The presence of an extraordinary amount of human blood in the home and car of a missing St. Paul woman led prosecutors on Friday to make the rare move of filing murder charges against her husband despite the absence of a body.
Jeffery Trevino, 39, was charged with second-degree murder in the death of his 30-year-old wife, Kira, missing for a week. In another unusual move, the judge doubled the amount of bail prosecutors had requested for Trevino, setting it at $1 million.
Blood was found throughout the Trevino home, with the largest amounts near the bed in the master bedroom, including a large stain in the shape of a human head and torso, authorities say. In addition, clotted blood or human tissue was found in a carpet cleaner, and the blood-soaked trunk liner of her car, found parked in a remote area of the Mall of America, was found near the car.
The palpable tension at the bail hearing, attended by many members of both Kira and Jeffery Trevino’s families, broke somewhat when Ramsey County District Judge Teresa R. Warner doubled the requested bail. Keri Anne Steger, Kira Trevino’s sister, threw her hands in the air and loudly smacked them in triumph.
Steger, who championed the search for her sister, was unable to sit during much of the hearing and instead crouched on a courtroom bench, cupping her hands to her face in stress.
Unhappy in her marriage for months, Kira had begun telling her family and others she might move out and that Jeffery had been snooping in her bank accounts, charging documents say.
Charging someone with murder without a corpse is highly unusual. Typically, prosecutors lose such cases once they get before juries.
But there’s much evidence in this case and inconsistencies in Jeffery Trevino’s statements, court records show. Evidence includes video from the Mall of America of Kira’s car pulling into a lot and someone, whose identity isn’t clear, throwing away something. Her bloody car-trunk liner was later recovered.
“The defendant took a number of actions to be evasive and cover up this murder,” said Ramsey County Attorney John Choi.
Choi said Trevino has not been cooperative in helping officers find the body.
Still, prosecutors believe they have enough evidence, including the presence of blood and the fact that it was highly unusual for the dependable Kira Trevino to not show up for work, Choi said.
Although it’s tough to get a conviction without a body, it’s not unheard of. In 2008, Samantha Heiges was convicted in Dakota County of killing her newborn, whose body was never found. Heiges, of Burnsville, had confessed to killing the child.
Marsh Halberg, a defense attorney who once worked as a prosecutor, cited another such conviction, that of Donald Blom for kidnapping and murdering convenience store clerk Katie Poirer in 1999. Blom is serving a life sentence without parole.
Trevino was arrested Tuesday afternoon after a search of the couple’s home in the 500 block of E. Iowa Avenue in St. Paul yielded copious amounts of blood and signs that someone had been trying to clean it up with bleach and detergent.
Kira Trevino was a manager at Delia’s clothing shop at the Mall of America. She failed to report to work on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 22-23, which was highly uncharacteristic. She’d usually arrive early and stay late.
“That was the biggest red flag,” said her mother, Marcie Steger.
Just before 10:30 a.m. Sunday, Trevino reported his wife missing, claiming that she left home to run errands and then didn’t show up for her mall shift. Trevino told police his wife was having a “midlife crisis.”
He claimed she’d been leaving for two or three days at a time and lying about where she stayed.
But later that day, Kira Trevino’s mother called police, reporting her concern for the safety of her daughter, who recently had spoken of marital problems and of Jeffery Trevino “checking into her bank accounts,” the complaint says.
Investigators spoke with Jeffery Trevino, and according to court documents, he told them:
On Wednesday, the two talked, agreed to try to work on their relationship and planned a “date night” for Thursday. On Thursday, she worked until 6 p.m., and he met her at the mall, where they dined and bowled. He walked her to her 2006 white Chevrolet Cobalt at 9:20 p.m., then got into his vehicle, picking up a video on the way home.
They watched it at the house and got ready for bed, but she said she needed gas in the morning. He drove her car to get gas, returned home, and went to bed.
He said on Friday, she left at 8:30 a.m. in her car. She told him she would be working out at her gym in New Brighton, tanning at a Roseville salon, running errands and going to work to make a bank deposit and interview new employees.
Early Friday, a debit card transaction was posted on her account from a gas station near her home, at Larpenteur Avenue and entrances to I-35E. Surveillance video shows the white Cobalt pulling in and a man in a gray hoodie and gray pants pumping gas.
The images are not clear enough to identify him. The car headed west toward the entrances to I-35E instead of east on Larpenteur Avenue, which is the most direct route to the Trevino home.
Never made it to her errands
Investigators determined that Kira Trevino never made it to her gym or tanning salon. The last time family or friends heard from her was about 6 p.m. last Thursday when she left work.
Her cellphone was last used at 10 p.m. that night.
On Monday, mall security spotted her car in the rear corner of a lot, purse and cellphone inside. Police had the car towed and the tow-truck driver spotted what looked like blood around the trunk opening. Police found the liner nearby, soaked with human blood.
Marcie Steger said her daughter’s car was backed into the parking space, a maneuver she said her daughter couldn’t execute.
In the Trevino home, police found the most blood in the master bedroom, around the bed. Near the corner of the bed, experts found a large blood stain in the shape of a head and torso.
More blood was found throughout the house.
In the laundry room, they found the Arkansas Razorback shirt that Jeffery Trevino said he was wearing on Feb. 21. It was freshly washed.
Police also found two bleach-stained towels, a mop, bucket and cleaning products. “Forensic scientists found evidence of extensive cleanup efforts, with furniture moved to hide evidence,” the complaint says.
The mall video shows that after the person threw away the trunk liner at the mall at 9:45 a.m. on Wednesday, the same person took a cab to a destination less than a block from the Trevino home.
Kira Trevino’s friend, Michelle Stecker, said Jeffery Trevino called her around 5 p.m. Saturday about Kira’s disappearance and asked her to call his wife.
Stecker left her best friend a message: “You got me a little worried. Give me a call.”
Then she waited. But no one heard from Kira Trevino on Saturday. About 11 a.m. Sunday, Jeffery Trevino made the first call to his wife’s family to notify them of her disappearance, which struck them as unusual because the family is so close.
Keri Anne Steger said she spoke with Jeffery Trevino twice Sunday and then called St. Paul police.
Police said a roommate who lived with the couple is cooperating with the investigation.
Roughly half of those slain by current or former intimate partners are killed while trying to leave them, said Cottage Grove Police Sgt. Randy McAlister. The most dangerous times for those leaving are in the three months preceding, as they prepare to leave, and in the year after, he said.
“That’s one of the reasons if we have a really high-risk relationship, we don’t want the victims to announce that they’re leaving,” he said. “It should be a surprise.”
Carol Arthur, executive director of the Domestic Abuse Project, said there’s a 70 percent greater chance of violence once a victim says she or he is leaving. “It’s clear when the victim is leaving, when the victim says, ‘I’ve had enough,’ the abuser tries to get back control,” she said, stressing the need for safety planning.
A vigil for Kira Trevino will be held at 5 p.m. Friday at Bethany Baptist Church in Weston, Wis.