Attorneys for man accused in girl's murder challenge death penalty notice

MINDEN - Attorneys for Thomas Soria Sr. are trying to block prosecutors' efforts to seek the death penalty.

In a motion filed July 12, the attorneys said Douglas County prosecutors did not refer to the proper statutes when they filed their notice of intent to seek the death penalty if Soria Sr., 39, is convicted of kidnapping, sexually assaulting and murdering 9-year-old Krystal Steadman.

Also missing, they say, are facts for proving several aggravating circumstances that would justify execution.

The defense lawyers contend the alleged oversights amount to a violation of Soria Sr.'s due process rights and are asking District Judge Dave Gamble to strike the death penalty notice and keep the state from seeking it should Soria Sr. be convicted.

In a response, Deputy District Attorney Tom Perkins said the facts supporting findings for aggravating circumstances are already listed in court documents. He also said the defense attorneys didn't object to the notice when it was filed June 6, the day Soria Sr. entered innocent pleas in the Steadman case.

Even if Gamble agrees the notice is not sufficient, Perkins wrote, the defense team would still have plenty of time to prepare an amended notice.

"The defendant has suffered no prejudice from the alleged lack of notice," he wrote.

He proposed an amended notice of intent to seek the death penalty that lists facts supporting the aggravating circumstances.

A ruling on the request is not expected immediately. A clerk said the attorneys will have another chance to respond to each other before Gamble acts on the request.

Soria Sr. and his son, Thomas Jr., 19, were accused of kidnapping, assaulting and murdering Steadman, whose battered body was found off Highway 50 March 20. She disappeared a day earlier from the parking lot of the Stateline apartment complex where the Sorias lived. She and her mother had been visiting another resident at the complex on Kahle Drive.

Soria Jr. pleaded guilty in May to murder and kidnapping and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. In exchange, two sexual assault charges against him were dropped and the prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty.

Soria Sr. is scheduled to go to trial on the Steadman case in January.

A March trial date has been set for Soria Sr. in an unrelated sexual assault case that surfaced during the investigation of the Steadman murder.

Soria Sr. remains in jail.


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