EL MIRAGE, Ariz. — After a 14-year-old boy emailed the El Mirage Police Chief claiming that he was being abused by his foster father, the I-Team has learned that another foster child died in the same home in September 2018.
A nearly 2-year-old girl died in the home from an unknown cause months before Colin Steffee was arrested after his foster son accused him of two years of abuse, including punching, choking and throwing.
The girl, another foster child whom the kids called Bella, was found stiff and blue days away from her second birthday, according to the police report.
Much is unknown about what happened.
The police report says one of the other children tried to wake Bella up and called the parents for help when he noticed she wasn’t breathing.
The parents called 911, and paramedics gave Colin Steffee instructions over the phone as he attempted CPR before first responders arrived, the report says.
The foster mother told police the toddler has had problems breathing in the past. According to the medical examiner's report, the girl had a medical history that included past drug exposure, chronic rhinitis with nasal obstruction and adenoid hypertrophy.
The girl had been with the foster family since she was about 5 months old, and the only problem reported at the home was a recent cough, the medical examiner's report said.
The toddler had three to four sippy cups of milk before bed, the family told officers. The girl brought the sippy cup to bed and slept on her side so she could drink from it throughout the night before she was found not breathing in the morning, the foster mother told police.
Police records show there were surveillance cameras in the room, but Steffee told police that "someone must have unplugged the video because everything was gone from his phone and no longer saved," according to the report.
The medical examiner found no indications of physical abuse or neglect. There were also no suspicious findings on the toxicology report. The medical examiner listed the cause and manner of death as undetermined.
It is unclear if the Department of Child Services investigated the home or considered removing the children, saying in a statement:
“State law forbids DCS from releasing information on a child’s death or near death, unless it is determined that the death was caused by abuse or neglect by a parent, guardian or custodian.”