Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal
At his first appearance before a judge Monday morning, the man accused of raping and strangling a 6-year-old Rio Rancho girl agreed to stay behind bars until his trial.
Through his attorney, Michael Rosenfield, 21-year-old Leland Hust waived his pretrial detention hearing in the 13th Judicial District Court in Sandoval County and stipulated to the prosecutor’s motion to hold him in jail without bail.
He also pleaded not guilty to charges of child abuse resulting in death and criminal sexual penetration of a minor – crimes he was indicted for Thursday.
“A formal reading of the grand jury indictment will be waived, and a plea of not guilty will be entered on behalf of the defendant as to all allegations contained in the indictment,” Judge Louis McDonald said at the close of the three-minute hearing. “Mr. Hust will be held without bond pending trial in this matter.”
Hust’s mother and another relative were the only audience in the courtroom, and the two sat close to one another, tearfully holding each other as they watched the proceedings. She declined to comment after the hearing.
Hust was arrested in mid-October, nearly two months after Ariana “Jade” Romeo was found dead on a foam mattress in a garage converted into a bedroom. She had injuries consistent with sexual assault, and detectives say DNA samples found on her genitals match Hust.
The little girl and her mother had been staying at a home in Rio Rancho where Hust lived, but it is unclear how they are related to Hust or the homeowners.
Hust appears to be the grandson of Winston Scates, who owns the home with his wife. While investigating Ariana’s death, detectives learned of allegations that Scates had sexually abused a different child. He is charged with criminal sexual contact of a minor.
After Hust was arrested, the district attorney for Sandoval County filed a motion saying he should be held without bail because of his danger to society, the seriousness of the crimes he is charged with, the evidence against him and a history of aggression and violence. The motion also cites common pretrial conditions of release – such as GPS monitoring and drug testing – that prosecutors say are not enough to ensure Hust doesn’t commit other crimes.
“There is no indication that drugs or alcohol were involved in this crime, so testing by pretrial services to ensure that defendant is sober will do nothing to assure the community that defendant will not have another violent outbreak and harm another person,” the prosecutor wrote in the motion.
After Hust waived his pretrial detention hearing Monday, the court held an arraignment in which he pleaded not guilty to the charges he had been indicted on.