Everything about this story is disturbing. You’ve been warned.
A Missouri couple — Mary S. Mast and James A. Mast — face multiple charges after the death of their four-year-old daughter. They allegedly allowed their neighbors, Ethan Mast (no relation) and Kourtney Aumen, to beat her with a belt before dunking her into an icy pond in order to rid her of supposed demons.
The neighbors have been charged with second-degree murder and more.
The Benton County Sheriff’s Office said the 4-year-old girl was found dead at the family home on Dec. 20. [Benton County Sheriff Eric] Knox said she had been severely beaten and dunked in an icy pond as part of what appeared to be a “religious-type episode.”
A probable cause statement from Sgt. Chris Wilson said the girl was already dead and had “severe purple bruising” over her body, along with ruptured blisters.
Knox said the girl’s parents also had been beaten along with a 2-year-old child. An infant son of the couple was apparently unharmed. Both were placed in protective custody, Knox said.
… 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.
It’s not clear, then, if the parents were complicit in the girl’s death or victims themselves. It could be both. The couples attended the same church, which is not named by authorities.
While the authorities say this is an isolated incident, this is hardly the first time a child has died as the result of deluded religious thinking or a deranged belief that demons must be eradicated. There’s no evidence of mental illness in play here. The question now, as it always is, is what local church leaders plan to do in response if they’re disturbed by what happened.
Will pastors have the courage and good sense to tell their congregations that demons are merely metaphorical and figments of their imagination, or will they go on spreading the lie that Satan and his minions are real? If they firmly believe in literal demons, and they say as much from the pulpit, they shouldn’t be surprised if some people take them seriously, then take matters into their owns hands if they genuinely believe others are possessed.
Regardless of how this ends legally, a little girl is dead because people close to her believed in religious superstitions, then acted upon them. Did anyone close to these families ever have the heart to tell them their churches were lying to them?
If there’s any silver lining here, it’s that the Masts’ two-year-old son and newborn have been placed in temporary foster care. They’re safe for now. They deserve to be with parents who won’t put their lives in jeopardy.
The Masts have also been denied permission to attend their daughter’s funeral.
(Image via KMBC)