A Florida woman has pleaded guilty to child neglect after she left boyfriend’s son in a hot car all day.
Mariah Butler was facing more serious charges in the death of the September 28, 2018, death of the 4-year-old boy. Logan Starling was found unconscious in Butler’s vehicle. He had an internal temperature of 108 degrees, and was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, Butler allegedly drove Logan and four other children — all under the age of 5 — to Elite Preparatory Academy in Orlando.
When she arrived in the parking lot, she briefly left the children in the still-running car so she could get a car seat from her mother. Then, according to the police report, she let the children out of her SUV. She said she believed that Logan was part of the group. According to the Sentinel, video surveillance allegedly showed her walking into the school with only four children. Logan was still in the car.
Butler also worked at the private school. After dropping the kids off, she went to work. More than six hours later, school employees asked why Logan hadn’t come to school. Butler went to check her vehicle — and was then spotted screaming for someone to dial 911.
According to police interviews obtained by WESH-TV, onlookers described a chaotic scene.
“She looked inside, shut the door and ran back inside of the school and laid down on the floor screaming, ‘Call 911,'” a teacher told authorities.
Butler was charged with aggravated manslaughter of a child, a first-degree felony punishable by up to life in prison, life on probation and a $10,000 fine. Under a plea agreement, she admitted to felony child neglect, which is punishable by up to five years in prison, five years of probation, and a $5,000 fine.
In September, a judge accepted a plea deal for Butler that would have sentenced her to no prison time — but the judge later changed his mind after the child’s grandparents begged him to reconsider. The judge asked the prosecution and defense to come up with a different plea deal.
“You’re talking about the death of a 4-year-old child, and I think she will get her just punishment if it’s in front of a jury,” Roy Werner, Logan’s great-grandfather, told WFTV in November.
A sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 24.