Torched Bodies Now Linked to Suicidal Dad
James Butwin's money problems, divorce triggered family murder: Cops
By Mary Papenfuss,  Newser User
Posted Jun 6, 2012 1:30 AM CDT
The five charred bodies of a Tempe family were found in this SUV in Vekol Valley, Arizona.   (AP Photo/ Pinal County Sheriffs Office)

(Newser) – The suspected brutal murder and torching of people in an apparently abandoned SUV in Arizona looked like the gruesome work of a Mexican drug cartel. But now police believe someone else was responsible: a killer dad. The five charred bodies found inside the vehicle in the Arizona desert have been identified as a missing suburban Phoenix family, likely killed by the suicidal father, reports the Arizona Republic. One of the bodies is dad James Butwin. Police say he drove his family to the desert shortly after celebrating his 47th birthday with his wife and three children, ages 7 to 16, in their Tempe home. Butwin was having serious financial and medical problems, and was in the midst of a divorce, say authorities.

"We didn't see this coming. They seemed like good people," said a neighbor. But investigators say shortly before the bodies were discovered, Butwin sent a key to the family home and a letter to a business associate, with instructions to check on the house and details on how to keep the business going. The family SUV was spotted speeding down an interstate, and managed to evade a pursuing Border Patrol car. The smoldering vehicle was found a short time later. "This is one of the most cowardly acts that anybody could ever do," said Butwin's attorney.