Tahlequah Daily Press

July 22, 2013

Man hit with manslaughter charge in child’s death

Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — Prosecutors have filed second-degree manslaughter charges against a 20-year-old father whose 18-month-old daughter died inside a heated car last November.

A report filed recently by the state’s office of the medical examiner lists the manner of the child’s death as accidental and caused by complications of hyperthermia, or excessive body heat.

First Assistant District Attorney Jack Thorp filed the charges last week against Cody Butler. Thorp said prosecutors waited until the ME’s report was completed and case law could be reviewed.

“Based on the evidence, the decision was made that there was probable cause to believe the father in this case exhibited culpable negligence,” said Thorp. “As fathers, we have certain responsibilities to care for children.”

Culpable negligence is often defined as failing to exercise the caution of a reasonable person, leading to the risk of injury or death. Thorp said culpable negligence could be failing to monitor the temperature inside the vehicle.

According to the ME’s report, the 18-month-old had a body temperature of 108 degrees when she was taken to a Tahlequah hospital last November.

Tahlequah detectives said Butler placed the child into a restraint in the back seat of his car while he was at Norris Park on Nov. 19, 2012.

He started the vehicle to warm it up as temperatures outside dropped and the girl grew tired.

Butler then stood outside of the vehicle talking to his girlfriend, and checked periodically on the baby, detectives said.

At some point, Butler noticed the child’s cheeks were purple. An ambulance was called and CPR was started on the girl, but she never regained consciousness.

Detectives said the child may have been inside the car for an hour. During the investigation, police checked the temperature of Butler’s car with the heater on and determined temperatures may have topped 126 degrees within an hour.

According to the information filed in the case, second-degree manslaughter is a felony punishable by two to four years in prison, up to a year in the county jail, and a fine of up to $1,000.