Anthony Butler’s daughter, Mariah, died 11 days after her birth in 2014 of a congenital heart defect.
The 25-year-old auto mechanic from Romeoville, Ill., wears a pendant containing a vial of her ashes around his neck, he told The Chicago Tribune. But a Sunday transmission repair job on his girlfriend’s vehicle March 11 promised to be messy, so he hung the pendant from the rearview mirror on his own newly-purchased 2001 Chevy Blazer for safekeeping.
Then a Will County sheriff’s deputy pulled Butler over on his way home for not having a front license plate on his vehicle, Butler told the publication. The deputy received his permission to search the vehicle.
“The officer came across a small glass vial in the vehicle (that contained) a white powdered substance,” Deputy Chief Thomas Budde of the sheriff’s office told the Tribune. “It was very similar in appearance to narcotics.”
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The sheriff’s office says Butler agreed to let the deputy field-test a “miniscule” amount of the ashes for drugs, which Butler disputes, the publication reported.
Butler told WFLD that when he returned to his vehicle with citations for not having a front license plate and driving without insurance after the drug test turned up negative, he found the vial of ashes sitting on the console.
“When I picked up the remains, the bottom half just fell to the bottom of the console,” Butler said. The caps had been left unsecured, he told the station. His daughter’s ashes scattered everywhere.
“Just the worst feeling in the world came over me, like, this isn’t happening,” Butler told WFLD. He said it was like losing his daughter all over again.
“Almost all her ashes are gone,” Butler told the Tribune. “I have nothing else to remember her. That officer took my last reason to get up in the morning.”
Budde told the publication the deputy had been “caught off-guard” by finding human remains in the pendant, adding the officer had been careful not to spill anything.
Across the country, another parent was also mourning the loss of their child’s ashes. In Clarksburg, W.Va., a mother who kept two urns of her late son’s ashes in her vehicle begged whoever stole the urns last week to return the ashes.
Stacey Bright told WBOY that she discovered the urns were missing following a burglary on the night of March 11. Her 10-year-old son Colby Lee Pritt died in 2016 after being accidentally shot in the head, Bright said.
“My family and I have come so far,” Bright told the station. “We have come so far in this last year and few months since the accident, and it just feels like I’ve been drug down all over again.”