Parents of 4-Year-Old Girl Who Was Allegedly Killed by Neighbors Are Charged with Child Endangerment
The young girl's alleged killers, Ethan Mast and Kourtney Aumen, were previously arrested
The parents of a 4-year-old Missouri girl have been charged in connection to her death last week.
Mary Mast, 29, and James Mast, 28, were arrested in Stover, Missouri, on Christmas Eve, Benton County Sheriff Eric Knox said in a press release.
Mary is being charged with endangering the welfare of a child in the first degree resulting in death, as well as domestic assault in the first degree, the sheriff said.
James is also being charged with endangering the welfare of a child in the first degree resulting in death, as well as endangering the welfare of a child in the first degree resulting in serious physical injury.
Both are being held without bond. The couple's request to attend their daughter's funeral was denied by Associate Judge Mark Brandon Pilley during their arraignment on Monday, ABC News reported. A bond hearing for James and Mary, who reportedly pled not guilty Monday, has been scheduled for January 5.
The couple's other children, an infant and a 2-year-old, have been placed in protective custody.
In the official press release, Knox said that the sheriff's office had received many calls claiming that the 4-year-old's "death and the surrounding circumstances" were the "actions of a cult" and that "there have been some references to God and demons."
Knox said, however, that the "investigation done so far indicates that this is an isolated incident and NOT the actions of a cult." While the Masts attended a church, "none of the actions contained in this case are condoned by the church they attended," he said.
"When a crime of this magnitude occurs, it affects everyone in its aftermath from first responders to next of kin, community, church and beyond," the press release stated. "This will continue to be an ongoing investigation as we wait for the medical examiner’s report and any further information we may be able to develop in time."
On December 20, the sheriff's office said that Benton County Dispatch was notified shortly before 1 a.m. about the 4-year-old's death. In a press release at the time, Knox said that James told deputies "that his daughter had been beaten, submerged in a pond, then left to freeze on the bank before being taken back into the residence."
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Mary and the couple's 2-year-old son "were also beaten to a severe extent," the sheriff's office said, and were taken to Bothwell Regional Hospital.
The Mast's neighbors, Ethan J. Mast, 35 and Kourtney T. Aumen, 21, were arrested at the time "pending multiple felony charges," which included second-degree murder, according to ABC News' report.
According to Knox's news release, it is believed that Ethan is not related to John and Mary, per multiple reports.
According to a probable cause statement obtained by ABC News, Mary and James told police that they were instructed by Ethan and Aumen that they would be beaten or shot if they tried to interrupt Ethan and Aumen beating their daughter.
The statement, filed by the court, reportedly said that when asked how he could let people beat his family, James said "they were told (his wife) had a ‘Demon’ inside her and her children would end up just like her if it was not taken care of."
Ethan reportedly admitted to investigators to using a leather belt to beat the 4-year-old before dunking her in a pond behind the home.
It was not immediately clear if James, Mary, Ethan or Aumen have legal representation at this time.