Jury selection continues in Soria trial
Thomas Soria Jr. could testify Thursday about a childhood of abuse allegedly inflicted by his father.
Soria Jr., 20, is one of several dozen witnesses scheduled to testify against Thomas Robert Soria Sr., 39. The older man is charged with sexual assault, kidnapping and murder in the death of Krystal Steadman, 9, and prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty if he is convicted.
Jury selection started Jan. 17 and is expected to continue today. District Judge Dave Gamble, who is presiding over the trial, said Tuesday 24 or 25 of 36 potential jurors had been chosen.
Once 36 people are selected, the group will be winnowed to 16 – a dozen jurors and four alternates.
Gamble said the process is going well and pretrial publicity hasn’t disqualified many potential jurors.
“I’m pleased with how people are reacting,” he said. “It has not been a major issue.”
Gamble said he thinks jury selection will be completed today. If so, opening arguments could start Friday, he said.
Thursday would be used to take Soria Jr.’s testimony. The jury won’t hear the testimony but the hearing will be open to the public, Gamble said.
Soria Jr.’s testimony was postponed from an earlier hearing. Prosecutors want to introduce evidence of crimes for which Soria Sr. was not charged.
Soria Jr. previously pleaded guilty to murder and kidnapping for his role in Krystal’s death and was sentenced to life in prison. He also told investigators his father sexually abused him throughout his childhood.
In court papers, prosecutors said Soria Jr.’s testimony would show the older man preyed on children. They’re also planning to introduce a computer text file found in Soria Sr.’s bedroom closet that describes fantasies of raping, torturing and killing women and girls.
Soria Jr. said he lured Krystal to the family’s apartment at the Lake Park complex in Stateline the day of her death.
Soria Sr.’s attorneys say the younger man, not their client, is responsible for Krystal’s death. Her body was found March 20 off Highway 50, a day after she disappeared from the Lake Park complex. She and other children had been seen playing with Soria Jr. before her disappearance.