Retired Boone County Circuit judge to hear Rios retrial

Thursday, July 10, 2008 | 2:22 p.m. CDT; updated 4:59 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — Retired Boone County Circuit Judge Frank Conley will hear the murder retrial of Steven Rios, according to a Wednesday decision by the Missouri Supreme Court.

Rios, a former Columbia police officer, was convicted of first-degree murder and armed criminal action in July 2005 in the June 5, 2004 slaying of 23-year-old Jesse Valencia, an MU student with whom Rios admitted he had an affair.

Boone County Circuit Judge Gary Oxenhandler recused himself from the case on July 3 after learning that he knows one of the witnesses in the case personally. As acting presiding judge for the circuit, Judge Jodie Asel sent the case to the Missouri Supreme Court for assignment.

According to Missouri, the jury trial is still scheduled to begin Aug. 18.

On July 5, 2005, Rios was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole on the murder charge and an additional 10 years in prison for armed criminal action, to be served consecutively.

On April 27, 2007, a three-judge panel of the Missouri Western District Court of Appeals overturned the original conviction and granted a retrial, ruling that Rios was denied a fair trial because of the admission of two hearsay statements.

On Nov. 17, 2007, Rios was transported from the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Stillwater in Bayport, Minn., back to the Boone County Jail to await his retrial. He was transported to the Minnesota prison for his own protection in February 2006.

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