PADRE ISLAND, Texas — A Utah man wanted in connection with the deaths of a traveling New Hampshire couple whose bodies were found buried in shallow graves last week on a Texas beach has been arrested in Mexico, where authorities said he fled after the killings.
Adam Curtis Williams, 33, of Logan, was arrested Wednesday in the Mexican state of Jalisco, according to KRIS in Corpus Christi, Texas. Williams was being sought on a felony theft charge, according to Kleberg County, Texas, Sheriff Richard Kirkpatrick.
He is accused of stealing a 2018 Silver Chevrolet 2500 pickup and a Cedar Creek RV belonging to the slain couple, James Butler and Michelle Butler.
Williams' arrest, which was first reported by a Mexican news station, was confirmed on Facebook by members of the couple's family.
The couple vanished last month while camping on the beach on Padre Island, yards from where their bodies were ultimately found. The barrier island is just outside of Corpus Christi.
"This person is considered armed and dangerous," Kirkpatrick said Tuesday during a news conference announcing Williams' identification.
The Kleberg County Sheriff's Office on Monday released a photo that appeared to show Williams and a woman, identified by authorities as Amanda Noverr, crossing the border into Piedras Negras, Mexico, on Oct. 21. The port through which the pair is believed to have left the U.S. is nearly 250 miles northwest of where James Butler and Michelle Butler were found dead.
Kirkpatrick said Tuesday that the image, taken from a surveillance camera at the border crossing, and tips from the public helped investigators identify Williams and Noverr. The pair made it more than 1,200 miles before being taken into custody on Wednesday.
It is not clear why Williams and Noverr were in Texas at the time of the Butlers’ disappearance. It is also unclear how or where Williams and Noverr might have encountered the Butlers.
Williams was driving the Butlers’ Chevy and pulling their RV when he and Noverr crossed into Mexico, authorities said.
"We don't have any reason to believe they are still in the (Corpus Christi) area," Kirkpatrick said Tuesday.
See Tuesday's news conference, courtesy of KRIS in Corpus Christi, below.
Federal court records show that Williams has a long criminal history, including a 2010 conviction on drug trafficking and weapons charges for which he was sentenced to more than eight years in prison. Bureau of Prisons records show he was released, under supervision, in December.
He allegedly violated his supervised release multiple times, the records show. He was charged in September with object rape, sodomy and forced sexual abuse in an alleged incident that took place in April.
He was accused in May of possessing heroin and drug paraphernalia and, in August, he was accused of domestic violence, assault on a police officer and resisting arrest.
At a July probation revocation hearing, a judge ruled that Williams could remain free under supervised release but tacked on additional restrictions to his release. The rape, sexual assault and other violent crimes of which he is accused were not applicable at the time of the hearing.
The Standard-Examiner in Ogden, Utah, reported that a warrant for Williams' arrest was issued in Utah on Oct. 8 after he failed to appear for a court hearing on the charges from August. He was due in court Monday in connection with the April allegations.
Another warrant was issued for his arrest for failing to appear in court Monday, according to the newspaper.
Police on both sides of the Mexican border were working to find Williams and Noverr, Kirkpatrick said earlier this week. Bail for Williams was expected to be set at $1 million, according to KZTV in Corpus Christi.
No warrants have been issued for Noverr’s arrest, though she remains a person of interest in the case, Kirkpatrick said.
The New York Times reported that James Butler, 48, and his wife, 45, quit their jobs in the summer of 2018, rented out their New Hampshire home and struck out in their RV for some adventure. They traveled to New York and Arizona, then returned home in September for Michelle Butler's son's wedding.
The couple made their way to south Texas last month.
The Butlers' new daughter-in-law, Caitlin Roth, wrote on Facebook Oct. 25, before the victims' bodies were discovered, that the family reported the couple missing on Oct. 23 after being unable to reach them for several days. She wrote at the time that if the Butlers, who spoke to their loved ones daily, wanted to "unplug" for a while, they would have let their family members know.
Roth told the Times Monday evening that she was "speechless" upon learning her in-laws had been killed.
"They were good people, family people. They would do anything for anyone, give their shirt off their back for anyone," Roth said.
Roth told the newspaper that the Butlers arrived Oct. 14 at Padre Balli Park near Corpus Christi, where it cost $25 per night to park their RV at the campground. James Butler's sister told KZTV the last time she talked to her brother, he told her they had moved their RV to a nearby beach, where they could camp for free.
They planned to head next month to the Fort Lauderdale area, where they were going to sell Christmas trees.
The family last heard from the couple Oct. 15 when they went to a post office in Texas to send their young granddaughter, who was taking up horseback riding lessons, a pair of Texas cowgirl boots, Roth told the Times. When Roth tried to FaceTime the couple two days later to show them how excited the girl was to get the boots from her grandparents, she couldn’t reach them.
"The messages were not going through and they didn't answer," Roth told the Times.
The Butlers were also seen alive for the last time on Oct. 15, according to Lt. David Mendoza, who is leading the Kleberg County Sheriff’s Office investigation into the double homicide. Staff members at Padre Balli Park said the Butlers were gone from their campsite there by noon that day.
Michelle Butler posted a status update on Facebook at 12:47 p.m. that afternoon saying they had arrived at their beach campsite, which was to be their home until they headed to Florida, Mendoza said at Monday’s news conference.
Kirkpatrick said that local, state and federal law enforcement officials worked tirelessly to find the couple after they were reported missing. According to the Times, cellphone data led authorities to an area of the beach south of Bob Hall Pier, where cellphone towers last picked up pings from the couple’s phones.
A reserve deputy searching the area the evening of Oct. 27 found a bra in the sand and suspected he had found a crime scene, the newspaper said.
He soon discovered part of a body jutting out of the sand, Mendoza said Monday.
“We exhumed the bodies on Oct. 28 and late on Nov. 1, through forensic examination, we identified the remains as those of the Butlers,” Kirkpatrick said.
Mendoza told reporters Monday that the first remains that were discovered were those of Michelle Butler, whose body had been partially exposed by wildlife. Because it was nearly nightfall, investigators secured the scene overnight on Oct. 27 and assembled a team to begin the crime scene work the following morning.
"It wasn't until the next morning that we all arrived at daybreak," Mendoza said.
James Butler’s body was located later that day with the help of cadaver dogs brought in by crime scene investigators, the lieutenant said.
Watch Monday's news conference, courtesy of KIII in Corpus Christi, below.
Investigators have not said how the Butlers died, or when the homicides took place.
“I have committed 100 percent of our department’s resources and have dedicated an entire investigative team to ensure that the person or persons responsible for this tragic crime are brought to justice,” Kirkpatrick said Monday.
Mendoza told reporters that the approximately 10 miles of beach under the department’s jurisdiction are generally safe. Like the Butlers, a lot of families camp in the “bowl area,” known as such because of the depression formed by the sand dunes in the location.
"It's a popular area. And it's been a safe area," Mendoza said.
As of Monday, investigators said it was unclear if the Butlers were targeted or if they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
According to social media posts, the Butlers married in 2015. They were described by family and authorities as friendly and generous.
A reporter on Monday asked Mendoza if the couple was maybe too trusting.
"I don't know if they were too trusting. I think that when you have personalities like that, people seek them out because they're friendly," Mendoza said. "People want to be associated with them, they want to hang out."
He said the beach is a place where strangers come together over a campfire or a barbecue pit. Campers often invite neighbors to their campsite to visit or have a meal.
On Oct. 27, shortly before the reserve deputy first stumbled upon her mother-in-law’s body, Roth asked friends on Facebook to keep sharing the couple’s images and information.
“I love you guys beyond words,” she wrote. “Please come home safe to us.”
The day after the discovery of the bodies, she changed her profile photo to one of herself, her husband and the Butlers from the younger couple’s wedding day.
Bradley Roth, Caitlin Roth's husband and Michelle Butler's son, told the Times the family plans to have his parents cremated in Texas and their ashes returned to New Hampshire for a celebration of their lives.
"I'm at a loss for words, to say the least," Bradley Roth told the newspaper. "It's a lot to grasp and come to terms with."
Cox Media Group