The young woman who was murdered by her father after they had an incestuous relationship which resulted in a child has been laid to rest alongside her baby.
Steven Pladl, 42, who reunited with his daughter Katie Fusco, 20, after giving her up for adoption as a baby, murdered their infant son Bennett, shot dead Katie and her adoptive father Anthony Fusco, 56, before turning the gun on himself earlier this month.
A wake was held for Katie, her son and Anthony Fusco at the Hufcut Funeral Home in Dover Plains on Friday.
On Saturday, a burial was held for all three at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Dover Plains. Three uniformed Coast Guard members attended the funeral as an honor guard for Fusco, spent 30 years in the service, before working for 20 years as a correction officer in Danbury.
His widow, Kelly Ann FuscoInside the church, was presented with an American flag by the Guardsmen inside the church.
Katie Fusco, 20, and her young son Bennett (pictured together), who was fathered by her own biological dad Steven Pladl, have been laid to rest after the tragic murder-suicide
Husband and wife, and father and daughter: Steven Pladl, 42, reunited with his daughter Katie Fusco, 20 (pictured together) after she was given up for adoption as a baby
Family and friends say they are still in disbelief after the tragic end to what had been a joyful reunion between the young woman and her birth parents.
‘We’re all still in shock,’ said Shirley Mann, a neighbor of Katie’s adoptive parents in Dover. ‘It’s crazy. I don’t know what else to say. It’s horrible.’
In 1995, Steven Pladl was 20 when he met a 15-year-old girl named Alyssa on the internet. She soon became pregnant and gave birth to a girl they named Denise.
Alyssa Pladl told The Associated Press in an interview last week that they put the girl up for adoption when she was 8 months old. They were young and poor, she said, but she also believed Steven Pladl physically abused the baby. In her interview, she did not elaborate.
‘It was so hard to give her up,’ Alyssa said, ‘but I had to because I wanted her to live and be happy.’
For most of what was to be her short life, she was. Tony Fusco and his wife, Kelly, adopted the girl they renamed Katie and raised her with their biological daughter in Dover, about 80 miles north of New York City.
‘They had a very, very normal life,’ said Cary Gould, Kelly Fusco’s brother. ‘My nickname for Katie was Pac-Man. She was always eating. She loved animals. She was a vegetarian.’
The pair tied the knot on July 20, months after Alyssa, Steven’s ex-wife and Katie’s biological mother, reported their relationship to police
Katie was an aspiring artist known at Dover High School for drawing comic strips. She planned to attend college and pursue a career in digital advertising.
‘A pen and something to draw on became a safe place for me,’ she wrote in a blog post. ‘Ink became my weapon against rules and regulations. To be short; for me, a life without art is no life at all.’
After turning 18 in January 2016, Katie, who Gould said had been told she was adopted, found her birth parents and messaged them. The Pladls were happy to reunite with her.
Instead of going to college in August 2016, Katie moved in with the Pladls in Henrico County, Virginia, that month. Tony and Kelly Fusco were apprehensive, Gould said, but they thought Katie was old enough to make her own decisions and supported her.
All was not well in the Pladl home. Steven and Alyssa had already decided to separate and were sleeping in separate rooms. Alyssa Pladl said she had suffered emotional and verbal abuse by her husband for years.
‘I was always on eggshells, whatever his mood was, everybody knew, and that mood was often not happy, a lot of yelling, a lot of things smashed in the house, in front of our kids,’ she said.
In this April 19, 2018 photo, Alyssa Pladl (the girl’s biological mother) said that she put the girl up for adoption when she was 8 months old because she feared Stephen was abusing her
Alyssa Pladl told Katie privately that Steven Pladl had abused her as a baby and that a major reason for the adoption was her own safety.
Katie, according to Alyssa, didn’t appear to be concerned.
Steven Pladl’s behavior changed after he met Katie, Alyssa Pladl said. He began wearing skinny jeans and form-fitting shirts. He shaved his beard and let his hair grow long. About six weeks after Katie moved in, Steven Pladl one night slept on the floor in her room.
It immediately concerned Alyssa. After he did it again the next night, she confronted him. He said it was none of her business and stormed out of the house with Katie.
Alyssa Pladl finally moved out in November 2016, and she shared custody of the two children with Steven Pladl.
In May 2017, she learned from her 11-year-old daughter’s journal of the incestuous relationship and Katie’s pregnancy. Her daughter wrote that she and her sister were told by Steven Pladl to refer to Katie as their stepmother.
‘I started to become hysterical, and I called him,’ she said. ‘I said, ‘Is Katie pregnant with your baby?’ He just said, ‘I thought you knew. We’re in love.’
‘I started screaming,’ she said. ‘I was just cursing him out: ‘How could you? You’re sick. She’s a child.”
Then she called the police.
Bennett was found after Steven’s mother called 911 for a welfare check on the infant. She said her son told her he’d killed the baby left him there, and warned her not to go to the home
On July 20, 2017, two months after his divorce from Alyssa was finalized and amid the police investigation, Steven Pladl married Katie in Parkton, Maryland. They lied on their application, saying they were unrelated, according to records.
Katie’s adoptive parents posed for a photo on the wedding day along with Steven, Katie and Steven’s mother. Katie wears a short black dress.
Tony and Kelly Fusco thought there was nothing they could do and had decided it was best to support Katie, Gould said.
Katie gave birth to Bennett on September 1. She and Steven moved to a house on a cul-de-sac in Knightdale, North Carolina, just east of Raleigh, but wedded bliss did not last long. They were arrested on incest charges in January. A judge ordered them to not contact each other, and Steven Pladl’s mother has custody.
Steven Pladl’s lawyer, Rick Friedman II, said there was never an allegation that Steven Pladl pressured Katie into a relationship.
Alyssa Pladl, shown holding up a picture of her daughter Katie when she was a baby, says authorities did not protect her grandson – or her daughter
‘This case is an 18-year-old girl who shows up at the doorstep of a 40-year-old man who’s going through difficult times with his wife,’ Friedman said. ‘They have a bond because they’re biologically related, but they never knew each other before they had a sexual relationship. He was head over heels in love with her, so much so that that outweighed the issue of them being biologically related.’
After the arrests, Katie moved back with Tony and Kelly Fusco, who declined to comment for this article. Every Tuesday and Thursday, she would travel to her adoptive grandmother’s home in Waterbury, Connecticut, Gould said.
On April 12, a Thursday, Katie and Tony Fusco left the Dover home for Waterbury. In a minivan nearby, Steven Pladl watched them leave, surveillance video shows.
Minutes later in nearby New Milford, witnesses reported someone opening fire. Katie and Tony Fusco, 56, were fatally shot. Steven Pladl was later found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot back in Dover.
Shortly after the New Milford shooting, Steven Pladl’s mother called 911 to report her son had told her he killed the baby, Katie and her adoptive father.
‘I can’t even believe this is happening,’ Steven’s mother told authorities, according to a 911 call transcript from which her name was redacted. Her son, she said, was upset because Katie, by then just 20, had broken up with him.
Police found the baby dead and alone in Katie and Steven’s home.
Alyssa Pladl struggles to make sense of it all.
Katie is shown above with her birth mother Alyssa who gave her up for adoption with Steven in 1998. They went on to have two more daughters (shown above) and it was one of those girls who exposed the older sister’s affair
‘I’m grieving. I’m sad. I’m upset,’ she said. ‘But I also want to have something good come out of this. If it’s to get truth out there, to open people’s eyes to incest.’
But Alyssa, 37, told DailyMail.com the decision to leave seven-month-old Bennett in the custody of Pladl’s elderly mom Grace, 72, was a ‘shocking failure’.
She also revealed how the warped predator Stephen kept a stash of guns and bore all the hallmarks of a mass shooter in the making.
Pladl faced incest charges in Henrico County, Virginia but while the terms of his March 16 bond prevented him from contacting Katie or Alyssa, Pladl had no specific restrictions placed on his access to Bennett.
Officers believed he embarked on the killing spree after learning Katie wanted nothing more to do with the incestuous marriage.
‘I keep thinking of how lucky it is that I and our other children weren’t part of his shooting spree,’ said Alyssa, who has two more daughters aged eight and 12 with Pladl.
‘He had an obsession with guns. He had been an outcast since school. He hadn’t had a job for eight years; He fitted the exact profile of one of these mass shooters.’
Alyssa had previously obtained protective orders banning Pladl from going near her or her family but she cannot understand why a court would not extend that same protection to Bennett.
Pladl was originally released February 20 on $28,000 bond but lived in a hotel in Virginia because he was barred from returning to North Carolina.
Steven and Katie got ‘married’ in a lakeside ceremony in July not long before she gave birth to their baby. They are pictured with her adoptive parents (right) and his mother who attended in despite its incestuous nature
Henrico County Judge Stewart Williams lifted that restriction on March 16 stipulating that the only place Pladl couldn’t go was his house in Knightdale.
The court placed no legal restriction preventing him from visiting Bennett or taking him away from Grace’s home in the nearby city of Cary.
‘Steven shouldn’t ever have been allowed back to North Carolina where he access to his house, his weapons, the baby,’ said Alyssa. ‘It’s a shocking failure.
‘I can understand they like to put children in the hands of relatives but not Grace, she wouldn’t have been able to stop him seeing the baby even if she wanted to.
‘Steve may have found a way to get to him but they could certainly have made things much more difficult for him. I think they could have helped to prevent some if not all of this.
‘If anyone is brought up on charges of incest they should never be allowed near minor children. They did not consider how sick a mind he had.’
Shannon Taylor, Commonwealth Attorney for Henrico County said there was nothing in Pladl’s history that suggested he was about to embark on a murderous rampage.
‘When you look at the facts of the case we did not see any risk factors,’ she told DailyMail.com. ‘A recommendation from the pre-trial officer said there did not appear to be any red flags.’
She said the decision to leave Bennett with Grace Pladl was taken by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services which is yet to provide DailyMail.com with a comment on the case.
Pladl (left) who was charged with incest involving his daughter, whom he married, killed himself in New York on Thursday. Katie Pladl (right), 20, was also found dead along with her adoptive father in Connecticut
Katie and Pladl were arrested in January 2018 and extradited from North Carolina to Henrico County to face charges of incest, adultery, and contributing to delinquency of a minor.
Alyssa told DailyMail.com this week that while she had never witnessed her ex make sexual advances towards young girls, their marriage had been marred by his temper and failure to hold down a proper job.
He also kept at least four guns in their home, including a couple of handguns and the AR-15 style weapon she thinks was used to slay Katie.
‘Steve had a bad temper, he would destroy things in the home when he was upset, punching holes in the walls,’ she said. ‘But there was never anything that was on record.
There is some dark stuff that I don’t want to put out there because I don’t want to hurt her mother and sister any more than they are already hurting. But physical and verbal abuse can be just as devastating as sexual abuse. And when you’re that age you don’t think anyone will believe you
‘He had been interested in guns since he was a young man. I think he may have bought the rifle online. He could have even used my details to purchase it.
‘He used to go to ranges to shoot them. He had taken Katie with him to shoot some of the guns off.
‘When he was arrested they supposedly had seized his guns. But I told the detectives he was a talented carpenter and I wouldn’t have put it past him to build something to hide them in his home.’
According to New Milford Police Chief Shawn Boyne, Katie was in a pickup with her adoptive father Thursday when Pladl pulled up to the passenger side at an intersection and opened fire on them.
He was himself found dead just a few miles away in Dover, New York, slumped at the wheel of his Honda minivan, having killed himself with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Police in North Carolina have not revealed how Bennett was killed but he had no obvious signs of trauma and more tests are underway.
‘All Steve had left was Katie and the baby,’ reflected Alyssa. ‘The only thing that kept him going was his thought of getting back with her.
‘To find out that he wasn’t going to, I think that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
‘From the time that I reported the incest to the police I told them repeatedly I was absolutely terrified that he would kill me.
‘Every single time I pulled up to an intersection and somebody slowed down I feared it was him coming for me. I had to have security escort me from my building to my car every time I left work.’
She had waited 18 years to meet the daughter, named Denise at birth, and says she now feels like she has been snatched away from her three times – this last time, forever.
Alyssa met Pladl on the internet in 1995 when she was 15 and living in San Antonio, Texas and he was 20 and based in New York.
They exchanged messages, love letters and Steven visited Texas to begin an underage relationship with her, despite the disapproval of Alyssa’s parents. Alyssa was pregnant at 16 and gave birth at 17.
She says she can see parallels between with the way Pladl ‘groomed’ her as a teenager and how he seduced Katie.
The mother-of-three also disclosed that one of the main reasons she gave Katie up for adoption at eight months was because Pladl was physically, though not sexually, abusive.
‘He was hurting her. There were times when she had several bruises,’ she told DailyMail.com
‘There is some dark stuff that I don’t want to put out there because I don’t want to hurt her mother and sister any more than they are already hurting.
‘But physical and verbal abuse can be just as devastating as sexual abuse. And when you’re that age you don’t think anyone will believe you.’
The funerals of Katie, Bennett and Anthony Fusco will take place Saturday in Dover Plains, New York on Thursday but Alyssa has decided not to attend.
Alyssa has no idea where or when her ex-husband will be buried.
‘I wanted to go initially but that would mean leaving my girls alone overnight and right now it’s not a good time to be away from them,’ she said. ‘And I don’t want to cause a scene.
‘I will remember Katie in my own way, we will hold our own little service for her. As for Steve, I have no idea and I don’t want to even think about him.’
Genetic Sexual Attraction
Genetic sexual attraction is defined as an overwhelming sexual attraction that may develop between close blood relatives who first meet as adults.
In the state of Virginia, incest if a criminal act. According to Virginia’s legislative information system, ‘any person who commits adultery or fornication with any person whom he or she is forbidden by law to marry shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor’
The law further states that ‘any person who commits adultery or fornication with his daughter or granddaughter, or with her son or grandson, or her father or his mother, shall be guilty of a Class 5 felony’
In Virginia, a Class 5 felony carries a prison sentence of ‘not less than one year nor more than five years’ or in the discretion of the jury or court ‘confinement in jail for not more than 12 months and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both’
Genetic sexual attraction is said to be rare, but there have been dozens of reported cases of close relatives falling in love with each other after reconnecting as adults. In 2016, Patricia Spann, 43. and her daughter Misty Spann were arrested and charged with incest after they got married