On Tuesday, The Daily Beast reported that a Missouri couple who allegedly watched their neighbors kill their daughter in a brutal exorcism ritual have been barred from attending her funeral.
The parents -- Mary Mast and James Mast of Lincoln, Missouri -- have been charged with felony child endangerment resulting in death. Their neighbors, Ethan Mast (unrelated) and Kourtney Aumen, are charged with second-degree murder, three counts of first-degree assault, and sexual abuse. All four individuals have been jailed without bond.
According to The Daily Beast, the neighbors, who attend the same church as the parents, allegedly "used a leather belt and a wooden spoon to beat the child and her toddler brother in order to remove 'the demon' before taking her to a nearby pond on a day that temperatures were barely above freezing" and dunking her in.
Additionally, the father, James Mast told police that "the beatings had gone on for around two weeks and that they had been forced to perform 'sexual acts' on their 4-year-old with a 'foreign object' or they would be beaten or 'go to hell,'" — while the neighbors monitored them on surveillance cameras. And the mother, Mary Mast, "said she also dunked her daughter in the icy pond in an attempt to get rid of her supposed demons after she had been convinced that she, too, was possessed and that her 4-year-old had essentially inherited the devil from her."
The parents further told authorities that their neighbors threatened to shoot them if they intervened in the ritual.
The neighbors deny all charges and claim that video footage will prove their innocence. Their church condemns the incident, and authorities say there is no evidence of a pattern of cult behavior.