On Friday, August 16, 2019, the Bellevue-Dayton Fire Department responded to a home at 401 5th Avenue in Dayton, Kentucky after receiving a report of a child not breathing.
The child in distress was Sean Ryan Buttery Jr., known as Ryan to those who loved him. Ryan was two days short of 18 months old, and he was just starting to master the art of walking, which he started doing only a few months before.
When medics arrived Ryan was in full cardiac and respiratory arrest. While attempting lifesaving measures, the medics noted what appeared to be prior contusions and lacerations on the baby’s body.
Ryan’s mother, then-29-year-old Stacey Nellie Othma Schuchart, told police that while she baked cinnamon rolls in the kitchen, her son fell, hit his head on the microwave, and fell to the ground, where he hit his head again. At the time of Ryan’s injury, only he, his mother, and his three-year-old sister, R., were home. Several other children were at school, and Sean Buttery, Stacey’s boyfriend and Ryan’s father, was at work in Kenton County At the time, Stacey was nine months pregnant with her seventh child. The little girl would be Sean’s third child, all three of whom he shared with Stacey.
On that day, none of Stacey’s children were legally in her custody. Ryan had been taken from her at birth and placed with a foster family until just a few months prior, when he was placed with Stacey’s sister.
Detective Peter Schierloh was dispatched to the scene for a child endangerment call, but on his way, he received word that the call had been elevated, as paramedics were performing CPR on the baby.
When Detective Schierloh arrived at the Buttery-Schuchart home, he witnessed Dayton’s fire chief carrying baby Ryan to the ambulance. As the chief passed him, he said, “Something is suspicious.”
Ryan was rushed to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, where, a few hours later, he was pronounced dead.
An autopsy was conducted, and the coroner’s report contained a laundry list of injuries Ryan had sustained. The report read, “This child sustained four fractures to the pelvis, two to the front, two in the back. The child’s bladder was detached from his skeletal system, internal bleeding…” The coroner found several additional injuries, including more fractures and damage to the baby’s head and skull.
The coroner said Ryan endured “significant traumatic injury” and ruled his death due to “homicidal violence,” saying the toddler’s injuries were “entirely inconsistent with hitting his forehead on the microwave. While there was a bruise on the child’s head that could have been caused by the incident described, this minor injury played no role in the child’s death.” She opined that Ryan’s injuries were unlike anything she had ever seen due to a home accident and that the baby had instead suffered “the level of trauma that she would expect from a serious car accident.” She believed Ryan’s head injuries were caused by a series of forceful blows.
The coroner also noted that Ryan had numerous other bruises, lacerations, and scabbed-over wounds that appeared to be in different stages of healing, meaning they had occurred prior to the fatal injuries, which, she said, could not have been caused by Ryan’s three-year-old sister. The other children were at school, and police had confirmed that Sean was at work at the time Ryan was injured.
That left one suspect: Stacey Schuchart.
After several weeks of investigation, the Dayton Police announced that Stacey, who gave birth to a daughter at the end of August, was being charged with first degree manslaughter.
Stacey was arrested on Friday, September 13, 2019 and booked into the Campbell County Detention Center, where she was held on a $1 million bond.
Stacey’s arraignment took place at the Campbell County Courthouse on Wednesday, September 18. Stacey appeared before Newport District Court Judge Karen A. Thomas via video monitor from the jail. Judge Thomas, who entered a not guilty plea on Stacey’s behalf, refused to reduce Stacey’s $1 million bond, basing it on the magnitude of the crime, the injuries alleged, and the fact that she considered Stacey a flight risk, because Stacey’s prior criminal record included charges of first-degree bail jumping, probation violation, and felony identity theft.
When Stacey told the judge she could not afford an attorney, Judge Thomas appointed a public advocate, who asked if Stacey could be released with the signature of a parent or perhaps with an ankle monitor. The judge’s response was, “Absolutely not. I’ve made my ruling.”
The same week Stacey was arraigned on her manslaughter charge, Sean Buttery’s mother, Teresa Durham, spoke with the press about the loss of her grandson and how it was affecting her son.
“He’s lost,” Teresa said. “My son is lost, and it breaks my heart. I couldn’t even think about hurting my children. What parent could?”
Teresa said she will never forget seeing Ryan’s lifeless body, but she clung to the memory of his smiling face, instead. According to Teresa, both Stacey and Sean had struggled with drug addiction in the past but had been trying to regain custody of their children. In fact, Ryan, she said, was only removed from his foster family and placed in Stacey and Sean’s home on Thursday, August 15… the day before he died.
“The day before they got him. The next day, that baby’s dead,” Teresa lamented. “I don’t want his death to be in vain. I want something to come out of it… change, so these children quit falling through the cracks.”
The couple’s two daughters, then three-year-old R and one-month-old A, were in foster care, Teresa said, but Sean had regular visitation with his girls.
On Thursday, September 26, Campbell County Commonwealth’s Attorney Michelle Snodgrass questioned Detective Schierloh in court regarding the investigation into Ryan’s death. The detective cited the coroner’s report, which listed injuries including “multiple traumas to the head which would have had significant immediate neurological impairment,” a forearm fracture, at least four pelvic fractures consistent with someone stomping the child, a tear from Ryan’s lip measuring three-quarter inches by three-quarter inches, a displaced bladder, and bruising “all over.”
Detective Schierloh said that Stacey did not have custody of Ryan when he was fatally injured; he said the baby was supposed to be with her sister in Erlanger but that several of Stacey’s children were sent to her home throughout the week so they could attend school in Dayton. The sister was responsible for keeping these children safe, but she apparently saw fit to allow their “mother” to care for them throughout the week, unsupervised, even though CPS and at least one judge clearly disagreed.
The judge ruled that there was enough evidence to have Stacey’s case transferred to a grand jury. On the manslaughter charge, Stacey faced ten to twenty years in prison, but things would only get worse for her from there.
On November 14, 2019, the grand jury to dismiss Stacey’s manslaughter charge and instead handed down an indictment of wanton murder, which, if Stacey is convicted, could earn her twenty to fifty years in prison. Her next court date is a status conference at 9:30 AM on Wednesday, October 7, 2020.
Stacey Nellie Othma Schuchart was born on December 18, 1989 to mother Terry Singleton. No father was listed on her birth certificate.
Sean, too, grew up without a father; he was born on June 13, 1987 to mother Teresa L. Campbell, who has since remarried a man named Lloyd Durham. Sean was apparently married before his relationship with Stacey; it seems he eloped with Deena Gabbard, his girlfriend since January of 2011, on March 23, 2015. By the end of that year, however, he met and impregnated Stacey Schuchart, who gave birth to the couple’s first child, R, in August of 2016. It’s unclear when his relationship with Deena ended and his romance with Stacey began.
Stacey’s first child was born in 2006 when she was 16. I was unable to find out where all six of Stacey’s surviving children are currently living and whether or not they’re still in foster care. At least some of her oldest four children were fathered by a man named Charles Messer, but it doesn’t appear any of them have been placed with him. As of May of 2020, Sean’s two daughters were still in foster care.
Ryan’s family said their final goodbyes to him on Tuesday, August 27. His memorial service was officiated by Reverend Mike Sweeney.
There’s not much information available about baby Ryan, so here’s what I was able to find out. Sean Ryan Buttery Jr. was born on February 18, 2018 at 1:30 PM. He was 21 days overdue, so by the time he was born, he weighed 8 pounds, 9 ounces. He was so big he actually got stuck in the birth canal; medical staff had to push down on Stacey’s stomach and pull hard on the baby to help him emerge. Because of the difficulties during birth, Ryan’s entire face and head were bruised, and he suffered a broken clavicle.
Ryan was removed from his parents’ custody immediately, and once he was ready to leave the hospital a couple weeks after he was born, he was placed into the care of a loving foster family. Reportedly, the family was willing to adopt Ryan. It’s a shame they weren’t permitted to do that; he would be two and a half, enjoying his summer, running through sprinklers and being cuddled to sleep by his loving adoptive parents.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, Ryan had just started walking a few months before he died. Below is a video of Ryan taking a few steps during one of his parents’ supervised visitation sessions.
Rest well, baby Ryan.
Click here for my ongoing coverage of Ryan’s case.
Sources: Wave3 News, WLWT5, Facebook, The Cincinnati Enquirer, 9ABC Cincinnati, The River City News, Fort Thomas Matters, and the Dobbling, Muehlenkamp-Erschell Funeral Home