Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Mom gets probation in infants’ drowning

by Rob Ireland

August 02, 2012

ELKHORN — A mother whose infant twins drowned in a bathtub while she slept in another room will spend the next 14 years on probation.

"I miss the smiles, the soft touch and the love that me and my babies have," Melody Butt said in reference to the twins who died during her sentencing hearing on Tuesday.

As a condition of her probation, Butt, 27, of East Troy, was sentenced to one year in jail with work-release privileges. However, the jail will determine whether she serves that sentence in the Huber facility or at her residence on electronic monitoring.

Walworth Circuit Court Judge David Reddy also imposed but stayed a 15-year prison sentence, which includes five years of initial confinement. The imposed and stayed sentence means that if Butt violates the conditions of her probation — which includes no unsupervised contact with children, including her own, without her probation agent's consent — she will head right to prison.

Department of Corrections presentence investigators, Butt's defense attorney and social workers who worked with Butt after the incident all recommended a probation sentence for the mother, who has three other small children.

However, District Attorney Phillip Koss asked Reddy to send Butt to prison.

"At this point, those children would be running around and having fun if not for her choices," Koss said.

On Sept. 22, Butt placed her 11-month-old infant children in a bathtub with her 2-year-old child. She then brought her other infant to the bedroom, which is where she fell asleep.

"I pay the price every day because of the decisions I have made," Butt said.

It is unclear how the infant who was in the bedroom with Butt ended up in the bathtub. Koss also said any parent knows not to leave a small child unattended in the bathtub.

"There are so many bad things that can happen," he said. "It wasn't as if she was vigilant and fell asleep while watching them."

Klaff said the bathroom and bedroom were adjacent, and Butt could see the bathtub from the bedroom.

"She was in the actual act of parenting and loving that she decided to give them a bath," Klaff said. "This wasn't selfish behavior." Klaff said at the time of the incident Butt was under sleep deprivation.

"She is depressed, she is overwhelmed and in the final few weeks things deteriorated in that apartment," Butt said.

When a social worker looked at the apartment after the incident, she said she would have removed the children from it.

Police found dirty diapers on the floor, bottles with curdled milk and food in the sink.

"You wouldn't want dogs or cats to be in that situation," Koss said.

Prior to the incident, neighbors had called police stating that Butt's children were playing outside unsupervised.

"It's not a June Cleaver. There were issues before the incident," Koss said.

During the hearing, Butt's parents, Dawn and Victor Busalacchi, spoke on behalf of their daughter.

"Since this tragedy has happened I have seen so many positive changes in her as a person and a mother," Dawn Busalacchi said.

Dawn Busalacchi, who was intensely crying and barely discernible, said Butt's other children light up when they see their mother.

"There are three little girls that are still with us and they need their mom," she said.

Victor Busalacchi said his daughter felt "anguish" because she wasn't able to see her other children. During the time of the incident, Butt was pregnant and her newborn was immediately turned over to her parents for care.

"It was difficult for her to have Mom and Dad take her newborn," Victor Busalacchi said. "She loves her children."

Butt was supported by a large number of family members at the hearing.

Klaff said despite some of the bad decisions that Butt has made, she has been concerned for the welfare of her children.

"My daughters are my light. I need them, and more importantly they need me," Butt said.

Klaff said after a hearing Butt told him that she wouldn't allow her other children to testify in court, she didn't want them to go through that process.

"It is obvious what is best for the three daughters, and that is for Miss Butt to be their mother," Klaff said.

After handing down his sentence, Reddy told Butt that she is facing a lengthy incarceration if she violates the terms of her probation.

"For the sake of your children, I hope you are able to complete your probation and be a productive member of society," he said.