Man pleads guilty to murder of 4-year-old Jessica Mast

WARSAW, Mo. – One of four people charged with the murder of a 4-year-old girl pleaded guilty Tuesday (2/22/22), according to the Benton County Clerk’s Office.

Ethan Mast, a neighbor of the girl’s family, pleaded guilty to second degree murder and first degree assault in the death of Jessica Mast. The child is not related to Ethan Mast.

The pleas were entered into a plea agreement. The date of his sentencing has not been set.

Ethan Mast’s roommate, Kourtney Aumen, and the child’s parents, James and Mary Mast, remain charged with second-degree murder, criminal action with a weapon and assault.

Online court documents say Aumen has a hearing on April 6. The child’s parents are due to go through preliminary hearings in July.

A statement of probable cause indicates December 20, 2020the child was found dead, and Mary Mast and another child were seriously injured in their home.

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

The investigator saw the four-year-old girl wrapped in a pink blanket on the floor. Court records indicate she had multiple purple bruises from neck to toe. The investigator found that the bruises 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 baby, and he was unharmed.

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

The father told authorities the beatings had been going on for about two weeks. He also told police he had been beaten with a wooden spoon two days earlier.

“I asked how he could let people do this to his family, and he said they were told that (the mother) had a ‘demon’ inside her, and that her children would end up like her if we didn’t. didn’t care about it,” the court documents say.

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

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

Ethan and Aumen also told investigators that they asked parents not to provide help or comfort to the children or themselves when neighbors beat them.

James told police he was not related to Ethan Mast despite having the same last name.

Mast and Aumen told the family that they were casting out “demons” in the family. The 4-year-old girl died, the mother and her two-year-old son were taken to hospital with severe bruises.

Ethan and Kortney watched the family through cameras set up in the house. James and Mary said they were beaten as well as their two children, they were threatened by their neighbors if they tried to help each other.

Benton County Sheriff Eric Knox told Ozarks First in 2020 that he could only assume it was due to manipulation and “biased religious ideals”.

“Law enforcement is based on facts, and the facts are that the little girl died at the hands of Ethan and Kourtney and mom and dad stood there and watched it happen, as well as mom participated in party and she is charged according to the laws of the State of Missouri,” Knox said.

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