Jury selection begins in Soria trial
Parking and security will be tighter at the Douglas County courthouse today as jury selection begins for the trial of an accused child murderer.
Thomas Robert Soria Sr., 39, is charged with sexual assault, kidnapping and murder in the death of 9-year-old Krystal Steadman. Her battered body was found off Highway 50 March 20, a day after she disappeared from the Lake Park apartment complex in Stateline.
Soria and his son Thomas Jr. lived at the complex. Soria Jr., who is scheduled to testify against his father, previously pleaded guilty to murder and kidnapping and has been sentenced to life in prison. Prosecutors are planning to seek the death penalty if the elder Soria is convicted.
The first group of potential jurors will begin arriving at 9 a.m. Court records say 300 people have been summoned to answer questions about whether they could serve for a trial that could last up to six weeks.
Lawyers have said the selection process could take seven days. Though parts of the process will be open to the public, some personal questions will be asked in private. Soria’s lawyers have indicated concerns about the effects of pretrial publicity.
Visitors can expect tight scrutiny. In addition to the X-ray scanner at the front door of the courthouse, everyone going into Judge Dave Gamble’s courtroom will have to pass through a metal detector.
Though three weeks was initially set aside for the trial, the lawyers think it could take six weeks. They have sparred over inclusion of a computer text file containing explicit descriptions of torturing and killing women and young girls, use of DNA evidence and introduction of crime scene and autopsy photos.
Gamble has ruled the computer file will be allowed and said he will decide on the photos as they are introduced.
At his sentencing, Soria Jr. admitted luring Krystal into the family apartment. He also told investigators his father sexually abused him throughout his childhood and asked him to introduce young girls to the older man.
Soria Sr.’s lawyers think the younger man, not their client, is responsible for Krystal’s death.
Soria Sr. is being held at the Douglas County jail, where he has been since his arrest. He is scheduled to go to trial in a separate sexual assault case later in the year.