Photograph by Larry Harnisch Los Angeles Times
Above, 425 Isabella St., Highland Park, May 19, 2007.
May 24, 1957
His mother's boyfriend can't hurt him anymore. Little Donald Butler Jr., 3, said: "I love you, Mommy," and died of a perforated intestine after months of beatings that left him bruised from head to foot.
Mommy, was 20-year-old Nancy Butler, 452 1/2 Isabel St. in Highland Park, the child bride of sailor Donald Butler, who was with the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean. While her husband was gone, Nancy had fallen in love with bus driver Paul H. Benson, 26, a twice-married ex-Marine.
Benson's beatings were nonstop, according to court testimony. There were times when Nancy begged him to beat her instead of her son. Benson accommodated her and beat her as well, but always went back to beating young Donald. Why didn't she leave him? She was in love with him and hoped to marry him, she told police. After all, they were going to have a baby.
As for the child's injuries, which included two cracked ribs, Benson said that the boy had taken a bad fall on his tricycle and that older boys in the neighborhood were picking on him.
Although medical examiner Dr. Frederick Newbarr testified that young Donald must have been in constant pain, he never complained, Benson and Nancy Butler told police.
"Donald and I were buddies," Benson told police. "I wasn't his real father but he used to wait for me to come home and tell me: 'Daddy, I love you.' " And Benson portrayed himself as a devout Christian. Asked why he didn't get medical treatment for the boy, Benson said: "I don't believe in doctors because I belong to the church of God."
During the trial, Neil Benson described pulling a gun on his brother Paul to keep him from beating an adopted daughter. Among other things, Paul Benson tied the girl's hands around her neck with a towel and forced her to jump off a 6-foot-high shelf in a closet, according to witnesses.
On Oct. 15, 1957, Paul Benson was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of Donald Butler Jr. He was sentenced to five years to life in prison.
"Some of the jurors wept during the testimony," The Times said.
Rest in peace, Donald Warren Butler, born Nov. 11, 1953, beaten to death May 23, 1957. There is no further record of Donald Butler Sr., Nancy Kuykendall Butler or Paul H. Benson.