Plea deal denied for woman arrested in child's hot car death

Logan Starling died at Elite Preparatory Academy

By Ezzy Castro - Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - During a plea hearing Wednesday, a judge denied a deal that would have allowed a woman accused of leaving her boyfriend's 4-year-old son in a hot SUV to serve probation.

Mariah Butler was arrested months after Logan Starling was found dead outside the Elite Preparatory Academy on West Oak Ridge Road in Orange County. 

Butler, who taught at the school, said she had five children in her vehicle and thought they all got out as they walked into school, according to officials.

She was arrested on charges of aggravated manslaughter of a child and child neglect. In March, Butler was released from jail after posting a $15,000 bond. 

Her attorney entered a plea of guilty on the child neglect charge and in exchange, Butler would have served five years of supervised probation. She would not have been able to work at a school, day care or similar establishment.

Logan's grandparents said during the plea hearing that letting Butler get off without jail time would be "a slap in the face."

"It's heart-wrenching, just to know how he passed -- sat in a car, fighting his way out. Trapped," Terrie Squires said.

He said he'd lose all faith in the justice system if the plea deal was accepted.

"I'm just worried to death this may happen again," Squires said.

Butler's attorney described the child's death as a tragic accident. Butler said she treated Logan and his sister as if they were her own children.

"I just want to make it clear that I love all my children, and I love both Autumn and Logan," Butler said.

Ultimately, Judge Keith White said after a brief recess that he wasn't ready to accept a plea in the case.

Unless Butler's attorneys and state prosecutors can come to an agreement on a different deal and present that to the court, Butler's trial will begin Dec. 2.

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