When Phoenix, Arizona Police received word that 10-year-old Ame Deal had died her family told them that she had placed herself into a plastic chest as part of a hide and go seek game gone awry. Ame, who had been living with at least 10 other adults and children at the 2-bedroom home, was later learned to have been living in a house of horrors.
In 2011, investigators learned that the girl had been living with multiple adults, including her father, who abused and tormented her. She had been forced to sleep in a shower stall, had hot sauce poured into her mouth for lying and had often been locked in a trunk for punishment. Neighbors also reported that the children at the home were often dirty and could be seen walking barefoot on the blistering hot sidewalk, possibly as a form of punishment. In spite of the neighbors’ suspicions that the children were being abused, no one bothered to contact social services.
On July 12, 2011, Ame’s cousin’s husband, 23-year-old John Allen, crammed Ame into the plastic chest as punishment for stealing and eating a popsicle. There, she was left overnight as temperatures rose into the triple digits. In spite of multiple adults living in tents in the backyard of the home, no one thought to let the girl out. Five of these adults were later arrested in connection with Ame’s death.
When asked for comment, Sgt. Trent Crump of the Phoenix Police Department told an Arizona CBS affiliate, “I don’t think that a crime could be more unspeakable.”
On July 14, 2013, David Deal, Ame’s father, was sentenced to 14 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to attempted child abuse. Two months later, Cynthia Stoltzmann, Ame’s legal guardian at the time of her death, had been sentenced to 24-years in prison and lifetime probation after she pleaded guilty to two counts of child abuse and one count of attempted child abuse. Judith Deal, Ame’s grandmother, had also pleaded guilty to attempted child abuse and received a 10-year prison sentence plus lifetime probation.
Most recently, Sammantha Allen, Ame’s cousin, has been found guilty of first-degree murder. Though she has yet to be sentenced, the jury has recommended that she receive the death penalty. John Allen, who is alleged to have put Ame in the box at the request of Stoltzmann and Ame’s grandmother, is still awaiting trial.