The search for Baby Elaina Steinfurth may have a new lead to follow — but it's hardly a cause for celebration. Police aren't commenting on the possible new evidence, but it appears that a grim discovery by a local fisherman may be the key to finding Baby Elaina.
Just south of the Anthony Wayne Bridge on the Maumee River, where a previous unconfirmed tip alleged that Angela Steinfurth and her boyfriend had dropped the body of Baby Elaina after she died of injuries caused by abuse, Patrick Howard snagged his fishing line on something underwater. When he managed to free the line and reel it in, he noticed that he had picked up a chilling piece of debris: "a tuft of brownish blonde hair."
There's no way of knowing yet whether it was Baby Elaina's hair, but the missing toddler's paternal grandfather, Terry Steinfurth, Sr., said he believed investigators would be searching the water on Monday in light of the discovery. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Authorities elected to submit the hair to the lab before sending divers into the river.
"Once we are able to determine what kind of hair it is, if it turns out to be human hair, then we will go a little further and do a DNA analysis to see if it matches up with baby Elaina," explained Sgt. Joe Heffernan.
Baby Elaina's grandfather expressed frustration over the lack of communication he and the rest of Baby Elaina's family have received from the authorities handling the case.
"My son [Baby Elaina's father] and I feel we should hear from the detectives at least once a day, or once every other day," said Steinfurth. "Just to let us know that yes they still are out there doing their jobs, and sometimes we're not getting that and it makes you second-guess yourself."
Steinfurth has been deeply involved in the search for his granddaughter since the moment his son, Terry Steinfurth, Jr., called upon him to help convince Elaina's mother Angela Steinfurth to hand the little girl over in a custody exchange. He was present when Angela seemed to relent, going into the house to retrieve the child, only to later emerge screaming that Baby Elaina was gone.
Angela Steinfurth was arrested on June 12 after reportedly admitting that Elaina had suffered a serious injury for which she did not receive medical treatment. There have been conflicting reports regarding the cause and nature of said injury.
Baby Elaina's mother has since been indicted by a grand jury for obstruction of justice. The allegations against her have not been detailed specifically, but the indictment accuses Angela of giving false information in order to ""hinder the discovery, apprehension, prosecution, conviction, or punishment of another for crime or to assist another to benefit from the commission of a crime."
As the search for Baby Elaina Steinfurth stretches on, the missing toddler's grandfather has set up an official donations account with PNC Bank under the name "Bring Elaina Home." Part of the donations will help Elaina's father cover his bills, as he has been out of work since Elaina's disappearance. Terry Steinfurth, Sr. asked that those wishing to donate contribute only to the official PNC account.
"We have heard of the collection cans and the people going door to door for donations," Steinfurth said. "If you have a can set out at your business, we thank you for your support but please take it down."
Several prayer and candlelight vigils have been held for Baby Elaina since her disappearance on June 2. Vigils for Baby Elaina will be held this week on Wednesday and Saturday at the corner of Leonard and Federal Streets. Both will begin at 7 p.m.