An Idaho couple convicted of starving their adopted daughter before she went into cardiac arrest won’t serve any prison time for the sickening crime, a judge reportedly ruled last week.
Byron and Gwendalyn Buthman were slapped with four years of probation and 300 hours of community service last Tuesday by Judge Darla Williamson, who ruled that jail time would hurt the four adoptive kids they still have.
The judge additionally withheld judgment, which means if the couple follows the rules of probation their conviction could be vacated — a ruling that led to some gasps in the courtroom, the Idaho Statesman reported.
The pair were convicted in June 2022 for mistreating the young girl and they were each previously in jail for one day and were credited with time served.
The judge’s decision comes after prosecutors requested the Buthmans face 20 years behind bars with at least five years in the slammer before parole could be considered, according to a news release from the Ada County Prosecutor’s Office.
The prosecutor’s office detailed the neglect and mistreatment the girl, named E.B. in court, faced under her adopted parents’ care from age 3 to 6, including only allowing her to eat vegetable powder substance for food and sleeping in a laundry room without bedding.
The girl testified she was so hungry that she ate toilet paper after she was locked in the bathroom, the prosecutor’s office said.
The depraved malnourishment and forcing the girl to stand outside in cold temperatures in just a diaper led her to go into cardiac arrest in October 2017, which she survived but continued to face abuse afterward, prosecutors said.
“I certainly do not think that it is in any way an exaggeration to suggest that this was nearly a homicide,” Ada County Deputy Prosecutor Daniel Dinger said in court during sentencing, according to the Idaho Statesman. “that (E.B.) could have died as a result of the defendant’s conduct.”
The two were found guilty of felony injury to a child with an enhancement for producing great bodily harm, and a misdemeanor count of injury to a child after they were arrested in 2019.
But Williamson, the judge, leaned toward the lighter sentence because she believed any more jail time could negatively affect the four other adoptive children they still watch after, the newspaper reported.
She reportedly questioned if the two were malnourishing the girl on purpose, which prosecutors rebutted.
Williamson also said that the Buthmans are not the typical criminals she deals with in court and putting them in a jail cell would only be done to send a message to the public that “people who do this sort of thing go to prison,” according to the newspaper.
She reportedly said she believed both will stay out of trouble and “appear to be” taking care of their four other kids even as they are barred from fostering additional children.
She also said the husband and wife have suffered “substantial penalties” outside the legal system, the publication reported.
The two might never get their old jobs back, the Buthman’s lawyer, Matthew Williams, said, according to the Idaho Statesman. Byron lost his job as a nurse and Gwendalyn might never get her teaching certificate back.
Gwendalyn, through tears, told the judge during a statement “My children are my pride and joy.”
“I love them very much,” she said, the Statesman reported.
But E.B., in a statement read in court by prosecutors, said she wanted her former adopted parents to go to jail “because I don’t want what they did to me to happen to anybody else.”
The victim, 11, is now being cared for by another family and reportedly doing well.
The Buthmans are not allowed to have contact with her for the next 30 years.
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