Father, stepmother charged with murder of 8-year-old Autumn Hallow

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Brett and Sarah Hallow

The biological father and the stepmother of Autumn Hallow, who was found dead in an Elk River apartment last week, have been charged with the murder of the 8-year-old.

Brett and Sarah Hallow, ages 30 and 28, respectively, were both charged Monday in Sherburne County District Court with one count of 2nd-degree murder and one count of first-degree manslaughter. 

Warning: Upsetting details to follow...

According to the charging document, Autumn was found unresponsive and not breathing at The Depot at Elk River Station apartment complex at 10653-172nd Ave. NW. just around 3:45 p.m. Thursday. 

Sarah told police that she found Autumn unresponsive, face down in "inches of water" in the tub, approximately 40 minutes after Autumn went to take a shower.

She then stated that Brett brought Autumn to a bedroom, though when asked about the incident by investigators, Brett stated that he awoke to Sarah screaming but he didn't remember if he found Sarah next to Autumn in the bathroom or the bedroom. 

Autumn was pronounced dead at the scene, with officers believing that she had been dead for "some time." They also noted that she appeared "extremely frail and thin," and that her skin was dry and hair only slightly wet. 

Sarah estimated that Autumn weighed 45 pounds, while Sarah and Brett claimed that Autumn had "always been thin," the complaint says. 

Autumn's biological mother had not been allowed to see Autumn since January, with the Hallows claiming they kept people from seeing their children due to COVID-19 and "other reasons." Her biological mother said Autumn had no known pre-existing medical conditions and "appeared of average weight and development when she last saw her," the complaint states. 

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There were also three other children living in the apartment with the Hallows, and two of them – a 6-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl – told child protection services that Brett and Sarah would use a sweatshirts and a belt to tie Autumn's hands and then zip her in a red sleeping bag, where she was forced to sleep "when she was bad," the boy said, noting that being "bad" included when Autumn would "try to get food." 

The boy also stated that he heard Autumn screaming in the bathroom the morning of her death and that he heard a loud "bang" when both Brett and Sarah were in the bathroom with Autumn. 

A medical examiner ruled Autumn's death a homicide, with the cause of death documented as "asphyxial injuries and blunt force trauma."

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