BENTON COUNTY, Mo.- The parents of a 4-year-old girl who died last week were arraigned in court Monday morning.
According to court records, James and Mary Mast pleaded not guilty during an arraignment hearing Monday and will have a bond hearing on January 5.
James and his wife Mary are charged with first-degree endangering the welfare of a child- death of a child and first-degree endangering the welfare of a child- serious physical injury.
The two were arrested Christmas Eve at a home in Morgan County.
The parents were instructed by their neighbors, Ethan Mast and Kourtney Aumen, not to provide aid or comfort to the children or themselves when the neighbors would beat them.
James told police he is not related to Ethan Mast despite having the same last name.
Mast and Aumen told the family they were beating the “demons” out of the family. The 4-year-old girl died, the mother and her two-year-old son were taken to a hospital with severe bruising.
Ethan and Kortney watched the family through cameras set up in the home. James and Mary said they were beat as well as their two children, they were threatened by their neighbors if they tried to help one another.
Benton County Sheriff Eric Knox said he can only speculate that this was due to manipulation and “skewed religious ideals.”
“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,” said Knox.
Knox said the ages of the children possibly kept them from getting help sooner.
“Unfortunately this family fell through the cracks because they’re not school-age, and I don’t know if they were taking the kids to church or taking them out, but nobody would allow that to go on if they were to see the wounds on these children,” said Knox. “Again, when I talk to church elders and other people throughout the community, they are all just as outraged as the rest of the community and they all want justice.”
Knox stressed that the investigation is still ongoing and more charges could be possible after the autopsy report comes back.
All four of the individuals involved are scheduled to be in court on January 5. The children were taken from the home by child protective services the same night as the incident.