A Sonora nurse and mother accused of a murder-for-hire plot allegedly targeting her husband appeared in a Tuolumne County courtroom Wednesday afternoon, where a judge appointed her a public defender and issued a no-violence criminal protective order restraining the woman from contact with her husband.
Heidi Butler, 38, appeared on a video screen at 2:10 p.m. in Department 1 in the old courthouse on Yaney Avenue, where Superior Court Judge Donald Segerstrom questioned Butler about her financial declaration to determine whether she qualifies for a taxpayer-funded public defender.
A jailer said Butler’s financial declaration had been faxed to the court Tuesday, but Segerstrom could not find it. He asked if they could fax it again and asked the jailer to send Butler over to the courthouse with the next group of inmates.
At 4:45 p.m., Butler was escorted into Segerstrom’s courtroom wearing black-and-white striped jail togs and shackles at her waist and wrists. Her blonde hair was braided in back. She wore a blue-and-white face mask.
“Sept. 11 was your last day of employment?” Segerstrom asked.
“I lost my job,” Butler responded.
“You presently have no source of income?” Segerstorm asked.
Butler responded that’s correct — she has no source of income and four children who are dependent on her. She also said her husband has a new job.
Segerstrom decided to appoint her a public defender.
Tuolumne County Public Defender Scott Gross, who was already in the courtroom, presented himself to defend Butler.
Gross entered a plea of not guilty for Butler, asked for a preliminary hearing, and indicated he intends to file a bail motion to have Butler’s bail reduced from $1 million. Segerstrom said for the record the scheduled bail for the alleged crime Butler is accused of is $100,000, but the increased bail of $1 million was requested by law enforcement.
Butler was arrested Friday night at her home on Woodduck Lane after the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant there. She has been charged by the District Attorney’s Office with one felony count of solicitation of murder.
Deputy District Attorney Cassandra A. Jenecke confirmed earlier on Wednesday that the intended target of the alleged murder-for-hire plot was Butler’s husband, Jeremie Butler, who is identified in a criminal complaint filed by the DA’s Office.
Segerstrom set Heidi Butler’s next court appearance for 1:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 21 in Department 2.
The no-violence criminal protective order Segerstrom read aloud states Butler must not molest or harass her husband. Segerstrom also told Heidi Butler she may not own, possess, or try to buy any firearms, to which Heidi Butler replied, “I don’t own any.”
Although Gross was appointed to defend Heidi Butler on Wednesday, he issued a press release dated Tuesday that said, “Our office will launch an investigation into the merits of the District Attorney’s case. We ask that all concerned please refrain from making judgments until all the relevant facts can be ascertained.”
A social media page for Heidi Butler of Sonora listed her occupation last week as “Registered Nurse (RN) at Adventist Health Sonora.”
Contact Guy McCarthy at email@example.com or (209) 770-0405. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.