The death penalty is being sought against a couple accused of killing their ten-year-old cousin by locking her in a storage bin as punishment for taking a Popsicle without permission. (Daily Mail)
John and Samantha Allen, from Arizona, both 23, have pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit child abuse and multiple counts of felony child abuse stemming from the July 12 death by suffocation of ten-year-old Ame Deal at her Phoenix home.
The Allens, who are married, remain in custody on $1million bond each.
Mrs Allen’s attorney declined to comment on Monday. Mr Allen’s lawyer could not immediately be reached.
Ame’s body was found inside a hinged plastic container at the home in what family members initially said was a hide-and-seek game gone terribly wrong.
But authorities said that story quickly unraveled as police investigators discovered that her relatives had lied to cover up their actions.
Police said the Allens, who had been left in charge of the girl, forced her to perform intense physical exercise as discipline for stealing the frozen treat from the freezer, then ordered her to retrieve the storage bin and climb into it.
They said Samantha Allen watched as her husband locked the girl in the box in the boiling heat, and the couple then fell asleep.
Ame’s body was found in the box the following morning.
It was also alleged that the couple had locked the child in the box many times before and would throw it around with her still inside.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said in a court filing that the alleged crimes warrant the death penalty considering the young age of the victim and that the murder was committed in an ‘especially heinous, cruel or depraved manner’.
Mr Montgomery declined further comment through a spokesman because the case is ongoing.
The girl’s aunt and legal guardian, Cynthia Stoltzmann, who is Samantha Allen’s mother, has also been charged with multiple counts of child abuse in the case, along with the child’s grandmother, Judith Deal, 73.
Both women have pleaded not guilty and remain held on $500,000 bond each.
Police have said that neither Deal nor Stoltzmann was present at the time Ame was locked in the box.
Authorities said Ame was one of at least a dozen children being brought up in a Phoenix home strewn with rubbish, where they would often sleep in a series of tents in the garden.
On the day she died, Ame was forced to do backbends and run around in the 103 degree heat outside before being locked inside the box by John Allen as his wife stood by.
Sweating profusely, she was then squeezed into the footlocker, which was padlocked shut.
Ame, who was four feet, two inches tall, suffocated inside the box, which was 14 inches wide, about a foot deep and less than three feet long, as the Allens slept.
Police said when the girl was found her clothes were soiled and she had marks on her right knee caused by ‘forceful contact’ with the box’s lid.