Burned bodies confirmed as murder-suicide family - FOX 10 News | fox10phoenix.com

Coroner: James Butwin killed family, self

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The Butwin family (Facebook photo) The Butwin family (Facebook photo)
TEMPE, Ariz. -

Five badly burned bodies found in the Arizona desert were those of a Tempe family who died in an apparent murder-suicide.

On Thursday, the Pima County Medical Examiner's Office said parents James and Yafit Butwin had been identified using dental records.  

On Friday, the three other bodies were positively identified as couple's children -- Malissa, 16, Daniel, 14, and Matthew, 7 -- through dental records.

Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Gregory Hess said all five bodies were so severely burned that medical examiners had trouble determining a cause of death.

They did eventually find that Yafit Butwin and her three children were all killed by gunshot wounds. Their deaths have been ruled as a homicide.

James Butwin also suffered what was described as a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to Tempe Police. His death has been ruled a suicide.

Two suicide notes were also been left behind by James Butwin.

The five bodies were found dead in a burned-out Ford SUV in the desert west of Casa Grande on Saturday morning, in what police originally thought was likely a drug cartel slaying.

But police linked the Butwin family to the case on Monday after one of James Butwin's suicide notes was received in the mail by his business partner.

Police searched the family's Tempe home Monday and discovered bullet casings and blood in a number of rooms, leading investigators to believe James Butwin killed his 40-year-old wife and three children there, Glover said.

The family's SUV was missing from the house and police were able to match it to the vehicle found in the desert.

Investigators searching the SUV discovered two firearms, one of which matched cartridges found at the Butwin home, Glover said.

Police have not suggested a motive for the tragedy but the Butwins, prominent in Tempe's Jewish community, had been living together amid divorce proceedings.

James Butwin also faced severe debts and had recently learned that a brain tumor had returned, according to family friends and the couple's attorney.

Newscore contributed to this story.

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