Police have arrested four family members in connection with a 10-year-old child's suffocating death inside a locked plastic container, which police say she was forced into after taking a popsicle from the freezer.
John and Samantha Allen, both 23, were charged with first-degree murder after police say they confessed to locking Ame Deal in the container while she was in their care. Cynthia Stoltzman, 44, and Judith Deal, 62, were charged with child abuse and kidnapping after admitting to locking the girl in the container on separate occasions.
According to CNN, Stoltzman was the Ame's legal guardian, but it was not immediately clear how Deal or the Allens were connected to her.
During the initial investigation, the four told police the 10-year-old climbed into the box herself during a game of hide and seek and must have accidentally suffocated. Other family members later came forward and said the box was often used as a punishment.
According to relatives, Ame Deal was one of at least a dozen children who lived in the Phoenix home, and was frequently beaten and abused. She was forced to walk barefoot on the blistering hot sidewalk, eat dog feces and endure beatings with a board called the "butt buster," the Daily Mail reported.
Neighbors reported hearing screaming over time from the house but never contacted police because they said they didn't want to break the family up. The other children would sometimes roam with little or not clothes or diapers on, but a witness said Ame was often singled out.
Child Protective Services have taken custody of the remaining children.
Phoenix police spokesman Sgt. Trent Crump told CNN the brutal nature of the case has shocked the department.
"This child died at the hands of those who were supposed to love and care for her. ... This case has turned the stomachs of some of our most seasoned detectives," he said.