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LAS CRUCES – Joshua Hunt, 43, of Las Cruces pleaded guilty in court Monday to one charge of second-degree murder which resulted in the death of his mother, Lisa Cano, in 2014.
Hunt used a sword to kill his mother on July 18, 2014. He was later charged with one count of first-degree murder, one count of second-degree murder and one count of tampering with evidence — all felony charges.
After numerous continuances, the case went to trial in March 2021. A jury found Hunt not guilty of first-degree murder, but a mistrial was declared on the second-degree murder charge.
A second jury trial was scheduled to start Jan. 4, 2022, but Hunt instead accepted an agreement with the state. He agreed to plead guilty to second-degree murder and serve 10 years, pay a fine of $2,500 and serve two years of parole. The charge of tempering with evidence would also be dismissed.
Third Judicial District Court Judge Conrad Perea accepted the plea and agreement in court Monday, Jan. 3. After hearing arguments and victim statements, he sentenced Hunt to 15 years in prison, a fine of $2,500 and two years of parole. He suspended five years and the fine. He also credited Hunt with seven years, five months and 13 days served presentencing.
According to court documents, Hunt told law enforcement that his mother had abused him throughout his life. His attorney Gary Mitchell argued in the first trial that Hunt had been treated for mental illness for lengthy periods of time before the slaying. He described his client as being a victim of physical and sexual abuse, and also neglect.
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Hunt, his wife and children lived with Lisa Cano at her home on the 5800 block of Organ Peak Drive in Las Cruces.
Court documents explain that Hunt retrieved a sword — a replica from the movie “300” — and struck Cano in the face and hand one night. After the slaying, Hunt woke his wife Stacey Hunt, told her what happened, said he could “no longer let his mother live,” and asked her to call police.
Police on scene found Cano deceased with severe injuries to the head.
Statements in court
In a statement made during Monday’s hearing, Hunt apologized to all involved with the case and thanked those who have helped him with his mental health during the interim years.
“I’m a new man,” Hunt said. “I received the help that I … desperately needed and I have new priorities and new goals.”
He added that once he has served his sentence, he wants to help others who are suffering from untreated mental illnesses. Perea agreed that he has seen a change in Hunt throughout the duration of the case.
Stacey Hunt and a friend of Cano’s spoke in the courtroom before Perea announced his decision.
Cano’s friend, identified only as “Judy,” said Cano loved her family and friends and enjoyed many creative outlets. She was described as an “innocent, giving soul.”
Stacey — who testified against her ex husband in the first trial — expressed frustration with the court proceedings Monday and dissatisfaction with Hunt’s sentence.
Following the first verdict Stacey told the Sun-News that Cano was caring and that Joshua was the abusive one in the household.
Photos: Looking back at the life of Las Cruces resident Lisa Cano, who was killed in 2014
“She invited us into the household, to move together. It was like a happily ever after for her was definitely how she looked at it and loved the idea of all of us being together,” she told the Sun-News in March 2021, “and that was part of the way she always cared for Josh and made sure he had everything he needed, and always made sure that he had everything he needed, and that included us at that point.”
Hunt was turned over to the New Mexico Department of Corrections to serve the remainder of his sentence.
Hunt is required to complete at least 85% of his sentence before reintegrating into society and beginning parole. Once serving parole, Hunt will be ordered not to contact family members involved in the case, including his former wife and children.
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This article originally appeared on Las Cruces Sun-News: Las Cruces man pleads guilty to second-degree murder in 2014 matricide case