Tahlequah Daily Press

January 21, 2013

ME’s report requested in child’s death

Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — Cherokee County prosecutors are still awaiting an official report from the state medical examiner before deciding what action to take in the case of an 18-month-old child who died last November.

Assistant District Attorney Doug Dry said he has consulted with District Attorney Brian Kuester, First Assistant District Attorney Jack Thorp, and several others as prosecutors mull the decision. Dry said he is awaiting the state medical examiner’s report on the baby’s death.

Tahlequah police detectives said the infant died Nov. 19 after being put into a car seat, while the vehicle’s engine was running and the heater was on. The baby’s father, Cody Butler, 19, reportedly told Detective Jeff Haney he was at Norris Park and put the child in the car when temperatures outside dropped and the child became tired.

Butler then stood outside the vehicle, talking to his girlfriend, and checked periodically on the baby. Butler told detectives he later noticed the child’s cheeks were purple, so he took her from her car seat and removed her coat. Butler’s girlfriend, a nurse’s aide, began performing CPR on the child until an ambulance arrived, but the girl never regained consciousness, according to detectives.

Medical personnel said the baby’s core body temperature read 108 degrees on a thermometer, the highest reading possible on the instrument.

Officials with the state medical examiner’s office told detectives in a preliminary report the child appeared to have died from hyperthermia, from exposure to the heat in the vehicle. Haney said there were no signs of physical trauma on the girl, and that there is no reason to suspect the use of alcohol, drugs or tobacco by Butler. Police have previously said the case appears to be a tragic accident.

Haney tested the vehicle with the heat settings left as they were found in November, and discovered the temperature inside the car rose to 126 degrees after heater was  on for one hour – the amount of time detectives believe the girl might have been inside the car.

The car’s temperature control was set just to the right of the halfway point between coldest and hottest, and the fan was on high, Haney said.

Butler was arrested in November on possible charges of child neglect and manslaughter, and he later posted bond.

Dry said prosecutors want to collect all information possible before making a decision on whether charges will be filed against Butler.

“We want to make sure we make the right decision,” said Dry.