Police release interview tapes of suspect in Rio Rancho girl's death | KOB 4

Police release interview tapes of suspect in Rio Rancho girl's death

Brittany Costello
April 20, 2019 05:26 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Newly released video from the death of 6-year-old Ariana Romeo is revealing more about the suspect allegedly responsible. 


“I promise you, 100 percent of the way, I do not remember doing this to her,” said Leland Hust.

At the time, 21-year-old Leland Hust told Rio Rancho Police he doesn’t remember raping and killing 6-year-old Romeo back in August of 2018.

The interview was after police told him his DNA was discovered on her body. Throughout the video, Hust doesn't deny committing that brutal crime. He spent hours talking to detectives.

He told them, with the evidence – he must have been responsible for Romeo's death. However, he claims he has no memory what he did or how he did it.

It all unfolded at a home in Rio Rancho in August 2018. That’s where first responders found her body.

“Everyone was in bed and Jade, the last time we saw her, she was told to get back in bed at 10 o’clock,” a woman who lived inside the home told police.

Her mother, Stephanie Romeo, told police that she had been working late at a local bar and had thought her daughter was sleeping.

“Stephanie came home, went to bed,” said the woman describing the night before they found the little girl dead. “Lenny came over this morning around 10 and we were all on the porch talking. We had the window open. She came outside she's half asleep smoking a cigarette. She got halfway through and she said ‘how come Jade’s not up?’ she went in the room to check on Jade and all I hear is …screaming.”

Medical examiners say she had been raped then strangled. The last person to see her the night before – was the person police ended up arresting, Leland Hust.

“What was your intention of going in there?” one detective asked Hust during the interview.

Leland told them “to put on a movie and give her a hug and kiss goodnight and to tell her to go bed.”

During this hours long interview he recalled a troubled childhood. He confirmed to detectives he was physically abused as a child, spent years medicated, even made attempts at suicide.

Despite recalling all of those moments he told detectives that the night Ariana was killed his memory had been wiped.

“Not knowing what happened,” said Hust. “Not knowing I did something. I had to have done something. I had to have been sleep walking because I had a nightmare that night. I had a nightmare.”

He spent hours saying that same thing.

A pre-trial conference for Hust is scheduled for next January. The trial is scheduled for February 2020. 


Brittany Costello

Copyright 2019 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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