Arizona Desert Deaths Likely Domestic Incident, Not Mexican Cartel
Police in Tempe, Ariz. say the burned-out SUV found in a stretch of desert with five dead inside belonged to a family of five, including three children.
An Arizona sheriff initially said the deaths were linked to Mexican drug cartels.
Police in Tempe are calling this case a murder-suicide. They say the five dead in remote Vekol Valley have not been identified, but they also say they are no longer searching for any suspects.
The vehicle is registered to James Butwin, and his wife, Yafit. They have three children, said Tempe Sgt. Jeff Glover. He said two of the children are high school-aged, the third is middle school-aged.
Meanwhile, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu had said Monday he believes Mexican cartels were behind the murders.
On Tuesday, his spokesman said deputies are still looking for five men reportedly seen in a Ford SUV similar to the one found at the crime scene. In a press release, the sheriff's department said a man called their office Saturday saying he worried his brother-in-law was among the dead. He reportedly told sheriff's investigators that his brother-in-law was "going to Vekol Valley to make money," along with four other men.
The press release cites a Boston newspaper that in turn quoted an anonymous U.S. Border Patrol agent who opined to the newspaper the Zetas drug gang may have been behind the murders.
Pima County Medical Examiner Gregory Hess said he has not identified the victims.
“It's very difficult to determine if these are male or female or the ages of these individuals, we do know that none of these are small children,” Hess said.
Hess also said he has not yet determined if any of the victims were shot.