2 bodies found, 4 suspects charged with murder in missing Oklahoma women case

FILE - This combination photo shows Veronica Butler, left, and Jilian Kelley, right. On Saturday, April 13, 2024, Oklahoma authorities said they arrested and charged four people with murder and kidnapping over the weekend in connection with the disappearances of the two Oklahoma women. OSBI / Facebook

Two bodies have been found in rural Oklahoma and four people are facing murder charges in the disappearance of two women who went missing last month while travelling to pick up children, police have confirmed.

The missing women, Veronica Butler, 27, and Jilian Kelley, 36, “never made it to the pickup location,” the Texas County Sheriff’s Office shared on March 30, adding that the vehicle they were driving in was found abandoned on the side of the road near the Kansas border.

At the time, police called it a “suspicious disappearance” and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) found evidence of “foul play.”

On Saturday, the OSBI announced they had arrested four people in connection with the case: Tad Bert Cullum, 43, Tifany Machel Adams, 54, Cole Earl Twombly, 50, and Cora Twombly, 44.

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All four were booked into the Texas County Jail on counts of first-degree murder, kidnapping and first-degree conspiracy to commit murder.

On Sunday, police shared that they had also discovered two bodies in a rural area of Texas County. Although the bodies have yet to be identified, OSBI spokesperson Hunter McKee told reporters Monday there is no chance the women are still alive.

Authorities did not provide any further details, including possible motivations, connections to the victims or evidence that led to the arrests of the four individuals. McKee said authorities weren’t looking for any additional suspects.

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“We constantly received several tips and have used those throughout the entire 14-day process in order to find these two bodies and then also discover and find those who were responsible for this crime,” McKee told reporters Monday, according to CBS News.

McKee stressed that the case is an ongoing investigation and would not elaborate on any details.

“We can say that the evidence that was discovered inside of that abandoned vehicle and around it were able to help our investigators determine that there was foul play involved.”

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“This case did not end the way we had hoped. It’s certainly been a tragedy for everyone involved,” OSBI Director Aungela Spurlock told reporters Monday, adding that the children of the two women were safe.

Both women were mothers and connected to churches in the Hugoton, Kansas, area. Kelley was the secretary at Hugoton First Christian Church, and her husband serves as the church’s pastor. He is set to become the new minister at Willow Christian Church in Indianola, Neb., the McCook Gazette reported at the time of the disappearance.

Butler’s pastor, Tim Singer, with the Hugoton Assembly of God, said two women were “acquaintances” and that they had been travelling to pick up Butler’s children to attend a birthday party when they went missing.

Butler’s stepmother, Guadalupe Torres, and father, Clinton Butler, separately told NBC News their daughter had been engaged in a heated custody dispute.

Court records show a custody case was opened in late March 2015 and closed nearly a month later.

It is not clear if the custody battle had anything to do with her disappearance.

With files from The Associated Press

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