Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murder of Krystal Dawn Steadman

Unspeakable Cruelty

Judge Steve McMorris
Judge Steve McMorris

Less than three hours after the naked body of Krystal Steadman was discovered, 19-year-old T.J. Soria was arrested and charged with felony murder and kidnapping. The following day, T.J. was brought before the Tahoe Township Justice Court. Attorneys Tod Young and Mark Jackson were appointed by the state to represent him. T.J. showed little emotion as he was arraigned on charges of kidnapping and murder. He did not look at any of the victim's relatives in the front row of the room, focusing instead on Judge Steve McMorris and answering "Yes, sir," in a clear, quiet voice to questions about whether he understood the proceeding. In the courtroom, the girl's 25-year-old sister, Sonya Klempnerr, cried as the charges were read. "My sister's (death) is an example of how you can teach a child all that is good and bad, but this kind of thing can still happen," she told reporters from the Nevada Appeal. During the hearing Douglas County District Attorney Scott Doyle presented the states evidence against T.J. Soria and informed the court that preliminary autopsy results confirmed that nine-year-old Krystal Steadman died when her throat was slashed. Doyle also stated that the autopsy was not complete and that the results were not yet available.

South Lake Tahoe Police badge
South Lake Tahoe Police

Following the brief hearing, Judge McMorris ordered that T.J. be held without bail at the Douglas County jail. Following the arraignment, District Attorney Doyle told the Tahoe Daily Tribune T.J. Soria could face the death penalty. He also stated that T.J. could face additional charges if the autopsy proved to show Krystal was sexually assaulted.

Police identify mark on Soria Sr.
Police identify mark on Soria Sr.

Not long after the arraignment, the results of Krystal's autopsy were released. Pathologist Ellen Clark, who performed the autopsy, noted that "there was sexual penetration in the anal area.  Her throat was slashed several times. Some of the cuts just barely penetrating the skin, leaving a crease where the knife went. Others were deeper above her clavicle and under her chin. There's a group right at the base of the neck where there's two or three wounds that come together. Finally there's a slash on the right side of her neck that severed an artery, eventually causing her death. Evidence shows that Krystal fought back. There are defensive wounds on both her hands."

Investigators were confident they had enough evidence against T.J. to win a conviction. However, what they did not know was that a bombshell was about to be dropped in their lap. With the extended news coverage of the case several people who knew the Sorias began to come forward with information of there own. One such call would prove to blow the case wide open.

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