PHOENIX - Child abuse charges were dismissed against the cousin of a 10-year-old Arizona girl who authorities say died after another relative padlocked her in a footlocker.
A judge threw out the charges against 26-year-old Ammandea Stoltzmann after prosecutors said there's not enough evidence for the case to move forward and asked that the charges be dismissed. Her trial would have been the first trial over the severe abuse that authorities say 10-year-old Ame Deal suffered at the hands of family members before her July 2011 death.
Jerry Cobb, a spokesman for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, which is still prosecuting other Deal relatives, declined to comment on Thursday on how the dismissal bodes for the other cases, other than saying prosecutors can't comment due to the other cases. The case was dismissed Tuesday.
Stoltzmann had been charged with abusing Deal, but wasn't charged in the child's death. Five other Deal relatives, including two who are charged with first-degree murder, face various charges in the case. All have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Authorities say Deal died after a man who's married to the girl's cousin padlocked her in the footlocker as discipline for having stolen popsicles. She was left in the plastic box all night and was found dead the next morning at the Phoenix home where her relatives lived. Investigators say the abuse heaped on the 10-year-old by some relatives included putting her in the footlocker on other occasions, being forced to eat dog feces and crush aluminum cans barefoot, and having her head forcibly dunked after she was thrown into a cold swimming pool.
Lawyers for the Deal relatives charged in the case, including Stoltzmann attorney Lisa Caryle Posada, didn't return a call seeking comment. An attorney for another accused relative declined to comment.
Stolzmann was accused of scrubbing the 10-year-old's face with a wire brush as punishment for lying, kicking her in the face while she was on the ground and putting a potent hot sauce in her mouth. Authorities say she denied kicking the girl or using the wire brush on her face, but admitted to putting hot sauce in her mouth and spanking her with a belt.
Two of Deal's cousins, 24-year-old John Michael Allen and 24-year-old Sammantha Lucille Rebecca Allen, are charged with first-degree murder in the girl's death. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against the Allens, who are married.
Investigators say John Allen padlocked her in the footlocker as a form of punishment for the popsicle theft on the night before her death.
Sammantha Allen is accused of telling her husband that the child would be able to force the footlocker's latches open and standing watch over the girl as her husband went in the backyard to get the padlock. The couple went to sleep while the girl remained in the plastic box, and Deal's death was discovered the next morning.
Sammantha Allen also is accused of coaching a 12-year-old girl who also lived at the house to say that Ame Deal was playing hide and seek with other children the night before her death and that she wasn't found before everyone went to bed.
Cynthia Stoltzman, Deal's aunt and legal guardian, is accused of throwing the child into a cold swimming pool several months before the girl's death and forcing her head underwater. Police say Ame Deal, who was afraid of water, flailed her arms as she went under and came up choking and crying.
Stoltzman and Deal's father, 53-year-old David Martin Deal, are charged with child abuse for allegedly causing or allowing Deal to be throwing into the pool.
Stoltzman, 45, also is accused of once sitting on the footlocker while the child was inside the box for stealing food. Police say a man who lived at the house urged Stoltzman to let the child go, and Stoltzmann -- who was playing with a laptop while sitting on the box-- responded by threatening to complain to child welfare workers about the man's children having lice.
She was sweating profusely as she emerged from the footlocker, police said.
The child's paternal grandmother, Judith Cora Deal, also faces child abuse charges.
Nicole Moon, a spokeswoman for the Arizona Department of Economic Security, which oversees the state's child welfare agency, said the agency didn't receive any reports of abuse about Ame Deal before her death.
Police said they had child welfare agency reports from Utah that listed Deal as an abused child.