Request for gag order denied in case of murdered 9-year-old
STATELINE – Communication between media and prosecutors in the rape and murder cases of Thomas Soria Sr. and his 19-year-old son Thomas Soria Jr. will not be restricted, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Citing a U.S. Supreme Court rule, defense attorneys requested a gag order to stop the public release of sensitive information by prosecutors and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.
They said some information has already caused a “threat of some material prejudice,” potentially tainting the jury pool.
“This is not the trial court,” responded Justice of the Peace Stephen D. McMorris. He said it might be out of his power to make such an order.
“I would advise anyone in this case to exercise caution and not say anything,” he said. “It’s a good way to avoid the rumor mill.”
Soria Sr., 39, and his son appeared separately Wednesday for hearings at the Tahoe Township Justice Court in Stateline where dates are set for future hearings.
The pair are charged with the March 19 kidnapping, rape and murder of 9-year-old Krystal Steadman and the unrelated sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl.
McMorris set 9:30 a.m. May 9 for preliminary examination of the facts in the alleged kidnapping, rape and murder of Krystal. A preliminary examination for the unrelated sexual assault case will be heard April 12.
In Nevada, accusations and evidence are examined by a justice of the peace before a case can be sent to district court for trial.
If the weight of the evidence suggests that a crime may have occurred, the case is sent to the higher court.
The Sorias may choose to waive their rights to a preliminary examination, which automatically sends the case to trial or negotiations for a plea agreement with the district attorney’s office.
Because Deputy District Attorney Tom Perkins has reserved the right to seek the death penalty, both defendants are provided extra legal counsel. Soria Sr. is being represented by Michael Roeser and John Springgate, while his son is represented by Tod Young and Mark Jackson.
Soria Jr. was arrested for suspicion of Krystal’s murder on March 20, the day her body was found down an embankment off Highway 50, two miles from Carson City.
Her clothes were found a week later near Spooner Summit.
A witness who reportedly saw Soria Jr. parked along Highway 50 led investigators to the site of the girl’s body. Soria Sr.’s vehicle – which matches the witness’ description – had traces of human blood, records indicate.
March 28, a week and a day after Soria Jr.’s arrest, Soria Sr. was taken into custody when the family of the 15-year-old girl reported that the father and son coerced her into a sexual relationship. Both are charged with the offense.
Investigators said evidence indicates the pair acted in collusion in Krystal’s death.
Witnesses told investigators that they saw Soria talking to Krystal the day of her disappearance. The father and son lived at the Lake Park Apartments, where Krystal’s mother was visiting a friend the day of her disappearance.
Soria Jr. is being detained at the jail in Stateline and his father is under medical watch at the Minden jail.
Pierini said he is not able to release information about Soria Sr.’s medical condition.
Young requested that the father and son be transferred to be closer to their attorneys, but Pierini said the medical consideration makes it unlikely.
“We have total privilege on things that deal with medical treatment,” he said. “We want to keep (Soria Sr.) here because there are better medical facilities.”