SONORA (CBS13) — A Tuolumne County nurse is pointing to the pandemic as the reason why she snapped and planned to hire a hitman to kill her husband.
For Jeremie Butler, he said the past year has been a nightmare as he stands behind his wife.
He wouldn't speak on camera but said his wife is just one example of an overworked frontline worker that needs help.
Heidi Butler, a Sonora nurse and mother, was accused of a murder-for-hire plot targeting her husband. Now, it appears she may have suffered a mental health breakdown.
Jeremie Butler said that breakdown was, in part, due to her frontline work amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Working seven days a week for over four months straight, volunteering on the front lines during the COVID outbreak at various hospitals," he said. "Her contribution helped to save the lives of many. She just didn't have anyone to save hers."
It's been more than a year since her arrest at her home on Woodduck Lane.
Investigators said one of Heidi Butler's co-workers at Adventist Health called the FBI saying she had asked about guns and was discussing hiring a Hells Angel to carry out the hit.
There was also talk of poisoning her husband's Diet Cokes with COVID-19.
She was reportedly going to pay for the murder with a $500,000 life insurance policy on her husband.
The obscure details on how Heidi Butler would allegedly carry out the crime stood out to defense attorney Jennifer Mouzis.
"What that says to me was that this either wasn't a serious indication that she wanted to kill him, or that she was really suffering from a psychotic break," she said.
Mouzis agrees with Heidi Burler's attorney, who has said she is an excellent candidate for a mental health diversion—which would mean treatment, not jail time.
"Those all weigh in favor of treating her, rather than criminalizing her behavior," Mouzis said.
Jeremie Butler also claimed his wife had an undiagnosed mental condition. Clinical Neuropsychologist Dr. Judy Ho weighed in.
"When the stressors exceed the coping skills and ability we do sometimes see what we call a mental health breakdown where a person who was high functioning all of a sudden suffers very significant clinical symptoms," Dr. Ho said.
Jeremie Butler told CBS13 he still loves his wife. He said he just wants life to return to normal for his entire family.
"I try my hardest to be the best man I can be," he said. "I've stayed in this marriage for my children. I've stayed because my wife was sick. I know this 100%."
Heidi Butler has pleaded not guilty and has been out of custody since September after her bail was lowered to $100,000. She has appealed for mental health treatment instead of a criminal trial. That hearing is set for December.
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