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Death penalty sought for woman in Las Vegas child abuse case

Prosecutors are expected to seek the death penalty against a 42-year-old woman accused of torturing and killing a 4-year-old boy.

Crystal Stephens was indicted Wednesday on more than two dozen charges in the death of Brandon Steckler Jr., who was found July 30 in an apartment in the 300 block of East Silverado Ranch Boulevard. The boy died in a hospital the next day.

Along with murder, Stephens faces one count of first-degree kidnapping, one count of sexual assault on a minor, and 24 counts of child abuse, neglect or endangerment.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Jacqueline Bluth told a judge that she intends to present the charges to her office’s committee that reviews cases for capital punishment within the next 30 days.

Brandon had suffered so many injuries, the prosecutor said, that a medical examiner has yet to determine which caused his death. The boy had been under Stephens’ watch for more than three weeks before he was found, riddled with burns, bruises and other scars.

The nonverbal autistic boy had been burned from the top of his head to his toes, including burns inside his mouth, according to the prosecutor.

He also suffered broken ribs, a lacerated liver, a broken collarbone and a collapsed lung.

Brandon died at the hospital the next day, according to the release.

Detectives believe Stephens had “recent business dealings” in Washington state and are seeking information about her movements in past months, it said.

Stephens told police that she was watching Brandon and his sister for two weeks while Brandon’s mother was living in an unspecified domestic violence shelter.

Clark County Department of Family Services documents showed at least four incidents from July to October 2016 where the department received a referral or report alleging neglect or abuse by Stephens.

In each case, the allegations were found to be “unsubstantiated,” or with “factual circumstances that did not rise to the level of warranting an investigation.”

Stephens remained in the Clark County Detention Center without bail.

Contact David Ferrara at dferrara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039. Follow @randompoker on Twitter.

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