TOLEDO, Ohio — An Ohio woman and her ex-boyfriend pleaded guilty Tuesday in the killing of her 18-month-old daughter, whose remains were found in a box in a garage three months after she was reported missing.
Steven King II, the 24-year-old ex-boyfriend, told a Toledo judge that he had found the girl, Elaina Steinfurth, injured in her bedroom and that he tried to resuscitate her. He said he then smothered her to death and put her in a box.
The girl’s remains were found in September in the rafters of a garage that belongs to King’s family.
“I knew what I did was wrong,” King said Tuesday.
King pleaded guilty to aggravated murder, tampering with evidence, abuse of a corpse and obstructing justice. He was sentenced to life in prison with parole eligibility after 25 years.
The girl’s mother, Angela Steinfurth, entered a type of guilty plea to murder and obstructing justice under which she maintains her innocence but acknowledges prosecutors had enough evidence to convict her. She was sentenced to 18 years to life in prison in accordance with her plea deal.
She did not make a statement in court Tuesday.
Prosecutors said Steinfurth was upset when the toddler wouldn’t stop crying, and she tossed the child across her bedroom. The child suffered severe injuries, and the next day Steinfurth noticed the baby wasn’t breathing well. Prosecutors said that’s when King killed the baby.
Angela Steinfurth and her two daughters stayed with King at his family’s home on June 1, investigators have said. Elaina’s father, Terry Steinfurth, went to the residence to pick up his two daughters the next day, but only Elaina’s 4-year-old sister could be found.
Authorities searched homes, vacant buildings and the Maumee River near downtown for any sign of Elaina while volunteers looked through neighborhoods and parks.
DNA tests confirmed the skeletal remains found in the garage were of Elaina.
Terry Steinfurth told the court Tuesday that he can’t understand how anyone could harm an innocent child.
“The loss of Eliana has left my entire family with a gaping hole in our heart,” he said.
The county coroner’s office said in November that Eliana suffered injuries indicating “non-accidental trauma,” and that there were severe, acute fractures to her arm and leg.
Investigators spent the past six months looking into what happened to the toddler before a grand jury indicted the pair on Monday. Both have been in jail since the summer on obstruction charges.
Authorities have said Angela Steinfurth knew Elaina had been seriously injured and didn’t seek medical help.
King was charged in July with lying to investigators about the child’s disappearance.