Judge allows computer, DNA evidence in Soria trial
Two pieces of evidence that go to the heart of the prosecution’s case against accused murderer Thomas Soria Sr. will be allowed at his trial, a judge ruled Friday.
District Judge David Gamble said a computer file that contains explicit sexual and violent content, believed to have been authored by Soria Sr., and DNA evidence processed by the Washoe County crime lab do not create prejudice against the defendant.
Soria Sr., 39, will go on trial Jan. 17 at 9 a.m. in Gamble’s courtroom. He accused of kidnapping, rape, and murder in the March death of 9-year-old Krystal Steadman.
At Friday’s hearing, Deputy District Attorney Tom Perkins asked the court to allow the DNA evidence without a lengthy hearing to explain the science behind it. He argued that in the almost two decades this type of forensic evidence has been used in criminal prosecutions, the science has proven to be “trustworthy and reliable.”
“We don’t think we should have to go through a hearing every time someone fashions new tools,” Perkins said, referring to relatively new processes used by the laboratory to read the DNA samples. People “just need to know that (the machines) work.”
Defense attorneys Michael Roeser and John Springgate objected, saying that option should not be closed as a way of potentially discrediting the admissibility of the DNA samples.
Semen samples found on Krystal’s body matched the DNA profile of Soria Sr. His attorneys have written in court papers that the DNA link is the only physical evidence connecting Soria Sr. to the body, found March 20, a day after Krystal’s disappearance.
Soria Sr.’s 19-year-old son, Thomas Soria Jr., has already admitted taking part in the kidnapping and murder of Krystal. He is serving a life sentence and has already been transferred to the Douglas County Jail from Nevada State Prison to testify against his father. The concession was part of a plea agreement made with prosecutors. In exchange, they agreed not to seek the death penalty for the son.
Soria Jr. dumped Krystal’s body off the side of Highway 50 above Carson City on March 19. It was found a day later after a woman reported seeing a man matching Soria Jr. throw an object resembling a pillow case over an embankment. Prosecutors contend the killing took place in the apartment the father and son shared in the Lake Park complex in Stateline.
Gamble also ruled on a request by the defense to disqualify files from a computer found in a closet at the apartment. Gamble said the search of the computer’s hard drive by California computer experts was legal and that the material is open for use in the prosecution’s case.
During an October hearing, defense attorneys said that the search warrant under which the computer was retrieved did not allow the examination of the hard drive. A file, believed to have been deleted the day of Krystal’s murder, describes circumstances similar to those that prosecutors believed contributed to her death.
Other motions are expected to be submitted, Roeser said.
Gamble has said timeliness is a priority and that he intends to keep to the current trial schedule. Pretrial conferences will take place Jan. 9. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Soria Sr.