21 May, 2024

Search Continues for Missing Women

by | 5 April, 2024 | 0 comments

(UPDATE 7:00 a.m. EST on Sunday, April 14: The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation has arrested and charged four people in connection with this case. Click here to read the update.)

By Chris Moon 

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is not certain two missing Kansas women—including a Christian church pastor’s wife—are still alive.  

JILIAN KELLEY (LEFT) AND VERONICA BUTLER

The women—Jilian Kelley, 39, and Veronica Butler, 27—have been missing since March 30. Kelley is the wife of Heath Kelley, pastor of Hugoton First Christian Church.  

The women had left Hugoton, Kan., on March 30 reportedly to pick up Butler’s children in Oklahoma. Their vehicle was found abandoned along a rural highway in northwest Oklahoma.  

The OSBI on Wednesday said it suspects a crime may have been involved in the women’s disappearance. 

“Based on the information obtained from the victim’s vehicle, our investigators believe there was evidence to indicate foul play,” the bureau said on its Facebook page. “We are still searching for these victims and there are no arrests at this time.” 

OSBI spokesman Hunter McKee said Thursday the agency isn’t sure whether the women are still alive. 

“We are not sure at this time,” he said, according to a story posted on KSN.com. “We are investigating this as everything is on the table. We are hopeful that they are still alive, but we are going to do everything in our power to track these two people down as quickly as we can.” 

In a separate interview with ABC, McKee said, “There’s every reason to believe that they could be in danger.” 

The women had been traveling in Butler’s vehicle, which was found abandoned south of Elkhart, Kan., about 40 miles from Hugoton.  

The Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation initially called the disappearance “suspicious.”  

The women’s disappearance has made national headlines and been featured on numerous news outlets.  

Late last fall, Heath Kelley accepted a call to serve as minister with Willow Christian Church in Indianola, Neb. He has not yet started that pastorate.  

Both the Kansas and Nebraska congregations have held prayer meetings while awaiting word about the two women.  

A posting on the Willow Christian Church’s Facebook page about the women has garnered prayer responses from around the United States and world—from Portland, Ore., to Rochester, N.Y., to Guinea-Bissau in West Africa. 

Willow Christian Church is a campus of McCook Christian Church in Nebraska. MCC offered up a prayer on its Facebook page asking that God “would allow (the women) to be seen by someone and brought home to their families.” 

Matt Proctor, president of Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Mo., also has asked for prayers via his Facebook page.  

Proctor said the Kelleys’ daughter, Jaelynn Kelley, is a recent OCC student and was scheduled to be a bridesmaid in his son’s wedding. 

Proctor wrote, “Please join me in praying for the Lord to protect these ladies wherever they are, for the Lord to guide law enforcement to find them quickly, and for the Lord to give His strength and peace to these two families.”  

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