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Ex-officer convicted of murder

COLUMBIA, Mo. — A former Columbia police officer was convicted Friday of killing a Kentucky man with whom he had an affair.

Jurors deliberated about six hours before finding Steven Rios, 31, guilty of second-degree murder and armed criminal action in the June 2004 death of Jesse Valencia, 23, a student at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Valencia was from Danville

Rios showed no emotion as the verdict was read.

The jury, brought in from Clay County for the Boone Circuit Court trial because of publicity about the case, recommended that Rios serve a life sentence on the murder charge and 23 years on the armed criminal action charge.

Rios had been convicted in an earlier trial of first-degree murder and was serving a life sentence. But the Missouri Court of Appeals' Western District overturned the conviction in April 2007 because of problems with two hearsay statements.

During the latest trial, prosecutors said Rios used a choke hold he learned during police training to render Valencia unconscious, then slashed the young man's throat early on June 5, 2004.

Special Prosecutor Morley Swingle portrayed the married officer as a compulsive liar who killed Valencia to keep the student from disclosing their "secret sexual relationship."

The affair began after Rios arrested Valencia for interfering with him and another officer as they answered a police call about a loud party.

Swingle noted that evidence linking Rios to the killing included DNA on hairs and fingernail clippings taken from Valencia's body.

Defense attorney Gillis Leonard noted that investigators never found any evidence during searches of Rios' home, vehicle or police station locker, and Leonard urged jurors to "put aside all the smoke and mirrors, supposition and guessing."

"My client didn't beat this man or murder this man, he had sex with this man," Leonard said. "There is no evidence of this crime at all. They have found evidence of sex."

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