If you drive east on Low Gap Road from Ukiah High School, you will pass the Mendocino County jail. Directly across the street from the jail is the Russian River Cemetery. Continue eastwards, past the intersection with North State Street, Low Gap suddenly becomes Brush Street.
Over the last three years, Brush Street has seen some of Ukiah’s most significant development with the construction of three large, low-income apartment complexes financed by plush tax incentives.
Ukiah’s Brush Street intersects with the rusty remnants of the Northwest Pacific Railroad. On the north side of Brush Street, the corrugated metal warehouse of B&B Industrial abuts the train tracks. Between the metal supplier and the railroad lies gargantuan metal beams rusting in the elements, scrap metal left to crack and dimple, and the random refuse of a homeless encampment deconstructed last June to the tune of a quarter-million dollars.
In an attempt to keep out the homeless, the City of Ukiah installed a chain link fence around the area once brimming with Ukiah’s destitute.
Now resting against the fence are two makeshift memorials, a wooden cross and an altar of plastic flowers, dedicated to a one-year-old boy who would die amidst the scrap after his caretaker allegedly abandoned him there on Wednesday, August 3, 2022.
Edward “Two Feathers” Steele is accused of callously casting aside the infant and his brother leaving them in the 100-degree heat. A passerby would report finding an unresponsive toddler on the tracks. Soon after, law enforcement began their search of the area and found the one-year-old deceased.
As this reporter stood at those memorials yesterday, one woman approached and said, “I cannot even believe what happened to those kids. Why couldn’t the cops help them? What about Child Protective Services” Another walked by and said, “This is the end of days. This says something about our community.”
Mendocino County has been left reeling in the wake of a heinous display of cruelty. How could someone charged with caring for something so vulnerable discard them and leave them to die? How could the institutions dedicated to protecting children have let these children fall through the cracks?
Here’s what we know.
In the early morning of Tuesday, August 2, 2022, Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to the 1700 block of Ukiah’s North State Street after reports of a possible domestic violence incident between Sally Arellano, and her boyfriend of several months Edward “Two Feathers” Steele.
Upon arrival, the deputies located the pair in the parking lot of a closed business and they would develop information that led to the arrest of Sally Arellano for domestic violence battery.
At the time of her arrest, Arellano told deputies her two children were a half-mile away at a motel in the care of a babysitter. They were not present during the alleged domestic violence nor during the time of her arrest.
Deputies transported Arellano to the Mendocino County Jail on Low Gap Road where she made a telephone call prior to being booked.
At some point, after Arellano was booked into jail, Edward “Two Feathers” Steele traveled to the babysitter and assumed care for the boys.
One day later, Wednesday, August 3 at 5:00 a.m. Arellano would be released.
Just ten minutes before Arrellano was released from the Mendocino County jail, a concerned citizen reported seeing a male at 4:50 a.m. walking with two children near the intersection of North State Street and Ford Road. Law enforcement would respond to the area but would find no sign of the trio. Law enforcement now believes this was Steele and Sally Arellano’s one and two-year-old.
After the sun rose, the temperatures soared to 100°F. Thunderheads grew ominous in the northeast. Around 1:22 p.m., Arrellano would contact law enforcement and report her two children missing along with Edward “Two Feathers” Steele.
Two-and-a-half hours later, at 3:55 p.m. a concerned citizen would find a child unresponsive lying near the intersection of Brush Street and the Northwest Pacific railroad tracks
Scanner traffic gives us the closest we can get to a moment-by-moment account of that afternoon. Medical personnel was the first on the scene soon after the concerned citizen’s call and they requested law enforcement: “Can we get MCSO down here?” one said over the radio. “We have a minor without parents or supervision on this call.” In the following minutes, Ukiah Police Department and sheriff’s deputies would converge on the location
At 4:09 p.m., law enforcement at the scene would request Child Protective Services respond to the scene.
At 4:15 p.m., it is clear first responders are combing the scene for any sign of a guardian or how the child came to be near the train tracks. One asks another, “Can you check along the west side of the tracks for us?”
At 4:18 p.m., the dispatcher told a Ukiah Police Department officer, “I’ve tried multiple times but I cannot get ahold of anybody at CPS. Do we want to have somebody go over to their office?” The officer responded, “Negative, we can hold off for now, we are working with the Sheriff’s Office right now about where this child possibly belongs.”
At 4:20 p.m., an officer got on the radio. His tone carried tension. He was a quarter-mile north of where the two-year-old was located near Eagle Distribution, a beverage distributor that abuts the railroad tracks. He requested medical Code 3 (meaning lights and sirens) and told fellow officers to come to him immediately behind his car. Moments later dispatch would ask him the nature of the incident, he responded, “We have a possible medical with an infant.”
Within a minute and a half, a first responder would report that the infant was a “confirmed 1144”—code for deceased.
The following morning, law enforcement would identify Sally Arellano’s boyfriend Edward “Two Feathers” Steele as a person of interest in abandoning the children. By that afternoon, he was taken into custody at the Hopland Rancheria after tribal members reported to law enforcement he was there.
Edward “Two Feathers” Steele is no Boy Scout. We obtained his rap sheet. Some highlights:
- 12/11/2013- Arrested by Ukiah CHP for Possession of Controlled Substance, Being Under the Influence of a Controlled Substance, Receiving Stolen Property-Motor Vehicle, Taking Vehicle Without Owner’s Consent, DUI Alcohol/Drugs, Possession of Hypodermic Needle/Syringe
- 10/20/2015- Arrested by Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office for Possession of Controlled Substance, Paraphernalia, and Revocation of Probation
- 11/10/2015- Arrested by Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office for Revocation of Probation, Vehicle Theft, Drive While License Suspended, Evasion – Wanton Disregard for Safety
- 10/3/2017- Arrested by Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office for Violation of Probation and Convicted Felon Purchase or Possess Stun Gun
- 1/26/2018- Arrested by Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office for Resist/Obstruct/Delay Peace Officer and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
- 9/19/2018- Arrested by Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office for Violation of Probation
On April 8, 2021, Steele was arrested by the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office who responded to reports of illegal campers throwing trash into a Ukiah creek. Upon arrival, Steel was walking away from that creek. He was wanted at that time on a felony arrest warrant for Post-release Community Supervision violations, so he was booked into the Mendocino County jail.
Now, he is once again behind bars at the Mendocino County jail facing the most severe charge of his life: murder for his alleged role in the death of a one-year-old boy.
Sally Arellano, the mother of the two boys, told us that on Monday, August 1, 2022, her long-time boyfriend Steele got out of jail and they met up that day. Her boys were quarantined at North State Street’s Motel 6 after coming down with COVID-19.
Steele showed up at the hotel and Arellano said “we had a long, good talk about our relationship.” He left on a walk and Arellano said “I chased him down after I got a babysitter for my babies that were sleeping in my room.”
When she caught up with Steele, she said, “We ended up having domestics. I went to jail for [domestic violence].” Steele communicated to Arellano that he would go back and care for “our babies,” which according to Arellano demonstrated his commitment “because we were in a relationship and we were a family.”
The deputy reportedly gave Steele her purse because “he was going back to the room to care for the babies while I was in jail and hopefully bailed out.” She would have to wait till Wednesday morning to get bailed out.
Looking back on letting Steele care for her babies, Arellano told us, “I had no other choice.” She continued saying, “I was actually glad he decided to go care for them. I believed he cared. I never for a second wanted to believe he would ever hurt one of my babies.”
She told us, “I am so stupid for wanting to believe my babies would ever be safe with anyone other than me.
We reached out to Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office Captain Greg Van Patten hoping to understand the evidence that investigators were able to gather that left them confident enough to book Edward “Two Feathers” Steele for murder. Due to the ongoing nature of the investigation, Captain Van Patten said he could not address the details.
Captain Van Patten directed us to Policy 330 of the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office Policy Manual and the totality of the section refers to the practices and strategies expected of deputies when responding to suspected child abuse. There is no policy directing MCSO staff to assess the safety of children when they take a parent into custody unless there is suspected abuse.
Captain Van Patten said that when deputies arrested Arellano, she told the officers the children were in the care of a babysitter. They were not present for the domestic violence and they were not with her during the time of the arrest. If deputies had taken Arellano into custody with the children present, Captain Van Patten said his deputies would have worked in collaboration with Child Protective Services if they suspected child abuse or neglect in that situation.
Kelsey Rivera, the Assistant Director of Mendocino County’s Social Services, provided an overview of what Family and Child Services do when a parent is taken into custody and children are left in the care of another.
Family and Child Services respond to situations where children are present. If indeed a child is present, “they work in collaboration with Family and Child Services if there is suspected child abuse and/or neglect. “
If children are present during a parent’s commission of a crime and abuse/neglect is suspected, Rivera told us FCS personnel will “coordinate with law enforcement to conduct joint investigations for incidents involving potential crimes and/or share information across agencies regarding the incidents.”
When asked about FCS’s response on Wednesday, August 3, 2022, Rivera said she was, “unable to comment more specifically regarding the events surrounding August 3, 2022, because we are required to follow strict confidentiality requirements pertaining to child welfare referrals and investigations.” She pointed toward Welfare and institutions Code 10850.4 and 10850.45 which dictate her agency’s ability to release information depending on the nature of the incidents.
This document lines out the implications of those codes and suggests the possibility FCS will release information about their role on August 3 next week.
Where the Northwest Pacific Railroad intersects with Brush Street, two makeshift memorials mark the area where the two-year-old was found suffering from the heat. The one-year-old’s body was found a quarter mile away.
A contingent of Ukiah’s first responders are left with the memory of finding the boys. The two-year-old is no longer in the custody of his mother. Sally must contend with the loss of her baby boy and her choice to leave her babies in the hands of Edward “Two Feathers” Steele. Edward sits behind bars facing charges of murder. Our community is left demanding justice for an alleged crime so atrocious a courtroom seems a pittance for the pain and hurt left in its wake. From what we know so far, the agencies designed to protect us followed protocol. All we are left with is a feeling that somehow those protocols are just not enough. Somebody should have been there to catch these children before they had fallen through the cracks.
Remember, these charges against Edward “Two Feathers” Steele have not been proven in a court of law. In accordance with the legal principle of the presumption of innocence, any individual described should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
For anyone wishing to make a suspected child abuse or neglect report, please contact the Mendocino County Child Abuse Hotline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-866-236-0368.