Victim’s mother testifies as Soria Sr. trial opens
A Douglas County jury heard conflicting claims Friday about the murder of 9-year-old Krystal Steadman as the trial of Thomas Robert Soria Sr. started.
Prosecutors said Soria Sr. killed Krystal, then asked his son “to get rid of the body.”
Defense attorneys told the jury the son committed the murder, then lied his way to a plea bargain and agreed to incriminate the father.
Soria, who turns 40 today, is accused of sexual assault, kidnapping and murder in the death of Krystal, who disappeared from the Lake Park apartment complex in Stateline March 19.
Deputy District Attorney Kris Brown quoted parts of a 17-page computer text file found on a machine in Soria Sr.’s bedroom closet. The file describes fantasies of raping, torturing and killing women and girls.
“He had thoughts of rape. He had thoughts of murder,” said Brown. “He acted on those words.”
Michael Roeser, one of Soria Sr.’s attorneys, didn’t deny the man wrote the computer diary but said he’s being tried for an act his son committed.
“Ugly thoughts, repugnant thoughts have never killed anybody,” he said. “If you raise a child and that child turns into a monster and kills somebody, that doesn’t mean you killed somebody.”
Roeser said investigators didn’t find fibers or DNA connecting Krystal to the Soria family apartment despite dissecting the plumbing, flooring and fixtures. Their case came from a statement the younger man gave after he agreed to plead guilty to murder and kidnapping for his role in Krystal’s death, he said.
“They wanted to hear bad stuff about his dad,” said Roeser. “He told them what they wanted to hear.”
Soria Jr., now 20, is serving a life sentence. He told investigators he lured Krystal to the family apartment the day she disappeared and later disposed of her body by throwing it over an embankment near Highway 50.
Brown said Krystal was beaten and assaulted, and DNA evidence identified Soria Sr. as her attacker.
She said the day of Krystal’s death, Soria Jr. brought the girl to the family’s apartment, then left briefly. He didn’t see Krystal when he returned, but the door to the apartment’s master bedroom was closed, she said.
Later, said Brown, Soria Jr. heard the door open, followed by sounds of a toilet flushing and shower running. After that, Soria Sr. called the son into the master bedroom, where Krystal’s body lay on the bed, wrapped in a garbage bag, said Brown. She said he then told the younger man, “I need you to get rid of the body.”
Brown said prosecutors think Soria Sr. may have destroyed evidence after sheriff’s deputies allowed him to stay at the apartment when they arrested Soria Jr., who was the initial suspect.
Defense attorney Roeser said Soria Sr. could not have erased evidence of a murder if one happened in the apartment. Plus, Soria Jr. was known to carry a knife similar to the one investigators say Krystal was repeatedly slashed with, he said.
Soria Sr. sat expressionless as the lawyers made their arguments. He watched as Krystal’s mother, Elizabeth Steadman, testified about the frantic search she started when Krystal didn’t check in at a prearranged time.
Steadman went to the Soria apartment after hearing Soria Jr. had been playing with her daughter and other children. Soria Jr. let her in but wouldn’t let her or her boyfriend into the master bedroom, claiming his uncle or father was asleep, she said.
She later returned to the apartment.
“I had a feeling. I had a sense. I felt something was wrong,” she said through tears.
Prosecutors say Soria Jr. was seen around 3:45 p.m. March 19 holding a box by the open door of the family’s Chevrolet Blazer. Blood stains were later found in the Blazer, and prosecutors say they matched Soria Jr.’s description of how he disposed of Krystal’s body.
Testimony will continue Monday in Douglas District Court. The trial could take up to six weeks. Prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty if Soria Sr. is convicted.
He remains in the Douglas County jail.