NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – 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.
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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.