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Four arrested over death of Phoenix girl locked inside box as punishment, say cops

From left to right: John Allen, Samantha Allen, Judith Deal, Cynthia Stolzmann KPHO

(CBS/ KPHO/AP) PHOENIX - Police say the family of a 10-year-old Arizona girl who suffocated to death in of a plastic container locked her inside as punishment for stealing a popsicle from the refrigerator.

Police arrested Ame Deal's aunt, Samantha Allen, and her uncle, John Allen, on charges of first-degree murder.

The girl's grandmother, Judith Deal, 62, and her aunt, Cynthia Stoltzmann, 44, were also arrested and charged with child abuse and kidnapping. Cynthia Stoltzmann was the girl's legal guardian. Family members originally told police that the 10-year-old's death was the tragic ending to a game of hide and seek. They claimed Ame must have climbed into the box to hide and accidentally suffocated.

Police said Thursday that Ame Deal had been abused for a long time, and had been locked in a chest as punishment, reports CBS affiliate KPHO.

Authorities say before being locked in, the girl was forced to run and do other exercises in the backyard, despite nearly triple-digit heat.

Police investigators said the girl apparently had been put in the box at least five times in recent months for misbehaving, and had been beaten with a wooden paddle, forced to swallow hot sauce and to eat dog feces.

Police said the girl slept on the floor of a stall shower in the home with no blanket or pillow as a disciplinary measure for bed wetting.

"This child died at the hands of those who were supposed to love and care for her," police spokesman Sgt. Trent Crump said. "This case has turned the stomachs of some of our most seasoned detectives."

A judge set all four suspects' preliminary hearings for Aug. 8.

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