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James and Michelle Butler

BREAKING: Persons of interest photo released after police find missing couple dead, buried under sand at a ‘family area’ beach

Texas authorities released a photo of two people they want to speak with after a New Hampshire couple died while camping at Padre Island last week.

ABC3 reports that the Kleberg County Sheriff’s Office released a security footage photo Monday morning, in connection with the deaths of 48-year-old James Butler and his wife, 46-year-old Michelle Butler, both of New Hampshire.

Authorities said security cameras captured the photo at the border of Texas and Mexico. A white male appeared to be driving a truck that belonged to the deceased couple, while a female was sitting in the passenger seat.

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[Photo: Kleberg County SO]
The Butler couple last made contact with family on October 16. On October 18, the Kleberg County Sheriff’s Office announced that James and Michelle were officially considered missing.

On October 27, police found a female’s body buried in a shallow grave in “the bowl” of Padre Island, near Corpus Christi, between Mile Markers 263 and 264. Authorities found a male’s body buried the following day.

The male’s body was found buried underneath the female’s body.

“The partial remains of a person were seen in a shallow grave,” Lt. David Mendosa of the Kleberg County Sheriff’s Office said. “Wildlife, it appears, dug out part of the shallow grave, which exposed the body….. We discovered first, a female body, and then a male body.”

The Nueces County Medical Examiner’s Office identified the Butler couple as the victims the following week. Their deaths are being treated as a homicide.

The male person of interest reportedly drove the couple’s 2018 Silver Chevrolet 2500 pickup truck, which was towing their white Cedar Creek RV, across the Mexico border on October 21. The driver appears to blonde hair, earrings, and numerous tattoos. He was wearing a red shirt.

The female passenger’s face is unclear in the photo. However, she appears to have tattoos on her left forearm and a white wristband on her left arm.

“At this point, we just know that they might have come in contact with the victims, and because of that we want to talk with them, but we’ve got no indication as to their role at this point,” Kleberg County District Attorney John Hubert said.

Authorities said they aren’t sure who the persons of interest are, but Hubert said they’re likely from the Corpus Christi area.

“If I could use stereotypes, I think they’re probably local to the Corpus Christi area.”

According to The New Hampshire Union-Leader, James and Michelle were living out their dreams of traveling across the country. They had been traveling since last Summer, taking on temporary odd jobs along the way. They were reportedly on their way to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, when they stopped by Corpus Christi and decided to stay for a while.

James’ sister, Deborah Lynn van Loon, said that the couple found a free place to park their RV at Padre Island when tragedy struck. The pair had been there a little over two weeks when they suddenly stopped contacting their family. This was unusual, according to van Loon, who said James and Michelle typically made contact with family daily, often telling them about their adventures.

James was retired after serving 21 years in the U.S. Navy. He shared the love of traveling with his wife.

“He said, ‘I’ve traveled the world with the Navy, but I’ve never seen my own country,’” van Loon said.

Anyone with information is urged to contact Kleberg County police at 361-595-8500 or 361-592-4636. You can also email tips to jgarza2@klebergcoso.org.

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[Feature Photo: James and Michelle Butler/Handout]