Editor's note: Due to the nature of this case, we have chosen to not repeat the details of what was uncovered in the investigation here. Please be aware that the linked articles within will likely be triggering to some.
Stover, Missouri: Four have been charged in relation to the December 20, 2020 death of 4-year-old Jessica Mast who was found naked, covered in bruises, wrapped in a blanket on her bedroom floor.
On Tuesday, February 22, 2022, 36-year-old Ethan Mast, of no relation to Jessica, entered a guilty plea to a charge of second-degree murder thereby admitting his role in what Benton County Sheriff Eric Knox called a "religious-type episode" that led to her death.
Ethan Mast was initially charged with second-degree murder, three counts of first-degree assault and a single charge of first degree sexual assault when he was arrested. The charge was upgraded to first-degree murder in April, 2021.
In addition to the charge of second-degree murder, Ethan Mast plead guilty to a single charge of first-degree assault. His sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled.
The details of the plea deal have not been released so it is not clear if the remaining charges against him will be dropped.
According to Law and Crime, sentencing for the second-degree murder charge may result in a sentence of anywhere from 20 years to life in prison and any sentence given for the assault charge cannot run concurrent to the murder charge.
Also charged initially was Kourtney Aumen, now 22. She is described as being a neighbor and accused of being a participant in the abuse, but it is unclear if she has any relationship with Ethan Mast.
At the time of her arrest in December 2020, she was charged with the same offenses as Ethan. The charge of second-degree murder against her was also increased to a first-degree charge but that has since been reduced once more to second-degree murder.
In January, her case was moved from Benton County to Webster County. Her next court date is scheduled for April 6, 2022.
Jessica's parents, James and Mary Mast are scheduled to appear in court for preliminary hearings on July 1, 2022. They are facing charges of first-degree murder, two counts of armed criminal action, and first-degree assault.