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Jury’s decision moves a Phoenix man closer to death penalty

PHOENIX — Jurors have found aggravating factors that could make a Phoenix man eligible for the death penalty in the 2011 murder of a 10-year-old girl.

The Maricopa County Superior Court jury determined that the killing of Ame Deal was especially cruel or heinous since the girl was locked in a small storage box in sweltering summer heat.

Closing arguments in the penalty phase of John Allen’s trial are scheduled to begin Wednesday morning.

The 29-year-old Allen was convicted of first-degree murder and child abuse last week.

Allen’s 28-year-old wife Sammantha Allen was a cousin of Deal’s. She was convicted of murder in the girl’s death in June.

Authorities say the couple forced Ame into the plastic box as punishment for stealing ice pops.

The girl was found dead the next morning.

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