Man sentenced to life in prison without parole in 2017 murder of Texas County teenager

Published: Nov. 20, 2020 at 10:38 AM CST|Updated: Nov. 20, 2020 at 5:18 PM CST
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TEXAS COUNTY, Mo. (KY3) - A man convicted of first-degree murder in the death of a Texas County teenager has been sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Andrew Vrba was sentenced on a first-degree murder charge Friday. He was convicted of several criminal charges in August, including first-degree murder, armed criminal action and abandonment of a corpse.

Vrba was also sentenced to 20 years in prison for armed criminal action, which will be served concurrently with the sentence for first-degree murder.

Now 21, Vrba is one of four suspects charged in the death of 17-year-old Joseph Steinfeld in September 2017. Three others had previously pleaded guilty and are in prison for their roles in Steinfeld’s death.

Steinfeld, who came out as transgender and went by the name Ally Steinfeld before the death, had been missing for weeks when her burned remains were found near the town of Cabool, a rural area about 70 miles east of Springfield. Investigators say her eyes were gouged out and that she was stabbed several times, including in the genitals.

“Turned my whole word into a pure nightmare,” said Amber Steinfeld, mother of Ally Steinfeld, ahead of the sentence hearing Friday. “My son was so nice and innocent. He didn’t have a mean bone in his body.”

During trial, the court heard Vrba’s videotaped confession to Texas County investigators he killed Steinfeld with a knife, then burned Steinfeld’s body.

The prosecution argued although Vrba confessed to the killing, he hasn’t told the full truth, but continually shifted his stories about how he stabbed Steinfeld and why. Steinfeld’s family members still don’t know Vrba’s motive. Prosecutors say Vrba and Steinfeld’s new girlfriend, Briana Calderas, discussed ways to poison Steinfeld, and Vrba searched the internet for fast ways to kill someone before the murder. Vrba also texted Calderas, telling her, it’s done.

The defense argued investigators acted in bad faith, destroying notes and losing documents and cell phones. They say Vrba never had an idea of using a knife until Steinfeld waved it in front of him, and that it was to protect his own family. They say he did not plan to act on Calderas’ behalf. They argued because of Vrba’s severe nonverbal learning disorder and his character evidence, he was not capable of sophisticated deceit or cool reflection.

The defense had asked the judge to throw out first-degree murder and amend the charge to second-degree because of Vrba’s disability and his age of just a few months over 18 at the time.

Judge Calvin Holden handled the sentence of Vrba on Friday afternoon.

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