21 May, 2024

Bodies Found in Oklahoma ID’d as Missing Kansas Women

by | 17 April, 2024 | 0 comments

The Office of the Oklahoma Chief Medical Examiner has positively identified the remains of two people found Sunday as Jilian Kelley, 39, and Veronica Butler, 27, who had been missing since March 30 when they left their homes in Hugoton, Kan., to pick up Butler’s children in rural Oklahoma. Four people have been arrested in connection with their disappearance and deaths. 

Jilian Kelley is the wife of Heath Kelley, pastor of Hugoton First Christian Church. The Kelleys have four children. 


“Our thoughts and prayers are with their loved ones, along with everyone throughout their community,” the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation said in a statement Tuesday night. 

According to media reports which are based on court documents, Jilian Kelley had accompanied Butler to pick up Butler’s two children on a court-ordered custody exchange the day the women went missing. The women never made it to the pick-up location, and Butler’s abandoned car was later found missing in rural Oklahoma, about 40 miles from Hugoton. Law enforcement officials soon reported “foul play” was involved. 

On Saturday, April 13, a day before recovery of the bodies, four people were arrested and booked into the Texas County Jail (in Oklahoma) on two counts each of first-degree murder, two counts of kidnapping, and one count of conspiracy to commit murder in the first degree. The four people arrested: Tifany Machel Adams, 54; Tad Bert Cullum, 43; Cole Earl Twombly, 50; and Cora Twombly, 44.  

Adams is the grandmother of Butler’s children. Court documents indicate Adams’ son, Wrangler Rickman, the father of Butler’s children, has been involved in a custody battle with Butler. An affidavit of probable cause released Monday indicated the custody dispute as the possible motive for the alleged murder-kidnapping. (Rickman is not charged with a crime in this matter.)

Butler and Kelley were to pick up the children from Adams on the morning the women went missing. Cullum is Adams’ boyfriend, and the Twomblys—a married couple—are their friends, according to media reports. 

Between the time of the women’s disappearance on March 30 and the arrests of the four suspects this past weekend, law enforcement officials released little information about the case. The suspects are scheduled to make their first court appearance today. 

Heath Kelley has continued to serve with Hugoton First Christian Church, but late last fall he accepted a call to serve as minister with Willow Christian Church in Indianola, Neb. He has not yet started that pastorate.   

On Tuesday night, after the medical examiner confirmed that Jilian Kelley and Veronica Butler had been found dead, Willow Christian Church shared the news via Facebook, saying, “We hope that you will join us in prayer this week and the weeks ahead that we can stay focused on God’s promises for comfort during our darkest hours.” 

Willow Christian Church is a campus of McCook Christian Church in Nebraska. 

The Christian Evangelizing Association of Kansas, a church-planting organization, has established a fund to collect money, all of which will be given to Heath Kelley “to use as needed during this time of healing and transition,” said Brad Fogo, executive director of CEA. Send gifts, designated to the “Kelley Family Benefit Fund,” to Christian Evangelizing Association of Kansas, P.O. Box 3252, Shawnee, KS 66203. 

Fundraisers via GoFundMe have been started in recent days to benefit the families of Jilian Kelley and Veronica Butler.  

The GoFundMe for the Kelleys was started by Hugoton First Christian Church member Holly Grubbs.

The GoFundMe for the Veronica Butler Family states: “Please consider donating to this precious family in hope that we can help lessen some of the burden. . . . Thank you for your continued prayers and thoughts.” 


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest News

‘Entrusted’—ICOM’s President Shares Vision for 2024 Conference

“The ICOM 2024 theme of ‘Entrusted’ comes from 2 Timothy 2:2,” 2024 president Andrew Jit shares. “Jesus has entrusted to us the best news, the gospel, and we are called to preach and proclaim it to those around us, both in our Jerusalem and to the ends of the earth.” . . .

Ministry Help Wanted

Recent postings: A director of campus ministry is needed at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign). Stillwater (Pa.) Christian Church is looking for both a lead pastor and a youth pastor. Lexington (Ohio) Church of Christ is seeking a full-time senior minister. Norwin Christian Church in North Huntingdon, Pa., needs a full-time worship minister. Lycoming Christian Church in Linden, Pa., is seeking a minister of children, youth, and young adults. Michigan City (Ind.) Christian Church needs a senior minister. And more . . .

Big Little Churches

“A church with only 12 members is barely a church, but almost every weekend I preach in small Missouri churches whose attendances range from 12 to 112,” Daniel Schantz writes. “When people hear that I am preaching at such small churches they often shake their heads and say, ‘That’s a shame. Why don’t they just close the doors and go to a bigger church that has more to offer them?’” . . .

Follow Us