Murder defendants come from criminal family

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The father and son accused in the sexual assault and killing of a 9-year-old South Lake Tahoe girl last month are part of a family with an infamous criminal history in Sacramento.

Thomas Soria Sr., 39, is a member of the extended Mozingo family that gained notoriety in incidents two decades ago: the murder and rape of Soria's mother by his stepbrother Ronny Mozingo in 1979, and the spraying of a North Sacramento bar with gunfire by Ronny's uncle, Douglas Mozingo, in 1982. Three people were killed and nine others wounded in that incident.

Soria's past surfaced in a search of court records triggered by his March 27 arrest in the kidnapping, sexual assault and homicide of Krystal Steadman, whose naked body was found dumped off Highway 50 near Carson City on March 20.

The child's throat had been slashed.

Soria's 19-year-old son, Thomas Robert Soria Jr., is also charged with the Steadman slaying; additionally, both men have been accused of taking part in an October sexual assault on a 15-year-old girl.

A preliminary hearing on the Steadman homicide is scheduled May 9, 10 and 12 at Tahoe Township Justice Court. Neither defendant has entered a plea, and both are being held without bail in the Douglas County, Nev., jail.

Detectives in Nevada and Sacramento say they are looking into the possibility that there may be additional victims of the pair. The Sorias moved from North Highlands to Tahoe in January 1999.

Exactly how Soria Sr.'s life experiences and dysfunctional family connections will play out in the courtroom remains to be seen, but legal experts say that if the proceedings reach the death-penalty stage they are sure to be used by defense attorneys to elicit sympathy for their client.

''If the evidence is substantial on his guilt, the defense will be desperate to find anything it can that could sway even a single juror on the issue of penalty,'' said Michael S. Sands, one of Sacramento's leading criminal defense attorneys for more than three decades.

But Sands said such defenses are not often looked upon with favor by juries, especially when the death of a child is involved.

The Mozingo family history of turmoil, violence and abuse that Soria Sr. experienced dates back about 31 years to a time when Tommy, as he was then known, was in grade school, court records show.

Although Ronny Mozingo wasn't around much - he was first committed to juvenile hall when he was 10 and spent most of the next five years at various homes for boys in Southern California - he did rejoin his dad, stepmom and stepbrother in 1969 at the age of 12.

The stay lasted only two weeks, however, because Ronny Mozingo on two occasions molested his then-8-year-old stepbrother, Tommy, court documents reveal.

Soria's mother, Janey Mozingo, was murdered on Sept. 25, 1979.

According to court testimony and the original police report, Soria, then 18, said he arrived at his Wah Avenue home just before noon after getting out of class at California State University, Sacramento.

He was surprised when his mother didn't greet him at the front door '''cause she most always does,'' Soria told detectives.

Using his key, Soria said, he entered the house and, after checking the kitchen and her bedroom, looked down the hall and spotted his mother lying naked on the floor of his room.

Instead of calling the police or an ambulance, Soria said, he went to the rear door, yelled upstairs to a neighbor to inquire if he had heard any screaming or anything unusual, then phoned his stepfather, Duane Mozingo, who operated a service station a few blocks away.

Janey Mozingo had been raped and hog-tied with electrical wires from a clock, Atari game and stereo in Soria's room. She had been strangled by a wire wrapped around her neck and attached to her legs, an execution method Ronny Mozingo had seen in a film shown to inmates in prison a month earlier.

Then, in October 1982, Douglas Mozingo, Ronny's 29-year-old uncle, was asked to leave the Mother Lode Bar in North Sacramento and returned with a semiautomatic rifle, firing from the doorway until a dozen occupants had been felled.

In 1985, Douglas Mozingo escaped from the Placer County jail, where he was being housed awaiting trial, but was recaptured a few hours later. He hanged himself from a ceiling vent in his cell.

Ronny Mozingo ultimately was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Janey Mozingo, but the California Supreme Court reversed and ordered a new trial, criticizing his attorney for not pursuing the possibility of a diminished capacity defense. Ronny Mozingo currently is serving a 28-year sentence at California State Prison, Sacramento, in Folsom.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment