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New Clue Emerges in Couple's Beach Murders

Police have video of someone driving truck of James and Michelle Butler
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 4, 2019 1:20 PM CST

(Newser) – Authorities have made no arrests in the murder of a New Hampshire couple found buried on a beach in Texas, but they do have a lead. Surveillance video shows somebody driving the couple's truck and RV camper over the US-Mexico border around Oct. 20, reports CBS News. Police are trying to identify the driver and find the vehicles. "It's not very often we have a mobile crime scene if the crime was committed say in the trailer," says John Matthews of Community Safety Initiative. Background on the case:

  • Road trip: The victims are James Butler, 48, and his wife, Michelle Butler, 46, of Rumney, New Hampshire. They left Rumney in June 2018 to live what the Union Leader calls an "unconventional dream." They would travel the country, picking up jobs along the way, while living in their RV. And by all accounts, they were making it work.
  • Stops: The Butlers lived much of last year in an RV park in Mesa, Arizona, then set off for Texas to work for a while as gate guards on an oil rig. In October, they hit the road again, with the eventual plan to reach Florida in time to sell Christmas trees, reports ABC News. They stopped first near Corpus Christi, Texas, on the Gulf of Mexico, and set up on a Padre Island beach. They were last seen on Oct. 16.

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  • Trouble: The couple kept in regular touch with family back home during their travels, niece Stephanie van Loon tells ABC. When they stopped answering calls, relatives got worried and reported them missing on Oct. 23.
  • Discovery: Roughly four days later, police found their bodies in a shallow grave on the beach, reports NBC News. Police have not revealed the cause of death for either but are treating both as homicides. Identity was difficult because of decomposition.
  • The experience: James Butler was retired from the Navy and had an itch to see the country. He married Michelle in 2015, and she had the same bug. "They [met] great friends all along the way, which is part of the reason the social media factor was so helpful because everyone really wanted to help find them," van Loon says, referring to the few days the couple were considered missing. "They had friends all over the US from their travels."
(Read more murder stories.)

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