Father, stepmother sentenced to 40 years in death of 8-year-old Elk River girl | KSTP.com

Father, stepmother sentenced to 40 years in death of 8-year-old Elk River girl

Updated: September 23, 2021 06:07 PM
Created: September 23, 2021 10:51 AM

Two people charged in connection to an 8-year-old Sherburne County girl's death last year were each sentenced to four decades in prison on Thursday.

Brett Jason Hallow and Sarah Kay Hallow were each sentenced to 40 years (480 months) in prison, which is the maximum penalty and includes enhancements for what prosecutors called "particular cruelty."

"The loss of a child is grievous; the loss of a child at the hands of two who were entrusted to care for that child is beyond comprehension," Sherburne County Attorney Kathleen Heaney said. "While there is no measure in the criminal justice system that accounts for the loss, I hope that the sentencing today will allow the family, friends, and community some modicum of comfort knowing that those whose acts led to the loss of A.H. were held accountable."

During a June court appearance, the Hallows admitted to beating and starving Autumn Hallow in the days and weeks before she ultimately died in the couple's apartment on 172nd Avenue Northwest in Elk River.

In addition to pleading guilty to second-degree murder, Autumn's father and stepmother pleaded guilty to several charges related to the abuse of Autumn's brother and another child in the home as early as 2019.

Before sentencing on Thursday, prosecutors added a charge of felony threats of violence against Sarah Hallow for an incident in November 2018. They said hours of video footage from cameras inside the Hallows' apartment documented several of the incidents of abuse in 2018 and 2019.

Three months after her daughter’s death last year, Kelsey Kruse spoke publicly for the first time with hopes of bringing about changes to protect other children.

A Mother’s Plea: Death of 8-year-old exposes 'system failure' and need for change, advocates say

Kruse read an emotional victim impact statement to the court on Thursday, calling it one of the toughest days of her life.

"After Autumn was released to the funeral home I saw her for the first time," Kruse said. "I walked into the room and she was laying there, lifeless and little. Her head was shaved, she had marks on her face and scalp. Under the sheet, her shoulders looked so small. I kept staring at her trying to recognize her. She did not look like the Autumn that I remember and I was convinced it was not her."

"The hardest part is not that my daughter is dead. It's how she died, how she suffered," Kruse continued. "Imagining how much pain she was in. Every day, I wake up and I will suffer until I go to sleep, thinking about this. I think losing a child is the greatest loss you can endure. I find peace knowing that my kids never have to look into the eyes of their abusers again."

Kruse also read a statement from Autumn's older brother, who is now 11 years old.

"Even though I know they are locked up, I feel like my dad or Sarah is watching me through my bedroom window at night," the boy wrote. "I know my dad and Sarah aren't getting a life sentence, but they took my little sister's life from her and they deserve to spend the rest of their life in prison."

A review of public records, medical reports, photos and recordings obtained by 5 INVESTIGATES shows authorities were aware of abuse allegations in the same household going back more than a year before Autumn was killed.

A Pattern of Abuse: Investigation reveals warning signs long before 8-year-old's murder

Those details are now at the center of a $30 million federal lawsuit filed by Kruse, against Sherburne County Child Protection, Elk River police and other mandated reporters accusing them of negligence and failing to intervene to protect her daughter.

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