After two months of driving repeatedly from Wisconsin to the Twin Cities, doggedly questioning homicide investigators and desperately searching fields and lakes, he learned that his missing daughter, Kira Trevino, had been found floating in the Mississippi River.
St. Paul police confirmed that the body pulled from the murky water Wednesday was the 30-year-old St. Paul woman, who had been missing since Feb. 21. Trevino had been presumed dead and her husband, Jeffery, charged with murder.
As winter gave way to spring, law enforcement and community members including Steger had conducted numerous searches around local lakes and parks to try to locate her.
“We wanted to find her and now that we found her, you know it’s relief, but yet I don’t know how to feel. It’s all so overwhelming,” Steger said Thursday night.
When police called him that afternoon to tell him the news, Steger was in shock. “I’m happy that we found her and that we can bring her home,’’ he said.
Emergency dispatch received a call about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday that someone who worked in the area spotted a body near a barge on the south side of the Mississippi River close to the Robert Street Bridge. Crews from the St. Paul Fire Department pulled the body out.
The Ramsey County medical examiner’s office examined it and confirmed the identity.
“The search for Kira Trevino is over,’’ St. Paul police Senior Cmdr. Brian Coyle said at a news conference Thursday. “This is not a day to celebrate. This a day when Kira’s loved ones … can finally know where Kira is.”
For those who spent much of the past 10 or so weeks looking for Kira Trevino, the news that her body had been found was hard to comprehend.
“This just consumed my life,” said an emotional Jodie Leko, who had organized weekend searches for Trevino throughout the Twin Cities. “I haven’t stopped searching, pulling over at the side of the road, jumping medians, since she was reported missing.”
Leko, who heard the news from Kira Trevino’s parents, said everything felt bittersweet.
“This is the moment that we’ve all been waiting for,” Leko said. However, now reality has set in that “[Kira Trevino]’s really gone.”
Leko as well as Trevino’s family said they plan to help with the searches for two other missing Twin Cities women.
“We want to show that we’re behind them, and we know what they’re going through and that we hope that they can get closure like we have,” Steger said.
In Eden Prairie, a community search will continue Saturday for Mandy Matula, 24, who has been missing for more than a week. She was last seen by her family late May 1 with her ex-boyfriend, David Roe, in his vehicle outside the Matulas’ house. He fatally shot himself the next day outside City Hall after being called in for questioning.
Danielle Jelinek, 28, of Oakdale, has been missing since December. She was last seen at the home of a man in Chisago Lake Township, Aaron Schnagl, 28, who is in custody on other charges. He has refused to cooperate with police. Family members have said that he was an infrequent friend who had been physically abusive to Jelinek.
Kira Trevino’s husband, Jeffery Trevino, 39, has been charged with two counts of second-degree murder in her disappearance. His trial is scheduled to begin May 28.
Ramsey County Attorney John Choi in a statement said his office intends “to prove second-degree murder against the defendant and seek justice for Kira’s family.”
Dennis Gerhardstein, a spokesman for the office, said it’s too early to tell how the recovery of Trevino’s body could affect the case. Long before a body was recovered, authorities had expressed confidence in their case. It’s unclear whether an amended complaint will be released. Jeffery Trevino’s attorney did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
According to charges, Kira Trevino, whose legal last name had remained Steger after her marriage, was last seen leaving the Mall of America after having dinner with her husband.
On Feb. 24, he reported her missing, and the following day, her car was found in a mall ramp.
A search of the couple’s home on St. Paul’s East Side revealed copious amounts of blood and evidence of an alleged cleanup and cover-up. Police also discovered evidence that Jeffery Trevino purchased cleaning supplies on Feb. 23.
Later, civilian searches also turned up evidence at Keller Regional Park in Maplewood, including a plastic bag inside of which was a pillow that had blood matching Kira Trevino’s DNA, charges said.
Now that searches have ended, Steger said he hopes that justice will be served and he’ll be watching. He plans to attend all of the hearings.
“Even though we found the body, we’re still not healed properly, he said. “We’ve still got a long process to go through.”
Staff writers Chao Xiong and Kelly Smith contributed to this report.