The father and stepmother of an 8-year-old girl who died last year in Elk River after wasting away physically in their care were sentenced Thursday to 40 years in prison.

Brett J. Hallow, 31, and Sarah K. Hallow, 29, were charged in Sherburne County District Court in August 2020 in connection with the death of Autumn Hallow at their home in the Depot at Elk River Station apartment complex.

The couple were arrested after police went to the home after being told Autumn was partly submerged in the bathtub, charges said.

An autopsy found fatal injuries pointing to her being asphyxiated, along with wounds on her head. The Midwest Medical Examiner's Office described Autumn as being "markedly cachectic," based on scant fatty tissue, atrophied muscle and significant hair loss.

According to the charges, Autumn's mother, Kelsey Kruse, told authorities she had not seen her daughter since January 2020, when her weight and development appeared average for her age, and that the Hallows prevented her from having any parenting time with Autumn, citing concerns over COVID-19.

A boy who lived in the home told authorities the Hallows would tie Autumn up with a belt and put her in a sleeping bag "when she is being bad," after urinating on the floor in her clothing or trying to get food, charges state.

Both Brett and Sarah Hallow pleaded guilty to counts of second-degree murder, child endangerment, threats of violence and domestic assault, as well as aggravating factors that resulted in a 480-month commitment, according to Sherburne County Attorney Kathleen Heaney.

"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," Heaney stated in a news release.

"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 Autumn] were held accountable."

Jenny Berg • 612-673-7299

Twitter: @bergjenny