ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – It’s been three years since Vanessa Lightbourne’s little brother, Nehemiah Griego, killed her parents and three siblings.
“It felt like it wasn’t real,” said Lightbourne. To this day, the only question she has for him is why he did it. Vanessa hasn’t spoken to Nehemiah since he took their lives.
When Judge John Romero Jr. announced Nehemiah would be sentenced as a juvenile, it was something Lightbourne didn’t expect.
“I was just in shock. I couldn’t believe it. You know, I thought there would be justice, especially for taking five lives,” said Lightbourne.
The judge sentenced Nehemiah, who is now 18, as a juvenile. That means he’ll be free when he’s 21.
“I wanted justice for my parents and for my siblings. You know, I love my brother and forgave him a long time ago, but I feel like there has to be consequences for what he did,” said Lightbourne.
That’s where longtime family friend Emilee Ariaz is stepping in. She says Gregory and Sara Griego were like her own parents.
“I was practically living at their house all the time, because I was there so much,” said Ariaz.
When Emilee heard the decision, she felt the same way Vanessa did.
“I was definitely hoping for a different outcome and it was kind of hard to hear,” said Ariaz.
Now she’s not going down without a fight. Emilee started an online petition to get the district attorney to appeal Judge Romero’s decision.
“I think the community needs to have a voice and they haven’t in this case. Safety is a concern,” said Ariaz.
More importantly, she’s doing it for the people she called a second family.
District Attorney Kari Brandenburg said she’s disappointed with the judge’s ruling and is considering filing an appeal, but a decision has not been reached. That’s not all the DA noted. Griego faced up to 120 years in prison, because he pled guilty.
His release will come in two years, and because of this decision, all records will be sealed and not appear on his criminal record, Brandenburg said.