many shared their sorrow, even for a boy they didn't know. Many folks are also confronted with their own guilt over what could have been done.
As the community in Nambé and Pojoaque grieves, KOB spoke to a childhood friend of Ferguson who said he was an extremely violent influence on the people around him. Meanwhile, a friend of Pena said she tried to escape the abusive relationship.
Jim Griego remembers growing up with Ferguson, now considered the main suspect in Valencia's murder.
"The kids in school were afraid of him," Griego said. "A lot of kids were afraid of Tommy, it was either his way or no way."
Griego said Ferguson's violent outbursts did not discriminate.
"He would hurt his animals," Griego said. "He was always fighting with his sisters, always fighting with his dad. They lived right behind a bar in Tucumcari, New Mexico right behind the Hitching Post, right there on Main Street. His dad was always in the bar.
Ferguson's life, Griego said, was forged in abuse and violence.
"You knew what he was going to be from the time you met him," he said.
Ferguson and Nunez both face charges in the gruesome killing of Valencia. Pena herself is also charged with the murder. On Wednesday, investigators were back at the house where the child died. Santa Fe County Sheriff's deputies combed through evidence as part of a second search warrant.
"So basically, we have the majority of the criminal investigation unit here working on executing a search warrant," said Juan Rios, a spokesperson for the Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office. "That entails about 10 people total."
Less than a mile away, Pena's friend Crystal Valdez attended a memorial for Jeremiah.
"He was a wonderful kid he loved to play," she said. "He loved joking around. He loved playing. He loved playing basketball."
Valdez said she's overcome with guilt. She last saw Pena in July. Shortly after, her friend asked for help -- she wanted out.
"Tracy would call me and tell me she was scared of him, how threatened she was of him, that he would beat her rape her, hold her hostage her and the kids," Valdez said.
For Griego, there is sorrow but no surprise over what his former classmate is accused of doing.
"That's how Tommy was made," he said. "It's all he knew was violence."
For Valdez, all that's left is regret.
"It hurts really, really bad because I feel if I would have stepped in and done something we wouldn't be standing here today," she said.
Updated: January 31, 2018 10:15 PM
Created: January 31, 2018 04:57 PM
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