Posted: Feb 15, 2013 7:43 PM by Danielle McCarthy
Updated: Feb 15, 2013 11:02 PM
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.
Posted 6:52 PM 11/28/2015 by The Associated Press
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri lawmakers are set to question officials in Gov. Jay Nixon's administration on how the state spends money to help refugees.
The Legislature recently set the Monday hearing in response to deadly attacks in Paris and (More)
Posted 4:38 PM 11/28/2015 by Emma Balkenbush, KOMU 8 Reporter
JEFFERSON CITY - Natasha Johnson started the group, Show Me-Just and Caring Communities, in 2013 and is now beginning to develop the group further.
Johnson started the anti-bully group with another parent after learning about a middle school student who had committed suicide after (More)
Posted 3:29 PM 11/28/2015 by Taylor Stevens, KOMU 8 Reporter
BOONE COUNTY - A man driving a stolen vehicle led a Boone County deputy on a chase near Route Z and Carter School Road Saturday. The chase ended when the the car the suspect's car rolled over and the driver fled to the surrounding woods.
Sergeant Micheal Perkins of the Boone County (More)
Adv. - more news below
Posted 2:18 PM 11/28/2015 by The Associated Press
SEDALIA, Mo. (AP) — The cause of a fire that destroyed three Sedalia homes on Thanksgiving Day isn't known.
Sedalia Fire Department Battalion Chief Matt Irwin says the cause couldn't be determined because of "the complexity of the house." The Sedalia Democrat ( (More)
Posted 1:00 PM 11/28/2015 by Taylor Stevens, KOMU 8 Reporter
JEFFERSON CITY - Thanksgiving weekend is one of the busiest in terms of drivers on the road, but about 29 million of those vehicles aren't equipped with a spare tire. New data from AAA shows that more than one third of 2015 vehicles on the road are missing spare tires. In most of those (More)
Posted 4:19 AM 11/28/2015 by The Associated Press
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Governor's Mansion is about to look a little more festive.
The Christmas trees that will adorn the Jefferson City mansion are arriving Monday morning. The outside tree is a 30-foot Norway spruce that came from the yard (More)
Posted 2:58 PM 11/27/2015 by Nick Komisar & Amy Money, KOMU 8 Reporters
COLUMBIA - The moment the MU football team announced on Twitter that it wasn't going to play until former UM Systems President Tim Wolfe resigned, the Concerned Student 1950 movement was thrust into the national spotlight. A photo was tweeted by some members of the team locking arms, with (More)
Adv. - more news below
Posted 1:52 PM 11/27/2015 by The Associated Press
BRANSON (AP) — Authorities say deputies have killed a man who shot his wife and pointed a handgun at the deputies.
KOLR-TV reports that 58-year-old Rick Gullickson was killed early Friday at a home in southern Stone County. The Stone County Sheriff's Department said (More)