Just after 1 am on December 20 officers were called to the Mast residence where a 4-year-old girl was found deceased, wrapped in a blanket on the floor of her bedroom. With "severe purple bruising" covering her body, charges were quickly filed against neighbors, 35-year-old Ethan Mast and 21-year-old Kourtney Aumen.
On the evening of December 24, the Benton County Sheriff's Office posted a news release to their Facebook page announcing that the parents, 29-year-old Mary S. Mast and 28-year-old James A. Mast had been arrested at their residence in Stover, Missouri.
According to the release, Mary has been charged with Engangering the Welfare of a Child in the First Degree Resulting in Death, and Domestic Assault in the First Degree, both class A Felonies.
James has been charged with Endangering the Welfare of a Child in the First Degree Resulting in Death, a class A Felony, and Endangering the Welfare of a Child in the First Degree Resulting in Serious Physical Injury, a class B Felony.
In their court appearance on Monday, they both pleaded not guilty to the charges against them. They are being held without bond. Their next court date has been scheduled for January 5, 2021.
"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," the Sheriff's Office release read. "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."
The release further indicated that the investigation was still ongoing as the medical examiner's report was still outstanding. The possibility of more charges being filed by the Benton County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Rod Richardson has not been ruled out.
"To have something of this magnitude happen in our sleepy little community is insane," Benton County Sheriff Eric Knox was quoted as saying by KMBC.
Their other two children, a 2-year-old boy and a male infant have been placed into protective custody.