Note: Stream may contain graphic and disturbing content regarding the case. Stream may also cut in and out due to connectivity issues.
NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – The trial for Leland Hust the man accused of raping and killing a six-year-old Rio Rancho girl continued Friday. The State called a field investigator with OMI to the stand Friday morning, to talk about what he saw when he arrived on scene that August morning in 2018.
“The photo depicts an overall view of the decedent, laying mostly supine on the floor of the residence this was the position she was in when I arrived on scene,” said Frank Tomlinson, a field investigator with OMI. “Photo 13 is the lower extremeties, specifically the vaginal area of the decedent, showing possible trauma and blood,” Tomlinson said on the stand.
Tomlinson says when he arrived on the scene, all he knew was that a child had been found dead under suspicious circumstances. The state showed Tomlinson pictures he had taken of six year old Ariana Jade Romeo’s body, the way it was found at the scene.
Hust, who was 21 at the time, lived at the Rio Rancho home with the girl, her mother, and at least six other people. Prosecutors say Hust was the last person to see Ariana alive. Friday morning our camera’s caught Hust crying and turning away from the crime scene photos. Tomlinson says it didn’t take long to determine Romeo had likely been strangled and suffered from injuries that were consistent with rape, speculation that was later confirmed by the state’s medical examiner.
“Based on my training around the eyes, shoulders and upper neck area there was what I believe to be hemmorheges where the blood capilaries burst, getting pressure from being strangled or suffocated,” siad Tomlinson.
The pathologist who examined Romeo’s body and one of the State Police officers who responded to the scene that day also testified. We asked if Hust will be taking the stand, his defense says he will testify after the prosecution rests.
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 girls mother, Stephanie Romeo, was the first to testify Wednesday and recalled the moment she found her daughter’s body. Ariana’s body was found August 2018, naked from the waist down and bloody in the Rio Rancho home she shared with her mother, Hust and at least six other people.
Wednesday in court, prosecutors showed the girl’s lifeless body when police arrived. Rio Rancho police took DNA from everyone in the home at the time. Hust, who was 21, was then arrested after police say DNA found on the girl’s body matched his. They say he was also the last person to see the girl alive.
The judge expects the trial to last seven to ten days.