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Parents Charged After Deputies Say Neighbors Murdered 4-Year-Old Daughter


James Mast and Mary Mast

The other shoe dropped for a Missouri couple whose 4-year-old daughter was allegedly murdered. Mary Shirk Mast, 29, and James Andrew Mast, 28, now face abuse-related counts in the child’s death. This follows after their neighbors–Ethan Joel Mast, 35 (apparently no relation), and Kourtney Taylor Aumen, 21–were accused of killing the girl.

The Benton County Sheriff’s Office announced this new development Thursday night. It marks the next step in the legal process as officials attempt to fully unearth the circumstances behind the child’s passing. According to the allegations, Ethan Mast and Kourtney Aumen crossed the street to discipline a neighboring family. This culminated in the four-year-old girl dying, allegedly as a result of being put into a pond. (The city of Lincoln, where the incident is said to have occurred, saw freezing temperatures on Sunday, the day investigators were dispatched to the home to find her dead.)

Benton County Sheriff Eric Knox told Law&Crime in a phone interview on Tuesday that a 2-year-old boy had also been beaten “beyond belief” in the alleged campaign of abuse. Knox said that despite the same last name, investigators were told the Mast couple was not related to Ethan Mast. Knox described Kourtney Aumen as living with Ethan Mast and his wife.

According to court documents, a man (now identified as James Mast) alleged that his neighbors across the road, Mast and Aumen, caused injuries to the family. The defendants forced and him and his wife to comply with the beatings, he allegedly said. The responding deputy questioned him on how he could let this happen. The father allegedly said that they were told that someone (a person whose name was redacted) had a “Demon” inside her, and if this was not addressed, then her kids would become like her. At the time, Knox said told us could not talk about whether the parents faced legal exposure. That question has now been answered by the filing of the new charges.

“I have received many letters, calls and emails of concern regarding this child’s death and the surrounding circumstances to be the actions of a cult,” Knox wrote on Thursday, in announcing the charges against the parents. “During interviews with investigators and the media, there have been some references to God and demons. Additional interviews have been held with family members, both local and out of state, as well as others who know the parties involved. None of the actions contained in this case are condoned by the church they attended. The investigation done so far indicates that this is an isolated incident and NOT the actions of a cult.”

Mary Mast is charged with first-degree endangering the welfare of a child resulting in death and first-degree domestic assault. James Mast faces one count each of endangering the welfare of a child in the first degree resulting in death and endangering the welfare of a child in the first degree resulting in serious physical injury. It is unclear if they have attorneys in this matter. Records show that Ethan Mast and Kourtney Aumen pleaded not guilty on Monday to charges including second-degree murder. All four defendants remain at the Benton County Jail without bond.

[Mugshots via Benton County Jail]

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