Suspect’s preliminary hearing waived |

Suspect’s preliminary hearing waived

A man accused of killing a 9-year-old South Lake Tahoe girl waived his right to a preliminary hearing Wednesday on a separate sex charge.

Lawyers for 39-year-old Thomas Soria Sr. would not say why they decided to forgo the hearing, but it saved the 15-year-old girl he is accused of molesting last fall from taking the stand.

Surrounded by friends and family, the small girl – who suffers from a congenital illness – cried as Soria was led into the Tahoe Township Justice Court. Since coming forward last month the she has threatened to commit suicide and has had trouble eating, according to prosecutors who are afraid she might hurt herself.

Thomas Soria Jr., 19, had been accused of helping his father seduce the girl in October but prosecutors moved to dismiss the case Tuesday.

“We don’t have enough evidence to sustain a conviction against (Soria Jr.) on that charge,” Douglas County Deputy District Attorney Tom Perkins said.

Justice of the Peace Steve McMorris agreed, and the charges were dropped Wednesday morning.

McMorris found there was enough evidence to warrant a trial for Soria Sr., who will be arraigned in Douglas County District Court June 6.

“Obviously this is a good thing for our client,” said Nathan Tod Young, one of the attorneys representing Soria Jr. “We felt there was no evidence against T. J. (Soria Jr.) of any criminal wrongdoing.”

Both attorneys said the dismissal of sexual assault charges was not part of a plea bargain and said it had no bearing on the more severe charges facing the Sorias.

Father and son are accused of raping and killing 9-year-old Krystal Steadman, who disappeared March 19.

Witnesses said Steadman was last seen playing with Soria Jr., who was arrested shortly after her body was found. His father was arrested a week later when Soria Sr.’s semen was allegedly found on her body.

A preliminary hearing in that case is scheduled for May 8. Both men could face the death penalty if convicted.

The crime has caused outrage on the South Shore and what McMorris called “harsh statements” from the community caused the court to add security Wednesday.

“We have heard feedback from the community that makes us believe we need to have some pretty tight security,” he said.

If the case goes to trial, John Springate, an attorney for Soria Sr., did not rule out seeking a change of venue to avoid a biased jury.

“We will be looking at every option for Mr. Soria,” he said.

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