See more of the story

Calling Jeffery Trevino's actions dishonorable, depraved and malicious, a Ramsey County District Court judge sentenced him Monday to 27 ½ years in prison for killing his wife in February, nearly twice the maximum recommended by guidelines.

Judge Leonardo Castro handed down the long sentence after finding that Trevino acted with "particular cruelty" by dumping Kira Steger's body in the Mississippi River to evade detection after he killed her in their St. Paul home. A jury convicted Trevino in October of second-degree unintentional murder and acquitted him of second-degree intentional murder, meaning they didn't believe he planned the murder.

"What was not planned during Miss Steger's death was most definitely planned upon her death," Castro said of Trevino's coverup. "They were acts of selfishness."

Steger's mother, Marcie Steger, said the sentence was "like the courthouse lifted off my shoulders," because the family had worried about the time he would receive. Prosecutors and Trevino's attorney, John Conard, argued over wildly disparate prison sentences.

Conard called for the minimum term recommended by state guidelines, about 10 ½ years, because of Trevino's military service and previously clean criminal record. Prosecutors sought 30 years, twice the maximum recommended by guidelines.

"It's a lot more than the law allows," Conard said after the sentencing.

Conard did not elaborate, and Trevino's family declined to comment.

Castro agreed with Assistant Ramsey County Attorneys Andrew R.K. Johnson and Richard Dusterhoft's assertion that there were "aggravating factors" that merited the sentence. Steger went missing after a date night with Trevino at the Mall of America on Feb. 21, setting off dozens of public searches during a bitter winter. Her body was recovered from the Mississippi River on May 8.

"The defendant's coverup included using the victim's friends to look for her," Castro said. "His conduct was significantly more serious than a typical case."

Castro said that Trevino's silence on the whereabouts of Steger's body was not considered in his decision, because Trevino had the constitutional right to remain silent. Prosecutors said at trial that Trevino, 39, killed Steger, 30, because she was having an affair with a male co-worker and wanted a divorce while Trevino wanted to save their marriage.

Castro also declined Conard's motion to dismiss the conviction.

Steger's mother, father and two sisters delivered emotional victim-impact statements, telling Castro that they're haunted by nightmares, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. They pleaded for 30 years.

"This monster is a calculated criminal," said sister Keri Anne Steger. "He deserves no mercy."

Keri Anne Steger told Castro that a 30-year sentence would barely exceed the 348 months and 29 days she had with Kira. Trevino has to serve two-thirds of his sentence before he is eligible for parole.

"He stole my best friend … and most of all, my second mother," said sister Felicia Krejci.

Trevino spoke briefly before he was sentenced, divulging nothing.

"I don't think there's anything I can say, your honor," said Trevino, clad in an orange jumpsuit.

Steger's family members said afterward that they were satisfied with the sentence, although it will never compensate for their loss. The sentencing drew three jurors and volunteers who searched for Steger.

"If they would have gave him 75 years or 100 years, it wouldn't have been enough, because he will eventually get to see the light of day, and my daughter will not," said Kira's father, Jay Steger. "There's not enough time in the world that would have been appropriate enough for me."

Steger's ashes were buried in Wisconsin in October, but Jay Steger said he and about a dozen family members, friends and supporters will fly to Costa Rica in January to celebrate her life. Steger felt most free and happy there, her father said.

Marcie Steger told Castro that her daughter would have turned 31 last week on Nov. 19. She said that she, two of Steger's siblings and a friend went to Steger's grave in Wisconsin, lit candles and sang "Happy Birthday." Then, Marcie Steger said, she wrapped herself in a blanket and lay next to her daughter's grave.

"I must've thought a thousand times what could have happened in that bedroom to my baby," she said. "Did she know for a second she was going to be murdered? How much did she suffer? Did she call out for me? Did she call for mama?"

Chao Xiong • 612-270-4708 Twitter: @ChaoStrib