NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Monday, a key witness took the stand in the trial for the man accused of raping and killing a 6-year-old Rio Rancho girl. Leland Hust is accused of raping and killing Ariana Jade Romeo at Winston Scates’s Rio Rancho house in 2018. Monday Scates took the stand and was pressed on another case that came to life during the murder investigation.
Investigators say they found out Scates molested another girl in the home. Scates who also lived in the home talked about the moments Romeo’s body was found. While Scates was talking, Hust became emotional. Scates said he last saw Romeo the night before her death. “Jade came in to give me a hug goodnight… like she does every night when I’m there,” Scates said.
Scates testified he didn’t see Hust during the initial panic but did see him once police arrived. Scates described that morning, his defense remained aggressive going hard on Scates who, in 2019, pleaded guilty to criminal sexual contact for inappropriately touching another young girl.
Scates repeatedly denied touching or killing Romeo on the stand Monday but the defense argued Scates has not always been truthful with police. The defense attorney then introduced evidence of a saved bookmark on Scates’s tablet that showed nude, underage girls.
To close out the day, a forensic analyst took to the stand testifying about different pieces of evidence including the mattress and towel Romeo was found on saying on some, there is more than one type of male DNA. However, on most items, Scates’s DNA is ruled out but Hust’s is a constant.
Those who responded to the scene also testified Monday. Hust is expected to take the stand before the conclusion of the trial which is expected to last seven to ten days.
Last week, the state called a field investigator with OMI to the stand, to talk about what he saw when he arrived on the scene that August morning in 2018.
On Wednesday, prosecutors said DNA evidence proves Leland Hust murdered Ariana Jade Romeo. The defense says police forced Hust to believe he had committed the crime. The girl’s mother, Stephanie Romeo, was the first to testify Wednesday and recalled the moment she found her daughter’s body.