PHOENIX – The father of a 10-year-old Arizona girl who authorities say died when another relative locked her in a small plastic trunk for hours was sentenced Thursday to 14 years in prison after pleading guilty to attempted child abuse.
David Deal wasn't charged in the July 2011 death of his daughter Ame Deal in Phoenix. Instead, the 53-year-old admitted abusing her on several occasions between March 2010 and July 2011, including at least once stuffing her into the trunk and tossing it into a pool as punishment.
Authorities say Ame Deal died after a man who is married to the girl's cousin padlocked her in the same trunk as discipline for having stolen Popsicles. She was left in the box overnight and found dead the next morning.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Susanna Pineda told David Martin Deal he failed as a parent, saying he allowed his daughter "to be tortured and emotionally drained."
"This case angers me," Pineda said. "I cannot fathom anybody doing this to a child."
David Deal also was sentenced Thursday to three years of probation for possession of marijuana.
Investigators say family members in the home abused the girl from 2005 until her death by locking her in the trunk, described as a footlocker that was less than 3 feet long, less than a foot wide and a foot deep. Family members also beat the girl with a wooden paddle, kicked her in the face, forced her to crush aluminum cans with bare feet, and put powerful hot sauce in her mouth, authorities said.
Several other children lived in the home at the time of the killing and also suffered abuse.
Tami Sweeney, who adopted one of them, a young boy, read a statement from the child Thursday directed at David Deal.
"We did not ask to be abused. We did nothing wrong," Sweeney read as the man stood emotionless off to the side of the courtroom, handcuffed and shackled, wearing striped jail clothes.
"I hope you burn in hell for everything you did to us kids," she read.
Asked if he had anything to say on his behalf, David Deal quietly replied, "No."
In all, five Deal relatives are charged in the case.
Sentencing for Ame Deal's legal guardian and aunt also was set for Thursday but was delayed until July.
Cynthia Stoltzmann, 45, has pleaded guilty to two counts of child abuse and one count of attempted child abuse.
The child's grandmother, Judith Deal, 74, has pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted child abuse. She has not yet been sentenced.
David Deal's cousin Sammantha Lucille Rebecca Allen and her husband, John Michael Allen, both 24, are charged with first-degree murder in the girl's death. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. Both have pleaded not guilty.