Tuesday, December 5, 2023

An Infant Dead, A Toddler Abandoned—Mendocino County Is Left Demanding to Know How This Could Happen


One of the memorials for the one-year-old child that died after being left along the train tracks in the background of this photographs [Picture by Matt LaFever]

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. 

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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.

Sally Arellano [Mugshot from the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office Booking Logs]

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.

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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.

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Edward “Two Feathers” Steele [Mugshot provided by Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office Booking Logs]

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.

A memorial of plastic flowers marks the area the boys were found on the afternoon of August 3 [Picture by Matt LaFever]

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.

The two makeshift memorials on Brush Street near the train tracks. [Picture by Matt LaFever]

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.

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  1. We need to bring back capital punishment! Some people don’t deserve to be amongst the living. Some crimes deserve equal punishment. Why should murderers, child abusers, rapists & on & on, get the opportunity to experience the postitive experiences that come with life?

    I realize there is different severity & circumstances & even wrong convictions in & for every criminal act. But for the 100%, no doubt, sadistic & malicious criminals, I say good riddance! Why should they get a chance to experience hope, laughter or even joy, Even if it is in the hellscaoe of prison.

    Why should they be afforded the opportunity to see & talk to family & friends? Or write back & forth with them. Forge friendships both in jail & often times, with pen-pals, outside of jail. Some of these fuckers even get married.

    Why do they deserve the benefits of being human when they have no humanity themselves? They’ve stripped that opportunity away from their victims to experience, in full, the joy of life. Or in the case of murder, not at all.

  2. Mendocino County slips further and further into the dark ages. If Eyster does not change this woman with accessory to murder, something is wrong. She shares complete responsibility with his drug besotted monster.

    • The mother , Mendocino county sheriffs and cps should be charged with murder if that’s what they want to charge Feathers with.
      If you read the story the time line dose not add up
      Humm a concerned parent made a call about the missing kids
      They assumed (meaning NOT TRUE) that 2feathers had took the kids then a call an hour later they found the kids one dead and at a rehab Humm
      It sounds to me as tho the concerned parent may know a little more then they are leading on to know.
      Now in the media logs no meat wagon was sent to brush where the kids body was found that’s strange.
      The mother never viewed the body the babysitter did I thought the parents had to do so.
      They didn’t gut the kid to see how he died no cause of death.

      So with no body no cause of death how is it my HERO is setting in jail on murder charges?

  3. Mendocino County needs to wake up and smell the shit show that has become our community… people can point fingers and speculate, rant and rave but until we come together as a community and start at the top of the heap (Social Services, RCS, Board of Supervisors) and request more transparency and less bullshit about where the millions are going to support our children/families instead of this b-rate bill medical and let everyone slip through the cracks as long as we can all pay our overpriced rents/mortgages and our car payments while our community spirals into dissent. Our community has been hijacked by incompetent individuals who seek profit over being professionals and continue to neglect our community
    Wake up Mendo, we all are to blame!

    • “…the shit show that has become our community…” Our Ukiah and County leaders have allowed our community to become a slum. We have transients who start fires, so-called homeless who make themselves at home in our creeks, parks, and along our streets, and community organizations that feed and house and bring more of the down-and-out addicted to our already over-encumbered cities. RCS and Ford Street want to expand, for what reason, more grant $? The horrific death of this poor innocent baby is a sign of what the feel good leaders have allowed Ukiah to become. Give out money and vouchers and acceptance of poor behavior and what do you get…more of the same.

      • I don’t think you can say these people were “transients” since they are purported to be members of the Hopland Rancheria, and thus their ancestors have probably lived in this area for much longer than any of the good ol’ boys around here. If we have a problem we need to look elsewhere than the transient population. Something tells me it is a lot more complicated than homeless people. It would be great if people would actually try to find answers instead of getting into their own personal peeves.

      • It is more complicated than homeless people. It’s a drug issue. This guy went there to get drugs. Something else never mentioned in cases like these is that undoubtedly bad things happened to this man as a child. And I further agree with the above remarks regarding child protection programs in our area. Grants are being written for paychecks not services. (I hear this from friends on the inside) No one followed up on these kids when mom was arrested? CPS is overrun! We have NO FAMILY SHELTER in ukiah! (Or the county?)
        Where is the covid money going?! Hurt people hurt people, and this cycle won’t stop.
        I worked on the hopland rez for 2 years and half the commenters saying this guy is trash are the same people saying to get over the trauma of the conquering of indigenous populations. Like it isnt connected. Like you’re completely shocked.
        And lastly to completely contradict myself, I know a wealthy upper middle class woman who equally abandoned her kid, was arrested for reckless speeding with kid in car while intoxicated. Abandoned kid on street; her rich pretentious family got a good lawyer and got her off with minimal penalties. Wasnt even her first dui or her first child endangerment charge. This stuff happens across the spectrum. Some people just have family money and power to hide it.
        I see the big fence being built with razor sharp points to keep the transients out. Babies will just die along the river then.

  4. They should have looked into who would be caring for the babies and not just left at “babysitter has them” I hope the two year is recovering good. Prayers to the babies.

    • The cops and mother should be held responsible for letting the kids go back with this guy. Looking at this guy’s record, he shouldn’t be near children period.

  5. When the cops tried to call Children and Family Services (aka CPS) why were they not available? Is it because they are seriously understaffed? The salaries the County pays for Social Workers are so low it’s a real challenge to hire any.
    How is it a “boyfriend” of a couple months became the care-giver for these children? That should have never happened.
    Mendocino County has thousands of dedicated employees who work incredibly hard to make the County a safe, and better place to live, but who also struggle with making ends meet because of the crappy salaries that are not at market level, long hours without compensation, and frankly, outright mismanagement of public funds.
    We can do better.

  6. There seems to be some inconsistencies with the article. I have caught a few but the biggest one is how the heck did you interview the mother about the incident on Aug 1, 2022 and she wasn’t arrested til Aug. 2, 2022?!?!?! I am getting some propaganda vibes from this site!!

  7. So they have the mother arrested for beating on the boyfriend, and the boyfriend who has a criminal record dating back years, and she say’s “my babies are at my motel room with a babysitter”, the cops were not at all curious of the kids situation? C’mon, what were they thinking? “Where exactly are your children Miss?” and then a welfare check! This could have been avoided by one cop actually using some intuition , training or just wondering what kind of parent is this woman involved with an obvious criminal! A fucking tragedy that shouldn’t have happened.

  8. There was never a babysitter. The kids were left alone while the parents beat each other in a parking lot a half a mile away.

  9. As a former CPS social worker in Mendocino County, I can tell you an urgent call to CPS does NOT go unanswered. Instead, the call rolls to the next in charge, which is usually a social worker supervisor, who should have responded immediately…if Assistant Director Kelsey Rivera is so confident and knowledgeable, why the hell didn’t she respond immediately to save this poor child? ANY other CPS social worker, CPS supervisor, CPS manager, or even the Social Services Director herself had a duty to respond immediately, and they are ALL trained in basic child safety, and they are also ALL liable for this preventable death.

    The Mendocino County Social Services basic structure has become dangerously flawed, because they are overly top heavy with supervisors, managers, and incompatible dipshits without the required education, which leaves line staff understaffed and paralyzed with fictional top-heavy policy. It is very much still a “good-ole-boy” network of selfish power grabbers drunk with nepotism and disdain for other underpaid County residents.

    UPD or MCSO should have scooped up the kids from Motel 6, upon arrest of the mother, and taken them directly to CPS or the police station where safety can then be ensured. How many recent or currently open investigations/referrals did CPS have on this mother? Did the mother have an open WIC 300 dependency court case? Why not? Was their an existing CPS crafted safety plan? Why not? Anyone bother to contact dad or other family? Why not? Did anyone put eyes on these kids in the moment? Why the fuck not?

    Also, many CPS social workers, their supervisors, and LE have direct phone & email access to each other, because they coordinate so often (should be anyway). LE majorly screwed up when they minimized initial CPS involvement, and instead decided their MCSO or UPD balls were biggest, and therefore didn’t need to coordinate with anyone.

    The UPD officer who minimized initial CPS involvement is as liable for this child’s death as 2fux, and perhaps should also be arrested for murder?

  10. What this boils down to is systematic failure. I was abused for years and no one would listen. I was arrested for what was very clearly a false allegation of battery against my husband and wasn’t even home when the crime allegedly occurred. CPS had my kids right after. The UPD needs a very serious turn over. This was so easily preventable and that baby could’ve been saved. The mother absolutely should be charged. Maybe not with murder, but child endangerment? Something. She knew she left those babies alone. If there was a babysitter, why hadn’t that person come forward to tell anyone that he came and took them? There was no one looking after those babies and one’s life ended because of it. Because of reckless parenting. Stop making this about race and a bad childhood and start making this about shit parents who continue to get away with this crap but they take children for a cluttered house. My sister called cps on herself to report the sexual abuse of her 11 year old daughter by her 14 year old step brother and they did nothing. They told her good luck and left the boy with his 8 year old sister. This county is going under and at this point, nothing can save it. The police shoved me from my doorway and forced entry into my home with no warrant and took my children. I had to fight my ass off to get them back. You want to see change? Then start doing something! Stop complaining and hiding behind a keyboard and start stepping the hell up. It starts with us as a community to get the changes we are so desperately in need of. Stop letting children be abused, neglected,and killed. Left to die in the heat of summer on the railroad tracks like an unwanted dog. He “refused” to enter his own arraignment? Make that sorry son of a bitch go in there and face what he did. Enough is enough.

  11. Whatever happened to the babysitter did the cops go well apparently they didn’t go to find the babysitter and the children since the mother is being arrested and he wasn’t the Father the cops should have did their job and went got those children CPS should have stood up and and did their job but where’s the babysitter who is this alleged babysitter what room were he was she in that two feathers went back to get those kids and if she accountable too because she released the kids to him knowing that he isn’t the father there’s a lot of holes in this theory and that need to be straightened up because it’s not fair it’s not right that they’re only targeting and pointing fingers when they should realize that other people are involved in this mother is out free to walk around and more and get attention for the child that passed away but you know how is the other baby doing is he released back to his mother why is she not in jail is she going to be held accountable and held up the charges of murder or allowing this to happen and she did allow it happened by nominating him to take care of her kids at work his he didn’t ask her if the cops didn’t see any kids with them when they register she abandoned her kids he didn’t abandon the kids she did in the initial things to go fight with Mr Steele he was a babysitter yet again there’s cameras all over motel 6 they just installed them they would see him leaving the motel with those kids did anybody check the surprise and see him leaving with the kids and where are the pictures of him walking to town with the kids if they say they have what about the cops you did arresting why are they not being held accountable for not doing their job because they’re native a child died all because the color of his skin and the lack of the officers who carried for that child and it was a duty to care for that child they’re supposed to protect and serve not be prejudice and pick sides and decide whether they want to or they don’t want to help a child or an adult or another human being they do what they want that’s not fair a baby died a family lost a baby not just a mother who didn’t love them but a family a community law enforcement needs to step up and be accountable too the mother needs to be held accountable she didn’t get a pass on this this is her choice to go fight with him she abandoned her kids to go fight and never went back to the motel room who wears the babysitter where is the babysitters that’s the question

  12. The officers knew this man, this women and Knew of these children period.I have seen this man walking around the Raleys Motel 6 area several times and I live in Redwoodvalley,cops are constanly in contact with the homeless and the drug addicts that frequent this area ,and Everytime I saw these kids in 105′,100′ weather not fulled clothed or shoed i thought still…,still no one has helped these kids ,assuming of course that someone who looks like him couldnt be taking proper care of them….your basic judgemental racial belief, Which is the common belief of the community,the police ,the people, so knowing the intolerance and gwnuine disregard for Natives in this town because I am Native anerican assumed someone would have taken these kids out of a homeless drugaddicts care.But Nope its gotten even worse ,now Police and Cps dont care even for the innocent,Yoy know who you are you know what you Could have done and chose not to, you do .Sweet Dreams to the worthless and heartless.

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Matt LaFever
Matt LaFeverhttps://mendofever.com/
I like to think of myself as a reporter for the Average Joe. Journalism has become a craft defined largely by city dwellers on America's coasts. It’s time to take it back. I have been an Emerald Triangle resident since 2006 and this is year ten in Mendocino County. Please, email me at matthewplafever@gmail.com if you know a story that needs to be told.

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