Even without the body of Kira Trevino, there’s sufficient reason to try her estranged husband, Jeffery D. Trevino, on two counts of second-degree murder, a Ramsey County judge ruled Friday.
At the hearing, Jeffery Trevino also entered a not-guilty plea as more than 25 relatives and friends looked on in a Ramsey County courtroom in downtown St. Paul.
At the same time, volunteers congregated at Keller Lake in Maplewood to drill holes and lower sonar equipment in the continuing search for the 30-year-old St. Paul woman’s body.
Jeffery Trevino did not look at his wife’s family and friends as he stood under guard, in orange jail overalls, for his second evidentiary hearing.
Kira Trevino’s friend Nikki Engel watched it all, calling the situation “awful” and “sickening.” Engel said she believes her friend was slain by her husband as she prepared to leave their rocky marriage.
On Friday, after Engel left the courtroom, she said she had only one question she’d like to pose to Jeffery Trevino: “Why?”
Trevino’s attorney, John Conard, told the judge that prosecutors haven’t given him all the documents he needs to defend his client, in part because the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension does not release reports until they are complete.
“Documents exist that I don’t have,” he said, contending that it makes it “literally impossible” for him to properly evaluate his client’s case.
Prosecutor Richard Dusterhoft said he’s turned over as much of the reports and evidence that he can, including 910 pages of documents and 38 compact discs.
District Court Judge Gregg Johnson said there are grounds for the case to be assigned to a judge and a trial date set.
As Jeffery Trevino was returned to the Ramsey County jail, where’s he’s being held in lieu of $1 million bail, about a dozen of his relatives and friends filed out one side of the courtroom.
On the other side were those who were there for Kira Trevino, including her parents. Her father, Jay Steger, fielded condolences and dabbed at tears.
“It’s a tragedy,” he had said before the hearing began.
A lake like Swiss cheese
Meanwhile, at Keller Lake, dozens of holes dotted the ice where Kira’s relative Mike Teige had drilled alone for much of the morning.
He and his wife, April LaMere, pulled into Keller Regional Park about 7:40 a.m. and set up on the southwestern shore, where authorities first sent divers last week searching for the body of the clothing store manager. She was last seen late Feb. 21 as she and her estranged husband left the Mall of America, where she worked.
Teige, a cousin to Kira Trevino’s mother, served as her proxy at searches.
Kira Trevino had told others that she was looking for her own place and planned to move April 1.
On Feb. 22, the day she failed to show up for work, a witness reported seeing what appeared to be two men carrying an item the size of a person wrapped up in something across the lake.
“I believe she’s in this lake, and I’m not going to rest until I know she’s not,” Teige said.
He drilled hole after hole 3 feet apart, methodically dipping into each an underwater ice-fishing camera duct-taped to the end of a long pole. LaMere moved the camera around at Teige’s instruction as he sat hunched over a screen, peering for evidence among vegetation and debris in the water.
“It’s pretty much consuming him and his every thought,” LaMere said. “It’s all he’s focused on.”
Volunteers started arriving close to noon. Soon, two others were drilling new holes and dropping in their own cameras. One sat on an upturned plastic pail, his jacket draped over his head for better viewing.
Steve Litfin and three friends from Waconia arrived with three augers and cameras, quickly making Swiss cheese of a large section of the lake. Litfin held his camera’s screen to his face, pulling his gray hoodie over the device to stabilize it. “I just can’t believe what they’re going through,” Litfin said of Kira Trevino’s family.
Brothers Steve and Tim Collins brought a generator donated by Hejny Rental. “Any way we could help out, we wanted to do it,” Steve Collins said.
Teige planned to search from north to south and west to east in a zigzag pattern across the lake.
Two weekends ago, he discovered a hole in the lake, where cadaver dogs later indicated a scent. Divers swam into the depths there last week, searching an 85-foot radius.
On Wednesday, five cadaver dogs sniffed at more than 50 holes that sheriff’s deputies had drilled.
The same weekend Teige found the hole, another searcher found a plastic bag onshore. Inside were a sports bra, pillow and pillowcase. Blood on the pillow matched Kira Trevino’s DNA, according to an amended complaint.
By late afternoon, dozens of volunteers had drilled a few hundred holes reaching the middle of the lake. Five cameras were deployed.
“We’re getting somewhere,” Teige said. “We’re going, we’re going all the way across.”
He and other volunteers will be back Saturday.
“By God, we’re going to tear this lake apart,” he said.