Trial be­gins for man charged in death of girl who died in a box

The Arizona Republic - - Valley & State - Michael Kiefer Ari­zona Re­pub­lic USA TO­DAY NET­WORK

When po­lice came to the lit­tle house in south­west Phoenix in July 2011, they found a 10-year-old girl on her back on a towel in the liv­ing room.

Her clothes were wet, her hair mat­ted, her fin­ger­nails and an­kles turn­ing pur­ple, her skin yel­low, and her lips were blue and pulling away from her teeth. What also struck the of­fi­cer was how her hands were raised to her shoul­ders and frozen in claws.

And though a woman was per­form­ing CPR on the girl, the of­fi­cer was pretty sure she was al­ready dead.

Her name was Ame Deal.

Her cousin’s hus­band, John Allen, then 22, told the of­fi­cer that Ame and her sib­lings and cousins were play­ing hide-and-seek the night be­fore, and in the morn­ing they found her locked in a plas­tic box 31 inches long by 151⁄2 inches wide by 13 inches deep.

Ame was 51 inches tall.

The black box, which looks like a cross be­tween a suit­case and a foot­locker, was on the floor be­side the dead girl. There was about an inch of fluid on the bot­tom of the box — the dy­ing girl’s bod­ily flu­ids.

Over the next week, John Allen’s ac­ci­dent story un­rav­eled, and he and his wife, Sam­man­tha, were ar­rested.

They had al­legedly pun­ished Ame for steal­ing a pop­si­cle, lock­ing her in

the box after forc­ing her to do cal­is­then­ics for hours in the July heat. They put a pad­lock on the box to make sure she couldn’t get out. Though they dis­cussed re­leas­ing her later that night, they went to sleep in­stead, leav­ing the girl to slowly suf­fo­cate in the box, which was left in an un­cooled garage that had been con­verted into a home-school­ing class­room.

Ac­cord­ing to pros­e­cu­tor Jay Rademacher, it was not the only time Ame was pun­ished in the box.

John Allen, now 29, went on trial Mon­day in Mari­copa County Su­pe­rior Court.

Sam­man­tha Allen was sen­tenced to death in Au­gust for her part in the mur­der, and pros­e­cu­tors would like to send John there as well.

Three other fam­ily mem­bers al­ready are in prison for their roles in the case. Ju­dith Deal is serv­ing a 10-year sen­tence for a child-abuse con­vic­tion. Cyn­thia Stoltz­man, who was Ame’s aunt and le­gal guardian, is serv­ing 24 years for child abuse in the case. Ame’s fa­ther, David Deal, is serv­ing 14 years for child abuse.

John Allen is charged with first-de­gree felony mur­der, three counts of child abuse, and one count of con­spir­acy to com­mit child abuse.

“All of this over a pop­si­cle,” pros­e­cu­tor Rademacher said in his open­ing state­ments Mon­day.

He cre­ated a men­tal im­age of the crime, de­scrib­ing the cal­is­then­ics, the scold­ing.

“Ame would have heard the lock click shut,” he told a jury panel of 11 women and five men. “And then she be­gan the fight of her life, a fight she would lose.

“Ame died in that box,” Rademacher said.

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