Metro Weekly

Accused killer of Missouri transgender teen will not go to trial until August 2020

The public defenders assigned to Andrew Vrba's case say they're busy working on other murder cases for the next 20 months

Ally Lee Steinfeld – Photo: Facebook.

Due to scheduling conflicts with the Missouri Public Defenders Office, the man accused of killing a transgender teen and disposing of her body in a chicken coop may not be tried for at least another 20 months, reports the Springfield News-Leader.

Andrew Vrba, 19, of Houston, Mo., has been charged with first-degree murder, armed criminal action, and abandonment of a corpse for attempting to poison and then fatally stabbing 17-year-old Ally Steinfeld to death in September 2017.

Afterwards, Vrba enlisted the help of 19-year-old Isis Schauer and 25-year-old Briana Calderas in burning Steinfeld’s body, and 26-year-old James Thomas Grigsby in disposing of the remains in a chicken coop.

Schauer has since accepted a deal in which she pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in December 2017, and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Grigsby pleaded guilty to abandonment of a corpse and was sentenced to four years in jail. Calderas is currently being held in Texas County jail as she awaits trial on charges of first-degree murder, armed criminal action, and abandonment of a corpse. Her trial date has been scheduled for Feb. 25.

No motive has been given for why Vrba wanted to kill Steinfeld, who had been living with and dating Calderas prior to her transition.

Texas County Prosecutor Parke J. Stevens, Jr. is seeking the death penalty for Vrba, whose trial was moved from Texas County to Crawford County. Unfortunately, the Crawford County judge who was assigned the trial was defeated in his re-election bid, forcing the case to be moved to Greene County and assigned to Judge Calvin Holden.

On Friday, the four attorneys involved with the case discussed when they would be prepared to go to trial. Prosecutors Stevens and Kevin Zoellner, a Jefferson City attorney, have said they are ready to go to trial immediately.

But the two lawyers assigned to Vrba’s case from the state’s Public Defenders Office, Thomas Jacquinot and Patrick Berrigan, who are based out of Kansas City, said their caseload is packed for the next year as they represent defendants in other murder cases across the state.

As such, Jacquinot and Berrigan asked that Vrba’s trial begin no earlier than the summer of 2020. Holden complied with that request, scheduling the trial to begin in on Aug. 3, 2020.

Noting that the two defense lawyers are involved with a separate murder case in Greene County, Holden also said he would try to schedule most of Vrba’s hearings around the same time as the other murder case so as not to inconvenience the out-of-town defense team.

Stevens has said he is concerned about the cost Texas County will incur by having to house Vrba at the Greene County jail for the next year-and-a-half. He proposed talking to the Texas County sheriff about arranging a deal in which Greene County inmates could be housed in Texas County while Vrba awaits trial, in order to offset costs.

Vrba is next scheduled to appear in court on May 6, 2019.

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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