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The Mysterious Vanishing of Teresa Butler

Teresa Butler was a 35-year-old mother of two young children who lived a relatively happy life with her husband, Gary Dale Butler, at their home in Risco, Missouri. They were a typical well-adjusted couple, and had never given any indications that there was anything awry in their life at all. This made it all the more surprising when Dale came home on the morning of January 25, 2006 after working the night shift to find his wife nowhere to be seen and his two kids home alone unattended. A look out into the driveway showed that his wife’s jeep was still there, so at first he thought she had just stepped out for a minute, despite the fact that she was not the type who would just leave her 2 and 4 year-old children alone like that even for a short period of time. However, when he checked his 2-year-old son more carefully he found his diaper was full and his bottle was bone dry. This set off alarm bells, and the authorities were notified, beginning a mysterious missing person case that has never been fully solved.

When police arrived, they found several strange details. In addition to the jeep, it turned out that Teresa had also left behind her jacket and weddings rings, which were oddly found under the sofa. There were some things missing as well, including her purse and cellular phone, a digital camera, a camcorder, a video game console and some games, and her car’s CD player. Although it seemed that the place had been robbed, there was no sign of any forced entry, although strangely the porch light was found to be unscrewed and a key had been broken off in one of the house’s locks for reasons unknown. There were also no signs of struggle, and it was all rather baffling that Teresa would just leave with all of that stuff and not take her jeep. It all seemed very suspicious, yet the two children were too young to be of much help, and were unable to provide any details.

Teresa Butler

Looking further into it all, the police would find that the last confirmed time anyone had actually seen Teresa was the previous evening, when her sister in-law, Sara Buchanan, had stopped by and then left at shortly after 10 PM. According to Buchanan, nothing had seemed particularly wrong at the time. Indeed, Teresa had seemed to be in good spirits and told her that she was going to give the kids a bath and then go to bed. This was the last time anyone had seen her, but police would find two calls had been placed from her cell phone that had been placed very in the early morning on the day of her vanishing, and they served to make the case even stranger. Records showed that at 3:16 on January 25, she had called a house in Gideon, Missouri, and when police went to the residence the man who lived there told police he had not answered the call and had no idea who Teresa Butler was. A second call was shortly after this to Clarkton, Missouri, which turned out to be the home of two elderly women. In this case, one of the women had picked up the phone, but she claimed that she had heard nothing from the other end of the line and had hung up. Neither one of these women knew Teresa, nor the man she had called first. Police questioned these people and found nothing suspicious at all about them, so they were left a bit puzzled. Why did she call these two numbers of total strangers? No one knows.

By this time, police were heavily suspecting some kind of foul play, but weren’t sure just what yet. They questioned Gary about his relationship with his wife, but there seemed to be nothing to point to him as a suspect. Police did find out that Gary’s ex-wife had made threats towards Teresa in the past, but this seems to have had been resolved, so the ex-wife wasn’t considered a suspect either. With no new evidence or leads, no persons of interest, and no further evidence of any significance, the case of Teresa Butler went cold, and it was as if she had vanished into thin air. It would not be until years later that anything new would emerge, when a new clue would turn up.

In 2007, a witness came forward to tell investigators that he had been involved in a drug deal, in which a man by the name of Melvin Hufford Jr. exchanged a video camera for a gram of methamphetamine. According to this witness, this had occurred at around the same time Teresa went missing. Out of curiosity, the witness watched the videotape inside the device and claimed that it had shown a white female with two small children, and he became convinced that the woman was Teresa Butler. The witness realized that this was the video tape that had been stolen from Teresa’s residence, and in a panic he had the tape destroyed and had his wife bury the camera in a ditch. After leading the police to the location, they found a video camera just as promised, and it was the same make and model as the one that had been stolen from the Butler residence, but since the tape was gone and the serial number had been removed they could not prove beyond a doubt that it had belonged to Teresa. However, it was enough to make Hufford a possible person of interest, since he was the one who had provided the stolen camera.

With no proof that the camera belonged to the missing woman, there was not enough evidence to really pursue Hufford, even when they got a lead that he had also sold a stolen video game system that may have belonged to the Butlers. The case went cold again until 2019, when Hufford was in prison on an unrelated charge and for some reason decided to confess that he in fact had something to do with Teresa’s disappearance. According to his story, on the night of the disappearance, he and a friend were with Teresa getting high on meth, but that she then overdosed after he gave her the injection. In a panic, the two men stole some things to make it look like a robbery, and then hid the body after wrapping it in a tarp. Later, he moved the corpse to below the sink of his father’s old abandoned house while he did a stint for another crime. He said that when he was released he had then burned the body and buried in a ditch. Oddly, when police interviewed the second man he had named they could find nothing suspicious about him and dropped him as a suspect, leaving just Hufford.

It was all a very gruesome revelation, and in the end, Hufford was sentenced to seven years for the Class C felony of manslaughter, due to giving Teresa a fatal dose of the drug, and three years for the Class D felony of tampering with physical evidence, because of moving the body. However, despite this, Teresa Butler’s body has never actually been found, and so many mysteries remain. What happened to Teresa Butler? Was it as Hufford said, or was he delusional? After all, he pointed out someone who had nothing to do with it all. What was the meaning of those strange calls, or the other odd little clues? If she was murdered then what happened to the body? What is the meaning of all of the weird clues? While someone is in prison for accountability in the case, it still seems far from completely solved.