ELKHORN — An East Troy woman who slept while her 11-month-old twins drowned in the bathtub will spend the next year in the Walworth County Jail with permission to leave jail for child care and work duties.
Despite a recommendation from Walworth County District Attorney Phillip Koss to put her in prison, Melody Butt, 27, will be allowed to leave jail to have supervised time with her three remaining children and go to work. She also was ordered to serve 14 years probation.
"I take full responsibility for allowing myself to be so overwhelmed," a tearful Butt told Walworth County Judge David Reddy. "I pay the price every day. I'll do anything to reverse what has happened."
Koss said nothing can undo what Butt's negligence caused.
"Two people are dead," he said. "Two living, breathing children would have been running around playing had not it been for her actions."
According to the criminal complaint:
Derrick Ivory, who lived with Butt, her children and Christopher Evans, the father of the twins, entered Butt's apartment on Church Street in East Troy on Sept. 22, 2011.
Ivory called police at 1:41 p.m. to report finding the twins in the bathtub and Butt asleep in a bedroom next to the bathroom.
The twins, a boy and a girl, were taken to Waukesha Memorial Hospital where they were pronounced dead.
An autopsy indicated the twins drowned.
In arguing for prison time for Butt, Koss said she has a history of undesirable behavior.
"She is not June Cleaver," Koss said. "Melody Butt has made awful decisions."
Koss said Butt's neglect was more than sleep deprivation. He strongly disagreed with a report that her disorder was similar to bomber pilots in World War II who fell asleep flying back to England after a German bombing run.
"That's a specious argument," Koss said. "She was not under any requirement to give those children a bath until she could not stay awake anymore.
"You don't leave 11-month-old children alone in a tub," Koss said. "She's a nurse, she knew better.
"These were clearly unnecessary deaths that were clearly preventable," Koss said. "Punishment is part of the system. How should we deal with the preventable loss of life?
"We shouldn't be here," he said. "Those children should still be alive. Human life is too valuable for probation."
Butt's parents asked that she be spared prison to be with her surviving children.
"She has changed," said a tearful Dawn Busalacchi, Butt's mother. "Despite this horrible, tragic accident, those three little girls still need to be with their mother."
Victor Busalacchi, Butt's father, said his daughter remains a loving mother.
"She loves her children," he said before emotion halted his statement.
Butt's attorney, Joshua Klaff of Janesville, said his client was in the act of caring for her children "when this tragic accident occurred." He said she was tired, depressed and overwhelmed.
"She could see the bathtub from the bedroom," he said. "It was not her intent to fall asleep."
Butt agreed to plead guilty to spare her daughter and her mother the trauma of testifying at trial, Klaff said.
"This is a serious felony, but there's no formula that says if A and B, then prison," Klaff said. "We concur with the Department of Corrections and Health and Human Services that she serve a jail sentence with work and child care privileges."
Reddy essentially agreed with Klaff.
"I do not support removing her from her children," Reddy said. "She is to have no unsupervised time with her children, no use of drugs and should engage in full employment or school."
The 14 years of probation must be served, but the conditions could change, Klaff said.
"She will be on probation 365 days a year starting today for the next 14 years," he said. "But the supervision issue could change depending on recommendations from her probation officer and social workers involved in the case."