published Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

Phoenix family plead not guilty in girl’s death

PHOENIX — Four family members of a 10-year-old Phoenix girl found dead in a padlocked, plastic footlocker have pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from the July 12 death.

In addition to various child abuse charges, two cousins face first-degree murder counts. Ame Deal’s grandmother and her aunt face multiple child abuse charges.

Authorities say the girl was put in the box as punishment for taking a Popsicle from a refrigerator, and that she suffered months of other abuse.

Family members had told police that the girl likely climbed into the box and accidentally suffocated while playing hide-and-seek.

Cousins John and Samantha Allen, grandmother Judith Deal, and 44-year-old Cynthia Stoltzmann pleaded not guilty during their arraignment Wednesday.

Maricopa County sheriff’s officials say the group is declining to speak with the media.

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