Police: Toddler left inside parked car with heater running dies, father arrested for neglect

Posted: 11/20/2012

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. - Tahlequah police are investigating the death of a toddler in a vehicle parked at a downtown park.

Around 9 p.m. Monday, police were notified a Tahlequah City Hospital ambulance was en route to an unresponsive child at Norris Park on Morgan Street.

When police arrived paramedics were already caring for an 18-month-old female. She was transported to the hospital where she was pronounced dead, according to police.

Detective Jeff Haney said an initial investigation shows the child had an extremely high core temperature.

Haney said the child's father, 19-year-old Cody Butler, was at the park outside the vehicle while the child was in a car seat in the back seat of the car.

"It appears the father had the car running and the heater on," said Haney.

Haney said Butler removed the child from the car when he noticed her cheeks were purple. He then administered CPR.

"This type of tragedy is one of the hardest calls we respond to as law enforcement officers," said Police Chief Clay Mahaney. "We feel for the family and strongly remind everyone to never leave a young child unattended for any amount of time."

Police tell 2NEWS Butler had his daughter for an extended holiday weekend and the two were at the park playing with Butler's girlfriend. As it got later and colder and his daughter got tired, Butler placed her in the car with the heater on while he stayed outside speaking with his girlfriend. About an hour later he noticed something was wrong.

Detectives are now looking through surveillance video to determine exactly how long the toddler was in the car, but believe she may have been for up to an hour.

Though police believe this was an accident, Butler is still facing charges for child neglect and second-degree manslaughter.

Formal charges are pending the completion of reports from responding officers and the medical examiner.

May 15, 2013
ME rules toddler’s death an accident

By Dylan Goforth Phoenix Staff Writer

Medical officials have ruled a Tahlequah infant’s death last year while left in a parked, heated car, was accidental.

Whitney Butler died in November after being left, bundled in a car seat, in a car outside a Tahlequah park while her father. Cody Butler, 19, spoke to someone outside.

Butler’s autopsy report was released Tuesday, and revealed the toddler had a rectal temperature of 108 degrees.

District 27 District Attorney Brian Kuester said it was unlikely Butler would be charged with a crime

“The (medical examiner) basically confirms what all the other reports indicated, that this was an accident,” Kuester said. “There was no indication of what I would consider gross negligence.”

Kuester said prosecutors would likely meet one more time before making a final decision. Shortly after seeing the case, First Assistant District Attorney Jack Thorp said prosecutors would likely not charge Butler. However, to be prudent, he said they would wait on the autopsy report before reaching a decision.