Leland Hust sentenced to 48 years in prison

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Leland Hust learned his fate Thursday afternoon.

A judge gave him a life sentence – which is 30 years in New Mexico – plus 18 years served consecutively.

In 2018, Hust was arrested for brutally strangling six-year-old Ariana “Jade” Romeo after raping her. In 2022, he was convicted of child abuse and rape in a second trial, after getting off on a murder charge.

Romeo was found dead in the home where she was living with her mother and several other people, including Hust.

“It has been three years, eleven months and 17 days since Jade was stolen from us,” Stephanie Romeo, Jade’s mom, said at the sentencing.

The state asked for the maximum sentence of life plus 18 years. The sentencing started off with emotional statements from Jade’s family.

“She fought so hard, she had bruises from head to toe,” Stephanie said. “He stole her light, her childhood, happiness, her innocence, and then her life.”

Jade’s dad said if he had tried harder to keep her, she might still be alive.

“She was a beautiful, funny, smart, and amazing little princess who is only six years old,” he wrote in a statement he read out loud. “You are the very definition of a monster and I feel like you should have the same outcome as her times 100.”

After the sentencing, the state said it’s not a happy day, but it’s as happy as it can be.

“It’s closure for us – for us, for the office, I don’t know if you can ever have closure as a family,” said District Attorney Barbara Romo.

“No should have to go through what Jade went did and what her family and I will continue to go through for the rest of our lives,” Stephanie said.