A Minnesota couple has been accused of abusing their 8-year-old daughter, tying her up and starving her before her death.
Brett J. Hallow, 30, and Sarah K. Hallow, 28, are each facing charges of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter in the death of Autumn Hallow, who was found unresponsive last Thursday at the couple’s Depot at Elk River Station apartment, according to the court records obtained by Oxygen.com.
Elk River officers were called to the home around 3:43 p.m. in response to a medical emergency, according to a statement from the Sherburne County Sheriff’s Office.
Officers arrived at the scene to find Sarah Hallow, the girl’s stepmother, attempting to give Autumn chest compressions. However, officers said Autumn’s body was rigid and her fingers were blue and she appeared to be in full or nearly full rigor.
"Based on the condition of [Autumn's] body, law enforcement believed [she] had been deceased for some time," according to a probable cause statement.
The officers noted that Autumn appeared “extremely frail and thin,” according to the court documents.
Officers also found “pin-like” marks on the girl’s forehead and bruising on her body.
An autopsy report would later determine the girl’s death had been a homicide, the sheriff’s office said.
The medical examiner discovered paired puncture wounds on her head, bleeding in her stomach and on the brain, and bruises on her hips and hands, the court documents state. According to the autopsy, the cause of death was asphyxial injuries and blunt force trauma.
She also had significant hair loss and weighed just 45 pounds at the time of her death.
At the couple’s home, investigators found traces of blood in the bathroom—primarily around the shower—after using Luminol, according to the probable cause statement.
Brett’s 6-year-old son allegedly told investigators and child protection service workers that the couple often used a brown belt with laced ends to tie Autumn up and zip her into a sleeping bag, so that only her head was visible.
He allegedly said Brett and Sarah also used a shirt to tie her up. He told investigators that the couple tied Autumn up as punishment after she'd urinated on the floor or in her clothing or tried to get food.
He said while she was tied up, she was only allowed to eat or drink if someone brought it to her.
Sarah’s 10-year-old daughter, who also lived at the home, also described the couple using the sleeping bag as punishment and said Autumn was tied up at times to prevent her from getting medications, the documents allege.
Sarah Hallow told investigators that the day Autumn died, the young girl had been taking a shower and when she went in to check on her after 40 minutes, she found the young girl face down in the water, according to the court documents.
The other children who lived in the home, however, allegedly told authorities that the couple had been in the bathroom with Autumn the day she died and the 6-year-old reported hearing Autumn scream and a loud “bang,” according to court records. He also said he heard Sarah telling Autumn to clean up a mess in the bathroom.
Sarah Hallow denied having an argument with Autumn on the day she died and continued to insist she found her in the tub, according to authorities. She and Brett also both denied tying Autumn up or using the sleeping bag as punishment.
Sarah did tell investigators that she'd noticed Autumn had been losing weight and hair but had not brought her to a doctor, according to the court documents.
Brett told investigators that his memory of events that day was “not good.”
Autumn’s mother, Kelsey Krause, told investigators that she had not seen her daughter since January and said the couple had been keeping her away from her child citing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.
The last time she saw Autumn she said she had appeared to be at a normal weight.
In several Facebook posts, Krause said she was heartbroken about the loss of her “beautiful sweet baby.”
“Your father kept you from me for several months and then took your life,” she wrote. “I hope you know how much I tried to get you. I hope you know how much I love every single part of who you are and I am so proud of how incredibly kind, thoughtful and amazing you are.”
In another post with Brett and Sarah’s mug shots, she wrote about how much she hated the couple.
“You have been ruining my life for YEARS and now you have given me and my family a permanent scar,” she wrote. “You took something we will never get back.”
Krause vowed to honor her daughter “in the most beautiful way possible because she deserves nothing less.”
According to the sheriff’s office, Sarah and Brett were both arrested and taken into custody Friday evening.
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