Couple charged with second degree murder in death of 8-year-old girl
“An 8-year-old lost her life and she didn’t need to,” Sabrina McWilliam, a resident of The Depot at Elk River Station apartments told WCCO. “When I heard it was this family, I wasn’t surprised,” she said, telling the station that she had called the police "at least 5 times this year" to report abuse going on in the Hallow apartment.
On the afternoon of Thursday, August 13th, Elk River Police were dispatched to the apartment belonging to Brett and Sarah Hallow on a report of a girl found partially submerged in a bathtub.
When officers arrived, 30-year-old Brett directed them to a back bedroom where they found 28-year-old Sarah performing chest compressions on 8-year-old Autumn Hallow.
Police immediately noted the fact that the girl's body was rigid and that her fingers had already begun to turn blue, denoting that she had been dead for some time. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Police additionally noted that despite being told that the girl had been found in several inches of water, her skin was dry and just her hair was damp. They additionally noted bruising on her hips and hands, as well as cuts and "pin-like" marks on her forehead.
During interviews, both Sarah and Brett gave the same story; that Amber had gone to take a shower and that after about 40 minutes, Sarah went to check on her only to find her in several inches of water.
An autopsy determined that Autumn was "markedly cachectic," weighing in at barely 45 pounds at the time of her death. It was determined that her death was a homicide, likely caused by asphyxia and blunt force trauma. The report indicated that Autumn had bleeding on the brain and in her abdomen.
The following evening the Sherbourne County Sheriff's Office arrested both Brett and Sarah on charges of second degree murder. WCCO listed an additional charge against each of them of first-degree manslaughter, which does not show on their inmate records. The charges carry a possible maximum sentence of 55 years in jail and/or a fine of $30,000.
Interviews with two of the three other children living in the home, a 6-year-old boy and a 10-year-old daughter revealed allegations of abuse perpetrated against Autumn. Both of their statements involved Autumn being bound and placed into a red sleeping bag which would then be zipped up leaving only her head exposed "when she was being bad," and that she would be left to sleep like that in various locations around the apartment.
The boy explained that actions that would result in that treatment were urinating on the floor or in her clothing, or even trying to get food. The last time he had seen her bound in the sleeping bag was several days before her death.
Both of the children reported that Brett and Sarah had been in the bathroom with Autumn on the day of her death. The boy told officers that he had heard screaming and a loud "bang."
When interviewed again, Sarah denied that there had been an argument or yelling, and stated that there had been no clean-up of the bathroom. She acknowledged that Autumn had lost weight, but asserted that the girl had stopped eating.
Brett claimed that his memory of the events of the previous day was not good. Both he and Sarah denied using a sleeping bag as punishment.
Crime scene technicians utilized Luminol to determine that there had in fact been blood in locations around the bathroom, with most of it showing in the shower area.
Autumn's biological mother, Kelsey Kruse spoke with police and posted to social media stating that she had been kept from Autumn since January 2020 due to concerns about COVID. She stated that the last time she had seen her daughter she had been of a normal weight and development level.
Brett and Sarah remain in custody at the Sherburne County Jail. Their court date is not listed.
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