Father says son suspected in Mansfield murder-suicide confessed on the phone

Published: Mar. 9, 2017 at 10:18 AM EST|Updated: Mar. 9, 2017 at 6:14 PM EST
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MANSFIELD, OH (WOIO) - The man suspected of killing his girlfriend, leading police on a chase, and then killing himself called his father and confessed to the murder, the father said.

Dakota Steagall, 20, killed his girlfriend Kaitlyn Connor-Peak, 22, Wednesday night after the couple had an argument, police said. She was found dead around 7:30 p.m. that night on Brookwood Way North.

A witness, Jarrell Rusk, said he heard the first gunshot and didn't realize what it was until it was too late. He said Connor-Peak died in front of his apartment home.

"She was up there behind that tree and that bush up there hiding from him and he just basically walked up there and shot her four or five more times," said Rusk, who was visibly upset. "He didn't even hesitate. She said, 'Oh my God,' and he shot her four more times."

Rusk said he called 911 and wished he could have done more to help. He said the whole incident took less than 30 seconds.

"We knew she was dead. We knew it. She'd been hit the forehead," said Rusk.

He said he saw a man, who police identified as Steagall, walk away. Steagall lived with his father in the apartment complex where the argument and shooting happened.

"He just turned around and walked back to his car like it was no big deal," said Rusk.

Connor-Peak's seven-week-old baby was in the car, police said, when Steagall drove away from the scene. Steagall was not the father of the baby. Lt. Robert Skropits said police immediately knew their No. 1 priority.

"To protect the life of the baby," he said. "We know that he's already killed once. Innocent, seven weeks old, has no protection, it can't really do anything at that age."

The suspect, Steagall, led police on a chase into Wayne County around 11:30 p.m. Wednesday. Steagall was driving his girlfriend's car. He was spotted east on Route 30 and turned onto the exit ramp that leads to Route 3 south and that is when he stopped, police said.

Police said he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. No one else was found in the car. The baby was found at Steagall's relative's house in the Ashland area. The baby was unharmed, and is with Connor-Peak's family.

Police described the incident between the two as "domestic violence."

Mansfield police said there was a history of domestic violence between the two. Cleveland 19 obtained the police report from a case where Steagall was charged with aggravated menacing. The report states that Connor-Peak had been "getting threatening messages from Dakota" where he threatened to "shoot the house up and end up killing her grandmother and great-grandmother." The report goes on to state Steagall texted Connor-Peak and said law enforcement won't catch him and "the cops can't watch her house all night long" and when he snaps there is no stopping who he would kill and what he would do, "Cops ain't finding me until I'm dead."

The suspect's father, Phillip Steagall, told Cleveland 19 that his son was addicted to K2, a synthetic cannabinoid, which may have contributed to what happened.

"Dakota in a straight mind would not have this. Would never have happened. He was a very good kid," said Phillip Steagall.

Phillip Steagall detailed to Cleveland 19 a phone call his son made Wednesday night, apparently soon after Connor-Peak was killed.

"Dakota called me," Phillip Steagall said. "Around like 7 o'clock last night he said, 'Dad, hey, I believe I shot Kaitlyn and that I believe that she might be dead,' and I was like, 'Dakota quit playing. This ain't no joke,' and he said, 'This ain't a joke I promise you.'"

Phillip Steagall said his son said one more thing at the end of the conversation.

"He said, 'Alright daddy,' he said, 'Alright, I just wanted to tell you I love you.' And at that time I realized in his voice, OK, this kid's not playing," Phillip Steagall said.

When Cleveland 19 asked him if his son had ever talked about hurting Connor-Peak, he admitted that he had heard his son say things like that.

"He had talked about it in the past, you know, he's get his jealously streaks here. He would say he'd like to take her out in the woods," said Phillip Steagall.

The father said he feels like he missed his son's pleas for help.

"I suggest to anybody, don't take things lightly when people mention guns, or they're going to do harm to anybody because they're really telling you that that's what they're thinking, and they need your help," said Phillip Steagall.

He also got choked up when talking about Connor-Peak and her family.

"My heart goes out to them. They lost a beautiful daughter, I lost a beautiful son, and the main thing is take care of that beautiful baby," said Phillip Steagall.

The Mansfield police investigation is ongoing.

"I know the family wants to know what happened, we as detectives want to know what happened, we owe that to both sides of the family to see if we can figure out what sparked this," said Skropits.

Police posted video to YouTube of the stop in Wayne County.

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