Testifying on the first day of the trial of Tamara Butler, who is accused of killing her 6-year-old daughter Bethany, husband and father Lenford Butler told the court that his daughter asked not to be left alone with her mother the night of the murder.
Mr. Butler, a sergeant with the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, told of his wife’s descent into increasingly erratic behavior and paranoia. Police found Bethany’s body in the front seat of the family car, covered by blankets, on a dirt road leading to the beach off Queen’s Highway in East End in the early hours of Oct. 27, 2014. They found her mother on the beach nearby, wet and sandy, with blood still on her clothes.
Mr. Butler told the court that on the night of Oct. 26, his wife, normally taking great pride in her hair, had shaved off her hair and eyebrows. He found her sitting on the bed, staring into a mirror. “Why?” he said he asked her. He said she replied, “‘I don’t know.’”
As he was in the shower getting ready for the midnight to 7 a.m. shift at the George Town Police Station, he heard his young daughter scream and yell “no!” He finished his shower, and by the time he got out he found Bethany hiding from her mother in the closet in the master bedroom.
He said, quoting his daughter, “She says, ‘Mommy cut her hair off her head and I know she wants to cut mine.’”
Mr. Butler stood before the court in the witness box, dressed in his full police uniform with three red bars on the shoulder. He kept his gaze on the attorneys and the judge, glancing only occasionally at his wife, who was sitting in the dock.
He said he told his wife not to cut their daughter’s hair. “Beth has to go to school and face her friends.”
The defendant, wearing a black dress with a white pattern, stared at the floor for much of the testimony, occasionally looking at her hands or the ceiling.
As he readied for work, he said he talked to his daughter. This is the only time in the testimony that Mr. Butler had to sit down and take a few minutes before he could get the words out. “Beth said, ‘Can you take me to work with you?’” he told the court.
But he said no. Instead, he gave his daughter his cellphone and put 911 on the speed dial. He told her, “Press the green button and it will go straight to 911.” He then let his daughter lock herself into the master bedroom.
Then he left for work shortly before midnight. When he returned home almost five hours later, prompted to leave work early and check on his family after he told the story to a co-worker, the door to the bedroom had been broken in and there were pools of blood by the bed. The car was gone, along with his wife and daughter.
He did not see his daughter again for four days, until he went to the Cayman Islands Hospital to identify her body. She had been stabbed dozens of times to the head, neck, chest and back.
Mr. Butler said his wife’s behavior started to change in 2011 after she lost her job working the front desk as a civilian at the George Town Police Station, a job she had held since 2003.
The couple married in 2002 and moved from Turks and Caicos in 2003 when Mr. Butler received a job offer from the RCIPS. He told the court they had a good relationship, and his wife worked for many years with the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Bodden Town in various roles.
Bethany was born Jan. 12, 2008.
The defendant did not tell her husband that the police service was not going to renew her contract in 2011, keeping it a secret from him for three months until someone else in the RCIPS asked him what his wife planned to do when her contract ended.
“She got isolated,” he said.
She stopped talking to people in church. She would get angry when people touched her.
“If you ask her if she is all right, she’d say everything was OK,” Mr. Butler said, but “you can see everything was not.”
He said his wife accused him of infidelity and sent emails with the accusations to their mutual friends. She moved out, living with Bethany at Lantern Point.
She became concerned that people were hacking into her emails and listening to her conversations, he said.
Mr. Butler called his wife’s mother and she came to the Cayman Islands to bring her daughter and granddaughter back to Turks and Caicos.
They came back 14 months later and moved back into the family home in Savannah. But after some time back in Cayman, Mr. Butler said, his wife stopped attending church and once again thought people were spying on her emails and conversations.
The day of the killing, Tamara Butler had once again decided to pack up her and Bethany’s things. Bags were packed and piled by the front door when Mr. Butler went to work that night.