Four years later, a Risco, Mo., mother is still missing without a trace

Monday, January 25, 2010
Teresa Butler

NEW MADRID CO., Mo. -- "We still get leads just almost on a weekly basis now," said New Madrid County Sheriff Terry Stevens when asked about the current state of a four-year-old local missing-persons case.

"When I say a lead, what that means is somebody may come in and say, 'Well, I heard so-and-so saying this or I seen this'," Stevens said. "Any bit of information or something like that, we consider a lead. We pursue that until it bears whatever fruit it has. We do not take any piece of information [lightly], even if it is information that we have already checked out, we will double-check it. You never know when what seems, on the surface, to be an insignificant piece of information may lead to the key to solving this [case]."

Today marks four years since the then- 35-year-old Teresa Butler of Risco, Mo., vanished without a trace from her home on Eight Ditch Road in New Madrid County. Since that time, family, friends and supporters continue to search for their loved one.

Butler, who was an employee at the Dexter Walmart Photo Center at the time of the disappearance in 2006, was reported missing by her husband, Gary Dale Butler, around 10 a.m., Jan. 25, 2006. Reports say Butler had just returned home from work at a Blytheville, Ark. steel mill, when he found his two sons, then ages 2 and 4, unattended with no signs of his wife.

Reports say Butler told police that it was not like his wife to leave the children unattended.

The last person reported to have seen Teresa Butler alive was her sister-in-law, who stopped by the Butler home the night before the disappearance.

According to authorities, there were no signs of forced entry into the house, no sign of a struggle and few missing items. Reports show Butler's wedding rings were left behind, though her husband said she normally took off her rings before going to bed at night. The items determined to be missing included a video camera, Butler's purse, her cell phone, a flashlight and a stereo from the couples' Jeep.

Following the report that Butler was missing, Stevens formed a task force to search the ditches, fields and surrounding areas in hopes of finding some information about her disappearance. No findings from these searches were ever reported to the public.

So far, the most substantial turn in the case came in December 2006, when authorities began excavating land near Tallapoosa, Mo., a community south of Risco, where it had been reported that Butler's body might be found, along with some burned tires and other debris. No sign of human remains were discovered at the site; however, some burned items were found.

Stevens said the crews at the site dug below the burned debris and still found no signs of human remains.

Another lead involved a call made from Butler's cell phone after she disappeared. It turned out the number called belonged to two older women, who had never heard of Butler and claimed no one was on the line when they answered.

"It is still an active investigation," Stevens said. "This is one of the two most highly prioritized investigations that we have with New Madrid County."

On several message boards and websites dedicated to finding Butler, many users point the finger at Butler's husband. Stevens said Gary Dale Butler is not considered a suspect.

"The husband was cleared early in the investigation," Stevens said. "He had a good alibi to his whereabouts that night, which was verified. He took a polygraph test, which of course [is] not admissible in court, but he come across as being truthful. He is not considered a suspect."

Teresa Lynn Butler is described as being Caucasian, 5-feet-7-inches tall and weighing 110 pounds. She had dark brown to black hair and brown eyes at the time she disappeared.

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