Instead of spending her day off from work sitting at home, Sheila Rogers decided to help a group of strangers look for a missing 18-month-old girl.
“I couldn’t sit and read it on Facebook and watch it on TV and not do something,” she said Thursday just before joining about 75 volunteers, who fanned out across the east side looking for any signs of Elaina Steinfurth.
As the search continues for the young girl last seen in a Federal Street home June 2, her mother, Angela Steinfurth, appeared in court Thursday on a charge of child endangering.
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Police allege Mrs. Steinfurth, 26, of 329 Valleywood Dr. knew her daughter was seriously injured and required medical treatment, but never took the toddler for help. Court records indicate the injuries occurred “on or about June 2,” the day the tot went missing.
Handcuffed and dressed in a navy jail jumpsuit, Mrs. Steinfurth wept as she was led into a Toledo Municipal courtroom for her arraignment.
Judge Robert G. Christiansen ordered she be held in the Lucas County jail in lieu of $250,000 bond.
As she left the courtroom, her stepfather, Richard Schiewe, shouted, “I love you, Angela.”
“I love you too, Dad,” she cried.
After the arraignment, Mr. Schiewe said his daughter should have cooperated with police from the start.
“My daughter made a huge mistake and she’s got to pay the consequences,” he said.
Mr. Schiewe said he hopes Elaina will be found alive. But he has believed the girl is dead since Mrs. Steinfurth reported finding a freshly used diaper — the same size and brand as Elaina’s — along the banks of the Maumee River on June 6.
“She’s guilty of not taking care of that baby like she should have,” Mr. Schiewe said. “She should have taken that baby to the hospital ... ”
Mr. Schiewe said Mrs. Steinfurth told him her boyfriend, Steven King II, dropped the girl. She reportedly told her stepfather she does not know where the girl is.
“The condition of the baby and the severity of the injuries, I can’t tell ya,” Toledo police Capt. Wes Bombrys said during a news conference Thursday. “We don’t know. The location of Elaina, we still don’t know, and that’s why we say it’s still an ongoing investigation.”
The captain said the case is still a missing-person investigation and has not been reclassified as a homicide.
He declined to comment on who possibly injured the young girl.
“We’ve charged her at this point with what we believe is appropriate,” he said. “Additional charges? Possibly. May not. … Wherever our investigation leads us, we’re going to continue searching for her.”
The girl’s father, Terry Steinfurth, Jr., and paternal grandfather, Terry Steinfurth, Sr., held a news conference Thursday night at the East Toledo Family Center.
When asked about his estranged wife’s involvement, the younger Mr. Steinfurth said he did not want to speculate. “I’m not gonna bash anybody,” he said. “I feel justice is being served. She made several mistakes.”
Since the girl was reported missing, police and federal agents have searched houses — some vacant — trash cans, fields, and the Maumee River. Wednesday, they searched four homes on Federal Street and after four hours, towed a van from one residence.
They’ve chased numerous leads, including tips from psychics who claimed the girl was in a Jerusalem Township field. Police have declined to say what, if any, evidence has been collected.
After Mrs. Steinfurth found the diaper near the Maumee River, police and the Toledo Fire Department’s dive team spent hours searching the area and river.
That same day, Mrs. Steinfurth said she was frustrated about news stories with online commenters accusing her of being involved in the disappearance. “If I had something to do with it, why would I be here?” she asked.
In the past 12 days, volunteers have searched, primarily in East Toledo. Another search set for noon Saturday is expected to expand to other neighborhoods, said organizer Kim Cundick. “It's about finding this baby and bringing her home,” said Ms. Cundick, who has helped in searches for Nevaeh Buchanan of Monroe and three brothers missing from Morenci, Mich.
As the search for Elaina creeps up on its two-week mark, her father maintains hope the girl is alive. “I hope my daughter is OK and comes home,” he said. “It’s been 11 days and she’s still gone. I’m still in shock.”
Staff writer Kelly McLendon contributed to this report.