The Maricopa County Attorney's Office announced this morning that it will seek the death penalty for two people accused of murdering 10-year-old Ame Deal last summer by locking her in a tiny footlocker and leaving her there overnight.
Sammantha Allen — Ame's cousin — and her husband, John Allen, have been charged with first-degree murder in the girl's death. Two of Ame's other relatives, her aunt, Cynthia Stolzmann, and her grandmother, Judith Deal, each is charged with multiple counts of child abuse for repeatedly abusing the girl.
The County Attorney's Office cites Ame's young age, and the "especially cruel, heinous or depraved" manner of the murder as aggravating factors that led to the decision to seek the death penalty for the Allens.
The depravity of the murder, Phoenix police told New Times last summer, "makes you sick to your stomach."
No argument here.
According to court documents obtained by New Times, the abuse of Ame includes frequently getting locked in the footlocker, being forced to eat dog feces, getting beaten with a wooden paddle her family referred to as a "butt buster," being forced to sleep in a shower stall with no pillow or blankets, getting forced to do "back bends" for hours, and having hot sauce shoved in her mouth.
All of the aforementioned abuse was "punishment" for doing things like "lying" and stealing food.
Deal was one of about 12 children living in a filthy house near 35th Avenue and Broadway Road in Phoenix under the guardianship of her grandmother, 62-year-old Deal; her aunt, Stolzmann, and her cousin and her husband, John and Sammantha Allen, each 23.
According to court documents, Ame was the only one of the 12 children who was tortured by the family, and the other children would intentionally do things to get Ame in trouble.
Initially, the death was made to look like an accident. The family told police Ame was playing hide-and-seek when she must have fallen asleep inside the footlocker. Everyone had gone to sleep and forgotten about her, they said.
The family even coached the other children on how to lie to police
However, also living on the property were several people — including Ame's father and two of his other children — who lived in tents in the backyard of the disgusting home. After Ame's body was found, several people living in the backyard told police about the abuse.
According to one witness, he listened one night as Stolzmann was screaming at Ame while she was in her "bedroom"/shower stall. She was beating Ame because she had "wetted herself."
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Other witnesses watched Sammantha Allen put Ame in the footlocker as John Allen kicked it and picked it up and flipped it over with Ame inside.
When Ame was picking up dog feces in the yard one day, she missed some. Stolzmann, witnesses say, forced her to eat the excrement as punishment.
On the night of her death, John Allen admitted to forcing Ame to position herself in a "back bend" (her hands and feet were on the floor with her back arched up) for more than two hours after she "stole" a Popsicle. When she would fall, he says he physically put her back into position.
After the two hours of "back bends," Allen told Ame to go outside and get the footlocker. When she returned, he put her inside. Concerned that she might be able to get out, he locked it with a padlock. Then he went to sleep. In the morning, Ame was found dead inside the box.