By: Cynthia Ventura, J.D. Candidate, May 2019, St. Thomas University School of Law.

In 1998, Steven Walter Pladl and his then wife had a baby girl, Katie Rose, who was later adopted out-of-state. When Katie turned eighteen, she turned to social media in an attempt to locate her biological parents. After successfully finding them and communicating for sometime, she moved into her biological parents’ home in August 2016 and attempted to reconnect as a family, along with the Pladls’ two younger children.

Unfortunately, the family reunion was short lived. On January 27, 2018, forty-two year old Steven Pladl was arrested, along with his biological twenty year old daughter. Both were charged with incest, adultery, and contributing to delinquency. According to authorities in Henrico County, Virginia, Steven’s former wife found out about the sexual relationship through an entry in her younger daughter’s diary. She also found a drawing of Katie pregnant and an entry where the child indicated that Steven had asked his younger children to refer to Katie as their stepmother.

At the time of their arrest, authorities found a baby boy living with Steven and Katie. The couple reportedly had plans to marry, although an Instagram post by an account linked to Katie Fusco Pladl shows a photo of the couple dated July 24, 2017, marked “just married” and “simple wedding.” It is unclear in whose custody the baby was placed for the time being.

Virginia defines the crime of incest as “adultery or fornication by persons forbidden to marry” and specifies categories between fathers, mothers, daughters, sons, and grandchildren. If convicted, Steven and Katie Pladl face up to ten years in prison. However, there are more questions left unanswered than any the criminal justice system could provide: what will happen to the Pladls’ baby, a boy of less than one year? Will the baby be placed into foster care, or will he be returned to the arms of his biological parents, despite the fact that his father is also his biological grandfather? Will Steven Pladl face additional charges for preying on the vulnerabilities of a young daughter seeking parental love? Only time will tell.