Are you sitting down? If not, you probably will be by the time you get halfway through this story.
The New York Post reports that a young woman’s reunion with her birth parents went far left, leading to a shocking, incestuous marriage and — as of earlier this month — four deaths.
This hard-to-believe story began in 1995 when an 8-month-old girl named Denise was given up by her birth parents, Steven and Alyssa Pladl, who had met over the internet when Steven was 20 and Alyssa was 15. Alyssa told the Post that she and Steven were both poor at the time; she also believed Steven was abusive towards their daughter.
Denise was soon adopted by Tony and Kelly Fusco, who renamed her Katie and raised her in Dover, New York.
“They had a very, very normal life,” Cary Gould, Kelly Fusco’s brother, told the Post. “My nickname for Katie was Pac-Man. She was always eating. She loved animals. She was a vegetarian.”
When Katie turned 18 in January 2016, she decided to find her birth parents. She tracked them down online and messaged them, and the Pladls were happy to be in touch. In August, Katie moved into the Pladls' home in Henrico County, Virginia.
Unfortunately, Steven Pladl hadn't aged out of his dangerous, abusive tendencies.
“I was always on eggshells, whatever his mood was, everybody knew, and that mood was often not happy, a lot of yelling, a lot of things smashed in the house, in front of our kids,” Alyssa Pladl explained.
Alyssa claimed to have warned Katie about Steven’s behavior, but Katie wasn’t deterred. She told WTVR-TV that she believed Steven eventually brainwashed and manipulated Katie into entering a relationship with him.
Soon after Katie moved in with her birth parents, Steven started dressing differently and sleeping on the floor of her bedroom. In November 2016, Alyssa moved out. By May 2017, Katie was pregnant with Steven’s baby.
“I started to become hysterical, and I called him,” said Alyssa, recalling the moment she learned about their incestuous relationship by reading her 11-year-old daughter's journal. “I said, ‘Is Katie pregnant with your baby?’ He just said, ‘I thought you knew. We’re in love.’ "
In July 2017, Katie and Steven got married, having lied on their application. Amazingly, Katie’s adoptive parents and Steven’s mother actually attended what was possibly the most disturbing wedding ever, pictured above. (*flails endlessly* HOW? WHY?) She gave birth to their son Bennett two months later.
But happily-ever-afters don't last too long when your union violates the most basic human taboo AND state law. The couple was arrested in January 2018 for incest, and the judge ordered them to STOP IT ALREADY and not see each other again.
Believe it or not, the story then took an even darker turn.
Steven Pladl, 42 at the time, pursued 20-year-old Katie all the way back to Dover, where she’d moved back in with her adoptive parents. On April 12, Steven's mother called 911 to tell police that her son had just confessed to killing Katie, Bennett, and her adoptive father Tony.
“I can’t even believe this is happening,” she told the operator, adding that Steven was upset because Katie had just broken up with him, per the Post.
A surveillance video later revealed that Steven had followed Katie and Tony when they left their house and fatally shot both of them before taking his own life. Bennett was later found dead in Steven's home.
Cases of abusive men killing their exes are not rare, but THIS story definitely takes the cake.
“I’m grieving. I’m sad. I’m upset," Alyssa Pladl said. "But I also want to have something good come out of this. If it’s to get truth out there, to open people’s eyes to incest.”