A Pennsylvania man tells New Times that he's the father of 10-year-old Ame Deal, the 10-year-old girl tortured — and ultimately murdered — by members of her own family last month.
Ame was locked in a tiny footlocker by her cousin and her husband, Sammantha and John Allen, each 23, because she "stole" a Popsicle in the early morning of July 12. They left her there overnight and when they found her body the next morning she had suffocated. Read the tragic details of Ame's death here.
Ame's father, David Deal, was living in a tent in the backyard of the family's Phoenix home near near 35th Avenue and Broadway Road, a source who knows the family told New Times last week. But David Deal claims he's not Ame's father. Kenneth Griest, however, says he'd be honored to claim the girl as his own — he just needs a DNA test.
Griest tells New Times he had a relationship with Ame's mother, Shirley Deal, while she was separated from David Deal and the two were living in the same apartment complex in Pennsylvania.
He says that even when Ame was born, he was suspected to be the father, despite David Deal's name being on her birth certificate, and he tried to raise her as his own.
"She loved to sing. We bought her a karaoke machine one year," Griest recalls. "We taught her how to ride a bike. I have her birth certificate here at my house."
Griest says that a few years ago, Shirley Deal was intimidated into going back to David Deal while he was living in Texas. She and Ame moved in with Deal, but Shirley soon left because he was abusive — leaving Ame with the group of monsters that ultimately killed her.
Griest says that he tried repeatedly over the years to track down Ame, but the Deal family constantly moved around the country, so tracking them was never easy.
He says the family knows Ame probably wasn't related to any of them, which is why they tortured her.
Of the 12 children living in the Deal's filthy Phoenix home, Ame was the only one who was abused by the family. The other kids, according to court documents, would even do things to get Ame in trouble.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Phoenix New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Phoenix's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
"They singled Ame out because she wasn't a blood relative," Griest says. "But even so, why would anyone treat a little girl like that?"
Griest says he hopes to have a DNA test confirm that he's Ame's father so he can get a little "closure," but he's having some trouble figuring out how to do so.
"The detective [handling the case] won't return my call," he says.
Griest says he hopes he can have the test done in Pennsylvania, but if he needs to, he'll make the trip to Phoenix to prove that Ame is his daughter.