Boy 'Afraid to Go Home' Emails Police for Help & What They Discover is Even More Disturbing


12 News

Last month El Mirage Police Chief Paul Marzocca received a disturbing email from a young boy.

In it, the Arizona elementary school student described how he was being physically abused by his father and was afraid to go home.

  • The boy, who hasn't been named, bravely shared that the abuse had been going on for two years.

    According to court records, police visited the boy at his school and he told officers in chilling detail how his father -- 27-year-old Colin Steffee -- had "punched him, choked him, threw him into the cabinet, striking his head on the counter and floor,” the night before.

    He went on to say that while he was on the floor, his father had kicked him in the ribs. His mother told police that she had watched her son being beaten and worried for his safety.

    Shortly after the child spoke with police on April 24, Steffee was arrested and booked into the Maricopa County jail. According to court records, he blamed his behavior on anger issues. Authorities praised the young boy’s actions.

    "I want to say that this youngster was very courageous for reaching out in a time of crisis," Marzocca said.

  • Advertisement
  • After news of the boy’s abuse and the father’s arrest came to light, another family came forward with accusations against the Steffees.

    The family of a child who was being fostered in the same home told authorities that their 2-year-old boy had recently suffered cuts around his eyes and scratches on his face while under the Steffees's care.

    Around the same time in April, the toddler’s grandmother sent a text message to the child’s case manager complaining about her grandson’s treatment at the hands of the Steffees. “Just thought you should see these pictures. And know…I’m very upset about this,” she  wrote. “No excuse for this.”

    The toddler was reportedly returned home April 24, the same day as Steffee’s arrest, but his mom says that caseworkers never mentioned the abuse allegations. She told AZ Central that both she and the child's grandmother reported his injuries to the caseworker, who told them it was from Steffee's 3-year-old son. They were told that the foster parents promised to watch the two children when they play together in the future. 

    Looking back, they feel this was an opportunity that the state Department of Child Safety could have investigated Steffee's care but didn't. 

  • Then the story took another shocking turn -- the women recalled Steffee mentioning a foster child in their care who had suddenly died. 

    While talking to authorities, the toddler’s family remembered a previous conversation they’d had with the foster parents. They recalled that the Steffees had told them that they had lost a foster child the previous year. 

    “Colin told me their first baby died,” the grandmother recalled. “They said from SIDS. He said they were going to adopt her.”

  • It was soon confirmed that a little girl, who the foster parents called Bella, had died at the Steffee home last summer.

    Through a report obtained via a public-records request, the Arizona Republic identified the child as 19-month-old Reyna del Sol Flores and said the toddler had been found unresponsive in her toddler bed September 11, 2018. She was in the foster home of the Steffee family at the time.

    "Colin told me their first baby died,” the grandmother told AZ Central. “They said from SIDS. He said they were going to adopt her.”

    The Steffees reportedly set up a GoFundMe account shortly after her death, and her autopsy listed her death as unexplained.

    Dr. Mary Ellen Rimsza said this determination is "unusual" for a child over the age of 1 because Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and sleep-related suffocation is a greater risk for younger babies. "A 19-month-old would be an unusual age to see that (kind of) suffocation," Rimsza said, explaining that by the time children reach their first birthday, they tend to move around much more, decreasing the chances of suffocation. 

  • Although an autopsy determined that the toddler died of undetermined causes, the case has since become the subject of a police and child-welfare investigation.

    Now, the 2-year-old boy's family who had initially alerted authorities to Flores’ death are speaking out and wondering why the Department of Child Services (DCS) didn’t investigate further and look into Steffee’s background after they had complained about their child’s injuries.

  • The grandmother says that a quick Google search came up with a video of Steffee that she said is alarming given his statement about his anger issues.

    In the video, which has since been removed, she said Steffee is on film saying that since taking testosterone he noticed "that I've been a little bit more mad, a little bit more upset, I guess, emotional-wise.” 

    The toddler’s family is saying their boy’s treatment and the death of Flores has made them skeptical of the foster system. 

    "They're just looking for someone to take the kids," the grandmother said of DCS. "They're not investigating them (foster parents). In my opinion, that's not protecting the child.”

    On April 25, Steffee was released with electronic monitoring after being charged with three felony child abuse counts. At the time of his arrest, Steffee’s five adopted children were in his care along with a foster infant and it's unclear where the children are now. 

crime abuse death