A Florida mother and fitness coach and competitor orchestrated an elaborate but ultimately fake attempted abduction of her 12-year-old daughter and then pointed the finger at a former business colleague as having tried to kidnap her girl, Pasco County Sheriff’s detectives say.
Police say Tammy Steffen, 36, of Holliday coerced and coached her daughter to participate in a fictitious child abduction. The girl was reluctant to tell police what actually happened.
“If I tell the truth, what’s going to happen to my mom,” the frightened girl asked sheriff’s detectives. She likely didn’t expect her mother to turn on her, though.
The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office held a press conference on the incident Friday, which was streamed live on Facebook. Sheriff Chris Nocco said that throwing the book at Steffen is the least they could do given the resources and cost to taxpayers for law enforcement to investigate a violent child abduction that never happened.
And then there’s the headless doll.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Steffen Created a Scenario Where Her Daughter Would be Snatched & Dragged Into a Wooded Area. She’d Escape, Police Would be Called & the Girl Would Describe Her Assailant
That’s how it played out only it never really happened. Steffen, with the cooperation of her daughter who police say went along with the plan because her mother told her to do so.
Police arrived on July 12 and Steffen and her daughter took them to a wooded area behind their home and said the girl had been snatched from her property and dragged there. At the scene where she said she was taken, deputies and detectives found a small blue notebook filled with notes written in different colors that included personal information about Steffen and her daughter as well as a laptop cover. The girl provided a description of the man she said tried to kidnap her. She said she’d never seen him before. Soon, Steffen said that based on the description, she thought it was a man police have described as a former business partner. The girl then said she may have seen his face before but didn’t recall and in any event, her mother was no longer associated with him.
Sheriff Chris Nocco said that what they thought was a “pretty disturbing event, an attempted kidnapping of a 12-year-old girl” had the department’s “might thrown at it.”
2. Detectives Questioned the Former Business Partner. He Had a Rock Solid Alibi
Sheriff Nocco said detectives found the man and questioned him. He had an alibi and cops checked it out. There was video of him in Tampa at the time of the alleged abduction, a 45 minute drive from Holliday.
Detectives also checked out Steffen’s phone records. There they found evidence she was angry with the man who she alleged in texts that he’d interfered and damaged a chance she had of winning a fitness photo contest she entered.
Sheriff Nocco said that his detectives were able to view and obtain surveillance video from a Walmart in New Port Richey, five miles from her house where she is seen purchasing the notebook and laptop cover with cash while suing a credit or debit card to pay for other purchases made during the same trip.
Once police came to her with the evidence that they’d collected that pointed to her as having planned the entire thing and enlisting her daughter in a fake kidnapping plot, she copped to it.
She was charged with filing a false police report, tampering with or fabricating physical evidence and child neglect.
3. Steffen Was Caught on a Jail Phone Line Trying to Get Her Daughter to Take the Rap
According to a police affidavit provided to Heavy by the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, Steffen called her daughter from jail Friday and instructed the girl to tell her father that the faked attempted kidnapping was the child’s idea. Steffen also told her daughter to say it was the girl’s money that was sued to purchase the notebook and computer case, it was reported in the arrest affidavit. She wanted the girl to convince her dad that the whole plan was her idea. All jail calls are recorded.
And Steffen did not relent; she phoned again and asked if the girl told her father; she had not. Her mother said: “You won’t get in trouble, but I will,” it was reported.
When cops confronted Steffen that they knew what she’d said, she claimed she was not trying to make her child take the blame adding that the girl was part of the conspiracy to frame the man for an attempted abduction that never happened.
Then, she changed her story again, the affidavit says.
Prosecutors are expected to request a steep bond for Steffen as cops are concerned for the safety of the girl, the affidavit reads.
4. Nocco Said Steffen Wasted Sheriff’s Department Resources & Taxpayer Money, Unnecessarily Panicked a Neighborhood & Worse, Enlisted Her Daughter in a ‘Sick’ Scheme
Sheriff Nocco said the full “might” of the department was pressed into service including “air support, K9, special units, major crimes unit, patrol and a lot of other resources” as it should be, he said, “in the case of such a heinous event in our community, we throe the might at it and as a result we got the word out through social and traditional media and the community found out. It put the community in Holliday on alert,” he said. “People purchased dogs, people didn’t want to leave their homes, didn’t want family members visiting.” He said the community was frightened that a potential kidnapper “was on the loose.”
Nocco said only a “sick person would fabricate this whole event …she used her daughter to perpetrate this ridiculous report of crime.”
Police said in the days leading up to Saturday evening July 12, Steffen “coached her daughter which included a walk-though to help her to perpetuate this lie.” Nocco said Steffen “had her daughter urinate herself to make it more believable to law enforcement.”
Child Protective Services was called in but Nocco said that the girl’s father believed his daughter and wife and thought his daughter was a kidnapping victim.
5. Steffen is Personal Trainer, Fitness Expert & Assertive Competitor. She Promoted Her Business, ‘Beyond Fit Gym,’ on Numerous Social Platforms, All Now Deleted
Steffen, married and the mother of four, had a number of Facebook pages, personal and professional for her ‘Beyond Fit Gym‘ personal training business. A professional fitness competitor, Steffen says on the website that she has a bachelor’s degree in Business Management, and a slew of fitness-related certifications and expertise.
“I am a certified fitness trainer, coach, and fitness and sports nutrition Specialist with over 15 years of experience coaching athletes. Provides individualized plans monthly to maximize my clients success,” she wrote on her site.
”As a competitor myself, I bring compassion and understanding of what it takes to make it to stage. As a coach, I work one on one with each client to learn how their bodies best respond to nutrition, and which exercises maximize their growth. Ultimately, I bring my clients to the best physical shape of their life,” Steffen says.
And it turns out, a competition was the motive for the abduction, Nocco said. He said Steffen was to “trying ” at a man described as a former business partner who swayed votes and sabotaged her chances to win first place in an online fitness contest. Based on her social, it appears the competition might be Ms Health & Fitness. On July 11, the day before the staged abduction, she was in fourth place.
Her Instagram pages for her fitness business, as well as her personal and business Facebook pages, include many images of her 12-year-old daughter who may be a victim in this incident, officials said. In one Instagram post image of her, her husband and her four children, two girls and two boys from just last month she says “There is nothing more important than family. Protect them with my life I will. 💖 #myworld”
On Oct. 22, police alleged she also plotted to place a threatening headless doll on her own porch as part of her elaborate kidnapping hoax.
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