Prosecutor expected warrant to be issued

Columbia police maintain that Steven Rios is still only a “person of interest.”
Thursday, June 24, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:39 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Columbia Police Department detectives told Boone County Prosecutor Kevin Crane nearly a week ago that a warrant for the arrest of former officer Steven Rios would be forwarded to the prosecutor’s office.

While no warrant for Rios’ arrest had been issued as of Wednesday evening, Crane cited the information in a formal request for the appointment of a special prosecuting attorney to handle any future charges against Rios, according to a motion filed Friday with the Boone County Circuit Court.

Capt. Mike Martin, investigative commander for the Columbia Police Department, acknowledged that detectives’ and the prosecutor’s office have communicated about the case. But, he said, police have not requested a warrant for Rios’ arrest and he declined to say whether a warrant has been drafted.

“The possibility of that happening has been discussed, obviously,” Martin said. “It’s not something that’s a secret that he has been identified as someone involved in this case.”

Police say Rios is a person of interest, but have not identified him or anyone else as a suspect in the death of Jesse Valencia, whose body was found on June 5, a few houses down from his East Campus apartment. The MU student’s throat had been cut.

Police Chief Randy Boehm declined to comment Wednesday on the possibility that an arrest is imminent.

“I can’t comment on what might happen in the future,” Boehm said. “I can just tell you that right now, with the information we have at this moment, we have not requested an arrest warrant for any individual.”

On Saturday, Boone County Circuit Judge Gene Hamilton appointed Cape Girardeau County Prosecutor H. Morley Swingle to handle any charges against Rios, who resigned from the force June 16.

In his June 17 request for a special prosecutor, Crane noted that he was advised by detectives that “a warrant request will be forwarded to our office for consideration regarding the prosecution of Steven Rios for the murder of Jesse Valencia.”

Crane said he requested the special prosecutor to avoid any potential conflicts of interest, given Rios’ role as a police witness in “past and pending cases.” Some of those pending cases may have to be dismissed, Crane said Wednesday.

“I would have to assume his utility and availability as a witness is minimal, if not nonexistent,” Crane said.

Rios has admitted to investigators that he was involved in an intimate relationship with Valencia, 23. Rios was granted personal leave June 9 after investigators learned of his relationship with the victim. Two days later, Rios was taken in to protective custody at Mid-Missouri Mental Health Center after threatening to harm himself with a shotgun. Later that day, he escaped from the facility, bolted to the roof of a nearby parking garage and threatened to jump. Rios has since been moved to a more secure facility in Fulton.

Officers searched Rios’ home June 11 looking for a clip-on style folding knife, clothing and trace materials, according to an affidavit. The inventory of the search states clothing and materials from Rios’ shower drains were collected by detectives, but no knife was recovered.

The affidavit also stated that witnesses told homicide Detective Jeff Nichols that Rios “met with a few friends,” after his shift ended at 3 a.m. Rios initially told investigators that he left the gathering at 5 a.m. But, in a later interview, he said he departed at 5:15 a.m., drove home and showered.

According to the affidavit, one witness told Nichols that Valencia threatened to tell Boehm about his relationship with Rios.

— Missourian reporters Andrew Eder and Caleb Smith contributed to this report.

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