A jury of four women and eight men deliberated the fate of Jeffery Trevino for about 7½ hours on Tuesday and resumed early Wednesday morning.
After hearing final arguments from the prosecution and defense, who respectively presented pictures of a jealous, murderous husband and another of science gone wrong with a mystery killer at large, the case went to the jury about 1:30 p.m. They recessed about 9 p.m. and restarted before 8 a.m. Wednesday. They also continued to deliberate while having lunch.
Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Richard Dusterhoft said Trevino killed his wife, Kira Steger, because he was fed up with her texting a co-worker with whom she was having an affair. He wanted to save the marriage, but she was already gone, Dusterhoft said. Divorce papers were found in her purse.
“The marriage was in deep trouble,” Dusterhoft said. “She had been cheating on him. That’s a powerful motive.”
In his closing arguments, defense attorney John Conard continued poking holes in the presumptive blood tests and DNA results, saying that the blood tests react with other substances and that DNA lingers throughout a home. It would be expected to find Steger’s DNA in her own house, he told the jury.
Trevino, 39, is on trial in Ramsey County District Court on two counts of second-degree murder for allegedly killing Steger, 30. She was last seen alive on Feb. 21. Her body was recovered from the Mississippi River on May 8.
About three dozen of Steger’s family members and friends packed the courtroom with about a dozen Trevino supporters.
Steger texted her co-worker, Ryan Wendt, throughout a date night she had with Trevino on Feb. 21. Dusterhoft showed jurors text messages Steger sent Wendt while she was with Trevino at the Mall of America. In one, Steger said she was bowling with Trevino but it was really practice for bowling with Wendt.
In another, Steger said she ordered a sushi roll, and texted, “I got extra jalapeños on it, makes me think of you.”
Authorities believe Trevino killed Steger shortly after she texted Wendt one last time at 11:44 p.m. telling him that the Minnesota Wild won their game.
“That would be infuriating to be on your date night with your wife,” Dusterhoft said.
Conard’s theory that Steger’s marijuana use could have played a role in her death doesn’t make sense, Dusterhoft said. No one else had the time or knowledge to rob her, kill her, dispose of her body and dump her car at the Mall of America, where she worked, he said.
Steger’s friends and family members testified that she began growing unhappy with her marriage in late 2012, about the time she started working as co-manager of the clothing retailer, Delia’s, at the mall. She was hired by Wendt, the district manager. The two began an affair in mid-January.
Conard told jurors that the condition of Steger’s body was too good to have been in the river since she was last seen alive, and that whoever killed her could have possibly stored her body before disposing of it. He also noted that police took photos of Trevino’s body but didn’t find any signs of injuries that would point to a struggle or fight.
Conard took issue with the testimony of several of Steger’s friends and family members who said that Trevino was unusually calm in the midst of his wife’s disappearance. Trevino, he said, had plenty of reason to feel uncertain about Steger being gone. Testimony revealed that Steger had stayed at Wendt’s home but told Trevino she was with girlfriends.
“Does anybody here know how to act normal when you don’t know if your wife’s coming home?” Conard asked.
Conard said that surveillance video police produced of a car matching Steger’s white Chevy Cobalt entering the Mall of America on Feb. 22 isn’t definitive proof it was her car. Dusterhoft had argued that a neighbor’s surveillance video showing a Chevy Cobalt leaving the couple’s street that morning 34 minutes before the white car was filmed at the mall are proof no one else had the time to kill Steger.
Conard also implied that Steger’s grandfather, Norman Kelch, could have planted a key piece of evidence in the case. McGee testified that Steger was likely smothered by a hand or pillow. Kelch found a bloody pillow case, pillow, T-shirt, sports bra and bath sponge in a plastic Wal-Mart bag at Keller Lake on March 16. Chao Xiong • 612-270-4708