32-year-old Edward “Two Feathers” Steele sits in the Mendocino County Jail accused of abandoning two children alongside a Ukiah railroad, simply setting them down on the ground radiating heat from the blazing sun. The one-year-old would die that day, August 3, 2022. The two-year-old would be hospitalized.
Court papers reveal that just two days before allegedly casting these children aside Steele had stood alongside Public Defender Mary LeClair at the Mendocino County Superior Court. LeClair would recommend to Judge Carly Dolan that Steele serve the rest of his then jail term in the care of the Ukiah Recovery Center, also known as the Ford Street Project. Deputy District Attorney Ivan Abrams did not object to the proposition. On August 1, Steele left the Mendocino County jail and was subsequently relinquished into the custody of the residential program on Ukiah’s Ford Street.
Sally Arellano, the mother of the victimized children and the then-girlfriend of Edward “Two Feathers” Steele, told us in a previous interview that upon arrival at the Fort Street Project, he tested positive for COVID-19 and was discharged from the facility. Steele would arrive at Motel 6 on North State Street on the night of August 1 where Arellano and her two children were quarantined after testing positive for the virus themselves.
In the early morning darkness of August 2, deputies responded to reports of Arellano and Steele engaged in a dispute allegedly occurring in the parking lot of a business just south of Motel 6. During the encounter and investigation, Arellano told deputies her children were in the care of a babysitter back at the hotel. The details of the domestic dispute are unclear, but deputies arrested Arellano for suspected domestic violence and she was booked into the Mendocino County jail where she remained until her release at 5:00 a.m. on August 3, 2022, approximately 24 hours after allegedly fighting with Steele in a darkened parking lot.
Somehow, during the 24 hours Arellano was in the county jail, Steele obtained custody of her two children. Out of jail at 5:00 a.m. on August 3, Arellano became concerned about her children’s whereabouts. By 1:00 p.m., she reported them missing to law enforcement.
Just hours later, around 3:00 p.m., a passerby would discover the two-year-old unresponsive near the railroad tracks off of Ukiah’s Brush Street, clearly suffering from heat-related symptoms. Medics rushed the child to the hospital. First responders discovered the lifeless one-year-old later that afternoon.
Law enforcement announced Edward “Two Feathers” Steele was a person of interest in the abandonment and resulting death of the one-year-old the following morning, August 4, 2022. Deputies, arrested him that afternoon after members of the Hopland Band of the Pomo Indians reported seeing him near their rancheria on the east side of the Sanel Valley.
In the cold days of early February 2022, Edward “Two Feathers” Steele found himself on the wrong side of the law. He was charged on February 4, 2022, with violating the terms of his community supervision. A warrant was issued and he would stand in front of Judge Ann Morman on June 29, 2022, ordered to serve 180 days in jail for violating those terms.
Just over a month later, standing in the courtroom of Judge Dolan, the Public Defender’s request was granted and Steele was allowed to finish his sentence at a drug rehabilitation center.
Court documents indicate that on August 5, the day after Steele was arrested for his suspected involvement in the child’s death, District Attorney David Eyster filed a peremptory challenge against Judge Carly Dolan asserting that she is “prejudiced against Plaintiffs or their attorney or the interests of Plaintiffs or their attorneys so that Plaintiffs cannot or believe they cannot have a fair and impartial trial before such judge.”
DA Eyster did not respond to our inquires about the nature of the alleged prejudices demonstrated by Judge Dolan, but it is note-worthy that she was the judge that oversaw the Public Defender’s original proposition to transfer Steele to drug rehabilitation, one in a series of decisions that would eventually lead Steele to take custody of the children.
Jackie Evans, the Executive Director of the Ford Street Project, confirmed with us her program is in the early stages of partnering with the local justice system to provide offenders with drug rehabilitation in lieu of incarceration.
Evans could not speak to the specifics of Steele’s intake into the facility. She cited HIPAA protocols and the importance of confidentiality to provide privacy for patients. She could not confirm whether he was tested for COVID-19, whether he tested positive, or if he was relinquished from their custody.
When asked more broadly about COVID-19 testing as part of the facility’s intake protocols, she said the overwhelming majority of patients are medically cleared before admittance by medical professionals, including assessing for COVID-19. The pandemic required problem-solving on the part of the Ford Street Project. She told us that there were occasions when the facility tested incoming patients who were then subsequently quarantined in their facility.
Despite her inability to speak with specificity about Steele’s dealings with the Ford Street Project, Evans was candid about the crimes he stands accused of: “This is never supposed to happen.”
A criminal complaint filed by the Mendocino County District Attorney charges Steele with three criminal counts including felony murder in the second degree. He allegedly “willfully and unlawfully with malice aforethought” killed a one-year-old child.
Second-degree homicide is a charge levied at defendants whose alleged actions demonstrate an extreme indifference to human life.
He also faces two felony charges of child endangerment placing both one-year-old K.A. and two-year-old U.A. in circumstances that would cause great bodily harm “causing the child to suffer unjustifiable physical pain and mental suffering.
On August 24, 2022, Steele is scheduled to submit a plea in the courtroom of Judge Keith Faulder, a change of venue which occurred after DA Eyster’s peremptory challenge was upheld and Judge Dolan removed from trying the case.
Free for only four days, Edward “Two Feathers” Steele now stands accused of second-degree murder in the abandonment death of his girlfriend’s infant. After being discharged from a court-ordered drug rehab due to testing positive for COVID-19, Steele allegedly callously neglected two children in his care and left our community shocked and looking for answers.