When Mariah Butler appeared in the hospital, she cried. She did not cry because a four-year-old child was dead because of her. She cried because she was worried about what everyone was going to think of her. Would they call her a monster? Would they stop liking her? For Mariah Butler, the injury to her image was worse than the reality that she was being interviewed by Orange County deputies in relation to manslaughter.
The day that Logan Starling died was a sweltering hot September day. Mariah Butler had been trusted to watch her boyfriend’s four-year-old son, Logan, but instead of taking good care of the boy, she locked him in a vehicle for six hours, never once wondering where the little boy was.
This past week marked nearly six months since Logan died. And now, Butler, 27, was finally arrested on manslaughter charges for her role in leaving the child to die in the hot car. Her official chargers were aggravated manslaughter of a child and child neglect. The next day, she paid the bond and fled the Orange County Jail for the safety of her own home where she could wallow in how these charges were going to make people, not like her.
When Logan was left to die, he was young, with strawberry-blond hair and a passion for toy trains and Elmo. Logan was one of five children Butler was responsible for taking to the Elite Preparatory Academy on Oak Ridge Road back on September 28, a hot last-hurrah of summer. The group arrived at the school around 8:30 am in Butler’s Dodge minivan, the perfect vehicle for schlepping so many children around town.
Because Logan’s teacher was running late, an administrator was watching the class. They failed to notice Logan’s absence among all the chaos. During the end of the day, someone approached Butler, who worked as an administrative assistant at the school, and asked her about Logan. Butler thought the teacher was pranking her, but the teacher made it clear that they were very, very serious.
This sparked fear in Butler. She grabbed the car keys and ran to her minivan, worrying the whole while how this mistake would harm her reputation at the school. Would people still trust her? Would they claim she was bad with children?
A witness in the parking lot watched as Butler opened the door, looked at Logan, and then slammed the door shut. Butler ran inside, screaming for someone, anyone, to call 911 because Logan was unresponsive. It was six hours later.
“Logan’s in the car!” Butler was heard shouting on surveillance footage. “He’s unconscious! Please go to the car! Please go to the car!”
She was hysterical. It was a terrible mistake.
School director Albert Steele did what Butler could not. He opened the door and examined Logan, who appeared to be in a peaceful sleep. But he was stiff to the touch. And upon closer examination, blood was dripping from his nose.
Temperatures had reached 94 degrees that day. In the car, it would have been easily above 121 degrees. He died of heatstroke.
Now Butler will face trial for her terrible mistake.