Will County, Illinois – A heartbroken father is now devastated once again after the small vial he had that was filled with the ashes of his late daughter was used and then discarded by police officers who claimed it contained drugs during a traffic stop.
Anthony Butler lost his daughter, Mariah, when she was just 11 days old and she died from a congenital heart defect in 2014. He told Fox 32 that the only things he had left to remind him of her were a photo album and a small vial of her ashes that he wears every day.
Everything changed when Butler was pulled over by police for failing to have a front license place on his 2001 Chevy Blazer. He said he had recently purchased the car, and although it was registered, he was still waiting for the license plate. When he was pulled over by a sheriff’s deputy, he expected a routine traffic stop and was prepared to accept a ticket.
Butler works as an auto mechanic and he told the Chicago Tribune that he took the pendant urn necklace off and hung it from the rearview mirror of his car earlier that day because he was working on his girlfriend’s car and he did not want it to get dirty.
The traffic stop occurred at 11:04 p.m. and Butler was issued two citations for failure to display a front license plate and failure to show proof of insurance. But then the deputy noticed the small vial of white powder hanging from Butler’s rearview mirror, and he claimed he thought it contained narcotics.
Deputy Chief Thomas Budde insisted that “the officer asked for and received consent to search the vehicle,” and then asked Butler if he could test a small amount of the substance inside of the vial to see if it contained drugs.
While conducting the search, the officer put Butler in handcuffs and forced him to wait in the back of the patrol car. Although failing to have a front license plate or proof of insurance may result in fines from the city, those offenses do not make Butler a dangerous criminal, and his conduct during the traffic stop does not indicate that he posed a threat to the sheriff’s deputy.
The officer tested the ashes to see if the white powdery substance was, in fact, narcotics and when the test came back negative, he let Butler go. However, it was when Butler returned to his car and he found the urn that he realized the mistake he had made by allowing the officer to search his car without protest.
It does not appear that Butler questioned the deputy as to whether he had a warrant to search the vehicle, or what he believed his probable cause was. This is a mistake made by many Americans who believe police officers have their best interest at heart, and they consent to searches because they know they are innocent and they want to show the officers that they are law-abiding citizens who have nothing to hide.
Butler did make it clear to the officer that the vial contained the ashes of his dead daughter, and he told the Tribune that he does not remember specifically giving consent for a field drug test on the ashes, but he does remember begging the officer not to dump them out.
When Butler returned to his car, he found the vial on the console between his front seats and the inner cap was missing from it. The outer cap was not secure, and as soon as he picked it up, the remains of his daughter’s ashes spilled out all over his car.
“When I picked up the remains, the bottom half just fell to the bottom of the console,” Butler told Fox 32. “Just the worst feeling in the world came over me, like, this isn’t happening.”
While Chief Budde insisted that the Body Cam footage—which has yet to be released—shows the unnamed sheriff’s deputy apologizing to Butler, the heartbroken father claimed that he did not receive an apology after the officer “took my last reason to get up in the morning.”
“Losing my daughter once was enough to kill most people. Losing my daughter twice…uncalled for,” Butler said.