Couple Starved Girl Until She Had Heart Attack, Learns Their Fate

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The nation was shocked when a 5-year-old girl’s adoptive parents starved and abused the child until she suffered cardiac arrest and nearly died. The couple has since learned their fate. Was it enough? You decide.

Byron and Gwendalyn Buthman starved their 5-year-old daughter until she suffered cardiac arrest. (Stock photo for visual representation only, Photo Credit: Screenshot)

Byron and Gwendalyn Buthman made headlines when the Idaho couple was arrested for starving one of their adopted children nearly to death. Despite the heinous nature of their crimes and the seriousness of the abuse, a female judge has since shockingly ruled that neither abuser will serve any prison time and will be allowed to continue caring for their four other adopted children.

After years of neglect, Byron and Gwendalyn Buthman were convicted of abusing their adopted daughter from age 3 to 6, a series of crimes that could’ve earned them 20 years behind bars. Instead, Judge Darla Williamson gave the pair only 4 years of probation and 300 hours of community service. Adding insult to injury, the judge also withheld judgment, meaning that their conviction could be vacated if the couple maintains good behavior, the Idaho Statesman reported.

Byron Gwendalyn Buthman
Byron and Gwendalyn Buthman will not face jail time for staving their adopted daughter. (Photo Credit: Ada County Jail)

For three years, the Buthmans inflicted severe emotional and physical abuse tantamount to torture on the victim, identified in court records as E.B. During this time, the little girl was starved, only being allowed to eat a vegetable-based protein powder and being forced to sleep on the laundry room floor without bedding. The child was so hungry that she resorted to eating toilet paper out of desperation when the couple locked her in the bathroom.

The Buthmans forced E.B. to stand outside in freezing temperatures while wearing only a soiled diaper, which led to hypothermia and cardiac arrest when she was just 5 years old. It took over 45 minutes of CPR, seven doses of epinephrine, and three doses of atropine to resuscitate the little girl. The girl, who weighed as much as a 2-year-old, was then intubated.

“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.”

Byron Gwendalyn Buthman
The victim, who is now 11 years old, pleaded to no avail for the judge to give her adoptive parents jail time. (Photo Credit: Pixabay)

During the trial, Judge Williamson sympathized with the Buthmans, blaming the doctors and nutritionists for not recognizing the signs of abuse. The judge claimed that she was confident the Buthmans will “stay out of trouble” and that they aren’t a threat to their four other adopted children because they “appear to be” taking care of them.

“I can see where the court is concerned, but I think that takes away from why are really here and why (E.B.) was really there,” Ada County Deputy Prosecutor Daniel Dinger said in response to the judge’s comments. “(E.B.) didn’t show up at the hospital because of what the doctors did. (E.B.) showed up at the hospital because these two defendants deprived her of food.”

The victim, who is now 11 years old, courageously testified against her adoptive parents. Sadly, her plea for justice fell on deaf ears.

“I would like Gwen and Byron to go to jail because I don’t want what they did to me to happen to anybody else, especially my siblings,” Ada County Deputy Prosecutor Katelyn Farley said, reading the statement on E.B.’s behalf. “When they go to jail, where are my siblings going to go?”

The little girl is thriving in her new home but worries about her four siblings, who the judge has allowed to remain in the care of Byron and Gwendalyn Buthman. (Photo Credit: Ben Wicks via Unsplash)

Judge Williamson explained that the Buthmans have already endured “substantial penalties” outside of prison, such as losing their jobs as a nurse and a teacher and suffering social stigma. She argued that going to prison “for them would be devastating.”

At the time of sentencing, E.B. was living with a family member and has improved in all areas of her life. Her guardian said that the child enjoys playing sports, getting her hair done, and giving hugs. Although the little girl was thriving in her new home, the fact that the judge denied her the justice she deserves is outrageous.