MALVERN -- Two parents accused of second-degree murder in the opioid-overdose death of their 1-year-old daughter told a Hot Spring County judge Monday that they were innocent of the crime.
Authorities at Baptist Hospital in Arkadelphia initially believed that 1-year-old Brinly Gordon died of natural causes July 2, but an autopsy showed she had ingested enough medication to kill a 200-pound man, according to court documents.
Both parents -- 31-year-old Amber Gordon, also known as Amber Butler, and 32-year-old Daniel Gordon -- had a prescription for the drug found in Brinly's system: Buprenorphine, an opioid medication used to treat heroin addiction. The parents were arrested in late September and charged with second-degree murder, a class A felony punishable by six to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
Before being called to the stand Monday morning by Hot Spring County Circuit Judge Eddy Easley, Butler -- wearing an orange jumpsuit with her arms and feet shackled and her black curly hair unrestrained -- alternately whispered to and laughed with a female inmate sitting next to her.
Gordon was called to the podium later in the morning. Dressed in a black dress shirt, bluejeans and tennis shoes, Gordon's face was somber and he mostly looked at the floor through the plea and arraignment.
Both gave one-word answers to the judge's questions as they pleaded innocent.
When approached after court, Gordon declined to comment. His attorney, Louis Loyd of Malvern, said the case was still "under investigation" and he could not comment.
According to the affidavit for arrest, the toddler died at Daniel Gordon's home at 143 Martin Lane in Bismarck. Both parents were the only ones at home at the time of the 1-year-old's death. Both told investigators they were recovering heroin addicts.
Authorities said there was a "significant quantity" of Buprenorphine pills at the residence.
Butler told investigators that when she arrived at the home, Gordon went into the upstairs bedroom and stayed there for two hours injecting the drug into his system. Gordon denied that he had used drugs at all that day.
Butler said that later that night, she put the baby to sleep with her in the same bed. The baby woke up about 9 a.m. July 2 and threw up a small amount. Butler said she cleaned the baby up, then prepared a "rinse" from the same spoon Gordon had previously used and injected the drug into her vein.
She sat in a rocking chair next to the bed and fell asleep. According to the arrest affidavit, Butler said that at about noon she asked Gordon "for permission" to wake up the toddler, but Gordon told her that he had people coming to buy drugs and it would be better if the baby were asleep.
Butler said Gordon keeps her prescription and sells half of it to recoup the money he pays for her doctor visits, according to court documents.
Later in the morning, the baby began to throw up and Butler "recognized that something was seriously wrong." She began CPR and Gordon called 911.
Butler told authorities that her ex-husband would not allow her other two children to be near Gordon because he feared for their safety because of the drugs.
Court records show that on Oct. 20, 2016, Gordon filed for divorce from Butler and sued for full custody of the baby, who was less than a month old at the time. The couple had been married a little longer than a year at the time, and Gordon said in court filings that the baby was not safe with Butler.
In a Nov. 16 deposition, Gordon again said that the baby was not safe and blamed Butler's addiction to "some sort of illegal drug."
In a May 17 deposition, Gordon said that Butler was addicted to methamphetamine and was a habitual user of marijuana "to the extent that she disappears from her usual residence for days at a time, with no explanation or recollection as to where or with whom she has been." Gordon said at that time he was not allowing Butler to take the baby away from their home.
At one point, Gordon said Butler fell asleep while smoking and the cigarette fell onto the child's face and caused a blistering burn.
On May 26, Hot Spring County Circuit Judge Chris Williams granted the divorce, giving Gordon sole custody and granting "liberal and reasonable supervised" visitation to Butler.
Amy Webb, a spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Human Services, said she could not comment on the individual case but directed the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette to the Child Fatality Notification list, which said a child abuse or neglect case had never been opened on Brinly Gordon.
According to Arkansas Code 12-18-402, judges are among the long list of mandated reporters. If a mandated reporter "has reasonable cause to suspect that a child has" been subject to child maltreatment or died as a result of child maltreatment, or if a mandated reporter observes a child being subjected to "conditions or circumstances that would reasonably result in child maltreatment," he is required to immediately notify the Child Abuse Hotline.
Messages left for Williams, the judge who granted the divorce, were not returned as of late Monday.
Butler is scheduled to appear in court at 9 a.m. Nov. 20, while Gordon is set to appear at 1 p.m. Dec. 4.
State Desk on 10/17/2017
Print Headline: Parents plead innocent in death; Autopsy finds that daughter, 1, overdosed on prescription