ALEXANDRIA, La. — A federal judge in Louisiana has scheduled a hearing Feb. 19 on motions to dismiss the indictment against a man who was declared dead in Mississippi in 1994, but surfaced in 2010 as a suspect in the deaths of his Las Vegas girlfriend and her daughter.
Thomas Steven Sanders is facing the death penalty on each of two counts in the kidnapping death of 12-year-old Lexis Roberts, whose body was found in Catahoula Parish, La., in October 2010. Her mother’s body was found later in Arizona.
Sanders is charged in the child’s death in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, La.
Sanders’ lawyer has said in court filings that her client is charged with two counts that could lead to the death penalty, but both counts arise from the same circumstances. They want the entire indictment dismissed, or for prosecutors to choose just one of the two counts to pursue.
Sanders was first indicted on a charge of kidnapping resulting in the child’s death in November 2010. Another indictment was issued in January 2011, adding the charge of using a firearm in a violent crime. In August 2012, prosecutors said they would seek the death penalty.
Sanders walked away from his family in Mississippi in 1987. His relatives and ex-wife petitioned a Pike County, Miss., court in July 1994 to have him declared dead after not hearing from him for years.
Sanders was living at a storage facility in Las Vegas when he met Suellen Roberts. They planned to take her daughter to Bearizona, a wildlife park near the Grand Canyon, for the Labor Day weekend in 2010, according to court documents.
On their way back to Nevada, Sanders pulled over in the desert “ostensibly so Suellen could shoot his .22 rifle,” but instead he shot Roberts in the head, court records said.
Authorities say he took the girl to Louisiana, where he shot her and cut her throat. Her body was found by hunters in the woods.
Authorities say Sanders confessed to the child’s death after being arrested in Gulfport, Miss., and directed investigators to the body of Suellen Roberts in Yavapai County, Ariz.