Andrew Vrba Trial – Transgender Teen Murder – Defense Opening Statement

Defendant Andrew Vrba, 21, is on trial in the 2017 murder of Ally Lee Steinfeld, 17. Court is being held in Texas County, Missouri. The charges are first-degree murder, armed criminal action, and abandonment of a corpse. If convicted, the defendant would be the fourth person determined to be culpable in the death, and the only one who did not plead guilty.

The victim was reported missing on September 14, 2017, according to the probable cause statement obtained by Law&Crime. Her family said she had not been seen or heard from since about September 1. They said that she had last been with Vrba, and his co-defendants Briana Calderas, and Isis Schauer. Steinfeld’s relatives accused the three of lying about her whereabouts.

(Ally Steinfeld started dating Calderas a week before her death, mother Amber Steinfeld told The Kansas City Star. The murder happened at Calderas’s home, authorities said.)

Deputies said that during an interview with investigators, Schauer claimed that Vrba had had a physical altercation with Steinfeld on September 3, 2017, but the victim had left the residence, and no one had seen her since.

But Schauer agreed to let investigators search her phone, according to the account. From there, deputies said they found Facebook messages between her and Vrba:

Schauer: “Sam is asking me about Joey what do I say ??” [Steinfeld, a trangender girl, was previously named Joseph. Prosecutors said her murder was not a hate crime.]

Vrba: “Babe what did you do??!?!”

Vrba allegedly later wrote, “You were supposed to stick to the story.” The purported exchange continued in that fashion, with Vrba allegedly writing, “We had everything planned out.”

Schauer told investigators she did not know or remember what the conversation was about, deputies said. Authorities claim Vrba admitted under questioning to killing Steinfeld. In this account, he tried to poison her first, but the victim would not drink it. He allegedly stabbed her to death during a knife. Then he, Schauer, and Calderas wrapped up the body, and burned the body outside.

Investigators said they found Steinfeld’s bones in a burn pile by the residence, and a garbage bag in a nearby chicken coop.

According to deputies, Calderas admitted that Steinfeld was killed at her home, and that she helped Vrba burn the body, but she insisted she didn’t want her slain. Vrba and Schauer, however, both claimed Calderas was on board for the murder, and had discussed it several days before the death. Both Calderas and Schauder said that Vrba told them how he stabbed Steinfeld, according to the probable cause statement.

Calderas pleaded guilty in May 2019, dodging a first-degree murder trial in lieu of admitting to abandonment of a corpse, concealing a felon, and tampering with physical evidence in a felony prosecution. She was sentenced to 8 years in prison.

Schauer pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. She was sentenced to 20 years in behind bars.

A fourth defendant, James Grisby, pleaded guilty to abandonment of a corpse. He received a four-year prison sentence.

Note: This article was updated after publication with information about the case.
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