50 years for fatal stabbings of mother, daughter

Jesus Cartagena

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

An Albuquerque man will spend almost 50 years in prison for stabbing his girlfriend and her mother to death inside their university area home in 2019.

Second Judicial District Judge Joseph Montano on Wednesday sentenced Jesus Cartagena to 50 years behind bars – with five years suspended – for the June 2019 deaths of Shanta Hanish, 19, and Laura Hanish, 58.

The 22-year-old pleaded no contest to two counts of second-degree murder and one count each of aggravated burglary with a deadly weapon and tampering with evidence.

His attorney could not be reached for comment.

Police say Cartagena killed the women June 21 at their home near Girard and Coal SE, before fleeing to Mexico in Shanta Hanish’s car. Cartagena turned himself in to the El Paso Police Department a day later.

The double slaying rocked the community as those in the criminal justice system mourned the loss of Laura Hanish, a longtime social worker with the state Law Offices of the Public Defender, and University of New Mexico students and friends grieved the death of fellow UNM student and city lifeguard Shanta Hanish.

“Our public defender family is still hurting over the death of our dear friend and colleague Laura. She was a deeply caring person, and a dedicated social worker and advocate for our clients, and we miss her,” Chief Public Defender Bennett Baur said in a statement Thursday.

Those who knew Cartagena – teachers, neighbors, friends and relatives of the Hanishes – were in disbelief as many remembered him as soft-spoken and a gentle giant. Court records hinted at possible abuse and neglect in Cartagena’s childhood following his parents’ divorce.

As the trial against Cartagena approached, there were questions of whether he was competent to stand trial.

By September 2020, he had been found competent but would remain at the New Mexico Behavioral Health Institute in Las Vegas until trial.

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