Deadly Kids: Tori and Steven

Deadly Kids: Tori and Steven

"I am terrified of my stepson. It is horrible to think a 9-year-old boy could scare you," says Tori. "Donovan gets an evil look when he's up to no good. It's a cold, glassy look. Donovan is a very sick, disturbed little boy." She says that Donovan started acting out as soon as she began seeing his father, Steven. "He told me, ‘I would appreciate if you and your girls would pack your things and leave.'" Tori says that Donovan would destroy her daughters' Barbies, steal money, and he even killed the girls' fish. "Donovan said if he did enough bad things that I would take the girls, and I would leave Steven."

 

Steven surmises, "He was jealous of his brother and his sisters."

 

The 9-year-old's behavior escalated. "The first time Donovan tried to poison the kids, Donovan put cleaning fluids in the condiments," Tori reveals. "He put Mean Green into the butter." She used the butter to make the kids noodles for lunch.

 

"[Donovan] put his in the trash can," Steven says. "As [the other children] started eating those noodles, they started feeling nauseous."

 

"They felt like their body temperature was just burning up," Tori adds. "Donovan started laughing when they were getting sick. He finally admitted what he had done to them."

 

Tori and Steven rushed the children to the emergency room, where doctors gave them IV fluids.

"Donovan was put in a mental health facility," Steven recalls. While he was there, he wrote the family letters stating that he was sorry, and he would never hurt them again. "I felt

he was sincere, and I allowed him to come back in our home," Steven shares.

 

Tori felt differently. "I knew that he was not ready to come home. I told Steven that if he brought Donovan home and anything happened, I was holding him personally responsible," she says.

 

Before Donovan returned home from the facility, Steven and Tori put an alarm on the house. "His bedroom door was set up as a false entryway in case he came out in the middle of the night," Tori says. She also locked up all of her cleaning chemicals. But nothing ensured Donovan wouldn't strike again.

 

"When Donovan got back home, he tried to poison me by putting fish solution in my Crystal Light," Tori reveals. "Donovan was trying to kill me." Drinking one glass put her into intensive care. "It felt like somebody had beaten me very badly."

 

Steven remembers, "I was so scared for her. I thought she was going to die."

 

Tori says Donovan doesn't realize the seriousness of his actions. "Donovan acts like poisoning somebody is like brushing his teeth," she says. "The kids still suffer mentally from everything that has happened. Everybody seems to look at all of us differently. Other parents don't trust their children to be in my home."

 

Steven acknowledges Donovan hasn't changed. "He has not shown any remorse at this time," he says.

 

Tori worries about the future. "My worst fear is that he could do it a third time, and I'll be burying my kids or myself," she shares.

"What was your first reaction when you realized what he had done the first time?" Dr. Phil asks Tori and Steven.

"It was just unimaginable," Steven says.

"Do you think he was trying kill people?" Dr. Phil asks.

"I think that he was trying to get rid of us, but the thing about that is I don't think he realizes the concept of death," Tori says.

 

"He 'fessed up, right?" Dr. Phil asks. "What was his demeanor and reaction when he was telling you this?"

 

Tori says that when the kids got sick and were throwing up, Donovan was laughing. "He thought it was cute, what he had done," she says. "He was looking at them in amazement that he had done this to them."

Donovan watched as his siblings were taken to the hospital, although Tori didn't think he should be allowed to observe. "He thought the ambulance ride, all of this stuff, he thought it was cute," she says. "I just felt since he did this, he shouldn't be anywhere in the room to watch this."

 

Noting that Donovan spent two weeks in a treatment center, Dr. Phil asks Tori, "How long after he got back was it before he poisoned you?"

"Two weeks," she says, explaining that it was shortly after she wouldn't allow him to swim because he played roughly with her daughters in the pool.

"So you said, ‘That's it. You're out of the pool,'" Dr. Phil says. "You see him going in and out of the house. Is that when he was [poisoning your drink]?"

 

Tori explains that sometime after the pool incident, Donovan put the aquarium cleaner in her drink that was in the refrigerator. She then drank the fluid.

"Do you have any sense in y'all's mind about why he's motivated to do this?" Dr. Phil asks.

"I blame his biological mom, telling a 9-year-old that God is going to bring us back together," Steven says.

 

Dr. Phil clarifies that Donovan may be thinking that if he poisons Tori and her daughters, they will go away, and his biological mother will come home. "That's not an unusual thoug

ht in a blended-family child's mind," he tells the couple. "But the extent to which he has gone to try to make that happen is reflective of some serious problems on his part." Pointing out that Donovan may return home soon, he asks Tori if she can live with him.

"I need to see some signs of remorse in him," she says. "You have to admit to what you've done, acknowledge what you've done before you can get help for it. If he's still denying to some point what he's done and acting like this a game " this was our lives. This is my kids' lives."

"Would you feel safe cohabitating with him?" Dr. Phil asks Steven.

"The only way that I could imagine him coming back is showing remorse," he says. "Without him seeing and understanding the dangers, and death, and what he has done, then I do believe he would be capable of doing it again if he got angry."

"Lives are at stake here," Dr. Phil tells the parents. But he points out that Donovan is not an evil child. "I do believe that he has some serious mental, emotional and personality problems, and you guys are in way over your head." He explains that because Donovan poisoned his stepmother two weeks after he returned home from the

first facility, it shows that he has impulse control and anger problems, and a lack of empathy. "The likelihood that this is going to change in a manner of a few months is highly unlikely."

Dr. Phil tells the parents that they must be cautious of Donovan's behavior, especially if he's showing remorse, because he may just say it to get what he wants. "It's got to be more than saying, ‘I'm sorry,'" he says.

 

"I truly hope Donovan gets the help that he needs, and he changes," Tori says. "We're still going to be terrified of him even if he starts showing remorse. When he's back in that home, we're not going to feel safe for a long time to come."

Dr. Phil warns the parents, "The older he gets, the more powerful he becomes. The more capable he becomes. The more able he is to carry out attacks or violence on other people, if something doesn't change. The difference between 9 years old and 12 years old is daylight and dark."

At the end of the show, Dr. Phil tells the couple that he would like to arrange for Dr. Frank Lawlis, director of the Lawlis Peavey PNP Center and author of Mending the Broken Bond, to have a dialogue with the center where Donovan is currently receiving treatment. "We've got to figure out what's going on, and this is the man, and this is the place to do that evaluation," he says.

Tori and Steven accept the offer.