Murder suspect Steven Rios waived his right to a preliminary hearing Friday morning, while appearing in front of Associate Circuit Judge Christine Carpenter.
The case of the 27-year-old former Columbia police officer, who is charged with the murder of MU student Jesse Valencia on June 5, will proceed to circuit court for arraignment on Sept. 7.
Rios wore a simple black suit with a blue dress shirt and no tie, and he was handcuffed throughout the proceeding.
The court appearance marked the first time that the victim’s mother, Linda Valencia of Perryville, Ky., saw Rios in person. Valencia, who cried quietly during the appearance, said she was disturbed by Rios’ calm demeanor, particularly several times when they made eye contact.
“It was very upsetting for me because he actually smiled at me,” she said. “I can’t imagine why he’d do that. If he wanted to upset me, he accomplished it.”
Special prosecuting attorney Morley Swingle said he was not surprised by Rios’ decision to waive his hearing. Swingle arrived at Friday’s appearance with a box containing 1,300 pages of police reports related to the case but presented none of the evidence publicly.
“Sometimes the defense would rather review police reports in private,” Swingle said.
Valerie Leftwich, a public defender representing Rios along with Stephen Richey, had no comment on the appearance other than to acknowledge Rios waived his hearing.
At the arraignment, formal charges will be read against Rios, who will then enter his plea. If Rios pleads not guilty, Circuit Judge Gene Hamilton will set a trial date. Swingle said Leftwich has told him she might ask for a change of venue in the case.
Rios is being held at Fulton State Hospital’s Biggs Forensic Center. After Rios’ homosexual relationship with the victim became public following the killing, he threatened to commit suicide twice, on June 10 and June 11.