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Authorities: Suspect’s DNA found on girl who was killed

October 9, 2018

RIO RANCHO, N.M. (AP) — The DNA of a New Mexico man suspected of killing and raping a 6-year-old girl at a suburban Albuquerque home has been matched to evidence found on the young victim’s body, court documents said Tuesday.

In a criminal complaint, authorities said 21-year-old Leland Hust, of Rio Rancho, voluntarily submitted a DNA sample in August after police found the body of Ariana Romeo at the home where several people lived, including the suspect and the victim.

She lived at the house with her mother, who police say was in the home when officers responded to a 911 call. The child’s father lives in Florida.

A state medical investigator also determined the girl had injuries consistent with sexual assault and strangulation, according to the criminal complaint against Hust.

Hust has no prior criminal record in New Mexico and was arrested Friday in connection with the girl’s death. He is being charged with child abuse resulting in death, or in the alternative, aggravated criminal sexual penetration of a child.

He made a first appearance in court Tuesday. His attorney did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

In August, he denied ever harming or hurting the girl in a police interview. He also told officers the last time he saw her was when he put a movie on for her in her room.

“Leland claimed he was sleeping when Ariana got hurt,” Officer Aaron Brown, of the Rio Rancho Police Department, wrote.

In a separate criminal complaint also filed Tuesday, another man who lived at the same house was accused of molesting a relative. Police said the accusations against 63-year-old Winston Scates Sr. emerged during their investigation into the girl’s death.

In interviews, the young relative of Scates told police that he had touched her breasts when he hugged her from the time she was 6 to when she was in middle school. The criminal complaint does not include her current age. Police said the mother of the girl confirmed the allegation.

Scates’ attorney was not immediately available for comment.

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