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The neighbor of an 8-year-old girl who was allegedly starved, tied up and denied medication before her death has said she called police at least five times this year to report verbal abuse she heard coming from the apartment.
“An 8-year-old lost her life and she didn’t need to,” neighbor Sabrina McWilliam told local station WCCO.
Elk River Police officers were called to the Minnesota home a final time on Aug. 13 after receiving a report of a medical emergency and arrived to find Autumn Hallow’s stepmother, Sarah Hallow, giving the young girl chest compressions. However, officers said Autumn’s body was rigid and her fingers were blue.
"Based on the condition of [Autumn's] body, law enforcement believed [she] had been deceased for some time," according to a probable cause statement obtained by Oxygen.com.
Sarah Hallow, 28, and the girl’s father Brett Hallow,30, are now facing charges of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter in Autumn’s death after investigators say the young girl suffered repeated abuse at the home.
McWilliam told WCCO that she often overhead verbal abuse inside the apartment, where Brett and Sarah lived with Autumn and their other children, ages 3, 6, and 10 years old.
“You can sit out here any time of the day and hear both of them screaming at these kids, cussing at them,” she said, adding that she “wasn’t surprised” that the alleged abuse eventually turned deadly.
She said she called police “at least five times this year” to report the abuse but the children remained in the couple’s custody.
On Aug. 13, after Autumn died, McWilliam said she saw police take Brett into custody for questioning.
“He was sitting with the police and there were no tears in his face,” she said. “Like if my child had just died four hours ago, my face would be red, puffy, I would show emotion. He just sat there.”
Sarah Hallow told investigators that Autumn had gone to take a shower the day she died and that when she went to check on her 40 minutes later, she found the 8-year-old facedown in the water, according to the criminal complaint.
However, police officers noticed Autumn appeared “extremely frail and thin” and found “pin-like” marks on the girl’s forehead and bruising on her body.
An autopsy report ruled Autumn had died from asphyxial injuries and blunt force trauma. The medical examiner also found paired puncture wounds on her head, bleeding in her stomach and brain and bruises on her hips and hands.
Two other children at the home also allegedly told investigators the couple often used to tie up Autumn as a form of punishment. Brett’s 6-year-old son allegedly told police and child protection service workers that the couple 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, according to the criminal complaint. He said the abuse occurred whenever Autumn was bad and had urinated on the floor or her clothing or tried to get food, according to the criminal complaint.
Sarah’s 10-year-old daughter also confirmed the abuse and said Autumn was tied up in the sleeping bag to prevent her from getting medications, the documents allege.
The young girl’s mother, Kelsey Krause, told investigators that she had not been able to see her daughter since January and said the couple had been keeping her away from her child, citing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.
Krause was on hand at a vigil Wednesday night to remember her young daughter’s life, according to local station KARE. Although Krause did not address the crowd, others spoke in honor of Autumn.
“On behalf of the family, we thank you for showing up for them, to remember Autumn during this very difficult time,” said Teresa McNamee, executive director of Rivers of Hope. “Their grief is indescribable and for reasons unimaginable.”
An obituary described Autumn as a girl who loved to draw, sing, dance, play outdoors and do gymnastics.
“Autumn was creative, kind, helpful, and determined,” it read. “She will be missed and remembered by us all.”
Autumn had just completed the second grade at Lincoln Elementary in Elk River when she died.
“Her kind spirit, abundance of energy, and willingness to help everyone is an inspiration to everyone that has known her,” the obituary said.
A celebration of life event will be held Sunday at Lions Park in Zimmerman to remember the 8-year-old.
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