ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The public defender who is representing a New Mexico teen accused of gunning down his parents and younger siblings said Thursday that it's too early for anyone to rush to judgment about the teen's mental state, motives or plans.
Nehemiah Griego, 15, is facing murder and child abuse charges in the deaths of his family. They were all found shot to death inside their rural home south of Albuquerque last Saturday.
Public defender Jeff Buckels said the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department has been parceling out limited bits of what he described as "the most damaging supposed 'facts.'"
"This has led directly to a multitude of sensational headlines that threaten to finish Nehemiah's case in the public mind before it has fairly begun," Buckels said.
Family members also have criticized the sheriff's department and the media for their portrayal of Griego in the days following the murders.
On Thursday, Sheriff Dan Houston again described the case as "horrific" and said he stood by the facts as presented in the investigation.
Detectives continued Thursday to pour over evidence gathered at the Griego home last weekend. They were also reviewing text messages and calls between Griego and his 12-year-old girlfriend and security video from Calvary Albuquerque, the Christian church where Griego's father once served as a pastor and where the boy apparently spent much of the day following the slayings.
Authorities have said Griego allegedly reloaded his parents' two rifles and put them in the family van after the early morning slayings and had planned to randomly gun down Wal-Mart shoppers. Houston said investigators have no information that Griego actually went to a Wal-Mart that day.
Buckels also noted that Griego appeared to have had "every chance to carry out such a plan, but did not."
Former police officer and Calvary Albuquerque security chief Vince Harrison told The Associated Press that Griego spent much of last Saturday at the church, wandering the campus as dozens of Sunday school teachers were being trained on how to deal with a shooter.
He was greeted by the manager of the church's skate park and others. But it wasn't until hours later that church officials knew something was wrong.
It was Harrison who called the sheriff's department, and he and the boy drove to the Griego home, where they met authorities.