Four family members of a young girl found suffocated in a locked storage bin as punishment for taking a popsicle without permission have been arrested.
Ame Deal, who was only 10-years-old, was found dead July 12 in her home in Phoenix, Arizona in which she lived with her aunt, grandmother and two cousins.
Police on Wed. arrested her cousins, Samantha and John Allen, for first-degree murder after they admitted to locking the child in a storage container, a form of punishment often practiced on Deal, this time for taking a frozen popsicle without permission. Initial reports that the child was hiding in the box during a game of hide and seek were thrown out as false.
Deal's aunt and legal guardian, Cynthia Stoltzmann, and Judith Deal, grandmother, were also arrested and accused of locking Deal in the same container on separate occasions.
Phoenix police spokesman Sergeant Trent Crump told Reuters that the girl's cousins, the Allens, were babysitting Deal while her aunt was away. After she wrongly took a popsicle, the Allens forced her to do an hour's worth of strenuous exercise in the scorching heat for over an hour before confining her to a storage container which they locked with a padlock.
Deal, who weighed less than 60 pounds at 4 feet, 2 inches, was found dead the next morning from suffocation in the box measuring 3 feet long, 14 inches wide and 1 foot deep.
Investigators reported that she was filthy and had cuts on her knee signifying "forceful contact with the interior lid."
Stoltzmann and Judith Deal were arrested on suspicions of child abuse and kidnapping. According to The Sacramento Bee, police investigators said the girl had been placed in the box an upwards of five times in 30 days, beat with a wooden paddle, and forced to eat hot sauce and dog droppings on several occasions. A dozen other children, now in custody of Child Protective Services, lived in the house as well.
"This child died at the hands of those who were supposed to love and care for her," Crump said. "This case has turned the stomachs of some of our most seasoned detectives."
A status hearing will take place Aug. 4 with a preliminary hearing Aug. 8.