Retrial begins for man accused of raping, killing 6-year-old

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The second trial of a man accused of raping and killing a 6-year-old girl in Rio Rancho is underway.

Leland Hust is facing charges of rape and child abuse resulting in death for the 2018 death of Ariana ‘Jade’ Romeo.

Last June, he was acquitted of a murder charge in the case, and the jury was deadlocked on the remaining charges.

Lawyers delivered their opening statements Wednesday. The state said Hust’s DNA was found on Jade’s body and they will prove Hust is guilty.

“It will become clear why there is no one else who committed these crimes or made the defendant clean up after someone else committed these crimes. The only evidence you will see will point to you finding the defendant guilty at the end of this trial,” said the prosecutor.

The defense argued there’s plenty of reason to doubt the evidence. They said there’s a reasonable explanation for the presence of Hust’s DNA and pointed out DNA of a second male was found but was unable to be identified.

“The evidence presented in this case is almost entirely circumstantial evidence, which is sufficient in the right case to return a verdict of guilt. But also in circumstantial evidence a lot of times there is not enough evidence that shows guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, which is what I submit to you we’re going to have in this particular case,” said the defense attorney.

The trial is expected to last through March 25.