Jury picked in gay murder trial

BY admin

May 16 2005 11:00 PM ET

Jury selection wrapped up Monday for the murder trial of a former Columbia, Mo., police officer accused of killing a gay University of Missouri student with whom he had had an affair.

Steven Rios faces a life sentence if convicted of first-degree murder and armed criminal action in the death of Jesse Valencia. When leaving court Monday, Rios blew his wife, Libby, a kiss.

Valencia's body was found in a neighbor's yard near campus on June 5 of last year. Bruises indicated he had been choked into unconsciousness before the killer slit his throat.

Investigators say Rios, who is married and a father, began an affair with the 23-year-old Valencia after first arresting him at a loud neighborhood party months before.

Witnesses said Valencia began to fear Rios and threatened to tell police about the affair if Rios didn't leave him alone. Soon after his name was publicly linked to the student's murder, Rios threatened suicide twice, quit the department, and was later charged.

Throughout Monday's jury selection process, Rios appeared alert and interested in the responses of potential jurors as they answered questions from prosecutors and defense attorneys. Attorneys sought to filter out those who expressed they'd have trouble with what are expected to be gruesome crime scene photos and sexually explicit testimony.

Attorneys will make opening statements Tuesday at the Boone County Courthouse in Columbia. Because of intense media coverage, jurors were selected from Clay County, which is north of Kansas City. Special prosecutor Morley Swingle said he expects the trial to take about a week. (Michael Wells, Advocate/OutQ News)

Tags: World

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