Mother, 62, Arrested After Son, 6, Allegedly Beat 13-Day-Old Sister to Death While Left Alone
Those were the first words Kathleen Steele, 62, heard when she returned to her three young children she left alone in a rented minivan for the 38 minutes after she spent in a Florida cellphone repair store, police said.
It was her 6-year-old son who said it, indicating the damage he had allegedly done to his 13-day-old sister who wouldn’t stop crying on Monday, cops said.
Police say that during the 38-minute span that he was left alone with his infant sister and 3-year-old brother, the 6-year-old boy fatally beat the newborn—also named Kathleen—in an attack authorities described as a “vicious, brutalization of a baby.”
“I took the baby, and I slammed her like this, and slammed her down, and pushed her up into the ceiling,” the boy told police, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said at a press conference Thursday.
“Baby Kathleen was acting up and crying … the 6-year-old removed baby Kathleen from the car seat and began flipping her multiple times back and forth, dropping her on the floor, slamming her head against the ceiling, striking her in the face, and causing severe, severe trauma to the baby’s head and face,” Gualtieri said.
After beating his baby sister, the 6-year-old boy, who InsideEdition.com is declining to identify, he put the newborn back in her car seat and waited for his mother to come back from CPR Cellphone Repair, police said.
Authorities believe the baby, whose skull looked “like cracks in a sidewalk,” died in the vehicle, Gualtieri said.
But Steele disregarded her son’s warning that baby Kathleen was hurt and continued to run errands, driving back to the cellphone repair store when she realized she left her debit card there and then to Enterprise Rent-A-Car, police said.
When they got back to their North Reddington Beach home half an hour later, Steele saw the baby’s condition and allegedly asked her son if “the baby as even breathing.”
“I’m telling you, this kid’s face was a mess,” Gualtieri said. “There’s no mistaking the condition that this 13-day-old infant was in, and as I said, she had been pummeled. She was, at that point, blue and cold to the touch.”
Steele called a neighbor, who is a nurse, who recognized the infant was dead, but called 911. Baby Kathleen was taken to St. Petersburg General Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
Steele was charged on Thursday with aggravated manslaughter and neglect in her daughter’s death.
Gualtieri said the mother was “aloof” about the entire incident, alleging that as emergency responders worked on her daughter, “she turns around and goes to the kitchen and starts putting groceries away. Who does that?”
“One hour into the interview she never even asked what the kid’s status was,” he said. “Never even expressed any interest or concern.”
Because of the 6-year-old boy’s age, he will not face criminal charges, Gualtieri said, noting investigators have since learned that he and his brother have allegedly demonstrated behavioral issues that concerned those around the family.
Both boys have been separately placed into foster care. The 6-year-old boy, who was a first grader, will not be returning to his elementary school, Pinellas County Schools said. The district will continue to work with the Sheriff’s Office and Child Protective Services to establish a plan to move forward with the child.
“… [A]t the end of the day, [the 6-year-old boy] is a victim. [He’s] got a lot of issues and a lot of problems. It’s a very sad case, to say the least. But the accountability belongs with Kathleen Steele, the mother, who was, by all accounts, ill-equipped to have a baby, at 62 years old, to have this infant,” Gualtieri said. “The mistake is with Kathleen Steele, not a 6-year-old boy.”
At 55, Steele and her then 63-year-old husband made their journey to welcome their first son public in an episode of reality show ‘I’m Pregnant and … 55 Years Old.’
“Kathleen Steele has it all. A job she loves, a devoted 63 year old husband, a sailboat, beach house; all, except the children she wants. Now, at the age of 55, she's pregnant with her first child, but nothing about pregnancy at her age is routine or easy,” read a description of the episode Steele and her husband appeared in.
Though Steele’s husband died of cancer in September 2011, she was artificially inseminated with his sperm and had a second son, now 3, and baby Kathleen, Gualtieri said.
“Steele even made statements in the last couple of days that she was not finished, as apparently there’s more frozen sperm and she wanted to have yet another baby boy,” he continued. “Something is seriously messed up with that.”
Steele was under investigation by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Child Protection Division after baby Kathleen, who was just 3 days old at the time, fell from her car carrier down the stairs of Treasure Island Hotel, where the family was staying after an accidental fire broke out at their home, authorities said. She had not been strapped into the carrier as her mother carried her down the stairs and tumbled out when Steele tripped and dropped her, police said.
Though the infant was bleeding from the brain, investigators ruled the incident an accident.
Days later, authorities received a complaint to the Department of Children and Families hotline about Steele’s alleged inadequate supervision, but investigators could not substantiate the claim.
Neither DCF nor the sheriff’s office had any prior involvement with the family.
“I’m 100% confident that there’s nothing else we could’ve done or should’ve done and that we couldn’t have prevented this from happening,” Gualtieri said.