St. Paris woman found guilty of murder in death of missing Champaign County woman

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 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 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 25-year-old Whitney Hostler, who shares a young child with Rider’s son.

Rider is scheduled to be sentenced on April 1 by Champaign County Common Pleas Court Judge Nick Selvaggio.

Valerie Rider
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Valerie Rider

Hostler was reported missing on Oct. 1, 2020, 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.

Whitney Hostler
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Whitney Hostler

ExploreRELATED: Husband, son testify in murder trial of St. Paris woman

Day four of the trial started with closing arguments by Prosecuting Attorney Kevin Talebi, followed by Defense Attorney Gregory Harvey.

Talebi began by describing the offenses against Valerie Rider and how he believed the evidence proves those offenses. He said she “committed” and “admitted” to the offenses because of how and what she used to place Hostler’s body in a duffle bag, and how she moved and disposed of her body. He said, “the evidence shows that’s exactly what occurred.”

Prosecuting Attorney Kevin Talebi gives his closing argument during day four of Valerie Rider's trial.
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Prosecuting Attorney Kevin Talebi gives his closing argument during day four of Valerie Rider's trial.

On the charges of aggravated murder and murder, Talebi said Rider “purposely caused the death of Whitney” because he said it was “deliberate and intentional.”

Harvey started his closing argument with one question — who killed Whitney? He said they found out how, where and what killed her, but that “it hinges on a who” killed her. He said he believes the evidence doesn’t show that Rider committed the homicide.

Defense Attorney Gregory Harvey gives his closing argument during day four of Valerie Rider's trial.
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Defense Attorney Gregory Harvey gives his closing argument during day four of Valerie Rider's trial.

Harvey said in Rider’s own testimony on Wednesday, that 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.

Randy Rider and Hostler have a 2-year old daughter together and had been living with his parents, according to his testimony.

Both her husband, Rodney Rider, and her son, Randy Rider, testified Monday during the trial.

Rodney Rider
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Rodney Rider

Rodney Rider also was charged in the same crime. He pleaded guilty in November to tampering with evidence, obstructing justice and possession of criminal tools, court records show. He is scheduled to be sentenced March 8 and remains in the Tri-County Regional Jail with a $500,000 cash-only bond.