5th Person Charged in Connection to Kidnapping, Killing of Two Kansas Moms

Rachel Acenas
By Rachel Acenas
April 25, 2024US News
5th Person Charged in Connection to Kidnapping, Killing of Two Kansas Moms
Paul Grice, 31, becomes 5th suspect arrested and charged in kidnapping and killing of Veronica Butler (upper left) and Jillian Kelley (upper right). Four others were arrested and charged earlier this month. (Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation)

A fifth suspect was arrested and charged in connection with the deaths of two Kansas mothers, officials announced on Wednesday.

Paul Grice, 31, faces two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of kidnapping, and one count of conspiracy to commit murder in the first degree “based on the evidence and information gathered from the case,” according to an Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) statement.

Court affidavits filed in the case revealed that Mr. Grice admitted to OSBI agents he was involved in the kidnapping, killing, and burial of the two victims.

27-year-old Veronica Butler and 39-year-old Jilian Kelly vanished on March 30 while traveling from Kansas to nearby Oklahoma to pick up Ms. Butler’s two young children from a birthday party. Ms. Kelly, the wife of a pastor, accompanied Ms. Butler to supervise the visit. The pair never made it to their destination.

Their disappearance launched an extensive, multi-agency search effort by law enforcement from the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles and southwest Kansas. The victims’ car was eventually found abandoned near a rural highway in Texas County on April 14. Their bodies were recovered from a hole near a bloody crime scene, according to investigators.

“Blood was found on the roadway and the edge of the roadway. Butler’s glasses were also found in the roadway south of the vehicle, near a broken hammer. A pistol magazine was found inside Kelley’s purse at the scene, but no pistol was found,” the affidavits stated.

It was later revealed that Ms. Butler was involved in a “problematic custody battle” with her children’s 54-year-old paternal grandmother Tifany Adams. She was arrested and charged in the case earlier this month. Her son, Wrangler Rickman, is the children’s biological father. He had legal custody of the children, but they were temporarily living with Ms. Adams while he was in a rehabilitation facility.

Ms. Adams allegedly purchased prepaid burner cell phones to communicate with the other suspects about the kidnapping and murder plot. According to investigators, she also bought five stun guns from a local store and allegedly searched about the weapons’ pain levels on the internet.

Ms. Adams’ boyfriend, Tad Bert Cullum, 43, was also arrested and charged, along with 50-year-old Cole Earl Twombly and his 44-year-old wife, Cora Twombly.

All five suspects are members of a self-proclaimed anti-government group called “God Misfits.” The small group met on a regular basis.

A key witness told authorities that the group was involved in a previous attempt to kill Ms. Butler by throwing an anvil through her car windshield. That plot was meant to make her death look like an accident while driving “because anvils regularly fall off of work trucks,” according to the witness, who was identified in the affidavits as Cora Twombly’s 16-year old-daughter. However, the plan failed because Ms. Butler did not leave her home.

During their arraignments earlier this month, a judge denied bond for all four suspects.

Meanwhile, Mr. Grice has been booked into the Texas County jail. His first court appearance is scheduled for May 1.

The OSBI said in a statement that the case remains an ongoing investigation.

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