Judge sentences woman in death of transgender teenager in Cabool, Mo.

Published: Jul. 10, 2019 at 4:18 PM CDT
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A Pulaski County judge sentenced a Cabool, Mo. woman to prison for after pleading guilty in the death of a transgender teenager.

Briana Calderas, 26, will spend the next eight years in prison. She pleaded guilty to abandonment of a corpse, concealing a felony and tampering with physical evidence in a felony prosecution. It was back in September of 2017 that the burned remains of Joseph Steinfeld, 17, known as Joey, were found at a mobile home owned by a girl he had been dating, Briana Calderas.

She along with three others were implicated in the case that prosecutors called "horrific", with Andrew Vrba, the man accused of stabbing Steinfeld to death, scheduled to stand trail in Greene Co. in 2020. James Grisby, 27, pleaded guilty to abandonment of a corpse and was sentenced to four years in prison while Isis Schauer pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and got 20 years.

On Wednesday it was the girlfriend, Calderas, who was in court. Originally scheduled to stand trial for first-degree murder, she instead pleaded guilty to lesser charges of abandonment of a corpse, concealing a felon and tampering with physical evidence.

"I am firmly convinced that she helped in the planning," said Phelps Co. prosecutor Brendon Fox, who was filling in for an attorney on military deployment in the case.

Fox said he believed Calderas was the mastermind behind the murder but "Unfortunately this is one of those situations where knowing what happened and being able to prove what happened are different."

In court Calderas apologized to the Stinfeld family and the defense attorney asked for probation while the prosecution wanted the maximum 12 years.

"She and her cohorts went to Wal-Mart and purchased Coleman camp fuel and things to burn the corpse," Fox said. "And they basically turned Joey Steinfeld into a bonfire for two days until he was ashes and bones and then they smashed the bones up."

Joey's family came to the sentencing and his father Joseph Senior experienced a lot of frustration. When he arrived he was not allowed in the courtroom because he was wearing shorts, and after someone gave him long pants, he was allowed in only to be escorted out by deputies after taking steps toward Calderas as she was led out of the courtroom after receiving the eight year sentence.

The family had told us they would give us their reaction after the sentencing but left the courtroom in tears and anger, not stopping to talk.

"I knew going into this sentencing that it wasn't going to be what they wanted or what I wanted," Fox said.

Joey had come out as transgender before his murder, but Fox says the motive might center around Calderas falsely believing that she could get in trouble for being involved with a minor.

"There was some communications that she was going to try and report him for rape to try and cover up the fact that she was having a sexual relationship with somebody that would have, she believed, been under-age," Fox said. "However, that would not have actually been against the law."