Arizona Family Dead in Murder-Suicide Charred bodies found were those of Jim and Yafit Butwin and their three kids.

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Normal Arizona Family Dead in Murder-Suicide Charred bodies found were those of Jim and Yafit Butwin and their three kids.

Post by Wrapitup on Sun Jun 10, 2012 3:41 pm








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Normal Re: Arizona Family Dead in Murder-Suicide Charred bodies found were those of Jim and Yafit Butwin and their three kids.

Post by Wrapitup on Sun Jun 10, 2012 3:47 pm

By Dennis Wagner, Jim Walsh

Sometime on Friday evening, after Yafit Butwin celebrated her husband's birthday with the family at the couple's Tempe home, she posted a photo of him and their children on Facebook with this message: "Happy Birthday Jim, I am so proud of my three children :) and they know why."

Just hours later, police say, the Butwins' Ford SUV was chased by a Border Patrol agent down an empty freeway west of Casa Grande and disappeared into the desert night, only to be discovered smoldering hours later among cactuses with five charred corpses inside.

Although the grisly deaths were portrayed by Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu as the work of a narcotics cartel, investigators now say the crime was a murder-suicide perpetrated by James C. "Jim" Butwin, a Valley businessman and father whose birthday was Friday.

Court records and acquaintances confirm that Butwin, 47, was in the midst of a divorce and faced serious financial and medical problems. But they also say there was no history of domestic violence, no hint of desperation in his life.

"We didn't see this coming. They seemed like good people," said Jordan Gilson, 18, a neighbor. "Heartbroken is a good word for it. When I heard about it, my stomach flipped."

Bill Bishop, Jim Butwin's divorce lawyer, said the marriage breakup had proceeded with relatively little rancor. The couple agreed to share the house during litigation and had already negotiated joint legal custody. While there were financial issues, Bishop said, they were being handled professionally.

Bishop described Butwin as a "semi-easygoing guy" who had a brain tumor but seemed optimistic about the prognosis. Butwin also faced several lawsuits but seemed to take those issues in stride.

"There was no indication whatsoever that he was upset or anything," said Bishop, who spoke with Butwin late last week. "I've had some clients who were intense and pretty aggressive, but he wasn't one of them. … This is one of the most cowardly acts that anybody could ever do."

Police find 'suspicious' evidence
According to police, sometime late last week, James Butwin placed a key and a letter in an envelope and sent it to a business associate.

The key was to his family home in the 9300 block of South Kenneth Place. The letter, detectives said, advised the partner to check on the house and also offered suggestions on how to continue their company.

Police said a visit to the residence at 2 p.m. Monday revealed "suspicious and concerning evidence" that made them suspect foul play. They also noted that the family's Ford SUV was missing. Investigators do not know how and when the family members were killed, or why the Butwins' vehicle raced down Interstate 8 at 4:30a.m. Saturday, evading the Border Patrol and veering 2 miles into the Sonoran outback.

It was discovered several hours later, still smoking. Officials reported that one victim was found in the backseat, and four in the rear compartment. All were burned beyond recognition.

Tempe police spokesman Jeff Glover identified the entire Butwin family as victims and said the Ford SUV that was found torched in the desert had been registered to them.

Besides James Butwin, court records identify the family members as:
Yafit, 40, an Israeli immigrant whose website advertises her interior-design business.
Malissa, 16, a student at Corona del Sol High School who played clarinet in the band, according to a boosters newsletter.
Daniel, 14, who celebrated his bar mitzvah on Oct.16, 2010, and was into wrestling and playing the drums, according to a 2010 article in Temple Emanuel's newsletter. He also was a student at Corona del Sol.
Matthew, age 7.

The Pima County Medical Examiner's Office ruled the deaths as homicides but has not released an autopsy or announced the manner of death.

Glover said there was "absolutely no evidence" that the slayings had any connection with drugs or drug smuggling.

Despite that conclusion, a Pinal County Sheriff's Office news release sent Tuesday afternoon continued to suggest that the slayings were related to narcotics cartels. A sheriff's spokesman issued a message saying Babeu would no longer comment on the case.

Saturday's slayings mark the second time in just five weeks that an East Valley family fell victim to murder-suicide. On May2, J.T. Ready, a neo-Nazi border vigilante, killed his girlfriend, her daughter and grandchild, as well as the daughter's boyfriend, in a domestic-violence rampage.

'Out of the blue'
James Butwin was an entrepreneur involved with real-estate developments and property management. Originally from New Jersey, he also was a prominent member of the Tempe Jewish community.

He and his family lived in an upscale neighborhood known as Corona Estates, with expansive homes, manicured lawns and stone walkways.

Steven Wolfson, Yafit's divorce attorney, said the couple continued living together during divorce proceedings under a temporary agreement to share the residence.

James and Yafit met in 1993, when she was visiting the United States. They were married in Israel.

"She learned English and became Americanized," Wolfson said. "She was looking forward to starting over and she loved her children very much."

On April11, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Jay Polk issued temporary orders for James to provide $25,000 to Yafit as predistribution interest in the estate. "Both parties shall be cordial to each other in the marital residence and respect each other's privacy," Polk instructed.

In February, Yafit Butwin's lawyer sought to invalidate the prenuptial agreement she signed in 1994 on the grounds that she didn't speak English at the time and was pressured into a deal that would leave her with no more than $1,000 monthly.

"I led a simple life on a chicken farm," Yafit said in a sworn statement. "At that time, I could only use English in simple terms and basic phrases."

In the prenuptial agreement, James Butwin reported more than $1million in assets; she reported none. For the divorce, Butwin listed a 2009 income of more than $159,000.

Wolfson said Yafit never sought an order of protection, and he was shocked to learn of the tragedy because there was no hint of domestic-violence problems.

"This just isn't it," he said. "This is out of the blue as far as we're concerned."

'Tragic all the way around'
Butwin became a licensed real-estate broker in January 2003, according to the Arizona Department of Real Estate.

He created a network of corporations to pursue commercial-property deals, records with the Arizona Corporation Commission show.

None of the partners listed in those arrangements could be reached for comment Tuesday.

Butwin's professional image extended to Temple Emanuel, where he was a board member.

"I never had any indication of anything like this happening, so you can never tell," said Sal Caputo, a fellow board member.

Yafit Butwin was an energetic mother who often talked lovingly about her children, said Robin Phillips, a Tempe resident who saw her for about the past 18 months at their weekly meditation group in Chandler.

In 2011, Yafit graduated from Northern Arizona University and was pursuing an interior-design career.

Yafit had said her husband would not leave the house, something they were negotiating as the divorce was unfolding, Phillips said.

"Six months ago she had all kinds of great things on the horizon. She had finished her degree. She was starting her business," Phillips said. "She was trying to move forward, so to see that change so badly is just tragic all the way around."

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Normal Re: Arizona Family Dead in Murder-Suicide Charred bodies found were those of Jim and Yafit Butwin and their three kids.

Post by Wrapitup on Sun Jun 10, 2012 3:50 pm

Burned bodies in SUV were missing Tempe parents, coroner says

Published June 07, 2012
Associated Press
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This image provided by the Pinal County Sheriffs Office, shows the vehicle where five burned, dead bodies were found, in Pinal County's Vekol Valley area, west of Casa Grande, Ariz. (AP/Pinal County Sheriffs Office)

PHOENIX – Two of five bodies found burning inside an SUV in the desert 35 miles south of Phoenix are a Tempe couple whose case was being investigated as a murder-suicide, a coroner confirmed Thursday -- contradicting comments made by Arizona's second-most famous sheriff that a violent drug cartel likely was to blame.

The bodies were positively identified as James and Yafit Butwin using dental records because their bodies were burned beyond recognition, said Gregory Hess, chief medical examiner for Pima County.

The other three bodies in the SUV are believed to be their three children, 16-year-old Malissa, 14-year-old Daniel and 7-year-old Matthew. All three had birthdays coming up in June and July.

Hess said that his office got dental records for James and Yafit Butwin on Wednesday but didn't get the children's records until Thursday. He said he hopes to positively identify their bodies no later than Friday.
Also Thursday, Tempe police Sgt. Jeff Glover revealed that police believe James Butwin killed his wife and children before taking his own life because they found two suicide notes that he had written.

Police also found blood and shell casings in several of the family's bedrooms, and two guns inside the torched SUV.

It's still unclear whether everyone including James Butwin was dead when the SUV was set ablaze.
"This is really the most tragic ending to a situation that's realistically domestic violence," Glover said. "It's not an easy situation for the community. There are neighborhoods and close friends and family that are devastated over this situation."

A Border Patrol agent found the five bodies in the burning SUV on Saturday.

Soon after they were found, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu said that all evidence pointed to a violent drug cartel because of the location of the SUV in a known smuggling corridor and the nature of the crime.
"Given all these indicators, you don't have to be a homicide detective to add up all this information," Babeu said Saturday, the day the bodies were found.
On Monday, Babeu posted on his Facebook page: "All information is pointing that this is connected to the violent drug cartel smuggling in this high smuggling area."

"The border is NOT more secure than ever Ms. Napolitano!" he added, in reference to previous statements made by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

But on Tuesday, Tempe police said that the SUV actually matched that of the Butwin family.
A family acquaintance alerted Tempe police that he was worried about the family on Monday after receiving a note from James Butwin instructing him on how to run his real estate business.

Police soon after found "suspicious and concerning" evidence in the home that they said pointed to the family being dead in a murder-suicide.

Yafit Butwin had been seeking a divorce from James Butwin, who neighbors and police say was battling a brain tumor and experiencing financial problems.
Yafit Butwin filed for divorce in September and was seeking half of her husband's liquid assets, spousal support and exclusive access to their upper-middle-class home in Tempe during the divorce proceedings. The divorce was set to go to trial next month.
James Butwin turned 47 on Friday.

Among some of Yafit Butwin's last words were posted on her Facebook page the same day, along with a photo of James Butwin and her three smiling children. She wrote: "Happy Birthday Jim. I am so proud of my three children :) And they know why."

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Normal Re: Arizona Family Dead in Murder-Suicide Charred bodies found were those of Jim and Yafit Butwin and their three kids.

Post by Wrapitup on Tue Jun 19, 2012 12:03 pm

PD: Burned SUV with bodies is missing family's

Posted: Jun 02, 2012 3:35 PM CDT
Updated: June 5, 2012 07:06 PM MST
By Colton Shone

PINAL COUNTY, AZ (CBS5) -
A vehicle containing five burned bodies found in the desert Saturday morning is registered to a Tempe missing family of five, including three children, law enforcement authorities said.

Police said the vehicle links back to the home of James and Yafit Butwin and their three children near Knox and Rural roads in Tempe.

Tempe police said Tuesday detectives had been pursuing the case as a murder-suicide investigation.

"There may have been a pending divorce," said Sgt. Jeff Glover of the Tempe Police Department. "There's other things going on financially."

CBS 5 News contacted James Butwin's attorney, who said, "This is the most cowardly act I can imagine anyone ever doing." Bill Bishop added the couple had no background of domestic violence and it was not a hotly contested divorce.

Bishop said James Butwin had been battling brain cancer. He had just celebrated a birthday on June 1.

The vehicle was located off Interstate 8, west of Casa Grande and south of Maricopa in the Vekol Valley in Pinal County, a known drug-smuggling corridor, according to the sheriff's office.

Border Patrol agents encountered a white Ford Expedition in the same area near Interstate 8 at approximately 4:30 a.m. Saturday.

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu said the SUV ran from agents and they continued to search for it through the morning.

Once the sun came up, Border Patrol agents found car tracks that looked like they launched off the highway.

"This Border Patrol agent had observed some tracks that left Interstate 8 in the very area where that sighting had occurred and it actually left the ground, like it launched off of the highway," Babeu said.

Babeu said they believe it's the same car found burned.

Four of the human remains were in the rear storage compartment of the vehicle, and one was in the second-row passenger seat, PCSO said.

PCSO homicide unit investigators said the area had several shoe prints and also "sleepy feet." That's a term referring to shoes made of carpet remnants or burlap by smugglers to hide their footprints. Investigators said it also appeared that an accelerant was used when the vehicle was torched.

The vehicle was so badly damaged that detectives said they were not able to locate any information to determine the identity of the registered owner.

On Saturday afternoon, PCSO said it received an anonymous phone call from someone who said he feared his brother-in-law was among the dead. The brother-in-law had told him the night before that he was "going to Vekol Valley to make money" with four other acquaintances, PCSO said. The five men were last seen in a Ford SUV.

On Sunday, a homicide detective again spoke with the anonymous caller who said he still had not been able to get in touch with his brother-in-law or his acquaintances. Homicide detectives were also not able to locate the brother-in-law, either. PCSO said it knows the names of the family members involved, including those who are missing. The family said it fears if any names are released, they could be targets of retaliation from a drug cartel.

An autopsy conducted Monday on the five human remains revealed the bodies were so badly burned that it may be difficult to determine whether they were killed before the vehicle was set afire or died in the fire. Their identities can only be determined by dental records, the Pima County Medical Examiner's Office said.

On Monday at about 2 p.m., Tempe police officers were called to a home in the 9300 block of S. Kenneth Place after receiving a missing persons report. Investigators said they discovered suspicious evidence inside the home and noted the family vehicle was missing. They alerted PSCO.

"I just heard that they went missing and then, you know, I heard that there was blood in the house and there were cops everywhere last night and just checking out the house," said a neighbor Jourean Gilson.

Tempe police officials said they do not think there are any other suspects involved in the case.

Sheriff's officials said they will continue working with the Pima County Medical Examiner's Office and the Tempe Police Department with the investigation.

People who might have any information about the case are asked to call the Pinal County Sheriff's Office at 520-866-5111.

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