Washington state authorities are investigating the mother and stepfather of a 4-year-old missing for at least four years after the girl’s remains were found in late October hidden in a plastic cooler and encased in concrete, possibly to hide the rotting smell, PEOPLE confirms.
The couple has not been charged and Snohomish County deputies don’t know how the girl died, but in a search warrant affidavit obtained by PEOPLE, authorities allege her mother and stepfather kept her death a secret.
Police have not publicly identified the girl, her mother or her stepfather.
The little girl’s remains were discovered after relatives reached out to authorities in late October after growing concern over her disappearance, according to the affidavit.
The affidavit alleges the mother’s story to her family about the girl’s disappearance changed several times: At first, she allegedly said the girl died of medical causes. Then, she allegedly said the girl went to live with her grandmother. Finally, she allegedly said the girl died while taking a bath, and that the couple — who married after the girl died — panicked and hid her body instead of going to police.
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Before she went missing, the victim’s mother allegedly told relatives her daughter had autism, the affidavit states. Relatives remember seeing the little girl hitting herself in the head and wearing a helmet on several occasions, according to the affidavit.
During their interview with police, the relatives said they remembered a strong odor in the the couple’s apartment soon after the girl went missing.
When they made a remark about the smell, the girl’s mother allegedly blamed the neighbors, who she said were into fishing.
In the affidavit, authorities speculated that the couple allegedly poured concrete to conceal the smell of the body.
“Pouring liquid cement into a container with a body would assist greatly with containing the odor— and conceal the body,” the affidavit states.
One relative alleged that once, the girl’s mother asked her to help move the cooler, but when the relative put her hand on the lid, the mother put her foot on top of the cooler and warned her not to open it.