Sheriff Gualtiari disturbed by baby's 'vicious brutalization'

Evan Axelbank reports

- A Pinellas County mother-of-three is charged with manslaughter after her 6-year old son beat her infant daughter to death. 

Sheriff Bob Gualtiari described a disturbing trail of events that led to the infant's death and the arrest of her mother - a 62-year-old woman who was artificially inseminated with her dead husband's sperm.

At one time, Kathleen Steele was on a reality TV show, telling the world what it was like to be pregnant with her first child at the age of 55. 

In the show, which aired on TLC, Steele said she had tried to have a baby for years, but was not successful. 

"I was going to try no matter what," she explained during the show. "We had been trying too long and lost many. You're sort of in denial."

Seven years later, she'd had three babies - a 6-year-old boy named Frankie, a 3-year-old boy and a 13-day-old girl. Her two youngest were conceived using artificial insemination with her dead husband's frozen sperm.

The baby girl came July 26 - baby Kathleen.

On Monday, Kathleen Steele's story changed drastically.

Steele took baby Kathleen to the pediatrician because she apparently wasn't eating well. She had the two boys with her, as well. As they were leaving the office, the sheriff said Frankie dropped Steele's cell phone on ground, breaking it.

They went to a cell phone repair store at 1472 66th St. N. in St. Petersburg and, according to the sheriff, Steele rolled up the windows, closed up the van and turned it off, leaving the three children unattended for more than 30 minutes while she was inside. 

Sheriff Gualtiari said the details of what happened next were given to investigators later by 6-year-old Frankie.

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."  

He said the baby was beaten and traumatized, her face was swollen, and her skull cracked in numerous places. 

"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. 

Yet somehow, the sheriff said, Kathleen Steele failed to recognize baby Kathleen's condition. 

After the attack, Frankie put baby Kathleen back in her car seat. When the mom returned to the vehicle, Frankie told her the situation regarding the baby was "serious."  

The sheriff said, "Steele disregarded Frankie's notification that the baby was in distress and she proceeded to another business."

Several hours later, the family arrived at their home on Bath Club Blvd North in North Redington Beach. When Steele brought the baby inside, she noticed she was in distress and asked Frankie if she "was even breathing," Sheriff Gualtiari said.

By the time Steele became fully aware of baby Kathleen's condition, she had probably been dead for hours, the sheriff said. Instead of calling 911, Steele called a neighbor who is a nurse - who immediately recognized the infant was dead.

The sheriff said 6-year-old Frankie will not be charged because of his age. He and his 3-year-old brother have been removed from the home and are in the custody of the Department of Children and Families.

Kathleen Steele is charged with aggravated manslaughter and child abuse "for leaving the children in the car unattended for over 30 minutes, allowing Frankie to kill his baby sister," the sheriff explained.

"By numerous witness accounts, Kathleen Steele was an inattentive parent, and Frankie and Philip were largely unsupervised and had very serious behavioral issues," the sheriff said. "She was here Monday night and being interviewed. For one hour into the interview, she never even asked what the kids' status was."

He added, the thought of a 6-year-old boy violently beating his infant sister to death is troubling enough - but there's another troubling aspect to this case.

"That some supposed medical professional agrees to impregnate a 62-year-old woman with her dead husband's sperm - and she gives birth to a baby that, by all accounts, she's unable to adequately care for." 

What's more, the sheriff said, Steele wanted to mother more children. 

"Steele made statements in the last couple days that she was not finished, and apparently there's more frozen sperm and she wants to have another baby boy. Something is seriously messed up with that," the sheriff said.

When asked, Sheriff Gualtiari said he did not know the identity of the doctor who performed the artificial insemination procedure for Steele to become pregnant. 

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