TEMPE, Ariz. – Dental records have confirmed the identities of three suburban Phoenix children whose burned bodies were found inside an SUV in the desert in a murder-suicide, authorities said Friday.
The confirmation came a day after the bodies of the children's parents — James and Yafit (yuh-FEET') Butwin — were identified, also by dental records because authorities said they were burned beyond recognition.
The Pima County Medical Examiner's Office also confirmed Friday that Yafit Butwin and the three children — 16-year-old Malissa, 14-year-old Daniel and 7-year-old Matthew — all died from gunshot wounds, and James Butwin suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
A U.S. Border Patrol agent found the five bodies in the burning SUV in a desert area Saturday in Pinal County, some 35 miles south of Phoenix. The family was from Tempe, a suburb east of Phoenix.
Tempe police think James Butwin killed his wife and children before taking his own life, saying they found two suicide notes that he had written. They also said they found blood and shell casings in several of the family's bedrooms, and two guns inside the torched SUV.
A family acquaintance alerted Tempe police that he was worried about the family on Monday after receiving a note from James Butwin instructing him on how to run his real estate business.
Police soon after found "suspicious and concerning" evidence in the home that they said pointed to the family being dead in a murder-suicide.
Yafit Butwin had been seeking a divorce from James Butwin, who neighbors and police say was battling a brain tumor and experiencing financial problems.
Yafit Butwin filed for divorce in September and was seeking half of her husband's liquid assets, spousal support and exclusive access to their upper-middle-class home in Tempe during the divorce proceedings. The divorce was set to go to trial next month.