Trevino trial focuses on time of death

  • Article by: CHAO XIONG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 23, 2013 - 9:24 PM

Video could signal husband’s actions on the night Steger vanished.

The lights in the St. Paul home Kira Steger rented with her husband, Jeffery Trevino, flickered on and off the morning she went missing, going dark about the time prosecutors said her car was filmed driving away in an odd direction, possibly with her body inside.

A neighbor’s surveillance camera captured the lights going on and off at varying intervals on Feb. 22 between 1:20 a.m. and about 2:04 a.m., and resuming again between 4:11 a.m. and about 5:30 a.m., St. Paul police Sgt. William Haider testified Monday.

The gap accommodates prosecutors’ assertion that Steger’s car left a gas station on Larpenteur Avenue at 2:10 a.m. and headed toward Interstate 35E instead of toward the couple’s home in the opposite direction.

The third day of testimony in Trevino’s trial for allegedly killing Steger also revealed that he sent her six iPad messages over the first four days of her disappearance. The court also heard for the first time from the male co-worker Steger was having an affair with. Prosecutors believe her husband killed her shortly after she texted the man.

Trevino faces two counts of second-degree murder in Ramsey County District Court in Steger’s death. She was last seen alive on Feb. 21 and her body was recovered May 8 from the Mississippi River.

Ramsey County Assistant Attorney Andrew Johnson has told the jury of six women and eight men that Trevino killed Steger in a jealous rage because she was having an affair and wanted to leave him. Trevino’s attorney, John Conard, says the prosecution’s forensic evidence misrepresents the alleged crime scene.

Haider walked the court through several photographs from neighbor Robert Berthiaume’s surveillance video. The camera captured part of Trevino’s house, located in the 500 block of Iowa Avenue E., in the far corner of its screen.

Video stills showed a light-colored vehicle matching Steger’s car in the couple’s driveway on Feb. 22 about 2 a.m. with its lights on. A white car matching Steger’s car was captured traveling eastbound on the street at 9:14 a.m., as if leaving the home. Previous testimony revealed that about 9:46 a.m. that day, Mall of America surveillance video showed her car entering the mall heading toward the west ramp, where the vehicle was later found abandoned with what appeared to be blood inside the trunk and on a trunk liner discarded nearby.

Mall video then showed a person walking to the taxi stand. Driver Edward Simonich testified Monday that he picked up a fare at the mall on Feb. 22 and dropped off a male passenger in the 400 block of Iowa Avenue E. But he said that he could not identify the passenger.

Simonich said the man was thin and wore a gray sweatshirt, similar to one prosecutors said was recovered from Trevino’s house. Simonich said that he tried to engage the man in conversation about sports, but that the man was “quiet.” Simonich said he seemed like a “good chap.”

Prosecutors say it’s Simonich’s taxi that is seen in Berthiaume’s video driving west on Iowa Avenue and going off-screen about 10:38 a.m. on Feb. 22. The video then showed a person walking down the street toward Trevino and Steger’s house.

Under direct questioning by the prosecution, Haider said the figure walked up the couple’s driveway. Under cross-examination by Conard, he agreed that the figure could have continued walking and that the figure in the driveway could have been a different person because the camera panned back and forth, failing to capture every movement.

Conard is pinning some hope on the unknowns surrounding the figure. The video did not capture anyone exiting the taxi or entering the house, and it did not pick up distinct facial features. Could the figure, Conard asked Haider, be a woman?

“It’s possible,” Haider said.

Conard told jurors earlier that the figure in the video is wearing a gray sweatshirt with a white design on the front, while the sweatshirt recovered from Trevino’s house has a colorful design on the front.

Other witnesses Monday included St. Paul Sgt. Michael Wortman, who testified that the back seat of Steger’s car was filled with luggage and women’s clothing. Officer John Keating testified that Trevino sent Steger six iPad messages between 10:43 a.m. Feb. 22 and 2:03 a.m. Feb. 25.

“Please, don’t do this again,” he wrote about 11:35 p.m. on Feb. 22. Trevino had complained to friends and police that Steger was drinking and partying too much and that she sometimes didn’t return home.

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