The Arizona Supreme Court has ruled that the execution of a man found guilty of murdering a little girl by locking her in a box and then letting her suffocate can move forward.
John Allen, 32, was found guilty in 2017 of first-degree murder, three counts of child abuse, and one count of conspiracy to commit child abuse for the 2011 death of 11-year-old Ame Deal, according to azcentral.com. Allen is alleged to have locked the child, who was his wife’s cousin, in a plastic box for stealing a popsicle, and then leaving her there to suffocate. Allen, who was one of numerous relatives that were found guilty of having subjected Deal to heinous abuse, was sentenced to die by lethal injection.
In response to an automatic appeal, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday to uphold Allen’s sentence. Their decision is available online.
Deal lived with Allen, his wife Sammantha Allen, Sammantha’s mother (who was Deal’s legal guardian), and other adults, many of whom were convicted of abusing the girl. On the night of her death, John and Samantha Allen abused Deal by forcing her to complete strenuous physical tasks, like running laps and holding herself in a backbend for hours on end; then, at around 1 a.m., John Allen made Deal get the box and climb inside. He then locked the box, and then took the sole key with him when he went to bed.
Sammantha and John are alleged to have punished Deal by locking her in the small box on numerous occasions, according to court documents.
The family found her dead in the box the following morning and called the authorities after they were unable to revive her. They initially claimed that the child died after accidentally locking herself in the box during a game of hide-and-seek, but during police interviews, John Allen eventually confessed to the abuse.
A jury found John Allen eligible for the death penalty based on three “aggravating circumstances:” his previous conviction for a serious offense; Deal’s murder being “especially cruel and especially heinous or depraved”; and the fact that Deal was under the age of 15 when Allen — an adult — killed her, the decision notes.
As part of Tuesday’s decision, the court also ruled to vacate the sentences related to Allen’s convictions of conspiracy to commit child abuse, intentional or knowing child abuse, and reckless child abuse. He will be resentenced on those counts at a later date.
At the time of his sentencing, Allen apologized for his role in Deal’s death, according to azcentral.com.
“I want to say that I'm sorry. What happened was an accident,” he said. “I'm an idiot. I'm a jerk. It was an accident. I'm sorry to Ame, I'm sorry to her family. I think that's all.”
Sammantha Allen was also found guilty of murder for Deal’s death and sentenced to death, but has filed an appeal, according to the Associated Press.
Sammantha Allen’s mother, Cynthia Stoltzmann, is serving a 24-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to various child abuse charges, according to a 2017 Reuters report. Deal’s father, David Deal, is serving 14 years for attempted child abuse, and her grandmother, Judith Deal, is serving 10 years for the same charge, according to the outlet.
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