STATELINE - A Stateline man will stand trial on charges he kidnapped, sexually assaulted and killed a 9-year-old girl.
Thomas Robert Soria Sr., 39, was bound over for trial in Douglas District Court on Tuesday after a two-day preliminary hearing in Tahoe Justice Court. He is to be arraigned in district court June 6, the same day he is to appear for arraignment on a separate sexual assault charge.
Soria Sr. and his son, Thomas Soria Jr., 19, were both charged with murder, kidnap and sexual assault in the death of Krystal Steadman. Soria Jr. has pleaded guilty to murder and
kidnapping charges in exchange for dismissal of the sexual assault charge and a promise that prosecutors won't seek the death penalty. He may also testify against his father.
Prosecutors have filed notice that they may seek the death penalty against Soria Sr. but have not made a decision.
Soria Sr. sat unmoving and expressionless throughout the preliminary hearing. He shook his head slightly and mouthed a few words when Tahoe Justice of the Peace Steve McMorris announced his decision to send the case to district court for trial.
Dr. Ellen Clark, a forensic pathologist, said the girl died from a series of cuts that punctured an artery and appeared to have been bound and beaten. She said some of the injuries occurred after the girl died, possibly when her body was thrown over a cliff adjacent to Highway 50.
"I look at this and the word torture comes to mind," said McMorris after viewing a series of pictures of the deceased girl. "It's clear to me that the word torture applies in this case."
"There is evidence of torture," said Clark. "There are many painful injuries."
The decision came over the objections of defense attorneys Michael Roeser and John Springgate, who said the testimony did not directly link Soria Sr. to Krystal's death.
"Over two days, there's been absolutely nothing in that regard," said Springgate. He called efforts to link Soria Sr. to Krystal's death "a complete and utter failure."
Though DNA analysis confirmed Soria Sr. as the source of genetic material found on Krystal's body, the defense lawyers challenged the testing methods. Roeser indicated formal challenges to the tests are likely if the case proceeds to trial.
Krystal disappeared March 19 from the Lake Park Apartments. The Sorias lived in the complex, and Krystal and her mother were visiting the mother's boyfriend.
Krystal's body was found a day later off Highway 50. Soria Jr., who had been seen playing with Krystal before her disappearance, was arrested soon after. His father was arrested on the unrelated sexual assault charge a week later, then charged in the girl's case.
Both men are in jail without bail.