Kathleen Steele is in a Florida jail facing manslaughter charges after the 62-year-old mother locked her young children inside a sweltering car, leading her 6-year-old son to violently kill his 2-week-old sister.
The horrific incident took place in Pinellas County on Monday after Steele left her children inside a car to go into a cell phone store in St. Petersburg. Police say the newborn baby, also named Kathleen, began crying as the temperature rose inside the car. That led the 6-year-old boy to take the baby out of her car seat, beating her violently.
“The way he was describing it, he was tossing that baby around like a rag doll,” Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri told MyNews13. “Her appearance was one of just a kid that had been pummeled.”
Police said the children were left inside the car alone for 30 minutes with the doors locked and the windows up. Temperatures in St. Petersburg topped 80 degrees on Monday.
When she returned to the car, Kathleen Steele allegedly ignored the 6-year-old boy’s warning that the newborn girl was badly hurt, and instead she drove home. It was not until she arrived home and called a neighbor that the neighbor called police.
Steele didn’t seem concerned with the situation when police arrived, Gualtieri told MyNews13.
“Deputies are there, paramedics are there working on a 13-day-old baby who’s obviously dead,” said Gualtieri. “And she turns around and goes into the kitchen and starts putting groceries away, who does that?”
Gualtieri said the 6-year-old boy showed remorse over his sister’s death.
“At one point he did make a statement, something to the effect of ‘sometimes people make really bad mistakes,'” he said.
New details are now emerging about Kathleen Steele’s past and her controversial decision to have children after age 55. She was once featured on a TLC reality television show about her late pregnancy, saying she tried for years to get pregnant.
“I was going to try no matter what,” she explained (via KXAN). “We had been trying too long and lost many. You’re sort of in denial.”
Steele ended up with three children, a 6-year-old named Frankie, another 3-year-old boy, and baby Kathleen, who was born on July 26.
On Monday, Steele had taken baby Kathleen to the pediatrician because the newborn reportedly wasn’t eating well. As they left, Frankie dropped and broke Steele’s cell phone, leading her to a cell phone repair store. It was there that Steele reportedly locked her children inside a car while she went inside.
The sheriff gave graphic details of the attack that followed, KXAN reported.
“Frankie told investigators 13-day-old baby Kathleen began to cry and he became angry. The sheriff said Frankie 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 trauma to the baby’s head and face.”
“The sheriff seemed disgusted during the news conference Thursday by the brutal nature of the attack, which he described as “one of the worst things that I’ve ever seen.”
The sheriff said baby Kathleen suffered very serious and very obvious injuries, with deep swelling and a number of fractures on her skull.
“I’m telling you, this baby’s face was a mess. There was no mistaking the condition that this 13-day-old infant was in,” he said.
The baby was likely dead for several hours by the time Kathleen Steele became aware of the gravity of the situation, the sheriff noted.
Kathleen Steele’s two other children have been placed in the care of Florida’s Department of Children and Families, authorities said. While Kathleen faces manslaughter charges, the 6-year-old boy who allegedly killed his 2-week-old sister will not be charged because of his age.
[Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]