SPECIAL REPORT, Part Two: Ex-Wife, Former In-Laws Stand by Convicted Murderer

4 years 1 week 6 days ago February 15, 2013 Feb 15, 2013 Friday, February 15 2013 Friday, February 15, 2013 7:43:00 PM CST in News
By: Danielle McCarthy
loading

COLUMBIA - Twenty-four jurors may have found former Columbia Police Officer Steven Rios guilty of murder, but his ex-wife and former in-laws still support him 100 percent.

In 2005, and again at a retrial in 2008, Rios was found guilty of murdering 23-year-old MU student Jesse Valencia outside his East Campus apartment in Columbia on June 5, 2004. The motive for the crime is believed to be the homosexual affair Rios was having with Valencia at the time. Prosecutors said Rios feared losing his job and family if anyone were to find out about the affair.

Rios admitted to the affair in court, but not the murder.

Rios was sentenced to life in prison for the second-degree murder of Valencia. He is currently serving that sentence at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls, SD.

For the first time ever, Rios's ex-wife is speaking publicly about the murder, the trials, and what life has been like since then. Libby Sullivan said Rios turned her world upside down and caused her to go through a world of pain. But she says she has yet to see any evidence of his guilt.

"I told myself, until I see something that is proof, until I see something that shows me that he did this I've got to be supportive," Libby Sullivan said.

She said Rios's behavior wasn't unusual following the murder. She also said she never saw any scratches, bruises or blood on him.

Libby Sullivan's parents, John and Suzanne Sullivan, also said they never saw any evidence that would prove Rios guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt. The couple said they didn't believe Rios was innocent from the start. But as they watched the evidence presented in court, the couple said they believed it was circumstantial.

Prosecutors argued hairs found on the victim's body showed Rios was the killer.

"His DNA was on the sheets," prosecuting attorney Morley Swingle said. "His DNA is on three places. It's on the hairs on the victim's chest, it's under the victim's finger nails, it's on the victim's sheets. That's killer's DNA in three different places. That's not a defense. It's more evidence of his guilt."

But the defense claimed the DNA was evidence of sex, not murder.

The Sullivans agreed. "It's not a matter of trying to defend him because he was our son-in-law," John said. "It's because we truly believe he is innocent and it's wrong for someone who's innocent to be in jail for the rest of their lives. It's just wrong. And that means there is someone out there who did commit the murder."

The couple has dedicated their life to freeing Rios from prison - not only for Rios's sake, but for someone else as well.

"We want to be able to look at our grandson and say we believed your father was innocent and we did everything we could," Suzanne Sullivan said.

Libby Sullivan and Rios had a son who was only months old at the time of the murder.

Their son is 8 years old now and the Sullivans say he is starting to ask questions about why his father is in prison. The family said it has decided to give him age-appropriate answers.

Libby Sullivan refuses to visit Rios in prison, but John and Suzanne Sullivan take their grandson to the South Dakota State Penitentiary to visit his father as often as possible. The couple said watching the pair interact has been a very moving experience.

Rios said, "It's a double-edged sword knowing my family is out there and my son's growing older. But on the flip side, they keep me going. That love keeps me going."

Although she still proclaims her ex-husband's innocence, Libby Sullivan said she has moved on emotionally. She is remarried now and has children with her new husband. She said she's taken her life one day since that painful day in June 2004.

 

More News

Grid
List
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens' pick to head the Department of Health and Senior Services says his... More >>
15 minutes ago March 01, 2017 Mar 1, 2017 Wednesday, March 01 2017 Wednesday, March 01, 2017 1:46:31 PM CST in News
COLUMBIA- University of Missouri police are asking for help in identifying a man. Police are investigating a crime in... More >>
1 hour ago March 01, 2017 Mar 1, 2017 Wednesday, March 01 2017 Wednesday, March 01, 2017 12:26:00 PM CST in News
COLUMBIA – A Sturgeon man was arrested Wednesday morning for several charges after allegedly running away from law enforcement. ... More >>
2 hours ago March 01, 2017 Mar 1, 2017 Wednesday, March 01 2017 Wednesday, March 01, 2017 11:53:00 AM CST in News
HILLSBORO (AP) — An eastern Missouri man has been ordered to spend a quarter century in prison in connection with... More >>
2 hours ago March 01, 2017 Mar 1, 2017 Wednesday, March 01 2017 Wednesday, March 01, 2017 11:04:40 AM CST in News
COLUMBIA – As Columbia grows, so does the need for clean drinking water. Columbia Water and Light is moving... More >>
6 hours ago March 01, 2017 Mar 1, 2017 Wednesday, March 01 2017 Wednesday, March 01, 2017 7:46:00 AM CST in News
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — Missouri senators have voted against a proposal to ban discrimination based on gender identity and sexual... More >>
7 hours ago March 01, 2017 Mar 1, 2017 Wednesday, March 01 2017 Wednesday, March 01, 2017 6:49:00 AM CST in News
JEFFERSON CITY – Jefferson City Mayor, Carrie Tergin will designate "March 2017 Disability Awareness Month" on Wednesday morning. The... More >>
11 hours ago March 01, 2017 Mar 1, 2017 Wednesday, March 01 2017 Wednesday, March 01, 2017 2:05:00 AM CST in Top Stories
MID-MISSOURI - KOMU received pictures and videos from more than a dozen viewers about storms and hail Tuesday night. Some... More >>
13 hours ago March 01, 2017 Mar 1, 2017 Wednesday, March 01 2017 Wednesday, March 01, 2017 12:18:00 AM CST in Weather
MISSOURI - Republican lawmakers reacted Tuesday night after President Donald Trump addressed a joint session of Congress for the first... More >>
15 hours ago February 28, 2017 Feb 28, 2017 Tuesday, February 28 2017 Tuesday, February 28, 2017 10:44:00 PM CST in News
COLUMBIA - With Greitens now in office, mid-Missouri will likely see the new governor get rid of some business regulations.... More >>
15 hours ago February 28, 2017 Feb 28, 2017 Tuesday, February 28 2017 Tuesday, February 28, 2017 10:28:00 PM CST in News
JEFFERSON CITY - A Jefferson City man died after a stabbing Tuesday night, according to the Jefferson City Police Department.... More >>
16 hours ago February 28, 2017 Feb 28, 2017 Tuesday, February 28 2017 Tuesday, February 28, 2017 9:47:00 PM CST in News
COLUMBIA – A groundbreaking ceremony was held Tuesday afternoon for a new 72-bed mental health facility in Columbia. It... More >>
18 hours ago February 28, 2017 Feb 28, 2017 Tuesday, February 28 2017 Tuesday, February 28, 2017 7:25:00 PM CST in News
COLUMBIA - A traditional educator uses their classroom to help students excel, but is an educator without a classroom any... More >>
19 hours ago February 28, 2017 Feb 28, 2017 Tuesday, February 28 2017 Tuesday, February 28, 2017 6:49:00 PM CST in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — St. Louis police have identified a man killed after his bicycle was struck by a car... More >>
19 hours ago February 28, 2017 Feb 28, 2017 Tuesday, February 28 2017 Tuesday, February 28, 2017 6:40:09 PM CST in News
SPRINGFIELD (AP) — A man who caused a long standoff with southwest Missouri officers has been sentenced to eight years... More >>
19 hours ago February 28, 2017 Feb 28, 2017 Tuesday, February 28 2017 Tuesday, February 28, 2017 6:36:04 PM CST in News
NEVADA (AP) — Cottey College plans to offer four new degree programs beginning this fall as it seeks to increase... More >>
19 hours ago February 28, 2017 Feb 28, 2017 Tuesday, February 28 2017 Tuesday, February 28, 2017 6:09:00 PM CST in News
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — The city of St. Louis can proceed with a minimum wage increase after the Missouri Supreme... More >>
21 hours ago February 28, 2017 Feb 28, 2017 Tuesday, February 28 2017 Tuesday, February 28, 2017 4:13:56 PM CST in News
KINGDOM CITY - The North Callaway R-1 School District is going to a four-day school week. The plan affects... More >>
22 hours ago February 28, 2017 Feb 28, 2017 Tuesday, February 28 2017 Tuesday, February 28, 2017 3:41:00 PM CST in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 47°
2pm 50°
3pm 51°
4pm 51°
5pm 50°

Select a station to view its upcoming schedule:

Coming Up Next

1:00p
Days of Our Lives
2:00p
The Dr. Oz Show
3:00p
Dr. Phil
1:00p
Maury
2:00p
Judge Alex
2:30p
Judge Alex

Tonight's Schedule

7:00p
Chicago Fire
8:00p
Chicago P.D.
9:00p
Chicago Justice
7:00p
Arrow
8:00p
The 100
9:00p
KOMU 8 News @ Nine on The CW
9:30p
Seinfeld