Missing Kansas women confirmed dead, kids safe, 4 charged with kidnapping and murder


GUYMON, Okla. (AP) — Two Kansas women who went missing on a trip to Oklahoma to pick up children for a birthday party are dead, authorities confirmed Monday, describing a two-week effort to secure the kids’ safety and avoid violence in arresting four suspects on charges of kidnapping and murder.

Two bodies were recovered in rural Oklahoma, a day after the arrests of four people in the case.

Authorities say 27-year-old Veronica Butler and 39-year-old Jilian Kelley, of Hugoton, Kansas, were driving through the Oklahoma panhandle to pick up Butler’s children for a March 30 birthday party in Kansas. They never showed up, and their vehicle was found later that day, abandoned on a rural highway near the Oklahoma-Kansas state line, with evidence of foul play.

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation on Monday described an intense effort to find the women, protect the children and arrest suspects without violence.

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

OSBI spokesman Hunter McKee said Butler and Kelley are dead, and that the four defendants were responsible for the women going missing, but would not confirm that the bodies found were identified as the missing Kansas women, pending a report from Medical Examiner’s Office.

On Saturday, Oklahoma authorities said they arrested and charged four people with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of kidnapping and one count of conspiracy to commit murder in the first degree: Tad Bert Cullum, 43; Tifany Machel Adams, 54; Cole Earl Twombly, 50, and Cora Twombly, 44. Court records don’t indicate whether any of the four defendants have an attorney who could speak on their behalf.

Authorities announced the next day that two bodies were recovered in Texas County. The Medical Examiner’s Office would determine their identification and cause of death, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation said in a statement Sunday night.

All four suspects are being held without bond in the Texas County Jail and are scheduled to make an initial court appearance Wednesday morning, said Texas County Court Clerk Renee Ellis.

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