Standard Protocol | 4Do No Harm
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- 24 Nov 2020
Across town, Lance and Sharde Butler have been fighting their own battle against CPS. After nearly a year, the system has almost broken them. But soon the Bright’s case will intertwine with their own in ways that neither family could have imagined. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, here are some additional resources: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 National Alliance on Mental Illness: 1-800-950-6264Crisis Text Line: Within the US, text HOME to 741741Support us by supporting our sponsors!Simplisafe - Visit Simplisafe.com/NOHARM for a free home security camera and a 60 day risk-free trial.Honey - Join Honey for free at JoinHoney.com/NOHARM.
A listener note, this episode contains a description of attempted suicide and may not be suitable for everyone, if you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, you can find resources and the episode description on.
It was a summer evening in twenty seventeen bottle rockets zipped through the air, ribs slathered in barbecue sauce, sizzling on a grill. I was just I was really excited. I love Fourth of July. Shardey Butler had spent much of the day at work.
Her last shift at Wal-Mart before a week off with her family always had really, really, really good memories growing up with the Fourth of July. So I really look forward to it just hanging out with my family, Shardey said her kids on a blanket in the yard and snapped a photo.
A two year old Malia in a red, white and blue skirt and a lacy white top. Langston, the four month old or a onesie with an American flag across the front. It was their first holiday as a family of four, a milestone made even more special because her husband, Lance, a commercial truck driver, had just arrived home after another long week out on the road. Typical Fourth of July descriptions of barbecue are having a good time with some other family members.
As the sunset fireworks lit up the sky above the butler's suburban Houston neighborhood, Shardey lifted Malia into her arms and headed outside. She called for Lance to bring the baby.
I wanted to enjoy the moment with both of my kids and my husband just, you know, watching fireworks, which is something that I regret inside.
Lance found Langston smiling up at him in his bassinet. He'd been thrilled to finally have a son.
It was his idea to name him Langston in honor of the trailblazing African-American poet Langston Hughes, a symbol of Lance's hopes for his boy.
I mean, I always wanted a little son, and it's just like watching yourself grow up all over again.
You know, for him to be a smart and healthy young man and a young man of substance and of being and knowing who he is.
Lance could hear the muffled sound of fireworks popping outside as he lifted Langston into his arms. When he reached the front door, he remembers shifting the baby into his left arm, supporting his head while freeing the other hand to grab the doorknob.
That's when he felt Langston start to slip. And he fell off my arm and. And I tried to catch him and he kind of spun around and hit on his backside and fell back, hit his head on the floor, which is a.
Concrete foundation with granite tile for a moment, the baby stared up eyes wide, not making a sound Lance heart racing, scooped his son into his arms and started caressing his head. He wasn't crying. Maybe he wasn't hurt. Too bad, he thought. A minute later, chards mom came in to grab something and found Lance cradling Langston on the couch. She yelled out the door for Shardey and Lance was like holding him.
And he just kept saying, you know, I think he I think he's going to be OK. I think he's going to be OK. And then all of a sudden, I just see this not swell up on the back of his head. And I was like, oh, my God.
Then Langston began to scream. The rest of that night was a blur. A family member called 911, one Lance rode in the front of the ambulance, Shardey in back with the baby at Texas Children's Hospital. Doctor said Langston was going to be OK, but he'd suffered two skull fractures and some bleeding around his brain. The same injuries another Texas baby, Mason Bright, would suffer one year later, just like in the Bright's case. A child abuse pediatrician reported that Langston's injuries were unlikely to be the result of an accidental fall.
And months later, CPS whisked both Butler children into foster care. But a year would pass before the butler found anyone able to help them. And by then the system had nearly broken them. I felt like these the hospital, the police investigator, the prosecutors, CPS, the judge, they have their needs on our neck and we couldn't breathe. I just there was nothing I can say and nothing I can do to make them let up. We get support from Bode well, if you're like the 50 percent of people who suffer from eczema, psoriasis and sensitive skin, you might be used to your medicine cabinet being full of creams and moisturizers that just don't work.
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From NBC News and wondering, I'm Mike Xinbo and this is Do No Harm. This is Episode four, Standard Protocol. Nearly a year after Langston was injured, Lance and Shardey walked through a set of tall glass doors and into the lobby of an office building in downtown Houston. They stopped at the directory in the lobby to make sure they'd come to the right place. Profit and Associates Suite one hundred. Maybe this lawyer would actually be able to help them.
Her office was like two blocks from where all the courts were situated.
They'd tried other lawyers without much success. Finally, someone told them to go see Stephanie Prophet. Her downtown office was much cleaner and fancier than the other lawyers the Butlers had visited. I looked at Lands' like this is kind of a big deal because if she's able to afford a place right here by the court, that means she's she makes good money. She makes good she has good business and that she's a good lawyer.
Stephanie came out to meet them in the lobby. She shook their hands and led them to a conference room.
We sat there with the files and with the documents. And my main thing was I just wanted to talk to the parents because you learn a lot if you let people just kind of talk.
Stephanie, a quick witted California native, had come to Houston after law school two decades earlier, along with her first husband. The marriage didn't last. She likes to joke, but her law practice thrived. She carved out a niche as one of the few local lawyers with the expertise to fight back against CPS.
I looked at Mr. Butler and he was, for lack of any better word, he was just broken. His eyes were sad. You know, this was his only son, his brand new baby son. And here he was being accused of having abused this child. It was devastating.
Stephanie asked them to start at the beginning when Langston was hurt 11 months earlier, Shardey and most of the talking while Lanse chimed in with key details. They explained how after the accident on July 4th, a child abuse pediatrician reported Langston's injuries as consistent with abuse. After that, CPS initially required the baby to move in with Sardis brother while it investigated. Then, three months later, CPS cleared them of wrongdoing and returned the children. But that initial investigation was just the beginning of their ordeal.
Shardey grew animated in Stephanie's office as she detailed the bizarre chain of events that followed weeks after the children came home. In October 2017, Langston had some follow up X-rays at Texas Children's, and afterward a hospital worker filed a new report with CPS, this time claiming that now the baby's leg was broken.
They're like, yeah, he can't break that. Somebody else had to have broken his leg.
Lanson Shardey were baffled. Langston's leg didn't seem broken to them.
But a new injury so soon after the July 4th accident was serious, especially for a baby who hadn't started crawling yet. CPS ordered Langston to remain at the hospital while it opened a new investigation.
But two days later, the doctor suddenly reversed themselves. Someone had misread the X-ray, confusing a common irregularity in the boy's femur with a fracture. Langston's leg was fine. Afterward, the lead CPS investigator apologized.
They had no concerns. And so she said, you know, you can go ahead and take your son home.
And she said, in the meantime, I'm going to work on closing your case, but under one condition to be safe. CPS, one of the butlers, to bring Langston back to a Texas children's clinic in two weeks for one more set of X-rays just to make sure the leg really wasn't broken. Standard protocol, the investigator said Lanson Shardey agreed whatever it took to help CPS drop this new case. On the day of the appointment, Shardey had to work and Lance happened to be in town, Shardey couldn't go, so.
OK, fine, I'm off work. I'll take them. So we met with this doctor. I'll never forget her. She was getting ready to do the X-ray X-rays. So I'm sitting there with her and she's playing with my son, you know, bouncing off that old. And I remember some of her statements. Oh, your dad is brave for coming here, you know, and I'm looking at her like, you know, I just blew it off.
Like, what does that mean? Afterward, the child abuse doctor told Lance could go. The x ray results wouldn't be ready for a while. So he took the baby home and didn't think much more of it. Two days later, late on the evening of November 9th, twenty seventeen, Lance was back on the road resting at a truck stop somewhere in Arkansas. Shardey was in bed watching TV, relaxing after another long shift at work. She and Lance were living with her parents at the time, trying to save up to buy a house of their own.
Just then. Qadhi heard someone pounding on the front door. It startled the crap out of me, and so I just jump up, up, you know, put on some clothes and I run downstairs. And then my mom looks outside and she goes, why is the CPS worker at the front door? I open the door and I let her in. So she's like, you know, well, I did finally get in touch with the hospital.
And I said, OK. And they said, it's just son's back is is broken in three places. And I said, What? And she goes, Yeah, that's what they said. They said his his back is completely shattered. My mom says Shattered. And she looks at my mom and goes, shattered, girl shattered. And I'm just like, what?
The Texas children's doctor who joked with Lance about how brave he was was now telling CPS that Langston's injuries, the two skull fractures from July, the brain bleeding, and now the back fractures appear to be consistent with a fall from a second story window or worse.
No way. Shardey told them if her son's back was hurt, it must have been from the original accident on July 4th. They said, well, they look pretty fresh, you know, like it just happened so that my dad goes into the bedroom and my son is still awake. So he picks my son, bring him in the living room, unnecessarily, puts my son on his lap. And this new caseworker, she goes, is that the baby?
And I said, yes.
Langston was bouncing up and down on his grandpa's lap, smiling. She said, oh, she said he didn't look like he has a back injury.
I said, that's what I'm saying.
To avoid any doubt, the lead CPS investigator suggested loading Langston into shards car right then and taking him to a different hospital for a second opinion. Shardey agreed.
And later that night, at a campus of Memorial Hermann Hospital near their home, she held Langsam still for another set of X-rays. Within an hour, a radiologist delivered the results. The baby's spine looked completely normal. No sign of any new injuries.
Doctor goes, I don't see nothing. And I said, See?
And even the caseworkers, they're like, good. Oh, that is so good to hear.
But as a precaution, the CPS worker told Shardey she now wanted to send Langston to the hospital's main campus in Houston. So a team of doctors there could take a closer look. Here we go again with protocol. And again, I was stupid. I said, OK, what Shardey didn't know, couldn't have known was that CPS had a different plan. The investigator stepped into a hallway and privately told a nurse the agency's true intentions. In his notes, the nurse wrote, approached by CPS worker requesting patient be admitted overnight so CPS can complete paperwork to have child taken.
Ma'am of patient is not aware.
It was after midnight when Shardey checked her seemingly healthy baby into yet another hospital for another overnight stay and a new round of evaluations.
She was sitting in Langston's hospital room the following afternoon, waiting for new doctors to examine her son. When in walked the CPS investigator and two police officers, Shardey turned to the investigator, panicked. What happened? What happened? We did everything right. We did everything we're supposed to do. The CPS investigator said she was sorry, but once her supervisor had seen the latest report from Texas Children's, the one saying Langston's injuries were like being tossed from a second story window, the supervisor directed her to seek a court order that morning.
Nobody had told the Butlers the hearing was even happening. The caseworker told her not to worry. They had a nice family lined up who would take good care of the baby. And I said, no.
I said, you're not taking my son. And I grabbed my son and I hold on to him. And it's like he was holding on to me even tighter than usual. He's holding onto my clothes. So I'm just I put my head down. I just I'm holding him. At that time, I didn't know what to do. If I go, it might be the last time I see my son. I'm like, they're going to drag me out of here.
Across town. Around that same time, different CPS workers had shown up at the butler's home to take two year old Malia, swooping her out of her grandmother's arms and into the back of a stranger's car. Now in the hospital room, Shardey backed into a corner, still clutching her baby as the two officers advanced towards her. And they pick up the crib. I'm thinking this crib was bolted down to the floor, but they pick up the crib and they move it out the way they're steady, inching closer and closer.
And I'm thinking to myself, but I go, hand me like a rabid dog around here in a couple of. To me, he said, man, if you don't leave, I'm I have to arrest you and you can't do nothing from jail. If you need to fight, you cannot fight from jail. So please, just go ahead and leave the property. They take my baby. They shoot them up on my arms. They wrap them up and they take them in the room next door and they close the door and the cops walks with me all the way out.
I brought my baby here and now I'm leaving him here. I don't know where he's going. I don't know who he's going to be with. And then I start to realize security is following me everywhere around that parking garage to to leave those grounds. And so I find my car, I go, I get out. They follow me all the way out the door, all the way out the parking garage, even up the street a little bit.
Shardey was dizzy and disoriented, sobbing as she drove aimlessly around the medical center, unsure what to do or where to go. Finally, she pulled off into a parking lot and called Lance. He was still on the road. I won't forget that. I was in Searcy, Arkansas. So Shardey calls me crying. They took our son and I couldn't get back home fast enough. And I just want to come home now. Shardey was crying again seven months later as she replayed the story at Stephanie's law office.
The children had remained in state custody since then as she and Lance fought unsuccessfully to bring them home.
You know, you learn a lot if you let people just kind of talk. And their kindness was one of the most remarkable things that day.
Stephanie told Lanse in Shardey that she believed them and that she was going to do whatever she could to bring their children home.
I knew that I had to help and I had to do something to get them the relief that they needed. And I signed up that day and said, I'm on, let's do it.
I do remember her telling me that I believed her story. And that was the first time that anybody told us that during our whole entire case, I felt a sense of calmness that kind of just came over me that, you know, kind of like as a child, you do things you always feel like, well, you know, you have your parent there that's going to make everything OK. That is how I felt. I felt like this was my parent and she was going to come through there and she was going to make everything OK.
But even with her help in the months that followed, things only seemed to get worse. I started losing confidence in the whole system. I didn't trust it. And again, my big question was why?
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Ever since, CPS's took the kids a reminder that she was still somebody's mommy, even though her kids were with someone else, even though she could only see them once a week with CPS supervising, it was like shameful.
But I had to tell people what was going on and all I wanted to do is just lay in my bed and just do nothing.
I didn't eat. I slept, but I didn't eat. I didn't eat for many days.
The only time I had a little bit of energy is what I had to come see my kids. And that's all I had to look forward to. I had to call my job, tell them I was coming back, and they were like, well, no, we'll just put you on a leave and let's see what happens.
I mean, at that point, I gave up everything with Lance out on the road and no job to go to.
Shardey would swipe through old photos of her children on her phone, wondering where they were, wondering if they missed her as much as she missed them. For the first several months, she kept the little pumpkin costume Langston had worn on Halloween. Hanging on a closet door. She left Malia's toys scattered on the floor, telling herself they'd be back soon. I had pictures of Langston. He was starting to crawl, you know, he was starting to crawl like he wasn't fully crawling when they took him.
So I had these pictures of him trying to crawl, getting himself in the position. And I would always go back and look at those pictures because I would just be like, I wonder if, you know, if he's crawling now.
There was one glimmer of hope nearly a year after Langston's fall there. CPS caseworker told SHARDEY the agency did not have reason to believe she abused the children. Lance had been the one alone with Langston back on the Fourth of July.
So is Shardey managed to move into her own place? The agency would consider returning the children to her. Essentially, they had to make it seem like she and Lance were no longer together.
This is from CPS. If you get your own place, that will show that you're able to protect your kids. And I'm like, when I say these things, who are they talking about? Who am I protecting them from? But I didn't make the argument. I just said, OK. And I remember I was talking to the lady at the apartment and she's like, I had to tell her my situation. Like, I begged her to get me into this apartment, which was right across the way.
So she gets me in. I get a one bedroom. I put like the little electric socket, plastic inserts into the socket. I get a gate for the stairs so that, you know, they won't go down the stairs. I mean, just everything you can possibly think of. They wanted me to do. I did it. Meanwhile, is Bersin. He is. But because he's paying the rent there, his name's nowhere on that list, but he's paying the rent there on top of we're paying all these lawyer fees.
After more than a month living on her own, it was time to go back to court on July 10th. Twenty, eighteen, more than a year after Langston's initial injury and about a week before Mason Bright's fall in a driveway. A hearing was scheduled in Judge Glen Devlin's courtroom. Shardey and Lance had stood before Judge Devlin before, and it hadn't been good at one hearing. Early in their case, he'd called Lance daddy butterfingers, mocking his story about dropping Langston, which Devlin repeatedly dismissed as impossible.
But this time, Shardey was feeling hopeful. It was a very big day because I was told that by doing all this, it was show that I can protect my kids in the judge. He would have to give me back the kids at this point and that I had CPS on my side.
I took those parenting classes, me, Moelis, with the parenting classes every week we did therapy. We're doing everything that we needed to do. And now here I am. I got an apartment I'm showing I'm here. I can protect my kids.
My lawyer felt good about it. CPS felt good about it. I got up that morning, got ready for court. I felt a little bit lighter because I said I got all these people on my side.
She and Lance drove separate and made sure to arrive at different times. Their lawyer, Stephanie, was there waiting for them. And so we go in there, they call us up there. We're like one of the last cases, as promised, the county attorney representing CPS told Judge Devlin the agency believed it would be in Somalia's best interest to move in with their mother.
But then a lawyer who'd been appointed to represent Lancs in Amalia's interests in court stood up. She said she was concerned because the report from Texas Children's didn't say who abused the baby. Stephanie pushed back as she made her case. She noticed Judge Devlin getting agitated.
I guess his blood was really boiling because his face was beet red.
She was getting ready to rattle off the mistakes she'd found in Langston's medical records, the phantom leg fracture, the follow up X-rays that showed nothing wrong with his spine. Judge Devlin cut her off.
Let's think outside the box a second. You can't tell from the court transcript, but Stephanie says the judge was practically yelling at her.
Let's just say hypothetically, the child went home and something else happened to the child, like, got really hurt. OK, your name wouldn't be in the newspaper mind would. The answer to everyone's question is no. It's two letters and oh, for a moment, everyone in the courtroom was quiet. Lance hung his head in disbelief. Shardey sat silently as Judge Devlin dismissed her request and abruptly ended the hearing. All right. See ya. The whole thing lasted only about 10 minutes.
I reached out to Judge Devlin to ask him about that day in court. I wanted to know why he was so opposed to CPS returning the Butler kids to their mother, but he didn't respond to my messages.
Every single person on our side of the bench was just shocked. I remember turning and seeing mom and mom had tears, you know, coming down her cheeks because, you know, we truly thought this was finally, finally they were going to be bringing their children home.
At that point, I thought he was making it all about him. This is his election year. He didn't want the negative publicity. You know, it wasn't about him. It's about us and our child. Are you really worried about that? What about us not having our child? We didn't do anything wrong. I didn't say anything. I just went numb. I went completely. No. I was like, I'm never getting my kids back. That's it.
And I thought for a very long time, I don't know what to do anymore. I remember going down the elevator and walking out of the front doors of the court. I said, I can't believe I'm about to lose my kids. I'm going to lose my kids. The feeling didn't fade in the days that followed. Shardey was now living alone in the one bedroom apartment, having signed a 12 month lease. It seemed pointless, but the lawyers wanted her to stay still, holding out hope they'd eventually convinced the judge to let the kids move in with her.
She'd filled the space with reminders of them smiling photos on the walls, toys stored in a chest on the floor. Now, it seemed so empty and quiet. Stephanie had started talking about preparing for trial, that's when the judge would hear all the evidence in their case and make a final determination about whether the butlers would ever be allowed to have custody of their kids again. But Shardey was already convinced they were going to lose. Dark thoughts filled her mind, maybe this was all for the best.
Maybe I am a danger to my kids, maybe I'm a bad parent. I mean, I just really start getting really hard on myself. And I said, well, maybe I just maybe I can't raise these kids the way that I'm supposed to. Maybe I am not a fit parent. And maybe, you know, this judge knows what he's talking about. I don't know. And when he said no, he said no, no. I felt like there was nothing else I could do at that point.
There was nothing else I could do. And that's when I was like, I can't do this anymore.
Shardey made a plan to take her life because I said, you know what? I'm just going to do it like this because I don't think I'm I'm I know I'm a failure. I failed my kids. So I said, well, maybe I am. All these things, everything start getting to me. So I took some sleeping pills and you obviously didn't work.
And I kind of took that as a blessing. Like, God is trying to tell me that I'm a lot stronger than what I really am. She would need every ounce of that strength because the system wasn't done with them yet. We get support from at home hair color company Madison Reed. We're doing a lot at home these days and a lot of it can feel repetitive chores, TV. But one of the things you can do at home that's pretty exciting is coloring your hair with Madison Reed.
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Dasch, Reed, Dotcom. Use our promo code no harm and you'll get 10 percent off plus free shipping on your first color kit. That's promo code. No harm A.H. ARMM visit Madison Dash read dotcom now to find your perfect shade. Three weeks after the court hearing on August 3rd, twenty eighteen, Lance was in Dallas delivering a trailer full of household goods at a store more than three hours from home.
I was on break at a Wal-Mart shopping center and I was in the parking lot. He looked down at his phone and noticed a call that made his heart race. Months earlier, Lance had hired a criminal defense lawyer after a Harris County sheriff's deputy showed up to ask him questions about Langston's injuries.
It's typical for police to get involved whenever CPS opens an abuse investigation. But Lance's lawyer had assured him there wasn't enough evidence to bring criminal charges. Not in this case. But now he was calling Lance out of the blue.
Lance answered, and he told me, hey, I can't believe they're charging you. He said, they're charging me and they're putting out an arrest warrant for you. So he told me to just turn around and get back home as soon as possible.
Lance felt like he might throw up up until that point. He'd had a clean record, not even a speeding ticket, and now felony child abuse. His attorney told him to get back to Houston as fast as he could and to avoid any inspection stations along the way.
If you run your license, basically, basically you're going to see a warrant. You're going to register right there.
So, I mean, it was just a ride home on eggshells, man. I'm worried about getting stopped. I'm just listening to everything my attorney is telling me. And I mean, he's pushing the issue. Do not get stopped because, you know, you'll get arrested because I guess I was in the system at that point.
Lance pulled out of Wal-Mart's parking lot and headed south on I 35, his hands gripping the steering wheel as trees and billboards flashed by. He glanced up at photos of Langston O'Malia, the ones he had taped in his cab as a commercial truck driver. He'd gotten used to being away from his family for long stretches, but 10 to 20 years, as you can imagine, if you've never been arrested before being in trouble.
I mean, I had butterflies all the way home. I mean, I was just sick to my stomach. I mean, I didn't want to stop. I just wanted to get straight home. And it was just nerve racking trying to drive back home. I wasn't really thinking about myself at the time. I was thinking about my kids like, you know, what is their mom going to tell them? What am I going to tell them? Like, you know, if I'm gone 15, 20 years in jail, you know, what would that be like?
And what do I tell my son and my daughter that, you know, I mean, would he ever believe me that I didn't harm him? You know what I mean? What are they going to do? What are they going to think? How do I you know, how do I live beyond this afterwards? You know what happens?
He made it back to Houston late that Friday without stopping his lawyer negotiated so that he would be able to turn himself in after the weekend. He went to stay with Shardey at her apartment.
Yeah, wanted to be with her to discuss what happens next. If this happens, what do we do here? You know, if this goes through, we need to take care of this so the kids will have this just trying to put things in order. It's almost like trying to, you know, trying to prepare for losing a spouse or something. You know, it's like putting everything in place or just in case, long night conversations about all, you know, what do we do from here?
The truth was he didn't want to be alone. It was nerve racking. Man First thing that Monday, Lance and Shardey got in his car and headed downtown to turn himself in. Shardey sat at his side in a waiting area at the county jail, holding his hand until it was time for him to go back to be processed.
I can remember when the lady took my hand and she's fingerprinting me and I thought how many other people like me had locked up in the system? And actually, I mean, we're locked up, you know, on false charges. I mean, I remember thinking that, like, I'm probably going to go to prison. I can remember taking my photos, man, and I refuse to look like a criminal. I didn't want to look mad or mean, you know, so I kind of try try to put a little smile on my face.
And I couldn't believe where I was at, Mike. I just it was like a dream man.
Four months Qadhi had thought about little else other than her fight to get her kids back to the point that she was pretending to be separated from the man she loved. Now, as Shardey watched Lance walk out of the jail, having been booked and released on a twenty thousand dollar bond, all she could think about was how unfairly the system had treated him.
From the beginning, we had a child advocate come to the house and she said, like, this is like early on in our case. She said the only way that they were going to let you guys have the kids, Lance will have to be out of the picture. I couldn't believe that. This man goes to work every day after a week of being on the road, he comes home and he his kids greet him at the front door. This is what he's used to.
He don't hurt these kids. So he's a family man. He's a father. He's not an absentee father. You guys are turning his story into that. It don't matter. You were going to demonize that man regardless because it was what they do. Lance's frustration only grew when he finally saw the criminal indictment. The only evidence cited against him was the most recent report from Texas Children's Hospital when a doctor reported that Langston's spine was broken. Maybe I'm overusing his word just disbelief.
My I couldn't I didn't understand what was happening. It's crazy is I mean, you know, you don't. What narrative are you following?
Where are you getting this from? The criminal complaint didn't mention that Langston's follow up x rays at Memorial Hermann didn't show any spinal fractures. And it did not mention that upon closer examination of Langston's medical records, the baby's spine looked exactly the same in all his previous scans, dating back to the original incident in July. In other words, it appeared Shardey was right. If Lanxess back really was injured, it wasn't a new injury. More likely, it was a result of the original fall back on the fourth from the original case, CPS had already investigated and closed.
Texas children's doctors declined to talk to me about their handling of the Butler case. In a statement, the hospital defended its doctor's actions, writing that because infant spines are so small, the radiologist at the other hospital may have missed tiny compression fractures and legs and spine. Since both multiple skull fractures from that kind of fall and spinal compression fractures in a baby of this age are highly unusual, mandatory reporting to CPS was required. The hospital didn't address the fact that their own radiologist wrote in Langston's medical records that he couldn't say for sure whether the baby's back was actually injured.
That key detail was omitted from the hospital's initial report to CPS. CPS officials declined to be interviewed. Stephanie Prophet was stunned when she heard Lance had been charged based on what evidence she thought, you know, there were so many inconsistencies and that the only thing that was consistent was the story that the Butlers told.
It seemed like things at that particular point were just piling on.
It was about a month later in September, twenty eighteen, when Stephanie got a call from another lawyer, Dennis slayed.
She and Dennis had teamed up on several CPS cases over the years and had a pretty good track record. We have a big joke. He always tells me at the beginning of a case when we get together that this time he gets to be bad cop.
And I'm like, You're always bad cop. Dennis was calling about a new case he just picked up. He said it was going to be big and he wanted to know, are you ready? You ready to go fight with me? Of course. I'm always ready to go fight with Dennis.
The case involved a young married couple and their baby, and he starts telling me about the case immediately.
I'm like, this is so familiar to the butlers. You know, they also have a four month old child who has fallen and has two breaks and a male child. They also have the female child who is, you know, roughly two or three and no injuries to the older child whatsoever. And it was just amazing how the facts were. Just so they they ran parallel to one another in so many different levels. And it was just absolutely crazy how similar they were.
The parents in this new case, Melissa and Dylan Bright, not only did the facts run parallel, the cases ran parallel in my file room.
The files were beside one another alphabetically. The computer system at my office, the brights were on the client list and right underneath was the butler's.
That's when it hit her. Maybe she could use the similarities to her advantage. If she and Dennis proved in court that CPS was wrong to take the bright kids, if they could show that the reporting doctors had been mistaken, it might clear a path to get the Butler kids return, to maybe even get Lance's criminal charges tossed.
A couple of days before Dylan and Melissa were due in court for their first hearing after the children had been taken, Stephanie called Lance and Shardey. She told them something significant was coming, something that might be a game changer. I don't remember her going into detail about their case, and she didn't really give us a name or anything like that. But she just said that something was coming and it's going to be on the news. And so just watch out for it.
That's next time on Do No Harm from NBC News and wondering, this is episode four of six of Do No Harm, a story about innocent children and the adults who are supposed to keep them safe if you or someone you know is struggling with mental health.
Here are some additional resources for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Call one 800 273 eight two five five for the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Dial one 800 nine five zero six two six four and four.
The crisis text line text home to seven four one seven four one. The next episode will be out in a week. But listen to it right now.
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