James Lawrence Butler and Michelle Elaine Butler were touring the US together
For family who reported them missing, it’s the worst possible news. James Lawrence Butler and Michelle Elaine Butler—who’ve been on the road for over a year—were found last Sunday buried in a shallow Texas grave, CNN reports. Authorities say the murdered couple was found on a Padre Island beach, near where they parked their truck and RV, which are now gone. The Butlers’ New Hampshire family reported them missing last month after they fell out of touch.
“I don’t think that they were in trouble in any way whatsoever,” James’ sister, Deborah van Loon, tells KZTV-10. “They were the best people and they loved what they were doing. I think that whoever it was may have befriended them along the way.”
She describes James as a selfless “Navy boy through-and-through” who “would do anything for anybody, literally.” Married in 2015, the Butlers began touring the country last year after James retired from the Navy. Budgeted and organized, they apparently took part-time jobs to support their travels—like a recent gig guarding gates for Texas oil rigs, van Loon tells USA Today.
The family reported them missing only days after James had asked his sister to show the couple’s house to possible buyers. “Everyone is quiet right now,” she says. “I think there is a sense of relief that we finally know so we can start the grieving process.” Investigators say they’re identifying people of interest and trying to find the couple’s missing vehicles.