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Jeffery Trevino sentenced to 27.5 years in prison
Family's anguish added aggravating factors
Jeffery Trevino of St. Paul was sentenced to 330 months, or about 27 1/2 years, in prison at a hearing in Ramsey County Court Nov. 25.
A courtroom full of family members, volunteer searchers and journalists watched as Trevino entered the room, looking solemn and wearing an orange Ramsey County jail jumpsuit.
In October, a jury found Trevino, 39, guilty of second-degree unintentional murder of his wife, Kira Steger, 30.
Several Steger supporters wore mint green scarves, her favorite color, or T-shirts bearing a mint green ribbon saying "You will always be remembered."
Trevino's attorney, John Conard, filed a motion earlier this month to have the verdict thrown out due to a lack of legal basis, saying state prosecutors didn't prove that the injuries Steger sustained, which he claimed would have amounted to third-degree assault, did not lead to her death.
However, District Court Judge Leonardo Castro denied the acquittal, saying it was clear that Steger "died at the hands of Mr. Trevino" and that the substantial bodily harm caused from third-degree assault "presents special danger to human life."
After Castro read his decision, the prosecution called members of the Steger family to read victim impact statements they hoped would prove the justification of an upward departure from state sentencing guidelines. The maximum number of years Trevino could have served was 30.
Conard had previously stated that due to Trevino's clean record and previous military service, he should only be sentenced to 10.
During the impact statements, Kira's sister Keri said, "I lost joy in so many things. I was unable to function to maintain my life."
The single mother of two said after Kira's murder, she became increasingly anxious, couldn't work and was having trouble being a good parent to her children, who began acting out at school after their aunt's disappearance.
"They will have to carry the burden of this tragedy for the rest of their lives," Keri Steger said. "I fear the day when they find out that the world is full of terrible people and one of those terrible people killed their Aunt Kira."
Kira's father, Jay Steger, mother, Marcie Steger, and sister Felicia Krejci also made statements about how Kira's death had negatively affected their lives, including depression, nightmares, hopelessness and suicidal thoughts, and each asked Castro to impose the maximum sentence.
"[Trevino] dumped her body like a piece of trash into the nation's most polluted body of water," Marcie Steger said.
"When he killed Kira, he killed a part of me as well," she said.
The tearful and moving statements prompted Castro to call a recess. When the court reconvened, Castro handed down the 330-month sentence, which the family has reportedly said they are satisfied with. Trevino will spend at least 18 of the 27.5 years in prison before he is eligible for parole.
A timeline described by the prosecution during the trial estimated Steger was killed by "homicidal violence" at the couple's home on the East Side of St. Paul between midnight and 2 a.m. Feb. 22. The couple had been having marital problems, and Steger planned to move out of their home on East Iowa Street at the end of the month.
Jay Steger said it still haunts him that he didn't have the money to help Kira move out faster.
"Fathers are there to help their children," he said during his impact statement. "I'll have to live with that guilt for the rest of my life."
Medical examiners testified that the autopsy could point to smothering as the cause of death, though the exact method of homicide is unknown.
Kira Steger's grandfather found a bag containing a bloody pillow and several other items from the Trevino-Steger household during a volunteer search at Keller Lake Regional Park in Maplewood last winter.
In May, Steger's decomposing body was discovered wedged between two barges in the Mississippi River.
Johanna Holub can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-748-7822. Follow her on Twitter @jholubnews.