I-Team: Child’s injuries included ‘burns, broken ribs, possible rat bites’

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8 News Now has learned more disturbing details about the death of a 4-year-old boy. The suspect was back in court Friday.

The arrest report details the numerous and horrific injuries suffered by the child.

From the start, a doctor told investigators, the boy would likely not survive from what she believed was child abuse.

And Friday, questions were being raised about the decision by a judge to allow the woman accused of harming him to leave jail without any bail money.

“I won’t ever let that little boy’s name be forgotten,” said Ann Bird, family friend. 

Bird is a friend of Brandon Steckler’s father. The 4-year-old boy died early Tuesday morning, a day after investigators say they found him malnourished, with broken ribs, burns, possible rat bites, and numerous other injuries – including some prompting a sexual assault exam.

“In the 10 years I’ve been doing child cases, this is probably one of the worst I’ve ever seen,” said Jacqueline Bluth, chief deputy district attorney.

Crystal Stephens, 42, faces a murder charge. In this arrest report, investigators say she claimed she had been caring for the boy and his sibling for the past two weeks while the mother was living in a shelter but she didn’t know which one or Brandon’s last name.

She claimed she was rinsing Brandon in a bathtub when he became limp and unconscious. A story which investigators say doesn’t add up.

Stephens was initially arrested for child abuse before Brandon passed away. At a 48-hour hearing, pro-tem or substitute Judge Jeannie Hua signed off on Stephens to be released on her own recognizance, meaning without paying bail.

But before Stephens could leave jail, Brandon died and she was then kept in jail on a murder charge. Still, Hua’s decision caused concern.

“I am completely unaware of any facts that she looked at where she thought it would be appropriate to release this woman on even the charges before the child died,” Bluth said.

On Friday morning, Judge Cynthia Cruz who Hua was substituting for commented on what unfolded.

“The minute that I saw what was going on with this case, I contacted over, I did a minute order to remand her into custody, no bail on my case and had the matter placed on calendar date. Currently she is in custody on this case as well at no bail,” said Judge Cruz, Las Vegas Justice Court.

Crystal Stephens is expected to be back in court on Aug. 16. It is still unclear why she was watching Brandon.

His father tells the I-Team he is estranged from Brandon’s mom. The other child was taken into protective custody.

The video from the full hearing Friday morning can be seen here. 


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