Man accused in shovel beating case changes plea to ‘no contest’


The man who lived a normal life for almost 10 years after nearly beating a then-Cibola High School student with a shovel to death, is finally taking some responsibility.

It’s a day the victim, Brittani Marcell, and her family have been waiting a long time for. 

Emotions were running high on both sides of the aisle Thursday as Justin Hansen switched his plea from not guilty to no contest. 

The Marcell family says they are now able to take the first step toward closure. 

During one of the last times they’ll have to see their sister’s attacker, the Marcell family felt relief. Relief that the man who caused their sister, Brittani Marcell, so much pain is finally being held responsible. 

Nearly 10 years ago, Justin Hansen ambushed the then 17-year-old Cibola High School student when she came home. 

The attack put Marcell in a coma for weeks. She had no memory of who tried to kill her until October 2016. 

Then, she remembered the name Justin Hansen, a man who used to visit her at her Cottonwood Mall job. 

In July 2017, investigators matched Hansen’s DNA from a McDonald’s cup to a single drop of blood found at the crime scene, and arrested him. 

Thursday in court, Hansen pleaded no contest to attempted murder and aggravated burglary. 

Pleading no contest or “nolo contendere” means you admit no guilt for the crime, but the court can determine the punishment. 

The state agreed to drop four of the six charges Hansen faced, including kidnapping which carries the heftiest sentence. 

The Marcells hope Hansen is put away for as long as possible — 18 years — and are grateful that after 10 years, they finally saw a shred of humanity in the man they call a monster. 

Hansen was scheduled to go to trial at the end of the month, but the court of appeals denied his motion to drop some of the charges. 

Thursday, Hansen walked out of court with his family. He’s set to be back on July 25, when the judge will hand down his sentence. 

Brittani Marcell is expected to address Hansen at that time.

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