Body found in burned barn, search continues for fugitive

Salida, Colorado
Thursday, March 08, 2012

Earlier today, Colorado Department of Corrections Fugitive Operations alerted the Chaffee County Sheriff”s Office that a subject wanted for escape was likely in the Mount Princeton area south of Buena Vista.  The subject, David Butler, age 46, was wanted on an original charge of homicide and was said to have “violent tendencies.”

Deputies located an unoccupied pickup truck registered to Butler in a field off County Road 321 in the Mount Princeton area and initiated a search for Butler who was thought to be on foot.

At about 3:30pm, Undersheriff John Spezze noticed smoke coming from a small barn nearby and called for the fire department to respond.  Arriving a few minutes later, firefighters from the Chaffee County Fire Protection District found the barn completely engulfed in flames.  Firefighters extinguished the blaze and in the process discovered the body of an adult male inside.  The barn was completely destroyed and the body was burned beyond recognition.

Chaffee County Coroner Randy Amettis examined the body at the scene after which the body was removed to the county morgue.  An autopsy is tentatively scheduled for tomorrow, Friday.  The body has not been positively identified.

The search for Butler continued until darkness prevented further efforts.

The fire is under investigation by investigators from the sheriff’s office, the Chaffee County Fire Protection District, and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

Other agencies involved in the operation were the Buena Vista and Salida police departments, the Buena Vista Correctional Facility, Chaffee EMS, Colorado State Patrol, Saguache County Sheriff‚s Office, and the local office of the district attorney.

The Citizen is happy to provide a forum for comments and discussion. Please be civil, truthful, and relevant. Please suggest removal of comments that violate these standards. Real names are appreciated.

21 Responses to “Body found in burned barn, search continues for fugitive”

  1. Ed Carpenter

    So, when are the Chaffee County S.O., CBI and other law enforcement officials going to release a current photo or the escapee for minimum purposes of citizen awareness and support in his apprehension?

    We have Amber Alerts, but nothing for the common citizen.

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  2. Brad

    I was going to say the same thing Ed. I can't find a pic of this guy anywhere online. You'd think there'd be at least one mug shot for a MURDER suspect. I mean, he was already in custody right? Also, since when does law enforcement suspend a search because of darkness. Really?

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  3. MacKenzie Christy

    So, what is the he still on the "run" BV in lock down of some kind....what is the official statement concerning the valley's safety...are Denver news crews on their way or already here...
    We gotta get a photo of this guy....history? Is he an outdoorsman? Survivalist...record on him.
    This is kinda weird that we continually seem to have wackies flipping out here...S MT. gun man, Fugitives from Alamosa, the midwest...Thanks for the reporting by the way.

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  4. Debbie

    Let me clear this up for you. The "fugitive" served 8 years in the New York Department of corrections.He completed almost 3 years of parole in Colorado. He was involved in a traffic violation and panicked and fled the area, thus violating his parole. He was not wanted for homicide, simply a parole violation. and his actual charge was second degree manslaughter, and involved a 4 year old child and a case involving child abuse. Yes, he took a life, but he did his time and simply panicked. you want a picture of him? go ask the coroner. He was my baby brother and was never a threat to your community.

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  5. Debbie

    P.S. He was not an escapee, he lived and worked in Summit county for more than 3 years and was a productive member of society. He had friends and loved ones and was not violent.

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    • Tina

      Hi Debbie! It's too bad about your brother..we all make stupid decision in life but sad that it involved a child...I'm no one to judge by any means, it's not my job to do so. A lot of people merely go off media scare; but then again it is scary to hear this kind of news when living in a small mountain town. Also, why would someone go to the coroner and ask for a picture? Was he the guy that died in the fire? I guess it's all confusing not knowing. I hope that you and your family find comfort in these difficult and stressful times. God Bless!

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  6. Steph

    We, as friends of David Butler, are hoping and praying that he be found safe. I cannot believe how the facts get distorted in the press to make him look like he has committed a murder and has "escaped" from the law. Debbie our prayers are with you and your mom.

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  7. MacKenzie Christy

    I do apologize if you are offended by my questions...not assumpttions. Questions circulate from media implying impending danger to a community and a person who has "violent tendencies" as previously stated by the media.
    I am sorry for your loss and will keep your family in my prayers.
    I can only imagine, that despite David's history, loss is loss and no one should have to go through a death in such a mannor.
    This being said, questions come from wanting answers and information....unfortunatly, the information has come from someone grieving and in a state of upset.

    Very sorry for your loss and confusion as to how information was given to a small, tight knit community that strives to be "safe" and informed.

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  8. Citizen Team

    The "article" above is a press release from the Sheriff's Dept.

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  9. Tina in Texas

    Dave was a very good friend of mine for many years, the stories the media are printing is not even the truth. I am sorry to lose a good friend and I am sorry for his Mom to have to read the crap that is in print.

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  10. Debi

    Fled the scene of a traffic violation; well, thats normal...
    In violation of parole; ok - that's the norm...
    2nd degree manslaugther; oh what the heck - 2nd degree...
    You say he took a life - a four year old - and there was child abuse too.
    And you say "he's such a nice guy!!!!!!!!!!"

    Calling like I see it - Murderer.
    Sorry for your loss - you lost him long ago.

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    • Trey

      Someone convicted of manslaughter is not -- legally, anyway -- a murderer.

      Manslaughter in the second degree is defined as the unlawful killing of a human being without malice either express or implied, and without intent to kill or to inflict the injury causing death, committed accidentally in the commission of some unlawful act not felonious, or in the improper performance of an act lawful in itself. Manslaughter in the second degree may be committed by the doing of an unlawful act, or the doing of a lawful act in an unlawful manner, although at the time the defendant did not actually know that the act would result in homicide, and this notwithstanding, after the act was done, or while in progress the defendant used ordinary care to prevent the taking of human life; nor is the intention to take life necessary in a prosecution for this offense.

      In the absence of additional information, perhaps we (who are relatively rich in love and luck and friends and fortune) can afford to be compassionate towards both the living and the (perhaps) dead.

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  11. Randy


    Now that you have "clarified" things for us, let me clairfy things for those of us in the community who actually live here and care about our kids. First of all, he was a murder according to you and to the legal system. Nobody does 8 years for being a harmless nice little member of society. You say he was never a threat to our what measure of reason? He caused the death of a 4 year old who doubtfully had any reason to have that inflicted, and by your admission panicked and 'fled'...making him a fugitive. I have been stopped for traffic violations and never felt panicked enough to flee. Don't put any 'manslaughter' bells and whistles on whatever happened and try to sell it to me as a good guy who got a bad rap. Lets stop qualifying what is said and trying to dance around the fact that he violated the guidelines the courts set for him to be released from prison and was heading back. I for one thank God that the good men and women of the sheriff's office were there to keep him from my kids. Sorry for your loss, but keep it at that and don't dare criticize our law enforcement from keeping child killers off our streets.

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  12. Robert

    Reading some of these comments....Really? You people live in a television CSI world of clouds. We live in a rural community with a sheriff's office of twelve deputies. You really expect them to risk their lives with the sub-standard pay to search for this guy in the dark in dozens of square miles with no resources? Maybe use your head and read into that press release what makes, "The search was called off because the guy was found burned beyond recognition, but we can't tell you 100% that its him so substitute the word 'darkness'." Get a grip on reality folks.

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  13. T

    I agree...even though it was "only" was still him taking a life of a 4 year old...if he isn't capable of handling someone's life then he should be in no position of trust. So sad...I think criminals need to be registered with those who commit horrible sex crimes...just sayin'. Just because he was a "functioning" member of society and he "did his time" doesn't bring that innocent child back..super sad...should have spent life in prison in my opinion!

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  14. ryan

    I have a past, just like many of the people that feel the need to write a comment. How many of you have a family member or friend with a past. I know alot about the law and our legal system. I also know how i have been portrayed in the past. I think that you people might want to consider a few things before passing judgement on this guy. For one, you don't complete three years of parole if you have violent tendencies. Parole officers violate people that they don't like. There is always a reason to violate a parolee. Second, if this guy was convicted of second degree manslaughter than the death could easily have been accidental. If he had any prior felony convictions, it would account for the eight year sentence. I am not trying to defend the guy, just trying to explain to you how things sometimes are. As far as leaving the seen of an accident, he was on parole and scared! Any police contact while on parole is a potential violation. Before you pass judgement on the guy, knkow the facts.

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  15. T

    Ummm,...for one Ryan...My husband has a past and people still talk bad about him ALL the time and this happened TEN years ago...the people of this county and the judicial system isn't fair to those who have been convicted of a minor crime. So I for one know what it is like to love someone with a past but he sure didn't kill someone and he is being treated worse then a murderer!! Accidental or not...a FOUR year old child lost their life...preventable!

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  16. Randy

    I'm not passing judgement on the man, any more than his family was passing judgement on our community and how the situation was handled. For her to say he was not danger to anyone sure seems like a dangerous assumption to me. I dont appreciate someone who has had nothing to say about Chaffee County before in their life suddenly piping up and implying that 'he' was somehow the victim. Come on, lets look at things with a bit of common sense. I watch our government as closely as any and will criticize when due. But lets go with some numbers: (1) ESCAPED Homicide suspect Tyron Martinez from Alamosa is chased by our sheriff's office and captured without incident. (2) Homicide suspect from Cabool, Missouri is captured near Buena Vista by our sheriff's office after he murders wife without incident. (3) Police and sheriff's office arrest Jayson Jamison at a Salida motel on a nation wide warrant for parole violation. He is a known associate of a individual involved in a police shooting. Arrest goes 'smoothly and without incident' according to Mountain Mail.

    I could go on, but my point it I dont think that our good men and women in blue suddenly decided after doing their service over and over to single out poor Mr. Butler for poor treatment. Quite honeslty I'm getting tired of these fugitive burnouts coming here to hide, and hope this sends a message to the next one to go find somewhere else.

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  17. Citizen Team

    There is a curious line between engagement in a valuable ethics and morality conversation in the community vs. having a conversation about a subject we know little about.

    We all expect an update from the authorities after reading a press release like the above, but in the absence of more information do you all feel the conversation has degraded, or is this an important conversation that still has local merit? We can cut off the comment stream if this is getting too personal. How does the community feel about this comment stream?

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  18. Will

    Cut it off ! It’s just rants from scared hateful people. Every news story is different, more sensationalized. We don’t know the truth. Have some human decency!

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  19. Citizen Team

    Salida, Colorado

    For release Monday, March 12, 2012

    Identity of burned body confirmed

    Chaffee County Coroner Randy Amettis announced today that dental records have confirmed that the body found in a burned barn southwest of Buena Vista last Thursday is that of David Butler, 46, whose most recent residency was in Summit County. Butler had been sought by authorities for violating his parole for manslaughter. The cause of Butler's death was listed as severe burns from the fire. Further investigation into the incident will be conducted to determine whether the death was a suicide or the result of an accident.

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