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Missing Pastor's Wife and Friend Confirmed Dead, Police Make 4 Arrests

04-15-2024
Missing Oklahoma Women

Authorities have confirmed the tragic deaths of a pastor's wife, Jillian Kelley, and her friend, Veronica Butler who went missing in Oklahoma two weeks ago. Their bodies were reportedly recovered in rural Texas amid an investigation into their disappearance.

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, the FBI, and the Texas County Sheriff's Office announced Sunday on X that the bodies would be "transported to the Office of the Oklahoma Chief Medical Examiner to determine identification and cause and manner of death."

“This case did not end the way we had hoped. It’s certainly been a tragedy for everyone involved,” OSBI Director Aungela Spurlock said. 

As CBN News reported, The Texas County Sheriff's Office requested help from the public on March 30, when they declared the disappearance of 27-year-old Butler and 39-year-old Kelley, the wife of Pastor Heath Kelley, who were traveling from Kansas to Oklahoma.

The pair had left Hugoton, Kansas, but never arrived at their planned destination, according to a report from The Kansas City Star. The sheriff's office said they were "traveling together to pick up children."

According to descriptions of the two women, Kelley has brown hair and blue eyes and was last seen wearing light blue jeans and a long-sleeved shirt, while Butler, who is five feet and four inches tall, has red hair and green eyes and was seen wearing denim shorts and a short-sleeved blue shirt.

Oklahoma police announced Saturday that four people were arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of kidnapping, and one count of conspiracy to murder in the first degree in connection with Butler and Kelley's disappearance, ABC News reports.

Tad Bert Cullum, 43; Tifany Machel Adams, 54; Cole Earl Twombly, 50, and Cora Twombly, 44 were taken in custody the day before the two bodies were found and were booked into the Texas County Jail.

Adams is the paternal grandmother of Butler's children and Cullum is her boyfriend, according to NewsNation

Butler was allegedly in the middle of a custody battle with the father of her children and seeking full custody.

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OSBI public information manager Hunter McKee told Fox News that investigators found an abandoned vehicle on the day of the women's disappearance in a rural area of Oklahoma, and OSBI said in a statement on Facebook last week that "foul play" was suspected. 

"We're calling this a suspicious disappearance because as soon as you find a vehicle really in the middle of nowhere you know was occupied by two women, and those two women have vanished; it's concerning for us as well, so we are really trying to figure out what may have happened and doing everything we can to find them," McKee said last week.

A person close to Butler told ABC 7 that the mom was picking up her 6-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son in Eva, Oklahoma to celebrate her daughter's birthday.

Kelley traveled with her from Elkhart, Kansas for the 16-mile journey, but where the vehicle was discovered was three miles short of their destination.

Members of Willow Christian Church had gathered on Easter Sunday to hold a prayer service for Kelley and Butler.

"Please, please be in prayer for these women," the church wrote in a Facebook post. "Jilian is the wife of our new minister, Heath Kelley, and the sister-in-law of church member Hillary Kennedy. Please pray that Jilian and her friend Veronica are safe and that they are found quickly. God, please bring these women home to their families that are so worried about them." 

Kelley's husband, Heath, was hired by Willow Christian Church last November but has not yet started working at the church. 

He currently serves at Hugoton First Christian Church, which announced on March 30 that its door would be open for continuous prayers for the two missing women. The church has also provided meals for Heath and their four children. 

On April 4, Heath reposted a prayer for the two missing women posted by McCook Christian Church on Facebook. 

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