The ex-wife of incest killer Steven Pladl has revealed the secret litany of abuse that led her to put their baby girl up for adoption - the same daughter he would later marry, impregnate and murder.
In an exclusive interview with DailyMailTV, Alyssa Pladl has described for the first time how her sadistic former husband would brutally pinch their infant daughter Katie until her body was left 'black and blue'.
The cruel father would also stuff Katie in a cooler to drown out her crying, preventing Alyssa from freeing the terrified infant until she was on the verge of suffocating, the Daily Mail reported.
Frightened, alone and estranged from her family, the then-17-year-old Alyssa decided the only way to ensure Katie's safety was to get her as far away as possible from Pladl.
Katie was put up for adoption and grew up happily in New York with adoptive parents - until she turned 18 and tracked down her biological mother and father.
A little over one year later, she had begun a sordid affair with her biological father and borne him a child in a shocking incest case that landed them both in jail.
Steven Pladl then went on to murder both Katie, 20, and their seven-month-old son Bennett when he learned she wanted out of their illegal 'marriage'.
His final victim, Katie's adoptive father Anthony Fusco, was gunned down by her side as 42-year-old Pladl ambushed their vehicle with an AR-15-style rifle before turning the weapon on himself.
"I knew from the very beginning that I had to get Katie away from him to give her a chance in life," Alyssa told DailyMailTV, fighting tears. "Ultimately, Steve was just finishing off what he started 20 years earlier.'
In her first televised interview since the triple murder-suicide, Alyssa revealed that Pladl began to exhibit alarming behavior toward Katie almost as soon as she was born.
Alyssa had run away from her family in San Antonio, Texas, to move to New York with Pladl, who she says 'groomed' her in an internet chat room in 1995 when she was 15. He was 20.
Pregnant one year later and a mum at 17, she told her family she was having Katie adopted because she was depressed and couldn't cope.
The truth was, she says, that she lived in constant fear that her manipulating, older lover would harm their daughter.
"He would yell at the baby. He didn't bond with her," Alyssa, now 37, told DailyMailTV. "He didn't take care of her. He rarely held her.
"He would do things like cover her mouth when she would cry. He pinched her all over her body and turned her black and blue a couple of times.
"Eventually he said he couldn't stand the screaming and crying anymore so he started to place her into a cooler or an ice chest.
"Sometimes he would put a blanket there to keep a crack open, sometimes he would shut it and wouldn't let me go back to open it.
"He would make me wait a few minutes until I could go back and I'd open the cooler and she would just be gasping for air, drenched in sweat, bruises on her.
"I would just scoop her up and shut the bedroom door so he couldn't bother me and I would rock her back and forth and tell how her sorry I was for the life she was having."
Alyssa said she was too frightened and confused to tell anyone about the abuse, deciding instead to give Katie up to a loving family so she'd be safe.
Pladl took little persuasion and soon their little girl - named Denise at birth - was growing up in Wingdale, New York, with adoptive parents Kelly and Anthony Fusco.
Battling feelings of loss and regret and becoming ever more isolated, Alyssa nonetheless continued to live with Pladl in what she now recalls as a "house of horrors".
They would marry in 2006 and have two more daughters, now aged eight and 12, settling in Henrico, a suburb of Richmond, Virginia.
"He threatened that if I was gone he would blow his brains out with a gun, figure out a way to record it and make sure the video got to me," said Alyssa.
The marriage continued to be marred by Pladl's temper and his inability to make a steady income while Alyssa worked several jobs to keep them afloat.
Pladl also kept a cache of four or five guns, all purchased legally because he had no criminal record, including the assault rifle he ultimately used for his April 12 killing spree.
"For a little while I thought he was getting better because he didn't treat the two children like he had treated Katie," Alyssa said. "But he was still violent and angry, temperamental and unpredictable."
Pladl's outbursts would typically involve tossing furniture around and punching walls.
And when a neighbourhood cat crept into the garage his response was horrific.
"He literally beat it to death with his own hands and maybe some tools, wrapped it up in a trash bag and put it into the garbage," shuddered Alyssa. "Just because he didn't like cats."
Alyssa says her volatile ex never sexually interfered with their youngest daughters.
However she broke down in tears recalling several harrowing incidents, including an occasion when he angrily berated one girl for wetting herself.
"He made her wait in the bathtub in her urine-covered clothes for hours until I came home to clean her up," she said.
"She was shaking and said, 'Can I please come out now mommy?' He didn't care that she was up there crying by herself, three years old, trembling in a bathtub, covered in urine.
"My daughter who is 12 is on the autism spectrum and he would often call her retard to her face. I did fight with him, I did protect my kids, I did keep them away from him at times.
"But it's always haunted me that I didn't get them away sooner than I did. To this day they don't miss him at all."
By the time Katie, an aspiring young artist, contacted Alyssa and Pladl on Facebook in August 2015 they were still living together but planning to separate.
Finally meeting her eldest child in June 2016 was a moment of unbridled joy for Alyssa, who had spent 18 long years yearning for news and was astonished by their similarities.
She was thrilled when Katie decided to come to live with them but soon the baby-faced teenage girl was spending almost all her time with jobless Pladl while Alyssa went to work each day as a supervisor for T-Mobile.
When the Pladls divorced in March 2017 and Alyssa left with their two younger daughters, Katie decided to stay put with her father, who by then was sleeping on her bedroom floor.
What Alyssa didn't know at the time was that the pair had begun an incestuous affair behind her back and Katie was soon pregnant with Bennett, who was born last September.
In July 2017 they were illegally married at a romantic lakeside ceremony, with Pladl's 72-year-old mom Grace and Katie's adoptive parents astonishingly in attendance.
Alyssa only learned about the incest when she read about it in her then 11-year-old daughter's journal.
'My dad calls her baby also his baby,' the bewildered child had written. 'My dad even says she's my stepmom wtf. He doesn't even want me to say or call her sister anymore.'
Alyssa immediately sought a protective order banning Pladl from contacting her or their daughters, triggering a police investigation.
Katie and Pladl were living openly as husband and wife in Knightdale, North Carolina, when they were arrested in January 2018 and extradited to Henrico County to face charges of incest and contributing to delinquency of a minor.
Pladl was released one month later on $28,000 bond and barred from talking to Katie, who was bailed and ordered to move back with her adoptive parents in New York.
Police believe Pladl hatched his murderous plot weeks later when the lovers spoke on the phone and Katie told him it was over.
Bennett was in the custody of Pladl's mother Grace, but there was nothing put in place by the courts to stop Pladl seeing his son, an oversight Alyssa has subsequently slammed as a major failure.
The little boy was to become his father's first victim, his lifeless body found stuffed inside a closet at Pladl's home on April 12 after he rang Grace to confess to the murder.
By then the predator had already driven 600 miles to ambush Katie as she left home with 56-year-old Anthony Fusco, a former coast guard and corrections officer.
He followed their truck to New Milford, Connecticut, before spraying bullets into the cabin, killing both.
A short while later Pladl's body was found over the state border in Dover, New York, the cause of death a self-inflicted gunshot.
Back in Virginia, Alyssa had been informed of Bennett's fate but turned to the internet to find out more.
Instinctively she typed 'self-inflicted gunshot wound' and 'New York'.
"It brought up the article with the picture of Katie and her adoptive father and a pickup truck full of blood," she said. "And that's how I discovered she was dead."
Wrestling with shock and grief, Alyssa had to break the news to their two bewildered daughters that their father, big sister and baby nephew were all dead.
"When they asked why I told them that their father had killed them all and then killed himself. I've never seen such shock on children's faces before - just absolute devastation," she recalled.
Katie, Bennett and Anthony Fusco were laid to rest on April 21 at St Charles Borromeo Church in Dover Plains, New York.
Alyssa sent flowers but decided not to go, wary of drawing yet more media attention.
She's planning her own private vigil with friends to mourn the passing of the daughter she says she's now lost three times and her first grandson.
The mother-of-three has no plans to mark her ex-husband's death, describing it as a 'relief' for her and her girls, who have lived in fear since she took out the protective order and informed cops about the incest.
"It's been a difficult rollercoaster of emotions because I'm so devastated by the loss of Katie and her adoptive dad and baby," she said.
"But it's such a relief that I don't have to look over my shoulder anymore to see if Steve is there.
"Every single day I've played out in my head: what if he's in the back of my Jeep getting ready to shoot me.
"Sometimes I had such horrible paranoia that I had to stop whatever I was doing and drive home to make sure everything was OK."
If any good can come from the senseless murder of three people and the shattered lives left behind, it's that authorities confronted with incest will learn lessons from the infamous 'Pladl case', Alyssa says.
"I want them to overthink, I want them to err on the side of caution, I want them to err on the side of the protection of the child," she said.
"If you're talking to someone on the internet or you're dating someone and it doesn't feel right, they are treating you badly or you're constantly trying to make sure you don't set them off, that's not normal.
"It's not healthy. Nobody should have to put up with that."