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Jilian Kelley, 39 (R), and Veronica Butler, 27 (L), were both reported missing on March 30, 2024. Kelley is the wife of Heath Kelley, the outgoing pastor of Hugoton First Christian Church in Kansas. Heath Kelley recently accepted a new job at Willow Christian Church in Nebraska. | Screenshot: Facebook/Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation

Bodies of Kansas pastor’s wife and friend found in rural Oklahoma

The bodies of a pastor’s wife, Jillian Kelley, and her companion Veronica Butler, who went missing in Oklahoma two weeks ago, have been found. The remains were found in rural Texas County, Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, FBI, and Texas County Sheriff’s Office said Sunday on Twitter that the bodies would be “transported to the Office of the Oklahoma Chief Medical Examiner to determine identification and cause and manner of death.”

“This case did not end the way we had hoped. It’s certainly been a tragedy for everyone involved,” OSBI Director Aungela Spurlock said.

The Texas County Sheriff’s Office asked for public assistance on March 30 after the disappearance of 27-year-old Butler and 39-year-old Kelley, the wife of Pastor Heath Kelley, who were traveling from Kansas to Oklahoma.

The Kansas City Star reported that the pair left Hugoton, Kansas, but never arrived. The sheriff stated they were “traveling together to pick up children.”

missing womenABC News reported that Oklahoma police detained four persons Saturday on two first-degree murder, two kidnapping, and one conspiracy to murder first-degree charges in connection with Butler and Kelley’s disappearance.

Tad Bert Cullum, 43; Tifany Machel Adams, 54; Cole Earl Twombly, 50; and Cora Twombly, 44 were arrested the day before the remains were located and placed into the Texas County Jail.

Reports say that Adams is the children’s paternal grandmother, and Cullum is Adams’ boyfriend.

Butler was reportedly fighting for full custody of her children with their father, Adams’ son Wrangler Rickman, who has legal custody but was apparently in a rehabilitation facility at the time of the disappearance.

The OSBI’s public information manager Hunter McKee told Fox News that investigators located an abandoned vehicle in rural Oklahoma on the day of the women’s disappearance and suspected “foul play” in a Facebook post last week.

“We’re calling this a suspicious disappearance because as soon as you find a vehicle really in the middle of nowhere you know was occupied by two women, and those two women have vanished; it’s concerning for us as well, so we are really trying to figure out what may have happened and doing everything we can to find them,” McKee said last week.

A source told ABC 7 that Butler was picking up her 6-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son in Eva, Oklahoma for her daughter’s birthday.

Kelley traveled with her from Elkhart, Kansas for 16 miles, but the vehicle was found three miles short.

Willow Christian Church members prayed for Kelley and Butler on Easter Sunday.

“Please, please be in prayer for these women,” the church wrote in a Facebook post. “Jilian is the wife of our new minister, Heath Kelley, and the sister-in-law of church member Hillary Kennedy. Please pray that Jilian and her friend Veronica are safe and that they are found quickly. God, please bring these women home to their families that are so worried about them.”

Kelley’s husband, Heath, was employed by Willow Christian Church in November but hasn’t begun his position. He works at Hugoton First Christian Church. Church meals have been supplied for Heath and their four children.

–Metro Voice and wire services

(This article has been updated to correct some facts that were mis-reported as the story was breaking. Watch for our next article for an update on this continuing story)

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