Phoenix AZ July 31 2011 Four adults have been charged in the brutal killing of a 10-year-old family member who was stuffed a locked storage container as punishment for taking a Popsicle out of the freezer, police said.
Initially, authorities declared Ame Deal was a “death unknown,” after her family said she had died accidentally while playing hide-and-seek with other children in her Phoenix home.
On Thursday, her death was ruled a homicide after detectives found a pattern of horrifying abuse, including forcing the little girl to eat dog feces, making her sleep on the shower floor and forcing her to exercise barefoot outside in the blistering heat.
Cops said Ame was routinely put in the locked box, which was less than 3 feet long, 14 inches wide and about a foot deep, as punishment.
Her final offense before her death was deciding to take a Popsicle without permission, police said.
The little girl’s cousins John and Samantha Allen, both 23, confessed to locking her in the box the day she died. They have been charged with first-degree murder.
Ame’s aunt and legal guardian, Cynthia Stolzmann, 44, and her grandmother Judith Deal, 62, told authorities they previously punished her by placing her in the box. The two face child abuse and kidnapping charges.
Investigators said Ame, just 59 pounds, was found dirty and wearing soiled clothes.
“This child died at the hands of those who were supposed to love and care for her,” Sgt. Trent Crump, a spokesman for Phoenix police, told Reuters. “This case has turned the stomachs of some of the most seasoned detectives.”