James Butwin Death Ruled Suicide; Wife and Three Children All Killed by Gunshots

The Tempe Police Department's theory that the five bodies found in the Vekol Valley this weekend were victims of a murder/suicide continues to check out.

Yesterday, the Pima County medical examiner identified the two adult bodies found in the SUV in the desert as James and Yafit Butwin, and sure enough, the medical examiner says dental records indicate that the three other bodies were the Butwins' children -- ages 7, 14, and 16.

Tempe Police Sergeant Jeffrey Glover says the medical examiner's office has also informed police that all five of them died from gunshot wounds.

James Butwin's death has been ruled a suicide, while the deaths of his family members have been ruled homicides.

Glover said yesterday that blood and bullet casings were found in multiple rooms of the home, although there was no definitive answer as to where each of the family members died.

Two guns were found in the Butwins' SUV, matching the caliber of the bullet casings found in the home.

In that SUV, four of the bodies were found in the rear compartment, and one adult body was found in the backseat.

Two "suicide" notes from James Butwin exist, Glover says, although neither of them detailed exactly what he was going to do.

Still, Glover says the notes are consistent with the murder/suicide investigation.

One of James Butwin's business partners called Tempe police over the weekend, asking them to check in on the Butwins after James Butwin mailed a letter to him with instructions on how to run the business.

Police still haven't been too specific about it, but it was enough to cause concern with the business partner.

The other note, which Glover referred to as "more specific," was left by James Butwin in his office. It wasn't really addressed to anyone, but Glover says it looked like it was meant for other family members.

Asked whether police were sure a "violent drug cartel" had absolutely nothing to do with this -- as Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu suggested -- Glover said that theory was "ruled out on our end."

The Pinal County Sheriff's Office still hasn't publicly changed its stance of simply mentioning the Tempe family's murder/suicide among its other theories.


Vekol Valley Bodies ID'd as Tempe Residents; Bullet Casings and Blood Found Inside Home

Paul Babeu Claims He Made "No Conclusions" in Case of Bodies Found in Vekol Valley

Tempe Police Pretty Sure Bodies in Vekol Valley Are From Murder/Suicide, Despite Paul Babeu's Blame-the-Mexicans Announcement

Paul Babeu Jumps to Apparently Wrong Conclusion: Tempe Cops Say Five Burned Bodies in Vekol Valley Resulted from Murder-Suicide, Not Drug-Cartel Activity

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley