(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.