Roider trial gets underway
As most records in the case – including search warrants, psychological exam reports and various motions – were ordered sealed, Monroe County has been left with many unanswered questions concerning the January 2019 death of 35-year-old Steven Becker in Waterloo.
Now that the murder trial is finally underway, the community is gaining some much anticipated insight.
Kyle M. Roider, 33, is charged with first degree murder with a firearm and aggravated battery in Becker’s death. Aside from the charges being brought against Roider, many details of this case have remained under wraps until now.
Opening statements were heard and multiple witnesses for the prosecution testified during the trial’s first day at the Monroe County Courthouse on Wednesday.
The jurors were briefed prior to opening statements by Judge Julia Gomric, who said that if the prosecution does not prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, they must find him not guilty.
In opening statements, Monroe County State’s Attorney Lucas Liefer established a timeline leading up to the discovery of Becker’s body in the basement of the house Roider was inhabiting at 107 N. Church Street in Waterloo on Jan. 11, 2019. Liefer told the jury that by the time deliberation rolls around, they will be considering not if Roider committed the charges brought against him, but if he had “some sort of justification” for those offenses.
The timeline is so exact, Liefer told jurors, due to a Harrisonville Telephone Company surveillance camera being so close to Roider’s then-residence as well as witness Jennifer McClure, who was friends with both Becker and Roider. This footage, along with witness descriptions, was shown in court.
The estimated time of Becker’s death was consistent in both prosecution and defense accounts: during a window of time after two of Roider’s friends – one being McClure – left Roider’s house while Becker stayed, and before Roider went to McClure’s residence in Millstadt on Jan. 9, 2019.
Liefer discussed the two gunshot wounds Becker sustained: one on the upper leg/groin area and one to the head.
Roider’s defense attorney, TJ Matthes, did not dispute the existence of these two gunshot wounds in his opening statement, but told jurors Roider acted in self-defense. Without using those exact words, Matthes said Becker had threatened Roider and possessed a knife. Matthes said that at the time of the alleged murder, Becker was “uncontrollable” and in the process of a “drug binge.”
“At that time, Kyle chose to stay alive,” Matthes told the court.
Matthes also detailed how Roider felt in the hours and days after the shooting, emphasizing he “didn’t try to hide anything” although he could not tell friends and family what had occurred. After Roider arrived at McClure’s house that evening, he stayed there for a couple of days until she “confronted” him on Jan. 11 – a detail confirmed by McClure and in keeping with the prosecution’s opening statement – at which point he was “incoherent,” Matthes said.
Earlier in his opening statement, Matthes explained Roider had left prescribed schizophrenia medication at his residence and did not consume it while staying with McClure.
Roider appeared calm throughout opening statements and the rest of Wednesday’s proceedings. He greeted family and friends who sat intently in the gallery with a smile, looking excited to see so many people he knew. At the end of proceedings, he also bid farewell to loved ones.
Prosecution calls witnesses
Liefer called six witnesses to the stand Wednesday. First was Becker’s mother Claudine, who confirmed via picture that her son is the one whose death would be the topic of the trial. She then explained he had been using her car during the timeline the prosecution and defense presented in opening statements.
The witnesses who generated perhaps the most questions from the prosecution were McClure – who was Roider’s close friend – and Joshua Easton, an Illinois State Police crime scene investigator.
Liefer asked McClure about her relationship with Roider and Becker. Roider and McClure had been “hanging out” for several months before Becker’s death. During that time, she said they had become intimate. She was also good friends with Becker. The three, along with another female friend, had been spending a lot of time together in the days leading up to Becker’s death.
At certain points, they were using methamphetamine.
McClure further filled in the timeline both sides had established. On the morning of Jan. 11, she borrowed Roider’s truck to go to court in St. Clair County. She began getting texts from people concerned about Becker and was informed his parents had filed a missing persons report.
Because Roider had spent time with Becker after the witness and her friend left the two early on Jan. 9 and she had not seen Becker since, McClure asked Roider about Becker’s whereabouts. Roider had previously made remarks insinuating Becker left his residence, according to her testimony.
Roider then told her Becker had been talking about past incidents and was talking in a way she could not understand. In cross examination, Matthes described this as a “puzzle” the witness put together.
From there, McClure had borrowed Roider’s truck to go to his house. She met a friend there and the two went inside looking for Becker, letting themselves in with a key Roider had given her. She ultimately found Becker’s body in the basement and called 911. Roider was arrested and charged shortly after.
Easton, the final witness of the first day of testimony, said he arrived at the crime scene the night of Jan. 11. Liefer asked him many questions about his qualifications – including extensive training he has gone through and the nine years worked with the ISP.
Photographs taken of the crime scene and several pieces of evidence the state entered were shown and examined before the jury. Easton explained a “red, blood-like substance” was found in three main places: around Becker’s head wound, on other parts of the rug his body was partially on, and on a TV stand. The blood around his head was dry and “flaking,” Easton testified, indicating it had been there for some time.
The state entered two 9 mm discharge cartridges found at the scene into evidence, along with what is believed to be the corresponding gun. Earlier, Matthew Liefer (no known relation to the prosecutor) – a paramedic who responded to the scene – had mentioned the shell casings.The gun was found upstairs in Roider’s bedroom. A fire projectile “core” was also found by investigators on the floor.
Another projectile was found lodged into a chair, which Lucas Liefer said in his opening statement was where Becker was shot in the leg. The actual chair was brought before the jury so Easton could demonstrate the process by which he determined the approximate projectile.
Easton used a protractor and trajectory rod to come to his conclusion, he explained.
Both the projectile found in the chair and the chair were entered into evidence, along with a hard case which contained a lock and magazine.
Investigators found a knife and sheath in Becker’s front pocket, along with his wallet and other personal effects in his back pocket.
Matthes pointed to a red object on a table beside the chair in question in one of the pictures that investigators had taken, which Easton identified as a knife sharpener. In his opening statement, Matthes described Becker “aggressively” sharpening a knife in front of Roider at one point in the incident timeline.
Easton said neither he nor anybody else at the scene had noticed the sharpener.
Others called to the witness stand to help in establishing a timeline and crime scene findings were Jeff Prosise of the Waterloo Police Department and Justin Biggs of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department.
More witnesses for the prosecution are expected to be called to testify Thursday morning.
For a recap of Thursday’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.