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Prosecutors call several witnesses in first day of Texas County murder trial

Published: Aug. 3, 2020 at 10:07 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - The last suspect in the killing of a transgender teen in Texas County is now on trial. Andrew Vrba is one of four people charged in the stabbing death of Ally Steinfeld nearly three years ago. The trial is being held in Greene County.

In 2017, Andrew Vrba admitted to police he stabbed his friend Ally Steinfeld and burned her body. Steinfeld had been missing for weeks. Just before her disappearance, she came out as transgender and started going by the name Ally. In the courtroom, though, she was referred to by her legal name of Joseph, or Joey.

“I just feel like I had no choice, I had to kill him,” Andrew Vrba said about Ally Steinfeld in a 2017 police interview.

Now, the state is trying to convince a Greene County judge that murder was not in a fit of rage, but planned ahead of time.

“He admits that he’d intended to do it days prior, to harm him, to break an arm. He admits he wanted to make it quick and painless. He admits to crushing up pills, putting it in his drink, trying to poison him,” said a Texas County prosecuting attorney.

At the time, 17-year-old Steinfeld had recently come out as transgender, however, neither the prosecution nor the defense argue that her murder had anything to do with her identity. When he was questioned, Vrba said had his own reasons for his friend’s brutal death.

“He threatened to kill my baby, grandmother, Isis’ grandmother, Briana’s children and he raped Briana in front of me,” Vrba said.

Briana Calderas was Steinfeld’s girlfriend at the time. She pleaded guilty to being involved in the murder last year. Vrba told police, that’s who asked him to commit the crime.

According to Vrba, Calderas told him the following: “Make it painless and quick... and thank you.”

Vrba has also said Steinfeld came at him with a knife, which is when Vrba says the stabbing started. Steinfeld’s sister told the court Vrba lied to the family when they started wondering where she was.

“He told us Joey got mad, he was drunk and stormed off,” she said.

For Vrba to be convicted of first-degree murder, the state will have win over the judge, but Vrba’s attorneys argue, no matter the outcome, there will be no winners in this case.

“He can’t take it back. He’s long accepted that his decision means there are consequences,” the defense said.

The prosecution also called Steinfeld’s father, Texas County investigators, the Texas County coroner and an investigator with the Missouri State Highway Patrol as witnesses.

Trial will resume Wednesday morning at 8:30 a.m. The three other people tied to the death of Ally Steinfeld are all already serving prison sentences. One of those women, Calderas, was dating Steinfeld at the time of the murder, the other was engaged to Andrew Vrba. Neither of those women will testify as witnesses.

Copyright 2020 KY3. All rights reserved.

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