Sammantha Allen’s mother testified Wednesday she never taught her daughter that locking her 10-year-old cousin, Ame Deal, in a box as punishment was OK, even though her disciplinary methods were abusive.
Cynthia Stoltzmann, Allen’s mother, told a Maricopa County Superior Court jury that she never shared with anyone in her family what she did to punish Ame, for whom she was legal guardian.
That statement came Wednesday in a court hearing to determine whether Allen will face the death penalty or life in prison for her part in the child’s death in 2011.
Stoltzmann testified about her own method of punishing Ame, which included locking her in a dog cage at times.
“Very ashamed of,” Stoltzmann answered, when Deputy County Attorney Jay Rademacher asked whether she would feel ashamed if anyone had learned what she did to Ame.
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Allen was convicted of first-degree murder and four counts of child abuse in Ame’s death. The jury found last month that Allen is eligible for the death penalty. Now it is determining whether there are mitigating factors that should result in life in prison instead.
Allen was among several family members, including Stoltzmann, who were charged and accused of leaving Ame locked in a 31-inch-long footlocker as punishment, then letting her suffocate in July 2011
Stoltzmann is serving a 24-year prison sentence for child abuse. Ame’s grandmother, Judith Deal, is serving a 10-year prison sentence for child abuse.
Sammantha Allen’s husband, John Allen, is charged with murder and child abuse in the death and scheduled to be tried Aug. 7.
Authorities say John Allen placed Ame in the box as punishment and that Sammantha Allen was present at the time and did nothing about it. They left her in the box all night after falling asleep, authorities say.
Defense: Odds stacked against Allen
Defense attorney John Curry has attempted to convince at least one of the 12 jurors that 28-year-old Sammantha Allen’s upbringing resulted in her not realizing it was wrong to place Ame in the box.
Stoltzmann was called by Curry to talk about that upbringing in an effort to show how the odds were stacked against Allen.
However, Stoltzmann testified that her daughter was able to make new friends in a relatively short period of time and was good at socializing with neighbors.
Also, Stoltzmann said it was primarily Allen’s grandmother, Judith Deal, who was home-schooling her and her siblings for most of the time, as Stoltzmann had to work during the day. That seemed to counter Curry’s attempt a day earlier to describe Stoltzmann as being a major influence that led Allen’s judgment astray.
Curry, in an effort to show that Stoltzmann did have influence, presented a 2004 investigative report out of Texas that alleged abuse by Stoltzmann involving her keeping Ame, then a small child, locked in her room all day, except for meals.
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Stoltzmann said she didn’t remember doing that and disputed the report’s accuracy.
Stoltzmann said for three or four times, she and her brother, David Deal, locked Ame in a dog’s cage. While Ame was in the cage, Stoltzmann said she was always with her, explaining to the girl what she did wrong.
“I wanted to know why she was stealing this or why lying about that,” Stoltzmann said.
Rademacher asked Stoltzmann what could Ame, even when she was as young as 4, lie about or steal that would facilitate the use of a cage.
“I don’t even remember,” Stoltzmann said.
“Ame was my problem kid. She was different, and I tried to keep her from being bad.”
The hearing is expected to continue into early next week.
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