Thomas Wayne Ferguson, accused in the abuse and slaying of his girlfriend’s 13-year-old son in Nambé in November, has a history of abusing women and children dating back to at least 2003, when he faced charges following a report of domestic violence at a home on Hopewell Street.
If the justice system had worked, said a relative of one victim, Ferguson would have been behind bars in November, and Jeremiah Valencia, the boy he is accused of beating to death in a series of horrific attacks, would still be alive.
The boy’s mother, Tracy Ann Peña, and Ferguson’s 19-year-old son, Jordan Anthony Nuñez, also are charged in Jeremiah’s death, which went unreported for two months. But police have cited Ferguson as the lead defendant, subjecting the boy to abuse that has been described as torture.
In the 2003 case against Ferguson, court records show, his wife, Amanda Ferguson, told police he had knocked her down, punched her in the head, choked her until she lost consciousness and kicked her in the torso and upper back — all while she was holding her 8-month-old daughter.
A jury convicted Thomas Ferguson of battery on a household member in the case but acquitted him on a charge of child abuse. He was sentenced to 364 days in jail, but a judge suspended all but the five months and 20 days he had already spent in jail awaiting his trial.
Ferguson was ordered to serve six months and 10 days on unsupervised probation, court records show, as well as seek counseling. He told the court he was planning to move to Texas.
In 2014, when Ferguson was again living in New Mexico, court records say, police discovered he had been holding a woman hostage for four days. The family of the 33-year-old woman, Ferguson’s girlfriend at the time, had reported her missing. Ferguson was charged with rape, kidnapping and aggravated battery against a household member.
According to court records, that case was resolved with a plea agreement in which Ferguson pleaded guilty to kidnapping and battery, and prosecutors dropped the rape charge. He was sentenced to nine years in prison and five years of probation, but a judge suspended seven years, seven months and 23 days of the sentence. He also received credit for more than a year he had spent in jail awaiting adjudication.
About a month after his sentencing, Ferguson was released.
During his sentencing hearing, state District Court Judge T. Glenn Ellington had cautioned Ferguson that if he violated the terms of his probation, he would return to prison to finish out the nine-year sentence.
But court records show that didn’t happen.
In February 2016, a Santa Fe prosecutor filed a motion asking Ellington to revoke Ferguson’s probation after a criminal complaint filed in Sandoval County raised concerns about him. When a probation officer visited Ferguson’s home to check on him, the complaint said, a woman who answered the door appeared to have signs of battery.
Ellington denied the motion and allowed Ferguson to remain on probation.
That still angers Pam Gallegos, the sister of the woman Ferguson had held captive.
“Why was he let out of jail on the first violation?” Gallegos said Thursday. “… It’s important for the public to know this man is a monster. He never should have been let out on the streets.”
Gallegos said her sister agreed to the plea deal that led to the suspension of most of Ferguson’s sentence because she wanted to move on with her life. She didn’t want to relive the experience by testifying at trial, and she didn’t want her children to hear the gruesome details of the ordeal.
The woman also was afraid of Ferguson and his family, Gallegos said.
Her family suspected Ferguson would violate his probation, she said, but they assumed he’d be sent to prison after it happened.
“I don’t know what was behind the judge’s decision, but he’s probably kicking himself now,” Gallegos said, referring to Jeremiah’s slaying. “This all could have been avoided if the justice system would have worked.”