WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — A Wichita man has won his fight for a new trial. Rogelio Soto Jr. was 16 when prosecutors claim he stabbed and killed 28-year-old Arturo Moreno Jr.
That was 14 years ago. Since then, Soto was tried as an adult, convicted of first-degree murder, and sentenced to 50 years, also referred to as the “Hard 50.” But his lawyers have been fighting his sentence and his conviction.
On March 17, 2009, Moreno was at his apartment in the 800 block of South Market. According to court documents, other people were in his apartment that night, including his girlfriend and his girlfriend’s sister. The sister asked if her boyfriend, Rogelio Soto, could come over, and Moreno agreed.
The court documents say Soto showed up with two of his friends, who later brought a fourth friend. The sisters eventually left and were unconcerned because “Everything was cool.”
But at some point, after the sisters left, someone stabbed Moreno 79 times. Moreno’s younger brother found the body and flagged down an officer.
The Wichita Police Department investigated and arrested two 16-year-olds and two 17-year-olds. Soto was one of the 16-year-olds.
Prosecutors said police found blood on the boys’ clothing, and they said one of the teens took them to where a knife and other items had been dumped.
As for a motive, police tied the case to the death of 8-year-old Antonio “Tony” Galvan almost 11 years earlier. The child was playing in his front yard when gang members drove by and started shooting. Police arrested eight people in Galvan’s death. They were all convicted and sentenced.
The teenager who led police to the knife claimed that Soto believed Moreno was involved in Tony Galvan’s death. The teen said he asked Soto why they killed Moreno, and Soto allegedly said, “‘Cause of Little Tony.”
The teen who told police that story was given a lesser charge of aiding a felon in exchange for testifying against the others.
Soto and the other two suspects were initially charged with first-degree murder.
A jury found one of the suspects guilty of second-degree murder.
Another suspect entered a plea deal. In exchange for pleading guilty to aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery and aiding a felon, prosecutors agreed to recommend probation for him. He was ultimately deported to Mexico.
A jury convicted Soto of first-degree murder, and the judge sentenced him to the “Hard 50.”
When Soto’s defense team appealed the conviction and sentence, the Kansas Supreme Court affirmed the conviction but vacated the sentencing. The higher court sent the case back to the trial court so that Soto could be sentenced by a jury instead of the judge.
During the resentencing process, Soto’s defense team learned about some information that they said would have helped during the original trial. The lawyers found out about an interview with one of the other suspects in the case. The interview contradicted some things the other teen testified about during the trial.
Soto’s defense team said that knowing about the interview would have changed their trial strategy and put them in a better position for a plea bargain.
According to the Kansas Court of Appeals document, the prosecutor testified that she did not recall turning the information over to the defense. She said she normally would have sent it and that “if she did not send it, it would have been inadvertent.”
The district court agreed that Soto should get a new trial. The prosecution appealed the decision to the Kansas Court of Appeals, but the higher court agreed with the district court.
Soto is now in the Sedgwick County jail awaiting his new trial. The date has not been set yet.