Kleberg County Sheriff’s officials have released a photo showing the man who drove James and Michelle Butler’s truck over the border into Mexico after the two were killed. Their deaths are being investigated as a homicide. In a press conference on Monday, officials said that the man and the woman with him are not considered suspects, since it’s not known if they were involved in the Butler’s deaths. But they are considered persons of interest and officials are trying to identify them.
Here is what we know so far. The search for answers is still ongoing. If you have any information, please call the Kleberg County Sheriff’s Office at 361-595-8500.
The Man & Woman Were Seen on Surveillance Driving the Truck & RV Over the Border
In the press conference on Monday, November 4, Kleberg County Sheriff’s Office released a photo of two persons of interest in the Butlers’ deaths. Only one person can clearly be seen in the photo.
District Attorney John Hubert said during the press conference that because the investigation is ongoing, they won’t reveal where the man and woman crossed into Mexico. He said they only have a picture of two crossing the border, but there might have been more in the back, they don’t know.
Hubert said that the male and female have identifying tattoos and the man was wearing large gauge earrings.
He added that the investigators have had contact with authorities in Mexico, but would not elaborate more on what that entailed.
Hubert emphasized that they aren’t murder suspects, but are sought in connection with the case. “If I can use stereotypes, they’re probably local to the Corpus Christi area,” Hubert said.
Only one photo has been released so far, and the surveillance video itself has not been released.
Lt. David Mendoza, who is leading the investigation, said they’re trying to identify the male and female. The man was driving the truck. At this time they don’t know if the man knew the Butlers or why the Butlers were killed.
You can watch the full press conference below.
In a series of Facebook posts following the news, one man has said that he believes he has seen the man in the photo and has reached out to Kleberg County. He said he’s almost certain that he saw the man on the beach on October 5 and spoke to him. They said the person was camped on North Beach and had a trailer in a bad state of disrepair. It’s not yet known if that is the same person in the photo.
The Butlers’ Cause of Death Has Not Been Released
On Sunday night October 27, a female’s remains were found in a shallow grave near where the couple was last seen, the Caller Times reported. They were found by an official who was following up on a cell phone pinging in the area south of Bob Hall Pier near Mile Marker 263, near Padre Balli Park, KRIS-TV reported.
During the press conference on Monday, officials said that the officer was investigating the area, trying to get GPS coordinates, when he saw what appeared to be remains in the sand. That was how the grave was found. The site was secured because it was at night and they returned the next morning. That was when they discovered a male body too. Mendoza said animals had been digging up the grave and that’s why the bodies were found.
When asked how they died, Mendoza said they weren’t commenting on it because it was an important part of their investigation.
There were three cats in the RV with them and it’s not known what happened to the cats. The cats are pictured below.
The Butlers Left the Balli RV Park on October 15
Officials said during the press conference that the Butlers were last seen alive on October 15 and moved out of the Balli RV Park on the 15th. The park office said they were gone from the site at 12 p.m. Then later on October 15, Michelle Butler said they arrived at their new home and planned to be there a couple of weeks.
Here is the timeline of when James and Michelle Butler were last seen, according to the Finding Michelle & James Butler Facebook Page:
- October 14: Checking out of Padre Balli Campground (officials said this was actually October 15.)
- October 15: Last Facebook post was setting up on Burners Beach near Corpus Christi, Texas
- October 15: Michelle last spoke to her son.
- October 16: Last known text.
- October 17: Missed a scheduled Facetime with their granddaughter to see her open a package they sent from Flour Bluff.
- October 19: Camper last seen on Burners Beach without their truck.
- October 21: RV and truck were gone. GPS devices could not detect their vehicles.
James Butler was a friendly and generous person, Mendoza said. He said people who don’t know each other often meet up at that part of the beach and hang out.
Mendoza said Padre Island is still considered a safe beach “for the most part.” He said the Bowl Area is visited by a lot of families on the weekends. “Then you have the rest of the beach… Over the years we’ve had some incidents but overall it’s a safe area for families.”
Shortly after the Butlers disappeared, Joanna Trevino Garza shared a story on Facebook saying that she believed she and her husband saw James Butler on October 22 in Calallen, about 38 miles from where they were last seen, and stopped and prayed with him. But the RV and truck were filmed crossing the border on October 21. When asked about that and if it showed the sighting was wrong, Hubert said he wouldn’t comment on the person seen at Walmart because it’s specific to an ongoing investigation.