Prosecutors to seek death penalty in Phoenix child abuse case

PHOENIX - A hearing is scheduled Tuesday morning in Maricopa County Superior Court for a couple accused of murdering the 10-year old girl they were supposed to protect.

Police say 10-year-old Ame Deal suffocated while being locked inside a plastic storage container.

Prosecutors said Monday that they'll seek the death penalty against John and Samantha Allen in the July 12 death of Ame.

Samantha Allen was the girl's aunt.

The Allens have pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and child abuse charges.

Family members had told police that Deal and other children in her extended family had been playing hide and seek, and they believed that Ame must have climbed into the box to hide and accidentally suffocated.

But detectives said they determined that the child had been placed in the box as punishment for taking a Popsicle from a refrigerator.

Prosecutors say they're pursuing the death penalty because of three aggravating factors:

-The child abuse charges

-The heinous nature of the alleged crime

-The young age of the victim

Stay with ABC15 for further updates.