Couple Who Abused and Starved Daughter Nearly to Death Avoids Jail Time

After determining that they have already received “substantial punishments” for their crime, a couple from Idaho convicted of injuring their adopted daughter severely will not be sentenced to jail.

Gwendalyn and Byron Buthman, both from Kuna, Idaho (20 miles southwest of Boise), were convicted last June of felony and misdemeanor injuries to a child with an enhancement for inflicting severe bodily injury.

Testimony and evidence introduced at trial indicate that their abuse of the victim, identified only as E.B., was frequent and heinous. From the time E.B. was three until she was six, the Buthmans repeatedly isolated her from her four siblings, fed her only vegetable powder, and forced her to sleep in a laundry room, often without a mattress.

In October 2017, when the girl was just five, Dawn Cliff, a habilitative interventionist who had begun working with E.B. the month before, discovered E.B. lying outside wearing nothing but a soiled diaper. When Cliff called the girl’s name, she didn’t respond. She had no pulse, and her pupils were dilated.

The girl suffered cardiac arrest and was transported to the hospital. CPR was performed for 45 minutes by medical teams. They administered seven doses of epinephrine to the girl and three doses of atropine to bring her back to life. Her body temperature was 89 degrees.

Ada County Deputy Public Prosecutor Daniel Dinger stated, “I don’t think it is an exaggeration at all to suggest that this [E.B.] was almost a homicide.” The defendants’ conduct could have caused the death of many people.

The girl survived despite the ordeal. At her adoption trial, she testified that her extreme hunger caused her to use toilet paper because her parents locked her up in a bathroom.

E.B. also stated at the sentencing hearing, calling for her former parents to go to prison. “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,” she said.

The Buthmans spent only one night in prison each during the legal process. Prosecutors recommended that they serve at least five-year sentences followed by probation. Judge Darla Williamson, however, ignored these recommendations and sentenced them to four years probation and 300 hours of community service. Many outlets reported that the sentence was so shocking that the audience gasped.

Williamson stated that the Buthmans should be imprisoned because it would show the community that people who do such things go to prison. Judge Williamson expressed concern that the Buthmans had already been subject to “substantial sanctions” outside of the legal system.

Matthew Williams, a defense attorney, shared these concerns. He claimed that Byron Buthman had lost his job as a neonatal ICU nurse already and that his wife would not be able to renew her teaching certificate. E.B. has also been banned from speaking to the Buthmans. Williams compared it to death, and for the next 30 years, they were forbidden from contacting E.B.

“No, (E.B.) Williams claimed that she didn’t die but that when your child is taken from you and given to someone else by the state, it almost seems like she does.” She’s alive but dead to you.

Judge Williamson also claimed that the Buthmans “appear” to be caring for their other adopted children, and pointed out that they are prohibited from foster care. She stated that going to prison would be “devastating” for them and said she believed they would “stay out of trouble” in the future.

Gwendalyn Buthman cried as she said that she was unable to have children and why she and her husband decided to adopt. Mrs. Buthman stated that her children were her pride and joy. They are my pride and joy.

E.B., now 11 years old, has been placed with Kristin, a new adoptive mom. It is not known if E.B. keeps in touch with her siblings who lived with her at the Buthmans.