Neighbors say girl was abused long before death - CBS 5 - KPHO

Neighbors say girl was abused long before death

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Phoenix police have arrested four family members on Thursday in connection with the death of a 10-year-old girl whose body was found in a plastic container July 12.

Neighbors interviewed by CBS 5 News on Thursday said they often witnesses the family abusing 10-year-old Ame Deal, months before her death.

Police arrested two cousins of Deal and charged them with first-degree murder. They were identified as John and Samantha Allen, both 23.

Ame's grandmother and aunt, Judith Deal, 62, and Cynthia Stoltzmann, 44, respectively, were also arrested and were charged with child abuse and kidnapping.

Police said the aunt was the child's legal guardian.

During a police news briefing Thursday morning, acting Phoenix Police Chief Joe Yahner was visibly agitated. "This truly is a tragedy. This is a bothersome crime," he said. 

According  to police, Ame Deal had been abused for a long time, and had been locked in a chest as punishment.

Police said that on the night she died, her family claimed she stole a popsicle  from the refrigerator and had to do back bends for two hours before she was locked in the container by her cousins.

"This child died at the hands of those who were supposed to love and care for her,"  police spokesperson Sgt. Trent Crump said. "This case has turned the stomachs of some of our most seasoned detectives."

Initial reports from someone at the home on July 12 claimed the child went missing while playing a game of hide-and-seek.

"They treated her mean, they punished her all the time," a neighbor told CBS 5 News.

Her story was one our crews heard throughout the neighborhood where Ame Deal was abused to death.

"They would make her walk up and down the street barefooted and other little stuff," the neighbor said.

Neighbors said the abuse that happened inside the home wasn't kept behind closed doors.

And yet, no one ever reported what they saw.

"I do know that a lot of times people just don't want to get involved, they're worried to get involved or they just don't," said Chris Scarpati with the Child Crisis Center.

In her work with the Child Crisis Center, Chris Scarpati has seen all kinds of unimaginable abuse.

She said all too often people turn a blind eye rather than pick up the phone.

"Just like when you see a traffic accident you're going to call the police. If you see a child being abused you should call police," she said.

We're not blaming anyone.  The people who police said abused Ame Deal shoulder all the responsibility.

But with child abuse cases climbing here in the Valley, it begs the question - what could have been if something had been done sooner.

"If somebody had reported the kinds of things that apparently went on in this family, I feel pretty sure that it wouldn't have ended up in this kind of situation," Scarpati said.

Unfortunately this situation can't be fixed now.

But it's a situation Scarpati hopes can be prevented in the future.

"If we all think that it takes a village to raise a child, then we really need to act like a village and we need to act like a neighborhood that cares," she said.

The other children living in the home at the time have been taken into protective custody.

If you ever suspect a child is being abused, call 888-SOS-CHILD.

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