A dog crate where a 13-year-old New Mexico was forced to sleep and where he died in 2017 has been put on display by prosecutors, as his brother is sentenced over his torture and killing.
Jeremiah Valencia was beaten within an inch of his life by his mother’s boyfriend, Thomas Ferguson, on November 25, 2017 and then forced into the 26- by 39-inch dog crate at the family home in Nambé, north of Santa Fe in New Mexico.
Valencia’s brother Jordan Nuñez, now 23, then repeatedly flipped the crate – causing the final injuries that killed the boy, prosecutors said.
The boy’s body was then wrapped in plastic and buried in a plastic container along New Mexico State Road 503.
Ferguson killed himself in Santa Fe County jail in 2018 while awaiting trial.
Nuñez is now facing 14 to 24 years in prison after he pleaded guilty last March to recklessly permitting child abuse resulting in death, and two counts of tampering with evidence.
Prosecutors are arguing for the maximum sentence and urging District Court Judge Matthew Wilson to deem Nuñez’s crimes serious violent offenses – this would require Nunez to serve out at least 85 percent of his sentence before becoming eligible for parole.
1st Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack Altwies said that Nuñez ‘knew that his little brother, who had just gotten a severe beat down, was in this cage’ when he flipped it.
Jordan Nuñez, 23 (pictured) faces 14 to 24 years for his role in the 2017 killing after he pled guilty last March to recklessly permitting child abuse resulting in death and two counts of tampering with evidence
Although 13-year-old Jeremiah Valencia (pictured) was beaten within an inch of his life by his mother’s boyfriend, Thomas Ferguson, who killed himself in Santa Fe County jail in 2018 while awaiting trial, prosecutors said on Tuesday that the boy’s brother Jordan Nuñez, 23, delivered the final blow that killed him
Prosecutors also showed a sledgehammer which was used to beat Valencia.
‘Jeremiah became the target of those two men,’ said District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies, according to the Albequerque Journal.
‘Basically, anything that could be used to hurt a 13-year-old boy was used on Jeremiah.’
After weeks of beatings that left the boy hobbling with a cane from broken ribs and other injuries, Nunez flipped the 26×39 inch crate ‘over and over and over again’ while the boy was inside, according to witness account cited by prosecutors.
Among torture methods devised by Ferguson to ‘punish’ the boy were shocking him with a shock collar, using him for target practice with a homemade spear and dropping the sledgehammer on his hands.
Family members told deputies that Ferguson kept Valencia inside the crate as punishment, often making him sleep there and forcing him to wear adult diapers.
Family members told deputies that Ferguson kept Valencia inside a dog crate, shown to jury members in court on Tuesday, as punishment – ultimately, prosecutors said, the boy died in that crate when Nuñez flipped it ‘over and over’ while the badly-injured Valencia was inside
Among torture methods devised by Ferguson to ‘punish’ the boy were: shocking the boy with a shock collar, using him for target practice with a homemade spear and dropping a sledge hammer, which was also shown to jury members by District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies (pictured), on his hands
Valencia (pictured) was not enrolled in school, and Ferguson had beaten the boy for years, former District Attorney Marco Serna said in 2018
He was not enrolled in school, and Ferguson had beaten the boy for years, former District Attorney Marco Serna said in 2018.
Roberto Montoya, a contractor who employed and befriended Nuñez and Ferguson, said in court on Tuesday that Ferguson thought the 13-year-old was ‘possessed’ and had reached out to a pastor.
The Office of Medical Investigator also found that the boy’s jaw was broken in two places, likely as a result of a ‘final beat-down’ on November 25, the day the boy died, prosecutors said.
Lacerations consistent with sexual assault were also discovered in the boy’s autopsy, and portions of his body ‘had possibly been burned.’
‘A perfectly healthy 13-year-old boy could barely walk, couldn’t eat and needed a cane,’ the District Attorney said, according to the Journal. ‘Nuñez was watching his little brother hobbling around on a cane, bleeding on it, and did nothing.’
Evidence of Valencia’s blood was found in his room and throughout the family’s home, but wasn’t ‘visible to the naked eye,’ prosecutors said. The largest amount of blood was found in the fireplace, where Valencia was confined behind a specially-made door.
Nuñez’s attorney Mark Ernest argued that the real ‘monster’ was Ferguson, who not only terrorized Jeremiah, but Nunez and other family members as well.
Thomas Ferguson, 42 (pictured left) the boy’s mother Tracy Pena, 35 (pictured right) and Ferguson’s 19-year-old son Jordan Nunez (pictured center) were arrested in February of 2018 and charged with abuse of a child resulting in death, tampering with evidence, and conspiracy to commit tampering with evidence
Valencia’s mother Tracy Pena, 39 (pictured right) told investigators she was forced to help Thomas Ferguson (pictured left) move the boy’s remains but kept quiet about it because she was afraid of Ferguson. Pena was sentenced to 12 years for failing to prevent her son’s abuse and killing in September
Ernest said prosecutors ‘immediately focused on [Nuñez]’ and were ‘trying to make him monster 2.0’ after his father’s suicide.
The prosecution shot back that Nuñez was, in fact, ‘monster 2.0,’ citing his alleged role in the beatings and disposal of the boy’s body.
Previously, Nuñez’s sister testified that her brother and Ferguson had washed the boy’s battered corpse in the bathtub of their home before placing it in his bedroom, where his mother, 39-year-old Tracy Peña, alleges she found him.
In September, Peña (pictured left) was sentenced to 12 years for failing to prevent the Valencia’s (pictured right) abuse and death, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican
In September, Peña was sentenced to 12 years for failing to prevent the boy’s abuse and death, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican.
Deputies discovered the boy’s body in January of 2018, after an inmate at the Santa Fe County jail told them Peña had confided in her about her son’s death.
Peña, who was in jail at the time of the death, told investigators she was forced to help Ferguson move the boy’s remains but kept quiet about it because she was afraid of Ferguson.
Peña was investigated by the New Mexico Children Youth and Families Department in 2011. Valencia and his sister were both placed in the care of their grandparents, but were eventually released back to their mother.