Stateline man pleads guilty to murder

MINDEN - A Stateline teenager who was the first suspect arrested in the slaying of a 9-year-old girl won't face the death penalty but could spend the rest of his life in prison.

Thomas Robert Soria Jr., 19, pleaded guilty Tuesday to first-degree murder and kidnapping in the death of Krystal Steadman. In exchange, two counts of sexual assault were dropped and prosecutors won't seek the death penalty.

"I committed the crimes that were alleged," Soria Jr. said. "I participated in the kidnapping that led to the death of Krystal Steadman."

Krystal disappeared March 19 from the parking lot of the Lake Park Apartments in Stateline, where Soria and his father lived. Krystal, who lived in South Lake Tahoe, had been visiting the complex with her mother and had been seen playing with Soria Jr. before she disappeared.

Her body was found a day later off Highway 50 near Carson City. Soria Jr. was arrested soon after, and his father was picked up a week later in a separate case, then charged in Krystal's death.

Under terms of the plea agreement, prosecutors won't file a notice of aggravating circumstances or seek more prison time for use of a deadly weapon and substantial bodily harm, which were alleged in the original complaint. Soria Jr. will give a statement to prosecutors and testify against his father if the father's case goes to trial.

Deputy District Attorney Tom Perkins said a plea bargain had not been offered to either man, but the prosecutors decided to accept an offer from Soria Jr. and his lawyers.

"(Soria Jr.) is pleading guilty to what he did," said Perkins. "This is based on their respective roles in the crime."

The plea bargain was disclosed Monday, just before a preliminary hearing for both defendants was to start. Preliminary hearings determine whether prosecutors have enough evidence to take a case to trial.

Soria Jr.'s lawyers, Mark Jackson and Nathan Tod Young, said the plea is fair.

"The plea reflects Mr. Soria's desire to take responsibility and is combined with his desire that if he is to be punished, that it is a punishment he can survive," said Young. "He thought this was an appropriate resolution."

Soria Jr. could be sentenced to life in prison with or without parole for the murder charge, or a shorter term of 50 years with parole after 20 for the murder charge. A life sentence with parole after five years is also possible for the kidnapping charge.

District Judge Dave Gamble set a July 5 sentencing hearing. Lawyers for both sides said they expect it to take an entire day.


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