BELLE VERNON (KDKA) – A little girl was killed and stuffed in a footlocker in Arizona last month.
Police said her tragic death came after a torturous and painful life. It’s a case that made national headlines and a local man has come forward claiming to be the girl’s father.
According to police, the child was forced to eat dog feces and perform strenuous exercises in extreme Arizona heat.
The child was allegedly murdered on July 12 after taking a popsicle from a freezer.
However, the girl spent the first few years of her life in Fayette County and a local man is claiming to be the girl’s biological father.
Kenneth Griest told KDKA-TV’s Ralph Iannotti that he was devastated and shocked when he found out the girl he raised in the Belle Vernon area was the victim of a brutal torture-murder in Phoenix.
“When I first heard about it, I was really stunned. It just shocked me that they could do something to a kid,” Griest said.
Police in Phoenix described the death as one of the worst cases of child abuse they had ever seen.
Ame Deal, 10, was found suffocated and stuffed in a small air-tight footlocker. She was allegedly placed there as punishment for taking a popsicle our of a refrigerator in the home she was living in.
She had been placed in the footlocker at least one other time as punishment for wetting the bed.
“First four years she was with me and her mother, Shirley. She was a great kid, you know. She got into a little bit of trouble like normal, but she’d get timeout or whatever. We would never do anything – she wanted a popsicle we would give it to her, take her to Dairy Queen. She had everything she needed. She had toys, she had clothes, she had a lot of friends,” Griest said.
All of Griest’s attempts to find his daughter in recent years failed because the child and her mother were constantly on the move.
“I tracked them all down. We were together up until a few years ago and well, we lost contact for a while there and then we started talking again. We tried hunting Ame down for years. Every time we got close to finding her, just like they disappeared off the face of the Earth. And then you find out they were living in Wisconsin, Utah, Texas, now you find out they’re in Arizona,” Griest said.
Griest also has the girl’s birth certificate, fingerprints and a locket of her hair that he kept.
Shirley Deal is currently living in Kansas and said her daughter was removed from her home by relatives, who are now accused in her death.
Two of the four people accused in the case are charged with first-degree murder and two others are charged with kidnapping and child abuse.
They are expected to appear in court next week.