BENTON COUNTY, Mo. (TCD) -- A 36-year-old man pleaded guilty to killing his 4-year-old neighbor as part of an apparent practice to "remove a demon" by beating her with a belt and dunking her in freezing water.
Missouri court records show Ethan Mast entered the plea Tuesday, Feb. 22, for second-degree murder. His initial charges upon his arrest included first-degree murder, armed criminal action, and first-degree assault. KYTV reports Mast could face life in prison.
According to the Benton County Sheriff's Office, in the early hours of Dec. 20, 2020, dispatch received a call about a deceased 4-year-old girl. The girl's father, James Mast, reportedly said the girl "had been beaten, submerged in a pond, then left to freeze on the bank before being taken back into the residence."
The girl's mother, Mary Mast, and another 2-year-old boy were "beaten to a severe extent," the Sheriff's Office said. They were transported to a local hospital for treatment.
Ethan Mast and Kourtney Aumen were taken into custody. KSHB-TV reports James and Mary Mast were later arrested and charged.
According to KSHB, Benton County Sheriff Eric Knox said the little girl was put in the freezing pond and beaten as a "religious-type episode" in order to "remove a demon." KOZL-TV reports the girl suffered bruising all over her body from what looked like belt marks. She was found in the residence wrapped in a blanket.
James Mast and Ethan Mast are reportedly not related.
Court records cited by KOZL say the girl had been beaten over the course of two weeks.
Knox reportedly said, "Law enforcement is based on facts, and the facts are that we have are that the little girl died at the hands of Ethan and Kourtney and mom and dad stood by and watched it happened, as well as mom actually participated in some of it and she’s charged according to Missouri state statutes."