The parents of a Missouri girl who is believed to have been tortured and killed by her neighbors have now been charged for the role they allegedly played in the child’s death.
Mary S. Mast, 29, and James A. Mast, 28, were arrested on Christmas Eve at a private residence in Stover and are now facing numerous charges related to the death of their 4-year-old daughter, the Benton County Sheriff’s Office said in a recently issued news release.
Prosecutors have charged both James and Mary Mast with endangering the welfare of a child in the first degree resulting in death, while Mary Mast faces an additional charge of domestic assault in the first degree. James Mast now also faces a charge of endangering the welfare of a child in the first degree resulting in serious physical injury, authorities said.
Since their December 24 arrest, James and Mary Mast have been held without bond, and their remaining two children — an infant and a 2-year-old boy — have been placed in protective custody. They did not have attorneys as of Monday, according to the Associated Press.
Deputies responded to a report of a deceased child in the early morning hours of December 20, the office said in a previous press release. James Mast said that his 4-year-old daughter had been “beaten, submerged in a pond, then left to freeze on the bank before being taken back into the residence,” authorities said. Mary Mast and her 2-year-old son were also severely beaten and were transported to a nearby hospital for treatment, according to the release.
The child was found dead in her bedroom, having been beaten “from head to toe” with some kind of instrument, Benton County Sheriff Eric Knox said, according to KY3. Authorities believe she had been abused for weeks leading up to her death.
The child’s neighbors, 35-year-old Ethan J. Mast and 21-year-old Kourtney T. Aumen, were arrested in relation to the child’s death, authorities previously confirmed. Ethan Mast and Kourtney Aumen lived across the street from the girl’s family, but they are not believed to have been related, despite Ethan having the same last name as James and Mary, authorities said. They are facing numerous charges, including second-degree murder, per the AP report.
James Mast told investigators that he and his wife watched as their daughter was abused but were told that they would be harmed if they tried to step in, according to a probable cause statement. James Mast also said that he and his wife were told that his wife had a demon inside of her and that her children would “end up just like her” if the problem wasn’t “taken care of,” the report states.
The victim’s family and her alleged killers all attended the same church, but the girl’s death has not been tied to cults, the Benton County Sheriff’s Office said in their most recent release. References to “God and demons” have reportedly been made during interviews with family members, they said.
“None of the actions contained in this case are condoned by the church they attended,” the release states. “The investigation done so far indicates that this is an isolated incident and NOT the actions of a cult.”
Authorities are currently awaiting the completion of an autopsy, at which time those involved may face further charges. In the meantime, a judge on Monday denied a request from James and Mary Mast to attend their daughter’s funeral, according to the AP.
They are scheduled to next appear in court on January 5.
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