Festivities were in the air outside the Monroe County Courthouse on Friday. Carnival rides lit up the late afternoon sky, complemented by laughter and live music.
It was homecoming night.
But the mood inside the courthouse painted a stark contrast. Families, friends and curious courthouse employees packed the gallery in Courtroom 213, anxiously waiting for a jury’s verdict.
Kyle Roider, a 33-year-old Waterloo native, was charged with first degree murder and aggravated battery with a firearm in connection of the January 2019 shooting death of 35-year-old Steven Becker.
Roider was arrested and charged after Becker’s body was found in the basement of Roider’s Waterloo home at the time, which located just blocks from the courthouse.
This was the moment the Becker family had been anticipating for the two years and seven months since Steven’s death: a chance to get justice.
For the Roiders, it could mean their son would not spend another night in jail.
After 3.5 hours of deliberation, the jury reached its decision. Before Judge Julia Gomric opened the sealed letter containing the verdict, she said she understood there would be strong emotions on both sides, but that everybody should remain seated.
Then it happened. Gomric announced that the jury had found Roider not guilty of first degree murder and not guilty of aggravated battery of a firearm. Read complete coverage of the trial by clicking here.
Tears erupted on both sides, and a corrections officer quickly ushered Becker’s family to the courtroom next door to grieve in private. For them, the day they had been waiting for since Becker’s death proved to be a miscarriage of justice.
“I know my grandparents just wanted justice out of all of it, and they didn’t even get that. And I want justice. I know a lot of people want this to turn out right, but in our favor it didn’t,” Mikayla Sauer, Becker’s daughter, told the Republic-Times after the verdict.
Sauer said she does not believe the defense’s assertion that Roider took her father’s life in self defense.
“My dad was not a bad person and he wouldn’t ever want to hurt someone,” Sauer said. “He was harmless, and he would do anything to help others, even if he didn’t even know them. It could be a complete stranger and he would still try to help him.”
Sauer said she worries about what this verdict teaches others.
“I want justice for my dad, and I don’t think it’s OK for Kyle to just walk away from murder because it’s not teaching the world anything,” Sauer said. “It’s not a good look for Waterloo as a city to just have somebody that killed someone walking around town free. I don’t want it to sound like I’m threatening him or anything, I don’t want that at all. I just want justice for my dad.”
While Sauer and her family shared emotions of anger, frustration and sadness with relatives in the nearby courtroom, the faces of Roider’s family and friends were stained with tears of happiness.
Defense attorney T.J. Matthes told the Republic-Times he felt the trial went “outstanding” for his client.
“The jury made the right decision; the jury had it right,” Matthes said.
Before the gallery was led out of the courtroom, Timothy Hunsaker, second chair for the defense, could be seen patting Roider on the back. Roider flashed his family a quick smile before they filed out of the room.
Earlier that day, Roider testified as the defense’s first and only witness.
Karen Roider, his mother, issued the following statement after the verdict:
“Kyle had told us that he thought he’d be nervous, but then he told himself all he had to do was tell the truth, and then he wasn’t nervous at all going into today’s proceedings.”
While it may be unusual for a defendant to testify at their own trial, Matthes said this was a natural decision for his client.
“He wanted to get up there and tell the jurors what happened and he always wanted to do that from day one,” Matthes said. “From day one, he was saying that this was self defense.”
Now, Matthes said, the rumors have finally been put to rest.
“It feels great especially because there were so many rumors going on about this case the whole time, ever since the incident happened, and I think it was due to the nature of them not finding the deceased until later,” Matthes said Friday. “So, these rumors swirled and every single one of them was wrong, and Kyle waited to tell his truth and he finally got his chance and then we got the result.”
Waterloo Police Chief Jeff Prosise, who was called to testify in court as he was deputy police chief at the time of Becker’s death, issued the following statement:
“The Waterloo Police Department believes in the criminal justice system. A jury decided that Mr. Roider was not guilty and I accept their decision.”
Before the jury was sent to deliberate, Judge Gomric reminded them they could find the defendant guilty or not guilty of first degree murder, guilty of second degree murder and/or guilty or not guilty of aggravated battery.
To be found guilty of second degree murder, the jury would have to determine the state proved the same qualifications of first degree murder, such as the defendant did do the action and knew doing so would result in a high probability of death.
However, the second degree murder option included mitigating factors in that either the defendant was acting under passion resulting from serious provocation from the victim or the defendant reasonably believes circumstances existed that justify their use of force.
Monroe County State’s Attorney Lucas Liefer told the Republic-Times Thursday that he did not wish to comment on the verdict.
“At this time, I am going to decline to comment,” Liefer responded in an email. “Everything I have to say and had to say was done in the courtroom.”