A 62-year-old Florida mother of three young children was arrested this week after her 6-year-old son beat her 13-day-old daughter to death while the children were unsupervised. She’s being charged with aggravated manslaughter.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri held a press conference about the incident Thursday saying the killing of the infant was one of the worst things he’s ever seen.
The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office alleges that Kathleen Marie Steele left the infant alone in a vehicle with her two other children, Frankie, 6, and Phillip, 3, for more than 30 minutes, confirmed by video footage of the location. In that time, her baby, also named Kathleen, started to cry.
The three children are Steele’s biological children, she was artificially inseminated in New York using her late husband’s sperm to become pregnant with Phillip and Baby Kathleen.
Frankie removed Baby Kathleen from her carseat and began flipping her multiple times, Gualtieri said. He then dropped her to the floor and slammed her head into the ceiling of the van and struck her multiple times in the face. The actions caused severe trauma to Baby Kathleen’s face and head. Gualtieri said during the investigation, officers found blood in the van consistent with where Frankie slammed the baby.
Baby Kathleen’s skull was fractured in several places and her entire face was severely bruised.
“The baby was simply beaten, traumatized; gross swelling about her face, her skull was cracked in numerous places, described as ‘mush’,” Gualtieri said. “It’s one of the worst things that I’ve ever seen, especially with a 13-day-old. She was pummeled.”
Frankie returned Baby Kathleen to the carseat and when their mother returned to the vehicle, he told her Baby Kathleen’s condition was “serious.” Steele allegedly disregarded Frankie’s statement and drove on to another business before going home.
When they returned home, she noticed Baby Kathleen was in distress, asking Frankie if “the baby is even breathing.” Instead of calling 9-1-1, investigators say Steele called a neighbor, who she knew was a nurse. The nurse knew the baby was dead when she saw her and called police. When paramedics responded, the sheriff said Steele began putting her groceries away while they were working on Baby Kathleen.
“I’m telling you, this kid’s face was a mess. There’s no mistaking the condition this 13-day-old was in. At that point, she was blue and cold to the touch.” the sheriff said.
An autopsy of Baby Kathleen revealed severe trauma and multiple, severe skull fractures.
Frankie admitted to investigators what he had done to his sister, using a doll to demonstrate his actions that day.
Frankie and Phillip Steele are now in foster care. Frankie will not be charged with the crime, because of his age, the sheriff said.
“Some of us who have been in law enforcement for a very long time have never seen anything like this. No one can ever recall in our history in Florida, a situation like this.” Gualtieri said. “There’s a tragedy here. At the end of the day, Frankie is a victim.”
The accountability, the sheriff said, lies with Steele, who is “ill-equipped to have and care for children.
“She was negligent, neglectful and didn’t care for these kids.”