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Details emerge in 2008 cold case beating

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Alicia Marcell, left, and Kathlein Guinn, right, attend the court hearing for Justin Hansen, who is accused of brutally beating their sister Brittani Marcell in 2008. Hansen’s family also attended the court hearing. (Marla Brose / Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — When Kathlein Guinn saw Justin Hansen shuffle into a courtroom, shackled and wearing a faded orange jumpsuit, she recognized him from when she and her younger sister, Brittani Marcell, knew him nine years ago.

But she said she never imagined he’d be the one accused of beating Marcell, then 17, nearly to death inside her mother’s West Side home. Marcell is blind and deaf on one side and has few memories of the attack or the time leading up to it.

“I haven’t been in contact with him in many, many years,” Guinn said. “But it was very surprising that we did know him, and the fact that he could have done that was very surreal.”

Hansen is charged with kidnapping with great bodily harm, attempted murder and other crimes. He was arrested Wednesday night and had his first court appearance in the 2nd Judicial District Court on Friday morning.

According to an arrest warrant affidavit filed in Metropolitan Court, Marcell told detectives last October that she began to remember that Hansen, then 24, would visit her at the Cottonwood Mall sunglasses store where she worked in the months before the September 2008 attack. She said both she and Guinn knew him as the ex-boyfriend of a friend of theirs.

Brittani Marcell, 26. (Courtesy of Kathlein Guinn)

Marcell’s friends also told detectives last January that they had seen him hanging out at her store, leaning on the counter and talking with her. And Hansen’s friends and ex-girlfriends said he frequently dated or tried to date younger girls who worked at the mall.

But when detectives questioned Hansen, he denied knowing Marcell well and said he would just say hi to her occasionally. He also said he didn’t want to provide detectives with a DNA sample for them to compare with blood evidence found at Marcell’s home after the attack.

So the detectives got Hansen’s DNA from a discarded McDonald’s cup, and they say it matched the DNA profile in blood drops on glass on the back porch, according to the affidavit.

Hansen’s public defender, Sophie Cooper, said she does not believe the DNA evidence laid out in the affidavit is conclusive, and the affidavit doesn’t say whether Hansen’s DNA matched other samples found at the house.

“I don’t know if there is DNA from someone else, for example, or if out of all the samples that have DNA this is the only one that came back to Justin,” she said.

Cooper also said she didn’t think the description of the attacker that Marcell and her mother provided over the years looked like Hansen.

Guinn said Marcell had never mentioned anything to her about feeling afraid of Hansen or that anything was out of the ordinary in her interactions with him. She said the whole family is still grappling with why he would have attacked her.

“Literally, that’s the only thing we can think of is why,” Guinn said. “How could you do this to someone, especially to Brittani, who is so easygoing?”

Hansen will remain in jail until Tuesday, when he will appear before Judge Charles Brown again for a hearing on whether he will stay in jail until trial.

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