Police: Burned SUV with bodies is missing family's
Web Producer: Laura Kittell
PHOENIX (KGUN9-TV/AP) - Police in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe say an SUV found burning in the desert with five bodies inside belonged to a missing family of five, including three children.
Tempe police Sgt. Jeff Glover said Tuesday that a family acquaintance advised them the Butwin family of Tempe was missing. During their investigation, Tempe Investigators discovered suspicious and concerning evidence inside the Butwin home and that the family vehicle was missing.
Based on the evidence, detectives pursued the incident as a murder-suicide investigation.
Soon after the investigation began yesterday afternoon, Tempe PD alerted Pinal County about the missing Butwin family and vehicle.
Late this morning Tempe Police were advised by Pinal County Sheriff’s Office that the vehicle found in Vekol Valley in Pinal County with the remains of five victims was in fact the missing vehicle registered to the residence on Kenneth Place.
The Pinal County Sheriff's Office has been investigating the incident involving five bodies found burned beyond recognition in a Ford SUV in the desert 35 miles south of Phoenix as possibly being drug cartel related. The Vekol Valley area is known as a major drug and human smuggling corridor.
The investigation began June 2 before sunrise when U.S. Border Patrol located a Ford SUV along Interstate 8 in the Vekol Valley area. As the agent turned his vehicle around to contact the occupants of the vehicle it fled. The vehicle was not located again until later the same morning when U.S. Border Patrol tracked the vehicle and determined it left the roadway northbound near milepost 147.
The vehicle had been badly torched. Inside of the vehicle were five severely charred human remains. Four of the human remains were in the rear storage compartment of the vehicle and one was in the second row passenger seat.
The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office Homicide Unit was called to the scene to investigate. It appeared that an accelerant was used when the vehicle was torched.
Detectives at the scene were not able to locate any information to determine the registered owner of the vehicle due to the severity of the fire.
On Monday, an autopsy was conducted on the five human remains by the Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office. Gregory Hess, the chief medical examiner of the Pima Medical Examiner’s Office, said the bodies were badly burned and that it may be difficult to determine whether they were killed before the vehicle was set afire or died in the fire. Hess added that the victims’ identities can only be determined by dental records and at this point they still have not determined if they are males or females.
Pinal and Tempe County Sheriff's Offices continue to investigate.
If anyone has information regarding this case they are asked to contact the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office at (520) 866-5111.