Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas Park man gets life in prison for killing 3-month-old daughter

LARGO — Linda Schroll remembers the way baby Olivia cooed when she had her bottle, how her dark hair, in those last few days, looked like it was fading to auburn. She weighed 8 pounds, a bit more than a bag of sugar.

"She had just started to look at her brother. When he came into the room, she lit up," Schroll told Pinellas Circuit Judge Michael Andrews on Tuesday morning. "She was just starting to recognize him."

The only thing she has left of her 3-month-old granddaughter, Schroll said, are memories.

Schroll spoke moments before Steven Dykes, Olivia's father, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder for killing his daughter last year as her mother slept in their Pinellas Park home.

Dykes, 46, was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

On the night of Feb. 18 last year, Olivia's mother, Melissa Schroll, went to bed early because she was starting a new job, the Pinellas Sheriff's Office said at the time.

While Schroll and Dykes slept, the baby woke up. Schroll nudged Dykes to check on the girl.

Dykes got out of bed, grabbed Olivia, and struck her head, prosecutors said, against the kitchen counter.

The next morning, Dykes approached Schroll, their daughter's limp body in his arms. Olivia died of blunt head trauma, said Assistant State Attorney Kate Alexander.

Days after the baby's death, Pinellas Sheriff's investigators placed a wiretap on Schroll, according to court records. The audio captured Dykes apologizing to her, explaining that he was on pills.

"I could have accidentally hit her head against the kitchen counter several times," Dykes told her. He was arrested Feb. 21.

Prosecutors were seeking the death penalty if Dykes went to trial, which was scheduled for next week.

"In Steven's mind, he wanted to preclude any possibility of the death penalty," said Assistant Public Defender Edward Abare. "So this is the only way that he could do that."

At the hearing Tuesday, Olivia's grandfather, Gary Schroll, said Dykes has taken "something that we will never be able to get back."

"We won't be able to ask her, do you like this movie, do you like to go McDonald's?" said Schroll, his voice breaking. "He just took something from us that we'll never be able to hold and cherish."

"God may forgive you," he told Dykes, "but I can't."

The family brought photos of the little girl to court. In one, she wore a shirt with cupcakes on it. In another, a small teddy bear rested in her arms.

"You stole my baby," said Olivia's mother, Melissa Schroll, in court. "She will live on forever in my heart, and you're dead to me.

"You died the day I found out you killed my baby."

Contact Laura C. Morel at Follow @lauracmorel.

Pinellas Park man gets life in prison for killing 3-month-old daughter 11/29/16 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 29, 2016 3:36pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Half of Florida lawmakers fail or nearly fail review of support for public records

    State Roundup

    WEST PALM BEACH — Half of Florida's legislators failed or nearly failed in a review of their support for public records and meetings given by Florida newspapers and an open-government group after this year's legislative sessions.

    State Senator Bill Galvano, R- Bradenton (left) and Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran ranked on opposite sides of the spectrum in an analysis of support for open records. Galvano scored a B-minus and Corcoran scored a D-plus.
[Times file photo]
  2. Yale dean on leave over offensive Yelp reviews leaves post

    Bizarre News

    NEW HAVEN, Conn. — A Yale University dean who was placed on leave over offensive reviews she posted on Yelp has left her position at the Ivy League institution, school officials said Tuesday.

  3. Federal agencies demand records from SeaWorld theme park


    ORLANDO — Two federal agencies are reportedly demanding financial records from SeaWorld.

    Killer whales Ikaika and Corky participate in behaviors commonly done in the wild during SeaWorld's Killer Whale educational presentation in this photo from Jan. 9. SeaWorld has been subpoenaed by two federal agencies for comments that executives and the company made in August 2014 about the impact from the "Blackfish" documentary. 
[Nelvin C. Cepeda/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS]
  4. The people you meet along O.J. Howard Lane


    OJ Howard (far right) is seen in a photo from his adolescent years at Bethesda Missionary Baptist Church in Prattville, Ala., on Wednesday, May 3, 2017. Howard served as an usher in addition to attending regular services at this church.