Sammantha Allen's murder conviction and death sentence were upheld by the Arizona Supreme Court this week. Allen was charged with murder and child abuse of her 10-year-old cousin, Ame Deal.
In 2011, the child was forced by Sammantha Allen and her husband, John Allen, to spend the night in a small storage container, where she ultimately suffocated. The box was less than 3 feet long and less than 1 foot wide. The couple stated that it was punishment for stealing a popsicle.
Sammantha Allen attempted to appeal the death sentence, solely blaming her husband for the child's death. However, authorities stated that this was not the first time the child had been forced into the box and that she frequently suffered abuse at the hands of multiple relatives.
The justices wrote, "To characterize Sammantha's actions as mere presence or a simple failure to render aid in a life-threatening situation mischaracterizes the facts."
The court concluded that Allen failed to provide aid to Ame and refused to release her from the container, making her directly responsible for her death.
John Allen was also sentenced to death in the murder of Ame Deal in 2020.
Several other family members pleaded guilty to child abuse and were convicted in 2013 – Ame's aunt and legal guardian, Cynthia Stoltzmann, was sentenced to 24 years in prison; her father, David Deal, received 14 years; and her grandmother, Judith Deal, received ten years.
Ame's mother previously fled the state after also suffering abuse from the family, leaving behind her young child.
Throughout investigations, authorities discovered the child had been forced to eat dog feces and smash aluminum soda cans with her bare feet. Ame had reportedly been chained up outside overnight by a dog collar, kicked in the face, and suffered beatings with a wooden paddle.
While Ame was not the only child in the home, authorities said she was treated more brutally than others because her family thought of her as a liar and thief.
Despite the long history of familial abuse, law enforcement stated they never received any reports that Ame was being mistreated. However, before the family moved to Arizona, they resided in Utah, where authorities had records of the child's abuse.