Missouri police are investigating a truly bizarre story this week, involving the brutal death of a 4-year-old child. According to reports, deputies were called to a home in the rural town of Cole Camp early Sunday morning. When they arrived, they found a little girl dead in mysterious circumstances, and multiple members of her family suffering from injuries. In the days since, investigators have arrested and charged a couple living next door to the family — but their reasons for allegedly committing the crimes are even more bizarre.
Police dispatchers in Benton County received a frantic call around 1 a.m. on Sunday.
On the other end of the line was James Mast, a father of three who was begging for help for his young family.
Authorities quickly arrived at the home, but it was already too late. Inside, they found the man’s 4-year-old daughter wrapped in a blanket and placed on the floor of a bedroom. She was clearly dead.
Upon further investigation, deputies could see that little girl’s body was covered in severe bruises and ruptured blisters, and after speaking with the father some more, they began to learn that she wasn’t the only victim.
The disturbing story James would proceed to tell them was almost too shocking to believe.
According to the father, his daughter had been brutally beaten and tortured by two of his neighbors, who have since been identified as Ethan Mast, 35 (no relation), and Kourtney Aumen, 21. Both he and his wife, 28-year-old Mary Mast, had been beaten, as well, along with one of their other children, a 2-year-old.
After medics arrived, both Mary and the toddler required treatment and reportedly still remain in the hospital under observation. However, James’ injuries were less severe, and he did not seek medical attention.
Remarkably, the couple’s infant son was unharmed in the incident.
As for why the beatings occurred — and when they started — that was even more bizarre.
James told investigators that the beatings occurred at separate times over the course of several days. Ethan and Kourtney were neighbors of the young family, and lived in a home across the road. And while James said that he and Mary did witness the first of several beatings of his children, he claimed that both of them were afraid to report it to authorities after their neighbors told them they’d be beaten or shot themselves.
The abuse allegedly started after the neighbors claimed Mary had a “demon” inside of her.
So did her 4-year-old daughter, the couple claimed — which is why they allegedly took it upon themselves to “drive it out” of the little girl.
According to a probable cause statement, the little girl was beaten severely by both neighbors with a leather belt. Then, according to Ethan, she was carried over to a pond behind the home sometime on Saturday and “dunked” in the frigid, icy water. It’s still unclear at which point she died.
Investigators remained baffled as to how James could have let this happen.
In a report released by Benton County sheriff’s deputies, Sgt. Chris Wilson asked him this question, but James’ response was also strange. According to the father, he was told that “[his wife] had a ‘Demon’ inside her and her children would end up just like her if it was not taken care of.”
Apparently, he believed this.
If you’re still scratching your head over how any of this could possibly make sense … we are right there with you.
But it seems like investigators are finally narrowing in on a motive.
“Based on what I know, I think this could be some kind of honest-to-goodness religious-type episode,” Benton County Sheriff Eric Knox shared in a phone interview with the Associated Press.
The two families reportedly belong to the same church, though it’s unclear which church or denomination.
For now, the entire community remains in shock.
“To have something of this magnitude happen in our sleepy little community is insane,” Knox commented.
According to AP, the entire county of Benton — which sits about 100 miles from Kansas City, Missouri — only has a total of 19,000 residents. Something like this has simply never occurred, and the idea that it has now is somewhat mind-boggling to those who live just around the corner.
While the little girl’s autopsy is still pending, Ethan and Kourtney remain in jail without bail. They are each charged with second-degree murder and other offenses.
*story by CafeMom