PHOENIX, AZ — An Arizona woman was convicted of first-degree murder Monday in the death of her 10-year-old cousin who was locked in a small plastic storage box overnight in triple-digit heat.
In July 2011, Sammantha Allen, 28, (above) was accused of helping her husband lock young Ame Deal in a box that was left outside overnight as punishment for stealing and eating a popsicle.
Authorities allege that this was only the latest in a long line of abuses doled out to the little girl, who was one of 12 children living in the household, at the hands of multiple relatives.
According to neighbors, Ame was subjected to strange punishments including being forced to walk down the street barefoot on hot days, eat hot sauce, eat dog feces, and sleep on a shower floor.
When police found Ame’s body, her family first said she had fallen asleep while hidden in the box during a late-night game of hide and seek. The adults had even coached the other children to lie to the police during the investigation. The bin only had small holes near the handles for air, according to prosecutors, who are seeking the death penalty for Allen. Poor Ame suffocated in the small box.
“This child died at the hands of those who were supposed to love and care for her,” police spokesman Sergeant Trent Crump said. “This case has turned the stomachs of some of our most seasoned detectives.”
Allen was also found guilty of three counts of child abuse and conspiracy to commit child abuse. But Allen’s lawyers argue that while she may be guilty of child abuse, saying that being locked in the box was a common punishment in the Allen household, she’s not guilty of murder.
Two other adults involved, Cynthia Stoltzmann, the girl’s aunt and legal guardian; and her father, David Deal; have previously been found guilty of attempted child abuse. Her husband John Allen’s trial is expected to start on August 7. He’s also charged with first-degree murder and child abuse.
Main photo: Sammantha Allen [Phoenix Police Department]