Parents of four-year-old Missouri girl 'beaten to death and plunged into icy pond by neighbors who tortured the family for days' are charged with child endangerment

 The parents of a four-year-old Missouri girl allegedly killed by neighbors, who were trying to remove a 'demon' from inside her, now face charges.

Mary S. Mast, 29, and James A. Mast, 28, both of Lincoln, Missouri, were charged Thursday with felony child endangerment resulting in death and are jailed without bond. They don't yet have attorneys.

The couple's other children, a two-year-old son and an infant, were placed in protective custody, Benton County Sheriff Eric Knox said in a news release.

The 4-year-old girl was found dead at the family home on December 20. Knox said she had been severely beaten and dunked in an icy pond as part of what appeared to be a 'religious-type episode'.

James A. Mast, 28
Mary S. Mast, 29

Mary Mast (right), 29, and James Mast (left), 28, both of Lincoln, Missouri, were charged Thursday with felony child endangerment resulting in death and are jailed without bond. The body of their four-year-old daughter was found at the family home on December 20 

Across-the-road neighbors Ethan Mast, 35, and Kourtney Aumen, 21, were charged last week with second-degree murder and other offenses. 

Both are jailed without bond. Ethan Mast is not believed to be related to James and Mary Mast, Knox said.

Both families attend the same church, but Knox said that the actions involving the girl are not condoned by the church, which he declined to name.

'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,' Knox said on Thursday.

'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. 

'The investigation done so far indicates that this is an isolated incident and NOT the actions of a cult,' Knox wrote in a news release on the department's Facebook page.

'When a crime of this magnitude occurs, it affects everyone in its aftermath from first responders to next of kin, community, church and beyond,' Knox said. 

'This will continue to be an ongoing investigation as we wait for the medical examiner’s report and any further information, we may be able to develop in time,' he added.  

Ethan Mast
Kourtney Aumen

Ethan Mast, 35, and Kourtney Aumen, 21, were charged with second-degree murder, assault and sexual abuse for allegedly torturing their neighbors and killing the couple's four-year-old girl

A probable cause statement from Benton County Sgt Chris Wilson said the girl was already dead and had 'severe purple bruising' over her body, along with ruptured blisters, when he was called to the home. 

Knox said the girl's parents also had been beaten along with the two-year-old. The infant was unharmed. 

A mugshot of Mary Mast showed her with what appeared to be a black eye.  

Court documents obtained by KRCG reveal that James Mast told investigators that the couple had been beating him and his family for two weeks.  

James Mast told investigators he and his wife observed the beating of their daughter but were told they would be beaten or shot if they tried to intervene.

Still, Wilson asked James Mast 'how he could let people do this to his family and he stated they were told (his wife) had a "Demon" inside her and her children would end up just like her if it was not taken care of,' Wilson wrote in the probable cause statement.

Ethan Mast told investigators that he and Aumen used a leather belt to beat the girl on December 19, the statement said. 

She was then taken to a pond behind the home where she was 'dunked' in the water on a day when high temperatures were in the 40s.

Ethan Mast said everyone then returned to the victims' home. It wasn't clear when the child died.

James Mast said that, at one point, he and his wife were forced to watch as the couple allegedly sexually abused their four-year-old daughter. 

He said he was beaten with a wooden spoon for comforting his wife and children.   

Benton County, with about 19,000 residents, is 100 miles southeast of Kansas City, Missouri.

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