ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Latest on the death of a 13-year-old New Mexico boy (all times local):
New Mexico lawmakers have advanced a bill that would make the intentional and fatal abuse of a child — of any age — punishable by a sentence of life in prison.
The legislation to stiffen penalties has gained heightened significance in the wake of the death of a 13-year-old boy who authorities say had been beaten and tortured. Similar legislation has failed to become law in recent years.
As the law stands now, judges can only hand down life sentences to offenders in intentional and fatal child abuse cases when the victim is 12 or younger. The mandatory sentence in cases in which the victim is 13 or older is 18 years.
The measure was debated Thursday in the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee.
Authorities say a 13-year-old boy whose body was found buried along a rural highway in northern New Mexico had been tortured in the weeks leading up to his death.
The Santa Fe New Mexican reports an amended arrest warrant for Thomas Wayne Ferguson, the lead suspect in the death of Jeremiah Valencia, details additional accounts of the alleged abuse.
The boy’s mom, Tracy Ann Pena; Ferguson; and his 19-year-old son, Jordan Nunez, are all charged in the case.
According to court documents, Nunez told investigators that Ferguson tortured the boy “for no apparent reason.” He said the boy was beaten with brass knuckles, a cane, a homemade spear, a hammer and steel toe boots.
Nunez also said Ferguson would urinate on the boy.
The defendants have yet to enter pleas. Pretrial detention hearings for all three are scheduled for next week in state district court.
Prosecutors say three people charged in the death of a 13-year-old New Mexico boy are a danger to the community and shouldn’t be released pending trial.
Pretrial detention motions were filed this week for all three defendants that provide even more detail about Jeremiah Valencia’s death and the abuse authorities say he endured.
The boy’s mother, Tracy Ann Pena; her boyfriend, Thomas Wayne Ferguson; and his 19-year-old son, Jordan Nunez face charges of child abuse resulting in death, tampering with evidence and conspiracy.
Prosecutors accuse Ferguson of punching Jeremiah in the face, choking him and turning him upside down and slamming his head onto the ground. Ferguson then allegedly threw the boy into a dog cage and left him to die.
Ferguson’s attorney said he plans to fight the charges.