Eight months after her arrest in connection with the beating death of her infant daughter by her 6-year-old brother, the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office has filed a lesser charge against Kathleen Steele.
In August, the Pinellas Sheriff's Office arrested Steele on a charge of aggravated manslaughter of a child, a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
But prosecutors are charging her with leaving a child unattended in a motor vehicle causing injury, which carries a maximum sentence of five years.
State Attorney Bernie McCabe declined to provide specifics on the decision Friday.
"I've got an ethical obligation to only file charges I think I can prove and that's what I did," he said.
A trial date has not been scheduled.
"We agree with the state's decision not to pursue the charge for which she was arrested," said Steele's defense attorney, Kym Rivellini.
On Aug. 8 about 1:50 p.m., Steele, 62, was running errands with her newborn daughter and two sons, ages 3 and 6. She walked into a cellphone repair shop and left her children in the minivan with the doors locked, engine off and windows up, the Pinellas Sheriff's Office said.
The baby, just 13 days old, began to cry and her oldest brother picked her up from the car seat. He smashed the girl's head against the minivan's ceiling, dropped her to the floor and clobbered her, the Sheriff's Office said.
After making two other stops, Steele did not notice the infant's injuries until they arrived to their rental home.
She was arrested, but later released on $100,000 bail.