The Murder of Krystal Dawn Steadman
During the hearing Dr. Ellen Clark, who performed Krystal's autopsy, testified that because many of the wounds were superficial, but highly painful, she believed Krystal to have been tortured. She also stated that semen found on Steadman's body matched DNA belonging to Soria Sr., which, along with trauma to the girl's body, suggested she was raped. It was also revealed that the DNA evidence excluded T.J. as a rape suspect. He had been charged with sexual assault but that charge was dropped as part of the preliminary hearing.
Soria Sr. sat expressionless and barely moved throughout the hours of sometimes-graphic testimony. As the hearing came to a close, Judge Steven McMorris ruled there was reason to believe that Soria Sr. had kidnapped, raped and murdered Krystal Steadman. After viewing pictures of Steadman's battered body, the judge said, "I have been in this business for 30 years and I have never seen anything like this, and I don't want to see anything like it again. Having had the misfortune of looking at these pictures... the word torture comes to mind," McMorris said. Afterwards McMorris scheduled a hearing for Soria Sr. to enter his plea.
On June 7, 2000, Thomas Robert Soria Sr., waived his right to a speedy trial and entered a plea of not guilty to charges of murder, kidnapping and sexual assault in the death of Krystal Steadman. He also maintained his innocence in regards to the sexual assault charges stemming from the 1999 case. After Soria Sr. took his seat, state attorneys announced they would seek the death penalty for Soria because of "evidence of additional aggravating circumstances" that include torture, sexual abuse and the young age of the victim, according to court documents. After both sides rested their case, Judge David R. Gamble announced that jury selection for the first trial, where Soria would face charges of first-degree murder, would begin Jan. 17. His second trial, for the sexual assault of a 15-year-old, was set for March 26.