Suspected human remains were found Thursday in a computer box, stored in a detached garage on the property where missing toddler Elaina Steinfurth was last seen about three months ago.
“We have received a box that appears to contain human remains,” said Dr. James Patrick, Lucas County Coroner.
Dr. Diane Scala-Barnett, a deputy coroner, went to 704 Federal St. in East Toledo after police notified the coroner’s office about a discovery in the garage.
“She felt that initially that’s what it appears to be,” Mr. Patrick said of Dr.. Barnett’s findings.
An autopsy is scheduled for today. Toledo police also have scheduled a news conference at 10:30 a.m.
Elaina was 18 months old when she last was seen in June at the Federal Street home owned by the family of her mother’s estranged boyfriend.
The girl’s mother, Angela Steinfurth, stayed overnight in the home the night of June 1 with her two daughters and then-boyfriend Steven King II, 23. The girls’ father, Terry Steinfurth II, 25, went to Federal Street at about 2 p.m. on June 2 to pick up the girls, but was only given their 4-year-old daughter, Kylee.
Mrs. Steinfurth, 25, who is estranged from, but still legally married to Mr. Steinfurth, said she didn’t know where the toddler was, police have reported.
Mrs. Steinfurth and Mr. King remain in the Lucas County jail charged with obstructing justice for allegedly lying to police during the ongoing investigation. Police have said that until they find Elaina or her remains, they consider the case to be a missing persons investigation. In Lucas County Common Pleas Court last month, Brad Smith, an assistant county prosecutor, referred to the investigation as a homicide.
Before Thursday’s search, the Federal Street home had been searched by Toledo police officers and federal agents numerous times, at least once with cadaver dogs, since the girl was reported missing.
During one search in June, a cadaver dog alerted to the garage, but it’s not clear if that part of the property was searched.
The King family said the detached garage, behind the two-story home, is rarely used. Above where cars would be parked is a small loft used for storing Christmas decorations.
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Mr. King’s mother, Julie King, sat on a neighbor’s front steps Thursday evening, watching the swarm of people who gathered at the default search party headquarters at Leonard and Federal streets mill about under the watchful eyes of more than a dozen police officers.
Mrs. King said she had not talked to her son Thursday and said her son’s attorney, Pete Rost, advised the family not to comment. Mrs. King did say police searched her home four times.8c042a39-2557-4630-9f7e-9cddbe5832da
Mr. Rost said his client was in court Thursday for a previously scheduled pretrial hearing before Judge Ruth Ann Franks. The hearing confirmed a Sept. 16 trial date set earlier. After the hearing, Mr. King returned to jail, his attorney said.
Mr. Rost would not provide additional details. Jane Roman, attorney for Mrs. Steinfurth, did not return calls for comment.
“It’s pending and still in the investigative stage. I can’t comment on that,” he said.
Jeff Lingo, chief of the criminal division for the Lucas County Prosecutor’s Office, declined to comment when asked if prosecutors had struck a deal with Mr. King or if he led investigators to the suspected remains.
As of about 7 p.m. Thursday, Mr. King was being questioned by Toledo police investigators.
Mr. King spent several hours at the downtown Safety Building talking to detectives. The second-floor investigative services bureau was on lockdown Thursday evening, which is a common practice when detectives are talking to victims, witnesses, or suspects in sensitive or high-profile cases.
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It wasn’t until just before 9 p.m. that Mr. King was returned to the jail. A reporter from The Blade waiting near the jail shouted to Mr. King twice, but did not get a response.
Sgt. Joe Heffernan, the department’s spokesman, did not return calls Thursday seeking comment. He did, however, send out a news release at 5:20 p.m. announcing that at 3:16 p.m. officers executed a search warrant at the Federal Street home based on “new information regarding the Elaina Steinfurth case.”
Lorie Kaczmarek said she noticed officers near her Prentice Street home at about 4 p.m., stretching yellow police tape from the corner of Prentice and Leonard streets down the block to 646 Prentice. The police line would have kept anyone from peering into backyards, including into the Kings’ backyard, where their detached garage is.
Ms. Kaczmarek said officers told her they didn’t know why they were on scene; officers left at about 5 p.m., though the police tape remained. Ms. Kaczmarek took down the tape herself.
She said she hadn’t seen officers around the East Toledo neighborhood since about June, once search efforts slowed. “I hope they find her,” Ms. Kaczmarek said.
Police were called back after a large fight broke out just after 5 p.m. What prompted the fight was not immediately clear.
The brawl consisted mostly of young men and women screaming and exchanging punches.
A videographer from WTVG-TV, Channel 13, stepped into the brawl and tried to calm the crowd. At least one woman had to be restrained by a man who grabbed the back of her dark gray T-shirt as she tried to lunge at another woman.
Mr. Steinfurth and his father, Terry Steinfurth, Sr., arrived at Leonard and Federal streets as the fight was in progress. The two rushed across Leonard Street to the brawl; they appeared to want to defuse the situation.
The fight only broke up when officers intervened, although several women continued to yell at each other, shouting “an eye for an eye.”
After the fight, police put up another yellow tape barrier.
Mrs. Steinfurth’s stepfather, Richard Schiewe, pointed to the cordoned-off area and said the same should have been done to the Federal Street home, not allowing anyone in or out until there was a resolution in the case.
He had heard reports that a box with human remains was taken from the scene, but called the neighborhood gossip “speculation.”
“I do hope it’s her,” he said. “That way we can all get peace.”
The younger Mr. Steinfurth, who was visibly upset, said, “I don’t want to talk to anyone right now.”
Three police cruisers were on the scene late Thursday, although the police tape was removed from the area.
The missing toddler case has received national attention, with family members from both sides appearing on CNN’s Nancy Grace.
Offscreen, much drama surrounded the families and the investigation.
Right away, police began searching in garbage cans, vacant houses, in and around the Maumee River. Investigators seemed to double their search on the water after Mrs. Steinfurth reported to police that she found a “freshly used” diaper — the same size and brand as Elaina’s — in a wooded area along the river.
An FBI dive team came to Toledo to search the river — which was also searched by members of the Toledo Fire Department’s dive team — using high-tech equipment attempting to locate the girl.
Special Agent Vicki Anderson, a spokesman from the Cleveland FBI office, did not know if the bureau was involved in the search Thursday.
She declined to comment on recent developments and referred all questions to local police.
Police followed numerous leads — even ones that seemed far-fetched, including reports from two psychics that suggested the toddler’s body was in a Jerusalem Township field crying, “Mommy.”
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In July, a fisherman snagged hair on his line, prompting an outcry for divers to search the river again.
Police sent the hair sample to a lab for testing, which determined that the hair was human, but because of its condition, could not be tested for DNA.
At one point, a woman who claimed to be Mrs. Steinfurth’s cellmate in the jail said that Mrs. Steinfurth confided in her that she and Mr. King threw the toddler’s body, wrapped in a blanket, into the river.
Volunteers from around northwest Ohio and parts of Michigan met regularly in East Toledo to search various fields for any clues that might lead them to Elaina.
Risa Smith, founder of the Michigan nonprofit group Justice for Nevaeh, which formed after a 5-year-old Monroe girl was kidnapped and killed, helped organize searches, sweeps of the river, and twice-weekly vigils for Elaina.
She said Thursday that volunteers were motivated to help because the case involved a missing child and they wanted “to hold out hope.” Lately, supporters continued their steady vigils but slowed search efforts, focusing instead on trying to entice someone to spill information about the case.
“We made the new poster geared at getting to someone’s conscious and making them talk,” Ms. Smith said.
She said she went to the Federal Street site Thursday. Others gathered there were full of “disbelief and anger and questions,” Ms. Smith said.
Like others, she was waiting for the coroner to confirm the identity of the remains. Until then, there’s “a little bit of hope,” she said.
“I think we’re headed down the path of justice,” Ms. Smith said.
Blade writers Mark Zaborney, Nolan Rosenkrans, and Vanessa McCray contributed to this report.