I want to, up front, apologize for subjecting you to reading this. Never am I more aware of how fascination with true crime can be mistaken for glorifying it or making entertainment out of it than when I write about the horrific death of a kid. I just want to state up top that being fascinated with murderers and serial killers and crazy cases can exist in the same space as being absolutely horrified and heartbroken to learn about them. And I hope the former part of that sentence never outweighs the latter.
On July 12, 2011, 10-year-old Ame Lynn Deal was murdered in her home in Phoenix, Arizona, following years of extreme abuse at the hands of 4 different family members. She ultimately died from being stuffed into a footlocker, where she suffocated.
Of her 4 abusers, 2 were convicted of first-degree murder in 2017 and sentenced to death by lethal injection, one took a plea deal which resulted in 24 years in prison, and the other one received 10 years in prison.
BACKGROUND AND ABUSE
Ame was born in Monongahela, Pennsylvania on July 24, 2000 to her mother, Shirley Deal who was married to David Deal at the time of conception. However, Shirley had at least one other sexual partner around that time, so while David was listed as Ame's father on the birth certificate, paternity is not confirmed.
Shirley and David had 2 other children before Ame was born. At some point, Shirley and the children left David to live with Shirley's mom, but ultimately, they rejoined David and moved in with David's mother, Judith, and his sister, Cynthia Stoltzmann. Shirley claims that while living there, David's family made her a slave to them, but they did not hurt the children. However, she claims that she was thrown out, and she left without her kids and relocated to Iola, Kansas.
David refused to believe that he was Ame's father, and somehow, his sister Cynthia got legal guardianship of Ame. They lived in a garbage-filled, overcrowded home with a whole host of people from their extended family.
Definitely after her mother left, but perhaps even before, Ame was abused by the family she was living with. Neighbors claimed they saw her being forced to walk back and forth, barefoot, on the hot sidewalk during extremely hot Phoenix days. She was beaten with the "butt buster", or a paddle. She was also forced to eat dog feces.
When Ame wet the bed, she was forced to sleep in the shower without bedding. The punishment was also given because she was lying and stealing food.
The family moved around from Pennsylvania, Utah, Texas, Arizona and Wisconsin. While in Wisconsin, the local CPS was called because of the "disgusting conditions" of their home. School officials in Utah also noted incidences of abuse and neglect against the children, noting that Ame often came to school filthy. She had head lice multiple times and sometimes cat urine on her shoes. They felt as though she was the scapegoat of the family, all of their collective rage being taken out on a 10 year old.
In Phoenix, the children were apparently home-schooled, perhaps because the Utah school was beginning to raise red flags about Ame's treatment. At this point, David had begun living in a tent outside of the home with 2 of his other children.
Her primary abusers were her father's sister, Cynthia, Cynthia's 23-year-old daughter Sammantha, and Sammantha's 23-year-old husband, John. Sammantha would often but Ame in a small foot locker and then her husband would throw the trunk around with the child in it. Cynthia would be sitting on her laptop watching everything happen. One witness claims that Ame would have to clean up after the dogs and if she missed any, she would have to eat it, or it would be rubbed on her face.
At least 12 children were living in the home, though I'm having a difficult time ascertaining who the children belong to. However, of all of those kids, Ame was the only one who was abused. The other kids would instigate situations that would result in Ame getting in trouble, and were persuaded to lie about why Ame was in the foot locker. The reason for her abuse? "She was mentally a little slow, but that's it", one witness said. Though Ame was the only one brutally abused, the other kids were neglected. Neighbors often saw the kids wandering the streets with hardly any clothes on late at night, and sometimes saw babies in highchairs eating outside, alone, in the night.
AME'S DEATH AND ARRESTS
On July 12, 2011, Ame was found dead in a small footlocker by police. She had suffocated to death. The family told police that Ame had been playing hide and seek and had locked herself in the trunk the night before, after the adults all went to sleep. They claimed they found her the next day, dead.
However, police immediately assumed foul play given how dirty Ame was, with bruises all around her body. Finally, after hours of interrogation, Sammantha and John confessed to locking Ame in the footlocker after she took a popsicle without permission, because Ame was said to be "chronically hungry". YEAH. PROBABLY BECAUSE SHE WAS STARVING.
Ame was forced to do jumping backs, backbends, and sprints in the 103-degree heat before her 4 feet and 2 inches body was stuffed inside a 3 foot footlocker. The trunk was then padlocked, and she was left to die. The police believe the family abused her so much because they believed she was a product of Shirley's infidelity, and thus not a blood relative.
During this time, the entire soccer team+ of children living in the house were sent to Child Protective Services.
Sammantha and John were arrested for murder on July 27, 2011. Cynthia Stoltzmann and Judith Deal were arrested for child abuse after admitting that in the past, they had both locked the child in the tiny trunk. After a few days, David asked friends and family for money to bail his mother and sister out of jail. He was not charged in the death of his daughter, but was sentenced to 14 years after pleading guilty to attempted child abuse.
Cynthia Stoltzmann, David's sister and Ame's legal guardian, pleaded guilty to 2 counts of child abuse and 1 count of attempted child abuse. She was sentenced to 24 years in prison. Judith Deal pleaded guilty to attempted child abuse and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Sammantha was sentenced to death by lethal injection on August 7, 2017 for first-degree murder. She sits on Arizona's death row with only 2 other women, Wendi Andriano, who killed her terminally ill husband, and Shawna Forde who murdered a man and his 9-year-old daughter during a home invasion.
John Allen was found guilty, as well, and was sentenced to death by lethal injection. Both appealed the sentences, but in April of 2020, the death sentence was upheld.
I genuinely cannot imagine a world in which anyone could abuse an innocent 10-year-old kid, but especially not a group of people who all agree that brutally torturing a child, repeatedly, is okay. Judith was her grandma. David was her father. Cynthia was her aunt, and legal guardian. Sammantha and John were her cousins. And they decided to take all of their anger about their obviously sad, miserable lives out on an innocent 10-year-old kid. It is horrifying beyond belief.
Ame's life was cut so short, and during her life, she knew so much pain. She was abused in such horrible ways at the hands of adults, who also turned the other children against her, giving her no refuge. Her father refused to accept her as his own, her mother left her behind, and her entire life was filled with abuse and neglect.
I'm glad the miserable excuses for human beings that were Ame's family have been given justice for their unforgivable, horrific acts, but nothing brings Ame back and nothing takes away the years of abuse she suffered. I believe there is a Heaven, but more than that, I hope there is a Heaven so people like Ame can live in an eternity surrounded by love and peace, things she may have never known on earth.