A Champaign County jury convicted a St. Paris woman of murder Thursday evening after more than six hours of deliberation in the death of a missing Champaign County woman.
Valerie Rider, 52, was on trial in the death of Whitney Hostler, her son’s ex-girlfriend.
She was found guilty of murder, felonious assault, tampering with evidence, gross abuse of a corpse and three counts of possession of criminal tools. She was found not guilty of aggravated murder.
“The murder charge carries with it a mandatory penalty of life imprisonment with possible parole eligibility after 15 years. However, the other criminal charges could require the Defendant to serve an additional 5 years before being eligible for parole. The State will be requesting the court to impose a maximum sentence,” Champaign County Prosecuting Attorney Kevin Talebi said in a statement.
Rider was also convicted of three one-year firearm specifications within three of her charges, which will add three consecutive years to her sentence. This specification was added because the evidence showed that Valerie Rider’s husband, Rodney Rider, who has pleaded guilty in the case had a firearm on him when they committed the crime.
Rider is scheduled to be sentenced at 9 a.m. on April 1 by Champaign County Common Pleas Court Judge Nick Selvaggio.
The jury began deliberating around 11:15 a.m. Thursday and delivered its verdict around 5:30 p.m. following a four-day trial in the death of Hostler, 25, who shares a young child with the Riders’ son, Randy Rider.
“We were very pleased with the verdict,” Talebi said.
Talebi said he spoke with the family and they are also “pleased with the verdict.”
“It was a very difficult case. It was a very emotional case. What happened to Whitney Hostler was absolutely tragic,” he said. “I’m glad we were able to get some justice for Whitney.”
Defense Attorney Gregory Harvey said although they weren’t happy with the total verdict, they were satisfied with one outcome.
“It wasn’t what we wanted, but we were satisfied with the not guilty finding on the aggravated murder,” he said. “Although we don’t agree with the verdict, we have to respect the verdict.”
Even though defense was not satisfied with the outcome of the rest of the counts, Harvey said he “believes Valerie is going to assert her innocence,” he said.
Hostler was reported missing on Oct. 1 after she had not been in contact with family or friends, and was last seen on Sept. 30, according to the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office.
Deputies found Hostler’s body in a wooded ravine near Kiser Lake Road. The investigation into Hostler’s death led them to Valerie Rider and her husband, Rodney Rider. They were arrested Oct. 2.
Rodney Rider and Randy Rider, testified during the trial, as well as the couples other three children.
Rodney testified that he saw his wife dragging a duffle bag, with Hostler inside, across the floor of their house. When he asked what she was doing, she said she and Whitney had an argument and she was dead. The couple later put the duffle bag in their truck and drove around until they found a place to dispose of it, according to his testimony.
Harvey said in his client’s own testimony on Wednesday, she said she was trying to deescalate the situation between her son Randy Rider and Hostler, and that she was just trying to stick up for her family.
In his closing argument, Talebi said that, based off the evidence, Valerie Rider choked Hostler for nearly a minute by placing her arm under her neck and squeezing until she was unconscious. He said Valerie Rider told detectives, “‘I strangled her’.”
Hostler died due to strangulation asphyxia, Talebi said. .
Rodney Rider pleaded guilty in November to charges related to the case, including tampering with evidence, obstructing justice and possession of criminal tools, according to court records. He is scheduled to be sentenced March 8. He remains in the Tri-County Regional Jail with a $500,000 cash-only bond.
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