Warning: This post includes details of a case of child abuse.
Jurors in the US have sentenced a 29-year-old woman to death in the killing of a 10-year-old cousin who was locked in a small plastic storage box and left to die as punishment for stealing an ice pop.
Sammantha Allen, from Phoenix, Arizona, will become the 55th woman on death row in the US after the jury reached its verdict on Monday.
Jurors had been deliberating since Wednesday on whether to send Allen to death row or spare her life in the 2011 killing of Ame Deal. She was convicted of first-degree murder and four counts of child abuse on June 26.
Authorities said Allen and her husband are responsible for making Ame get into the box the night before as punishment for having stolen an ice pop. She was left in the box and found dead six or seven hours later.
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The trial of her husband, John Allen, 29, is scheduled to start on October 9. He’s also charged with first-degree murder and child abuse and faces the death penalty. He has pleaded not guilty.
The girl’s death was the culmination of a history of abuse that a handful of relatives heaped on her, authorities say.
Ame was forced to eat dog faeces, crush aluminium cans barefoot, consume hot sauce and get in the storage box on other occasions, investigators said.
Adults at the home originally claimed Ame hid during a late-night game of hide-and-seek and wasn’t found until hours later. Three other relatives are in prison serving sentences for abusing Ame.
Sammantha Allen’s mother, Cynthia Stoltzmann, who also was Ame’s legal guardian, is serving a 24-year prison sentence for a child abuse conviction.
Child welfare authorities in Arizona said they didn’t receive any reports of abuse before her death. But child welfare reports from Utah, where the family lived before moving to Phoenix, listed Ame as an abused child, police said.