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Family of missing New Hampshire couple speaks out

Posted at 2:24 PM, Nov 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-02 15:34:52-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — One day after the family of James and Michelle Butler found out they lost their loved ones -- they sit in silence in Rumney, New Hampshire.

“You don’t ever think something like this will happen to your family,” James Butler’s sister Deborah van Loon said.

Today, Nov. 2, would have been James Butler’s 49th birthday. Van Loon said today is a day of reflection.

“Everyone is quiet right now,” she said. “I think there is a sense of relief that we finally know so we can start the grieving process.”

Van Loon said at this time the family is not heading to Corpus Christi.

“We are concentrating on getting them home where they belong,” she said. “I have already contacted a funeral home to start that process.”

She said she plans to have the remains cremated in Texas before they are shipped back to New Hampshire through the funeral home system.

Van Loon said James and Michelle were happily married in 2015. She said there is no reason to believe someone was out to get them.

“I don’t think that they were in trouble in any way whatsoever,” she said. “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.”

The couple began touring the country in their RV after James Butler retired from the Navy. Van Loon said the couple was very organized and budgeted on their trips. They took jobs here and there from town to town.

“They didn’t have bad habits,” she said. “They didn’t get into trouble at all. He was a Navy boy through-and-through and he was just a very selfless person. He would do anything for anybody, literally.”

She said throughout the investigation, her family dealt with unbearable uncertainty and anxiety. She said authorities with the Kleberg County Sheriff’s Office were tight-lipped when the family had questions.

“When we posed a question all we ever get is ‘the investigation is ongoing,’” she said. “There are so many odds and ends in this whole thing that our heads are just spinning. We have had more communication through the media and volunteers in all of this than we ever had with the investigators.”

Van Loon said what she doesn’t understand is how authorities said they “supposedly” scoured 80 miles of coastline and came up empty handed when just yards away from where the Butler’s camped -- their bodies were found. She said specifically, she doesn’t understand how a week later authorities all of a sudden realized that the last cell phone ping came from the campsite. She said she does believe authorities dropped the ball on this case.

“It just blows my mind that they didn’t have cadaver animals out there the week before,” she said. “There are discrepancies for sure.”

When asked about these discrepancies on Oct. 28, Kleberg County Sheriff Richard Kirkpatrick said they are working in a slow, methodical order during the investigation to make sure they don't miss anything.

Action 10 News reached out to Kleberg Chief Deputy Jaime Garza about the discrepancies, he said he will wait to address these issues at Monday's press conference at the Kleberg County Sheriff's Office.

She said her brother was a military man who always watched his own back.

“We want to know if they are going to follow through with this investigation until it ends,” she said. “And we want to know if they are going to catch this person or persons and give justice it’s day.”

The couple’s RV was last seen crossing the U.S./Mexico border between Oct. 20 and 21 according to Sheriff Richard Kirkpatrick. The driver was neither James or Michelle, he said.

Van Loon said she never thought her family would go through something so tragic.

“Everyone is just heartbroken, miserable and very, very angry,” she said.” And we’re battling all those emotions.”

Van Loon said the couple’s only grandchild consistently spoke on the phone with James and Michelle Butler.

“She is catching vibes,” she said. “But she doesn’t really know the reality yet, she is only five.”

Van Loon said the last time she saw the Butler’s was at a family wedding in September. The last time they spoke was Oct. 16.

“When you say ‘Goodbye, have a safe trip’ you don’t ever think it’ll be your last,” she said.

Van Loon began to cry when talking about the support her family has received between Corpus Christi, Texas and Rumney, New Hampshire.

“I want all of you to know how much we appreciate the support, the love, and the prayers that we have been receiving through this whole thing,” she said. “Everyone has been so good to us.”

Van Loon said she hopes the Corpus Christi community can find answers to the other missing persons cases they have.

“We really need to find out what happened,” she said. “There are so many missing persons cases down there that you guys have from your own community.”

She said law enforcement here should focus heavily on these investigations.

“Because I think that they are all connected,” she said. “These things are happening for the same reasons.”

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