PHOENIX - Ten-year-old Ame Lynn Deal was a quiet, playful child who loved hide-and-go-seek.
The girl’s aunt, Cynthia Stoltzmann, said they once found Ame in the family’s dryer and once under the barbecue.
"She could find the strangest places to hide," Stoltzmann said.
She was playing hide-and-go-seek Monday evening when she apparently crawled into a plastic toy chest inside her home near 35th Avenue and Broadway Road.
The toy chest was sitting on the floor of the classroom where the seven little kids who lived at the residence were home-schooled. Eventually, the rest of the family went to sleep and didn't check on the 10-year-old because they thought she was already in bed.
Sadly, she wasn't.
Detectives believe she fell asleep in the toy chest and slowly used up the oxygen.
She wasn’t found until the next morning when, according to the family, a 3-year-old child went to open the toy chest.
Ame lived in the home with her slightly older brother and sister. They all moved in with their 71-year old grandmother when Ame was just 3.
“She was severely abused by her mother," Stoltzmann said.
The abuse left the girl mentally troubled.
"You knew there was damage done," she said.
Stoltzmann said Ame's grandmother continues to struggle following the death.
“She's just back in the bedroom, just laying on the bed," she said. "I mean her and Ame were real close. Her and Ame would sit and talk a lot. They had a special bond."
Stoltzmann said she was at the hospital with a sick daughter when this all happened. Now, she is left wondering what if.
"What if I was here? My mom is doing the same thing. What if she stayed up?" she said.
Authorities with Child Protective Services took the other kids from the house as they investigate possible neglect, according to Stoltzmann.