Richard Griego was bound over to District Court on charges of first-degree murder and tampering with evidence on May 1, 2017. His case has essentially placed on pause since Nov. 15 2017, when competency was first raised as an issue.
According to the log of a Dec. 23, 2020 hearing, prosecutor Thomas Clayton said stipulating to Richard Griego’s lack of competency to stand trial would be “imprudent.”
Defense attorney Todd Farkas said the main question on competency is Richard Griego’s ability “to assist,” presumably in his own defense.
In New Mexico, a competency finding requires three things of a defendant, according to State v. Flores (2005):
Understand “the nature and gravity of the proceedings against”
Have a “factual understanding of the criminal charges”
In a Nov. 18, 2020 hearing, Farkas told the judge that Griego had previously been found not competent to stand trial and Clayton said it was the fifth evaluation. Two prior evaluations found him competent while three, including the only recently completed, found him not competent.
Griego has two other cases pending against him, both of which happened after he was jailed in the murder case, and both of which are rolled into the broader competency proceedings.
The first, from Aug. 3, 2018, resulted in two counts of possession of a deadly weapon by a prisoner. The second, on March 1, 2019, resulted in a charge of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
Jail staff told Marquez they found several items on Griego “during a shakedown of a housing pod.” The items were a hollowed-out bolt with a nut that had a nail pushed through the hollow end, about 4 inches in length, described as a shank, Marquez wrote. The second item was a handcuff key.
Clayton filed a criminal information on Oct. 19, 2018 in district court charging Griego with two counts of possession of a deadly weapon by a prisoner.
Las Vegas Police Officer Estevan Martinez wrote in an affidavit for an arrest warrant, on a charge of aggravated battery, that he was called to the San Miguel Detention Center on March 2, 2019, for a report of a fight involving Griego and Johnny Gallegos.
Martinez wrote that he watched a surveillance video from the incident and in it, he saw the two men got into a fight and Griego pushed Gallegos out of their cell and into the hallway with a crutch. Griego then allegedly beat Gallegos in the head and back with the crutch as Gallegos crawled away on his hands and knees. On the third strike, the crutch broke and Griego kept on hitting him with it, a total of eight times.
The two men were fighting after Gallegos tried to inject a crushed pill, he wrote.
On April 16, 2019, Clayton filed a criminal information in district court charging Griego with a single count of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
In February 2019, his case was placed on hold for a competency evaluation. He was initially found to not be competent, sent to a facility for rehabilitation, and found to be competent on March 20, 2020.
On July 13, 2018, Dakota Whitehat, 20, was walking down U.S. Highway 491, near Shiprock, when a car picked him up. After turning onto Indian Services Route/BIA Route/Navajo Route 13, the driver stopped because Jansen Peshlakai and his wife appeared to be in a physical fight, according to a deputy field investigation by Barbara Nabors.
“Per law enforcement, both the man and the woman of the parked vehicle became aggressive towards the occupants of vehicle one,” Nabors wrote. “For unknown reasons the decedent began walking eastbound on the opposite side of the road.”
Peshlakai allegedly turned his car around and ran down Whitehat, who was 15 to 20 feet off the highway, she wrote.
Jaros’ account differs from that of Nabors, based on what police initially told her.
The man who picked up Whitehat in his truck earlier on the road offered the wife a ride, Jaros wrote.
Whitehat is referred to as “John Doe” in court documents.
According to Jaros:
“She got into the truck to leave, which angered the defendant. The defendant got into his vehicle, a brown SUV, and drove across the road to where the white truck was parked. The defendant rammed the white truck. Next, the defendant ran over John Doe who was outside the vehicle on foot.”
Several witnesses, including other motorists who stopped, told investigators that Peshlakai allegedly did not try to swerve or slow down to avoid running over Whitehat, Jaros wrote.
“At the time of the collision, it was light outside,” she wrote. “John Doe died from his injuries later that day.”
Peshlakai had been drinking prior to allegedly running over Whitehat, she wrote.
“The defendant’s dangerousness is exacerbated by his alcohol abuse,” she wrote. “The defendant has been charged with alcohol related offenses on at least ten different occasions. He has convictions for public drunkenness and driving under the influence.”
In 2016, he was convicted of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, she wrote.
Specifically, he was drinking and driving without a driver’s license when he allegedly killed Whitehat, she wrote.
Below is the approximate location of the alleged attack.
Peshlakai suffered a “serious closed head injury” in 2013, which require him to “ingest a battery of medications to prevent ongoing seizures,” Bustamante wrote.
Before being arrested by agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigations, Peshlakai was scheduled to meet with multiple doctors about his brain injury.
“Subsequent to surrendering federal authorities Mr. Peshlakai has suffered a disruption in his prescribed medications,” Bustamante wrote. “The disruption in prescribed medication is causing at a minimum elevated anxiety in Mr. Peshlakai which in turn exacerbates Mr. Peshlakai’s closed head injury.”
Fashing “expressed concerns” about Peshlakai getting his medication when she ordered him held without bail. Release to a halfway house in Albuquerque would mean he could resume his medical treatment, he wrote.
“Mr. Peshlaki’s (sic) injury affected both frontal lobes of the brain leading to impairments of judgement, planning, and complex decision making,” Riggs wrote.”He requires 24/7 supervision for safety, medication administration, food preparation, and assistant with basic daily activities.”
On March 20, 2020, a facility in North Carolina concluded that Peshlakai was competent to proceed to trial and he was returned to New Mexico on April 17, 2020, to the Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan.
Peshlakai is an at-risk detainee because of his permanent closed head injury and all his medications, he wrote.
He asked that his client be released to his daughter, Jennifer Peshlakai, in Oklahoma, or his mother, in Churchrock.
Jaros wrote in a response that Bustamante did not argue that his client is no longer a flight risk or a danger to the community and that the pandemic would not make it less likely he would violate court orders and drink or harm others if released from custody.
“The COVID-19 pandemic simply has no bearing on whether conditions of release can reasonably assure the defendant’s appearance in court and the safety of the community,” Jaros wrote.
She wrote that Peshlakai is also not particularly at risk from the coronavirus, citing a New York case where a man with dementia and a history of strokes and heart attacks was denied pre-trial release during the pandemic.
“It would be pure speculation for the Court to presume that Defendant’s underlying conditions pose a greater risk to his safety than if he was released back into the public, where he could resume drinking,” Jaros wrote.
She wrote that when he was arrested, he also had three outstanding warrants. One was a New Mexico probation violation case, although she did not specify if it was federally issued or a state case, and two for failing to appear in court in Oklahoma.
According to the minutes, U.S. Marshal Deputy G. McCoy “provides information re: COVID-19 cases, status of employee’s health at Cibola and outlines medical treatment defendants receive upon entry/release from center.”
Jaros brought one exhibit, entered onto the record, but it was uploaded to PACER and the minutes do not state what it was.
At the end of the 45-minute hearing, District Judge Judith Herrera ordered Peshlakai continue to be held as a danger to the community, according to the minutes.
“Court finds defendant has not shown there is an elevated risk to him in contracting COVID-19, outlines reasons and denies request for release,” the minutes state. “Ms. Jaros to submit order”
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On March 28, 2017, Richard Griego allegedly threw Jimmy Griego, 37, off of a bridge over the Pecos River on State Road 3, an allegation backed up by data from an ankle bracelet Richard Griego was wearing from a separate case which tracked his movements via GPS, according to court filings.
On May 1, 2017, Richard Griego was bound over to District Court on charges of first-degree murder and tampering with evidence following a preliminary examination. On Nov. 15, 2017, his competency to stand trial was raised as an issue and proceedings were stayed until Sept. 11, 2018, when the Notice of Competency Issue was withdrawn.
A year later, on Sept. 11, 2019, competency was again raised as an issue and the case has been stayed.
Quintana told Montoya that she was driving south when she passed a white Ford truck heading the opposite direction. She described the driver as being angry.
“As the pickup continued passed (sic) her, she noticed a male in the bed area of the pickup,” Montoya wrote. “She recognized the male in the bed of the pickup as her cousin, who she identified as Jimmy Griego.”
Quintana kept the truck in her rear view mirror and she watched as the truck stopped. Her cousin was on his knees in the back and he appeared to be terrified.
The driver pulled over and stopped on the bridge, got out and walked toward the back of the truck with someone in his right hand.
Quintana then turned around and drove back toward the truck and watched as the man, allegedly Richard Griego, carried her cousin on his shoulder, walked to the edge of the bridge and threw him over, to the river below.
When she stopped, got out, and looked down, she saw her cousin’s body floating in the river and blood on the back of his shirt. She then recognized the driver was Richard Griego.
The agent then learned that Richard Griego was on probation and required to wear an ankle monitor with a GPS unit in it. The tracking device allegedly placed him at the river at 4:18 p.m., the day of Jimmy Griego’s death.
Quintana called 911 two minutes later at 4:20.
“A Field Examiner for the Office of the Medical Investigator found blunt force trauma and two lacerations to Jimmy’s head,” Montoya wrote. “I observed the injuries to Jimmy’s head, including an indentation to the left side of his head.”
He was charged with an open count of murder and tampering with evidence, according to the docket.
Las Vegas Magistrate Judge Christian Montaño held a preliminary hearing on May 1 and bound over Richard Griego on charges of first-degree murder and tampering with evidence. On May 19, in District Court, Richard Griego’s attorney Todd Farkas filed a motion in District Court to waive the arraignment and to enter a plea of not guilty.
In a May 1, 2017 call, he allegedly told his mother that someone else wanted to borrow his truck, that “those weren’t even my shoes and I wasn’t driving my truck.” His mother responded that they should not discuss “this stuff” on the phone.
Clayton wrote that the truck is an issue because Quintana saw him in his truck, on the bridge with the victim. A shoe print was also taken from the crime scene and it is a similar pattern to one seized from his house.
In a June 6, 2017 call, he talked to his mother about conversations with his attorney about getting out on bail.
“I feel this even more leaning towards, if I could get this to a justifiable homicide by citizen, protecting myself and family and property from all these conspiracies against me and stuff, will that make it easier to get a bond,” Clayton wrote, quoting from Richard Griego’s call.
In July 24 call, Richard Griego allegedly told his mother he could “beat these charges” because he didn’t “do” them and that he never hit Jimmy Griego with a weapon, but he didn’t want him “to come back and try to kill me, but he could have crawled out of the water and fucking not died. And let me alone. But no, they do, they do all this stuff. It’s all their fault that this stuff happened. Not my fault.” Clayton wrote, quoting Richard Griego.
Competency raised the first time
On Nov. 15, 2017, competency was formally raised in a written motion for the first time by Farkas. In an order on the same date, District Court Judge Gerald Baca wrote that Richard Griego had been found “in-competent” by Dr. Susan Cave and that the proceedings would be stayed pending a determination on his competency and the issue of his dangerousness.
According to notes from the June 14, 2017 status hearing, Farkas notified District Judge Gerald Baca has a documented history of mental illness and he needed to be assessed.
During a Aug. 16, 2017 hearing, prosecutor Thomas Clayton told Baca that Richard Griego sent a letter to State Police officers about an unrelated homicide, a theft and that there were also jail recordings he wanted the psychologist to listen to and that he agreed that he “may have mental issues,” according to the notes.
During an Oct. 11, 2017, hearing, Baca told the attorneys he was concerned about the discussions of competency when no motion about competency had been filed. Farkas replied that he was waiting for a report on his mental health, according to the notes.
On Sept. 11, 2018, Baca ordered that the case would start moving forward because Richard Griego’s attorney had withdrawn his claim that his client was not competent to stand trial. Farkas did not file a motion but a hearing on competency had previously been held on Sept. 7, 2018, and the records of that hearing were sealed.
No-bail hold lifted
On Aug. 1, 2018, Baca ordered Richard Griego be released if he could post a $50,000 cash bail and into the custody of a third party.
Prosecutors did not contest that finding until Sept. 25, when Clayton filed a motion for pre-trial detention.
“Upon information and belief, the family of the defendant has raised the funds to post the bond,” Clayton wrote.