Sammantha Allen’s defense attorney on Thursday tried to discredit earlier testimony by her mother by showing clips of young family members telling Phoenix police about horrific abuse that Ame Deal endured long before her death.
Attorney John Curry sought to counter Cynthia Stolzmann’s claim that she never told Allen it was OK to discipline Ame by locking her in a box and that only a few family members knew about the punishment method.
Stolzmann previously said only she, her mother and brother were involved with Ame’s discipline. However, after watching the clips, Stoltzmann admitted that every adult in her family was involved in abusing her.
Allen was convicted last month of murder and child abuse for her role in locking her 10-year-old cousin in a 31-inch-long footlocker overnight during triple-digit temperatures on July 11, 2011. The child suffocated.
Allen’s husband, John Allen, also is charged with murder and child abuse. He faces trial Aug. 7.
The Maricopa County Superior Court jury already has determined Sammantha Allen is eligible for the death penalty. Now, it is considering whether there are mitigating factors that would allow her to avoid the death penalty and instead be sentenced to life in prison.
Interview with detective
Curry has spent the week trying to show how Allen’s upbringing, and in particular her mother’s methods, led her to believe that the punishment was OK.
Since Tuesday, Stoltzmann, who was a legal guardian of Ame, has insisted in her testimony that:
No one but she and her brother, David Stoltzmann, locked up Ame as a method of punishment.
She was always with Ame while the child was locked up — no more than 20 minutes.
However, video clips of an interview between a detective and her oldest daughter, Mandy Stoltzmann, and Ame’s siblings, C.J. Deal and David Deal, painted a different picture.
Mandy, during a Feb. 22, 2012, interview with a detective, said one night she, then-16 years old, walked into a kitchen and found Ame crying while locked in a dog’s cage alone. She let Ame out, but was forced to lock Ame back in when her uncle, David Stoltzmann, told her to do so.
“You are not supposed to let her out,” Mandy said she was told by her uncle.
“I remember I was just standing there crying,” Mandy said while weeping.
Mandy told police that Cynthia Stoltzmann was at work when the incident occurred.
In another clip, David Deal, Ame’s older brother, told a detective that Ame was once locked in a car’s trunk overnight and David himself was once locked there for two hours.
Curry asked Cynthia Stoltzmann about these clips, and she replied: “But that’s not me that did that.”
Witness: Punishment used before
Stoltzmann testified Wednesday she didn’t recall seeing her son-in-law, John Allen, ever locking Ame in a box. Authorities allege John Allen is the one who locked Ame in a box the night she died, and that Sammantha Allen was there and went along with the decision.
C.J., Ame’s older sister, in a third clip, said she saw John Allen do it previously.
She told a detective she saw John Allen and David Stoltzmann lock Ame in a box and throw that box into a pool behind a house in west Phoenix. She later added that she saw John Allen hitting Ame many times, but never saw Sammantha Allen doing the same.
Locking Ame in a box for punishment was strictly prohibited by Judith Deal, Sammantha Allen’s grandmother, Cynthia Stoltzmann said, adding that Judith set the tone for punishment in the family. Judith Deal currently is serving a 10-year sentence for a child-abuse conviction in the case.
Cynthia Stoltzmann is serving a 24-year sentence for a child-abuse conviction, and her brother, David Stoltzmann, is serving a 14-year sentence for a child-abuse conviction, both for their roles in Ame’s death.
Cynthia Stoltzmann said Judith Deal became furious whenever she found out Ame was locked in a box, dog’s cage or car’s trunk for punishment.
And Stoltzmann said she told Allen she shouldn’t use the box to punish Ame.
Stoltzmann previously testified that she never shared anything with her daughter regarding locking Ame in a confined area, though she said she wasn’t sure whether Allen might have found out about the cruel method of punishment by herself.
Sammantha Allen’s death-penalty hearing will likely continue for two more weeks. The next hearing is set for 10:30 a.m. July 17.