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Geoff Liesik, Deseret News
Myton Police Chief Thomas Wade Butterfield, left, makes his initial appearance in 8th District Court on Monday, Oct. 20, 2014. Butterfield is charged with three counts of stalking, one count of unlawful detention and one count of criminal trespass. The charges are all misdemeanors. He has since been fired.

LEHI — Holli Stewart recalled it was midnight, she was sick in bed, mostly asleep and trying to roll over when she realized something was obstructing her movement.

That's when she saw Wade Butterfield sitting at the edge of her bed.

"What are you doing here? … How did you get in?" Stewart asked.

"He said, 'Holli, I'm a cop. They teach us how to do that. I can get in anywhere,'" she recalled.

In 1999, Stewart, who went by Holli Butler at that time, entered into a consensual relationship with Butterfield, who was a Lehi police officer. The relationship ended a month later when she found out he was married and had three children, according to an Orem police report. Stewart told Butterfield they could still be friends but could no longer date.

That's when the stalking began.

Eventually, Butterfield was charged in 4th District Court with criminal trespass. It was originally filed as a class B misdemeanor. But as part of a plea deal, the charge was amended to an infraction and Butterfield pleaded no contest, according to court records.

In March of 2000, the Peace Officer Standards and Training Council unanimously voted to suspend Butterfield's law enforcement certification for a year, adjusting his suspension to begin in November of 1999.

That was the last Stewart heard of Butterfield.

"I never thought he would be a police officer again," she said.

Butterfield, however, did continue to work in law enforcement. In the 14 years since his POST certification was reinstated, he has worn the uniforms of at least four other Utah police agencies. He also continued to face allegations of inappropriate conduct from women.

Those allegations were never fully investigated or documented, according to information gathered by the Deseret News through public records requests and interviews. The lack of follow-through apparently made it possible for Butterfield to move from agency to agency, despite his termination from one department and his resignation from two others while under investigation.

Utah lawmakers and police regulators are now looking at legislation aimed at closing that loophole.

'I'm scared'

Butterfield's return to law enforcement was problem-free at first, according to records obtained by the Deseret News. In those records, supervisors described him as a good officer and a skilled investigator with a solid work ethic. But prosecutors allege that Butterfield, 44, eventually began stalking women again.

Butterfield was working as Myton's police chief in September when Duchesne County prosecutors charged him with three counts of stalking and one count of criminal trespass, all class A misdemeanors, and one count of unlawful detention, a class B misdemeanor.

Butterfield used his position as Myton's top cop to try to start relationships with three women and then continued to pursue the women in ways that made them fear for their safety, according to investigators. Two of the women sought civil stalking injunctions against the police chief on the day the criminal charges were filed.

"Most of the victims have had problems with law enforcement in the past, have had some kind of history," Duchesne County sheriff's detective Monty Nay testified during an Oct. 14 hearing for one of those civil stalking cases.

Nay testified that Butterfield threatened to pursue criminal charges and civil action against his accusers when detectives confronted him with the allegations. During the hearing, one of the women testified that she feared what Butterfield might do to her.

"I feel like every night at 3 a.m., if there's somebody outside my house, if my dogs bark, is it him? I'm scared," said the woman.

The woman, who has a criminal history and has a pending drug possession case, said she initially sought Butterfield's help in tracking down her runaway daughter. That led to three weeks of frequent phone calls and text messages from Butterfield and visits to her home, the woman said. Their conversations often involved unsolicited comments from Butterfield about his marriage, she testified.

"It wasn't happy, and he said he hadn't had sex with his wife in five years," the woman testified, adding that Butterfield told her "he'd like to find somebody that he could have sex with."

Butterfield acknowledged during the hearing that he told the woman he was unhappy in his marriage, but said it was an attempt to explain that everyone has challenges in life. He said he never made sexual advances toward the woman, but did tell her it had been years since he'd had sex.

"I've told a lot of people that," Butterfield said, calling the comment "facetious."

"It may have been in poor taste," he admitted.

After listening to two hours of testimony, the judge denied the petition for one of the stalking injunctions.

"I think that the defendant was too personal," Judge Samuel Chiara said, "but I don't find that his behavior that's been presented here in court would cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety."

Similar behavior, however, did lead to Butterfield's departure from the two law enforcement positions he held before being chosen as Myton's first police chief, according to interviews with his former supervisors.

'Second' chances

Shortly after his POST certification was reinstated, Butterfield was back on the job with the tiny Spring City Police Department in Sanpete County. When Butterfield put in his application to work for the Duchesne County Sheriff's Office, David Boren was the investigator assigned to look into his background.

Boren, who will be sworn in as Duchesne County sheriff in January, said he went through Butterfield's personnel files, his POST file and spoke with people who had worked with him, including Butterfield's former superiors at the Lehi Police Department.

"I was told that he was a good officer who basically had this bump in the road," Boren said, referring to the 1999 trespassing case, "but he had done a good job for them."

The sheriff's office hired Butterfield in November 2001. Boren later became his sergeant when the two men were assigned to the sheriff's patrol division. There were never any complaints of inappropriate behavior during that time, Boren said.

In fact, a review of Butterfield's personnel file shows seven letters of recognition and praise from supervisors and others outside the agency.

"If I had to dream up the ideal person to protect my family, it would be Wade Butterfield," the mother of a child sex abuse victim wrote in one letter.

When that letter was written in January 2010, Butterfield was a sergeant assigned to the detective division. His caseload included some of the most heinous cases the sheriff's office would investigate that year. But the job also gave him more independence at work.

"You make your own day, set your own schedule," Boren said, talking about the freedom a detective has because the job is no longer about running from radio call to radio call.

It was around this time that a woman contacted the sheriff's office to complain that Butterfield was frequently dropping by her house while on duty. Several people with knowledge of the situation told the Deseret News that Butterfield would allegedly borrow pornography from the woman.

"He had no reason to be there," is all Boren would say.

Boren interviewed the woman, who pointed him to two other women whom she believed were also having problems with Butterfield. While the first woman said Butterfield's all-hours visits made her fear for her safety, Boren said he found nothing in his initial investigation that indicated a crime had been committed.

"But it was certainly against our policies and procedures," said Boren, who was still looking into the allegations when Butterfield resigned from the sheriff's office in December 2010.

The resignation ended the internal investigation, and a form was completed notifying POST that Butterfield was no longer with the sheriff's office. A box on that form asking whether POST should investigate the circumstances surrounding Butterfield's resignation was left unchecked.

Boren reiterated that the sheriff's office was only investigating possible policy violations when Butterfield resigned, not criminal violations.

"If every agency reported every policy violation, POST would be inundated with cases," he said, pointing out that police agencies have policies that govern everything from the use of sick leave and vacation hours to the use of force in making an arrest.

Despite his resignation while under investigation — Butterfield has said he resigned for medical reasons — the veteran officer was still working in law enforcement. For several years before leaving the sheriff's office, he'd been a reserve officer for the Roosevelt Police Department. He continued to work in that role and in April 2013 was hired as the department's animal control officer.

Roosevelt Police Chief Rick Harrison, who said he considers Butterfield a friend, said there wasn't much of a background check done before hiring Butterfield because he was already working for the department part time.

Butterfield's tenure as an animal control officer, however, was short-lived. He was fired after three weeks on the job due to allegations of inappropriate behavior made by two women, Harrison said.

"There wasn't anything we could see (in the alleged behavior) that was criminal," the chief said, noting that the women were "somewhat reluctant" to talk to investigators.

"It was just the overall pattern that was concerning to me," Harrison said.

Once again, with Butterfield gone, the internal affairs investigation was closed without being completed.

"We would have probably done a more in-depth investigation if he hadn't been in the probationary period," Harrison said.

Moving on to Myton

Myton Mayor Kathleen Cooper said she'd heard "the innuendos" about Butterfield when the city was looking at him as the person to organize and run its new police department earlier this year.

She recalls thinking, "Maybe the guy was being framed," or "Maybe he had problems back in Lehi that were still following him around." Still, she went to Harrison and to Duchesne County Sheriff Travis Mitchell to find out what she could.

"I told her he was under investigation for misconduct and he resigned before we completed the investigation," Mitchell told the Deseret News. "I tried to give her enough that she should have been asking more questions, particularly of Wade."

Harrison said he told Cooper that Butterfield was fired "due to problems he had with a female."

"She may not have gotten the whole picture from what I told her," the chief said. "I question if her decision was well-informed."

For her part, Cooper said she asked another law enforcement officer to conduct a background investigation, but said that turned up nothing solid. She also questioned Butterfield about the allegations, and says he told her his problems were the result of a few policy violations and a personality conflict with the sheriff.

"We took all that into consideration," Cooper said. "We couldn't find anything on him. I had a tendency to believe Wade."

"We decided to give him a chance," the mayor said. "We made the same decision everybody else did when we hired him."

In late October, with the new criminal case pending, Myton offered Butterfield the opportunity to resign from the job he'd held since July. When he refused, the city fired him.

Butterfield's attorney, Earl Xaiz, has declined to talk about the allegations against his client in the past. The Deseret News tried to reach Xaiz again for comment, but was unsuccessful.

Reporting bad behavior

In 2015, POST Director Scott Stephenson hopes Utah lawmakers will pass a bill that penalizes police chiefs, sheriffs and any other department heads who do not report officers who have violated POST standards to state regulators in a timely manner.

Currently, law enforcement executives who fail to report officer misconduct to POST are breaking the law. But there are no penalties if the misconduct goes unreported.

"It doesn't make sense to have something on the books that has no bite to it or any kind of consequence," he said.

Stephenson said the bill is not being introduced because of Butterfield or any other specific case. He said it was more a "housekeeping item" and not because there has been a big problem of officers quietly being let out the back door of one department only to become another department's problem.

"I wouldn't read that into this piece of legislation. Sometimes things slip through the cracks. These guys are busy people. But what we're trying to do is make it come to the forefront and make them understand and educate themselves about what is required to be reported to POST and what is not," he said.

Stephenson said in some situations, POST will catch wind of a problem with an officer, but a department will still be conducting its own internal investigation and isn't ready to present anything official to the POST Council. In the meantime, that officer might resign from one department and go to another.

The intent of the proposed legislation, Stephenson said, is to set both a time limit for reporting and a penalty. Possible sanctions being proposed include charging a chief with an infraction or class C misdemeanor for failing to report, or an administrative fine.

Even though similar legislation failed to pass last year, Stephenson said his bill has a lot of support among the state's chiefs and sheriffs. The reason it didn't pass last year, he said, was because there were still too many questions about how it would work that he couldn't answer.

'A validation'

Stewart, who hasn't seen Butterfield in 15 years, said news of the Duchesne County case has served as "a validation" of her experience.

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"He never came off as a creepy, weirdo type person. He didn't come off like that at all," she said. "Even when he was doing the stalking behavior, I mean, there was an obsession there it seemed like, but he was never weird. He didn't act mentally like he was off balance."

The current stalking allegations, however, don't come as a surprise.

"I was more surprised that he was still a police officer than his behavior," she said. "He's the chief of police in a town of one cop. Put that on your resume, big guy.

"I hope they actually do something about it this time. This is a pattern," Stewart said. "It's gotten to the creepy point, and I'm afraid it will go further than that."

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