Sunday, March 9 2014 10:54 PM EDT2014-03-10 02:54:31 GMT
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Toledo Police say Theresa Brazzel was driving northbound on Richards Rd. when she drove off the right side of the roadway and struck a large tree.More >>
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TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) -
After Angela Steinfurth and Steven King's hearings, Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates, along with Toledo Police Chief Derrick Diggs, held a press conference to answer questions about the plea deals, the investigation, and the initial search for baby Elaina.
Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates:
Very, very, very long day. A conclusion to a very tragic tale in Toledo history and I hope that I can talk to you for just a few minutes without weeping myself because it's very hard to deal with these kinds of dramas. I mean this is a, a real life, a real life and death and very, very, very, very sad day. But it brings to a conclusion many, many people have suffered, probably no one more than that little small child. Family, friends, neighbor, the community at large really came out for this case. So you may ask us, why did we make a deal with the devil today for a 25-life sentence in this case? I guess I owe you some explanation. Things that were said in court were about the facts and the circumstances and the evidence, but I think I probably owe you some explanation as to why we did what we did. And I would say that these men and – I guess I'm the only girl up here – the men and women that work here in this office, the police department, the FBI, did a great deal of soul searching about making any kind of concession to a killer of a child, but if you remember, a couple of months ago, Chief Diggs and I, FBI agents and police officers, stood at the press conference the day after we discovered those tiny little bones in a box, in a bag, in an attic of a garage, and we said to you, ‘What now, what now? What are you gonna do now?' and we said, ‘Well we have to find out what happened, we have to find out when it happened and we have to find out who did it.' Right?
So two months later, here we are, and we had tiny little bones – and when I say ‘tiny little bones' I mean tiny, little bones. We had some of the most wonderful, experienced, committed experts that this community and really this country has to offer looking at those bones to try to answer those questions which were really so important to bring a conclusion to this case. What happened to that child? When did it happen and who did it? So Dr. Steve Symes from Mercyhurst College, who is a forensic anthropologist, and our own Julie Saul, a forensic anthropologist, and a very special Dr. Barnett, works at the coroner's office, a forensic pathologist, looked at those bones and they gave us some answers. But the answers they gave us did not answer all the questions. They told us that child suffered traumatic injuries and that those injuries were painful, but that would not have been something where the child would have been [inaudible]. That child would have been crying and screaming. It was painful. And that those injuries were fairly recent in terms of when the child died. Those doctors and those experts could not tell us who did it, they could not tell us exactly what happened because there was no soft tissue to examine, and they could not tell us exactly when it happened. So how do we answer those questions?
We answer those questions with an agreement we made with the killer of that child and with the child's mother, who was absolutely a willing participant in this whole matter as to what happened to that baby. So I have to say – when did it happen, what happened and who did it – these were really tough questions and only part of the story came out of the experts. Only part of the answers came from the police department that worked so tirelessly to find those answers. When you think about dredging the river, and the woods, and looking in all those vacant houses and all the things that they did to try to find this baby. They weren't looking for a box of bones, they were looking for a child at first.
So we ask a lot of questions and we speculate on things, but there are things that we would never have known if we had not made an agreement as to the sentence that was imposed today, not only on Mr. King but on the child's mother, as well. So I say to you really imposing, I believe it was just, right thing to do. We know who the guilty parties are, we can answer that, we know that they are convicted of this terrible crime, they are punished for it, and there is some degree of peace for that child, for the family and for all the people in this community that suffered so much and perhaps some healing.
And I just want to take just one moment to thank these gentlemen here who worked so hard in this case and who suffered so much right along with the community and the family, and for Chief Diggs and all his officers, the detectives and the sergeants and lieutenants and captains that worked so hard, and Dave Dustin from the FBI who helped, and the victim assistance people from my office who nurtured and counseled and tissued these family members through all this long ordeal that went on here. We're very, very lucky this community has so many committed people. I hope for everyone that suffered through this, whether they were a friend or a family member or a neighbor, just a person from our community, they prayed for her, they searched for her and hopefully, perhaps now today she can rest in peace and we can start to heal. So that's all the comments I have to say, I want to offer the microphone to Chief Diggs and the members of my staff, if you want to say something, please feel free to do that.
Toledo Police Chief Derrick Diggs:
The main thing I want to say is that this is a very, very tragic situation for our community. As I said a couple months ago, we were going to get justice for Elaina. Today's closure of that – we did that. We put a lot of resources in this. It was a top priority for the police department. I want to thank the prosecutor's office, the FBI, Toledo Fire department and all our partners that worked very closely with us, doing the things they had to do to bring this case to a conclusion. It's very tragic, we've concluded it and hopefully we got justice for Elaina.
Dave Dustin, FBI:
This was a tragic case and I want to thank the Toledo Police Department for their remarkable job on this case. We try cases all around the country, this is a big organization, and the prosecutor's office you have here in Lucas County is one of the best and very impressive, they did a great job on this. I'd like to thank them for their efforts on this. Really, for us at the FBI, there's really no higher priority for us than crimes against children. So it's something that we're gonna remain focused on, working together here, we can be proud of the team we have put together here in northwest Ohio, so I thank all these guys for their assistance.
Bates: Jeff and Rob, the two guys who worked the hardest on this case, if you want to say a few words.
Assistant Lucas County Prosecutor Jeff Lingo:
I appreciate all the help we got from the Toledo Police. They answered every question, did everything we asked them to do. The FBI was wonderful in providing resources as well as polygraph operator and skilled interrogators, not that the Toledo Police didn't have them, but we need a lot of help in this case and they made themselves available and we appreciate any help we got. I don't think it's any great secret that one of the things we had to do was talk with Steven King to find out where baby Elaina's remains were, and we were able to get that information by speaking with him, as well as some other information that helped us resolve this case. It was important to the family, and I will tell you that after speaking with the family, that we be able to find baby Elaina and put her in her resting place and that's one of the things that we had as a priority in this case. They have been kept well informed on what was going on, we have met with them on numerous occasions and as you heard in court today, they were on board with the decisions that we had to make as a prosecutor's office. Our job is to seek justice; we felt that we did that in this case. We worked very hard at it. Normally what you see is an indictment and months and months and months go by as far as a resolution. In this case, there was a lot of work that went on prior to indictment and sharing of information, and I will tell you as far as negotiations, we basically said, ‘This is it. It's this or nothing.' And you saw the result of that today. We don't live in a perfect world, but with the evidence we had in this case, and I think everyone's in agreement – the Toledo Police, the FBI and the family – with the evidence we had, we did the best we could. Certainly there is justice for baby Elaina. Is it what everyone hoped for, I don't know, but the family is happy and they will both be in prison serving life sentences.
Robert Miller, Chief of Prosecutor's Office Special Units Division:
I also want to thank, I thanked Chief Diggs earlier. We had like everyone in the Toledo Police Department at our disposal, and that was very, very refreshing. They took this case very seriously, they let us have countless hours of research and detective work and scuba diving work. Mrs. Bates has numerous prosecutors that helped on this case, we had people step up that it wasn't even their courtroom to be assigned to or their case. Law enforcement came together and put this together. The Lucas County Coroner's Office, Dr. Barnett did a wonderful job, immediately sent it out to an anthropologist who immediately sent it to another anthropologist. In the waking months of what happened here is putting countless hours and expertise together to find out before we go to the grand jury, before we get this indictment, who did what, and that's what we did in this case and I'm very appreciative of everyone's hard work. Thank you.
Q: When you say it was take it or leave it for Steven King and Angela, what were you offering them, was it taking the death penalty off the table?
Basically offered what they pled to. We said this is what you can plead to. As far as the death penalty, you have to understand that not every case qualifies for the death penalty. There are certain circumstances that have to be met and in this case it was our opinion that it did not meet those circumstances. So what we did was we presented the case to the grand jury, the indictments came out, and this is what they pled.
Q: What was it that didn't fit the criteria?
One of the things that you need to determine when you talk about a death penalty case is who the actual killer was. And if you were in both courtrooms, both Angela and Steven both inflicted serious injuries on this child. The question is was she already dying at the time that Steven did what he did? We can never answer that question, and the Supreme Court of Ohio has been pretty clear that you need to be able to establish those kinds of facts before you go forward with a death penalty, as to who the actual killer is. So there's a lot of consideration that went into those kinds of decisions.
Q: When you first went to the family with the plea deal, what was their original reaction?
We had been talking with them many times, and they knew we were talking to Mr. King when we did that. TJ was in, we talked to him. Their reaction has been very positive. They wanted to see some justice, they understood – again, I'm not going to go into great detail, but there are strengths and weaknesses in every case. That was the same here, but they understood and it doesn't take much in looking at recent history to know that if you try to overreach as a prosecutor, you sometimes get bad results. So the question here is balancing what we have against the charges that are possible, and we thought we did a pretty good job. And they were happy with what we explained to them, no one got a slap on the hand.
Q: Weren't there other people in the Federal St the night that baby Elaina was injured and killed and screaming?
I'll let Det. Morrow answer that:
Toledo Police Captain Wes Bombrys: Yeah there were several other people in there, we've interviewed them, some have taken polygraphs in the past. At this time, along with the prosecutor's office, we're quite comfortable that nobody else was involved in the crime itself and that they were not aware that it had occurred.
Q: They didn't hear it…[inaudible]
They didn't hear it or anything like that. If there was, obviously, we would have taken action but at this point, we have no evidence whatsoever. It was just Angela and Steven.
Q: King family members?
King family members and friends, it was a household.
Q: Can you walk me through a quick timeline? What day do you believe the baby was thrown across the bed? Was that the first, Saturday?
We believe it was during the evening, between the first and second. Exact time, I'll be honest, I can't tell you. We're not explicitly sure exactly what time, but we believe it was between the first and second, and then they discovered the baby's severe injuries the morning of the second.
Q: So then, he disposed of the body sometime in the morning of the second?
That's correct, yes.
Q: So when TJ comes to the house on the second, is your belief that the baby was there?
That the baby was in the house or the garage?
Q: In the house.
Probably the baby was there in the house during the first initial visit, but was disposed of into the garage after he left with the oldest child.
Q: So you believe the baby was in the garage from the second? Correct. And the garage was searched…can you talk about that? Why wasn't she found June 2?
When we initially responded to the scene, the crews that get there, any time we get a missing person-type report, the first thing we look for is whether or not the 2-year-old, 18-month-old or whoever's missing, hasn't wandered off on their own. So we're looking for a live person that may be wandering in the neighborhood, wandering around the property, the house, that sort of thing. At that time, we didn't have any indication that the child was hurt or injured, or in this case, unfortunately, dead. We did conduct a search later on, a search warrant, into the house. At that time in the investigation, we were looking for evidence as to the injuries. We had information that the child was hurt in the house, and our search concentrated on the house. So at no time did we have information that the baby was in the garage. We did have information that led us to the river. You heard that in court. We were misled to the river. We spent a lot of resources on that. When we finally did get the information that the child was possibly in the garage, we obviously got the warrant and found the child there.
Q: How did you get information out of Steven, finally, after 3, 4 months, to finally get him to mention the garage?
I can tell you, we talked to him, just like any other interrogation. During the process of talking to him it came out. The exact details of how we do interrogations - I'm not going to go into detail. That was done with the cooperation of the prosecutors office, arranging to have him brought over with his attorney.
Bates: And let me say, it's not only what motivates somebody to kill, what motivates somebody to confess, what motivates somebody to say what they did with the body. I guess we can only be glad in a way that this happened and we were able to find that poor child because you hear of cases, specifically the 3 missing boys from Michigan who there's still a search and 'are they alive? are the dead? where are they? what happened?'. That is very tragic to me, and I want to reiterate on behalf of the police department on that very first day they were not looking for bones, they were looking for a missing child, a child that was 18 months old that could have wandered off. Could that child have been kidnapped? Have that child have been abducted? Could that child have been taken by the father who thought perhaps the mother wasn't being a good mother? I mean any number of hypotheses they could have come up with. But they certainly weren't looking for bones, so they did what they had to do, and here we are.
Was there any deal made for him that day when he led you to the body?
No. Who knows, was it conscience? Was it a moment of spiritual - who can say. He'd been in court, he'd been with his family, he had his family there. There'd been some moments there. I think they were in the jury room having a chat. I don't know what happened. It's hard to say. It was also a number of months from the death until the finding of those bones so had we known a month earlier, two months earlier we may have been able to make other determinations that we were unfortunately unable to make because of the decomposing that took place over the course of a 100 degree summer.
At what point did it turn into a homicide investigation? What triggered at that point that you'd need another search of the garage?
Bombrys: Prior to the search of the garage, when we did the second search when we believed the child was injured, we weren't sure of the exact condition of the child at that time but we believed the child had been injured. That was through talking with Angela and talking with other people regarding her condition as mentioned. We had prior video of her in good health from the day before. Like I said, mainly when we were talking to her we believed the child was injured.
At that point you know the child's injured. When did you know it was a homicide investigation when you were going forward?
You really don't know until you find her.
I think it was mentioned in court before she was found, correct?
Bates: He wasn't talking about a murder, we were talking about potentially a murder.
Bombrys: There's a potential for it, you really don't know until you find the body. You have hunches.
Toddler Elaina Steinfurth was missing for months before her remains were found in an east Toledo garage. Two people are charged in the case, as the rest of the family and community waits for justice.More >>
Toddler Elaina Steinfurth was missing for months before her remains were found in an east Toledo garage. Two people are charged in the case, as the rest of the family - and community - waits for justice.More >>