It was every parent’s worst nightmare.
Angela Steinfurth, seeing that her 18-month-daughter was missing from her crib, frantically ran into the street of her East Toledo, Ohio, neighborhood, screaming, “They took my baby!”
Word of the June 2 disappearance swept through the blighted suburb and prompted authorities and hundreds of area residents to search for Baby Elaina every day along local streets, parks and riverbanks. On June 6, a used diaper of the type that Elaina wore turned up along the Maumee River.
But concern shifted to outrage when Steinfurth, 25, was arrested June 12 on a charge of child endangerment, which prosecutors dropped when a grand jury indicted her June 24 for obstruction of justice. She has pleaded not guilty (her lawyer, public defender James MacHarg, declined to comment).
The story took another turn when her boyfriend, Steven King Jr., 23, was arrested on July 22, also on an obstruction charge in connection with the case. The Toledo Free Press reported that Steinfurth confided to her cellmate that King had thrown the toddler against a wall and that the child later died in her sleep. Steinfurth then admitted the couple tossed the body into the river, the cellmate told authorities.
Despite the arrests, family members and residents continue to search the area and hold prayer vigils twice a week for the child.
“We’re still holding out hope that she s alive somewhere and is being hidden,” her paternal grandfather, Terry Steinfurth Sr., tells PEOPLE “We’re all keeping our hopes up until we are shown she’s not coming home alive.”
The child disappeared during what was supposed to be a routine custody handoff between Steinfurth and her estranged husband, Terry Steinfurth Jr. According to Steinfurth Sr., the couple had separated a few weeks earlier but had not filed for divorce, so they were informally sharing custody of Elaina and her 4-year-old sister, Kylie.
Dennis Bolfa, who lives across the street from the house that the toddler disappeared from, tells PEOPLE that shortly after midnight on the day Elaina would be reported missing, Bolfa saw Steinfurth and King slip quietly into a van. They drove off and returned 15 to 20 minutes later. He says he always hears the screen door open, but this time, he did not.
Bolfa says he also was home on the afternoon of June 2, when Terry Steinfurth Jr., came by to collect his daughters. He says that it took a long time for Angela Steinfurth to agree to turn Elaina over. She went into the house and came out a few minutes later, “screaming and yelling, ‘They got my baby! They took my baby.'”
According to The Toledo Blade, Angela Steinfurth has suggested to her stepfather that King is solely responsible for the toddler’s disappearance. She says, ‘Now they’ll find out where my baby’s at,’ ” Richard Schiewe told the newspaper.
Boyfriend Shouts to Reporters
After his arrest, as King walked past reporters asking him where Baby Elaina was, King shouted back, “You guys will find out when I’m [found] innocent.”
His attorney, Peter Rost, did not return calls seeking comment. On July 23, Rost told a judge that King had continually cooperated with investigators and was only arrested after finally declaring he was done talking to the FBI, according to Toledo News Now.
Terry Steinfurth Jr. has not commented for this story.
Angela Steinfurth remains in jail on $100,000 bond and King is being held in lieu of $250,000 bond. A $10,000 reward has been offered in the case. To provide tips, call (800) CALL-FBI.