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

4 years 2 months 1 week 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
COLUMBIA - Close to 25 environmental activists from mid-Missouri boarded a bus bound for Washington, D.C. Friday afternoon headed to... More >>
3 hours ago April 28, 2017 Apr 28, 2017 Friday, April 28 2017 Friday, April 28, 2017 7:35:00 PM CDT in News
COLUMBIA - The Missouri Department of Public Safety is preparing to respond to potential dangerous flooding in the forecast beginning... More >>
3 hours ago April 28, 2017 Apr 28, 2017 Friday, April 28 2017 Friday, April 28, 2017 7:20:00 PM CDT in News
JEFFERSON CITY - As prom season begins, the Jefferson City Police Department will start sending out more officers to monitor... More >>
3 hours ago April 28, 2017 Apr 28, 2017 Friday, April 28 2017 Friday, April 28, 2017 7:01:00 PM CDT in News
JEFFERSON CITY - Fatal accidents involving drugged driving have surpassed those involving drunk driving, according to a new study from... More >>
5 hours ago April 28, 2017 Apr 28, 2017 Friday, April 28 2017 Friday, April 28, 2017 5:36:00 PM CDT in News
ST. LOUIS — Thousands of workers in St. Louis are preparing to see a jump in pay now that the... More >>
6 hours ago April 28, 2017 Apr 28, 2017 Friday, April 28 2017 Friday, April 28, 2017 4:27:17 PM CDT in News
FULTON - Autopsy results confirmed the body found by the Fulton Police Department Monday is 31-year-old Carl L. DeBrodie, the... More >>
6 hours ago April 28, 2017 Apr 28, 2017 Friday, April 28 2017 Friday, April 28, 2017 3:51:00 PM CDT in News
COLUMBIA - Some Columbia utility customers are complaining because of recent past due notices sent out for the month of... More >>
7 hours ago April 28, 2017 Apr 28, 2017 Friday, April 28 2017 Friday, April 28, 2017 3:29:00 PM CDT in News
JEFFERSON CITY - Lincoln University’s Board of Curators announced Thursday it will suspend tenure and earned advancements for its faculty.... More >>
7 hours ago April 28, 2017 Apr 28, 2017 Friday, April 28 2017 Friday, April 28, 2017 3:24:00 PM CDT in News
COLUMBIA - Four teenagers were taken to the hospital Friday morning following a vehicle crash on I-70, according to the... More >>
7 hours ago April 28, 2017 Apr 28, 2017 Friday, April 28 2017 Friday, April 28, 2017 2:58:00 PM CDT in News
COLUMBIA – Music enhances and develops the life of 20-year-old Nathan Walton on a daily basis. "I play a... More >>
8 hours ago April 28, 2017 Apr 28, 2017 Friday, April 28 2017 Friday, April 28, 2017 2:01:00 PM CDT in News
COLUMBIA – Missouri Task Force 1 sent a team to Southern Missouri to help with the possible flooding in the... More >>
8 hours ago April 28, 2017 Apr 28, 2017 Friday, April 28 2017 Friday, April 28, 2017 2:01:00 PM CDT in News
COLUMBIA - The UM System Board of Curators approved amendments to the University of Missouri-Columbia's collected rules governing faculty standards... More >>
9 hours ago April 28, 2017 Apr 28, 2017 Friday, April 28 2017 Friday, April 28, 2017 1:32:00 PM CDT in News
COLUMBIA - The pollen count in Missouri is the highest it has been in ten years, but that might not... More >>
9 hours ago April 28, 2017 Apr 28, 2017 Friday, April 28 2017 Friday, April 28, 2017 1:23:00 PM CDT in News
COLUMBIA - A pilot program targeting food insecurity wrapped up at Rock Bridge High School Friday. The program, designed by... More >>
9 hours ago April 28, 2017 Apr 28, 2017 Friday, April 28 2017 Friday, April 28, 2017 1:06:00 PM CDT in News
SPRINGFIELD (AP) — A Missouri woman has been charged with first-degree involuntary manslaughter in connection to a fatal crash late... More >>
9 hours ago April 28, 2017 Apr 28, 2017 Friday, April 28 2017 Friday, April 28, 2017 1:02:00 PM CDT in News
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Three people have been charged in the stabbing death of a Kansas man who was... More >>
9 hours ago April 28, 2017 Apr 28, 2017 Friday, April 28 2017 Friday, April 28, 2017 12:54:51 PM CDT in News
JEFFERSON CITY - The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and state and local agencies held a public meeting Friday to... More >>
9 hours ago April 28, 2017 Apr 28, 2017 Friday, April 28 2017 Friday, April 28, 2017 12:53:00 PM CDT in News
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A zoo in western Missouri will soon have a saltwater tank allowing visitors to pet... More >>
9 hours ago April 28, 2017 Apr 28, 2017 Friday, April 28 2017 Friday, April 28, 2017 12:46:58 PM CDT in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 58°
11pm 57°
12am 56°
1am 55°
2am 55°

Select a station to view its upcoming schedule:

Coming Up Next

10:35p
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon
11:37p
Late Night with Seth Meyers
12:37a
Last Call with Carson Daly
10:30p
The King of Queens
11:00p
Rules of Engagement
11:30p
Rules of Engagement

Tonight's Schedule

7:00p
First Dates
8:00p
Dateline NBC
7:00p
The Originals
8:00p
Reign
9:00p
KOMU 8 News @ Nine on The CW
9:30p
Seinfeld