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BENTON COUNTY, Mo. – Charges against four adults accused in connection with the beating death of a 4-year-old girl in December have been upgraded to first-degree murder.

According to online court records, charges were increased against Kourtney Aumen and Ethan Mast, as well as James Mast and Mary Mast.

Originally, James Mast, the father of the young girl, was charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child. As of April 21, his charges have been upgraded to first-degree murder, first-degree assault, and armed criminal action.

His wife, Mary Mast, was originally charged with endangering the welfare of a child and first-degree domestic assault. She has now been charged with first-degree murder, two counts of armed criminal action, and first-degree assault.

The neighbors, Ethan Mast and Kourtney Aumen, were both charged with second-degree murder, three counts of first-degree assault, and first-degree sexual abuse. They are now charged with first-degree murder, two counts of armed criminal action, and first-degree assault.

On Dec. 20, 2020, the four-year-old was found dead, and Mary and another child were severely injured.

Court documents say an investigator with the Benton County Sheriff’s Office arrived at the scene and found the father of the four-year-old girl to ask him what happened. The father showed the investigator his daughter.

The investigator saw the four-year-old girl wrapped up in a pink blanket on the floor. Court records say she had several purple bruises from her neck to her feet. The investigator found that the bruising appeared to be belt marks.

The investigator then asked the man where the rest of his family was in the house. Court documents say the mother and their two-year-old son had severe bruising. The family has another infant and he had no injuries.

The deputy asked the father how these injuries happened. He told the deputy that people who lived across the road, Mast and Aumen, caused the injuries. According to the PC statement, the two went to the family’s house that morning around 8 a.m. and beat the two-year-old.

The father told authorities that the beatings have been happening for about two weeks. He also told police that he was beaten with a wooden spoon two days earlier.

“I asked how he could let people do this to his family, and he stated that they were told (the mother) had a ‘demon’ inside her, and her children would end up just like her if it was not taken care of,” court documents say.

The father said that Mast and Aumen threatened him and said if he did not comply, someone would get shot. The father also told police that if he or his wife provided aid or comfort to the children or themselves, it would be a sin, and Satan would come.

Mast and Aumen told investigators during interviews after being arrested that they did beat the children and their mother. They also said they forced the mother and daughter to a pond where more assaults occurred.

Ethan and Aumen also told investigators they instructed the parents 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 and they were threatened by their neighbors if they tried to help one another.

Benton County Sheriff Eric Knox told Ozarks First in 2020 that 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.