In mid-December, the parents of a 4-year-old girl have been charged after believing there was a “demon” living inside the child, subsequently allowing their neighbors to beat her to death.
Mary Mast, 29, and James Mast, 28, were arrested in Stover, Missouri, on Christmas Eve, according to Benton County Sheriff Eric Knox.
Knox revealed how the sheriff’s office had received an overwhelming amount of calls claiming the child’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.
The couple’s other children, an infant, who was thankfully unharmed, and a 2-year-old, have been placed in protective custody.
“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.”
The sheriff’s office reported on December 20 how just before 1 a.m. the Benton County Dispatch was notified about the 4-year-old’s death. Mary and the couple’s 2-year-old son “were also beaten to a severe extent,” 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.
Ethan is not related to John and Mary, according to Knox’s news release.
Mary and James informed the police how 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 then admitted to using a leather belt to beat the 4-year-old before dunking her in a pond behind the home.
“Based on what I know, I think this could be some kind of honest-to-goodness religious-type episode,” Knox shared in a phone interview with the Associated Press. The two families allegedly belong to the same church.
“To have something of this magnitude happen in our sleepy little community is insane,” Knox commented.
While the little girl’s autopsy is still pending, both Ethan and Kourtney remain in jail without bail. They are each charged with second-degree murder and other offenses.
And according to the Sheriff, 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.
While 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. Associate Judge Mark Brandon Pilley also denied the couple’s request to attend their daughter’s funeral.
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