true crime

The tragic story of the woman who married her dad. And the triple murder that followed.

Content warning: This post includes discussion of domestic violence and suicide that may be distressing to some readers.

While the internet was a relatively new concept in 1995, 20-year-old Steven Pladl had already discovered its potential for grooming and predatory behaviour. 

One of his targets was 15-year-old Alyssa, with whom he built an emotional bond, manipulating her teenage vulnerability for his own sexual gratification, according to podcast Psychopedia

In the episode, I Now Pronounce You Husband and Daughter (You May Kill the Bride), hosts Tank Sinatra and Investigator Slater, tell the story of how this disturbing first encounter, led to father/daughter incest, and ultimately, a triple murder/suicide.

Watch: Murdaugh Murders  A Southern Scandal Official Trailer. Post continues after the video. 

Video via Netflix.

According to the podcast, after Steven gained the girl’s trust, he travelled to Texas, where he — shockingly — received her parents’ blessing to take her back to his hometown of New York, where they began a sexual relationship. 

Around a year later, Alyssa was pregnant, giving birth to a daughter the couple named Denise. Alyssa was over the moon about the arrival of her beautiful healthy baby girl, according to the podcast. “She may have been young, but her maternal instinct was fully developed and her love for Denise was pure and unwavering,” said the hosts. “She was a great mum. The same, unfortunately, could not be said about Steven.”


Steven reportedly developed a violent streak, with almost sadistic tendencies, physically abusing Denise when she was just eight months old. On one occasion, he allegedly placed baby Denise inside a cooler and kept her there until she almost suffocated. Wanting to protect her child, and being just a child herself, Alyssa put her baby up for adoption. 

A new life.

Baby Denise was quickly adopted by Kelly and Anthony Fusco, who were by all accounts, compassionate and open-hearted people. The couple renamed the baby, Katie, and began a life together as a family of four, along with their biological daughter. 

Katie enjoyed a wholesome and typical upbringing with the Fuscos. She did well at school, with a particular talent for art, and planned to pursue a career in digital advertising. 

But in 2016, at age 18, Katie decided she wanted to meet her biological parents. She tracked down Alyssa Pladl on Facebook and sent her a message. 

“I don’t know if you’re okay with this or not,” she wrote. “But I thought I would give it a shot.”

She also included links to a genealogy website confirming that she was indeed Alyssa’s biological daughter. 

The Pladls were still married, living in Virginia after having two more daughters together, then aged 12 and 8. Steven Platl had apparently not abused his second and third daughters in the way he’d abused Katie when she was a baby. 


According to the podcast: “While there was an entire lifetime separating Katie and her biological parents and sisters. The pull to reunite was undeniable.”

So in the summer of 2016, Katie, Alyssa and Steven met in person and connected immediately. Tragically for the Fuscos, Katie withdrew from her adoptive parents, and pursed a close relationship with her biological parents instead. Instead of going to college as she had planned, Katie moved in with the Pladls. 

But the Pladl household was a far cry from the environment in which she was accustomed to. Alyssa and Steven were separated, and according to the podcast, the tension was palpable. 

Steven had been emotionally abusing Alyssa for years and still was. She reportedly referred to her home as “the house of horrors”. After Katie moved in, things got even worse. According to Alyssa’s subsequent media interviews, Steven would punch holes in the walls and destroy property. 

For the past eight years, he hadn’t worked much either, with the family relying on Alyssa’s income to survive. When she’d threaten to leave him, he’d threaten her with taking the girls or taking his own life. He even threatened to film it. 

An incestuous relationship. 

Due to his unemployment, Steven spent hours alone at home with Katie every day. Over time, they grew closer. But, not as father and daughter. Steven started to change too. He joined a gym, bought a motorcycle, and got a tattoo. He took up guitar lessons and starting writing poetry. 

Within weeks, he was sleeping on Katie’s bedroom floor, and for Alyssa, enough was enough. She took her two daughters, moved out, and filed for divorce. 


By the following year, Steven and his daughter had “fallen in love” and had commenced a sexual relationship. According to Alyssa, Steven had told his other two daughters to refer to Katie — their biological sister — as their step mum. Alyssa was now aware of the sexual relationship, and she was devastated. 

“I lost it. I started screaming. I felt like I was going to throw up,” she said, according to the podcast. She confronted Steven who didn’t even attempt to deny it. He told her she’d have to accept it. 

In 2017, two months after Steven and Alyssa’s divorce was finalised, he and Katie flew to Maryland to get married, forging their marriage application to get around the fact their incestuous relationship was illegal. 

Katie openly posted photos of the wedding, which was attended by her adoptive parents, along with Steven’s mother - Katie’s grandmother. 

A path to triple murder. 

In September 2017, Katie gave birth to a son, who was technically also her brother. She named him Bennet, plastering photos of the little boy all over social media. 

Several months later, the couple was arrested on incest charges. A judge released Katie and Steven on $1 million bonds, and ordered they discontinue all contact with each other. Custody of baby Bennet was awarded to Steven’s mother, Grace. 

Katie returned to the home of her adoptive parents, the podcast reported, but ultimately broke the no contact order, contacting Steven to officially end their relationship. He didn’t take it well. 


According to the podcast, on April 11, 2018, Steven went to his mother's house, and requested she allow him to take Bennet to visit Katie. Perhaps unaware of the specific terms of the order, she allowed it. 

But instead of taking the baby to see his mother, Steven took Bennett back to the home he once shared with Katie, and strangled him, before hiding him in a closet. 

The following day he waited outside the Fusco home until Katie and her parents left in their car to visit Katie’s grandmother. He followed them some way before pulling up beside them, drawing his assault rifle and opening fire. 

An off duty firefighter called 911, describing the horrific scene. “He emptied the full clip into his head. His brains are on the road,” he reported said on the call. 911 then received a call from Steven’s mother, who reportedly told operators her son had confessed to the murder of his baby, his wife and her father. 

“And I can't even believe this is happening. He said he left the baby dead.”

As police approached the car, it became clear he had killed himself too. 

Baby Bennet was found the following day. 

If you think you may be experiencing depression or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner. If you're based in Australia, 24-hour support is available through Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.

Feature image:  Wake County Sheriff's Office