ST. LOUIS — Saying he couldn’t understand “the kind of evil that preys on and targets a 12-year-old girl,” a St. Louis judge Friday sentenced Tyrone Butler Jr. to two consecutive life terms plus 30 more years in prison for coaxing the girl into a vacant house in 2017, slashing her throat and leaving her there.
“Mr. Butler, you showed no mercy to this child,” Circuit Judge James Sullivan said. “I sincerely hope that the victim, when she sees the scar or views it in the mirror, she views it as a reminder of courage and her ability to triumph over evil.”
Each of the life terms is calculated at 30 years under Missouri law, which means before he can be eligible for parole Butler must serve 85% of those sentences plus minimum prison time for related convictions such as kidnapping and armed criminal action. Butler, 24, did not make a statement in court Friday.
A jury last year found Butler guilty of following the girl as she walked alone to her school bus stop about 6:15 a.m. on Jan. 11, 2017, lured her into a decrepit vacant building in the 5300 block of Terry Avenue and attacked her. It was his second trial after a prior jury could not reach unanimous verdicts.
Police said the St. Louis man beat her, removed her clothes, sodomized her and slashed her throat with the jagged edge of a broken liquor bottle.
Authorities found her bloodied body about 64 hours later, believing she was dead. She identified Butler as her attacker in police photos, Facebook pictures, a live lineup and in the two trials. She testified to being punched and choked until she blacked out and awoke in the hospital.
Butler has denied any involvement in the attack. Butler’s lawyer, Erika Wurst, said Friday in court that the judge should not ignore the first jury’s 11-1 vote in favor of acquittal. She called into question the girl’s identification of Butler and a confession she said police coerced from Butler, who has an intellectual disability and an IQ of 70.
None of Butler’s DNA was found inside the vacant house but unidentified DNA was found on the jagged glass bottleneck used to cut the girl’s throat, as well as on her clothes and jewelry. Police seized from Butler’s home a pair of red Nike Air Jordan high-tops that authorities said matched a bloody shoe tread found in the vacant home. Butler’s defense challenged the match at trial.
Wurst said she believes the only reason the second jury convicted Butler was because they heard recorded jail phone calls in which prosecutors say Butler sought to put a hit out on the girl before trial.
Wurst disputed the allegation that he tried to have her killed, saying Butler explained to her when he first heard the recordings that they were about an ongoing feud in his neighborhood involving one of his brothers and not connected to his assault case. Wurst became emotional in court as she recalled sitting with Butler at the jail as he explained the calls, but said she could not speak up at his second trial without making herself a witness to the case. She said Butler will appeal his convictions.
“Tyrone’s life matters,” Wurst told the court.
Butler’s parents said in court Friday that they believe their son is innocent.
“I feel like this is wrong,” his mother Cassi Mitchell said. “It’s wrong. It’s wrong.”
The girl, now 16, did not attend the sentencing.
Assistant Circuit Attorney Kimberly Arshi asked for five consecutive life terms, saying Butler has never accepted responsibility for his crimes and represents a “clear danger” to St. Louisans and the public at large.
Butler’s crimes, Arshi said, “are truly the nightmare of any parent, especially the parent of a daughter.”