Soria Jr. gets life in prison for girl’s murder | RecordCourier.com
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Soria Jr. gets life in prison for girl’s murder

Christy Chalmers, Record-Courier staff writer

A former Stateline resident and children’s club worker who delivered a 9-year-old girl to her death will spend the rest of his life in prison.

Thomas Robert Soria Jr., 19, was sentenced Monday to life without parole for the murder of Krystal Steadman. A separate term of life with parole possible after five years was imposed for Steadman’s kidnapping, to be served consecutive to the first sentence.

“The concept of Mr. Soria, with his set of skewed principles, ever being in this community or any other community is unthinkable,” said District Judge Dave Gamble after issuing the sentences.

Steadman disappeared March 19 from the parking lot of the Lake Park Apartments in Stateline, where Soria and his father lived. Steadman, who lived in South Lake Tahoe, had been visiting the complex with her mother.

Her body was found a day later off Highway 50 near Carson City. Soria Jr. was arrested soon after, and his father was picked up a week later in a separate case, then charged in Steadman’s death. He faces trial in 2001.

Soria Jr., who formerly worked at a Boys and Girls Club located in the complex, pleaded guilty to murder and kidnapping in May. In exchange, prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty.

Soria Jr. wept several times during the day-long hearing and apologized for “a very big mistake.”

“Every day I will hold this burden in my conscience,” he said. “I accept that nobody will ever forgive me for this.”

Steadman’s relatives asked for the maximum sentence.

“It’s what we want,” her grandfather, Leslie Bucknell, said afterward.

“I think it’s fantastic,” said Sonya Klempner, Steadman’s older sister. “We want the maximum, although it will never be good enough.”

Evidence presented at the sentencing hearing included a videotaped interview with investigators in which Soria Jr. described a childhood of sexual abuse by his father. As he got older, Soria Jr. said, his father encouraged him to procure teen-age girls for sexual relationships.

Tod Young, one of Soria Jr.’s lawyers, cited a “sheer, overwhelming dominance” by Soria Sr. over his son. While Soria Jr. knew his father wanted a girl the day Steadman disappeared, “There’s nothing to indicate that he knew his father would do what he did,” said Young in arguing for a lighter sentence.

Deputy District Attorney Tom Perkins said Soria Jr. already got a break with the plea bargain.

“This defendant owns this crime. He owns every single detail of it,” said Perkins. “The law does not excuse him because of the way he was raised.”

Soria Jr.’s plea bargain also included cooperation with prosecutors, who will be trying his father on murder, kidnapping and sexual assault charges. Soria Sr. has pleaded innocent and is scheduled to go to trial in January in the Steadman case.

A March trial is scheduled on an unrelated sexual assault case that surfaced during the investigation of the Steadman murder.