Live blog: Boy, 6, kills infant sister
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Live blog: Boy, 6, kills infant sister

A 6-year-old Florida boy brutally tossed and pummeled his 2-week-old baby sister while his mother left them alone in the minivan for at least 38 minutes, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said. The 62-year-old mother, Kathleen Steele, has been charged with aggravated manslaughter of a child.

    Mother of 6-year-old boy who pummeled infant sister to death scheduled to appear in court Friday 

    Kathleen Steele, 62, has been charged with aggravated manslaughter of a child. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]

    Kathleen Steele is set to make her first appearance in court Friday afternoon, a day after she was jailed on aggravated manslaughter charges in what investigators say was the beating death of her 13-day-old daughter by her 6-year-old son.

    Steele was booked into jail Thursday evening, a few hours after Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri called the case “one of the worst things” he had ever seen. Investigators said Steele left her children in a locked car while she went into a phone repair store in St. Petersburg on Monday.

    The 6-year-old later told deputies he tried to calm the baby when she became fussy.


    Employer expresses sympathy for family

    Kathleen Steele works as a broker at Raymond James & Associates, records show.

    In a statement, the company said Friday: "Raymond James expresses its deepest condolences to the family. Due to the criminal nature of this investigation, we cannot comment further."

    —  Zachary T. Sampson

    Defense expert: 'They're trying to put some of the blame for that beating death on her … I haven't really seen that before'

    Mike Benito, a Tampa criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor, questioned what evidence investigators have to prove the manslaughter charge. For the state to prove the charge in court, he said, they would have to demonstrate that Steele had reason to believe leaving the infant with the 6-year-old could result in harm to the infant. Doing that, he said, is a tall order.

    "You would have to show to a jury it would have been reasonable for her to believe the kid would behave this way if she left him alone with the baby," Benito said. 

    A charge of felony child abuse makes more sense, given what the sheriff said about the mother's actions.

    "The sheriff can decide that he has enough probable cause to make this charge. But when the state attorney's office reviews it, they've got to determine much more than probable cause. They may decide there's not enough evidence … They could decide to charge her with felony child abuse, which would be leaving the kids in this situation to begin with."

    "They're trying to put some of the blame for that beating death on her," he said. "I haven't really seen that before."

    — Dan Sullivan
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