Tuesday, January 24, 2006, had been like any other for Teresa Butler, a 35-year-old mother and wife, who worked as a Wal-Mart photo department associate in Risco, Missouri. Teresa had gone to work, came home and made dinner, and played in the yard with her two young sons earlier that day.
Teresa’s sister-in-law, Sarah Buchanan, dropped by the house to visit with her after Teresa’s husband, Gary ‘Dale‘ Butler, left for work that evening. The women made small talk and Teresa asked Sarah if she could borrow acne gel, complaining of an outbreak. Sarah returned to her house around 9:05 PM after Teresa told her that she would stop by on her way to work the next day before 12:00 noon to pick up the gel. The last contact anyone had with Teresa was around 10:00 pm when she spoke to a relative on the phone.
That night, Dale was working an overnight shift at Maverick Tube in Blytheville, Arkansa and attempted to call Teresa around 11:00 PM. However, she did not answer repeated phone calls. After work, Gary ran some errands and met his mother for breakfast. He returned to their locked home around 10:00 AM and found their 4-year-old son “huddled under the covers of his parents’ bed.” Gary said their 2-year-old son was awake and in the same room, sucking on “an empty bottle,” while Teresa was nowhere to be found.
The police were quickly summoned to the Butler home. Authorities found no evidence of blood or a struggle anywhere in or around the home, but after the search, it became apparent that items were missing: a video camera, a PlayStation with games, a Nintendo Game Cube with games, a large Mag-Lite flashlight, a digital camera, Teresa’s purse, her cell phone, and her car stereo.teresabutler-3
Also concerning to those that knew Teresa, though, were the items left behind in her absence. The leather jacket she wore everywhere was still in the house, her wedding rings were left (as if she had been possibly preparing to go to sleep), and her car was in the driveway. All of these details suggested that Teresa had not left of her own accord.
The only real clue, and perhaps the most perplexing detail of Teresa’s disappearance, was that a key had been found “broken off in a lock at the residence.” Later, the mystery and speculation surrounding Teresa Butler’s vanishing would intensify as her husband and the authorities discovered two inexplicable phone calls.
The most conclusive facts surrounding Teresa Butler’s disappearance suggest that the Butler family was robbed the night of her disappearance.
The items deemed missing from the house were all small, easily pawned, and less likely to have been traced back to the family or Teresa’s disappearance:
Nintendo Game Cube/Games
Teresa’s cell phone
Teresa’s car stereo
All of the missing items were able to be stashed in a backpack or easily carried/transported away from the home. Items such as the television, her vehicle, and her wedding rings were all left behind.
Upon closer inspection, evidence suggesting the abduction of Teresa Butler emerged.
Teresa was last heard from at 10:00 PM in a phone call with a relative. Dale could not reach her around 11:00 PM when he called several times. However, Dale has mentioned in interviews that it was notoriously hard to call out of his work building. If his phone calls were connecting and Teresa was not answering, it seems as though something happened between 10:00 – 11:00 pm on January 24, 2006.
A (house?) key was broken off that night in a lock at the residence. Authorities have never confirmed which door the key fragment was found in, or if the key was even to the Butler home, or if it, perhaps, was Teresa’s own home key.
When Dale came home that morning, the house doors were locked. And, other than the broken key, there was no evidence of forced entry or struggle.
“She had to have left with somebody. The Jeep was left here, and I was driving our Impala.” –Dale Butler
THE CALLS & A STRANGE LETTER
After an examination of Teresa’s cell phone records, it was discovered that two phone calls were placed after she had gone missing.
butler_teresa3At 3:16 pm that night, Teresa’s cell phone called a man in Gideon, Missouri. The man said that his phone did not ring and he did not answer it. He only noticed the missed call later on. This individual was established to have not had any known connections to Teresa.
Another call was placed from Teresa’s phone to a residence in Clarkton, Missouri. The call was answered by an elderly woman. The county sheriff expressed the following:
“The lady said she answered the phone and said ‘Hello’ a couple times. There was nothing on the other end that she could ever hear, so she hung up.
She has no idea who the Butler or Buchanan families are. So we don’t know what to make of that.”
Both Gideon and Clarkton have a 543 area code. Risco, Missouri- the town where Teresa lived, also has a 543 area code. In addition to this, Gideon, Clarkton, and Risco are all in the same county in Missouri. Because of the shared area code, it seems logical that the phone calls were not placed wholly at random. Could these phone numbers have been a few digits off from the number of a relative or friend of Teresa’s?
Though the phone calls initially appeared to be a promising lead, they quickly became another dead end. If the mysterious calls were placed by an abducted or injured Teresa, why did she not verbalize or indicate in some way that she needed help? If she were able to make calls, why not dial 911 or hit a relative’s number from her contact list? And, if they were placed by someone else, possibly her abductor, what was the purpose? Why was the phone silent when the Clarkton resident answered? The phone calls to Gideon and Clarkton have continued to go completely unexplained.
In addition to the strange phone calls, another bizarre yet vague detail has emerged. Dale claims that his mother received “a strange letter, the contents of which [Dale] preferred to keep confidential.” No further details have been released regarding the mysterious letter.