Principal expresses shock over death, arrest of former students

Albuquerque News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – KRQE News 13 is learning more about the young man accused of murdering his ex-girlfriend and her mother in their Nob Hill home.

The principal at Amy Biehl High School says Jesus Cartagena and his ex, Shanta Hanish, were sweet and smart students. He says they were always together and he never saw any indication something this horrible could happen only two years after they graduated.

“I’ll speak of them together because they were together so much. They seemed like caring, thoughtful, good, strong students,” says Frank McCulloch.

Police say Shanta Hanish and her mother, Laura, were found stabbed to death in their Nob Hill home on Friday. Laura’s co-workers at the Public Defender’s Office noticed she didn’t show up to work and went to check on her.

Police quickly narrowed their search to Jesus Cartagena. He and Shanta were in a relationship for five years and lived in an apartment complex near Coal and Washington. The couple broke up two weeks ago.

Shanta moved back in with her mother following the breakup. Friends of the couple told police Cartagena wasn’t handling it well, and say he would wait outside the UNM student’s home for hours at a time.

He would text and call her constantly and even follow her to her lifeguard job at the Highland Pool. Cartagena turned himself into El Paso Police this weekend after trying to run to Mexico. Police say he admitted to the murders.

McCulloch says this type of behavior was something he could’ve never predicted from Cartagena. “There were never any specific issues as a principal, that I have to kind of watch out for,” he says.

Shanta and Cartagena graduated from Amy Biehl in 2017. Cartagena included some quotes in his yearbook photo. One of them reads, “don’t stress too much.” A spokesperson with CNM confirmed Cartagena was enrolled in summer classes.

The Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office is in the process of working with El Paso authorities to extradite Cartagena back to Albuquerque. He has no criminal history as an adult or juvenile here in New Mexico.

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