KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A man who was charged with murder for the death of his 4-year-old neighbor pleaded guilty Tuesday.
Ethan Mast, 35, pleaded guilty in Benton County, Missouri, to reduced charges of second-degree murder and felony assault, according to defense attorney Lacon Smith. He previously faced a first-degree murder charge.
The incident occurred on Dec. 20, 2020, when the 4-year-old girl was found dead by police with severe bruising.
Benton County Sheriff Eric Knox said the girl had been severely beaten and dunked in an icy pond as part of what appeared to be a "religious-type episode" to remove a "demon."
Within a week, Ethan Mast and 21-year-old Kourtney Aumen were charged in connection to the incident.
The parents of the girl, 29-year-old Mary S. Mast and 28-year-old James A. Mast, were also charged in connection to the incident with felony child endangerment resulting in death along with other charges.
Ethan Mast is not believed to be related to parents, but they attend the same church.
According to a probable cause statement, the parents had also been beaten along with a 2-year-old child, but their infant son was unharmed.
If the judge approves the plea, Ethan Mast could face a life sentence, with a maximum of 30 years, with the possibility of parole in 10 years. A sentencing hearing has yet to be set.
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Annual homicide details and data for the Kansas City area are available through the KSHB 41 News Homicide Tracker, which was launched in 2015. Read the KSHB 41 News Mug Shot Policy.