Bodies found in search for pastor’s wife and friend who went missing two weeks ago: Four arrested for murder

Two bodies have been recovered from a rural area of Oklahoma, two weeks after a pastor’s wife and her companion went missing and their car was found abandoned

Amelia Neath
Tuesday 16 April 2024 10:26 BST
Veronica Butler, 27, and Jilian Kelley, 39, were on their way to pick up children when they disappeared
Veronica Butler, 27, and Jilian Kelley, 39, were on their way to pick up children when they disappeared (Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation)

Two bodies have been found in rural Oklahoma, a day after four people were arrested over the disappearance of two women.

Veronica Butler, 27, and Jilian Kelley, 39, were on their way to pick up Butler’s children last month but never made it to their final destination. Their car was found abandoned near Highway 95, just south of the Kansas and Oklahoma borders.

On Saturday, authorities announced that four people had been arrested in connection with the suspicious disappearance of the women, both of whom are thought to be mothers. In an update on Sunday, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Information (OSBI) said that two bodies had been recovered in rural Texas County on Sunday.

Both of the bodies have been transported to the Medical Examiner’s Office to determine their identities, as well as the cause and manner of death.

Cole Earl Twombly, Tad Bert Cullum, Tifany Machel Adams, and Cora Twombly were arrested and charged with murder in connection with the disappearance of Veronica Butler and Jilian Kelley (Texas County Sheriff’s Department )

The bodies were recovered just over two weeks after law enforcement officials in Oklahoma said they were beginning the search for Ms Kelley, a wife of a pastor in Hugoton, a small city in Kansas, and Ms Butler, who were driving to pick up Ms Butler’s children to attend a birthday party. Yet, the two women never showed up.

On Saturday, the OSBI announced that Tad Bert Cullum, 43, Tifany Machel Adams, 54, Cole Earl Twombly, 50 and Cora Twombly were arrested in Texas and Cimarron counties.

All of the suspects have been charged with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of kidnapping and one count of conspiracy to commit murder in the first degree.

Authorities quickly determined that foul play was a factor in their disappearance, and branded the case as “suspicious” from the start.

The car that the women were believed to be travelling in at the time that they went missing was found abandoned on the side of a road in Texas County, Oklahoma, prompting a search that has continued since the end of March.

After the OSBI assessed “information obtained from the victim’s vehicle”, investigators believed there was evidence to indicate foul play.

Officials have not released any additional information about the crime, what led to the arrests, or where exactly the bodies were found.

Before the two deceased people were recovered, authorities said they were searching the rural area where the abandoned vehicle was found in Texas County, approximately 11 miles south of Elkhart, Kansas. The area is about 260 miles northwest of Oklahoma City.

The investigation into this case is still ongoing and anyone with information regarding this case is asked to contact the OSBI at or 1-800-522-8017.

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