Suspect involved in contested divorce with murder victim
Bruce Butler made his first appearance in court Wednesday in the double homicide case of a Wasilla couple.
The bodies of Lynn Butler, 42, and Richard Casler, 61, were found in a trailer off of the Denali Highway over the Fourth of July weekend in 2015.
Police say they were killed on or about July 2, 2015; their bodies were located on July 5, 2015.
Tuesday, nearly two years after the murders were committed, the Alaska Bureau of Investigation obtained an arrest warrant for 42-year-old Bruce Floyd Dowd Butler, of Wasilla.
Bruce was taken into custody at his home in Wasilla without incident around noon Tuesday. He’s charged with two counts of first-degree murder.
Newly released court documents show authorities processed three crime scenes in relation to this case. The affidavit states the third scene investigators processed “included six conexes/ATCO brand trailers located on the property. One of the conex trailers contained the bodies of Lynn Butler and Richard Casler.”
Charging documents also state Bruce and Lynn were once married and involved in a contested divorce, “focused on the split of Lynn’s and Bruce’s marital property”.
They also say investigators learned after the murders, but before Bruce reported Lynn was missing, he and several others removed a large amount of expensive property from Lynn’s home she had previously shared with Bruce. A 28-foot Carver motor vessel named “Sundowner” was listed as involved property in the divorce proceeding and was seen at a property owned by Matthew Nelson.
Bruce and Nelson communicated around the time of Lynn and Richard’s death, according to cellphone records.
Research by investigators into the history of Bruce and Lynn’s relationship “revealed a variety of violent episodes between them in the years of their relationship,” with many incidents going unreported to law enforcement.
Witnesses also reported Lynn sustained injuries at the hands of Bruce as recent as three weeks prior to the murder and as old as a decade, according to the affidavit. A woman named Talia Hays is cited as reporting on approximately 20 occasions, “she heard Bruce tell Lynn that if she ever left him or divorced him, he would kill her”.
In February of 2016, investigators interviewed Nelson, who was already in jail on unrelated charges. He told authorities Bruce had borrowed his Chevy S-10 and returned it completely cleaned with several missing items. Nelson told authorities he believed Bruce had something to do with Lynn’s death and said during another visit to Bruce’s home that Bruce confessed he had killed Lynn. According to the affidavit, Bruce “acted nervous and fidgety” when he said he killed Lynn.
In June of this year, investigators learned Bruce traveled to the Sterling area and stayed in Isaac Walton State Park. He came into contact with a source that’s been unnamed in the affidavit, who he told he was responsible for the murders, but “could not tell her how he committed the murders because he could be prosecuted.”
Three days after the unnamed source and Butler corresponded, troopers searched Butler’s home in Wasilla and found a variety of firearms.
The affidavit states an autopsy completed at the Medical Examiner’s Office determined Lynn’s manner of death was homicide due to multiple gunshot wounds and Casler’s death was homicide due to multiple blunt force injuries and gunshot wounds.
Bruce is currently in jail and a judge set his bond at $500,000 on Wednesday.
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