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Memorial Tuesday for murder victim

Staff reports

Memorial services for a 9-year-old girl who was killed and her body dumped off Highway 50 will be held Tuesday in South Lake Tahoe, with a reception to follow at her school.

A celebration of life for Krystal Steadman is scheduled to start at 2 p.m. at Sierra Community Church, 1165 Sierra Blvd., with the reception at Meyers Elementary School, 1095 E. San Bernardino Ave.

Steadman disappeared from a parking lot at the Lake Park Apartments on Kahle Drive in Stateline March 19. Her body was found less than a day later on an embankment south of Highway 50 near Carson City.

Stateline resident Thomas Robert Soria Jr., 19, has been charged with murder and kidnapping and is being held without bail in the Douglas County jail in Stateline. He is scheduled to appear in Tahoe Justice Court Wednesday morning.

Preliminary autopsy results say Steadman died when her throat was slashed.

Soria, a resident of the complex and a part-time worker at a youth club located there, was questioned in the hours following her disappearance and arrested shortly after her body was found.

He could face additional charges if the autopsy, which was started Tuesday, reveals the girl was sexually assaulted. He could also face the death penalty, though prosecutors say they do not plan to make a decision until the investigation is complete.

Sheriff Ron Pierini said investigators are still checking leads and looking for the clothes Steadman was wearing when she disappeared. Ten of the department’s 13 detectives are on the case, and he said processing the evidence may take up to two weeks.

“We need to do this right,” he said. “This is probably one of the most serious cases in the history of Douglas County. I’ve been here since 1976, and we haven’t had anything like this.”

Two attorneys have been appointed to represent Soria. A preliminary hearing, which could determine if Soria goes to trial in District Court, is scheduled to begin April 25 and could last up to three days.

At preliminary hearings, prosecutors present evidence to support their contention that a suspect should stand trial, and Pierini said his detectives will be striving to complete their investigation so both sides will have plenty of time to review the evidence.

Soria told the investigators he had allowed Steadman and two other girls to ride on the running boards of his father’s red and white Chevrolet Blazer while he drove in the parking lot.

The other girls eventually left, leaving Steadman with Soria. He said he left the complex alone twice during the afternoon hours, then went to Cave Rock and the Spooner Summit area after getting in an argument with his father.

A Carson City woman said she saw a vehicle similar to the Blazer along the westbound shoulder of Highway 50 around 5 p.m. March 19 and saw a man throw something resembling a pillowcase over the side of the road. Steadman’s body was found on an embankment between Highway 50 and Clear Creek Road, which runs parallel to the highway’s southern edge.

Investigators interviewed Soria March 19 when he returned to the apartment complex. He voluntarily gave them his clothes and one detective noticed what appeared to be a blood stain on the toe of a boot. A subsequent search of the Blazer yielded human blood on the passenger side running boards and floor boards and the vehicle was seized for further analysis.