Case Update: Jury Trial Begins for Mother of Steven Meek II; Boyfriend Convicted in March on Sex Charges

Steven Meek II
Steven Meek II.

Today marks the beginning of the trial for 27-year-old Kayla Nicole Thomas in Montgomery County, Virginia.

Kayla has been jailed since her arrest in January of 2019 in connection with the death of her son, two-year-old Steven Dale Meek II, of whom she shared custody with the little boy’s father, Steven Meek. 

Kayla’s boyfriend, McKenzie Kyle Hellman, then age 25, was also arrested. 

The details of baby Steven’s torture and death are not for the faint of heart. Around 9:00 PM on Friday, January 11, 2019, McKenzie called 911, summoning first responders to the couple’s mobile home at 430 Zinc Lane in Christiansburg, Virginia, where they found the hairy, hulking brute sitting on the living room floor next to the lifeless body of a tiny blond toddler, whose mother, Kayla, was at work at the time. 

After 25 minutes of CPR, EMS were able to detect a pulse, so Steven was taken to LewisGale Hospital Montgomery and later airlifted to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, where he was placed on life support. 

McKenzie told medical staff his girlfriend’s son had fallen off his bed, but Steven’s injuries were in no way consistent with that account, and besides that, the maximum height from which Steven could have fallen was 13 inches, based on the size of his toddler bed, to a carpeted floor padded with a play mat. 

McKenzie Hellman mugshot
McKenzie Hellman’s booking photo.
(Montgomery County Jail)

The bearded beast also told a story about shoving and hitting Steven to break up an altercation between the little boy and McKenzie’s own son. Later, he said, Steven fell out of bed.

On Sunday, January 13, McKenzie was arrested and charged initially with one count of felony child abuse. He was held without bond at the Montgomery County jail and later transferred to Western Virginia Regional Jail. 

At 7:40 PM on January 13, 2019, baby Steven died from his injuries.

The investigation into Steven’s death revealed a history of physical and sexual abuse, which investigators believed was perpetrated by his mother and her boyfriend. Kayla Thomas was arrested on Wednesday, January 16 on multiple charges, including (brace yourself):

Kayla Thomas mugshot
Kayla Thomas’s booking photo.
(Western Virginia Regional Jail)
  • Committing forcible sodomy by engaging in fellatio against the victim’s will by force, threat or intimidation;
  • Inanimate object penetration of a person less than 13 years of age; 
  • Production of child pornography involving a child less than 15 years of age;
  • Possession and distribution of child pornography;
  • Being a parent or guardian, committing a willful act so gross and wanton as to show a reckless disregard for human life — child neglect.

Kayla, who was pregnant at the time, was booked into Western Virginia Regional Jail and held without bond. 

The following day, McKenzie’s charges were upgraded to include:

  • Murder while committing another felony (IE, child abuse);
  • Felony child abuse;
  • Two counts of aggravated sexual battery of a child less than 13 years old; 
  • Solicitation of a minor less than 15 years old for sexual purposes;
  • Accessory to inanimate object sexual penetration with a child less than 13 years old;
  • Accessory to forcible sodomy by engaging in fellatio with a child less than 13 years old;
  • Possession of child pornography;
  • Accessory before the fact to production of child pornography;
  • Accessory before the fact to distribution of child pornography.

Another child in the home was also suspected to be the victim of sexual abuse.

Steven Meek II
Steven Meek II.
(Roanoke Times)

In 2019, McKenzie was evaluated at the request of his attorney, Fred Kellerman, and found competent to stand trial in October. In December of 2019, the state filed a motion to drop some of the charges against him, leaving him with a total of six charges:

  • Felony murder;
  • Felony child abuse/neglect;
  • Accessory before the fact to production of child pornography;
  • Accessory before the fact to distribution of child pornography;
  • Accessory to inanimate object sexual penetration with a child less than 13 years old;
  • Possession of child pornography.

As it turned out, photos, videos, and messages were allegedly found on the couple’s phones indicating that at McKenzie’s urging, Kayla penetrated her son on January 8, 2019  in a sexual manner with an object. McKenzie apparently could not bring himself to touch Kayla and wanted to “explore the extent of his sexual needs” by watching her violate her son. While Kayla did this in the master bedroom of their trailer home, he told police he masturbated in their roommate’s bedroom at the other end of the home. One message from McKenzie to Kayla read that if she abused her son at his whims, “I should be able to touch you again,” but if she did not allow a third person to join their sex life within a month, “there will be issues.”

What a nightmare of an alleged human being.

Steven Dale Meek II
Professor Steven.

When the details of Steven’s autopsy were released, it was revealed that the little boy had suffered:

  • 22 blunt force injuries to the head
  • 13 injuries beneath the scalp
  • 4 injuries inside the mouth
  • 3 bruises inside the gum line
  • 10 injuries to the torso
  • Injuries to the right arm and left leg
  • Bruising on the anus and inside the rectum
  • Hemorrhaging inside the spinal cord
  • Bilateral retinal hemorrhages
  • Subdural hemorrhaging

COVID-19 slowed down the court processes all over the country, but on March 15, 2021, after a three-day jury trial, now 27-year-old McKenzie Hellman was found guilty of all charges against him except second degree murder and child abuse/neglect, which he will face at a separate, two-day trial scheduled to begin on August 10. The jury at his first trial recommended he serve two life sentences; his sentencing hearing on those charges is scheduled to take place on June 29.

  • McKenzie Hellman and his attorney, Fred Kellerman. (WSLS)
  • Judge Robert Turk presided over McKenzie's March trial. (WSLS)
  • Montgomery County (VA) Chief Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Patrick Jensen. (WSLS)
  • Defense attorney Fred Kellerman. (WSLS)
  • Montgomery County (VA) Chief Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Patrick Jensen (center) looking at evidence with Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Chris Obershain (right). (WSLS)
  • McKenzie Hellman at his March trial for sex charges. (WSLS)

During McKenzie’s trial on the sex charges, prosecutors showed three videos found on Kayla’s phone of the hirsute horror, AKA McKenzie, performing sex acts on and with Steven. According to testimony and recordings, McKenzie said his sex life with Kayla involved making her pretend to be 12 or 13. 

The trial for Kayla Thomas began today. Last month, according to the Virginia Judiciary Online Case Information System 2.0, prosecutors filed a nolle prosequi motion to drop Kayla’s charge of child abuse/neglect, meaning they didn’t plan to pursue the charge. This week’s trial will instead focus on her remaining four charges relating to the sexual abuse of her son.

The trial does not appear to be live streaming, so I’ll provide updates as I’m able to find them. 

Click here for my ongoing coverage of Steven’s story.

Sources: The Roanoke Times, WSLS, WDBJ7, Virginia Judiciary Online Case Information System 2.0


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