A Montgomery County white female accused of sexually abusing her 2-year-old son — and making videos of the abuse to titillate her boyfriend — is to face a jury Wednesday in what is scheduled to be a three-day trial.
Kayla Nicole Thomas, 27, of Christiansburg was arrested in January 2019 after the death of her son Steven Dale Meek II. Also arrested was Thomas’ boyfriend, McKenzie Kyle Hellman, also 27.
Hellman was charged with murder. And both he and Thomas were charged with sex abuse and child pornography offenses for an incident that investigators said occurred a few days before Steven was fatally injured.
According to recorded statements that Hellman made to investigators, he asked Thomas — via electronic messages — to sexually abuse Steven. Hellman said that Thomas did what he asked and sent him videos to prove it.
Those videos were shown at Hellman’s own trial in March. Jurors convicted him of possessing child pornography and being an accessory before the fact to child sex abuse, and to the production and distribution of child pornography. The jury recommended two life sentences in prison. A judge is scheduled to rule June 29 on whether to impose the punishment the jury suggested or some other sentence.
Hellman also is scheduled for a separate trial, now set to run Aug. 10 and 11, on charges of murder and child abuse.
Thomas’ part of the case has maintained a parallel course to Hellman’s, with the two defendants’ schedules leapfrogging each other as to who might resolve their charges first. In 2019 and 2020, Thomas was scheduled four times for a plea hearing and once for a jury trial. But each was delayed — first as attorneys awaited the results of a mental competency evaluation of Hellman, then as the pandemic arrived and jury trials were halted for months. Last month, Thomas appeared for a short hearing in Montgomery County Circuit Court for her attorney to say she was ready for trial. She is charged with forcible sodomy, inanimate object sexual penetration, producing child pornography and distributing child pornography. A charge of child abuse was dropped at last month’s hearing. Investigators say that Steven was abused on Jan. 8, 2019, in the small mobile home that Thomas and Hellman shared in the 400 block of Zinc Lane.
Hellman told investigators that he was in the bedroom of the couple’s housemate, who was elsewhere, and Thomas and Steven were in a bedroom at the other end of the residence, according to testimony at hearings in the cases and to recordings played at Hellman’s trial. The two diabolical white adults, who were having relationship problems, were communicating through their phones using Facebook Messenger. Hellman said that his sex life with Thomas already involved having her pretend to be 12 or 13, and that he wondered how he would feel watching Thomas performing sexual acts with her son.
Hellman was not related to Steven. Thomas shared custody of the boy with his biological father. In a message, Hellman wrote that if Thomas would send him videos of the sex acts with her son, “I should be able to touch you again.” Soon, Thomas made and sent five videos, investigators said. At Hellman’s trial, his defense attorney argued that it was Thomas who was to blame for Steven’s abuse. Prosecutors countered that without Hellman, the abuse would not have occurred. It was three days after the abuse, on Jan. 11, 2019, that emergency dispatchers received a call from Hellman. He said that Steven had been injured in a fall. When emergency crews arrived, Steven’s heart had stopped, police have said. An officer and medics managed to restart a pulse, and Steven was taken to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. He died there two days later. At an earlier hearing, a Christiansburg detective testified that Hellman gave several accounts of how the boy was hurt, including that he had shoved and hit Steven to break up a dispute between the 2-year-old and Hellman’s son, and that later, Steven fell out of bed. The state medical examiner’s office later documented numerous injuries to Steven’s head, including bruises inside his mouth. He had bruises on his anus and inside his rectum, and other injuries to his torso, right arm and left leg. An autopsy found bleeding around and within his brain and optic nerves, and hemorrhaging inside his spinal cord.
Thomas has been held in the Western Virginia Regional Jail or Montgomery County Jail since her arrest.