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

4 years 4 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 - The Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services will offer free HIV testing during normal business... More >>
2 hours ago June 27, 2017 Jun 27, 2017 Tuesday, June 27 2017 Tuesday, June 27, 2017 1:00:00 AM CDT in News
COLUMBIA - Representatives Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia, and Martha Stevens, D-Columbia, addressed a forum of about 70 people Monday night, speaking... More >>
5 hours ago June 26, 2017 Jun 26, 2017 Monday, June 26 2017 Monday, June 26, 2017 10:28:00 PM CDT in News
COLUMBIA - A judge sentenced a Columbia woman found guilty of second-degree murder to 20 years in state prison today.... More >>
7 hours ago June 26, 2017 Jun 26, 2017 Monday, June 26 2017 Monday, June 26, 2017 8:07:00 PM CDT in News
COLUMBIA - The Columbia Conventions and Visitors Advisory Board (CVB) gave an informational update regarding MU's plan to rent out... More >>
8 hours ago June 26, 2017 Jun 26, 2017 Monday, June 26 2017 Monday, June 26, 2017 7:37:00 PM CDT in News
MONITEAU COUNTY - Two families have stepped forward in agreement with allegations made about inmate mistreatment at the Moniteau County... More >>
8 hours ago June 26, 2017 Jun 26, 2017 Monday, June 26 2017 Monday, June 26, 2017 7:25:00 PM CDT in News
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Missouri Republican Gov. Eric Greitens is meeting with donors aligned with the Koch brothers. ... More >>
8 hours ago June 26, 2017 Jun 26, 2017 Monday, June 26 2017 Monday, June 26, 2017 7:01:00 PM CDT in News
COLUMBIA - The people involved in a double shooting in Columbia Monday apparently knew each other, according to the Columbia... More >>
9 hours ago June 26, 2017 Jun 26, 2017 Monday, June 26 2017 Monday, June 26, 2017 6:19:00 PM CDT in News
JENNINGS, Mo. (AP) — A suburban St. Louis narcotics suspect who collapsed during police questioning has died and a police... More >>
9 hours ago June 26, 2017 Jun 26, 2017 Monday, June 26 2017 Monday, June 26, 2017 6:14:00 PM CDT in News
COLUMBIA - A man drove into Mizzou Arena through a closed gate on the south side early Sunday morning and... More >>
10 hours ago June 26, 2017 Jun 26, 2017 Monday, June 26 2017 Monday, June 26, 2017 5:33:00 PM CDT in News
KANSAS CITY - A Kansas City area teenager told police he was high on mushrooms when he crashed his car... More >>
11 hours ago June 26, 2017 Jun 26, 2017 Monday, June 26 2017 Monday, June 26, 2017 4:26:00 PM CDT in News
COLUMBIA – Columbia College will ban tobacco use on its campus starting in August. This includes traditional products like... More >>
12 hours ago June 26, 2017 Jun 26, 2017 Monday, June 26 2017 Monday, June 26, 2017 3:21:00 PM CDT in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Police are looking for a 15-year-old boy who is suspected of fatally shooting one man and... More >>
12 hours ago June 26, 2017 Jun 26, 2017 Monday, June 26 2017 Monday, June 26, 2017 3:03:18 PM CDT in News
COLUMBIA - The Missouri Foundation for Health has awarded $700,000 to support the construction, planning and programming of an agriculture... More >>
13 hours ago June 26, 2017 Jun 26, 2017 Monday, June 26 2017 Monday, June 26, 2017 2:56:00 PM CDT in News
COLUMBIA – The Food Bank of Central and Northeast Missouri serves 32 counties per year, but seasonal challenges may make... More >>
14 hours ago June 26, 2017 Jun 26, 2017 Monday, June 26 2017 Monday, June 26, 2017 1:49:00 PM CDT in News
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — The Missouri NAACP is issuing an advisory telling travelers to be careful while in the state... More >>
14 hours ago June 26, 2017 Jun 26, 2017 Monday, June 26 2017 Monday, June 26, 2017 1:36:00 PM CDT in News
COLUMBIA - Sometimes we feel like we just need some assistance to gain our competitive edge, right? We are training... More >>
15 hours ago June 26, 2017 Jun 26, 2017 Monday, June 26 2017 Monday, June 26, 2017 12:55:00 PM CDT in News
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has ruled that churches have the same right as other charitable groups to seek... More >>
18 hours ago June 26, 2017 Jun 26, 2017 Monday, June 26 2017 Monday, June 26, 2017 9:26:00 AM CDT in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — A Confederate monument will be removed by Friday from a St. Louis park under a deal... More >>
18 hours ago June 26, 2017 Jun 26, 2017 Monday, June 26 2017 Monday, June 26, 2017 9:16:00 AM CDT in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 56°
4am 55°
5am 54°
6am 53°
7am 57°

Select a station to view its upcoming schedule:

Coming Up Next

3:00a
Mad Money
4:00a
Early Today
4:30a
KOMU 8 News Today
3:30a
Paid Program
4:00a
Paid Program
4:30a
Paid Program

Tonight's Schedule

7:00p
America's Got Talent
9:00p
World of Dance
7:00p
The Flash
8:00p
iZombie
9:00p
KOMU 8 News @ Nine on The CW
9:30p
Seinfeld