A week after charges were dropped against one of six family members accused of abusing 10-year-old Ame Deal, who was murdered in Phoenix almost two years ago, another family member has pleaded guilty.
A spokesman for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office wouldn't elaborate when child-abuse charges against Ammandea Stoltzmann, Ame's cousin, were dropped, but Ame's aunt has now pleaded guilty in the case.
-Ame Deal Murder: Charges Dropped Against One of Six Family Members
-"Hide-and-Seek" Suffocation Death of 10-Year-Old Ame Deal Ruled Homicide
-Police: Abuse of Ame Deal "Makes You Sick to Your Stomach"
-Ame Deal's Killers Indicted for First-Degree Murder
-Ammandea Stoltzmann Arrested For Horrific Abuse of Ame Deal
-Phoenix Police: David Deal Kept 10-Year-Old Ame Deal in a Dog Kennel
The dropping of charges against Ammandea Stoltzmann hasn't made a great deal of sense, especially given the lack of explanation from the County Attorney's Office.
Prosecutors said there wasn't enough evidence to go forward with the case against Stoltzmann. A probable-cause statement submitted by police says something else entirely.
Ame was killed in July 2011 after, police say, she was locked in a small footlocker by family members as punishment for taking a popsicle without asking, and over the next year, police arrested six family members who police say were responsible for the girl's death or horrific abuses of Ame in the time before her death.
In February 2012, police arrested Stoltzmann after she admitted to repeatedly abusing Ame before her death, according to that probable-cause statement.
She told police she started keeping Ame in a dog crate in 2005. She also made Ame crush aluminum cans while barefoot, and forced the girl to sleep in a pan meant for a shower floor. Stoltzmann said she'd ruin Ame's meals by dousing it with hot sauce "so strong you couldn't bear to be close by or your eyes would burn and water."
Police said Stoltzmann admitted to watching another relative lock Ame in a footlocker twice -- the same footlocker Ame eventually died in.
Witnesses, who weren't identified in the court document, were the ones who brought these things to the cops' attention, and they claimed Stoltzmann did more than she admitted to, including keeping Ame outside at night with a dog collar and chain, and scrubbing her face with a wire brush for lying.
Police said Stoltzmann initially denied hurting Ame, before conceding that some of the allegations were true.
Stoltzmann was the fifth person arrested in the case, as her arrest took place months after the initial arrests of John and Samantha Allen -- Ame's cousins, who were arrested on murder charges -- as well as Judith Deal and Cynthia Stoltzmann, Ame's grandmother and aunt.
David Deal, Ame's father, was arrested in July 2012 on child-abuse and kidnapping charges.
It was impossible for the public to tell where the case against other family members was going after the charges against Ammandea Stoltzmann, but it looks now like it might be going forward.
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Ame's aunt, Cynthia Stoltzmann, has pleaded guilty to two counts of child abuse, and one count of child abuse. She's due for sentencing in June.
According to court documents previously obtained by New Times, one witness said he listened one night as Cynthia Stoltzmann beat Ame because she "wetted herself." It was just one of the many, many instances of abuse Ame was subject to by her family members over her short life, which ended after she was locked in a footlocker.
Charges still remain against four other members of the family, including abuse charges against Ame's father and grandmother, and murder charges against two of her cousins.