Missing RVers found dead, ruled homicide


(November 2, 2019) — A New Hampshire couple boondocking on the beach on Padre Island, Texas, has been confirmed dead after being found in a shallow grave, the victims of a homicide. The decedents have been identified as James Lawrence Butler, 48, and his 46-year-old wife, Michelle Elaine Butler, of Rumney, New Hampshire.

The Butlers were reported missing on Oct. 23, 2019, after family and friends lost contact with them. They had been living in Rumney before departing in June 2018 in a truck towing a Cedar Creek travel trailer.

James Butler had retired after 21 years in the Navy. He had been an air traffic controller on the carrier USS Enterprise. He raised two children in Virginia, where the Enterprise was based at Naval Station Norfolk.

After James Butler left the Navy he built homes and worked as a manager at a Walmart. But he longed to travel again. He told his sister, “‘I’ve traveled the world with the Navy, but I’ve never seen my own country,'” said Deborah van Loon. Michelle Butler loved the idea, too. In 2018, they packed up their RV and headed south.

(Note: We were unable to get any biographical information on Michelle in time for this story).

Their bodies were discovered Sunday evening at Beach Marker 263 about 3 miles south of Bob Hall pier after a Kleberg County Deputy found what appeared to be human remains. “Their camper was literally parked right there,” said van Loon.

The Butlers were married in 2015 and spent much of last year in Arizona, living in an RV park in Mesa. “They had so much fun there,” said van Loon.

But they were itching to travel more. The Butlers started finding temporary work through websites with short-term job listings, aimed at RVers. They would find a job, and camp nearby in their trailer, van Loon said, traveling and making money. They traveled to Texas to work as gate guards on an oil rig.

In October, the Butlers left their jobs there and started toward their next job in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. They stopped in Corpus Christi and decided to stay a while, boondocking on the Padre Island beach where they could stay for free.

They had been there barely two weeks when Michelle Butler’s family tried to reach her for one of their regular video calls, but she did not pick up. The couple was reported missing on Oct. 23. Their bodies were found four days later.

Texas law enforcement are working to identify a person of interest. Authorities are trying to find the couple’s 2018 silver Chevrolet Silverado 3500 pickup truck, with New Hampshire license plate 3738968, and their white Cedar Creek trailer, according to Kleberg County Sheriff’s Office. Their truck and camper was seen entering Mexico on Oct. 21 by a surveillance camera, but the driver was not James or Michelle.

A vigil is planned for Saturday evening in Corpus Christi, TX, near where the couple’s bodies were found, and on Sunday at 6 p.m. in the Rumney Town Common.

If you have information that may help authorities locate the killer or the location of the truck or trailer, call the Kleberg County Sheriff’s Office at 361-595-8500.

SOURCES: News release from Kleberg County Sheriff’s Office, Corpus Christi Caller Times, New Hampshire Leader and Facebook.

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Patsy Perkins

I see a dog in the back seat of the truck? Did they have a dog when this happened? If so where’s is the dog? No mention of one in any articles that I have read. We travel with three Dalmatians, a dogs bark is a big deterrent for anyone wanting to enter an RV.
Update: The white guy that killed them was from Corpus Christi.

ron moore

so many racist comments, it must have been a Mexican that killed these folks, since people with white skin never commit murder

L Daniels

Folks, PLEASE don’t believe these YouTube “wannabe a star” fulltimers who glorify this lifestyle while totally ignoring the real dangers out there. The full-time life in NOT as safe as they would like you to believe.


If you look at Maps and South Padre Island, not only does it look desolate but so gorgeous as well. Boondocks fits the description. However, “there was their camper right there” yet, it was seen attached to their silver pick up truck driving across the border? Maybe there was evidence left from their formerly parked space?
Why do you automatically blame “illegals?” There are many bars, eateries, stores. Maybe a resident met the couple while they were out for an evening, befriended them, committed the awful deed and knows going into Mexico will get rid of the evidence and walk back over the border. McAllen may be home to the murderer or murderers. Road 4 and 100 are thoroughfares to and from SPI and McAllen. I think police need to start with all the above, get any and all surveillance images to and from. I believe they will find those responsible. They say it wasn’t the couple driving. I presume they see who was. Coming back, there might be an image of the same person possibly wearing the same clothes.


This is why you need to be able to carry personal protection across state lines!


“Entering Mexico…” Say no more. No hope of getting the miscreant to face justice. RIP.

Brenda Lee

Build that wall to stop this from happening! This is ridiculous to lose to decent humans out enjoying life in what’s supposed to be the greatest country on earth. We have to protect our borders from criminals aiming to hurt the innocent!

Craig Northey

Well, for those of you that think the Mexican border is safe and the drug cartels aren’t out here, this is proof. We need the wall down here so we know who is coming and going. This is not an isolated incident.


What scum. That’s why I don’t like to trust stranger and hitchhikers or do favors for them much. Carry a gun and learn how to use it, always lock your doors, and be wary of any who approaches you.

Mark Andreas Chandler

Get a gun take classes on gun use and safety…carry it at all times. I was staying in a parking in Long Beach CA, with permission from the owners for my daughters graduation. At 3 am I heard a vehicle pull up next to my motohome. I got up pulled my 45 from out, turned on the light, showed I was armed, the vehicle drove away. Be prepared for the lawless.

Brandy Hastings

Ehh, it says the camper was “right there”.. then it says their looking for both the truck and camper? Which one is it? Ive camped solo out there so so many times. Definitely going to think twoce about it now


Oh it couldn’t be an illegal could it. Oh no, not those nice illegals.

Janee Delaine

I doubt the killers will be found. Mexico is probably where they were killed. I would never camp near Mexican border. They come over to take vehicles and have no problem killing you. My guess their killer are from Mexico. So sad. Too many people from US are disappearing or killed in Mexico.


I myself was wanting to RV after retiring touring our beautiful country but now I just dont know.

Marton Freeman

The truck and trailer can be found. Every new GM vehicle has a on star system. The Chevy Silverado can be located and shut down.


I was support of wondering that, too, George.


Absolutely horrible way to end one’s life. Makes me worry (even more) about my safety when in my RV.

Marcy Krauss

That is one of the most terrible things that I’ve ever heard.


Always be aware of your location ,surroundings and defensive options. Weapons, less lethal devices and tell someone or local authorities where you are and how long you’re staying.

Mike Sherman

This is obviously a very disturbing story and highlights a problem for RVers. I find it astounding that it would appear they were murdered for their truck, and RV. Had the border officers required the driver ID to match the registration for the truck/trailer we might have seen an arrest perhaps, or at least a detention for further investigation. Unfortunately, the facts are scarce, so we can only speculate but like I always say, better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6. If you travel in an RV, regardless if you are boon docking or not, pack some heat. It might make a difference.