Woman Charged With Manslaughter After 4-Year-Old Dies in Hot Car

Zachary Stieber
By Zachary Stieber
March 21, 2019USshare
Woman Charged With Manslaughter After 4-Year-Old Dies in Hot Car
Mariah Butler, 27, was arrested on a charge of manslaughter on March 19, 2019. Authorities say she left her boyfriend's 4-year-old son, Logan Starling, in a hot car for six hours in September 2018, causing his death. (Orange County Sheriff's Office)

A Florida woman accused of leaving her boyfriend’s 4-year-old son in a hot car for six hours was arrested for manslaughter.

Logan Starling was found dead in the car in Orlando in September 2018. His body temperature was gauged at 108 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office said that Mariah Butler, 27, drove five children to school that day and thought the boy had left the vehicle with the others.

“I physically seen all the children get out of the vehicle,” she said in a statement, reported the Orlando Sentinel. “I do not know how Logan got back into the vehicle. Logan has a history of wandering and being [discreet] about his actions.”

While Butler said the boy somehow re-entered the vehicle, surveillance footage from Elite Prep Academy showed that the boy never left the vehicle.

Butler worked at the school. She was approached near the end of the day by a teacher, who asked why Logan was absent.

Butler believed the teacher was joking but when the teacher responded that he or she was not joking, Butler sprinted to the minivan and opened the door. She ran back inside and called for help, prompting Albert Steele, the school’s principal, to run outside.

Steele said that Logan was stiff and was leaning against the van’s window with blood coming out of his nose. He had been inside the car for more than six hours. Temperatures outside reached 94 degrees. The inside temperature of the van was tested the next day at 121 degrees.

Steele picked the boy up and ran him to a fire station across the street. Logan was rushed to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Butler was arrested late March 19 and released on $15,000 bond on March 20.

“Six months of no punishment for Mariah seemed like six years,” Logan’s great grandfather Roy Werner told WFTV. “But six months of Logan being gone seems like six days.”

“I am delighted now just that they’re holding someone responsible for the death of my great-grandson. That’s all I wanted,” Werner added to WKMG.

Logan’s mother, Shelby Hester, said the arrest makes the death seem more real.

“I understood what happened six months ago but now it’s all coming down and it’s becoming more believable than a dream,” Hester said.

The family said the bond was set too low. In addition to the bond, Butler was ordered to not be alone with any children.

Joanna Werner, Logan’s great grandmother, told WESH: “It’s been a long, long six months just waiting to see if (Butler) was going to be charged, and now, hopefully that this is done, we can start healing as a family.”

Kids in Cars

On average per year, according to advocacy website Kids and Cars, “37 children die from heat-related deaths after being trapped inside vehicles. Even the best of parents or caregivers can unknowingly leave a sleeping baby in a car; and the end result can be injury or even death.”

In 2016, 39 children across the United States died because they were left inside a hot car, according to the website No Heat Stroke. In 2017, 5 children died.

In a 19-year-period, when about 700 children died of heatstroke inside cars, 54 percent of caretakers said they “forgot” that the child was there.

“It doesn’t have to be a blazing hot day for these to happen,” according to Jan Null, a San Jose State professor and former meteorologist with the National Weather Service. Null told the San Jose Mercury News. “They can happen anywhere, and happen to anyone.”

Null told SFGate that the temperatures inside vehicles heat up rapidly, with the air rising about 19 degrees over whatever the outside temperature is in the first 10 minutes and rising another 10 degrees in the next 10 minutes.

Additionally, Null said the bodies of small children heat up three to five times faster compared to adults. “So, while you and I could be in a car that’s, say, 109 degrees, an infant or small child would be to the point of entering heat stroke,” he said.

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