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Kathleen Steele, charged in baby's death, allowed to remove ankle monitor

Kathleen Steele, the mother of a 6-year-old boy who authorities say fatally beat his newborn sister in a locked minivan, will have her ankle monitor removed but is still not allowed to see her two sons.

After her Aug. 11 arrest on a charge of aggravated manslaughter of a child, Steele, 62, was ordered to wear a GPS monitor upon her release from the Pinellas County Jail on $100,000 bail.

In a court hearing Friday, her attorney, Kym Rivellini, told Pinellas Circuit Judge Michael Andrews that the monitor is excessive, considering that Steele has been a Florida resident since 1972. At a recent trip to Sam's Club, the monitor started beeping for no apparent reason, she added, and the device is also causing Steele skin irritation.

"She's not someone who's a risk to others or likely to flee," Rivellini said.

Andrews ruled the monitor can be removed.

Rivellini also asked the judge that any contact between Steele and her 6-year-old and 3-year-old sons be handled outside of the criminal case. But assistant state attorney Kate Alexander disagreed, explaining that the children will be witnesses in the upcoming trial.

"I don't want an opportunity of influence whatsoever," she said.

After a bench conference that lasted a few minutes, Andrews didn't make any rulings, and instead scheduled another hearing.

On Aug. 8 about 1:50 p.m., Steele walked into a cellphone repair shop on 66th Street N in St. Petersburg to pick up her phone. She left her three 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.

Contact Laura C. Morel at lmorel@tampabay.com. Follow @lauracmorel.

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