The violent death of Kathleen Steele’s infant daughter at the hands of her 6-year-old son shocked the nation and the world. On August 8, the 62-year-old mother of three reportedly left her children alone in a locked rental van for 30 minutes in order to have her cell phone repaired. While she was gone, Kathleen Steele’s 6-year-old son brutally beat his tiny sister to death, slamming her body around in the vehicle so violently that blood spatter was found on the ceiling, and ultimately causing the infant to go into cardiac arrest.
Florida police would later arrest Kathleen Steele and charge her with involuntary manslaughter in connection with her daughter’s death, and disturbing new details in the case are creating more questions than answers.
As the Toronto Sun reports, Kathleen Steele’s son allegedly had serious behavioral problems, and a history of being both destructive and violent. Reportedly, Kathleen had some serious parenting problems of her own, and it is now known that someone called the Florida child abuse hotline to voice their concerns about the children’s safety.
The call was allegedly made just days before the 6-year-old beat the infant to death.
According to authorities with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department, the call made to the state’s child abuse hotline directly referenced the 6-year-old boy’s violent, destructive, and abusive behavior. Placed on August 2, the caller told state officials that the 6-year-old was abusive to his 3-year-old brother and that he had even tormented animals. Additionally, the caller told authorities that it was “likely” that Kathleen Steele’s 6-year-old had started a house fire back in July; a fire that was so extensive that it had displaced Kathleen Steele and her children for weeks leading up to the brutal murder of her infant daughter.
Despite the fact that someone was concerned enough about the care of Kathleen Steele’s children and the behavior of her son to call the Florida child abuse hotline, the children were allowed to remain in Steele’s custody.
According to reports, a local investigator did contact Kathleen Steele and follow up on the tip. However, that investigator ultimately decided that there was “no evidence” to the allegations of violence and potential abuse.
Only days later, Kathleen Steele’s infant daughter became the victim of the very child that the anonymous caller was so concerned about. Reportedly, when police investigated the death of the infant, Kathleen Steele’s son admitted that he’d violently beaten his sister and even demonstrated to law enforcement how he killed the little girl.
“We had him show us with a doll, and it was very violent. He was slamming that doll, and it’s terrible.”
Kathleen Steele’s daughter, also named Kathleen, was determined to have died from extreme blunt force trauma to her skull which caused multiple skull fractures, turning her head to “mush. Traumatized first responders did everything in their power to save her life, but were unsuccessful. Kathleen Steele didn’t bother to report her daughter’s injuries to anyone for hours, and by the time help arrived, the little girl was already blue and cold.
“The skull was cracked in numerous places, described as probably mush … one of the worst things that I’ve ever seen.”
Despite the unspeakably violent and senseless nature of the little boy’s attack on his sister, because of his age he cannot be charged with a crime, even though he reportedly has a history of violently lashing out at those who are weaker. Kathleen Steele, however, didn’t escape being held responsible for the part she played in her daughter’s death, including leaving the baby alone with an older sibling that reportedly had a history of extremely violent behavior.
Steele was charged with aggravated manslaughter and booked into jail on a $100,000 bond; she bonded out on August 12. However, rather than going home, it has been reported that Kathleen Steele went from the jail directly to a Florida mental health facility. There has been some speculation that her hospitalization may have been involuntary, but that has not been confirmed.
As one of the conditions of her release from custody, Kathleen Steele has been ordered to stay away from her surviving children, who are reportedly in specialized foster care in Florida. The surviving boys are reportedly staying in separate homes with highly-trained foster parents. Robert Love, Kathleen Steele’s attorney, has publicly stated that his client will not be contesting the no-contact order.
It is unknown whether or not Kathleen Steele’s 6-year-old will undergo a psychiatric evaluation or other mental health care services or treatments following the brutal beating death of his little sister. It has been reported that the school-aged child of Kathleen Steele has been withdrawn from the elementary school he was attending prior to his sister’s murder.
[Photo by Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department]