The Arizona Supreme Court affirmed the murder conviction and death sentence for a woman who, as retribution for stealing a popsicle, killed her 10-year-old cousin by putting the youngster in a plastic footlocker and letting her suffocate.
The judges dismissed Sammantha Lucille Rebecca Allen’s argument that her trial was “fundamentally defective,” citing among other things the appropriate admission of images of the murdered kid and a filmed chat she had with her spouse in the interrogation room after they were detained.
In 2011, Sammantha Allen and her spouse John Allen were both found guilty of killing little Ame Deal and received death sentences. In April 2020, the state’s highest court upheld John Allen’s conviction and death sentence.
Sammantha and John Allen, together with their four kids, resided in a home on West Romley Street. Sammantha’s mother, grandmother, uncle, Ame, and her two elder siblings, C.J. and D.D., who were named in court filings, all resided at the house. Ame and her brothers were legally under the care of Sammantha’s mom.
The court stated that among other punishments used by the family, Sammantha, her mother, grandmother, and uncle started putting Ame in a plastic storage locker that was 21 inches shorter than the child in the spring of 2011.
In order to punish Ame for stealing a popsicle on the evening of July 11, 2011, John and Sammantha first made her do “wall stands” and “backbends” for many hours while she “cried and exclaimed that she was in agony.”
Following is a summary of the punishment’s last stage provided by the justices: A.D. was instructed to drag the box from the patio inside the home’s classroom as Sammantha and John punished her throughout the night. 1 Sammantha waited with A.D. and blocked the sole exit from the classroom while John went to obtain a padlock that only he had the key to since the box’s latch was reported to be faulty.
Sammantha watched as John came back and told A.D. to go into the box before locking the lid and closing the box. The Allens left A.D. coiled inside the closed box—in a hot, non-air-conditioned room in Phoenix where she died of suffocation after they went to their bedroom and fell asleep.
The following morning, when the police and paramedics came, they found Ame “laying in a curled posture, her lips were blackened, and she seemed to be dead.”
Sammantha and John’s original explanation to investigators was that Ame must have accidentally locked herself inside the box while playing hide-and-seek. However, additional family members then contacted police to report seeing the girl repeatedly being pushed inside the box as punishment.
According to the family, she observed Ame thrown in the box, compelled to consume hot sauce, beaten, sleeping in a shower cubicle, and having excrement put on her on various occasions.
Sammantha Allen, the first woman to receive a death sentence in Arizona since 2011, raised a number of objections to her guilt and punishment. Due to her attorneys’ failure to raise objections to the proof throughout the proceedings, several of her allegations regarding mistakes committed at the trial court level were denied.
All of the verdicts for the murder of Ame were upheld by the court, but the judges overturned a 2-year sentence for child abuse that she had been found guilty of because they believed the prosecution had not proven the aggravating circumstances that would have warranted a longer term. On the child abuse accusation, she will receive a new sentence in the future.
In connection with Ame’s passing, Judith Deal, Ame’s grandmother, entered a plea to two charges of attempted child abuse. She received a ten-year jail term in 2013 along with a lifelong probationary period.
Mother of Sammantha and legal guardian of Ame, Cynthia Stoltzmann, entered a guilty plea to two counts of child abuse and one count of attempted child abuse. She received a 24-year jail term in 2013 along with a lifelong probationary period.