The father and stepmother charged in connection with the death of an 8-year-old Minnesota girl have pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on Monday.
KSTP reports that Brett Jason Hallow, 31, and Sarah Kay Hallow, 29, admitted in court to starving and beating Autumn Hallow leading up to her death last summer. Both will be sentenced in September and are facing up to 40-years in prison.
Prosecutors said they were seeking to have the charges upgraded to first-degree murder in light of new evidence. However, before the charges could be upgraded, the couple pleaded guilty.
The couple also pleaded guilty to several other charges connected to abuse suffered by Autumn’s brother and another child in the home.
The Hallows admitted to tying Autumn up if they felt she acted up and withholding food. Autumn weighed just 33 pounds at the time of her death, according to PEOPLE.
Police were called to the family’s home on August 13, 2020, for reports of an unresponsive child. When they arrived, she was discovered face down in a bathtub with multiple head wounds.
In court, Sarah Hallow tearfully testified about how she and her husband forced Autumn to stay in the bathroom where they assaulted her in the days leading up to her death.
Autumn’s mother, Kelsey Kruse, spoke to the outlet after the plea hearing.
“I feel like them taking a plea deal for less time was kind of the coward’s way out, but also I liked that they were admitting some guilty, and I knew part of what happened at least,” said Kruse.
In May, attorneys for Kruse filed a $30 million federal lawsuit against Sherburne County Child Protections, Elk River Police, and others for not doing enough to protect Autumn. The police department had been called to the Hallow’s home at least 31 times since 2018. Despite sharing 50-50 custody, Kruse had not seen her daughter for six months before death. She had pleaded with Elk River PD for help, to no avail.