Authorities have identified the bodies of a missing New Hampshire couple found Sunday on a beach in Corpus Christi, Texas.
The family and friends of U.S. Navy veteran James Lawrence Butler III, 48, and Michelle Elaine Butler, 46, reported them missing on October 23 after they lost all contact with the two individuals.
A Kleberg County deputy discovered the remains buried in the sand on Padre Island after one of their cell phones pinged in the area. Upon further investigation, the deputy noticed a bra lying on one of the dunes, which eventually led them to the bodies.
The Nueces County medical examiner’s office ruled the deaths homicides; however, no information was released about the cause of death.
“You don’t ever think something like this will happen to your family,” said James Butler’s sister, Deborah van Loon.
“Everyone is quiet right now,” she commented. “I think there is a sense of relief that we finally know so we can start the grieving process.”
The Kleberg County Sheriff’s Office said in a press release that the couple’s truck and RV, which had been set up at Beach Marker 263 on October 15, have so far not been located.
“At present law enforcement officers are working on the investigation and are working on identification of persons of interest and attempting to find the whereabouts of the victims’ truck and RV trailer,” the release stated.
However, authorities noted that surveillance footage showed an unidentified person of interest driving the couple’s stolen RV over a checkpoint into Mexico on October 21.
Family members said the couple was traveling across the country and planned to end their trip in Florida, according to their niece, Stephanie van Loon.
“They are always in contact with the families. So, the fact that, even for a day, they were out of contact was really strange,” she said. “They were the type of people to open their hearts and homes to everybody. They were just those kinds of people.”