Testimony begins in gay murder trial
May 17 2005 11:00 PM ET
Tuesday in the murder trial of a former Columbia, Mo.,
police officer charged with killing a college student he'd
arrested and then later become involved with sexually.
Steven Rios is charged with first-degree murder in
the death 23-year-old Jesse Valencia, whose body was
discovered June 5 of last year in a neighbor's yard near the
University of Missouri campus. The killer choked Valencia
into unconsciousness before slashing his throat.
Prosecutor Morley Swingle told jurors that Rios
initially denied the affair and accused two fellow officers
of the crime. But Rios confessed to the affair after being
told of witnesses who saw him at Valencia's apartment,
including a man who was involved in a threesome with the
officer and the victim.
Swingle said, "This defendant used his badge for sex
and his knife to close the mouth of the victim."
Public defender Valerie Leftwich reminded jurors that
their role was to consider evidence of only a murder and not
the affair. She told jurors Rios was on the roof of the
police department with other officers drinking beer when
Tuesday's 12 witnesses included investigators, the
pathologist who performed the autopsy, and Valencia's most
recent sexual partner, who told jurors he last saw the
victim walking home.
A close-up photo of Valencia's face and gaping wound
prompted his mother to sob loudly and run from the
courtroom. She later returned but left again before the
Because of the long witness list--nearly 60 are
scheduled--the trial could last through Saturday. If
convicted, Rios faces life in prison. (Mike Wells,