Murder defendant committed suicide by overdose, report says |

Murder defendant committed suicide by overdose, report says

by Christy Chalmers

Thomas Robert Soria Sr. killed himself by overdosing on a drug commonly prescribed for sleeping trouble and depression, Douglas County Sheriff Ron Pierini said Friday.

Toxicology reports showed a lethal dose of amitriptyline in Soria Sr.’s system. He was found dead in his jail cell Jan. 28, two days after his trial on charges of kidnapping, sexually assaulting and killing 9-year-old Krystal Steadman started.

Soria Sr., 40, had a heart defect and investigators initially thought it may have caused his death. Tests conducted by the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office identified the drug overdose as the cause.

Soria Sr. apparently did not swallow his medication when it was administered and saved enough pills for a fatal dose. Soria Sr. was held alone in a medical cell to eliminate contact with other inmates, but he wasn’t on a suicide watch, said Pierini.

“He was treated pretty much like everyone else,” Pierini said.

Pierini said he isn’t concerned about lawsuits or allegations jail staffers didn’t take proper precautions with Soria Sr.

“It’s unfortunate, but it does happen,” he said of jail suicides. “We have an intense jail officer training program, and the procedures were followed. You watch somebody take medicine and you hope they swallow it down, but if there’s a will, there’s a way.”

The Douglas County jail has been accredited by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care. The group evaluates jails throughout the country on living conditions, nutrition, medical and mental health and other requirements.

The Douglas and Washoe county sheriff’s offices are completing a joint investigation of Soria Sr.’s death. When the probe is complete, a report will be forwarded to Douglas District Attorney Scott Doyle, who will categorize the death as one of natural causes, accident, suicide or by criminal means.

If Doyle can’t categorize the death, he can submit the case to a district judge for a ruling or call for a coroner’s inquest, in which a civilian jury would review the circumstances surrounding the death and issue a finding.

Pierini said the investigation is likely to take a few more weeks.

Soria was charged with the kidnapping, rape and murder of Krystal Steadman, a South Lake Tahoe fourth-grader who disappeared from the parking lot of the Lake Park apartment complex in Stateline March 19. Her body was found a day later off Highway 50.

Soria’s son, Thomas Jr., now 20, pleaded guilty to kidnapping and murder for his role in the crime and was planning to testify against his father. The son was being held at the jail when his father died but was sent back to prison to continue serving his life sentence.

Prosecutors were planning to seek the death penalty if Soria Sr. was convicted.