4 arrested in disappearance of 2 women on their way to pick up kids

Authorities in Oklahoma have arrested four people on murder and other charges after a lengthy custody battle allegedly led to the deaths of two women who vanished late last month, according to multiple reports.

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Officials launched a search for Veronica Butler, 27, and Jilian Kelley, 39, on March 30 after finding Butler’s car abandoned in rural Texas County. They disappeared while going to pick up Butler’s kids for a court-ordered visitation, KOCO-TV reported.

“When (deputies) arrived on scene, they found some things that just weren’t adding up,” Texas County Sheriff Matt Boley said Monday at a news conference. In an affidavit obtained by KOKH-TV, authorities said they found evidence of “severe injury,” including blood on the road, Butler’s glasses near a broken hammer and a pistol magazine.

Search crews scoured the area, and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation was called in to lead the investigation.

“I think from the get-go, once we arrived on scene and gained a little bit of information, we felt this wasn’t a random deal,” Boley said. “We felt that with some of the information coming in, it was more targeted, and we started to look in those areas that we were pointed to.”

Interviews led authorities to 54-year-old Tifany Machel Adams, who KOKH described as the paternal grandmother to Butler’s children.

In court records obtained by KOCO, authorities said Adams and Butler had been in a “problematic custody battle” over Butler’s two children for the last five years. Investigators said that during the case, they got recordings in which Adams’ son “discussed death threats by Adams and Adams’ boyfriend, Tad Cullum.”

At the time of Butler and Kelley’s disappearance, Adams’ son was in an Oklahoma City rehabilitation facility, officials said.

Authorities got a search warrant for Adams’ phone and found “web searches for taser pain level, gun shops, prepaid cellular phones and how to get someone out of their house,” KOCO reported. They also learned that Adams bought five stun guns from a store days before the disappearances. She also bought three pre-paid cellphones from a Walmart in February, officials said.

The phones were later found in the area where Butler’s car was discovered and at Butler and Kelley’s last known location, according to court documents.

Butler was allowed supervised visitation with her children every Saturday, and she was travelling with Kelley from Hugoton, Kansas, to pick up the kids on the day they vanished. Kelley was going to supervise the visit because the person who regularly supervised was unavailable on March 30, according to KOKH.

Adams told police that Butler called her on the morning of her disappearance and said that she wouldn’t be able to make it, KOKH reported. However, family members got suspicious when Butler failed to show up to a birthday party later in the day and found her abandoned vehicle before calling police, according to the news network.

Authorities began investigating about two and a half hours after Butler left Kansas to pick up her children, according to KOCO.

On Saturday, authorities arrested Adams, Tad Bert Cullum, 43, Cole Earl Twombly, 50, and Cora Twombly, 44, on first-degree murder, kidnapping and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder charges.

A relative of the Twomblys told investigators that Cora Twombly said, “Adams, Cullum, Cara, Cole and (another man) were involved in the deaths of Butler and Kelley,” KOCO reported. The relative said the group was “part of an anti-government group that had a religious affiliation” called God’s Misfits and that they met regularly.

The relative added that there was at least one other attempt to kill Butler, in February 2024. It failed because Butler did not leave her house during the alleged attempt, investigators said.

“According to Cora, the plan was to throw an anvil through Butler’s windshield while driving, making it look like an accident because anvils regularly fall off of work vehicles,” according to court documents obtained by KOCO.

Authorities have since found two bodies believed to be linked to the case. Hunter McKee, public information officer for OSBI, said investigators were awaiting the results of an autopsy to determine their identities and their cause of death.

However, he added that he does not think it’s possible that the women might still be alive.

“This case was tragic,” McKee said on Monday. “You have two people who are dead and four people who committed an absolutely brutal crime.”

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