KEY POINTS

  • The father and stepmom of an 8-year-old Minnesota girl pleaded guilty to charges in connection to the child's death
  • The girl was found face-down in a bathtub with several head wounds in the family's apartment in August 2020
  • The child was physically abused and deprived of food if the couple thought she was misbehaving, investigators said

The father and the stepmother of an 8-year-old girl in Minnesota have pleaded guilty to second-degree murder charges in connection with the child's death last year.

Brett Jason Hallow, 31, and Sarah Kay Hallow, 29, are set to be sentenced in September, People reported, citing online records. The father and the stepmother could each receive potentially 40 years in prison for their roles in the death of 8-year-old Autumn Hallow in August last year.

The young girl went through harrowing physical abuse at the family's apartment in Elk River, Minnesota, before dying from asphyxiation last summer, investigators said.

Investigators alleged that Autumn was often tied up if the couple felt she was misbehaving. Her father and stepmom also allegedly intentionally withheld food from the child, who weighed 33 pounds at the time of her death.

Autumn was found face-down in a bathtub with several head wounds on Aug. 30, 2020, when police were called to the family's apartment. According to authorities, the child had been dead several days before they found her.

The couple was initially charged with second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter. Both pleaded not guilty at the time, before admitting Monday to abusing and causing the death of the child, KSTP reported.

With new evidence collected by prosecutors, there were plans to upgrade the charges on the Hallows to first-degree counts. They obtained a surveillance video that showed the abuse that Autumn went through in the weeks leading up to her death.

The stepmother admitted to the court Monday that she and her husband confined Autumn in their apartment's bathroom in the days leading up to her death and assaulted her. She also said they deprived the child of food, water and medicine.

The couple also pleaded guilty to other charges related to Autumn’s brother and another child in the household.

Kelsey Kruse, the mother of Autumn, told KSTP, "I feel like them taking a plea deal for less time was kind of the coward's way out, but also I liked that they were admitting some guilty and I knew part of what happened at least."

Kruse has filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Sherburne County Child Protection Services and the Elk River Police Department for failing to closely monitor the case of her daughter. The Hallows and Kruse had a history of custody disputes starting 2019, records showed.

Kruse shared custody with her ex-husband, but she told officers in June 2020 that she had not seen Autumn since January of that year.

An autopsy done on the remains of Autumn showed she had puncture wounds on her head as well as abdominal and brain bleeding. Signs of bruising were also found on her hips and hands.

gavel-2492011_1920 representational image Photo: Pixabay