Accused murderer faces convicted son
Thomas Soria Sr., a man accused of first-degree murder, saw his son for the first time in months Thursday in Douglas County Superior Court. It was not a happy occasion.
His son, Thomas “T.J.” Soria Jr., pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison without parole in July for the kidnap and murder of Krystal Steadman, a 9-year-old girl from South Lake Tahoe. He was in court Thursday for a pretrial hearing to testify about his relationship with his father.
Prosecutors claim Soria Sr., 39, enlisted his son to help execute the girl. He is charged with her rape and murder. If convicted, he could be sentenced to death.
Judge David R. Gamble conducted the hearing to decide what prosecutors would be allowed to question T.J. about during the trial. They want the 20-year-old to tell the jury about the sexual relationship he had with his father since the age of 6 or 7.
“The main reason is to explain T.J.’s behavior,” Douglas County Deputy District Attorney Kris Brown told Gamble. “How he was tied to his father in that love relationship and sex relationship … He didn’t see the wrongness of it.”
T.J. has admitted that he purposely lured the fourth-grader into his father’s Stateline apartment, then later dumped her lifeless body down an embankment on U. S. Highway 50, several miles west of Carson City. Deputies said her throat had been cut and her body was marked with defensive wounds.
As part of the plea agreement T.J. signed this summer, which exempted him from the death penalty, he is required to testify against his father.
Thursday Soria Sr. sat rigidly between two court-appointed defense attorneys wearing a blue pin-striped suit, large gold-framed glasses and black dress shoes. When his son entered the courtroom wearing a prison-issued orange shirt and blue pants, he showed no emotion.
Their eyes met only once when T.J., whose hair is styled in a large afro that extended down his back, was asked to identify his father in the courtroom. During the 45 minutes T.J. was on the stand, several times he was overcome with emotion and began to cry.
He testified he never resisted his father’s sexual advances because he loved him.
“He’d tell me how much it meant to him and how much he loved me,” T.J. said. “He was my father and I didn’t want to hurt him … He also told me to keep it a secret between us … He said not to talk about it. He said if I told they’d break us apart and take us away.”
At one point T.J. revealed that his father ate his feces. Soria Sr. asked his son to do the same with his feces, but T.J. said he tried but couldn’t do what his father asked.
During cross-examination, defense attorney John Springgate asked T.J. why he waited until after his arrest to tell authorities about his father’s abuse. Then he asked if he ever liked the sex he had with his father?
“Maybe occasionally I did,” T.J. answered.
Springgate argued that the testimony regarding their relationship, and any other statements outside the scope of the crime which took place March 19, should not be allowed. He said his argument could be summed up with the word “So (what)” He added: “It’s inflammatory and doesn’t prove anything. It may prove why Mr. Soria Jr. is a monster, but that is a question for another day. Who cares whether my client wanted a hooker or said he had sex with guys?”
T.J. also testified that he and his father would take drives and “he’d tell me to keep an eye out for kids on the street.”
Gamble decided that testimony was vague and it would not be allowed at trial. The judge said he will decide whether to allow testimony about the sexual relationship Soria Sr. had with his son at a hearing held today at 8:30 a.m.
Before Gamble ended the hearing, he said he would review a 17-page file retrieved from Soria Sr.’s computer and to see if it supported the prosecution’s argument to allow the testimony about the father-son relationship.
The file list sexual scenarios, one which is “strikingly similar,” according to Deputy District Attorney Thomas Perkins, to how Steadman’s murder was carried out.
“Mr. Soria’s computer text is not just a fantasy,” Brown said. “He was living them out on a daily basis.”
The trial of Soria Sr. is expected to begin Friday, Jan. 26 at 9 a.m. Jury selection for the trial began Jan. 17. A jury comprised of four men and eight women was seated Wednesday.
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After a period of dry, warm weather, winter returns this week to Lake Tahoe.