The bodies of a New Hampshire couple that went missing while traveling the country in their RV have been found buried on a Gulf Coast beach in Texas, authorities said.
The remains of U.S. Navy veteran James Butler, 48, and his wife Michelle, 46, were discovered on Padre Island beach near Corpus Christi on Oct. 27 and Oct. 28 and positively identified on Friday, the Kleberg County Sheriff’s Office said in a release.
Their deaths have been ruled homicides, the sheriff’s office said.
“At present law enforcement officers are working on the investigation and are working on identification of persons of interest and attempting to find the whereabouts of the victims’ truck and RV trailer,” the sheriff’s release stated.
Their truck and trailer were last seen crossing the U.S.-Mexico border between Oct. 20 and 21 but the driver was determined to not be either one of the Butlers, Sheriff Richard Kirkpatrick has said, according to Corpus Christi station KZTV.
It was GPS coordinates from a cellphone that belonged to the couple from Rumney, New Hampshire, that reportedly led investigators to their shallow beachside graves after it pinged in the area, according to local reports.
The couple had been traveling the country with their three cats since June of 2018 and were last heard from on Oct. 16. They eventually planned to travel to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to take part-time jobs selling Christmas trees before the end of the month, according to a Facebook page set up to help find them.
During their travels, the couple kept their family members updated on Facebook. One of their last updates showed them camping along the Corpus Christi beach, their family has said.
“We all loved what they were doing and they loved sharing it with us,” James Butler’s sister, Deborah van Loon, told The Associated Press. She described her brother as “an all-around really wonderful man” who retired from the Navy in 2010.
He “loved to joke around about everything,” she said.
After leaving the Navy, he moved back to Rumney when his mother was dying of cancer. He then met Michelle and they married in 2015, van Loon said.
It was her brother’s 21 years with the Navy that inspired his desire to travel the U.S., van Loon told New Hampshire’s Union Leader.
“He said, ‘I’ve traveled the world with the Navy, but I’ve never seen my own country,’” she said. His wife loved the idea of traveling, too, she said, so they packed up and would find temporary work online to help afford their travels.
Their missing pickup truck is described as a 2018 Silver Chevrolet 2500 four-door with New Hampshire license plate number 3738968. It was towing a white Cedar Creek RV with New Hampshire license plate number T533534.
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