Dead daughter's last voice messages deleted by phone company

Dead daughter's last voice messages deleted by phone company »Play Video
Most people know what it's like to accidentally delete an important message from your voice mail. But what do you do when your cell phone company deletes your voice mail without telling you?

Faron Butler of Elma says he's heartbroken over deleted messages that can never be replaced, because the person who left those messages is dead.

Butler says he was devastated when he discovered the saved voice messages from his daughter, Rhema, were gone. He's been saving and replaying the messages since Rhema lost her battle with cancer last June, at age 14.

"When I had bad days I would listen to her," Butler explained. "She said 'Daddy I love you and I miss you.' And I don't have that no more."

Butler says Rhema's messages on all her family's phones were deleted after Butler agreed to a free trial for T-Mobile's voicemail-to-text service. The feature turns your voice mail into a text message.

"But they failed to mention that it would delete my voice messages. Or I would have never done it," said Butler.

T-Mobile is not taking the situation lightly and says it is diligently working to follow up on this matter. Butler told KOMO 4 News multiple company employees his family talked to have apologized and offered their sympathy, which the family appreciate, but no one can give the Butlers the one thing they want most: Rhema's voice messages.

In an email statement to KOMO 4 News, T-Mobile said:

"T-Mobile deeply regrets the sorrow the Butler family is experiencing. When saving voice mail messages long-term, customers receive an alert and are prompted to re-save messages that they'd like to keep. Unfortunately, when the voicemail-to-text feature was added, which has a shorter window for saving messages, the voicemail messages were deleted. We sincerely apologize the Butlers were not adequately made aware of this possibility and are working internally to assure this information is clearly communicated to customers in the future."

The company says as with all mobile service operators, T-Mobile offers voice message storage for a fixed duration of days. The voicemail-to-text feature added to the Butler account updated the fixed number of days that the system retained Butler's voice mail, and the messages were permanently purged from the system.

Butler is convinced the messages must exist somewhere. He hired attorney Chris Crew to pursue the matter on his family's behalf.

"Just like with your computer, it's really difficult to truly erase a whole lot of digital anything," said Crew. "It's part of an emerging field of law surrounding how much the digital world has become part of our daily lives.

Butler says he's holding out hope. He's also trying to accept the suggestion that Rhema's message is gone forever.

"Yeah they are. And I feel like her voice is gone too," Butler said.