Opening statements and testimony are scheduled to begin Thursday in the alleged murder of Kira Steger, whose disappearance captured local and national attention after her husband was accused in her death and a massive public search for her body was launched in the bitter cold of an unusually protracted winter.
Ramsey County prosecutors hope to prove that Steger’s husband, Jeffery Trevino, killed her in February as their marriage crumbled and divorce loomed. Trevino’s attorney, John Conard, has said forensic evidence will contradict authorities’ claims that large amounts of blood evidence were recovered from the couple’s rented home in St. Paul.
Trevino, 39, faces two counts of second-degree murder for allegedly killing Steger, 30, who went missing Feb. 22 and was found in the Mississippi River on May 8.
Prosecutors declined to say whom they expect to call to the witness stand Thursday, but police and Steger’s co-workers and family members are likely contenders for laying the basic foundation. Co-workers were among the first to notice Steger’s disappearance when she failed to show up for work on Feb. 22 and Feb. 23 as co-manager of the clothing retailer, Delia’s, at the Mall of America.
Trevino reported Steger missing to St. Paul police on Feb. 24, the same day he alerted her family in Wisconsin. Steger’s mother, Marcie Steger, called police that day and told them the couple had been having problems.
“She expressed concern that the defendant may have harmed [Kira Steger],” charges filed Feb. 28 against Trevino said. “[Kira Steger] recently told her that the defendant has been checking into her bank accounts.”
Friends and family members told police that Steger was contemplating divorce and was looking for an apartment of her own.
One of Steger’s co-workers, along with her sister, Keri Anne Steger, were the first to seek help in finding Steger when hope that she was alive still prevailed and Trevino was still a free man.
Prosecutors plan to introduce evidence about the contents of Kira Steger’s stomach, posts from Facebook and Instagram, multiple surveillance videos, bank records and text messages.
Conard has said authorities’ depiction of the alleged crime scene inside the couple’s house in the 500 block of Iowa Avenue E. is wrong. Charges allege that a large amount of blood evidence and signs of an alleged cleanup were found inside.
Conard declined to elaborate but has hinted that forensic evidence will play a role in his defense. During jury selection earlier this week, he asked potential jurors whether they recalled reading or seeing news stories about the house and the alleged blood evidence. He followed that up by asking them if they could believe evidence in court that might contradict the allegations.
“Oh, there was something about blood, I guess,” one juror said. “I do remember that.”
“If the evidence were 180-degrees opposite … would it be hard for you to accept that?” Conard asked the juror.
“I don’t think so,” said the juror, a musician who was selected for the jury.
Conard also seemed to be prepping jurors for tense cross-examination he has planned for Steger’s family members. He warned jurors that he’d have to ask difficult questions of people who had suffered a tragic loss and asked them not to hold it against him or his client.
“If I do have to be sharp, you’ll grant me the grace to do what I do?” Conard asked one juror.
At a hearing this summer, Conard argued against the prosecution’s motion to admit hearsay statements Steger made to family members and friends expressing unhappiness with her marriage. Conard argued at the time that Steger was “badmouthing” Trevino to cover up an affair she was having. Authorities say she was romantically linked to another man, and the man’s address was found in Trevino’s car.
Ramsey County District Judge Leonardo Castro allowed most of the statements.
A jury of eight men and six women were selected Tuesday and Wednesday, including a recent college graduate, a 3M engineer, a retiree and a licensed carpenter.
Fifty-five witnesses, which could include defense witnesses, are expected to be called during the trial, scheduled to last another 2 ½ weeks. It’s unclear whether Trevino will testify.