A man charged with murder in the disappearance of 4-year-old Athena Brownfield in Oklahoma beat the child to death on Christmas, buried her body and placed a branch over her grave, according to court documents.
Athena was discovered to be missing when a postal carrier found her 5-year-old sister outside a home in Cyril with no adult supervision on Jan. 10 and contacted police, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation said.
A widespread search for the girl soon turned into a recovery operation. On Tuesday, the state bureau said it recovered the remains of a child in rural Grady County outside of Rush Springs, about 60 miles south of Oklahoma City. The remains were transported to the Medical Examiner’s Office in Oklahoma City for positive identification.
Two days after authorities learned Athena was missing, her caregivers, Ivon and Alysia Adams, were arrested. Ivon Adams, 36, was charged with first-degree murder and child neglect, and Alysia Adams with two counts of child neglect.
Arrest affidavits for the pair reveal that Alysia Adams, 31, told a state bureau special agent Thursday that Ivon Adams beat Athena on Christmas night and “held her up by her arms.”
The child “was not moving and her eyes were barely open,” she said, according to one of the affidavits.
“He then laid her on the ground and punched her at least three more times in the chest,” and Athena “never moved after that,” Alysia Adams said, according to the document.
The beating allegedly occurred at their residence on West Nebraska Street.
Ivon Adams then left the home about 1 a.m. Dec. 26 with the child.
“When he arrived back, he told Alysia that he buried her near a fence line that was next to their old residence in Rush Springs. He informed her he placed a large broken branch over the rural site,” the filing said.
Phone records also showed that between 4:15 am. and 5:30 a.m. the same day, Ivon’s phone left the West Nebraska address and traveled to an area near Rush Springs, the affidavit said.
That’s close to where the human remains were found.
Athena and her sister are related to Alysia Adams. They had been in her care for the past one-and-a-half to two years, according to charging documents. However, Alysia Adams and her husband never took the girls to the doctor for checkups and did not enroll the elder child into school, documents state.
The charging documents allege Alysia Adams failed to properly supervise the 5-year-old girl and failed to protect Athena from physical abuse by her husband. It further accuses Ivon Adams of “willful or malicious use of unreasonable force” against Athena, resulting in death, and leaving the 5-year-old child without supervision and medical care.
He was arrested in Phoenix and is scheduled to be extradited to Oklahoma. He remains held on no bond in Arizona. It’s not immediately clear if he has an attorney.
Alysia Adams is currently in Caddo County Jail and her bond was set at $500,000. A not guilty plea was entered for her on Jan. 17. She is due back in court on March 23 for a preliminary hearing conference. NBC News has reached out to her attorney for comment.
Officials have said the sisters’ biological parents were cooperating with the investigation and had been interviewed by authorities. Athena’s sister has been taken into protective custody, the state bureau said.