Missing New Hampshire couple found buried in shallow grave on Texas beach

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A New Hampshire couple that had been traveling across the country for the past year and a half was found buried in a shallow grave in Texas this week, investigators said Friday.

Rumney, N.H., residents James and Michelle Butler, ages 48 and 46, were found near a beach campsite on Padre Island, buried on top of each other, according to the Kleberg County Sheriff’s Office in Texas.

Their deaths are being investigated as homicides.

“They were both wonderful people, outgoing, friendly and did what they loved doing: camping all over the United States,” said James’ sister Deborah van Loon.

According to van Loon, the couple met in Rumney shortly after her brother retired from serving in the Navy for 21 years, and decided in June 2018 to buy a recreational vehicle and drive across the country.

“My brother always said that when he was in the Navy he traveled all over the world and saw all kinds of sights, but he never really got to see the sights in the United States,” van Loon said.

Over the course of their trip, the couple regularly kept in touch with family members through FaceTime and Facebook, van Loon said, but when they didn’t answer calls from relatives on Oct. 18 they felt they needed to alert the police.

“They never missed one of those calls,” van Loon said. “Somebody in the family, or one of their friends, spoke with them almost every day.”

According to the sheriff’s office, the couple’s RV and truck were stolen as well. They believe the couple was likely headed to a part-time job in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and due to arrive on Nov. 20.

Police did not say why they believe the couple was killed, but van Loon said the area where their bodies were found has supposedly become more and more dangerous over the years.

“There are a lot of unsolved cases down there: missing persons, carjackings, kidnappings, brutal murders. They’re happening down there more frequently and it’s a common denominator type of thing,” van Loon said. “I really hope that my brother’s life wasn’t taken in vain and that it will cause that community and that area to get better.”

A vigil for the late couple is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Sunday at the Rumney Town Common, van Loon said.

Herald wire services contributed to this report.

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