Charges have been dropped against Ammandea Stoltzmann, one of six family members accused of harming 10-year-old Ame Deal, who was murdered in Phoenix almost two years ago in one of the most horrific child-abuse cases in the Valley in recent history.
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.
-"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
However, in the first significant action in the courts, child-abuse charges against Stoltzmann, 25, were dismissed, at the prosecutors' request.
Maricopa County Attorney's Office spokesman Jerry Cobb wouldn't elaborate, instead repeatedly referring New Times to the motion to dismiss, which says nothing other than there wasn't enough evidence to go forward.
According to a court document submitted by police in February 2012, Stoltzmann admitted to repeatedly abusing Ame before her death.
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.
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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 Stolzmann, Ame's grandmother and aunt.
David Deal, Ame's father, was arrested in July 2012 on child-abuse and kidnapping charges.
Since we don't know why Stoltzmann's off the hook, we'll have to wait and see how the charges against the other family members work out.