When Faron Butler wanted to hear his daughter's voice, he went to the voice mails she left him before she died of cancer at the age of 14.
"If I had a bad day or week, I'd listen to her voice. I'd listen to it a couple of times a week," Butler said Friday from his home in Elma, Wash., holding back tears. "She'd be there, saying, `Daddy, I love you and I miss you."'
But the voice mails are gone, erased in February when Butler joined a free trial of a messaging service offered by his cellphone carrier, T-Mobile, and he doesn't believe company officials when they say the company can't retrieve them.
"T-Mobile deeply regrets the sorrow the Butler family is experiencing. If we could retrieve this voicemail for the family we absolutely would, but unfortunately that is not possible," said T-Mobile spokeswoman Cara Walker in a statement. "We sincerely apologize that 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."
T-Mobile said it's working to compensate but has not been able to have a direct discussion with them.
Butler and his attorney, Chris Crew, said they are preparing legal action asking a court to force T-Mobile to retrieve the voice mails. The family also is seeking damages for emotional distress.
"I think it's technically unbelievable to make that statement," said Crew, who argues that in situations where law enforcement is involved, such digital information can be retrieved. He says T-Mobile is trying to avoid the expense of retrieving the messages.
Butler's daughter, Rhema, was diagnosed with cancer when she was 12, and died two years later, in June 2011. About a week before she passed away, she called her father. That's one of the voice mails that's gone. He had held on to them for about eight months.