TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) – 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.
Prosecutors said the mother tossed the toddler across her bedroom in early June because she wouldn’t stop crying, severely injuring the girl.
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 covered her mouth until she stopped breathing and put her in a bag.
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.
Steinfurth, 25, tossed the child so hard against either the wall or floor that she had severe bruises and was struggling to breathe, said Ian English, an assistant prosecutor in Lucas County. An autopsy later found the toddler had five broken bones.
Prosecutors said they didn’t think they could seek the death penalty because it wasn’t clear if Elaina’s injuries from being thrown could have been fatal on their own.
County prosecutor Julia Bates said Elaina’s family members agreed to the plea deal because it allowed them to know what happened and where the girl’s body was discarded.
“There is some degree of peace for that child, the family and the community,” Bates said.
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.
Investigators said Tuesday that Angela Steinfurth tried to throw off the search by telling them she threw the baby in the river and planting diapers along the banks, but King eventually told them Elaina’s remains had been stuffed in a box and hidden in the garage.
Terry Steinfurth, the toddler’s father, 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.
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.
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