SECOND UPDATE: Neighbor adds new clue to missing toddler caseWritten by Evan Brune Casey Harper | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The mother of missing 18-month-old Elaina Steinfurth was seen leaving between midnight and 1 a.m. the morning of the toddler’s disappearance.
Dennis Bolfa, who lives across from the East Toledo home in the 700 block of Federal Street where the toddler was last seen, said he saw Elaina’s mother, Angela Steinfurth, and her boyfriend Steven W. King leave in their van and return 10-15 minutes later.
On June 12, police seized the van Bolfa saw the couple leaving in.
“I thought they were just going to get cigarettes or something,” he said. “It didn’t dawn on me at the time.”
When Bolfa was interviewed by Toledo Free Press on June 18, he had not yet reported this information to the FBI or police.
“That’s abnormal for that van to leave after 10 [at night]. They don’t usually do that,” Bolfa said on June 20.
Bolfa said he believes Angela was involved in the disappearance.
“A couple days before, she said, ‘[Elaina’s father Terry Steinfurth Jr.] ain’t getting my kid,’” Bolfa said. “She’s got something to do with it, no doubt.”
Elaina was reported missing on the afternoon of June 2, just hours after Bolfa saw the van leave the home.
No one besides King and Angela have reported seeing the child since June 2.
Steinfurth Jr. came to pick up his daughter between noon and 1 p.m. at the King home on Federal Street. An argument ensued when Angela refused to give him Elaina, according to several witnesses.
“They woke me up with their arguing between noon and 1 p.m. I had been taking a nap,” Bolfa said. “They were yelling back and forth, and [Steinfurth Jr.] kept saying, ‘I want my kid! I want my kid!’”
Almost an hour after the start of the argument, Angela went in to get Elaina but came out “crying and screaming” that Elaina was gone, according to Terry Steinfurth Sr.
The family began searching the area for Elaina. They called the police when she could not be found.
Bolfa said “something wasn’t right” about Angela’s initial reaction.
“She was pacing up and down the street, and then she walked up to me and asked for a cigarette. She went from crying to smiling. How do you go from fake crying to a smile?” he said. “Something ain’t right there. If I lost my kid, I wouldn’t be asking for a cigarette. That’s a crock of sh*t. If it was my kid, I’d be going crazy.”
Angela is detained on child endangerment charges. Her bond has been set at $250,000.
Police are searching for the missing toddler along with volunteer groups. Toledo Police and the FBI are offering a reward of $10,000 for information leading to her whereabouts.
Allegations of abuse
According to multiple witnesses in the Federal Street neighborhood where the toddler was last seen, mother Angela verbally abused Elaina as well as physically abused her 4-year-old daughter.
“She would slap the oldest in the face, tore her hair,” said Julie King, mother of Angela’s boyfriend Steven. “She was rough, very rough. She would yank her up by the arm.”
Julie Malkin, public information officer of Lucas County Children Services, said the agency responded to a call regarding Angela and Steinfurth Jr. earlier this spring.
“We investigated a situation where we were concerned about the children being exposed to domestic violence,” Malkin said. “In this case, the worker felt that the situation had resolved itself.”
Angel Zam, a family friend, said she heard Angela screaming at Elaina.
“I’ve seen her be abusive, have heard her scream [to Elaina], ‘You little bastard!’ You know, stuff you just don’t say,’ she said. “She was really abusive to the kids. She had a lot of issues. I felt sorry for her.”
Zak Zam, Angel’s son, said he witnessed similar incidents.
“She just seemed very violent toward the [4-year-old daughter]. Slapped her across the face, said, ‘You little b*tch.’ Those are some of the worse things that I’ve seen,” he said.
Ginger Smith, Elaina’s cousin, has helped raise awareness and lead the volunteer search effort.
“I know the mother wasn’t a very nice mother. She yelled at them and was always cussing,” she said.
Angela’s treatment of the two girls was the final straw in Steinfurth Jr.’s decision to end his relationship with her, according to Steinfurth Sr.
“I have seen her smack, yell, scream at [the 4-year-old]. I flat out told her I don’t agree with it. I was very happy when [Steinfurth Jr.] said he was going to try to take custody,” Steinfurth Sr. said.
Angel said Angela would leave Elaina alone for hours at a time.
“That baby was in the playpen for 20 out of 24 hours. I feel so bad because I didn’t do anything. I feel ashamed,” she said.
Julie said she wanted Steinfurth Jr. to take custody of the two girls.
“I said to T.J., ‘You gotta do something,’” Julie said. “’I’ll help you but something’s gotta be done. I’ll do anything to help you.’”
Julie said she had considered calling Lucas County Children Services, but hesitated.
“I didn’t want to see the kids go through the system, you know?” she said.
Angela had previously lived with Julie for a few months, and Julie said that time together “made me hate my house.” She also said Angela regularly smoked marijuana.
“She’d do it a few times a day, if she could afford it. She’d go to people’s houses,” Julie said.
Federal Street residents said they see news crews almost daily with the story reaching a national audience. Nearby residents have experienced house searches and police questioning.
“I think it’s an inside job on the mom, if you ask me,” Federal Street resident Terry Luce said. “She’s all happy and smiling. That mom messed the baby up.”
Angela’s stepfather, Richard Chiewe, declined to comment.
“Too many things end up in the paper and get twisted,” Chiewe said.
Smith, who assists volunteers by offering food and drink to search parties, said the main focus is finding Elaina.
“We ain’t here to worry about [Angela Steinfurth and Steven King],” Smith said. “We just want to find the baby. We just want to know where the baby’s at. That’s the main focus.”
Follow toledofreepress.com for more on this developing story.