Marie Snyder and Echo Butler Charged with Starving Girls
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Prosecutors Seek Death Penalty for Pa. Women Accused of Torturing and Starving Young Girls to Death in ‘Conditions Beyond Comprehension’

Echo L. Butler and Marie S. Snyder

Echo L. Butler and Marie S. Snyder

A pair of women in Pennsylvania may face the death penalty — if a jury agrees with prosecutors — for allegedly beating and starving two young girls to death. Partners Marie S. Snyder, 32, and Echo L. Butler, 26, were charged with criminal homicide for the horrific deaths of Marie’s daughters Nicole and Jasmine Snyder, the Williamsport Sun-Gazette reported. Prosecutors and police officers have described the case as “the worst that they have seen.”

“The death penalty will be pursued against Marie Snyder and Echo Butler,” Lycoming County District Attorney Ryan Gardner reportedly said on Friday. “Prior to their death[s], [the vicitims] lived in and were subjected to conditions beyond comprehension.”

Echo’s mother, Michele Butler, 49, is also facing a charge of third-degree murder.

According to a police affidavit unsealed Friday in Lycoming County District Court and obtained by the Sun-Gazette, the two defendants subjected 6-year-old Nicole and 4-year-old Jasmine to heinous and unparalleled torture on a daily basis for years, eventually causing the girls’ deaths in 2016 and 2017, respectively. The kids were both buried in shallow makeshift graves in the backyard of the couple’s home located in the 600 block of Livermore Road in Williamsport.

“The conditions, unfortunately, these two beautiful little girls were subjected to prior to their deaths, is some of the worst [abuse] that I have ever seen by far,” Gardner reportedly said. “In speaking with law enforcement, hands down, it is the worst that they have seen as well in their storied 30-plus year careers.”

Marie and Echo allegedly abused the two victims but did not harm Marie’s young son, who was allegedly given pizza and ice cream while the girls were fed a “spoonful of peas and two sips of water,” per the online news site NorthcentralPA.com.

The girls were also reportedly forced to wear soiled diapers, made to stand in a corner for hours with their hands bound, brutally beaten with hands and objects, and only given ice cold baths because they “didn’t deserve hot water.” The 3-year-old girl was often left restrained in a car seat in the home while the 6-year-old was left bound “for hours” at a time, the affidavit said.

Following the arrests, Marie reportedly told investigators that Echo did not like her daughters and wanted them out of the house.

“I’m sorry about these fucking bitches,” Marie allegedly wrote in a Dec. 2015 letter to Echo. “If you want them gone, they’re gone.”

About a year later, in January 2017, Marie allegedly wrote to Echo, “I know you don’t like Jasmine and never liked Nicole.”

Marie reportedly told investigators that on at least one occasion, Echo choked Nicole “until her eyes rolled back in her head” and regularly hit both girls in the head and face with a closed fist. If they defecated in their diapers, Marie reportedly said Echo would smear the feces on their faces.

Days before her 2016 death, Marie and Michele reportedly told police that Nicole grew pale and weak and was unable to stand up on her own. Her hair had also begun falling out.

“All three women allegedly watched the girl take her last breath on or around May 10, 2016, Michele Butler allegedly said,” per the Sun-Gazette.

Following Nicole’s death, Jasmine was allegedly subjected to even more extreme forms of torture and abuse. The child reportedly showed similar signs of her declining health in the days leading up to her death.

Investigators said that Marie and Echo continued to collect benefits exceeding $2,000 from the Lycoming County Assistance Office and the Domestic Relations Office for up to five years after the kids were dead and buried in the yard.

Prosecutors charged Marie Snyder with four counts of criminal homicide, two counts each of endangering the welfare of children, unlawful restraint, theft by deception, concealing the death of a child, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person, abuse of a corpse, and one count each of obstruction in a child abuse case and tampering with evidence.

Echo was charged with four counts of criminal homicide, two counts each of endangering the welfare of children, unlawful restraint, concealing the death of a child, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person, abuse of a corpse, and tampering with evidence, as well as one count of obstruction in a child abuse case.

In addition to the murder charge, Michele Butler is facing two counts each of endangering the welfare of children, abuse of a corpse, concealing the death of a child, tampering or fabricating physical evidence, and one count of obstruction in a child abuse case.

All three will appear in court again for a preliminary hearing in mid-February.

[images via the Old Lycoming Township Police Department]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.