Soria Jr sentenced to life without parole
A judge sentenced Thomas Robert Soria, Jr., a 19-year-old nicknamed “T.J.,” to life in prison without the possibility of parole Monday for participating in the murder of 9-year-old Krystal Steadman.
Sighs of relief and “Yes” could be heard coming from Krystal’s relatives seated in the second row of the courtroom as Douglas County District Judge David R. Gamble read the sentence.
Soria Jr.’s defense lawyers argued that their client deserved a chance at parole someday because he was sexually abused by his father.
They alleged that Soria’s father, Thomas Robert Soria Sr. who is also charged with the murder of Steadman, sexually abused his son since the age of 6, creating a dysfunctional relationship that eventually led to Steadman’s murder.
“The issue of Mr. Soria’s upbringing is an important one in this case,” Judge Gamble said. “So we have a young man at the age of 19 with certainly a skewed set of values, but Mr. Soria knew full well the rightness and wrongness of his acts.”
Defense lawyers played a videotaped interview between Soria Jr. and an FBI agent who specializes in child abuse.
Soria Jr. told the agent he made an effort to find young girls for his father to have sex with and at times shared sexual partners. He claimed his father once let him have sex with his stepmother, and often his father had sex with his girlfriends.
Defense attorney Tod Young argued that from a very young age Soria Sr. “sexually trained his son,” but that Soria Jr. never thought his father’s sexual abuse would lead to murder.
“The notion of ‘go get me a girl’ was never ‘let’s find me someone to murder,’ ” Young said. “It has consistently been all about his father’s sexual needs. T.J.’s whole life has been about his father.”
The defense argued that the small amount of Soria Jr.’s semen that was found on Steadman’s underwear did not prove that he participated in the sexual assault of Steadman. Soria Jr. reportedly told his attorneys that he masturbated in the room next to his father’s bedroom and when he disposed of her body “as a favor” for his father some of his semen got on her underwear.
Gamble ruled that the crimes Soria Jr. pleaded guilty to, kidnapping and murder, were sexually motivated, which means the state of Nevada will treat him as a sex offender.
“It was a very emotional day,” said court-appointed defense lawyer Mark Jackson. “I think the judge did take the abuse into consideration. It was weighed by the court. Unfortunately a 9-year-old girl was kidnapped, raped and murdered and I think that ultimately determined the sentence.”
Krystal’s father, sister and grandfather spoke about the loss of Krystal in court before the judge passed sentence. At one point the grandfather read a letter written by Betty Steadman, Krystal’s mother. “My life revolved around Krystal,” she wrote. “She was my center, my crystal light. He took Krystal knowing she would be silenced. A child of 9 kidnapped, raped and murdered – why? I have been in a state of shock and my life is in chaos.”
Before he was sentenced, Soria Jr. turned and spoke to Steadman’s relatives. “I have just a few things I’d like to say,” he said. “I’d like to apologize to the entire family of the Steadmans and their relatives. Everyday I will hold this burden on my shoulders. It will be on my conscience the rest of my life. It was a very big mistake to say the least. I realize that I will never be forgiven for what I’ve done.”
Steadman was last seen March 19 playing with Soria Jr. outside of Lake Park Apartments on Kahle Drive in Stateline while her mother was inside an apartment helping a friend.
Deputy District Attorney Thomas Perkins said Monday that Soria Jr. ran to his father’s apartment to tell him that he had found a girl for him.
Soria Jr., an employee of Lake Tahoe Boys and Girls Club, an organization that has a satellite site at Lake Park apartments, reportedly told prosecutors that he offered Steadman candy to get her into his father’s apartment.
Betty Steadman last saw her daughter when she came back to get a jacket from her. She became alarmed at 2:30 p.m. when she found her daughter’s coat on top of a car outside the apartment complex, but could not find her daughter and went to Soria’s apartment to look for her.
Soria Jr. let Steadman inside but did not allow her to look in one of the apartment’s bedrooms.
At 4 p.m. Soria Jr. was seen leaving the apartment complex and told investigators that he had gone for a drive after getting into an argument with his father. He fell under suspicion when he returned at 7 p.m. and told investigators he did not know what happened to Steadman.
More than 70 law enforcement officers searched for the girl until 3 a.m.
Authorities arrested Soria Jr. the next morning three hours after Steadman’s body, with her throat cut, was found down an embankment off U. S. Highway 50 and Clear Creek Road, about two miles west of U.S. Highway 395.
Investigators said they were led to the body by a woman who saw a man throw something that looked like a pillowcase over the edge of the highway about three hours after Steadman disappeared.
Douglas County prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Soria Sr. because of additional aggravating circumstances that include torture, sexual abuse and the age of the victim.
Soria Sr.’s defense attorneys filed a motion to kill the possibility of a death sentence July 14.
Judge David R. Gamble said jury selection for Soria Sr.’s trial will begin Jan. 17, 2001. Soria Sr. will participate in a second trial later in 2001 for the sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl.
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