Conviction of Steven Rios overturned

Friday, April 27, 2007 | 12:52 p.m. CDT; updated 1:09 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Steven Rios

Former Columbia Police Officer Steven Rios, who was convicted in May 2005 for the murder of MU student Jesse Valencia, will receive a new trial.

The Western District of the Missouri Court of Appeals announced its reversal of Rios’ conviction Friday morning. Beth Riggert, spokesperson for the high court, said two hearsay statements entered into evidence during the original trial were used to prove motive. The court of appeals decided that those statements — both made by Valencia — were not covered by any of the exceptions that allow hearsay to be used as evidence.

Rios was accused of slitting the throat of 23-year-old Valencia in the East Campus neighborhood on June 5, 2004. He was charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action.

A Clay County jury found him guilty after nine hours of deliberation. He appealed in July 2005. The appeals court heard oral arguments one year later.

Special Prosecutor Morley Swingle tried the case because of the Boone County Prosecutor’s Office’s relationship to Rios in his capacity as a police officer. Swingle could not be reached this morning about the appeals court’s decision.

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