Suspects father implicated |

Suspects father implicated

One week after a 9-year-old South Lake Tahoe girl was found dead – her throat deeply slashed – the father of the man accused of killing her has been named as a suspect in the girl’s abduction and murder.

Thomas Soria Sr., 39, whose 19-year-old son allegedly abducted and murdered Krystal Steadman March 19, has not been charged in her death. But Douglas County Sheriff Ron Pierini said, “We are now considering him a suspect in that case.”

Soria Sr. and his son, Thomas Soria Jr., have also been charged with sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl last October, according to Pierini who said, “We are now investigating the possibility that other sexual assaults may have occurred.

“(Thomas Soria) Jr. introduced the victim to the father as his uncle,” the sheriff said of the October assault. “Together they persuaded her that the uncle would die if she did not have sex with him.”

The two men allegedly convinced the girl that Soria Sr. – whom the son introduced as his “uncle Tom” – was sick with tumors that could explode if he got upset.

The girl, who had expressed a romantic interest in the son, allegedly agreed to sleep with the “uncle” at the urging of the younger Soria, investigators said.

Soria Sr. was arrested Monday evening outside Horizon Casino Resort, and both father and son will appear today in the Tahoe Township Justice Court. The son had a sexual assault charge for aiding-and-abetting from the October incident added to his murder and kidnapping charges. He is being held without bail. His father’s bail was set at $500,000.

Investigators now believe that Steadman, who witnesses said was last seen playing with the son, may also have been sexually assaulted before she was killed and left at the side of U.S. Highway 50 near Carson City.

“There are indications that (the father) is involved and we can safely say that we are pursuing that,” Pierini said. “But the report by the pathologist regarding any sexual assault to Krystal Steadman has not been completed.”

The sheriff said he expects the autopsy to be finished later this week and that additional charges will be filed if it shows that Steadman was raped.

Don Bloom, 80, a friend of Steadman’s family drove from Gustine, Calif., Tuesday to attend a memorial service held for Krystal. He was shocked when he learned of the father’s arrest.

”When I heard that, I wanted to vomit,” Bloom said. ”The abuse of children is just incomprehensible to me.”

Steadman, a fourth-grader at Meyers Elementary, was visiting a family friend at the Lake Park Apartments in Stateline with her mother the day she died.

She and two other girls were allegedly playing on Soria’s 1989 Chevy Blazer shortly before she disappeared. The son drove slowly through the apartment’s parking lot while the girls took turns standing on the running boards, clinging to the door handles.

Pierini said witnesses saw Soria’s Blazer near where the girl’s body was found and a woman allegedly told police she saw a man throw something down the embankment at the side of the highway.

When the girl did not come inside, her mother, Betty Steadman, began searching for her and even went inside Soria’s apartment, the same place the October sexual assault allegedly occurred. According to investigators, Soria Jr. told Steadman’s mother he did not know where the girl was but did not let her look inside one of the apartment’s bedrooms.

Shortly after the arrest of Soria Sr., Pierini said Steadman’s clothing had been found five miles from where her body was dumped. Investigators are still searching for the murder weapon.

Acting on a tip, police spent several hours March 24 searching for evidence in a Dumpster outside a gas station in Round Hill but did not find anything relating to the case.

Steadman was wearing a Tweety Bird shirt, black pants, green socks, and lavender shoes when she vanished. Investigators have already found blood on the son’s boots and in the Blazer, according to court records, but the girl’s clothes could provide police with additional forensic evidence against the suspects, Pierini said.

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