Newly released search warrants in an investigation into the death of Jeremiah Valencia, the 13-year-old boy whose body was unearthed near Nambé in late January, provide additional details about the torture the boy might have endured, suggesting he was sexually assaulted and burned, and indicate authorities found a dog kennel allegedly used to hold him as he was being abused.
According to the new court documents, filed by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office, an autopsy of Jeremiah’s body revealed lacerations consistent with sexual assault.
The autopsy also revealed that portions of his body “had possibly been burned,” the documents say.
Sheriff’s office detectives sought permission from a judge to search for evidence corroborating these findings, such as condoms or objects that may have been used to assault the boy, or “any implements which would assist in causing a burn to human flesh.”
The state Office of the Medical Investigator has not yet publicly released an autopsy report for Jeremiah.
His mother, Tracy Ann Peña, 35, her boyfriend, Thomas Wayne Ferguson, 42, and Ferguson’s 19-year-old son, Jordan Nuñez, all face charges in connection with Jeremiah’s death.
Ferguson has been accused by the other two, as well as Jeremiah’s 13-year-old sister, of repeatedly torturing Jeremiah and beating him to death in late November.
Deputies discovered the boy’s body in January, 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 and that she kept quiet about it because she was afraid of Ferguson.
Nuñez told a similar story, saying he was abused by his father as a child and feared retaliation from Ferguson if he went to law enforcement.
Police already have searched the house on N.M. 503 in Nambé where they think Valencia was killed, as well as a storage unit in Santa Fe and at least one vehicle registered to Ferguson.
In the five new search warrant affidavits, sheriff’s office investigators sought permission to search property — mostly bags — that were found inside vehicles related to the case.
Most of the bags didn’t contain anything worthwhile, according to an inventory of items seized under the warrants. Investigators did find five smartphones and a camera, but the contents of those devices were not disclosed.
In an affidavit for the search warrants, sheriff’s detectives argued that communications on the phones, such as text messages, could reveal evidence of threats.
Detectives and prosecutors have said Nuñez wrote a Facebook message to Ferguson, threatening to hurt Peña if she went to police.
In the new court documents, sheriff’s deputies say Nuñez “confirmed this message … claiming that Thomas [Ferguson] ‘got in his head’ and was manipulating the incident to his advantage.”
Both Nuñez and Peña are charged with child abuse resulting in death, tampering with evidence and conspiracy to commit evidence tampering.
Ferguson was indicted last week by a grand jury on first-degree murder and 17 other felony charges, including kidnapping, child abuse and tampering with evidence.
Sexual assault was not among those charges.
District Attorney Marco Serna did not respond to calls Friday seeking comment on whether his office will consider pursuing criminal sexual assault charges if detectives discover evidence tying Ferguson to such abuse of the boy.
Other new details described in the search warrant documents:
• Investigators recovered a plastic dog kennel at the home of some of Nuñez’s cousins, and Peña confirmed it had been used in Jeremiah’s abuse. Family members have told deputies that Ferguson kept Jeremiah inside the kennel as punishment, often making him sleep there and forcing him to wear adult diapers.
• An autopsy found Jeremiah was buried in a diaper.
• Blood “not visible to the naked eye” was discovered inside Ferguson’s bedroom, as well as Jeremiah’s bedroom, when police used a special light to search the house on N.M. 503.
• Jeremiah’s sister told investigators that Nuñez and Ferguson washed Jeremiah’s body in the tub “to clean the blood off him” before placing him in his bedroom, where Peña has said she found him dead, wrapped in a blanket.
Contact Sami Edge at 505-986-3055 or firstname.lastname@example.org.