Authorities were investigating comments made by friends and colleagues that Pastor Greg Griego had a criminal record and if so, whether he should have been prohibited from owning an assault-style rifle and other guns his son allegedly used to kill him and four other family members last weekend, the Albuquerque Journal reported Tuesday.
Greg Griego's son, Nehemiah Griego, was charged with five counts of first-degree murder and three counts of child abuse resulting in death in the shootings in the family's South Valley home.
Each of Nehemiah's alleged victims was shot in the head early Saturday with guns owned by his parents, a probable cause statement by Bernalillo County Sheriff's deputies said. The victims are Greg Griego, 51; mother Sarah Griego, 40; brother Zephania, 9; and sisters Jael, 5 and Angelina, 2. The Griegos had 10 children, but only the three youngest and Nehemiah were living at their New Mexico home.
The statement of probable cause said Nehemiah told police he was angry with his mother that night and that he had anger issues, along with homicidal and suicidal thoughts.
The teen told police "he lost his sense of conscience" after shooting his mother and 9-year-old brother, who lay sleeping beside her in bed. When he heard his sisters crying in their bedroom, he shot them then waited for his dad to return home, shooting him with an assault rifle, the statement said.
The statement said Nehemiah drove the family's van, loaded guns inside, to meet his girlfriend at Calvary Chapel, a megachurch where Greg Griego once was a pastor.
The teen spent 12 hours at the church, talking to several people, including his girlfriend, her grandmother, a pastor and a church security guard, saying his family was killed in a car crash, but telling at least one of person their bodies were in the family home, the charging document said.
When the security guard drove the youth back to the family's home, he saw the body of Greg Griego and called authorities, the document said.
The Journal said the father had told people he had been in prison or had a criminal past, possibly in California. If true, he would have been allowed to own guns 10 years after the end of his sentence and probation. Otherwise, state and federal law would have prohibited him from possessing or owning an AR-15 assault-type rifle and a .22 caliber rifle, the guns used in the shootings.
The Journal said Greg Griego, who ministered to prisoners at an area detention center, still could have been able to purchase a gun in New Mexico, one of 36 states that doesn't require background checks for firearms bought at gun shows or from private sellers.
Many who knew the father, including friends and others in the Christian community, told the Journal he could connect with inmates.
"Greg never felt like anybody was too far gone to be turned around," said Steve Stucker, a weatherman at KOB-TV; Albuquerque, who was a jail ministry chaplin. "He'd seen it happen in himself and felt comfortable in honestly sharing his past struggles with those who were struggling now as proof positive that a relationship with Jesus can change your life."