Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

GOP lawmakers unhappy with drowning sentence

August 09, 2012

Editor’s note: The following letter was addressed to Wisconsin Department of Corrections Secretary Gary Hamblin and Wisconsin Department of Children and Families Secretary Eloise Anderson. It was signed by Republican Senators Neal Kedzie and Mary Lazich and Republican representatives Tyler August, Stephen Nass, Amy Loundenbeck, David Craig and Evan Wynn It concerns the sentencing last week of Melody Butt, East Troy, whose infant twins drowned in the bathtub while she slept.

We are writing you today to express our grave concern and anguish over a matter which we believe calls for further scrutiny and review by both agencies you lead.

As you may know, a horrific tragedy occurred last year in East Troy, Wisconsin (Walworth County) where two innocent young children died as a result of the gross negligence and irresponsible actions of their mother. As many of us are parents, we were deeply troubled by the lack of care for these precious lives and heartbroken after learning more of this case and the conditions in which these children were raised. Like many others, we hoped swift and appropriate punishment would come to this parent who exhibited such wanton neglect for her children. Sadly — and only adding more pain to this tragedy — that has not occurred.

(Last week), a sentence was handed down by Walworth County Circuit Court Judge David Reddy which we believe falls well short of a suitable response to such a heinous act. Since that time, we have been gathering information to ensure we had the most pertinent facts of the case. The mother pled guilty to the felony child neglect charges and could have been sentenced to a lengthy term in prison, along with significant fines. In addition, her rights to her other young children could have been revoked entirely.

Unfortunately, that did not occur. Instead, the mother will only serve one year in a work release program, retain her rights to visit the surviving children, and serve fourteen years on probation. This decision has sent a shock not only to us, but the rest of the communities we represent, and perhaps throughout the state.

In our position as state elected officials, we are calling on your respective offices to utilize your available and allowable jurisdiction and resources to review this matter and hopefully provide us information as to how and why the system failed these innocent children. Furthermore, we are inquiring as to what, if any, action or involvement your departments may have in the care and welfare of the surviving children who will find themselves in the care of the very person who neglected their siblings. Obviously, we are immensely concerned for their safety and trust you and your agencies share that concern.

We would also inquire of any legislative remedy your agencies may suggest regarding such situations. We understand anything we do will neither bring those children back, nor alleviate the pain so many have endured. But we have a responsibility to seek answers to these tragedies and determine how we, as a state, can improve the manner in which such casesare handled, and how we can better protect our children.

Respectfully submitted,