Jerry Steele held a box cutter to 14-year-old Cecilia Mortensen's neck and warned the San Jose girl, You better find a way out of this. This was five months ago. The accused child molester on Tuesday held a .25-caliber handgun in front of Cecilia's face and shot her and her mother in the head.
He tracked them down to a Crescent City trailer park before shooting them. Later, when police traced his car parked at a beach, he shot himself.
They moved up here to get away from him, Del Norte County sheriff's Commander Bill Steven said after the shootings brought an end to a disturbed and desperate man's 400-mile journey for revenge, a report in Mercurynews stated.
Steele, 60, from Los Gatos, faced decades in prison on felony charges that he molested Cecilia numerous times in a four-year period from May 2007 until January. He was out on a $250,000 bail.
After he learned his fate at a settlement conference between prosecutors and his attorney in San Jose on Monday, he apparently drove to Crescent City, where Cecilia and her mother, Ashley Volore, had moved a month ago.
It wouldn't surprise me if that wasn't the triggering event, said Steve Fein, Santa Clara County special assistant district attorney. He obviously did not like what he heard in terms of the offer from prosecutors to settle the case before trial, according to the report.
Cecilia and her mother were each shot once in the head.
Cecilia is brain dead, but still alive, and her mother, who was conscious, was flown to an unnamed hospital for treatment.
Steele died Tuesday night at a hospital.
According to authorities, Steele planned to kidnap the mother and daughter, but he pulled out his gun instead. They also said, there was evidence of a struggle.
He had told a family member that if confronted by law enforcement, he would kill himself, Steven said. He did just that.
Seven offenses, including four counts of lewd and lascivious acts by force with a minor, assault with a deadly weapon, possession of child pornography and attempting to dissuade a witness by use of force or threat, were filed against Steele in February by the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office.
According to police reports and court records, Steele had been a friend of the family for about five years and visited the family's San Jose home almost daily. The abuse of Cecilia began in 2007.
Until Steele held the box cutter to her throat in January, the girl had been tight-lipped about the alleged abuse. But the box cutter incident scared her and she called her father, who did not live in the home. She also told other relatives that Steele had touched her in inappropriate places, motioning with both of her hands at her chest area, over her body to her crotch, saying everywhere.
Later, when interviewed by San Jose police, Cecilia said Steele started touching her when he took her to the Christmas parade in San Jose. She was about 10 at the time. When Steele drove her home from the parade, he grabbed her hand and placed it on her privates, according to police reports.
Another incident happened when Steele took the girl and her mother to Disneyland shortly after last Christmas. The girl also told officers Steele had used his cellphone to take photos of her, asking her to pull up her shirt and pull down her pants. After he was arrested, investigators found photos of the girl on Steele's cellphone.
When police served a search warrant on the Los Gatos home Steele shared with his mother and a sister, pornographic magazines depicting teenage girls were found in the garage, along with pornographic CDs and DVDs.
But when he was interviewed by police, Steele denied all charges and accused the girl of lying about the allegations. Steele said he had been angry when he left Cecilia's house three or four weeks before because of a lie that Cecilia told.
When asked if he considered himself like an uncle or a father to the girl, Steele said, No, just a friend of the family. He was a friend to the girl's father, as well.
I've been a good friend, he told an investigator. I took Ashley and Cecilia to Disneyland.
When he was asked to tell police about the box cutter incident, Steele said: The box cutter, oh, when I picked up the box cutter and told her someone one day was going to cut her tongue with one of these. He said he did that because of the lie she was saying and she wouldn't correct it.
Before his arrest, Steele had no criminal history. When Steele was released on bail, Fein requested a protection order that was still in effect this week. It was served March 11 on Steele and forbid contact with the girl.
He was not to be within 300 yards of her, Fein said.
That didn't matter on Tuesday morning, said the report.