The fate of Kyle Roider is officially now in the hands of the jury. After Roider took the stand as the defense’s first and only witness and the conclusion of closing arguments, the jury entered deliberation shortly after 2:35 p.m. Friday at the Monroe County Courthouse. The jury was still deliberating as of early Friday evening.
Roider, 33, is charged with first degree murder and aggravated battery using a firearm in the January 2019 death of 35-year-old Steven Becker in the basement of Roider’s residence at the time, 107 N. Church Street, Waterloo. The jury can decide to find Roider guilty or not guilty of first degree murder, find Roider guilty of second degree murder, and/or find Roider guilty or not guilty of aggravated battery.
The second degree murder option satisfies all the qualifications of a first degree murder charge but includes mitigating factors in that either the defendant was acting under a sudden and intense passion resulting from serious provocation by the individual killed or belief that the use of force was justified in some fashion.
Prosecution’s closing argument
The closing argument offered by Monroe County State’s Attorney Lucas Liefer leaned heavily on crime scene evidence. Liefer used pictures taken at the scene and exhibits to drive home the state’s version of events: Becker was first shot in a chair, then was “executed” on the floor while attempting to flee.
He said the trajectory rod demonstration Joshua Easton performed for the court on Wednesday proved the gun was held in front of Roider, and therefore Roider was standing right in front of Becker when he shot Becker in the leg. Becker then tried to exit the basement when Roider inflicted the fatal gunshot wound to the head.
Liefer also said since other items in the room were not splattered with blood, there is no way Becker could have been charging at Roider when he was shot in the head, as the defense claims. Liefer also said earlier testimony supported Becker’s head was level with the weapon, further proving the prosecution’s assertion that Becker was fatally shot in the head while on the ground.
Liefer said if the evidence was not enough to prove his case, circumstance also points to a guilty verdict. He proposed that Roider was jealous of Becker recently spending time alone with Jennifer McClure, Roider’s love interest.
“I think Becker was getting too close to Jennifer for Kyle’s liking,” Liefer addressed the jury.
Liefer also showed on a monitor the last-known text Becker sent to his daughter, sent at 5:28 a.m. This time stamp is shortly before his estimated time of death, Liefer said.
“I love ya young one we will be working on your room tomorrow,” the screen showed.
Liefer said the tone of this text does not align with the defense’s assertion that Becker was acting erratically and aggressively at the time of his death, adding that Roider’s testimony that he did not call the police or tell anybody about Becker’s death are not the actions of someone who is not guilty of first-degree murder.
Defense’s closing argument
T.J. Matthes, Roider’s defense attorney, said the crime scene evidence presented at trial this week is not in conflict with the defense’s theory that Roider shot Becker in self defense both times, the fatal wound being in response to Becker charging at him in an attempt to take Roider’s gun.
“There’s nothing here that refutes what Kyle says,” Matthes told the court.
Previously, Dr. Kamal Sabharwal, a medical examiner called to the scene, testified if Becker were charging at Roider, the momentum he had built up could have propelled his body to the floor where his corpse was discovered.
Matthes revisited an image shown earlier in the trial: a close-up of the positioning of blood pooled around Becker’s head. In the image, blood appears to be on the other side of the foosball table Becker’s head was found under. He said if Becker was shot on the ground, blood splatter would have been found on the foosball table as well.
Instead of being executed on the floor as the reason why the gun appeared to be level with Becker’s head, Matthes reminded the jury of an earlier argument: Had Becker been charging at Roider while standing, their similar heights would have made for a straight-on shot.
Matthes added that parts of Jennifer McClure’s testimony were inconsistent with what Roider testified earlier Friday. Matthes responded to these differences by stating that McClure had been using drugs throughout much of the week and participated in a drug deal hours before she confronted Roider about Becker’s disappearance.
“You wouldn’t rely on (McClure) for the least important decisions of your life, and now the state is (relying on her) for the most important decision of Kyle’s,” Matthes told jurors.
Liefer wrapped up closing arguments with one main plea to the jury.
“The crime scene tells the story,” Liefer said. “This is common sense, folks.”
He reiterated his assertion that the crime scene reveals the truth. According to Liefer, Roider did not shoot Becker in the head “straight on” because this would mean Becker would have been shot in the chest. The fatality of the shot, Becker said, was intentional, therefore supporting the charge of first degree murder.
Liefer also questioned why Roider could remember seemingly insignificant details of the day of Becker’s death – such as what he ate from White Castle – but said he could not recall the nature of phone conversations with his family.
Roider takes the stand
Before the court heard closing arguments on Friday, the defense called its first and only witness: Roider himself.
Matthes asked Roider for a detailed account of the hours before Becker died. Roider testified that after McClure and her friend left Roider’s house, Becker and Roider remained in the basement. In the early hours of Jan. 9, 2019, the day of Becker’s death, Roider said Becker was making strange comments about people tracking his phone.
“I took it as him being paranoid and strange,” Roider said on the stand.
Eventually, Becker began freestyle rapping about motorcycle gangs, raping families and other violent topics, Roider said, just as Matthes did in his opening statement. Roider provided several examples of Becker acting strange and erratic, including Becker asking Roider for a knife sharpener and proceeding to sharpen a knife he had brought to Roider’s house.
When asked why he gave Becker a knife sharpener – even though Roider said he felt uneasy at that point – Roider replied, “I didn’t feel right saying ‘No, I don’t have one’ when I did.”
During cross examination, the prosecution revisited this point. The prosecutor asked how much time elapsed between Roider giving Becker the knife sharpener and when he felt it was necessary to grab his gun.
Roider said he did not know, to which the prosecution continued to ask why, if Roider was not yet in fear for his life, he went back to the basement. Roider testified he was “in fear of what could happen.”
Roider said he retrieved the murder weapon after hinting that he wanted Becker to leave but Becker refused. After Roider came downstairs with a gun hidden in his waistband, Becker reportedly yelled “I’m going to gut you, m———–!” Roider said he then fired a shot, which hit Becker’s leg/groin area.
Roider continued to say that despite the leg wound, Becker charged at him with his hands out. “It seemed like he was grabbing for the gun,” Roider said, adding that Becker did not have his knife out at that point. Roider said that’s when he fatally shot Becker in the head.
During cross examination, the prosecution asked Roider why he did not leave the house if he feared for his life. Roider replied, “because it was my house.” The prosecution also asked Roider to demonstrate with the chair from that night in the courtroom where the projectile was found and the gun previously entered into evidence – the logistics of where both men were positioned when Becker was shot.
Roider said he was not capable of processing what had happened, so he did not reveal Becker’s death in the several communications he had after it.
To read about the verdict that was handed down Friday night, click here.
For our story on Thursday’s proceedings, click here.
For our story on Wednesday’s proceedings, click here.
UPDATE: On Aug. 27, 2021, a Monroe County jury found Kyle Roider not guilty of first-degree murder and not guilty of aggravated battery with a firearm. These charges were brought against Roider in connection with Steven Becker’s January 2019 death.