Mothers worried about abuse before children died

Sunday Times Newspapers

ALLEN PARK – Police released four event reports this week that indicates the deaths of two toddlers may have been a forthcoming event.

Resident Steven Nicholson, 27, is scheduled to be in court tomorrow for a preliminary examination of the evidence against him as he faces two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of felony murder and two counts of first-degree child abuse in the deaths of his two children, 15-month-old Ella Stafford and 13-month-old Jonathon Sanderlin, who drowned in scalding hot bath water.

Nicholson called 911 about 2:15 a.m. Oct. 19 and said he fell asleep and awoke to discover the children dead in the bath tub in his basement-level apartment.

Police were called to Valley Spring Apartments, 11331 Old Goddard Road, four times this year — three in September — in regard to child abuse and civil disputes.

Officers determined the first call, made about 5:15 p.m. May 25, was unfounded. Nicholson was accused by a neighbor of leaving his children in a large van without air, but police found both children safe with him.

About 9 p.m. Sept. 14, police responded to the residence in order to help one of the two mothers recover her child from Nicholson. He had the two children with two different women, 19-year-old Tayler Stafford of Melvindale and Sarah McGee of Cadillac.

One of the mothers called police again 6 p.m. Sept. 18 regarding a civil dispute taking place five years and a day to the death of Nicholson’s 16-year-old brother, Luke Nicholson, who died of a drug overdose Melvindale.

The mother called police because Nicholson’s current live-in girlfriend told her he was abusing the child. The mother wanted to check on the welfare of her child, but was afraid to do so, police said. There was no answer at the door when police arrived.

A check of Jonathon’s well-being was made 10:30 p.m. Sept. 24 after McGee called police. The report says there were no signs of physical abuse, there was food in the refrigerator and the caller was allowed to inspect the baby, but the “mother believes custodial father (Steven Nicholson) may be abusing him.”

Police were not called to the apartment again until Nicholson alerted them of the deaths early Oct. 19.

(Contact Chris Jackett at