For the first time, we hear a mother’s desperate fight, in her own words, to get law enforcement to check on the welfare of her son.
Ten-year-old Tate Buening was killed by his father, Brian Buening, in a murder-suicide incident in Madison County on Aug. 6.
The new audio recording obtained exclusively by WAAY 31 sheds some light on what happened outside of the Harvest home as Kayla White, Tate’s mother, asks a Madison County Sheriff’s Office deputy to check on her son inside her ex-husband's home.
At that point, no one outside knew what was behind the closed door. The deputy on scene, who has not been identified by the sheriff’s office, tells White to go up to the door and knock herself.
Moments after the exchange, White entered the unlocked house and found the bodies of her son and ex-husband.
White has hired Will League of the firm Siniard, Timberlake & League, and they confirm with WAAY 31 they are preparing to file a lawsuit against local agencies, possibly including the sheriff’s office.
The transcript of the two-minute recording is below:
Unidentified man: “We are waiting, he’s not responding to text messages or phone calls or anything at all. That’s what we called the welfare for.”
Kayla White: “That’s why we are getting concerned. That’s my son who’s here.”
Deputy: “This is a custody dispute.”
White: “That’s not what this is, I want to make sure that he is OK.”
Deputy: “No you are here, you can walk to the door just like I can. That’s what I am saying, this is a dispute between the two of you guys, if there was some way you couldn’t get over here or something we could do this, but.”
White: “My concern right now is the safety, my concern is safety; I want to make sure he is alive and well cause his dad is not always mentally stable."
Deputy: “The problem is that you are here.”
White “I could leave if...”
Deputy: “You can walk up to the door. I can stand right here. OK. You are allowed on the property, right? You haven't been trespassed, anything like that? Yeah, you can walk up and knock on the thing. I can’t get involved.”
The audio ends with footsteps as White walks up to the door, the deputy remains outside in the front.
“For the procedure to end up with Kayla finding her own child that had been murdered, this is just tragic. You have to go back and look at the procedure of the law-enforcement officials, sheriff’s department and look at what the officer knew at that time,” League told WAAY 31.
“There are several aspects we're looking into to address the legal side of what happened, the procedures of the sheriff.”
In the weeks before the tragic murder-suicide, White filed for an emergency custody order with the courts.
But that hearing was set for weeks later, three days after the bodies were discovered inside the Harvest home.
White had provided the court with cellphone text message evidence and asked for her son to be removed from her ex-husband's custody, alleging he had threatened to kill her, had mentally health issues and had attempted suicide in the past.
It’s not clear if the deputy knew that on the scene Aug. 6.
Monday, WAAY 31 reached out to the Madison County Sheriff’s Office to ask them questions about where their review of the case stands. We have not heard back.
Kayla’s legal team telling us they are also looking into the role overwhelmed judges in the county could have played. That’s another chapter of this story we have reported on extensively. You can find our complete coverage here.