By ANDREA POTEET
Sunday Times Newspapers
ALLEN PARK — A father accused of drowning his two children will stand trial for their deaths.
Judge Richard Page of the 24th District Court ordered 27-year-old resident Steven Nicholson to stand trial Monday for the deaths of 15-month-old Ella Stafford and 13-month-old Johnathan “Cash” Sanderlin Monday at a preliminary examination of the evidence against him.
“The judge heard enough testimony to believe a crime occurred, and that Mr. Nicholson is responsible for that crime,” Detective James Wilkewitz said.
Nicholson is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, a felony punishable by life in prison; two counts of felony murder, a felony punishable by life without parole in prison; and two counts of first-degree child abuse, a felony punishable by 15 years in prison.
Police arrived shortly after 2 a.m. on Oct 19 after Nicholson called 911 to report that his two children had drowned in the bathtub. He told police the children had gotten out of their cribs and turned the water on themselves, an explanation Wayne County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Carl Schmidt said Monday was possible but unlikely.
The medical examiner’s lab determined the children died of drowning and the scalding water burned their skin off.
Allen Park Police Detective Jeff Miller said he found Johnathan floating facedown in the bathtub and Ella on the bathroom floor.
There were toilet paper scraps in the tub and the floor, but none on the bodies, he said.
Nicholson’s attorney, William Winters III, said he believes the toddlers climbed into the tub themselves and turned on the water.
Ella’s mother, Tayler Stafford, 19, shared custody of her daughter with Nicholson. Johnathan’s mother, Sarah McGee, gave full custody of her son to Nicholson before moving to Cadillac.
Nicholson recently had been laid off from his job as a bricklayer. Residents of the Valley Spring Apartments where he lived said they had seen him verbally abuse the children in the past. One resident called the police over the summer to report that Nicholson had left the children sitting alone in his van.
An arraignment is scheduled for 9 a.m. tomorrow in Wayne County Circuit Court in Detroit.