Leland Hust has been found guilty in the sexual assault and murder of six year old Ariana Romero. According to court documents Ariana Romero and her mother were living in a garage space in a home where Leland Hust and six other lived. Ariana Romero mother went to work and when she returned her daughter seemed to be asleep. When Ariana Romero mother woke up she realized her six year old daughter was dead. Leland Hust who was reportedly infatuated with the six year old girl had sexually assaulted and murdered the girl the night before after her mother went to work. Leland Hust was arrested and charged with sexual assault of a minor and murder. At the first trial the jury could not come to agreement and a mistrial was issued. However at the second trial Leland Hust was found guilty on all charges. Hust is to be sentenced later this year.
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Justice at last for the family of a six-year-old New Mexico girl, who was raped and strangled in her Rio Rancho home. Friday night, a jury found a man who lived in that home guilty of her death. “We’re happy that Jade was able to find justice,” said Jessica Martinez, chief deputy district attorney.
The body of Ariana Jade Romero was found bloody and half-naked in 2018, in the home she shared with her mother and at least seven other people. One of those people was Leland Hust, who was 21 at the time.
Prosecutors said DNA evidence pointed to Hust as the killer and Friday night – a jury agreed. This was the second trial after he was found not guilty of first-degree murder last summer. But the jury was deadlocked on two other charges, child abuse resulting in death and rape of a minor.
Prosecutors say the evidence did not change but they were still able to convince this jury of Hust’s guilt on both counts. “It’s really hard to say, you just never know with juries,” said Martinez. “It’s the risk you take when you go to trial and you put it in the hands of a jury.
Hust faces a possible life sentence for the deadly child abuse conviction, along with 18 years for the rape.
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The man accused of raping and killing a six-year-old girl in Rio Rancho was found guilty.
The jury only deliberated the fate of Leland Hust for a few hours Friday before reaching their verdict.
Back in 2018, six-year-old Ariana ‘Jade’ Romeo was found lifeless by her mother. Investigators say Jade was raped and strangled to death in their Rio Rancho home, where she and her mother lived with multiple people.
It would be weeks before they arrested a suspect. Authorities said they got the person responsible, Hust, a roommate of Ariana and her mother. He was charged with first degree murder, rape and child abuse resulting in death.
But during his trial in 2021, the family of Ariana didn’t get the verdict they were hoping to hear.
“We find the defendant Leland Hust not guilty of first degree murder, felony murder.”
The jury was deadlocked on his other charges, leading to tears on both sides. But the prosecution said then they aren’t giving up.
“Disappointed, but we are definitely going to retry the hung charges again,” said the prosector.
Leading to a retrial that started March 2022. During opening arguments, prosecutors said Hust acted alone, and his DNA found on Jade’s body.
“It will become clear why there is no one else who committed these crimes or made the defendant clean up after someone else committed these crimes. The only evidence you will see will point to you finding the defendant guilty at the end of this trial,” said the prosecutor.
Hust’s attorney claimed there is a reasonable explanation as to why his DNA was found on Jade, and pointed out there was also another set of DNA on Jade that belonged to a man investigators were never able to identify.
But after six hours of deliberation, the jury found Hust guilty of the remaining charges.
His sentencing date still pending at this time.