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Trial in child rape, killing moved to Valencia County

Leland Hust

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — The date and venue have changed for the trial of a man charged with raping and killing a 6-year-old girl in Rio Rancho in 2018.

Leland Hust is charged with intentional child abuse resulting in death and criminal sexual penetration of a child under 13 in the death of Ariana “Jade” Romeo in a house on Moonstone Drive. He was 21 when he was charged.

According to 13th Judicial District Court records, Hust’s trial has been moved to June, with jury selection June 7. The trial had been scheduled for this month.

The case will be tried at the Valencia County Courthouse in Los Lunas.

In December, defense attorney Michael L. Rosenfield filed a motion for a change of venue from Sandoval County to Valencia County. In the motion, he said extensive print and broadcast coverage from Rio Rancho and Albuquerque news outlets would give potential Sandoval County jurors a bias against Hust.

“Moving the case to Valencia County, where this type of sensationalism is not as interesting to the community because the crime did not happen there, solves the problem of having an entire community exposed to information to which prospective jurors should not be exposed,” Rosenfield wrote.

He said an online search of the Valencia County News-Bulletin showed no articles about the case.

District Judge George Eichwald issued the order for the venue change Feb. 4. According to the order, the prosecution didn’t oppose the new location.

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