By Russ and Tiña De Maris
It’s been a long year since the death of RVing couple James and Michelle Butler. Readers were shocked and saddened when the couple was found buried in a shallow grave on Padre Island, Texas, last year. The Butlers were first reported missing in October 2019, and four days after relatives became concerned, a Texas lawman found the RVing couple’s homicide resting place.
Relatives reported James and Michelle as missing on October 23. On reviewing security camera footage, authorities spotted the Butlers’ Chevy Silverado, towing their trailer through a U.S./Mexico border crossing. The driver was a man, and clearly not James Butler. The crossing into Mexico was made October 21 – two days before the missing couple’s remains were found.
A few weeks later, in early November, reports surfaced that a suspect had been arrested in connection with the case. In a combined Mexico/U.S. operation, police arrested Adam Curtis Williams, a Utah resident, in Jalisco, Mexico. Also picked up, another Utah resident, Amanda Noverr. The pair was taken back to Texas, and they were booked into separate facilities.
While it took only a matter of weeks from the discovery of the RVing couple’s homicide to the booking of suspects, the lever of “justice” got moved to the slow position. It wasn’t until late in January 2020 that anything new transpired in the drama. At that time a Kleberg County, Texas, grand jury handed down indictments against Williams and Noverr.
For those expecting a murder-related charge, there was disappointment. The grand jury came back with charges of theft of the pickup, unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon, and tampering with physical evidence – the last charge because they were aware a murder had taken place when they “intentionally and knowingly” buried the bodies of the Butlers. Their purpose: to impair the investigation.
The prosecutor in the case said something needed to be done. The accused couple was coming up on the 90-day mark of confinement. Had they not received some sort of indictment, then they could be released on “reasonable bond.” But the prosecutors felt they had a solid case and didn’t want either of the defendants walking away from a cell. At the time, the press was told the state felt it was ready for trial, and that both would stay behind bars “until the case is resolved.”
Blame it on COVID
More than six months after their deaths, the Butlers’ families must have been wondering when justice might get rolling. Prosecutors said, “Coronavirus.” In May of this year, District Attorney John T. Hubert told the media that the crime lab had been running slow before the pandemic. With the virus rolling into town, office staff had been reduced, and as far as DNA testing was concerned, the D.A. said, “Sometimes the process isn’t as fast as we’d like it.”
Finally, another grand jury has acted. Williams, now age 34, and Noverr, 33, have been indicted for first-degree capital murder, having “knowingly caused the death of James and Michelle Butler by shooting them with a firearm.” Had Williams managed to bail out on the Texas charges earlier, it’s doubtful he’d have gone too far – at least as a free man. Two charges are pending against him in back in Utah: a first-degree sexual assault charge, and a first-degree felony aggravated assault case.
With an indictment now made, where does the RVing couple’s homicide case go now? A Texas judge has issued a gag order – not uncommon for the small county. With a population of just 30,000 people, the jury pool is small, and nobody wants a tainted jury. With the gag order in place, not a great deal can be said about the case specifically. The county D.A. says “some” jury trials are being scheduled after the turn of the year. But again, coronavirus is slapping sticky stuff in the wheels of justice. Most proceedings are being held via teleconference, slowing things down.
All that is really known at this point is what little the county clerk’s office had to say about the case against Adam Williams and Amanda Noverr: It is yet to be scheduled.
Photo: James and Michelle Butler, alicia_C_ on twitter.com