10-Year-old's horrific death sparks calls to actionPosted: Updated:
PHOENIX - The horrific murder of 10-year-old Ame Deal has officials asking members of the community to speak out if they suspect child abuse.
Deal was found dead in a 32-inch long trunk on July 12 and while her guardians originally told police she accidentally suffocated while playing hide and seek, police now say it was a case of murder.
John "Bud" Allen and Samantha Allen are expected to be charged with first-degree murder and the girl's grandmother, Judith Deal, and her aunt, Cynthia "Charlie" Stoltzmann, will face child abuse charges.
At least four neighbors of the Romley Road house where Ame was allegedly tortured and abused said they suspected potential abuse by adults in the household.
Joe Perez says he witnessed John Allen, who is now charged with Ame's murder, constantly screaming loudly at the girl.
Another neighbor said of the kids who lived at the home, "Once they would do something wrong they would get yelled at and I'm telling you, they would get yelled out."
Others described seeing Ame being forced to walk back and forth on the sidewalk barefoot in triple-digit temperatures.
Court documents say her abusers would punish her with excessive exercise. No one contacted authorities with their concerns.
Meanwhile, at least three adults were living in tents in the backyard of the Romley Road home over the course of several months and were eyewitnesses to the abuse.
Debra Smith, Kassandrea Deal and Travis Naylor told police they witnessed the suspects beat Ame, force her to eat dog feces and force her into a footlocker on repeated occasions. They came forward only after the girl died.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, whose office will prosecute this case, says Ame's is one of the worst child abuse cases he has seen in his career as a child victim advocate.
"Other cases pale in comparison," he said.
While casual witnesses to abuse don't have a legal obligation to report it, Montgomery says there is a moral obligation.
"No one, if they suspected this could have happened, should have stayed silent," Montgomery says.
In Utah, where Ame Deal lived with relatives before moving to Arizona, authorities had investigated allegations of abuse against the girl, according to court documents.
Records of that abuse did not follow with the family when they moved to Phoenix.
"Right now, I don't believe that we have any kind of a national network or database that would allow states to share that kind of information," Montgomery said.
Anyone who suspects child abuse is urged to called Arizona's Child Abuse Hotline at 1-888-SOS-CHILD (1-888-767-2445). Calls can be made anonymously.
"What's the worst that can happen?" said Montgomery. "You're wrong?"