PHOENIX — Jurors in the murder trial of an Arizona woman charged in the death of a 10-year-old girl who was locked in a small plastic storage box in the middle of summer were shown graphic photos Tuesday of the child’s body.
Many jurors looked away and at least one openly cried.
The evidence photos taken by Phoenix police show Ame Deal laid out on a blue towel next to the box.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Sammantha Allen, a cousin of Deal’s. Allen is accused of helping her husband lock Deal in the box in July 2011. It was then left outside overnight as punishment.
Authorities said Deal suffocated and was found dead the next day as temperatures surpassed 100 degrees.
The bin only had small holes near the handles for air, Maricopa County Deputy County Attorney Jeannette Gallagher told jurors.
In her opening statement, Gallagher also quoted Sammantha Allen as telling police, “‘I didn’t even wake up to go unlock it, and I thought about it.'”
Allen’s attorney argued the form of punishment was commonplace in the household and was done at the request of Deal’s aunt, Cynthia Stoltzmann, her legal guardian.
The defense argued that Sammantha Allen was almost certainly guilty of child abuse but not murder.
Authorities allege Deal’s death came after a long history of abuse at the hands of multiple relatives. Deal lived with at least 10 adults and children in a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home in south Phoenix.
Witnesses on Monday described the house as dirty and unkempt, smelling of urine with trash and bugs on the floor.
Retired Phoenix Police Officer Albert Salaiz, who was the first officer on the scene after Deal’s family found her dead and called 911, testified that he saw Deal laid on her back, with her knees pulled up to her chest and her hands in a claw-like position.
“She was very dirty, soiled it looked like, and it appeared to me that her lips were yellow,” he said.
In opening statements, both sides referred to a question about whether Sammantha Allen told her husband to let Deal out of the bin before she fell asleep.
John Allen’s trial is expected to start on Aug. 7.
Both defendants are charged with first-degree murder and child abuse. Three other relatives were convicted of abusing Deal are currently in prison.
David Deal, the girl’s father, previously pleaded guilty to attempted child abuse and was sentenced to jail. Stoltzmann was sentenced to 25 years in prison for attempted child abuse.