Douglas figures cost for Soria case
With the specter of a double death-penalty case emerging, Douglas County leaders are anticipating extra costs and a hit to the general fund’s savings account.
Though a decision about whether to seek the death penalty against the father and son accused of killing a South Lake Tahoe girl hasn’t been made, a tab has been started and funds are being earmarked to cover the case.
The suspects, Thomas Robert Soria Sr., 39, and Thomas Robert Soria Jr., 19, each have two attorneys. They are charged with murder, kidnapping and sexual assault in the death of Krystal Steadman, 9, whose body was found March 20 off Highway 50. She disappeared a day earlier from the Stateline apartment complex where the Sorias live.
The Sorias are also charged with sexual assault in a separate case that emerged while detectives were investigating the Steadman case.
Initial costs came from overtime, when as many of 10 of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office’s 13 detectives were putting in 12-hour shifts over the first few days. As of March 31, overtime costs were estimated at $10,000.
An attorney from Reno, John Springgate, has been appointed to represent Soria Sr. He will assist Michael Roeser on the case. Roeser and the two attorneys who have been appointed to defend Soria Jr. contract with Douglas County to represent people who can’t afford to hire attorneys, but they can bill the county for extraordinary costs.
The extra costs will probably be paid using the county’s contingency fund, which is set aside for emergencies and other unanticipated costs. The fund now contains $650,000, and County Manager Dan Holler said the money will be earmarked for the case.
Future costs could come from special investigators, examiners and expert witnesses who may be used, both by prosecutors and defense attorneys.
The Sorias are scheduled for a preliminary hearing in Tahoe Justice Court April 26 on the sexual assault case. At preliminary hearings, prosecutors make their cases for sending defendants to trial in district court.
A preliminary hearing in the Steadman case is scheduled to start May 9 and continue May 10, 12 and 13, if necessary. Both hearings are now scheduled to include both defendants, but attorneys have indicated they might ask for separate hearings.
The defense attorneys have also asked for a gag order, citing concerns that remarks made by the the sheriff and district attorney could taint the jury pool. Tahoe Justice of the Peace Steven McMorris, who will be presiding over the preliminary hearings, denied the request, saying he doesn’t think he has the authority to issue a gag order.
Though the request was rejected, Deputy District Attorney Tom Perkins said he doesn’t think anyone will be talking publicly about the case again soon.
The Sorias remain jailed without bail.