Couple could face 25 years to life in prison if convicted in child abuse case


CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) — On Tuesday morning, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn announced indictments on multiple felony charges related to child abuse in Cheektowaga.

James McGonnell, 40, and his partner Carol Steinagle, 54, have been charged with endangering the welfare of a child, first and second-degree kidnapping and four counts of assault, each. McGonnell additionally faces a charge a of strangulation.

Flynn says that besides a homicide, “this may be the most egregious thing I have seen in four years here.”

According to Flynn, the couple abused a girl from November 2017 through January 2020. She told authorities that she had been beaten almost daily.

Flynn says that the word “torture” was used in medical records.

“We allege that this child was kept in a room, in the garage, for more than 12 hours at a time” with both suspects, Flynn says. “They terrorized this child and threatened to kill this child.”

Living conditions for the child were very poor, according to Flynn, who says she wasn’t fed properly and couldn’t use the bathroom. Feces was found in a bedroom dresser drawer.

Flynn says she was forced to sit cross-legged on a wooden floor.

Scars were found on the child’s leg. She now has knee problems and is going to therapy for them.

No sexual abuse was alleged in this case, but Flynn says “it was pure, just physical torture.”

Authorities started investigating this case when the child spoke to someone. Now, the child is living with another family member outside the area.

McGonnell and Steinagle will be back in court on Thursday. If convicted of the charges against them, they could face 25 years to life in prison.

Evan Anstey is a digital content producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2015. See more of his work here.

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