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Pennsylvania Couple Allegedly Starved Daughters To Death, Buried Them In Backyard
Marie Snyder and Echo Butler face 40 charges in the deaths of six-year-old Nicole Snyder and four-year-old Jasmine Snyder, who police believe died in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
A Pennsylvania mother and her partner are currently on trial for allegedly starving the woman’s two young daughters to death.
Marie Sue Snyder, 32, and Echo Lane Butler, 26, are facing a combined 40 felony and misdemeanor charges, ranging from criminal homicide, child endangerment, concealing the death of a child, abuse of a corpse, simple assault, reckless endangerment, theft by deception, evidence tampering, and other charges in the deaths of Nicole Snyder, 6, and Jasmine Snyder, 4. Police believe that Nicole died in 2016 and Jasmine died in 2017.
Butler’s parents, Ronald Butler, 53, and Michele Butler, 49, are also charged in the case. Ronald Butler is facing two counts of felony endangering the welfare of children, as well as an obstruction of a child abuse investigation charge. Michele Butler is charged in the murder of Nicole Snyder, with two counts of felony endangering the welfare of children, two counts of abuse of a corpse, obstruction of a child abuse investigation, two counts of concealing the death of a child and two counts of tampering with evidence.
Lycoming County Children and Youth Services first opened an investigation into Snyder and Butler in Sept. 2021 over potential neglect of Snyder’s son Jesse, who was 6 at the time, according to a criminal complaint status obtained by Oxygen.com. The three were living with Butler’s parents in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
Officials also inquired as to the whereabouts of Snyder’s daughter Jasmine, who would have been 7. Snyder allegedly told youth services that the girl was residing at and being homeschooled at a friend’s house. County authorities later learned that Snyder had another girl named Nicole, who would have been 10.
“[Children and Youth Services] continued to attempt contact with Marie Snyder to determine the whereabouts and safety of Nicole and Jasmine Snyder, each time Marie Snyder refusing to provide the children’s location. At one point, [Children and Youth Services] spoke to Echo Butler inquiring the whereabouts of Nicole and Jasmine Snyder. Echo Butler indicated that they were with a friend but refused to provide the name or location of the friend.”
Investigators, who followed up again at the family’s home later that month, were told by Echo Butler’s father, Ronald Butler, that his daughter and Snyder had “packed their belongings,” “took everything” and left the property, the complaint stated. He repeated that Snyder’s daughter was staying with a friend and said he had no knowledge of the couple’s whereabouts. (Neighbors who witnessed Echo Butler on her parents' property after the couple moved disputed that assertion.)
Old Lycoming Police Department was then asked to assist youth services officials in their investigation into Snyder’s missing children. Echo Butler’s mother, Michele Butler, later told police that Jasmine and Nicole Snyder hadn’t resided at the home since 2015. Records, however, showed that Snyder had listed the Butler’s Williamsport home as the children’s primary residence as recently as February 2021 — and that she'd been collecting benefits for all three children since their births, as well as receiving child support payments from the Lycoming County Domestic Relations Office.
Authorities later learned from a witness that Echo Butler’s parents had told them that their daughter had “placed [Nicole Snyder] in the dark hallway as punishment” and left her there for a prolonged period. The witness also disclosed they’d observed “bruises and marks” on Jasmine Snyder.
Police arrested Snyder on child endangerment and obstruction of a child abuse investigation on Nov. 4, 2021.
During the execution of a search warrant at the Butlers' home in Nov. 5, 2021, Michele Butler allegedly confessed that Nicole Snyder and Jasmine Snyder were buried in the backyard of the home — and detailed a litany of daily physical abuse that Snyder and her daughter had allegedly inflicted upon the two girls. Michele Butler said she suspected Nicole Snyder and Jasmine Snyder died of starvation; she alleged that the couple withheld food from Snyder’s daughters on a regular basis in addition to physically abusing and restraining them.
Another unnamed witness also corroborated allegations that the couple would withhold food from Jasmine Snyder and Nicole Snyder, divulging to authorities that Echo Butler would feed the two girls “one small spoon full of uncooked canned peas and a very small amount of water,” while other family members dined on pizza and ice cream. Snyder confirmed the witness' assessment, stating that the children were provided only small amounts of food and "two sips from their sippy cups" of water.
Prosecutors subsequently added upgraded homicide charges against Marie Snyder and Echo Butler.
Nicole Snyder, who was described by Echo Butler as “pale” and “off,” was the first to die on or around May 10, 2016, charging documents stated; Michele Butler allegedly admitted to being present for her death. The family was living with Ronald and Michele Butler at the time, and Echo Butler allegedly buried her in their backyard. Later that year, the couple and the two remaining children moved to another home, where Jasmine Snyder died on or around August 11, 2017; Snyder allegedly said Butler was the last person to see her alive. Jasmine was allegedly buried next to her sister in the Butlers' backyard by Echo Butler, according to court documents; it's unclear when Snyder, Butler and Jesse Snyder moved back in with Butlers' parents.
Ronald Butler was allegedly told by the three women that Nicole Snyder went to live with her father and that Jasmine eventually joined her; they agreed to tell outsiders that both girls were living with a friend.
“This situation is a travesty of colossal proportions and this investigation will not conclude until all evidence is gathered and analyzed, interviews are conducted and justice on behalf of the two deceased innocent girls is achieved,” Old Lycoming Township Police Department Chief Chris Kriner said in a statement at the time.
Investigators also uncovered letters allegedly written by Marie Snyder to Echo Butler, which further implicated them in the girls’ murders.
“I’m sorry about these fu--ing b--ches,” Snyder wrote, referring to her young daughters, the complaint stated.
In another undated letter, Snyder told Butler: “I’m so sick of these girls.” I just wish I only had Jesse. Then it would be daddy (Echo Butler), baby (Jesse Snyder), and mommy (Marie Snyder).”
She also appeared to confess to causing Nicole's death.
“I started to correct them and it went very wrong,” Snyder allegedly wrote in one letter. “I lost one of my babies.”
Marie Snyder later allegedly admitted to detectives that she’d treated both her daughters “horribly.”
Two sets of children's remains were removed from the Butlers' backyard on Nov. 6 and Nov. 7.
“This is arguably the most graphic case of protracted child abuse and starvation resulting in homicide that Lycoming County has ever realized," Lycoming County District Attorney, Ryan Gardner told Oxygen.com in a statement. "The Old Lycoming Township Police Department and the Lycoming County District Attorney’s Office will not rest until justice is realized on behalf of these two beautiful little souls.”
Snyder, Butler and Butler's parents, who have pleaded not guilty, are currently being held in custody while trial proceedings play out, according to jail records obtained by Oxygen.com.