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Published: Thursday, 6/20/2013 - Updated: 10 months ago

Mood is grim but search continues for toddler

BY TAYLOR DUNGJEN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Tracy Finley of Toledo points as he walks with Ft. Wayne, Ind,. resident Gale St. John and her trained cadaver dog, Simon, at Navarre Park. The group searched the park Wednesday for Elaina Steinfurth. Tracy Finley of Toledo points as he walks with Ft. Wayne, Ind,. resident Gale St. John and her trained cadaver dog, Simon, at Navarre Park. The group searched the park Wednesday for Elaina Steinfurth.
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Everyone seems to have a theory of what happened to Elaina Steinfurth or where the missing toddler is.

Most outcomes — theorized by family, friends, total strangers, members of the volunteer search teams — are grim.

Elaina was reportedly last seen June 2 at the residence of her mother’s boyfriend on Federal Street. Police have searched that house — and others — numerous times.

Could she be in a field, in the Maumee River, in a landfill? Is she OK and in someone’s home, unaware of the nationwide speculation that surrounds her whereabouts?

“I’d love to find her and put her to peace,” said Aidia Ortis of Toledo, who spent Wednesday afternoon creeping through overgrown grass looking for signs of the 18-month-old.

Ms. Ortis guessed that the girl is in the Maumee River. Still, she hoped the girl would be found alive.

While searching, she wore a white flower behind her right ear, held in place by her glasses.

“That’s for Elaina,” she said.

Ms. Ortis, who does not know Elaina or her family, was joined by about a dozen others Wednesday at Navarre Park in East Toledo for yet another search.

Volunteers had been through the park before, but better safe than sorry.

“We’ll continue every other day until we get an indication from the FBI that it’s a cold case,” said Risa Smith, who works with Justice for Nevaeh, a group formed after Nevaeh Buchanan was reported missing from her Monroe home in 2009. The 5-year-old was found 10 days later buried in a shallow grave along the River Raisin.

No arrests have been made in that case; Ms. Smith said something is done weekly, if not daily, to solicit tips on Nevaeh’s disappearance and death.

Elaina Elaina
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Ms. Smith is a distant cousin of Nevaeh.

Wednesday’s search got an extra hand from Gale St. John and her cadaver dog Simon, a border collie.

Ms. St. John, who lives near Fort Wayne, Ind., said she was in Toledo visiting family when her daughter asked if she would help look for Elaina.

She agreed and has helped look for the girl since Saturday.

“It seemed like the right thing to do,” she said.

In 2005, Ms. St. John, who bills herself as a psychic, made local news after she led a family to the body of a missing loved one behind a North Toledo motel where he had been staying.

Foul play was not a factor in the case; a Lucas County deputy coroner reported at the time that there was evidence the man had drowned.

Ms. St. John said she planned to leave Toledo today, but was considering staying for additional searches.

After two days of searches in and along the Maumee River, using specially trained FBI agents with diving certification, officials pulled away.

Police had no other official searches planned Wednesday, but said they would continue to follow up on “credible leads.”

The toddler’s mother, Angela Steinfurth, remains in the Lucas County jail on one count of child endangering, held in lieu of $250,000 bond. She is accused of knowing Elaina had been injured on or about the day she disappeared, but not getting the little girl medical attention.

She is to appear in Toledo Municipal Court again today for a preliminary hearing.

No other charges have been filed.

Toledo police have asked that anyone with information about Elaina call 1-800-225-5324. Police and the FBI have posted a $10,000 reward for information that leads to the toddler’s whereabouts.

Contact Taylor Dungjen at: tdungjen@theblade.com, 419-724-6054, or on Twitter @taylordungjen.



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