Trial begins Texas County man charged with murdering trans teen

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UPDATE 5:00 p.m.

The first day of the trial ended around 5 p.m. Monday with more discussion over what evidence and further videos will be admissible. 

The bench trial will resume again at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday. 

SPRINGFIELD, Mo.– After lunch, the court watched a one-hour-and-40-minute video of Vrba’s first interview with authorities, where he quickly admits to killing Steinfield.

In the beginning of the interview, Vrba tells deputies he believes Steinfeld had mental issues and was concerned Steinfeld would hurt Vrba’s family. Vrba says he felt he no choice but to kill Steinfeld for his safety, his family’s safety, and the safety of Briana Calderas and her children.

Later in the interview, Vrba admits Calderas asked him to kill Steinfeld a few hours before the murder. Vrba tells deputies Calderas told Vrba and others she was been raped by Steinfeld, and her children had possibly been abused by Steinfeld as well.

Vrba says Calderas asked Vrba to “make it painless and quick,” suggesting Vrba poison Steinfeld with pills or bleach. Vrba claimed he thought about killing Steinfeld for 2 or 3 hours before grabbing the knife away from Steinfeld and stabbing Steinfeld twice.

In the interview, Vrba also described moving the body outside and burning the body, clothes, trash and wood overnight and the next day. Vrba admitted to gathering the bones, putting them in a trash bag and leaving them in an old chicken coop on Caldera’s property.

The state also showed the court photos of Briana Calderas’ trailer, where you could see bleach stains, blood stains, cleaning supplies, and knives in the living areas.

The courtroom took an afternoon break to discuss admissible evidence.

SPRINGFIELD,Mo.– The trial for a man accused of killing a transgender teen in Texas County in 2017 began Monday, August 3, 2020, in a Greene County courtroom.

Joseph Steinfeld Jr. was stabbed and killed in a home in Cabool in September 2017. The victim’s family says Joseph went by the name of “Ally,” and planned to transition from male to female.

Andrew Vrba is charged with first degree murder, armed criminal action and abandonment of a corpse. This trial is a bench trial, meaning the judge, not a jury will be deciding the verdict.

Others involved in the killing include Briana Calderas, James Grigsby, and Isis Schauer. All have been convicted for their roles in the murder.

During opening statements, the state claimed Vrba planned to murder Steinfeld, hoping first to poison him, but later stabbing him twice, killing him. Vrba, with the help of others, then burned the body and crushed the ashes and bones.

While Vrba’s lawyers did not exactly say Vrba killed Steinfeld in self-defense, lawyers claim the day he was killed, Steinfeld was drunk and became erratic, threatening Vrba and Schauer’s unborn child, and first picking up the knife that Vrba used to stab him.

Both sides agreed all involved, including the victim, were friends prior to the murder. Lawyers say Vrba and Schauer were dating and were expecting a child. Lawyers say Steinfeld and Calderas were also dating.

Lawyers for Vrba say Steinfeld had been dating Briana Calderas for about 2 days when the murder took place. Vrba’s lawyers also claim Calderas had accused Steinfeld of assaulting and raping her, which led to Steinfeld becoming erratic.

Joseph “Ally” Steinfeld’s sister and father were the first called to testify by the state.
While on the stand, they spoke looking for Steinfeld and filing reports Houston police and the Texas County Sheriff’s Office.

Both testified they spoke with Vrba in person while searching for Steinfeld, who claimed he didn’t know where he was, and told the family he would help look for him.

The third witness called to the stand was a detective with the Missouri State High Patrol, who collected evidence and sifted through the burn pile and found what appeared to be small pieces of bone, possible clothing.

The detective also found a receipt from a Walmart in Mountain Grove where fuel and fuel cans were purchased.

The evidence was then turned over to the Texas County Sheriff’s Office.

The former Texas County Sheriff Rowdy Douglas was also called to the stand, where he testified about searching for Steinfeld and attempting to contact Briana Calderas in her home, which was unsuccessful.

Then on September 20th, Douglas contacted Vrba and Schauer at a home on Chestnut Street in Houston. Both went to the Texas County Sheriff’s Office to be interviewed.

After lunch, the court will watch an hour and 40-minute video of Vrba’s first interview with authorities.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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