Columbia Police Officer's Murder Conviction Upheld

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COLUMBIA - The Missouri Court of Appeals upheld the murder conviction of a former Columbia police officer Tuesday. Three times, courts have ruled Steven Rios murdered University of Missouri student Jesse Valencia, with whom he had an affair. Prosecutors said Rios killed Valencia to keep him from revealing the affair.

Valencia's body was found near his home in June 2004.  His throat was slashed.

Rios was first tried and convicted of first-degree murder and armed criminal action in May  2005.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment plus ten years. The conviction was overturned after the Western Court of Appeals ruled Rios was denied a fair trial because of two hearsay statements.

Rios was re-tried in December 2008 and found guilty of second-degree murder and armed criminal action. He was then sentenced in 2009 to life imprisonment again, plus 23 years.

Rios made his latest appeal in March, 2011. The court rejected Rios' claim that his 2008 trial lawyer, Gillis Leonard, did not provide effective assistance of counsel.

Rios argued Leonard refused to let him testify at the trial, failed to call or sufficiently cross-examine several witnesses, and called an expert witness to testify despite knowing her testimony would harm Rios' case.

Rios' defense attorney in his latest appeal, public defender Ellen Flottman, told KOMU 8 News "I'm not going to comment on [the decision] today." Rios is serving a life sentence.