When Homeschoolers Turn Violent: Nehemiah Griego
Series note: “When Homeschoolers Turn Violent” is a joint research project by Homeschoolers Anonymous and Homeschooling’s Invisible Children. Please see the Introduction for detailed information about the purpose and scope of the project.
Trigger warning: If you experience triggers from descriptions of physical and sexual violence, please know that the details in many of the cases are disturbing and graphic.
On an early morning in January of 2013, 15-year-old Nehemiah Griego shot his mother and younger brother to death in bed, walked into another room and killed his two young sisters, then patiently waited five hours for his father to return home from an overnight volunteer shift at a rescue mission. Nehemiah proceeded to kill his father as well.
The Griego family was well known in their home city of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Greg, Nehemiah’s father, was a former pastor at the city’s Calvary Chapel. He was a “born-again gang member” who lived a public life of service: ministering at the local fire department, at a detention center, and through the prison ministry run by Calvary Chapel. Greg and his wife Sarah had ten children. Their family was involved in the local homeschooling community. In fact, the Calvary Chapel that Greg pastored at hosted New Mexico’s annual homeschooling conventions.
Sarah was a stay-at-home mother who homeschooled Nehemiah and his siblings. From a young age, Nehemiah had a love for music. He became a talented musician, playing guitar, drums, and bass at church services at his family’s Calvary Chapel. He was highly involved with the church, going on mission trips to Mexico and helping with youth ministry. In the tradition of the men of his family, he wanted to service in the military.
Unfortunately, Nehemiah had a dark side as well. He long had violent fantasies about mass killings followed by his own suicide. Those fantasies were what ultimately crystallized into his carried-out plan to kill his family and others. In all, he killed his father Greg (51), his mother Sarah, (40), and his siblings Zephania (9), Jael (5), and Angelina (2). He was proud of his deadly accomplishments, even texting a picture of his mother’s dead body to his 12-year-old girlfriend. After the murders, he reloaded his weapons and drove away in his family’s van. He intended to also kill his girlfriend’s family and then drive to a local Wal-Mart and go on a rampage there. Accounts are unclear why, but he instead drove to his family’s Calvary Chapel and told a church security guard that his family was dead. The security guard drove the boy home and then called 911.
On January 23, 2013, surviving relatives of the Griego family issued a statement about Nehemiah, saying they were “deeply concerned about the portrayal in some media of Nehemiah as some kind of a monster.” While they admitted that “something went terribly wrong,” they stressed that “There is so much more to the Nehemiah we know than what the media is portraying. We know him as a bright, curious, and incredibly talented young man. He was a brother, nephew, grandson, and cousin.”
View the case index here.