Rios checked computer records on day of alleged murder

Thursday, December 4, 2008 | 1:55 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Former Columbia police officer Steven Rios used his department identification number to access computer records of police responses on the day Jesse Valencia’s body was found, a system analyst for the Columbia Police Department testified on Thursday morning in Rios’ murder retrial.

At 3:20 p.m. on June 5, 2004, Rios, now 31, checked dispatch records on a computer at a police substation in north Columbia, analyst Richard Jenkins testified. At that time, the records would have shown that there was an active "death investigation" into a "body in yard with large wound on neck," Jenkins said.

A computer at the same substation was accessed earlier that day, at about 10:30 a.m., using a generic personnel number. The only records that could have been accessed with that number were the dispatch records, Jenkins testified. Rios told detectives in an interview a few days after Valencia’s death that he was at the substation at those times, though he said he was using the computer to write a memo.

Special prosecutor Morley Swingle has argued that Rios went to the substation to monitor the investigation into the death of Valencia, a 23-year-old MU student with whom Rios was having an affair. Rios was off duty when the computer was accessed, a fact Swingle called suspicious considering that many officers testified that they would never check dispatch records on their days off.

Rios is charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action in Valencia’s death. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in 2005 for the murder, but was granted a retrial in 2007 by a three-judge panel of the Western District of the Missouri Court of Appeals, which ruled that two statements made during testimony in the first trial were hearsay and inadmissible.

Officer Brad Anderson testified Thursday that Rios would sometimes joke with him that Anderson was having sex with Valencia. For example, after hearing that Anderson had responded to a noise complaint in May 2004 at Valencia’s apartment, Rios said to him, "'I guess you were over at your boyfriend’s house,'" Anderson testified.

Then on the day after Valencia’s death, Anderson asked Rios if he had seen the photos from the crime scene, to which Rios responded, "'I see that your gay lover’s dead,'" Anderson said.

The prosecution is scheduled to continue calling witnesses Thursday afternoon.

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