An Arizona man was found guilty Wednesday of leaving his wife’s 10-year-old cousin in a footlocker overnight to suffocate and die. Now, a jury is tasked with deciding whether he’ll be put to death for his crimes.
The Republic reported that a Maricopa County Superior Court jury found John Allen, 29, guilty of first-degree murder, three counts of child abuse, and conspiracy to commit child abuse in the July 2011 death of Ame Deal. Allen and his wife Sammantha Allen were arrested after Deal was found dead in the box that they locked her in for eating a popsicle without permission.
The couple intended to check on her that evening but went to sleep instead. The choice proved fatal as the small box was located in an unconditioned, filthy room that never went below 95 degrees, according to the Phoenix New Times.
The child was found lifeless—with blue lips—the next morning. Despite her dire state, it took an hour before someone who lived in the squalid home called the police.
The 10-year-old was 59 pounds and 48 inches in height when she was forced into a box measuring 31 inches long. An autopsy determined that the child died of suffocation, with heat exhaustion and dehydration being contributing factors, the New Times reported.
In court, Maricopa County Prosecutor Jeannette Gallagher showed the jury an image of Deal’s contorted, discolored body that was left lying on a urine-soaked carpet. Images of the lockbox revealed that the child died in her own sweat and urine.
The Republic reported that prosecutors called the crime “especially cruel, heinous or depraved.”
Allen is the fifth adult to be convicted in connection with Deal’s death. His wife was sentenced to death in August for her role in her cousin’s unthinkable murder.
The girl’s father, aunt, and grandmother are serving sentences for child abuse. The girl’s aunt and legal guardian, Cynthia Stoltzmann, would often sit on the footlocker that they imprisoned Deal in as she cried. Court documents also stated that Stoltzman would kick and hit her and force her to eat hot sauce and dog feces.
Police said that the abuse continued because family members “feared retaliation from Cynthia Stoltzmann” if they reported it to authorities.
“It’s been six years since Ame died in that box. It’s time for the defendant to be held accountable.”
A jury will now hear arguments that will help them determine whether the 29-year-old should be put to death in a process that should take several weeks. Defense attorney Gary Beren previously argued that John didn’t intentionally kill Deal on that night in 2011.
“What he really wanted was that nobody would take the fall. He didn’t want anybody to take responsibility for what happened to that little girl,” Gallagher told the jury.
“The defendant had the power to save Ame’s life. Ame’s life meant so little to the defendant he didn’t even have a reason.”
[Featured Image: Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office/Pheonix Police Department]