ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.- It was a tragic afternoon for Kathleen Steele, 62, when a simple trip to the store turned into the lose of one of her babies.
Steele loaded up three of her young children into a minivan Monday afternoon and drove to a cellphone repair shop in St. Petersburg.
When she got to the repair shop she rolled up the windows, turned off the car and locked the doors leaving the children: a 6-year-old boy, his 3-year-old brother and their 13-day-old sister, in the car.
According to Pinellas County Sheriff bob Gualtieri, the 6-year-old brother brutually tossed and pummeled his baby sister while the mother left them alone in the minivan for at least 38 minutes.
The baby girl, Kathleen Bridget Steele, was pronounced dead at St. Petersburg General Hospital Monday evening. Investigators believe she had died hours before that in the minivan though.
Gualtieri described the scene as one of the worst things he had ever seen. Just before the news conference Thursday morning the mother had been arrested on a charge of aggravated manslaughter of a child.
In 2009 Steele and her husband, Philip, were featured in an episode of the reality show I’m Pregnant and 55 Years Old.
In 2011 Philip died of cancer at the age of 66. The sheriff said the two youngest children were born as a result of artificial insemination, using the dead husband’s sperm.
Steele has been raising the three young children on her own, but even before the infants death there had been concerns of the children’s wellbeing.
On Monday around 11 a.m. Steele had taken the newborn to a pediatrician in St. Petersburg. She said the baby was not eating properly but the doctor found nothing medically wrong, and also noted there were no signs of trauma or bruising.
Then the mother drove to the cellphone repair store at 1:50 p.m. and left the children in the minivan. The 6-year-old later told investigators the baby started fussing, and he wanted to calm her down. He lifted the infant from the car seat and tried to mimic how his mother would calm her.
Instead the boy actually ended up repeatedly slamming the baby’s head into the minivan’s ceiling and dropping her to the floor, flipping the baby over and over and pummeling her, said deputies.
When Steele returned to the car the 6-year-old boy tried to tell her there was something wrong with the baby, but Steele ignored him. She stopped at another business before driving to their rented home in North Reddington Beach. That’s when she then noticed the injuries to the infant.
Steele didn’t call 911 right away though. She instead called a neighbor who is a nurse.
The neighbor recognized right away that the infant was deceased but performed CPR until paramedics arrived. Deputies were called to the home at about 4:30 p.m. and the baby was rushed to the hospital.
While investigators questioned Steele Monday night, she never asked about the baby girl in the first hour of the interview. Instead she said:
“I guess I have to plan a funeral,” according to the Tampa Bay Times.
The 6-year-old boy demonstrated with a doll what he had done to his sister for police. He punched the doll and admitted to slammed her to the ground.
He told investigators, “sometimes people make very big mistakes.”
The boy will not face criminal charges, despite the fact that the infant did die at his hands.
Steele already had child protection investigators on her trail too. The infant had suffered minor brain bleeding just three days after being born.
An apartment fire had forced Steele to put her in the car carrier, but she tripped on her way down the stairs causing the infant to fall from the carrier. Steele was scheduled to be evaluated on August 1 by investigators, but had rescheduled for this coming Wednesday.
Steele is being held in the Pinellas County jail in lieu of $100,000 bail.
All quotes and details come from the Tampa Bay Times.