Father says daughter's ashes were mistaken for drugs and spilled during Illinois traffic stop

A father from Romeoville, Illinois says the remains of his late daughter were handled inappropriately during a traffic stop last week.

Anthony Butler, 25, said a vial of his daughter's ashes was mistaken for drugs and spilled after he was pulled over March 11.

Butler told the Chicago Tribune that his daughter, Mariah, died 11 days after she was born in 2014 due to a congenital heart defect. He said he usually wears a pendant urn containing her cremated remains on a chain around his neck.

Butler said he had the pendant hanging around the rearview mirror of his SUV when he was pulled over by a Will County sheriff's deputy last week.

“It started off as a normal traffic stop, no front plate. I will accept that ticket,” Butler told WFLD.

Butler allowed the officer to search his vehicle. He said he was handcuffed and placed in the back of the patrol car when the officer found the vial containing his daughter's ashes. Police said the white, powdery substance looked similar to narcotics.

The officer asked if he could test a small amount of the powder, and Butler consented. The field test came back negative and Butler was free to go.

Butler said when he found the vial in his vehicle, the inner cap was missing and the outer cap was not secured. When he picked it up, the remains scattered.

“When I picked up the remains, the bottom half just fell to the bottom of the console,” Butler said. "Just the worst feeling in the world came over me, like, this isn't happening."

Watch WFLD's report below:

Butler told the Chicago Tribune he was able to scrape up what was left of his daughter's ashes. He said the girl's mother also has remains of their child, but he is no longer in contact with her.

The deputy chief told WFLD his officer used "extreme caution" when handling the vial. The chief said that body camera footage shows the deputy apologizing for the mix-up, but they cannot release it.

According to the chief, there haven't been any complaints about the officer involved and he did not act maliciously.

About the Author:

Brian is an Associate Producer for ClickOnDetroit. He graduated from the University of Michigan-Dearborn with a degree in Journalism and Screen Studies.