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Elaina Steinfurth case put to rest with murder pleas from mother, ex-boyfriend

An east Toledo mother and her ex-boyfriend have taken plea agreements in the murder of 18-month-old Elaina Steinfurth back on June 2.
Steven King signs a plea agreement in court Tuesday
Angela Steinfurth sat in court crying with her head on the defense table as prosecutors outlined what happened on June 2, the day baby Elaina was reported missing.
TJ Steinfurth, Elaina’s father, said he has experienced sadness and complete anger through the entire nightmare in a statement in court on Tuesday.

TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) - Steven King admitted to a packed courtroom Tuesday that he killed a little girl by putting his hands over her mouth and nose.

The confession, delivered in a voice devoid of emotion, helped close a case that has haunted the family of Elaina Steinfurth for six months.

Later on, in a courtroom one floor above, prosecutors alleged that the night before King killed her, Angela Steinfurth, Elaina's mom, threw the little girl violently so that she hit the wall, the bed, and the floor.

Elaina's body, later autopsied, was found to have five broken bones, arms and legs included.

The revelation of so many horrifying details surrounding Elaina's murder hit no one harder than Elaina's dad, TJ Steinfurth, who with shaky hands stood up, once in each courtroom, and spoke bravely as a only a heartbroken father could. He spoke of Elaina's light, her strength, and the love she brought to his life.

"It may not be the outcome that everyone had hoped for, but I kept my promise to my baby girl," he said. "But due to the selfish acts of Steven King and Elaina's mother Angela, the loss of Elaina has left my entire family with a gaping hole in their hearts."

When TJ spoke during Steven's arraignment, Judge Ruth Franks stopped him, but only to speak sharply to the defendant, ordering him to listen closely to TJ's words.

"Mr. King, you're a coward," said Franks, "Presume you will die in the state penitentiary...You should never be released - ever - from the state penitentiary, and you've been given more compassion than and concern and attention than that beautiful little baby girl got."

Courtroom drama captured on social media: Click here

In the end, Steven King pleaded guilty to aggravated murder, tampering with evidence and obstruction of justice charges in the case Tuesday. As part of the deal, King will be sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole in 25 years.

Angela pleaded guilty to murder, taking what's called an Alford plea. An Alford plea is not an admission of guilt. A defendant entering an Alford plea agrees to be found guilty without admitting he or she committed the crime. In exchange for her plea, Steinfurth will serve a life sentence with the possibility of parole after 18 years.

Angela sobbed during her appearance in court and never said a word as the state laid out what happened.

Prosecutors say sometime on the night of June 1, Angela picked up a crying Elaina by one of her limbs and threw her against a wall, causing a lump on her head, blood on her nose and a black eye. Prosecutors say Elaina's blood was found on the wall and bed of a bedroom inside the home.

According to prosecutors, when Angela realized the seriousness of Elaina's injuries, she went to Steven King for help hiding what she had done.

King said in court that he found Elaina injured on the morning of June 2. He says he tried to give her CPR.

"Blood started coming out of her mouth and nose. She was hardly breathing, and she was unconscious," he said. "I panicked, I thought she was dying. I covered her mouth and nose, and held it there until she stopped breathing."

After he killed Elaina, King wrapped her body in a blanket, put her body in a garbage bag and hid the body in the garage of his Federal Street home.

Prosecutors also allege that after Elaina had been so badly beaten, King and Angela Steinfurth had sexual contact.

# # #

Investigators say that early on in the search, Angela told police that Elaina had been injured "accidentally." But they didn't know then how much she was hiding.

In order to shed light on Angela's deception, the prosecution told a story of how, early on, during the search of the Maumee river for Elaina's body, Angela had told officers to search a particular part of the river bank.

When they didn't go, she went over herself and returned to say there were soiled diapers in the area. She said they matched the kind that Elaina would wear. Those diapers happened to be located on the bank, near a dead fish.

Investigators who had searched the area previously were familiar with the area. They knew they'd searched that area specifically and found nothing.  They'd even seen that particular dead fish and remembered turning it over, seeing gravel covering the scales.

The prosecutor says when searchers returned to the area and found the diapers near the fish they so clearly remembered, they realized the diapers had been planted recently. Investigators believed Angela planted those diapers.

Angela later told investigators she threw Elaina's body in the river, which turned out to be false.

# # #

After both hearings, Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates, along with Toledo Police Chief Diggs held a press conference wherein they answered questions about the plea deals, the investigation, and the initial search for Elaina.

Bates spoke candidly about "making a deal with the devil" in reference to King and Steinfurth, but said that the family would never have had the closure and the answers they were seeking had these bargains not been on the table.

Attorney Jeff Lingo said there were no negotiations on the table regarding the terms of the bargains either. It was a "take it or leave it" scenario for both parties.

As for the death penalty, Lingo said that this case did not meet the specific criteria needed for death penalty cases, specifically because in those cases the killer's identity has to be proven. Since both Angela and King both played a role in Elaina's death, Lingo's judgment was that the case did not qualify for the death penalty.

As for the initial search for Elaina, investigators said that the garage where she was eventually found months later was searched in the beginning. They said that the garage was "full of litter," and held a refrigerator full of rotting meat, and smelled terrible. So any smell from a decomposing body later on would have been masked by that odor.

Full transcript of the press conference: Click here

Family members, police and the community spent months searching for Elaina Steinfurth after she was reported missing on June 2, 2013. Her remains were found in September, badly decomposed, leaving a difficult trail of evidence for investigators. It took several weeks for her death to eventually be ruled a homicide.

An autopsy concluded Elaina suffered numerous broken bones as a result of "non-accidental trauma." The Lucas County Coroner ruled the girl's death a homicide on November 6.

# # #

A vigil was held Tuesday night. This time, dozens of people chanted, "Elaina got justice," and remembered the little girl.

"I miss her every day," said Elaina's grandpa Terry Steinfurth. "I think about her every day. You can't really get over not having her here."

The case became very personal for many of the people in attendance.

"She affected the city. She affected everybody here. I mean, so many of us were involved in this so close, you know, so personal," said Dan Clay, Elaina's cousin. "It took its toll on us. It was a long ride and like I said, we all got justice. We got justice for Elaina."

TJ was at the vigil, as well, and he says even though details of Elaina's death have come out, it's not enough.

"I don't believe that we got it all, but it's a step forward in the right direction. It's progress," he said.

"Some of it has sunk in, some of it hasn't," said Angela's father, Richard Schiewe. "You know, it's hard. It was real hard to listen to that coward say what he did to my granddaughter."

Schiewe says he believes his daughter is guilty - not of murder, but of not preventing Elaina's death herself.

"They're not going to be out to ever hurt another child," TJ said. "I mean, that's the main thing."

Elaina Steinfurth would have turned 2 on December 20th, 2013.