Decision postponed on evidence for Soria trial

MINDEN - Prosecuters flipped quickly Monday through a computer screen with sexually graphic text that is so disturbing a judge agreed its contents should be sealed until an accused killer's trial to avoid tainting jurors.

Douglas District Judge Dave Gamble postponed until November a decision whether to allow the computer file to be presented as evidence in the January trial of Thomas Soria Sr.

Soria Sr., 39, is accused of the March 19 kidnapping, sexual assault and killing of 9-year-old Krystal Steadman.

Douglas County prosecutors Monday asked that a computer file and DNA evidence be used in Soria Sr.'s trial.

With one witness out of town, Soria attorneys asked Gamble to postpone a decision on the computer file, which was retrieved in March from a computer found in Soria's apartment. The 17-page computer file contains graphic fantasies about assaulting, torturing and killing women and girls.

Soria's defense attorneys Michael Roeser and John Springgate claimed that the warrant used to take the computer from the Stateline apartment didn't allow officials to search the computer's hard drive. Also because the computer hard drive was searched in Sacramento, defense attorneys question the use of the warrant outside Nevada.

Detective William Mannering of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department high-tech task force retraced for court officials how he retrieved the file from the computer's hard drive.

He said he had been asked by Douglas County officials to look for images and text and chat files that could be tied to child pornography. He also found up to eight other files that contained "text of sexual conduct with children."

Tom Perkins, Douglas County deputy district attorney, said the county had no intention of asking to admit the other files as evidence at this time. Coding in the 17-page file led Mannering to believe it was a document titled ped.doc, created or deleted from the computer around March 19. Mannering said he assumed the title had a tie to pedophilia.

Springgate countered that Mannering couldn't be sure of who wrote or deleted the file found on the computer and that it was speculation that the potential evidence was actually named ped.doc.

Other testimony centered around the computer's whereabouts from the day it was seized from a closet in Soria Sr.'s bedroom to the time it arrived in Sacramento.

Photos of the computer show it in a closet surrounded by children's toys and games.

Douglas County Detective Keith Logan said when he asked for the search warrant, he assumed the computer would be searched.

"I eventually wanted them looked into," Logan said of the five central processing units found in the apartment. "It was my understanding that all evidence collected would be examined."

Perkins asked Logan why he initially thought the computer could be connected to the crime. Logan said computers are used to link people with similar interests.

Logan said the closet was "a private place away from the front door" and that with the toys, games and stuffed animals, the closet "looked like it was appealing to a child."

"We're trying to establish that the warrant was supported by plenty of probable cause," Perkins said.

Gamble also gave defense attorneys 30 days to allow experts to continue to test DNA evidence. Perkins wants the evidence allowed without a "two- to three-month hearing that would reconstruct the science from top to bottom." The admissibility of the DNA evidence will be decided Dec. 15, Gamble said.

The defense lawyers have made several objections to the use of DNA evidence. Roeser said Monday DNA evidence was a new science open to question, and in earlier hearings questioned the reliability and credibility of DNA analysis. Investigators used DNA evidence to link Soria to Steadman's death.

The defense team says prosecutors have no other evidence putting Soria at the crime scene or connecting him to the body.

Soria's son, Thomas Jr., pleaded guilty in May to kidnapping and murder in the case and received life in prison. He has agreed to testify against his father.

Soria Sr. defense attorneys also hinted Monday at a coming motion that could force Soria Jr.'s attorney's to testify to inconsistencies inSoria Jr.'s story that would prove that he and not Soria Sr. murdered Krystal.

Krystal disappeared from a parking lot at the Lake Park Apartments in Stateline on March 19. Her body was found a day later off Highway 50.

Soria Jr., who had been seen with Krystal before she disappeared, was arrested a day later. His father was arrested a week later in an unrelated sexual assault case, then charged in Krystal's death. Soria Sr. remains in jail.


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