Before Minn. Girl's Death, Police Were Called to Dad and Girlfriend's Home 30 Times
Autumn Hallow's mother had a protective order against the girl's stepmom, who now stands accused of murder
Within the last two years, police in Elk River, Minnesota, have responded to the residence of Brett and Sarah Hallow on 30 separate occasions — mostly on calls from anonymous neighbors complaining about loud yelling and screaming coming from inside the apartment.
But when, on August 13, officers responded to the 31st call, they would find the emaciated body of 8-year-old Autumn Hallow.
Police records obtained by PEOPLE indicate police conducted five "welfare checks" at the Hallow's apartment, and responded to 13 calls about noise coming from the residence – the first, in February of 2019, and the most recent, on May 23.
Brett, 30, and Autumn's stepmother, Sarah Hallow, 28, have each been charged with single counts of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter. They have been in custody without bond since late last week. Pleas have not been entered either by them or by their attorneys, who could not be reached for comment.
Authorities allege Autumn was physically abused and tied up if she misbehaved. The Hallows allegedly told police Autumn, who weighed 45 lbs. at death, was found face-down in a bathtub, but an autopsy found fatal injuries pointing to her being asphyxiated, along with wounds to her head.
'Shouting and Screaming'
According to the records provided to PEOPLE by Elk River Police, a complaint was lodged on Feb. 12, 2019, from an individual who heard what "sounded to be yelling at [a] child." Police arrived, and the Hallows allegedly told police one of their children was sick "which led to the screaming and the male parent was playing an online video game and had animated reactions to the game." The report notes "children in the apartment appeared to be fine and were playing while officers were on the scene."
On June 4, 2019, police again were dispatched to the apartment by a caller who'd "heard periods of shouting and screaming." Officers said the screaming had stopped by the time they arrived. They spoke with the Hallows, but whatever was said was redacted in the document. On Sept. 13, 2019, another person called and "requested officers speak with the occupants of the apartment and tell them to keep it down." When police arrived, they heard no loud noises and left.
Less than a month later, on Oct. 5, 2019, someone called reporting "she could hear loud screaming and crying of a juvenile from an unknown apartment. She also heard what sounded like an adult hitting [a] child." Officers reported that the Hallows told them one of their children was "acting out of control" after being told to clean their room, running around "screaming" and acting aggressively. The police noted "no marks" on the child.
On Nov. 11, 2019, another noise complaint came in about more yelling. Five days later, officers again responded to the apartment on a call about "a male and female arguing loudly." Police showed up, heard nothing, and spoke to the couple again, who insisted "there were no problems."
On Jan. 1 of this year, police got a call about "a juvenile female['s] loud yelling and pounding." But, "on arrival, the apartment was quiet and no answer was received at the door." On Feb. 11, another call came in: The records indicate "someone [was] yelling at a child ... saying, 'I will hit you!' Officers arrived and listened for a bit and heard adults and children in the apartment, but no signs of any issues. Attempted contact at the door and by phone and there was no answer."
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On Feb. 21, police got another call, and spoke "with parent of juvenile female who was observed by officers to be quite loud." The Hallows, according to the documents, are "advised of complaint."
On March 10, another complaint about loud yelling was made about the Hallows, who said they'd had their television on loud. The next noise complaint call came on May 4, from someone claiming they heard yelling coming from the home three to four times a day. "Loud voices" were also allegedly coming from the apartment on May 24.
Victim's Mom Had Protective Order Against Stepmom
Several calls involved custody disputes between the Hallows and Autumn's mother, Kelsey Kruse, who had a protective order against Sarah Hallow, according to the records. On May 2, 2019, police investigated "suspicious injuries" to one of the children, and reported the matter to the Sherburne County's Health and Human Services.
Kruse, who has shared custody of her children with Brett Hallow, asked police to check on one of her kids on Sept. 17, 2019, after not hearing from them in days. Police noted the child appeared "healthy and was not in any apparent danger."
On Sept. 27, 2019, officers investigated yet another complaint of "possible child maltreatment issues." One of the children said they could "not stand another night" in the apartment, "because [redacted] has to do chores and if [redacted] does not finish them quick enough, [redacted] gets soap in [redacted] mouth, and had [redacted] arm held behind [redacted] for not doing chores quick enough."
On April 12, Kruse called police saying she was trying to pick up Autumn, but that "the father did not bring the daughter down" to her. She noted that, under the terms of their custody agreement, they were to only communicate through a parenting app the court could monitor, but that her ex-husband hadn't responded to her messages since March.
"I made phone contact with the father who stated that he had to communicate with the complainant before that he was not comfortable exchanging the children in light of the COVID-19 pandemic," a police officer writes in the records. "The complainant disputed that and said that a month ago, he only said that daughter had a fever that day and the exchange would not occur. The complainant also advised me that their custody papers allows for each parent to have phone contact with the children in common; however, the male half does not allow it or claims the daughter does not want to speak with the complainant."
The records indicate the report was kept for "documentation only."
Kruse called police five times between May 10 and August 2, alleging she tried to get Autumn, but that Brett Hallow "expressed concern of the risk of exposure" to COVID-19 "if [the] child is transferred from one parent to the other."
Kruse told police on June 21 she hadn't seen Autumn since January, and officers went to see the Hallows. Brett told them "his daughter was not able to come to the door at that time but later, had her wave to me from their balcony." He also told police he'd just set up a date to return Autumn to her mom.
On August 2, Kruse told police "she had been unable to establish contact, whether in person or by phone, with [Autumn] or [Brett] for over two weeks." Police called Brett Hallow, but contact with him "failed" and they left him voicemail; he never called back.
An autopsy on Autumn's remains showed puncture wounds on her head as well as abdominal and brain bleeding. Her hips and hands also showed signs of bruising.
"Based on the condition of [Autumn's] body, law enforcement believed [she] had been deceased for some time," reads the charging documents, which note Autumn had atrophied muscles and significant hair loss.
Chilling Allegations from Other Children
During the course of their investigation, detectives spoke to other children who live in the home.
The couple's son, 6, allegedly said his parents would tie Autumn up with a belt before putting her in a sleeping bag, leaving only her head exposed. The boy also said they'd used a shirt to tie her hands behind her back, the documents allege.
Autumn was forced to sleep while restrained after "she is being bad," the boy said. The documents, according to the paper, allege the couple punished Autumn for urinating on the floor or in her clothing or trying to get food.
Their 10-year-old daughter made similar allegations, saying Autumn was also be tied up to prevent her from accessing medications.
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