Police officer's home searched in connection with student slaying

BY admin

June 17 2004 11:00 PM ET

An investigator who searched a Columbia, Mo., police officer's home in connection with the slaying of a University of Missouri student said in court papers that the men "had a homosexual relationship" and the officer acknowledged it.

The officer, Steven Rios, "is considered a person of interest, but I am not calling him a suspect" in the death of student Jesse James Valencia, according to Columbia police chief Randy Boehm on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the department said in a one-sentence statement that Rios, a member of the police force since November 2001, had resigned, effective Wednesday. A recording at Rios's home telephone number Wednesday said it was not in service. Boehm said Rios, who had been on paid leave, remained in a state mental hospital Wednesday after making two suicide threats last week.

Valencia, 23, of Kentucky, was found June 5 with his throat cut. In court papers seeking a warrant to search Rios's house, another Columbia officer, Jeff Nichols, said he was looking for "a clip-on-style folding blade knife" that other officers had seen Rios carrying in his uniform pocket "on a regular basis." The Columbia Daily Tribune first reported on the search warrant paperwork Wednesday.

An inventory of items removed from Rios's house during Friday's search did not include a knife.

Nichols's affidavit to get the search warrant said an investigation revealed that Rios, 27 and married, "had a homosexual relationship with the victim, which Rios admitted during a consensual interview." The affidavit also said investigators spoke to a man who said Valencia told him that he intended to tell the police chief about the relationship. Valencia's parents have said he recently complained to them of being harassed by a police officer.

Valencia, a junior history major, was last seen alive at about 3:45 a.m. on June 5, as he walked home from a party in the East Campus neighborhood near the university. A neighbor of Valencia's said he heard the victim, through a wall, arguing with someone between 3 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. He said Valencia shouted "No" and "Stop it." Valencia's body was discovered later that day in a yard about one block from his apartment.

Rios told investigators he showered after he got home the morning of June 5. Items taken from Rios's home during the search included contents of shower drains and traps, along with clothing.

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