Updated Apr 19, 2013 - 6:59 pm
Ariz. woman accused of abusing niece pleads guilty
PHOENIX -- The legal guardian of a 10-year-old Arizona girl who died in 2011 after being padlocked in a footlocker by another family member pleaded guilty in the case Friday.
Cynthia Stoltzmann, 45, pleaded guilty to two counts of child abuse and one count of attempted child abuse, Maricopa County prosecutors said. She will be sentenced June 6.
Stoltzmann was Ame Deal's aunt and guardian, but she wasn't charged in the girl's July 2011 death.
Instead, Stoltzmann was accused of throwing Deal into a cold swimming pool several months before the girl died and forcing her head underwater.
Stoltzmann also was accused of once sitting on the footlocker while Deal was inside the box for stealing food.
Four other Deal relatives face various charges in the case, including two of her cousins who are charged with first-degree murder.
Authorities said Deal died after a man who is married to the girl's cousin padlocked her in the footlocker as discipline for having stolen popsicles. The girl was left in the plastic box all night and was found dead the next morning at the Phoenix home where her relatives lived, authorities said.
Investigators said the abuse heaped on Deal by some relatives also included forcing her to eat dog feces and crush aluminum cans with her bare feet.
Charges against one Deal relative were dismissed last week after prosecutors said there wasn't enough evidence to proceed.
That relative was accused of scrubbing Deal's face with a wire brush as punishment for lying, kicking her in the face while she was on the ground, putting hot sauce in her mouth and spanking her with a belt.