Steven Newell was sentenced to death by the State of Arizona for the sexual assault and murder of a eight year old girl. According to court documents Steven Newell would abduct eight year old Elizabeth Byrd who would be sexually assaulted and murdered. Steven Newell would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death
Steven Newell 2021 Information
ASPC Florence, Central Unit
PO Box 8200
STEVEN NEWELL 183736
Florence, AZ 85132
Steven Newell More News
On May 23, 2001, Elizabeth Byrd, an 8-year old, headed to school from her mother’s trailer at approximately 8:00 a.m. Steven Newell approached Elizabeth and began walking with her. Steven Newell knew Elizabeth because he had dated Elizabeth’s sister, Lori Stone, for several months. Elizabeth was late for school and told Newell that she didn’t have time to talk to him. Newell persuaded Elizabeth to take a “short-cut” through a field with irrigation ditches. After Elizabeth and Newell were isolated and out of sight from passers-by, Newell sexually assaulted Elizabeth. After the assault, Newell grabbed a strap from Elizabeth’s backpack and strangled her to death with it. After Elizabeth was dead, Newell wrapped her body in a carpet and threw her into a water-filled drainage ditche. He was arrested approximately two weeks later. In custody, Newell admitted that he led Elizabeth into the isolated field and that he “sexually rubbed” up against her. He also admitted taking the strap from Elizabeth’s purse and wrapping it around her neck, and that he threw her into the ditch. However, Newell denied murdering Elizabeth. Forensic testing proved that Newell was the source of semen found in the panties Elizabeth was wearing at the time of the murder.
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On the morning of May 23, 2001, eight-year-old Elizabeth Byrd left home for school. She was wearing her school uniform and carrying a purse or knapsack with long straps. Around 7:45 a.m., a neighbor saw Elizabeth walking toward school with Steven Ray Newell following closely behind. Elizabeth knew Newell because he had previously dated her sister, and the neighbor knew both Elizabeth and Newell.
¶ 2 About an hour later, a Salt River Project (“SRP”) employee working in a field near the M.C. Cash Elementary School came upon someone standing in an irrigation ditch. Based on past experience, the employee initially thought that the person was using something to back up the water in the ditch so he could bathe. As the employee approached the area, the person in the ditch turned and looked at him for about thirty seconds and then jumped up and ran up the bank, disappearing behind some bushes. The employee noticed a rolled up piece of green indoor-outdoor carpeting in the water near where he had seen the person standing, but he did not retrieve it.
¶ 3 That afternoon, Elizabeth’s mother arrived home to find that Elizabeth had not returned from school. This did not concern her, however, because Elizabeth routinely went directly from school to a friend’s house, where she would stay until around eight in the evening. When Elizabeth did not come home at eight, her family began to worry. Elizabeth’s sisters began looking for her, which is when they learned that she had not been at her friend’s house. Around eleven in the evening, because the family still had not found Elizabeth, the police were called.
¶ 4 Phoenix police responded to the family’s call. After the officers spoke with Elizabeth’s mother, they spoke with two of Elizabeth’s friends. The officers were told that Elizabeth had not been in school that day; a missing persons report was then called in.
¶ 5 The next morning, two members of the Phoenix Police Department were dispatched to search the field near the M.C. Cash Elementary School. The officers discovered a child’s denim shoe, a children’s book, a black purse or knapsack containing a cherub magnet with the name “Elizabeth” on it, a pair of socks, and a drawstring coin purse. That afternoon, a detective from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office discovered Elizabeth’s body in an irrigation ditch in the field, rolled up in green indoor-outdoor carpeting. Shoe prints were found along the ditch near where Elizabeth’s body was found.
¶ 6 Later that day, the SRP employee went to the Sheriff’s office after seeing a news report about the investigation. He described the person he had seen in the irrigation ditch. The investigators used that description to create a composite sketch of the suspect. The employee was also shown a photographic lineup, but he did not identify anyone in the lineup as the person he had seen in the ditch.1
¶ 7 The Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s Office conducted an autopsy on Elizabeth’s body the following day. The autopsy revealed bruising on the tops of Elizabeth’s hands, wrists, and forearms, which were consistent with an injury caused by her hands being squeezed. A ligature was still tied around Elizabeth’s neck. There were small vertical abrasions on the left side of Elizabeth’s neck, consistent with fingers grasping at the ligature trying to remove it. She had further bruising under her chin and on her left temple, along with an abrasion near her right eye. The injuries that caused these bruises occurred before or around the time of Elizabeth’s death.
¶ 8 The autopsy also revealed evidence of penetration of Elizabeth’s vulva to the hymen consistent with a sexual assault. Elizabeth’s vulva was bruised, and the vaginal tract had abrasions, with a tear on the left side of one of the abrasions. One abrasion in the vaginal tract went right up to the hymen, but the hymen itself was still intact.
¶ 9 The medical examiner concluded that Elizabeth died from asphyxiation due to ligature strangulation. Once the ligature had been tightened, Elizabeth likely died within a minute or two. The medical examiner further determined that it was likely that Elizabeth had stopped breathing before she was placed in the water because his examination did not reveal any “froth or foaminess” in Elizabeth’s airways “and the lungs were not excessively heavy” from the presence of water. Elizabeth’s stomach also contained no water.
¶ 10 At the time of the autopsy, Elizabeth’s underwear, along with blood, bone, and tissue samples from Elizabeth, were collected. These items were subsequently sent to the Department of Public Safety (“DPS”) lab for testing.
¶ 11 Because Newell had dated Elizabeth’s sister, a detective from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office contacted Newell on May 27, 2001, to come to the station to be interviewed; Newell agreed. Newell, like the many people from Elizabeth’s neighborhood who were interviewed regarding Elizabeth’s disappearance, was not a suspect at the time of the initial interview. During this interview, Newell was asked about the day of Elizabeth’s disappearance and if he knew anything that might be helpful to the investigation. Newell described what he did that day but made no incriminating statements; at the end of the interview, the detective told him he was free to leave.
¶ 12 Steven Newell was contacted again by a Sheriff’s detective at Elizabeth’s funeral on June 2, 2001. The detective went to the funeral to find Newell because he had been told that Newell was wearing Converse All Star shoes, the type of shoes which matched the shoe prints found near Elizabeth’s body. Steven Newell voluntarily went to the station and again answered questions related to his activities around the time of Elizabeth’s disappearance. During the interview, Newell’s shoes were taken to be compared with the footprints observed at the ditch. Again, Newell was permitted to leave. Two days later, an analyst from the Sheriff’s office concluded that it was “highly probable” that the footprints at the crime scene had been made by Newell’s shoes.
¶ 13 On the evening of June 4, two Maricopa County Sheriff’s detectives contacted Steven Newell and asked if he would consent to another interview. Newell agreed, and drove to the station. Shortly after 8:00 p.m., the detectives began questioning Newell. The entire interrogation was videotaped. Fewer than ten minutes into the interview, the detectives advised Newell of the Miranda2 rights. Newell waived those rights and agreed to speak with the detectives.
¶ 14 The questioning began in a manner similar to the two previous interviews, but became more accusatory after the second hour. The detectives told Newell that they had evidence that proved he had committed the murder. Newell initially denied having anything to do with Elizabeth’s death; however, that changed as the interrogation continued.
¶ 15 Eventually, Steven Newell acknowledged that he had been with Elizabeth in the field on the morning of her disappearance. He admitted he had grabbed her and placed her between his legs while he rubbed up against her, causing him to ejaculate. He then acknowledged placing her in the water in the ditch by grabbing her purse strap-which was around her neck-and her feet. When he saw the SRP employee, he covered Elizabeth with the indoor-outdoor carpeting and ran off. Throughout the interrogation he maintained that Elizabeth was alive when he placed her in the ditch and that he did not sexually abuse her. Newell was taken to jail shortly before eleven in the morning on June 5, 2001.
¶ 16 Later that day, the SRP employee was shown another photo lineup, which included a picture of Steven Newell; he identified Newell as the person he had seen in the ditch on May 23, 2001.
¶ 17 Over the next few days, a criminalist with the DPS crime lab conducted an analysis on Elizabeth’s underwear. During the analysis, semen was found inside of the central crotch area. The criminalist then did a deoxyribonucleic acid (“DNA”) analysis of sperm that were found. The following week, a DNA analysis was conducted on a blood sample from Newell to see if it matched the DNA from the sperm found in Elizabeth’s underwear. Based on this analysis, it was determined that Newell was the likely source of the sperm.3
¶ 18 On June 14, 2001, a Maricopa County grand jury indicted Newell on three counts related to the disappearance and death of Elizabeth Byrd: first degree murder, sexual conduct with a minor, and kidnapping. Nearly three years later, after an eleven-day trial, a jury found Newell guilty of all three counts.