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Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
Less than two weeks before she and her mother were found dead with multiple stab wounds in their Southeast Albuquerque home, Shanta Hanish told her longtime boyfriend that she needed a break.
Her best friend informed detectives that 20-year-old Jesus Cartagena Jr. – who is now facing two open counts of murder – had been verbally abusive and controlling. He stopped Hanish, a 19-year-old city lifeguard and University of New Mexico student, from seeing her friends and forced her to delete a social media application.
And in the days that followed the request for a break and subsequent break up, Cartagena stalked her, called and texted her repeatedly, tried to keep her from leaving the apartment that they had shared, and he even threatened suicide, according to a criminal complaint. The two had been together for about five years.
So when the bodies of Hanish and her mother, 58-year-old Laura Hanish, were discovered Friday morning, friends and co-workers of the two women immediately told investigators about Cartagena’s alarming behavior. Police had been searching for him since.
Preliminary autopsy findings revealed that Laura Hanish died as a result of multiple sharp wound injuries. Her daughter also had multiple sharp wound injuries, though medical investigators could not determine whether those injuries or strangulation caused her death.
Neighbors pointed out that Shanta Hanish’s Toyota sedan was missing from the driveway, and officers found Cartagena’s Chevy Blazer parked a block away. Border Patrol surveillance systems caught images of Shanta Hanish’s car headed into Mexico on Friday.
Late Saturday, Cartagena – wearing what appeared to be bloody clothes – walked into a police station in El Paso, told officers he had “done something bad in Albuquerque” and asked them to shoot him.
Albuquerque Police Department officers were working with authorities in El Paso when Cartagena turned himself in.
“APD homicide detectives will travel to El Paso to meet with detectives there about Cartagena’s arrest,” APD spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said in a news release Sunday.
It’s not clear when Cartagena will be transported to Albuquerque.
Blood ‘throughout the home’
Laura Hanish had told co-workers at the Law Office of the Public Defender about the break-up. She said she considered disconnecting her daughter’s phone because Cartagena was “continuously calling and harassing Shanta,” according to the complaint.
So when Laura Hanish failed to show up to a 7 a.m. meeting on Friday, they were concerned. Two of her colleagues drove to her home, calling multiple times as they made their way there.
Her vehicle was in the driveway, and the doors were locked. As they looked through the windows, they saw what they believed were two bodies and called for help.
According to the complaint, officers found a kitchen window shattered and what looked like blood on the glass shards. They saw what looked like blood “throughout the home,” on the floors and on the walls.
Both women had lacerations to the face and neck along with defensive wounds on their arms. A large knife lay beside one of the bodies.
Cartagena had wounds to his arms when he turned himself in. The arrest warrant describes him as 6 feet 6 inches tall and 250 pounds.
‘You have to let me leave’
Elizabeth Snyder, Shanta Hanish’s best friend, arrived at the home to find a police investigation. Shanta had not returned a text that morning and didn’t show up for her 9 a.m. shift at the pool.
Snyder told detectives about several concerning incidents that had taken place over the past couple of weeks. She said Cartagena followed Shanta to work and left a note on her car saying that he loved her. He parked outside her house.
According to the complaint, Shanta Hanish asked Snyder to come along as she collected belongings from the apartment that she and Cartagena had shared. He did not let Snyder inside.
“Ms. Snyder told investigators that she could hear Mr. Cartagena inside the apartment weeping loudly and attempting to plead with Shanta to work on the relationship,” the complaint alleges.
Shanta Hanish went back to the apartment alone the next day, but called Snyder, who heard the two screaming. At one point, Shanta Hanish screamed, “Jesus, you have to let me leave.” Later, he put his foot under her tire so she couldn’t drive away, and then tried to pull her out of her vehicle, police said.
Cartagena met Laura Hanish for breakfast the next morning, where he was “inconsolable.”
“Laura was unable to calm him down and left the restaurant to avoid any further scenes,” the complaint says.
Days later, he made suicide threats that forced family members to check him into a hospital, though he was released the same day.
Shanta Hanish later found that the passwords to her social media, email and bank accounts had been changed, and Cartagena was allegedly the only other person with access to those accounts.
On Thursday afternoon, as Shanta Hanish and Snyder were together, Cartagena called “non-stop, between 20 to 30 times.” And when she blocked his calls, he sent the same message about a dozen times: “Shanta, please.”
Friends, family and colleagues of Laura and Shanta Hanish are now struggling to come to terms with the tragedy.
“Knowing somebody who’s my sister might be gone because of something she did not deserve – I have no idea why they would want to do this,” Snyder told the Journal on Saturday.