How was Jesse Valencia’s murder case from How I Caught My Killer solved?

How I Caught My Killer featured Jesse Valencia’s murder case. The police were looking everywhere for suspects when the killer was right under their noses. The docuseries is now streaming on Hulu.

Jesse Valencia was a 23-year-old college student at the University of Missouri. In June 2004, he was found dead, clad only in his boxers with his throat slit, off campus.

The police find out that Jesse was a very social and likable person. He was openly gay and an advocate for social justice. However, his throat was slashed so deeply that it suggested that it could be a crime of passion.

Who are the primary suspects?

When the police interview Jesse’s neighbors, his next-door neighbor tells them that he came home drunk late at night and heard Jesse arguing with someone. He asked them to shut up, and the voices died down immediately.

The police come to the conclusion that the fight had started at Jesse’s apartment. Jesse must have tried to flee. He was probably caught by his attacker during the chase and was killed. The police discover that Jesse was strangled before his throat was slit by a knife with a serrated blade.

Jesse’s friend, Krystle Loyland, informs the police that Jesse had come to her party on the night he died with two men, Eric and Ed. 

The police suspect the two and call them for questioning. Eric says that Ed was in a relationship with Jesse. Ed is Eric’s roommate and ex-boyfriend. He also states that he could kill a person, but he did not kill Jesse, which makes the police more suspicious.

Ed, on the other hand, is visibly upset when he hears about Jesse’s death. While Eric left the party early, Ed left with Jesse, who asked him to come to his apartment. Ed refused because he had to work early in the morning.

Eric spent the night with another man, Kevin, which means he had an alibi, but Ed claimed that he directly went home and had no alibi. Furthermore, the fact that Ed is a chef and has different kinds of knives at his disposal makes him the prime suspect.

Who is Steven Rios?

During the investigation, the police receive a tip from an anonymous caller that a married police officer, who also has a child, was sleeping with Jesse. 

Andy, one of Jesse’s friends and ex-partners, confirms this. He tells them that the officer showed up at Jesse’s house when he was there and slept with them. Jesse asked Andy to keep this to himself.

Andy recognizes the police officer from the department’s yearbook as Steven Rios, the same officer who was asked to stand guard over Jesse’s apartment after his murder. Rios was a young officer who was good at his job. 

How I Caught My Killer Jesse
Steven Rios

He had identified Jesse when Jesse’s body was found as the person he had arrested seven weeks ago for obstruction of government operation. 

He approaches the sergeant a few days after the tip and admits that he was sleeping with Jesse, but his last encounter with him was a week before his death. He denies killing him. 

Rios claims he was drinking with his colleagues the night Jesse was murdered. However, there are 20-35 minutes of unaccounted-for time between the time he left his colleagues and the time he reached home.

As his colleagues claim that they have seen him carrying a knife with a serrated blade, he is asked to take a leave. The police search his house and his car, and he readily cooperates. 

Rios’s name then gets leaked to the media. A humiliated Rios calls his colleagues and says he is going to kill himself, which lands him in a mental facility. He escapes the facility and tries to kill himself again, but the police convince him not to go ahead with it.

Who is the killer?

Jesse’s best friend, Joan Sheridan, comes forward and reveals that Jesse had told her he was sleeping with Rios because he believed Rios would waive his ticket, which he had gotten at the time of his arrest. 

How I Caught My Killer Jesse
Joan Sheridan with Jesse

When Jesse went to court and his case was not dismissed, he planned on confronting Rios. He also planned to threaten him by telling him he would inform the chief of police of his secret.

The police speculate that Jesse must have threatened Rios that night if Rios had indeed shown up at his apartment unannounced. After an argument, Rios must have killed him to keep his secret safe.

The DNA results confirm their suspicions; Rios’s arm hair was found on Jesse’s chest, and his DNA was also found under Jesse’s fingernails, which is a sign of a physical altercation. Rios is arrested and charged with Jesse’s murder.

What happens to Steven Rios?

Soon after, three other women come forward and reveal that Rios made inappropriate advances towards them; he repeatedly used his badge’s authority to demand sexual favors.

Rios pleads not guilty in court. However, seeing the evidence against him, the jury finds him guilty of first-degree murder. He is sentenced to life in prison without parole and an additional 20 years for armed criminal action.

Two years later, when he is serving his sentence, an appeals court overturns his conviction on the basis that Joan’s testimony did not have facts; it was hearsay.

The prosecutors have to prove him guilty again but without Joan’s testimony. He is found guilty again, not of first-degree murder but of second-degree murder and armed criminal action. He is sentenced to life in prison, but now there is a possibility he could get out someday.

Also Read: How I Caught My Killer summary and endings explained

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