Details emerge about AZ family in murder-suicide

Jun 6, 2012, 5:14 PM | Updated: 6:14 pm

PHOENIX – In what could be some of her last words, Yafit Butwin wished her
husband a happy birthday and said how proud she was of her three children.

Now police in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe believe that Butwin, her husband Jim,
and their children are all dead in a murder-suicide, and have matched their SUV
to one found burning in the desert 35 miles south of Phoenix.

The bodies found in the SUV on Saturday were so badly burned that it could take
several days or longer to positively identify them using dental records; a
coroner wasn’t even able to tell the ages, ethnicity or gender of the bodies.

Court records show that Yafit Butwin filed for a divorce from James Butwin in
September and was seeking half of his liquid assets, spousal support and
exclusive access to their upper-middle-class home in Tempe during the divorce
proceedings.

“The parties’ marriage is irretrievably broken and there is no reasonable
prospect of reconciliation,” according to Yafit’s petition to dissolve the
marriage.

But James Butwin, 47, continued living in the home with Yafit and the kids,
16-year-old Malissa, 14-year-old Daniel and 7-year-old Matthew.

“Husband’s insistence on continuing to reside in the residence and refusing to
respect wife’s privacy is causing considerable tension between the parties and
potential emotional harm for the parties’ children,” Yafit’s attorney wrote in
one filing in Maricopa County Superior Court.

James Butwin, who was from New Jersey, also was fighting his wife’s request for
the money, pointing to a prenuptial agreement she signed shortly before they
married in her home country of Israel in June 1994; she was 22.

Yafit Butwin’s attorney argued that when she signed the agreement, she was
under duress and coercion by her husband.

Court records say that Yafit was born on a chicken farm in an Israeli village,
didn’t speak fluent English and didn’t understand the American legal system when
she signed the lengthy agreement.

Yafit Butwin also argued that her husband had plenty of money, estimating his
total assets at around $1 million.

No orders of protection were filed as the divorce proceeded.

A court document filed in October as part of the divorce proceedings said Yafit
was pregnant. There was no indication Wednesday that she ever had the baby, but
it’s unclear what happened.

Neighbors of the Butwins told The Associated Press that on top of the divorce _
set to go to trial next month _ James Butwin was battling a brain tumor and that
he was frustrated that treatment wasn’t helping him.

The neighbors also described the Butwins as a well-liked and well-respected
family in the neighborhood, and that there were no indications of any type of
violence.

“From what we know them to be, this is totally unexpected to the point of
almost being unbelievable,” neighbor Robert Kempton said Tuesday. “We’ll
choose to remember them in the wonderful, positive light that we knew them.”

Yafit Butwin’s Facebook page shows her last post came on Friday _ a picture of
James, with the three smiling kids and a caption that reads: “Happy birthday,
Jim. I am so proud of my three children:) and they know why.”

James Butwin turned 47 on Friday. All three children had birthdays coming up in
June and July.

Tempe police Sgt. Jeff Glover said that a partner in James Butwin’s real estate
business first contacted them on Monday, saying that he was worried about the
family after Butwin wrote him a note explaining how to run the business without
him.

Glover said investigators found “suspicious and concerning” evidence inside
the home but declined to specify what that was. The evidence was strong enough
for police to immediately begin investigating the case as a murder-suicide.

Glover said Wednesday that he was unable to say who among the family police
believe is responsible for carrying out the crime.

If confirmed as a murder-suicide, the Butwins would be the second high-profile
murder-suicide in Arizona since May.

On May 2, police believe former neo-Nazi gunman Jason Todd “JT” Ready shot
and killed his girlfriend and three members of her family, including a toddler,
before turning the gun on himself. Ready was the leader of a civilian border
patrol group known as the U.S. Border Guard.

___

Follow Amanda Lee Myers on Twitter at https://twitter.com/(hash)!/AmandaLeeAP

Lifetime Windows & Doors

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

(AP Photo/Lisa Leutner)...
SuElen Rivera

Maricopa County awards 18 groups nearly $6M to address health inequalities

Eighteen community groups in Maricopa County were collectively awarded $5.7 million to address health disparities created or worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
4 hours ago
(File KTAR News Photo/Matt Bertam)...
KTAR.com

Woman accused of smuggling 108 pounds of meth across Arizona port of entry

A woman was charged last week after being accused of smuggling 108 pounds of meth across the U.S.-Mexico border at the San Luis Port of Entry, authorities said.
1 day ago
(Arizona Department of Transportation Photo)...
KTAR.com

East Valley bridge over I-10 to close for 2 weeks starting Monday

Guadalupe Road over Interstate 10 will be closed for two weeks starting Monday for work related to the Broadway Curve Improvement Project.
1 day ago
(Facebook Photo/Glendale Police Department)...
KTAR.com

Glendale police kill 15-year-old after he allegedly reached for a gun inside stolen vehicle

Police in Glendale on Wednesday shot and killed a 15-year-old who allegedly reached for a gun while he was inside a stolen vehicle, authorities said.
1 day ago
(KTAR News Photo)...
Kevin Stone

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signs bill investing more than $1B in water supply

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill Wednesday that allocates $1.2 billion over three years for projects to boost and secure the state’s water supply.
1 day ago
(Photo by Sandy Huffaker/AFP via Getty Images)...
Danny Shapiro

Arizona GOP Gov. Doug Ducey says abortion law in state will come down to courts

Republican Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey expects the prevailing law on abortion in the state to be determined through the courts.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Dr. Richard Carmona

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Vaccines are safe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

Are you pregnant? Do you have a friend or loved one who’s expecting?
...
Day & Night Air

Tips to lower your energy bill in the Arizona heat

Does your summer electric bill make you groan? Are you looking for effective ways to reduce your bill?
Details emerge about AZ family in murder-suicide