PHOENIX — The murder trial of a Phoenix couple accused in the 2011 death
of a 10-year-old relative who was locked in a small plastic trunk for hours was
delayed Wednesday until early next year.
Trial for John Michael Allen and his wife, Sammantha Lucille Rebecca Allen, had
been set to begin next month. Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty.
Attorneys on both sides told a Maricopa County judge that they need more time
to find possible mitigating circumstances and to interview witnesses. The trial
was postponed until Jan. 6.
The Allens, both 25, have pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder charges in
the death of Ame Deal.
Authorities said the girl died after being padlocked in a footlocker as
punishment for taking a Popsicle from a freezer.
She was left in the footlocker all night and was found dead the next morning at
the Phoenix home where her relatives lived, police said.
Authorities said the footlocker was less than 3 feet long, less than a foot
wide and a foot deep. The girl was about 4 feet tall and weighed nearly 60
The Allens were among six relatives initially arrested in the case including
her father David Deal, who was sentenced last June to 14 years in prison after
pleading guilty to attempted child abuse.
He acknowledged abusing the girl on several occasions between March 2010 and
July 2011, including stuffing her at least once into the trunk and tossing it
into a pool as punishment.
Investigators said family members heaped a range of abuse on Ame Deal from 2005
until her death, including kicking her in the face while she was on the ground,
forcing her to eat dog feces, making her crush aluminum cans with bare feet and
scrubbing her face with a wire brush.
Two other relatives have been sentenced in the case.