MADISON COUNTY, Ala. — On the day she should’ve been preparing for a domestic violence court hearing, an Athens mother is grieving the violent death of her 10-year-old son.
The Madison County Sheriff’s Office said Tate Buening was shot and killed by his father, Brian Buening Friday.
Kayla White had asked the court for help in early July. In a court filing, she said her ex-husband, Brian, was dangerous when he was not getting treatment for his PTSD and depression. She also told the court he had threatened to kill her. But the hearing did not come soon enough.
One Huntsville attorney told News 19 a different filing would have likely put White in front of a judge much sooner.
In a public social media post, White said she feels like she was failed by the system. She said she pleaded with the court to grant her emergency custody of her son.
July 9 an emergency modification of custody was filed. That hearing was scheduled a month out with Madison County Judge Chris Comer.
In the motion, White said her son was “In great danger while in the father’s custody.”
Now instead of being in court Monday, White is finalizing her child’s funeral arrangements.
“Everybody that I’ve spoken to sends out their prayers to that mother because I could not imagine what she’s going through at this point in time,” said Huntsville attorney Marcus Helstowski.
Helstowski, who is not connected to this case, said a more direct and urgent order might’ve sped the court process up.
“When you’re dealing with a new filing like a divorce or modifications, they’re usually going to give the other party an opportunity to respond before they set that hearing,” he said, “The difference between that and a protection order is when the individual goes and requests a protection order to go in front of a judge that day. Whoever the duty judge is during that week, and they will be able to plead a summary of their case before the judge in an ex-parte manner, which means that they’re the only party present.”
Helstowski said when you petition for a protection order, judges consider additional details in the case to determine the next steps. Nonetheless, you’re physically in front of a judge. Usually within seven to ten days versus a month.
“That judge will hear what they have to say, ask them questions, they’ll view any pictures documents that the party believes are relevant,” he said. “They’ll issue an order if they believe one needs to be issued. So, it’s just a different type of filing. And it’s specifically for issues of domestic violence, child abuse, threats.”
In 2021 so far there have been more than 350 protection from abuse orders filed in Madison County.
It’s unclear whether there was ever an attempt to petition for a protection order in this case.
White’s attorney did however file a motion after the boy’s death Friday notifying Judge Comer that there was no need for a follow-up hearing because Brian had carried out his threats and killed Tate and himself.