Domestic violence survivor criticizes plea deal that gave attacker no jail time

William Steen, 41, given five years probation as part of no contest plea to felony family violence

SAN ANTONIO – A domestic abuser with a previous family violence conviction in Bexar County was given five years probation and no jail time as part of a plea deal with prosecutors.

Now, the deal is being criticized by the victim in the case.

William Steen, 41, is scheduled to remain on probation until August 2027 and may not have contact with victim Erika Gross, with whom he shares a child.

Steen broke Gross’ nose, knocked out several of her teeth and fractured her ribs during a violent attack inside a Medical Center apartment in June 2020, according to police and medical records obtained by KSAT Investigates.

WARNING: Graphic images below

Multiple BBs were lodged in Gross’ scalp after Steen repeatedly shot her with a BB gun.

He also used a television remote to repeatedly strike her, an arrest warrant states.

Pictures of Gross’ injuries show her with a severely bruised and swollen face, with red marks on her neck and blood coming from her ears.

“He spit in my face and told me he was going to knock me out again,” Gross told KSAT.

In an interview, she said that Steen beat her with anything he could find before she escaped through a bedroom window and ran to a neighbor’s apartment for help.

Erika Gross said she was not able to recognize herself in photos taken after she was attacked by Steen in 2020. (KSAT)

“They told me this was the worst case they’d seen where somebody actually survived,” said Gross, referring to what investigators told her after the attack.

Gross was forced to have surgery to realign a bone in her face and has racked up medical bills totaling around $35,000, records show.

Steen was eventually arrested on a felony charge of family violence-2nd, an elevated charge since he had a previous domestic violence conviction in Bexar County.

The attack on Gross was Steen’s third domestic violence arrest; a 2011 felony family violence charge against Steen was dismissed in 2013 due to insufficient evidence, Bexar County court records show.

“It doesn’t make me feel safe at all.”

Gross and officials with the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office have given differing accounts of what led to Steen’s plea deal in August.

Gross told KSAT she cooperated with the prosecution and even practiced her testimony with an assistant district attorney on the day before jury selection was scheduled to begin for Steen’s trial.

Gross said she then got a call from a prosecutor informing her that Steen had signed a plea agreement instead.

“That was all she kept telling me, ‘well, at least we got a win,’” said Gross. “I had to hang up the phone with her. I was so upset and hurt. And all I could do is kind of just scream. It doesn’t make me feel safe at all.”

Gross said she was caught off guard by the deal.

A DA spokesperson, however, told KSAT via email Gross was made aware of the plea offer numerous times before it was extended and that the victim’s potential testimony presented challenges to prosecutors.

District Attorney Joe Gonzales last week expanded on his office’s statement, telling KSAT in an interview “there were some issues as to the credibility of that complainant.”

“If somebody we know has a criminal history isn’t held accountable, that is always a concern for us because there’s a potential that he may continue to offend. So, it is disappointing,” said Gonzales.

Steen’s defense attorney did not respond to a call seeking comment for this story.

Find resources for victims of domestic violence here.

Capital murder suspect had previously been given deal in aggravated robbery case

Another previous plea agreement involving a past violent offender has come under scrutiny in Bexar County in recent weeks.

A San Antonio teenager accused of shooting and killing two other teens in an East Side motel room in January had previously been given a plea deal in an aggravated robbery case that shortened how much time he was required to spend in prison, court records show.

Kristian Belmudez, 19, is accused of killing Gabriel A. Sanchez, 19, and Sanaa Keilani McNeil, 19, at a Travelodge in the 3800 block of Interstate 35 North on Jan. 16.

Two bodies are removed from an East Side motel on Jan. 16. (KSAT)

Texas Department of Criminal Justice records show Belmudez was paroled from state custody on a robbery conviction in May 2022.

A parole warrant was then issued for Belmudez’s re-arrest in late December 2022, just weeks before he was accused of carrying out the fatal shootings.

Belmudez was among a group of people in December 2020 who robbed a man at gunpoint and then fired at his car as he drove away, after the victim was lured to the 800 block of Rita Ave.

The victim, who KSAT is not identifying, believed he was meeting up with someone he had met on an internet dating site, according to a warrant for Belmudez’s arrest.

Belmudez was arrested in early January 2021 and remained in jail awaiting trial.

As part of a plea deal with prosecutors in October 2021, Belmudez was given a reduced charge of robbery in exchange for serving two years in prison.

Prosecutors left the affirmative finding of deadly weapon section blank on Belmudez's robbery plea agreement after the victim refused to cooperate in the case. (KSAT)

Since prosecutors decided to leave the “affirmative finding of deadly weapon” section of the plea deal blank, it reduced Belmudez’s sentence.

Instead of serving at least half of a five-year sentence, a regulation laid out in the Texas Government Code, or at least two years day-for-day in prison, Belmudez spent less than 17 months behind bars in all.

A DA spokesperson told KSAT via email that the victim in the robbery case refused to cooperate with prosecutors, and that without a witness in the case, the charge could have potentially been dismissed.

Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales (left) speaks with KSAT's Dillon Collier. (KSAT)

“There are times when we need the cooperation of the victim, especially on a robbery. Someone needs to come to court to identify that they were in fear for their safety or for their life and that property was taken from them,” said Gonzales.

Belmudez is in jail awaiting indictment for capital murder-multiple persons, after he was arrested by the SAPD Covert Response Team and members of the Lone Star Fugitive Task Force last month.

About the Authors

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined KSAT Investigates in September 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat and on the Six O'Clock News. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.

Joshua Saunders is an Emmy award-winning photographer/editor who has worked in the San Antonio market for the past 20 years. Joshua works in the Defenders unit, covering crime and corruption throughout the city.

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