028 - The Disappearance of Teresa Lynn Butler

[Case Evidence]

                Teresa Lynn Butler was born on November26th, 1970 in Gideon, Missouri.  Gideon is a very small town located in South East, Missouri on what locals refer to as the “bootheel.”  The town boasts a population of just over one thousand in an area of 1.8 square miles.  Teresa was described by many as a shy, extremely loving woman with a tremendously big heart.  According to Amy Lacey, a lifelong friend of Teresa’s who met her in fourth grade, Teresa was “very generous, kind and funny.  A truly special person, an angel on earth.”  Amy constructed a website hoping to generate attention for Teresa’s case and on it she has written a small “About Teresa” section which reads “I have known Teresa Butler for nearly twenty-eight years.  I don’t remember when we met, but I do remember becoming good friends in the fourth grade.  Teresa was very quiet in school, but she was well liked.  She was voted most courteous our senior year.  She loves her husband very much.  Every time we talked she always spoke of him and her children of course.  Those children were her world.” 

                At the time of her disappearance on Tuesday, January 24th, 2006, Teresa was thirty-five years old and living in the town of Risco, Missouri.  Risco is even smaller than Teresa’s home town of Gideon, with a population of only 346.  Teresa was married to Gary ‘Dale’ Butler with whom she had two children, both boys, four and two at the time of her disappearance.  When she was last seen, Teresa was described as being 5’7” tall and weighing approximately 110 pounds.  She is Caucasian, with black hair and brown eyes.  Her right ear is pierced twice, and her left ear is pierced three times.  Further description courtesy of the Charley Project says that Teresa has noticeable dimples and a caesarian section scar on her abdomen.  Teresa and her family lived on Highway 241, also known as eight ditch road, just off Highway 62. 

                Tersa worked in the photo department at the Walmart in Dexter, located approximately twenty miles from her home.  Friend and co-worker Sherry Montgomery said of Teresa “She didn’t have an enemy in the world.  She was so friendly.  We scolded her constantly about how friendly she was to strangers.  But that was just Teresa’s nature.  Very outgoing.  Very friendly.  Always talking about her family and how perfect her marriage was.  She loves Dale and he thinks the world of her.” 

                January 24th, 2006, began as any other day for the family.  Teresa had gone in to work that day, arrived home and prepared dinner for Dale and their two boys, Gavin and Garrett.  Teresa took the boys outside and played with them while Dale prepared for work.  He was working overnight shifts for Maverick Tube, in Blytheville Arkansas, around sixty miles away from Risco.  After Dale left for work, at approximately 5pm, Teresa went over to her sister-in-law Sarah Buchanan’s home.  The two spent several hours together, with Sarah following Teresa home that night.  She home with her in order to use her computer for a short period of time.  Sarah is married to Teresa’s brother Donald.  According to Sarah, the visits that day were normal and there was nothing in particular which stood out to her.  Sarah would later state “We talked about a lot different things that night.  The last thing we spoke about was some gel she wanted to borrow because her face was broken out.  I told her I could bring it over then but she said not to worry and that she’d get it from me the next morning before she went to work.”

                According to Donald, Sarah arrived home that evening at approximately 9:05pm.  Sarah had no way of knowing this would be the last time she’d ever speak to Teresa, and she remains the last person to have seen her.  Additional records show that Teresa spoke to a relative on the phone at approximately 10pm, making this the last confirmed point of contact with her according to the official timeline.

                At approximately 11pm, Dale placed a call home during his lunch break, but received no answer.  He wasn’t generally concerned, as it wasn’t out of the ordinary for Teresa to have fallen asleep by that time.  When asked about the call later, Dale said “I tried to call Teresa from work that night at about 11pm, but I couldn’t reach her.  Sometimes it’s hard to dial out of Maverick because of all the metal in the building.  I tried over and over but she never answered the phone.”  Thinking little of the lack of an answer, Dale went back to work.  In the morning, when his shift ended, he didn’t head straight home.  Instead, he met up with his mother with whom he had made plans to have breakfast that morning. 

                After breakfast, Dale went home and arrived to a home which didn’t outwardly appear to show any signs of distress.  The front door was locked when he approached, but upon entering, Dale immediately knew something was wrong.  According to Dale, he quickly found that neither of his sons were in their beds and there was no sign of Teresa.  He quickly went to their bedroom and found both of his sons inside, the oldest being huddled under the covers and the youngest laying on a loveseat at the foot of the bed and sucking on the end of an empty bottle and wearing a soiled diaper.  Dale would later say “When I come in, I went into the bedroom.  And I didn’t see Teresa nowhere and Gavin was in our bed balled up in a blanket.  Garrett was on the loveseat in a soaked diaper with an empty bottle and was awake.  And then I went through the house.  I went to the bathroom.  I went through the whole house saying ‘Teresa, Teresa.’  And then I got on my phone and started calling people, thinking maybe she run over here, but she wouldn’t have left those kids there alone.  No way, not by themselves.”

                An interesting point that many have viewed as somewhat controversial is that, despite his level of concern, Dale is not the one who called the police.  That call was, instead, made by Teresa’s sister-in-law, Sarah allegedly after Dale called to ask if she had seen or spoken with Teresa that morning.  Many have looked at Dale as a probable suspect in the disappearance of his wife, though authorities have been fairly clear that they do not consider him a likely suspect.  Sheriff Stevens had said on multiple occasions that Dale’s alibi for the hours leading up to, during and after Teresa’s disappearance checked out and that they looked at him, thoroughly, but do not feel he played a role.  Dale has been fairly open about the fact that while he finds it bothersome that people would suspect him, he also understands it, saying “It’s really aggravating that people would make assumptions.  I know they’re just, just looking for answers.  But we’re all looking for answers.  Everybody is.”

                Police arrived on the scene and immediately approached it as a missing persons case, though they weren’t yet overly concerned.  Risco is a small town, and they felt that Teresa couldn’t have gone very far.  In their initial search of the home, Police did not find anything which led them to believe that they were dealing with foul play.  The home was neat and orderly, and they found no signs of a struggle nor did they find any evidence of blood within the home and Teresa’s jeep was still parked in the driveway.  Investigators found the situation bizarre as it appeared almost as if Teresa had vanished into thin air.  However, further inspection of the house by Dale showed that there were specific items missing from the home as well. 

                Among the missing items were a Playstation console and several games, a Nintendo Game Cube and several games, a large mag-lite flashlight which had previously been kept on top of the hutch was also missing.  In addition to these items they also found that a video camera and digital camera were missing.  Teresa’s purse was also missing, along with her cell phone.  According to Dale, Teresa was very into photography and when asked about the digital camera he said “Teresa loves to take pictures.  Her digital camera is gone, but I think she kept that in her purse and it’s gone too.”  The radio was also found to be missing from Teresa’s jeep.

                What Dale found more disturbing than the items which were missing were the items that were left behind.  Teresa had left behind a leather jacket which, according to Dale, she wore everywhere.  In addition to this, her wedding rings were found beneath the couch.  Dale has said that Teresa never took her rings off until she was preparing to go to bed, and she certainly wouldn’t have just thrown them on the floor near the couch.  Police took possession of the rings along with several furniture covers from the home.  There is one very odd item which police are noted to have taken; a lock to the home was found with the tip of a key broken off inside of it.  Police removed the lock and added it to their small collection of evidence.  To this date, authorities have never confirmed which door the lock was taken from, nor whether or not the key that was broken off inside the lock belonged to the home, or perhaps was Teresa’s key.  Interestingly, in a statement Dale later made to the media, he revealed that authorities had recovered foreign DNA inside the home.  When asked about this, he stated “I don’t know if its hair, saliva, blood or what.  They swabbed me and Teresa’s brother but she was always cutting people’s hair here and that kind of thing.  It’s all very frustrating.”

                Police began to surmise the possibility that Teresa may have been the victim of a home invasion robbery and was either taken by the thieves or had fled and was lost somewhere.  The items which were missing from the home, authorities felt, didn’t suggest a professional job and, in their opinion, pointed towards the possibility of a less experienced thief or perhaps even a younger individual.  All of the items were small, easily recognizable electronics which would be easy to pawn without many questions being asked.  Large items of value were left behind in the home, and if indeed this was a case of robbery, the suspects must have arrived with their own transportation and chosen not to steal Teresa’s jeep.  This of course led investigators down several different paths of possibility as to what could have happened to Teresa.  It seemed unlikely that someone would have abducted her considering the minor electronics stolen, and the lack of a struggle or signs of forced entry led them to believe it was possible that Teresa either knew the intruder, or had gone along without putting up a fight.  Further investigation found that the light bulb had been unscrewed on the front porch, making it difficult for Teresa to have visually identified the individual who may have knocked on her door that night or during the early morning hours.

                When Dale had arrived home, he found the doors to the home locked.  The last confirmed contact with Teresa had been the previous night when she had a phone call at approximately 10pm.  Dale had tried to reach Teresa an hour later at 11pm, though he was unable to get in touch with her.  There is some debate about whether or not the calls failed to be answered due to Teresa having been abducted at this time, or if as Dale has previously stated, the calls failed due to the metal infrastructure of his place of business.  This led investigators to wonder if Teresa had run in with someone between 10 and 11pm, or if whatever led to her disappearance had happened later.  Without much evidence, it was difficult for them to verify any official time at which they believe Teresa vanished.

                Investigators pulled Teresa’s cell phone records and found that, after she was last confirmed to be safe at 10pm, there were two calls made from her phone.  The first call went out at 3:16am and was to a phone number in Gideon, Teresa’s hometown.  When authorities contacted the man whose number had been called, he stated that he had never heard his phone ring at that early morning time and only noticed he had a missed call when he looked at his phone later.  Investigators looked into any possible connections, but ultimately ruled out the possibility that the man was involved.  They asked the family about the man, though no one seemed to know him.  Teresa’s sister-in-law Sarah would later say “We called the number, and the man who answered said his telephone didn’t ring, but he later saw that the call had come in.  He doesn’t know Teresa, or any of the family, and we don’t know him.”

                A second call was placed to a residence in Clarkton, Missouri after she had vanished.  New Madrid County Sheriff Terry M. Stevens, when asked about the second call, replied “We contacted the number.  It was two elderly ladies who live together, widow women who basically take care of each other.  The lady said she answered the phone, said ‘hello’ a couple of times, there was nothing on the other end that she could hear, so she hung up.  She has no idea who the Butler or Buchanan families are, so we don’t know what to make of that.”  An interesting thing to note is that Risco, Gideon and Clarkton Missouri are all in the same county and share the same area code, 543, which has led many to believe that the phone calls were not made at random.  Some have suggested that Teresa dialed these numbers herself, but for one reason or another, misdialed and reached these two strangers.  Others believe that the calls may have been placed by someone who was involved in Teresa’s abduction and that the yet unidentified suspect may have misdialed.  The calls themselves are yet another set of strange details which have never been figured out.

                The location of the Butler home is just across the street from the number eight drainage ditch.  In their initial search efforts, the drainage ditch became an early point of focus.  Sheriff Steven’s stated “We didn’t actually drag the ditch, we floated it.  The eight ditch is pretty well maintained with a low level of water in it.  We feel pretty confident that if she was there, we would have found her.  We floated several area ditches there around the Risco-Malden area, and east of Risco also.  We ran four-wheelers up and down the ditch dumps and through all the fields and field rows.  Flew an airplane.  Flew a helicopter.  Some private people ran some horses, but they were not under my guidance.  We brought cadaver dogs in.  Nothing.”

                Jim Duck of Outback Riders, a non-profit search and rescue organization has been involved in more than a dozen searches which have been conducted for Teresa.  According to Duck, they initially began by working alongside law enforcement but that when the official search was called off, the family requested that he and his team continue looking.  There are some points of contention in regard to the searching, with Teresa’s family feeling that authorities stopped searching too early, while investigators felt that they had searched extensively and come up with nothing to lead them to believe that further searches might merit better results.  Jim Duck would later state “After a couple of times of going out, officers involved with the case felt like the leads we all hoped for weren’t turning up.  Teresa’s parents asked us to keep searching whenever we could.  So that’s what we’ve done.  As for actually finding evidence, no.  No stolen articles.  No clothes.  No nothing.  As for right now, we’re shut down.”

                In their desperation for answers, Teresa’s family turned to Carol Pate, an alleged psychic.  According to Pate, she held Teresa’s photo in her hand and, after a period of time, was able to tune into Teresa’s energy.  What details she may have revealed are unknown, though she confirmed that she was very up front with the family and told them everything that she had seen and experienced.  Teresa’s brother, Don, later said “We gave police a lot of information.  So far we’ve got very little response.  I got pretty mad at some of them and told them just what I thought.  This is very hard on me, on my wife.  She’s been in and out of the hospital since Teresa disappeared.  We were comforted some by what Carol Pate told us.  She was professional and believable.”

                While the family were struggling to find any answers that may lead them to Teresa, investigators were digging into her life.  While Teresa was described as a kind woman who had no enemies, authorities found some evidence to suggest there may be at least on person who had a grudge against the young mother.  Gary’s ex-wife is reported to have made several phone calls to Teresa at work.  His ex also works at Walmart, though in the town of Kennett.  Peggy Clopton, a friend of Teresa’s, mentioned that she had heard about the phone calls.  She later said “The only thing I can remember Teresa talking to me about was Dale’s ex-wife.  That’s the only thing she ever said, that she would be calling her at Walmart or whatever.  I’m not going to say she was harassing her, because she never got into what was being said.  But she called her enough to make her uncomfortable.”  Teresa’s father didn’t pull any punches on the subject and confirmed that Teresa felt she was being harassed by Dale’s ex-wife.  Strangely, when asked about this, Dale said “Everybody is getting along just fine.  Teresa is as much a mother to my older son as she is to our two sons.”

                Many people suspect that Dale’s ex-wife was involved in Teresa’s disappearance, though no evidence has ever been found to solidify this link.  Several articles have pointed out that on January 20th, 2006, just five days before Teresa vanished, the ex-wife’s then current husband filed for divorce.  Many have used this as an indication that the ex-wife may have felt angry, hurt or desperate and chose to target Teresa for one reason or another.  The depths of whatever issues existed between the two remains a mystery, one which Dale has been quickly dismissive of.  Whether or not Dale’s ex-wife played a part in Teresa’s disappearance cannot be known for sure, and authorities have been fairly tight lipped about any aspect of her possible involvement that they have examined.  Another strange detail of this case is a letter which is alleged to exist.  According to several statements made by Dale, his mother received a letter that has some bearing on the case and yet, eleven years later, the contents of this letter have never been revealed to the public only adding speculation to a terribly tragic story with too many unanswered questions.

                Days began to change into weeks, and weeks into months and yet there was no new evidence nor sightings of Teresa.  Four months after her disappearance, Sheriff Steven’s stated publicly, for the first time, that he believed foul play was involved in Teresa’s vanishing.  He went so far as to not only suggest it, but to state that he was positive of it.  When asked if it were possible that Teresa’s children may have witnessed what happened to their mother, Steven’s stated “If they have any answers, I feel like they’re not capable of verbalizing them to us.  I’m still optimistic we’re going to resolve this.”  Dale, along with Teresa’s family, made several public pleas in hopes that someone would come forward with answers. 

                Teresa’s mother, Linda, stated in an interview “She’s gone.  That’s why it’s so hard; wondering where her little body is, and what’s become of it.  She would not leave them babies by themselves.  I know Teresa, I used to go down there every other night to talk to Teresa and visit.  I miss that.  I’ll never spend another Christmas with Teresa, ever.”  The family, overall, felt frustrated by the lack of media attention that Teresa’s disappearance drew.  A family friend stated “We contacted Fox News, CNN, ever show you could think of.  One time we thought Montel was coming, and then he got a bigger story.  Teresa don’t have any money, she’s from a poor area, but to us she’s just as important.”

                Since the initial days of Teresa’s disappearance, police received hundreds of tips and reported sightings.  One of those sightings suggested that a woman, who resembled Teresa, was seen at a local gas station, seeming disoriented and wearing a black coat.  Police were unable to verify the identity of the woman and a surveillance video which captured her was not clear enough to make room for a positive identification.  Then, a year and a half after she vanished, police received a tip which actually led to the discovery of a new piece of evidence.  A local drug dealer contacted authorities and informed them that he had been given a camcorder in place of money he was owed.  According to this individual, he received the video camera within twenty-four hours of Teresa’s disappearance and, upon viewing the tape inside the camera, he realized it was connected to the case.

                Interestingly, the man did not hand the camcorder to police at that time.  Somehow, it isn’t made clear in discussions of the case, they were told where to find it:  dumped in a ditch between Risco and Malden.  When asked about recovery of the camera, Sheriff Steven’s said “Through the investigation, we interviewed an individual who told us a story about exchanging some illegal drugs for a camcorder.  And they had viewed the contents of the camcorder after they got it, and realized that it belonged to the girl that was missing from Risco, in their words.”  By the time police retrieved the camera, there was no longer a tape inside and the serial number was no longer legible, making it impossible to completely verify that it was the same camera that had been stolen from the Butler home.  When pressed further on the person who led them to the camera, Steven’s replied “He is a suspect.  And we have pursued that person, talked to that person and interviewed him.  But we can’t hang our hat on what we know just yet.  We do have a couple more suspects.  We’re not eliminating anybody at this point in the game.”

                Out of this developed the possibility that the robbery of the home had been done in order to gather money for a drug deal.  Sheriff Steven’s has hinted, extremely subtly, that there could be a connection between Teresa’s disappearance and either the drug dealer himself, or individuals with whom he was conducting business.  Interestingly, in a different interview, Steven’s revealed some information which seems to suggest that, at the current time, authorities believe that Teresa had spent time in her home with the person or persons who had robbed the items, and likely abducted her.  When asked about finding Teresa’s rings under the couch, Steven’s said “Possibly the people she was interacting with she didn’t feel completely comfortable with.  So she may have been securing them in her own way.” 

                Dale, when asked about the possibility of this being related to a break in, responded with “I don’t think somebody broke in.  Somebody, somehow they got in.”  Lead investigator Chris Hensley said they had been trying to connect the crime to others with a similar nature, and pointed out the unscrewed lightbulb as a possible key piece of evidence.  Hensley stated “You know, we had the lightbulb that was unscrewed, as to not illuminate the porch where, if anybody was driving by couldn’t see anybody coming or going to the residence.  You know, if that is his MO to do that, that is one of the things we’ve been looking for, is other burglaries where the lightbulb has been unscrewed.”

                In the over eleven years since Teresa Butler vanished from her home, very little information has been found to provide any hope of solving the case.  Her two young sons, two and four when she disappeared, are now thirteen and fifteen.  Her family has struggled, trying to understand what could have happened to her, and over all this time, while some new evidence has come to the surface, and there are persons of interest, there still have been no leads which have led anyone to Teresa’s remains, or possible whereabouts.  In a case such as this, with so many strange details all pointing in different directions, there are of course, several theories which have been put forth by the family, the police and uninvolved investigators.  The first of these theories, as always, is that Teresa fled of her own volition.  This theory has a few different forks to it, with some believing that Teresa chose to flee and the robbery which took place is unrelated.  Others feel that Teresa may have fled from the intruders and gotten lost or injured and was unable to make it home, and some still have suggested that Teresa may have been involved in some kind of illegal activity with, or knew, the people who came to her home that night and made the choice to go with them.  For all of these branches of the theory, proponents point out the lack of a struggle and absence of any signs of bodily harm nor forced entry.  Though Teresa defined her life as happy, and her marriage as perfect, some continue to believe that she may have been hoping to escape and used this particular time as her opportunity to do so.  Whether or not Teresa was happy leads to another theory.

                Many have theorized, since the early breaking hours of this story, that Teresa’s husband Gary ‘Dale’ Butler may have been involved in the disappearance of his wife.  Although authorities have stated that Dale’s alibi checked out, and that they do not consider him a suspect, others have felt that his behavior in the hours surrounding her disappearance is odd.  For many, they believe that having breakfast with his mother was his attempt to develop an alibi, as was making a phone call to Teresa the night she vanished.  In addition to that, many believe that the lack of forced entry suggests that the possible abductor had a key, and the lack of signs of a struggle leads them to believe that Teresa may have gone along with her abductor or murderer willingly because it was someone she trusted, and who would she trust more than her own husband? They also point out that, though Dale listed items which had been stolen from the home, none have ever been found nor verified, leaving some to suggest that the entire story of the robbery was made up.

                One of the more popular theories in this case is that Teresa was abducted and or murdered by one or more persons who had the intent to rob her home.  If indeed the items listed were stolen from the home, and Teresa’s jeep was missing its radio, many believe it’s entirely possible that the individuals involved may have taken Teresa with them so that she couldn’t identify them to police.  This is a controversial theory as such a small amount of stolen items doesn’t seem like the kind of crime which necessitates abduction and murder, but it also has been pointed out that if indeed the robbery was conducted with a connection to drugs, it’s hard to know how clear thinking the person or persons involved may have been. 

                As a sort of tie in to the robbery, the final theory suggests that abduction was always the intent and that the items taken from the home were an afterthought.  Many have pointed to the broken key in the door lock as evidence that someone was trying to gain entry to the home that night and, it is speculated, that Teresa heard the sound of a key in the lock and assumed it was her husband, or a family member, and opened the door which led to her abductor entering.  Teresa’s purse and cell phone were missing, and some believe that this is because the abductor allowed her to take these items under the guise that he was going to bring her to an ATM from which he wanted cash.  Others suggest that the rings being found under the couch was an emergency signal that Teresa sent out so that when they were found, her family and authorities would know that something was wrong.

                It has been over eleven years since Teresa Lynn Butler vanished from her home sometime between 10pm and 10am.  Somewhere in those twelve hours, the thirty-five year old wife, daughter, sister and mother of two seemingly vanished without a hint as to what could have happened to her.  As the years have rolled forward, her family has continued to maintain hope that someday they may have the answers, and that Teresa may be found alive, or that they could recover her remains.  A beautiful young woman living in a small town not too far from where she grew up, Teresa was a kind woman with a big heart and an endless love for her family.  What was it that led to this complex mystery and how have those involved managed to avoid capture all of these years?  Someone out there knows exactly what happened to Teresa Butler, perhaps that person is even listening right now.  As technology advances and criminal investigative skills sharpen, we can only hope that new evidence may come to light and Teresa Butler’s fate will finally be revealed so that her family may find comfort and closure in that likely grim revelation.

  [Thoughts & Theories]

                The Disappearance of Teresa Lynn Butler is absolutely bizarre.  A young mother, known to be home with her two small children who meant the world to her, seemingly vanished into thin air.  The evidence, little as there may be, depicts a story which doesn’t make a great deal of sense.  In the eleven years since she vanished, very little new information has come to the surface, at least that is information which has been shared publicly.  While some new details have offered more specificity about possibilities, no arrests nor discoveries have been made and Teresa’s fate remains a haunting mystery.  Her family has struggled over the years to come to grips with the likelihood that Teresa will never come home, and her two young sons have grown up without the mother who deeply loved them.

                Before moving into the theories, I wanted to address some information about Teresa herself.  Typically when I research an episode, I like to get a lot of background information about the victim.  In this case, that proved to be incredibly challenging.  Very little information about Teresa exists, outside of the details of her disappearance.  I felt this was an important case to cover, and one which frustrates me to no end, but I also knew that I wouldn’t be able to deliver a great deal of information about who Teresa truly was.  From everything I have read, Teresa was a sincere woman with a heart of gold who loved her children and her husband, the kind of woman who would do whatever she could to help you without thinking twice.  I’ve not found anyone who had a negative word to say about her, which only makes the circumstances of her disappearance all the more frustrating and tragic.

                As mysterious as this case has been, of course there have been those who have developed theories about it.  With the evidence so sparse, and Teresa’s movements on the night of her disappearance being essentially unaccounted for, many have developed theories which consider what may have occurred, though there is nothing which can solidify any of them.  Investigators on the case have been frustrated from the first day, trying desperately to wrap their heads around what could possibly have occurred that resulted in the inexplicable disappearance of a young mother from her own home.  As is often the case when it comes to the unexplained disappearance of an adult, the first theory examines the possibility that Teresa Butler chose to leave and that her disappearance is not something that happened to her, but something she planned and executed herself.

                This theory finds its basis in the absolute lack of evidence found in the home itself.  Teresa was last confirmed to be alive, and home, at approximately 10pm.  When her husband placed a call an hour later, there was no answer though even Dale has stated that it’s possible the call was hindered by his location at the time.  Either way, sometime between the hours of 10pm and 10am, Teresa vanished.  We know from investigators that there were no signs of a struggle in the home, there were no signs of forced entry and there was nothing to suggest that Teresa was met with violence.  Things become a little confusing here, because we have the knowledge that a key was found broken off in a lock, but we are never told for certain which door was found in that condition.  Later on, Dale said in an interview that foreign DNA was found in the home but we are never told what exactly was found, be it blood or something else.

                We essentially are left with a twelve hour window, during which time Teresa ultimately disappears.  For many, the lack of evidence linking this to some kind of a crime or violent situation opens the door to the possibility that Teresa chose to leave.  There are a lot of questions that could be answered, were this the time, though it seems unlikely that this is what happened.  First and foremost, Teresa loved her children more than anything in the world and even if she had elected to leave them behind, which seems ridiculously unlikely, it’s hard to imagine that she would have abandoned them in the empty house where she knew they would be unattended for some period of time.  I have a very hard time imagining that Teresa would just leave the boys, then two and four years old. 

                We also know that Teresa’s jeep was left behind, so if she did leave of her own volition, how exactly did she get away?  Short of walking, which seems extremely unlikely, someone else would have either had to loan her a vehicle or have given her a ride and there has never been any evidence to suggest this was the case.  On top of that, none of Teresa’s personal belongings were missing from the home.  All of her clothes and jewelry were left behind, including her wedding rings which were found under the couch.  The rings have been the object of speculation for a long time, with many feeling that this was Teresa attempting to transmit a message of danger, while others believe that she simply took her rings off and dropped them on the floor accidentally at some point.  Others, though, have looked at her abandoned rings as Teresa sending the message that she was leaving and she was done with the marriage.  Although that’s possible, it seems more likely that if Teresa wanted to delivery that message she would have left her rings in a more obvious location where Dale was sure to find them and get that message, not hidden away under the couch.

                It’s been over eleven years since Teresa vanished and unless she had some way of avoiding detection and starting a new life with false documentation, it seems extremely unlikely to me that this disappearance was of her own choice.  When you factor in how difficult it is to choose to disappear in this day and age, her two sons whom she loved so much, and even her husband Dale who she is said to have felt was the perfect husband, there doesn’t appear to be a great deal of information here to support this theory.  It’s simply not possible to rule this out, but when weighed against what information we do have about Teresa, the state of the home as it was found the next day, and the sheer lack of any information over the past eleven years to even suggest the possibility that Teresa is out there somewhere, I find it very difficult to believe she would have chosen to leave on her own and I believe that, if she did, she would never have left her children behind to fend for themselves for hours.

                One of the more popular theories out there right now is that Teresa was, in fact, abducted and murdered either by her husband, or someone her husband knew.  Their marriage is often described as loving, with Teresa alleged to have told many friends that their relationship was perfect.  Some people have considered the possibility that Teresa was unhappy, and that she simply lied to friends and family in order to not face the embarrassment of admitting that things were not going well.  All of that can only be considered speculation, and there is very little which exists to suggest that their marriage was anything other than happy.  In a situation like this, when a wife disappears, the spouse is almost always the first suspect.  In the case of Teresa and Dale, Dale was intensely scrutinized by authorities.  He has admitted to be questioned for hours, and has even expressed his frustration with how hard he was focused on.

                It isn’t out of the ordinary in the slightest for police to heavily investigate the husband.  After all was said and done, investigators were very clear about the fact that they did not consider Dale a suspect and it’s an avenue of the investigation that, from all we know, they did not return to.  They felt they cleared him, his alibi checked out and they had no information which would lead them to believe he played a role in the crime.  Despite their insistence, there are those who feel that Dale may know more about the disappearance of his wife than he is letting on. 

                There is a theory that Dale’s alibi was something he carefully constructed, either because he was planning to do something to Teresa or because he knew something was going to happen to her.  Many think that the call he placed at 11pm on the night of her disappearance was done so in order to establish an electronic trail so that his story could be confirmed.  The idea that he was having breakfast with his mother the next morning, some have argued, was done so ensure enough time passing to allow someone else to abduct Teresa and to grant this person enough time to get away before authorities would be notified.  In addition to this, we know it wasn’t Dale who called the police that morning which many people think is strange in and of itself.  Whether or not Dale was involved, it’s impossible to say, and while I completely understand the notion that the husband had to play a role in this, there’s really nothing to point to it outside of some details which may or may not be suspicious, depending on your point of view.

                If Dale was involved then he managed to pull this off flawlessly as there has never been anything discovered that puts him in the suspect category.  After Teresa’s disappearance, Dale struggled to support his sons and to maintain the home.  His family was heavily involved in assisting with his issues and to me this is not the kind of lifestyle that would be lived by a man who wanted his wife gone and played a role in ensuring that it happened. It’s easy to say his behavior was strange in the hours surrounding Teresa’s disappearance, but according to much of what I read, it was extremely common for Dale to call Teresa from work at that time, and it certainly wasn’t the first time he’d arranged to have breakfast with his mother before going home.  Some have even gone so far as to say that the items Dale listed as being stolen from the house were never confirmed to have been there in the first place, but we know for a fact that Teresa’s jeep was missing its radio.  Wouldn’t Dale, if his plan was to list some stolen items to solidify the theory of a break in, have listed things with a little more value to make the story believable?  It’s hard to imagine a home invasion in which all they steal are a handful of minor electronics and not anything which carries major value.  There just isn’t enough for me to believe that Dale was involved, his life has been a disaster in the years since Teresa disappeared, and he has reaped no benefit or reward from it.

                An interesting side to this theory is Dale’s ex-wife who, from everything we are told, did not have a good relationship with Teresa and was alleged to have made threatening phone calls to her at work.  Dale, when asked about it, has said that everything was fine between the two of them but many of Teresa’s co-workers, and even her own father, have said that Teresa was upset and made very uncomfortable by the calls.  Just five days before Teresa vanished, the ex-wife was notified that her new husband had filed for divorce.  To many, this could have been something which caused her to snap and made her act on a plan to get rid of Teresa.  The lack of signs of a struggle in the home, coupled with the fact that Teresa’s purse was also taken, have made some believe that whoever was involved may have been someone she knew and that she may have gone along willingly.  Again, the problem I have with this is that Teresa would not have left her boys behind.  But, what if the children were threatened?  It isn’t hard to imagine that Teresa would have gone along to protect them.  Many people believe that Dale’s ex-wife may have been involved, and either Dale knows this, or simply doesn’t consider it likely.  Authorities dug into her pretty deeply, though they have never come forward and presented any evidence to connect her to this crime.  It’s certainly possible, but again, there just isn’t enough there to say it with certainty.

                The final theories follow the thought process that Teresa was victim to a home invasion and either she was taken or fled from the scene.  We know that items were listed as stolen from the home, though none of the items were what you’d expect an experienced thief to take.  Everything taken was a smaller electronic, easy to be carried out and things which could be pawned or sold off fairly quickly.  Video game consoles and cameras, for instance.  Larger items were left behind, jewelry wasn’t taken, nothing that would suggest that this was a planned out robbery with a larger target in mind.  Teresa’s jeep was left behind, though the stereo was stolen from it, which suggests that whoever was involved had their own transportation.  There are several details of the home which are curious under the circumstances of a home invasion, mainly that there were no signs of a struggle inside the home and it wasn’t ransacked.  Dale did not return home to find the house in horrible shape as though someone had been going through it haphazardly and searching for anything in particular to steal.  Those items which were taken were essentially in plain view when entering the home.

                The lightbulb was unscrewed from the front porch, making it easier for someone to knock on the door in the middle of the night without being seen and if Teresa had flipped the switch, there would have been no light to give her a better impression of who was there.  What’s curious about this detail is that, when Dale returned earlier, he entered the home through the front door which seems to indicate that this was not the door that a key was broken off in.  Why unscrew the light to the front porch, if that’s not your point of entry?  The broken key is very strange, and I did read one theory in which the theorist suggested that the key may have been an attempt to break in, or it may have been used to convince Teresa that it was her husband, so that she would open the door.  How many times have you lived with someone else, and you hear them struggling with the key in the door, so you go and unlock it for them?  It’s definitely a possibility, but I’ve always been confused about the key in one door and the light unscrewed from the front porch.  Could there have been more than one person at both doors at the same time?  It’s certainly possible.

                The intruder theory has several different aspects to it.  The first one is that Teresa simply happened to be home when a person or persons chose to rob the home.  From this possibility there are two different belief structures:  that Teresa may have been abducted by these robbers or that she fled from the home and became lost, injured or even died in her escape attempt.  I don’t think there’s a great deal of consideration to be given to the possibility that Teresa fled and was somehow lost out there.  She lived in that home, she knew the area, and it doesn’t make much sense that she would have escaped from the home and disappeared.  In connection with that, Teresa, again, seems unlikely to have fled her home and left her two young sons with dangerous people.  Though it’s possible, I consider this option extremely slim.

                So that leaves the other option, that Teresa was abducted by the person or persons who broke into the home that night.  Or perhaps, who Teresa allowed inside the home.  There has been a lot of debate about whether or not Teresa may have known her abductors, and if it is possible that she let them inside not knowing what they were planning.  The Sheriff has said that Teresa may have taken off her rings when she realized that the people whose company she was in may be dangerous, and dropped them to hide them or to signal that she was in danger.  It’s impossible to know for sure, but considering the lack of forced entry, it isn’t unlikely that either Teresa knew her abductor or was tricked into letting them inside, though if it were the latter, I’d have to believe there would have been some kind of a struggle. 

                Teresa’s purse was also found to be missing, which many believe suggests that she may have been taken by someone and told to bring her purse along so that they could drive her to an ATM machine and have her withdraw money.  When you look at the insignificant items which were stolen from the home, it’s certainly possible that the abductors wanted more and perhaps that’s even why they didn’t take more expensive items; because they thought it’d be better to just get cash directly from her debit card.  According to investigators, though, there is no evidence which shows any withdrawals that night or the next morning.  So why was Teresa allowed to bring her purse along, or was it even her choice?  It’s entirely possible that her purse was in plain sight and one of the robbers may have simply grabbed it though it seems more likely that you’d take the wallet, and not the whole purse itself.

                If indeed Teresa was abducted, then whoever took her must have had some place to hide her, or if she was murdered, to conceal her body where it still, eleven years later, has never been found.  The most significant pieces of evidence we have, which points to a likely robbery followed by an abduction, comes from a tipster who told police that, in exchange for drugs, he was given a video camera which, at the time, contained footage that he believed belonged to Teresa and her family.  He told the police where to find it, and who he received it from.  This is the first and only acknowledgement that has ever been made which lends credence to the home invasion theory, and also brings in more than one suspect.  Authorities have stated that they consider the tipster, along with the other person named, as suspects in the robbery and possible murder of Teresa Butler.  They have never released the names, and have said that they don’t have enough evidence to levy any charges. 

                To me, this is the most probable outcome of this case:  That Teresa was abducted by one or more persons, and ultimately murdered.  The connection to drugs makes me feel it’s possible that the crime was committed by one or more persons who may have either been under the influence at the time, or desperate to get a fix.  I think it’s entirely possible that there was no struggle because Teresa, being the kind person that she is, offered to go along with the thieves to get them some money, in an attempt to get them out of the house where her children were asleep in their bedroom, and became the victim of foul play following this.  That is purely speculation on my part, but it’s hard to imagine any other scenario in which a break in occurred and yet there was nothing to indicate a break in or a ransacking of the home.  The only other possibility is that Teresa may have known one of the attempted robbers, and let him or her in without thinking twice about it.  I do believe that Teresa was abducted by whoever stole the items from the home, and unfortunately, I agree with authorities that it is most likely that she was murdered by these same individuals.

                Teresa Lynn Butler vanished from her Risco, Missouri home on Tuesday, January 24th, 2006.  Aside from multiple items which appeared to be taken from the home and a key broken off in a door lock, there was very little evidence discovered that could make sense of this mystery.  Eleven years later and there are persons of interest, yet still not enough evidence to charge them with any particular crime.  In the years that have passed, Teresa’s family have tried to move forward with their lives but they will be forever haunted by the question of what happened to their daughter, sister, wife and mother.  Her two boys were two and four when she vanished and are now thirteen and fifteen.  Dale has had a long rollercoaster ride of ups and downs, struggling to be a single father under such tragic circumstances.  What happened to Teresa Lynn Butler, the kind, sweet and loving thirty five year old mother of two who simply vanished between 10pm and 10am?  Authorities are still actively investigating the case, though tips and leads have become fewer and fewer over the years.  Hopefully, some day, the answers will be found and Teresa’s friends and family can have some form of closure, and perhaps, even the opportunity to face those responsible and to lay Teresa’s remains at peace.