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Minnesota couple sentenced in 2020 murder of 8-year-old daughter

Autumn Hallow died at her home last summer.
Brett and Sarah Hallow

The Elk River couple charged with abusing and ultimately killing their daughter last summer are now headed to prison. 

Brett and Sarah Hallow were both sentenced Thursday to 40 years for the death of eight-year-old Autumn Hallow.

Each was charged last August with one count of 2nd-degree murder and one count of first-degree manslaughter, pleading guilty to the crimes the following spring. 

According to the charging documents, on August 13, 2020, Autumn was discovered unresponsive and not breathing at a local apartment complex, with Sarah Hallow soon telling police that she found the girl face down in "inches of water" in the tub, approximately 40 minutes after Autumn went to take a shower.

Autumn was subsequently 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."

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 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."

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

According to this piece from People magazine, police had been called to the Hallows' residence to investigate abuse some 30 times in the preceding two years, "mostly on calls from anonymous neighbors complaining about loud yelling and screaming coming from inside the apartment."

KSTP reports that the girl's biological mother — who had not been allowed to see Autumn since January due to the Hallows claiming COVID-19 concerns and "other reasons" — is now pursuing a $30 million federal lawsuit against Sherburne County Child Protection, Elk River police and other mandated reporters, accusing them of failing to keep Autumn safe. 

Per KARE 11, the 40-year sentence is "divided," meaning that the Hallows will both serve 27 years in prison and serve the remaining time under supervised release.

The station says Sarah Hallow "broke down in tears" during sentencing and apologized to the family — a gesture the family's attorney called "too little, too late" — while Brett Hallow remained silent. 

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